Auntie Ri Ri Hits a Wall: Storyline Malfunction on Y&R
It's the hardest thing I ever had to do... It happens to the best of relationships. After a period of sheer, unadulterated, orgasmic bliss you come home to find your significant other has left their soiled clothing in a pile on the bathroom floor, or they've eaten up the last of the double stuffed Oreos without replacing them, and you sigh to yourself with the realization that the honeymoon just might be coming to an end. That's how I felt at the end of Friday's episode of The Young and the Restless.
For months now my fellow DC'ers and I have been raving about the stellar work Y&R co-executive producer Maria Arena "Auntie Ri Ri" Bell and her "Dream Team" of Paul Rauch, Hogan Sheffer and Scott Hamner have been accomplishing at Y&R. In a fairly short amount of time Bell and her boys managed to refocus this soap on its core characters, spinning fascinating, history-rich, character-driven tales for beloved, veteran characters like Katherine Chancellor (Jeanne Cooper), Victor and Nikki Newman (Eric Braeden and Melody Thomas Scott), Jack, Jill and Ashley Abbott (Peter Bergman, Jess Walton and Eileen Davidson), all the while building on one of the most impressive next generations daytime has seen in years, anchored by legacy characters like Billy Abbott (Billy Miller), Kate Valentine/Chloe Mitchell (Elizabeth Hendrickson) and Daniel Romalotti (Michael Graziadei). Have there been some missteps along the way? Of course. The Silver Chipmunk Saga will go down in the soap history books as one of the lamest storylines ever, and the fact that the Winters family—who were once just as popular with Y&R's audience as the Abbotts, Newmans, and Fisher-Baldwins—were only given storyline scraps revolving around a lackluster battle for Neil (Kristoff St. John) and/or Ana fought by Tyra (the woefully inadequate Eva Marcille) and Karen (Nia Peeples)—made it hard to give Auntie Ri Ri and Co. an A on their report card. But let's face it, with at least five out of the eight soaps on the air sucking donkey dong most days, a solid B was something to stand up and cheer about, so we did, and loudly. Until this past week.
When we first heard about the return of Phillip Chancellors III (Thom Bierdz) and IV (John Driscoll), the DC crew was beside ourselves with excitement. I can't tell you how many giddy Skype chats Jillian, Mel, Mike and I had attempting to explain to our fearless, yet-history challenged leader Luke the complicated back story of the Chancellor men and their women, once the spoilers began making their way online.
On paper it sounded like a brilliant idea. Phillip— the golden boy heir who first his mother Jill and stepmother Kay, then bad girl Nina (Tricia Cast) and virginal, teen model Cricket (Lauralee Bell), fought over— would return home— having faked his death because he couldn't deal with disappointing his family because of one major, shocking secret, he was gay. It made perfect sense. The drinking. The lack of interest in sex with Nina.
"This will be the storyline of the year!" we predicted.
"I bet this will take Y&R over the 4.0!" we gushed.
So what if it required a belief-suspending return from the dead storyline? Y&R had barely used that soap stereotype, so we were ready to give them a pass. All My Children received the most buzz and critical acclaim it has seen in a decade for doing a similar story that reunited Jesse and Angie (Darnell Williams and Debbi Morgan) last year. Who cared if we saw Phillip III die before our eyes? This story would be so powerful, so timely, so riveting, we would gladly give Y&R free reign to take us on this particular ride. Too bad the story ran out of gas before it hit the Wisconsin stateline.
The buildup to the reveal of Phillip III being alive and Cane (Daniel Goddard) being an imposter was nothing short of soap operatic brilliance. Thanks to the dangling plot thread left by Lynn Marie Latham, viewers knew Cane had a sketchy connection to an "Uncle Langley" back in Oz. The cryptic phone call Cane made to Langley years ago made us believe he was conning the Chancellors, and although LML decided to drop that beat in the story once Goddard proved to be a popular addition to the canvas, fans never forgot about that phone call. Enter our heroine Maria Arena Bell.
Auntie Ri Ri came in and began systematically fixing every fit of executive indecision LML made during her tenure at Y&R. Before we knew it fireplaces were back, water bottles were being swigged and most imperatively, the fabulous women of Genoa City were draped in diamonds and furs as God and the late Bill Bell intended. Then Bell hired Sheffer and got to work fixing storyline stink bombs from past regimes. Relying on the historic kidnapping of Kay by Clint and Marge, Auntie Ri Ri and Co. spun a fabulous yarn for Cooper, ultimately undoing Kay Alden's absurdly-conceived prior plot making Kay and Jill mother and daughter. The Dream Team also reignited one of daytime's best triangles Ashley/Victor/Nikki and infused it's heir apparent storyline featuring Victor's son Nick (Joshua Morrow) and the two women in his life, Sharon (Sharon Case) and Phyllis (Michelle Stafford) with new blood.
On the heels of these successful moves, Bell embarked on her most ambitious fete yet. She would now attempt to undo a mistake her legendary father-in-law admitted he wished he had never made. She would resurrect the Chancellor scion from the dead. As much as it pains me to say this, Auntie Ri Ri should have quit while she was ahead.