There’s been a lot of soap news in the last few weeks.
The big attention getting announcement, of course, was that Jill Farren Phelps’ contract at The Young and The Restless was not renewed.
This was a bit of a surprise to me, since Phelps and Chuck Pratt had increased ratings at Y&R. It wasn’t my cup of tea, though recent Y&R has seldom been my cup of tea, anyway. But ratings, such as they are, were up.
Phelps has a colorful record at several soaps, and a contingent of fans have very negative feelings about her work. They cite the killing of Frankie Frame at Another World (a story that Phelps denies was her call) and the loss of Beverlee McKinsey at Guiding Light.
And – of course – the dismissal of Ellen Parker as GL’s Maureen Bauer. The death of that character was compelling on screen, but came to be seen as a symbol, in some way, of the loss of “our shows,” of those narratives of humanity.
Phelps’ style has long been high drama, low lighting and a noirish presentation. Her arrival at GL kicked the show into high gear in 1992. It had never looked better. Unfortunately, the second half of her tenure at GL went off the rails, mostly because her production tricks couldn’t mask the loss of several key performers and writers.
The reaction on social media has been…..well, vivid. Along the lines of “Bye, Felicia.” (Perhaps one of the kinder things I can repeat here.)
So that was the big news of the week, right?
For my money, kids, the FAR bigger news is that Steve Mosko is out at Sony.
You may not recognize the name, but Mosko, along with Steve Kent, was the leader at Sony TV that oversaw its TV shows. Of the remaining soaps, Sony is the production arm behind two of them – Y&R and Days.
I’m not the blogger with the backstage connections, so I couldn’t tell you if Mosko’s departure had an impact on Phelps’ freedom to pursue other career opportunities.
But I believe it’s a bigger impact because it may mean other shifts within Sony. Days is on its shakiest ratings ground ever. Network broadcast shows continue to shrink, and more shows are being produced for streaming networks.
The parallel I drew when I read about Mosko’s firing was the dismissal of Mary Alice Dwyer Dobbin from P&G in 2004.
Dobbin, like Phelps, was a figure that was not always liked (for a long list of reasons, many of which I co-sign). But she WAS a protector, of sorts, for P&G and a figure who was another voice advocating for the shows at the network. I don’t think it’s a surprise that the ends of both GL and ATWT came a few years after Dobbin left (and the position was eliminated).
It remains to be seen what impact the departures of both of these execs will have on Y&R (and what impact Mosko’s departure will have on Days), but it makes me wonder how much time remains for both of these shows.