I've written about soap operas before. I've watched The Young and the Restless off and on since I was a college student back in the 70s and the show was just beginning. I've loved it at times, but at other times I've found some of the characters and storylines so bad, they were too painful to watch. But now, the drama behind the scenes at the soap is far more interesting than anything their writers have dreamed up.
Recently, actor Michael Muhney, who plays Adam Newman, was fired. On the surface, the firing seemed abrupt--and fans were outraged. Petitions have been circulated. Angry comments have sprouted up on the show's Facebook page, indicating the show stands to lose a multitude of viewers if Adam does indeed exit as scheduled on January 30th.
But I suspect the problem goes deeper than Muhney's firing. I feel--and if the Facebook comments are any indication, I'm not the only one--that the characters and storylines have been declining in quality for while now. Many, myself included, attribute this to the show's current executive producer, Jill Farren Phelps, who's got a bit of a reputation as a soap killer. She's worked on several--and all but one, General Hospital, have been cancelled. (GH fired her in 2012, when their ratings plummeted, according to numerous online reports.) Why CBS handed her the reins of the #1 Daytime Drama, I'll never understand--unless they're anxious to kill the genre to make room for more game shows. Y&R's sister soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, has already jumped the shark in the eyes of most fans, who are bored with the endless love triangles involving trampy Brooke and her chronically indecisive daughter, Hope. I predict it will be gone within five years...but that's probably just optimism on my part.
As the demands by fans for Muhney's rehiring and Phelps' firing reached fever pitch, TMZ exposed the "real" reason for Muhney's dismissal. They say an "insider" at Y&R revealed that he was fired because he supposedly groped the breasts of 20-year-old Hunter King, his onscreen niece. This had, again, supposedly been kept quiet by Phelps, who reportedly fired Muhney to placate King--though not immediately. Maybe it's just me, but I find the timing of this "leak" by an "insider" who just happens to be married to someone at TMZ more than a little suspicious.
Did it really happen, or is it just a story cooked up to gain sympathy for King (and the show) and turn fans against Muhney? Only two people know the truth--and while King has been quiet, Muhney has been put under a gag order. Gag order? What are they going to do to him if he talks? Fire him? Oh, wait a minute--they already did that!
Few of us would condone such treatment of any woman if it did indeed happen--but while fans are quick to abandon a show to protest the firing of a favorite actor, not many will continue to watch a program they no longer find entertaining out of sympathy. So while the leak to TMZ may have changed a few minds about support for Muhney the actor, many still find Y&R without Adam the character not worth their time.
There have also been reports of issues between Muhney and his onscreen father, Victor Newman, played by veteran actor Eric Braeden. A cause for firing? Braeden says no--and I'm inclined to believe him. It's not as if actors never have conflicts but manage to continue working together. Years ago, there were rumors of flare-ups between Braeden and Peter Bergman, who portrays Jack Abbott. Both have remained with the show quite successfully.
Muhney is not the first to exit under Jill Farren Phelps' dubious leadership, and I doubt he'll be the last. Fan favorites Michelle Stafford and Billy Miller are rumored to have been tired of the backstage drama. Genie Francis, once half of the soap world's most celebrated supercouple, General Hospital's legendary Luke and Laura, was hired with much fanfare--then let go due to alleged budget cuts. Sharon Case, whose once likeable character, Sharon Newman, has turned into the resident nutjob, is said to be unhappy with her character's multiple breakdowns. (Sharon is one character with an interesting backstory that could make for a truly good story arc--much better than simply repeating the same old bullshit over and over.) Instead of giving us more front-burner storylines with characters who have a long history with the show, Phelps gives us a dull romance between Abby Newman and the eternally boring Tyler (he's so boring, I can't even remember his last name) and Noah Newman's inexplicable romance with Courtney what's-her-name (I can't remember her last name, either). And then there's Hunter King's weepy, mopey Summer Newman (Abbott?), who could be a fun character if she were more like her onscreen mother Phyllis. Currently, Summer is unconscious--but if she weren't in a hospital bed, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
The actor who plays Tyler must be related to Twilight's Kristen Stewart--they have the same "one facial expression fits all" look. But Phelps must think he's hot stuff--when fans objected loudly to his character breaking up the marriage of happily-wed Cane and Lily Ashby, another budding love story, between heiress Abby and tough ex-New York cop Alex Chavez, was abruptly ended so that Tyler could be shoehorned into Abby's storyline.
Will Michael Muhney get his job back? If not, will fans make good on their threat to stop watching? Will CBS wise up and fire Jill Farren Phelps? Tune in tomorrow....
Photo credits: Y&R logo - www.tvlistings.zap2it.com; Eric Braeden and Michael Muhney - www.tvline.com
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