the Young & the Restless

created by William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell

recorded at Television City, Hollywood C.A.
CPT Holdings, Inc, for CBS

Writers:  William J. Bell, William Bell, Kay Alden, John F. Smith, 
Michael Minnie, Trent Jones, Jerry Birn, Janice Feiri, Jim Houghton, 
Eric Freiwold, Rex M. Best

Directors: Heather Hill, Mike Denny, Kathryn Foster, Sally McDonald, Betty Rothberg

Producer: David Shaughnessy

Judge Ms. Viewer presiding

Prosecution: Iago

Defense: Cicero

Charges: false feminization 


The action takes place in Genoa City, a  mythical location somewhere near Madison, Wisconsin,  east of  the Appalachian industrial belt. The principal character is Victor Newman, a middle-aged patriarch of  uncertain ethnic origin, whose Freudian file is as replete with bizarre incidental totems as is the cosmetics firm he runs with the autocratic wisdom of a Howard Hughes. Womanizer, playboy, a father who has been married and divorced several times, his company employs his children, ex-wives, friends and rivals in a corporate structure that more resembles a harem than the 
sophisticated international business it is alleged to be. 

While Victor is often central to the ongoing action, there can be as many as nine stories going on, some them Jabo related, some of them more peripheral, added for socio-political reasons as much as for dramatic contrast. In keeping with recent Prime Time propaganda, no one smokes, and while fine wine appears to be the social drink of choice, more often than not even a villainess is seen sipping mineral water. Guns are allowed, as are bare male torsos, but no female nakedness (it's true that we recentlysaw the black Jabo executive Neil Winters trying to mount his fashion model 
wife Dru but the moral of  his impotence masked any T & A we might have glimpsed). Unavoidably, characters sometimes vanish from the drama before their stories are finished -- sometimes to reappear at another time -- but usually the integrity of  action is sustained with the standard devices of death and transfer, and the stories complete their cycles, however asymmetric they sometimes are. 

The matriarch is Nikki, the divorced mother of Victor's children, Nicholas and Victoria (both junior executives at Jabo), who has the physical -- if not the titular -- possession of  the Newman ranch, and her adult children and whomever they  are married to at any given time. Both kids occupy guest houses at the ranch, so the family unit survives repeated death, transfer and existential exit. The secondaries are lawyers, musicians, detectives, writers, doctors -- those professions that are either on the cutting edge of personal freedom or personal sacrifice. At the current time of writing (March '98) the major crisis in the drama involves the murder of  Nikki's 
husband Joshua and her own near-fatal shooting by his former wife, the psychopathic Veronica. Secondary crises involve Nick and Sharon (personal, marital), Cricket and Paul (marital), Neil and Dru (marital), etc. Relationships are routinely destroyed by sex, politics, obsessive personal agendas, and yet just as routinely reinvent themselves from the limbs of the colliding triangles that are the restless matrix of this famous Soap Opera. 

Prosecution:  Your Honor, what does it say about the state of North American culture when we realize that The Young and the Restless is the most popular drama on television, with an audience that lingers around 7 on the Nielsen scale (just about seven million viewers), and with who knows what following in countries around the world? Who can these millions be -- idiots? Incarcerated criminals, hospital patients, people with only one channel? A glance at the pantheon of  writers and directors suggests that it is by 
women for women. Certainly the setting of a perfume factory suggests it. But even if  the target audience is women it doesn't excuse the false psychology of  the characters and cloying propaganda of  the  situations. Men who talk and think like women can only be a fit pursuit for girls playing with dolls, part of an infantile gender fantasy that has no reality in either history or in contemporary biological reality. 

Consider the lead, Victor Newman (ac. Eric Braedon). Is he a hero or a villain? Or is he that Harlequin beast who poses as one while acting as the other? Vaguely Latin and sinister, yet possibly Anglo in some sort of alternate colonial universe, he's always a paradox of social behavior. His feely-touchy greetings with their vaguely East-Bloc decorum are pure sexual harassment, yet his demeanor is New Age sensitivity to a nauseating level of either fraudulent intent or psycho-sexual obsession. Three thousand years ago he would've been a Greek god -- powerful, jealous, a meddler in other 
people's business with the usual tragic results. 

All the characters are meddlers, gendered in a peculiar female psychology, more hermaphrodite than male. The lack of concern for privacy and the integrity of individual spirituality is staggering. Characters frequently confront one another in closed, interior spaces, armed, as it were, with can openers, threatening to open each other's heads in crude overtures of sympathy or hostile attempts at thought-control. One is reminded of an ant colony or a cult.  Indeed, Victor's company operates in a continuous gestalt of crisis therapy, the fevered dialogues worthy of Brother 12 or L. Ron Hubbard. 

Perhaps the worst of these drag artists is Jack Abbot (ac. Peter Bergman), Victor's second-in-command, a perpetual understudy in the Condition of Defeat.The altruism of  the characters is habitually sickening, and none more so than that of  "smilin' Jack".  Recently Jack has been seen pondering how to reverse a vasectomy for his arch-rival and nemesis Victor in order that his lost love Diane (now married to Victor) can be happy and fulfilled. No Iago here, alas, or Casio for that matter. 

Or there is Ryan MacNeil (ac. Scott Reeves), the poster-boy exec, former husband of  Victor's daughter Victoria, former husband of Nina, who, having dropped Nina for the younger mixen Trina, now proposes to continue being a father to Nina's son, even though the kid isn't his. The same with the supreme narcissist Danny Romalotti (ac. Michael Damian), the pop star who went to court in order to gain custody of his former wife's son. These absurd altruists might conform to the social engineering fantasies of L.A. City Social Services but have no grounding in reality. The tabloid excesses of 
the writing appears to be boundless. Men and women who are incapable of sustaining relationships for more than a few months are eager to adopt the children of their discards as if this quid pro quo were a natural part of the way life works. Sure. Your Honor, ask the single mothers of the world if this is how things stand with them.

Talking about children, why are they all unbelievable in The Young and the Restless? Because kids can't act? No. It's propaganda rather than character. Kids always eager to do homework, to do as they are told, eager to mouth the moral certainties of adults. Sometimes I think these guys must be into science-fiction. The little people are androids, while the adults are transitional cyborgs, the real humans having exited the show fifteen, twenty years ago. 

Too many characters in too many scenes are merely marking time rather than advancing story. A deliberate device for allowing late comers to pick up on the action, some say. Lousy writing, I say. If this is some sort of reversal on the famous "inverted pyramid" technique in journalism, then send these writers back to school or make them pound the beat. But of course... they are merely responding to the commands of some executive aesthete further up the chain of command. How else can one account for so many absurd conventions? Couples who dance alone in rented spaces, imbibing magnums of clichés, caressing each other in a false hypnosis. Characters lingering in doorways, monitoring forbidden conversations. Characters with secrets known by everyone
except God. Blah blah.... Over and over, love is presented as a commodity, scripted by the FTD, directed by the Chamber of Commerce. 

I have a suggestion, your Honor. Kill off King Victor. A plague descends on Genoa City. Enter X, Nikki's abandoned son. X kills the Sphinx that has been sitting on the roof of the Newman Enterprises complex, the plague is lifted, and the joyful citizens offer up Queen Nikki as the reward. X marries Nikki...and the Freudian nightmare continues. Is this America today or what, your honor? 
Is --

Defense:  Objection! Jesus. Your honor, the prosecution has fallen into mockery! 

Judge:  I agree. (to the Prosecutor) Continue your argument or sum up. 

Prosecution:  (smoothly) That was my summation. But I'll withdraw the Oedipus stuff  if  The Court feels it's out of order....

Judge:  (shrugs) I have no problem with the classics. Counsel? 

Defense: Let the Prosecution have its moment of contempt.... Seems to me, your honor, that the Prosecution has missed the intellectual intention of this drama completely. The Young & the Restless uses that greatest of all literary devices, self-irony. Remember the recent scene wherein Michael Baldwin (ac. Christen Le Blanc), the disgraced criminal lawyer now reduced to being a "para-legal", paces his lover's apartment, exclaims, "I was a 
different person back then -- an out-of-control sexual deviant." To which the scheming psychotrollop Phyllis replies, "I wish I'd known you back then --" Rape reality, rape fantasy... two women, two responses. Take your pick. If this isn't self-parody, what is it? 

Let us admit from the outset that if there's anything wrong with the 
characters it certainly isn't due to the acting. The acting is unfailingly 
good, often superb. Counsel has a problem with Jack Abbot? Bergman won Emmys for that role twice, within several nominations. So have several of the other actors. He has a problem with the writing but yet the writing team won an Emmy, and was just nominated again --

Prosecution:  Objection -- Emmys are like publishing prizes. Pure hype, propaganda from the industry. I mean, what is the competition? 

Judge: Yes, what is the standard of measurement? 

Defense:  Well, I believe there are currently eight daytime Soaps in annual contention. 

Judge:  Eight seems like good competition to me --

Prosecution:  All that means is they'll win at least once every eight years --

Defense:  Nonsense... your Honor, that woman Lucci from All My Children has been nominated a dozen times, never won an Emmy. 

Prosecution:  That's bullshit politics, is all. 

Judge:  Enough, Counsel. Objection overruled. Let the Defense continue his argument. 

Defense:  Right. My learned friend has spent some time slagging the "feminization" of  the male characters and the dramatic execution of the show in general. His attack on the primary character, Victor Newman, is elemental, even unpleasant. But honestly, when I listened to his description of Mr. Newman, I wondered if in fact it wasn't motivated by an envy that cloaked a deep admiration...? "Three thousand years ago he would've been a Greek god" -- indeed. Victor's character is a masterpiece of ironic intervention. To begin with, he is by no means as "new" as his name suggests 
as he embodies paradox: on the one hand he operates with the obsolete values of a sultan, while on the other he moves with the adaptive moral certainty of a New Age vulgarian. He's both singular and plural, jealous and omniscient, yet capable of an occasional selfless magnamity and spiritual clairvoyance. Each identity masks the other, sometimes exchanging places with the capriciousness of, yes, a god, a hero, a creature of  myth... a brute with a hangover who is a saint with a casket of candy. Unbelievable? Of course. He is a metaphor, not a man. 

The other characters? Sharon Newman (ac. Sharon Case), that tormented beauty whose character can't be separated from that of her best friend and doppelganger, the equally beautiful anima, Grace Turner (ac. Jennifer Gareis). Together they form a complete psychology which is realized, given form, by Nick Newman 
(ac. Josh Morrow) who plays that favorite ideal, the innocent young 

Prosecution:  Is he a metaphor too? 

Defense:  (soldiers on) Grace rediscovers Sharon's lost illegitimate child, keeps her, then tricks Sharon's husband into making love to her... not the stuff a true friend should do, but certainly just what an alter-ego might do.Love, fear, insecurity, betrayal -- great stuff, your Honor. 

Perhaps the best of the recent stories was the short, twisted marriage of  Nikki (ac. Melody Thomas Scott) to another Harlequin ideal, the handsome young doctor. Here's a character with a secret (and one he doesn't even know about): a mad wife whom he thought had drowned but was in fact anonymously incarcerated in an asylum. The wife, Veronica (ac. Candace Daly), escapes from the asylum and arrives in Genoa City, where she insinuates herself into 
her husband's new home (Nikki's settlement from Victor) in the disguise of a domestic drone called Sarah. This gothic scenario comes to a natural climax of jealousy and revenge during a storm when Sarah reveals her true identity to Joshua, is rebuffed, then shoots him dead. Her encounter with Nikki is just as violent and bloody, although regrettably Nikki survives....

Judge:  You're describing a lot of strong women here, Counsel. 

Defense:  That's so. The characters that work the best are those which come closest to realizing their psychopathic potential.... Veronica/Sarah, Phyllis, Grace, maybe Michael Baldwin, and most definitely Victor Newman. 

Judge:  But at the same time, there seem to be a lot of  passive men. 

Defense:  Well the yuppy black exec Neil Winters isn't passive -- he just booted his wife out because she wouldn't heel, wouldn't put her family and home before her modeling career. 

Prosecution:  Dolls, the men are all dolls. Puppets. 

Defense:  Just because they frequently exemplify the Christian value of self-sacrifice doesn't mean they aren't real men. Your Honor, you're a woman. I ask you -- 

Judge:  (removing his female wig)  Ask me what? 

Prosecution:  (chokes) You're a man!

Judge:  Lucky for you, Counsel for the Prosecution. (to the Defense)  Sit down, sir. I've heard enough to rule on this case. The charge is one of "false feminization", that is, the feminization of the male characters in The Young & the Restless for the purposes of cheap fantasy and propaganda. Frankly, as I listened to the Defense I thought I was hearing a prosecution argument. The men are metaphors.... (sighs, shakes his head) I've watched this show on occasion because my wife has it on before the six o'clock News. 
The shooting of Nikki was very poorly handled....  However, I digress. The actions of the male characters speak for themselves. Suckholes, little more than pets, and I for one resent this attempt at reducing the American male to child dependency. I find The Young & the Restless guilty as charged. 

LR 29/3/98