No matter what big, splashy storyline you might be watching onscreen these days – Carly returning to Salem? Tea and Todd getting married? Who really killed Stuart Chandler? – that story can only pale when compared to the high drama and the twists and turns provided by the story of Eric Braeden and his job status as Victor Newman on The Young and the Restless.
The story reached its climax on Friday when it was announced Braeden would be returning to the role of Victor. It was a culmination of a series of events worthy of Victor Newman. Braeden gave a slew of “exclusive” interviews and played hardball.
According to Sara Bibel’s Deep Soap, the tide appears to have turned when entertainment news sites like Entertainment Weekly reported that the salary that Braeden claimed was a “lowball” salary was still in the neighborhood of a million dollars. When Sony played those PR cards, Braeden’s camp appeared to be in a more conciliatory mood.
All personal feelings about the character and the actor aside, I think the whole Braeden story is a fascinating study in office politics and the power of public relations.
And it clears up one mystery that both We Love Soaps‘ Roger Newcomb and I had been puzzling about for so long. Namely: why the HELL does Eric Braeden get so many Soap Opera Digest covers? It’s been no secret that Braeden’s publicist has for years maintained a sweetheart deal for Braeden – if he talks to you about story, Eric is on the cover. Period.
Was it ego? Perhaps. But in light of his now-temporary departure, I see it as solid insurance for a man working in a genre that has pushed many other actors in his age range and pay range down the elevator shaft. This all hit me when I read Michael Logan’s interview (an “exclusive” one) with Braeden earlier this month. Logan’s interview with Braeden included this very telling comment:
ERIC BRAEDEN: It’s not that I’m not cognizant of these difficult economic times. One has to be stupid not to be aware. I’m also aware of certain decreases in the [Y&R] license fee that took place recently, but now it’s sledgehammer time, you know? [And that’s wrong] when you put your ass on the line for this show for 30 years, and have done as much publicity as I have. I still sell more [daytime] magazines than anyone in this medium, as you know. And I am very proud of that association.
Braeden’s insistence on being a cover boy could be called a lot of things – but stupid isn’t one of them. Those covers came in handy in the public relations battle that followed.
I’ll admit that, from a creative perspective, I’m not a huge Victor Newman fan. And whether it’s the character of Victor, or Braeden’s acting skills, I’ve felt that Victor was a pretty limited character. For years, I thought he was the Ridge Forrester of Y&R, a wooden character who’s more of a figurehead than anything else.
But while Braeden may be no Olivier or Branagh, it occurred to me the other day who he IS – daytime’s Clint Eastwood. Eastwood doesn’t have an A to Z acting range, either. But he plays the hell out of the few letters he does have in his range, and he’s smart and thoughtful about trying to make those characters more than one-dimensional stick figures.
In any event, the band playing the sad ballad of Hans Gudegast (Braeden’s real name) has left the rathskeller, and that ominous violin music is back, heralding his return. The Mustache, Father Time, The Great Victor Newman (TGVN) – whatever you call him, he may have been down, but he’s definitely not out.
You got that?