The Young and the Restless Is a Hot Mess: Here’s a Simple, 10-Step Plan to Fix What’s Broken
CBS, Howard Wise/JPI (3), CBS screenshot
We would love to say that CBS’ longest-running remaining soap is in great shape. We… um… We can’t do that.
If you asked us how to improve The Bold and the Beautiful, the answer would be short and sweet: Eliminate the repetitive dialogue that tells viewers it’s OK if they skip episodes because they’ll be filled in later — usually repeatedly! — and play more than one story at a time.
At all times.
We could also give tuneups to Days of Our Lives and General Hospital in a sentence or less: The former needs to end its disastrous rape story, stat, and the latter could do a better job of acknowledging the fact that it isn’t called Mafia Hospital.
The Young and the Restless, though… Man. Its problems are a bit more numerous; its challenges, significantly greater. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, a mess. But that doesn’t mean that it should take advantage of its renewal through the 2023-24 season to delay fixing what’s broken.
It’s still going to want an audience when it reaches its 50th anniversary, after all — and preferably, a larger, more engaged one than it has today. And righting the ship isn’t rocket science. As a matter of fact, we could do it in just 10 simple steps. Read on and see if you agree with the changes that we’d make to The Young and the Restless.
1. Make Something Happen.
In bygone days, people used to joke that soap characters just sat around all day chitchatting and drinking coffee in the kitchen. Now, on The Young and the Restless, it actually feels like that (minus the kitchen and often the coffee). The residents of Genoa City meander from one lavish set to the next, discussing plot points that are rarely exclamation points. Storylines begin and… and… um…
Yeah, that’s pretty much it. They sit there in neutral, engines purring but going nowhere.
We know that soap plots aren’t meant to really ever end, but shouldn’t they occasionally at least… move? Make progress? Wake us up?
Arguably even worse is the fact that when a capital-S Something does occur on the show, it has no aftereffects. Adam plotted to blow up Newman Enterprises and his estranged family with it, and just weeks later, there he is, meandering about town, moping through Sharon’s wedding and hovering over Chelsea as if we’re still supposed to believe that she’s in the running to be his endgame.
You could argue that soaps are a heightened reality; they don’t play by the same rules by which we actual human beings live. We’d counter, though, that Adam’s story is anything but a heightened reality, it’s more of a… let’s say a reduced reality, a lessened one in which even when there appear to be stakes, they aren’t nearly as high as they might at first look.
2. Make ‘It’s Complicated’ the New Normal.
Good soap opera = complicated relationships. We want the romances to be messy, not the show. So why does The Young and the Restless keep making things so neat, so easy for its characters? Consider: Billy and Lily got involved with one another with less difficulty than we have choosing a pizza topping. Kyle swaps partners with less Sturm und Drang than attends our every click of the remote. And heck, even after Elena cheated on Devon with Nate — which thrilled us, by the way, if only because something truly soapy had finally happened! — what’s been the fallout?
We’ll give you a hint: It rhymes with (and is!) not a whole lot.
Yes, the exes clearly still have residual feelings for one another, but the way they’ve so quickly and tidily moved on, you’d never guess that theirs had been a great passion. And if they don’t seem invested in one another and the bond that’s been severed, how are viewers who actually were invested supposed to feel? “Oh, guess they fooled me. I really cared about ‘Elevon’” — that’s how.
3. Make Every Day Veterans Day.
There’s a reason core characters are called what they are — hello?!? — it’s because they are central to the show, its heart and soul. So why have so many of Young & Restless’ spent so long on the back burner that they’ve begun having their mail delivered there?
Michael and Lauren, who are as beloved a couple as any — or so the reaction to our recent idea for them suggested — have no story. Traci, a character fans not only adore but to whom they relate, is only around to dispense advice like a wise gumball machine; she has no life of her own. It’s an event anytime Doug Davidson is allowed to reprise his role of Paul. But, of course, the audience doesn’t just want to see him, they want to see him eyeball-deep in meaningful story.
For crying out loud, these days even Nikki just wanders through Genoa City like a glamorous day player; her history on The Young and the Restless demands that she have a more exciting future than that. She deserves it, and so do viewers.
At this point, we can imagine some suit behind the scenes snarking that we’ve forgotten that the show is called The Young and the Restless. We’d tell that suit to remember that for decades, one of the most popular characters on the soap — if not the most popular — was Katherine Chancellor, played by Jeanne Cooper, who was in her mid-40s when she started and just kept getting better with age.
4. Unleash Victor.
The tycoon doesn’t have to reclaim his desk at Newman Enterprises, but with Victoria now running the company, her father, long Genoa City’s most formidable mover and shaker, has next to nothing to do. At this point, he’s been reduced to the mustachioed equivalent of Paul’s meddlesome mother, Mary, forever fretting over and undermining his children. Let the Dark Knight have his day — day after day after day, thank you.
5. Let Cupid Take Aim at Jack.
We can’t remember the last time one of the former playboy’s romances left us, like they famously do him, smilin’. Even his late father, John, got more action in his later years than Jack is. To remedy the situation, we’d have Jack set out to find his Mrs. Right at last, only to discover that he’s drawn to the same kinds of vixens that his dad was. (Not for nothing, but Jack did sleep with not one but two of his stepmothers!) If his perfect match turned out to be someone he’s long considered at best a frenemy — i.e. Gloria — so much, the better. Anything to keep Judith Chapman on the canvas. (Don’t even get us started on the direction in which the show seems to be going… oops, too late; read Candace Young’s take on his next potential pairing here.)
6. Give Us a Villain.
Back in the day, The Young and the Restless was well-known for its baddies, iconic creeps like David Kimble (who ultimately got “trashed” in a garbage chute) and Shawn Garrett (who buried alive the object of his obsession, Lauren)… she-devils such as Sheila Carter (who now, as far as we know, waits tables on The Bold and the Beautiful) and Lisa Mansfield (who imprisoned plaything Brad Carlton).
Lately, though… bupkis.
The show hasn’t had in its midst a real supervillain since Ray Wise’s Ian Ward. So it should take advantage of the amazing caliber of talent that’s out there and cast William deVry (ex-Julian, General Hospital), Sarah Brown (ex-Carly/Claudia, General Hospital) or Karla Mosley (ex-Maya, The Bold and the Beautiful) as a new Big Bad, someone so dangerous, all of Genoa City would start sleeping with a nightlight on.
7. Check Out of the Hotel Wars.
We won’t belabor the point; we’ll just say that we don’t think anyone in the audience is sitting on the edge of their seat, breathlessly waiting to find out who will wind up running the Grand Phoenix. The show would be better off shifting its action back to the Genoa City Athletic Club, which worked better as a set to begin with.
Also, hotels? C’mon, guys, Schitt’s Creek, you’re not.
8. Figure Out Who Adam Is, Then Let Him Be.
No matter the material he’s given, Mark Grossman slays. But the character is a walking disaster, neither a hero for whom you can root nor a villain at whom you can hiss. We suspect that the show views Victor’s son as an antihero, a basically good guy who is capable of very bad things. Trouble is, that’s not the way he’s written — at least not for terribly long at a time.
Adam’s motivations change from minute to minute, which makes it tough to know, much less love, him (or, for that matter, hate him). So we wind up being primarily confused and aggravated by him.
The solution? Once and for all, decide who Adam is and what he wants, then play that character. Play that character for a good long while. He can change over time, of course; he can evolve. But for that evolution to ring true and have any resonance with the audience, we have to know and understand the man that Adam was at the beginning of his journey.
9. Bring On a New Hunk.
Since the show senselessly jettisoned Theo, Kyle has no competition in his age range. So Young & Restless needs to introduce a new hottie — or bring back Fen full time, or unmake the mistake of Tyler Johnson’s firing — to remind the likes of Summer, Lola and Sally that they needn’t settle for bachelor No. 1 simply because he’s also the one and only.
10. Take Some Chances Already.
When did The Young and the Restless become The Staid and the Predictable? In its early days, the show earned a reputation for pushing boundaries, for taking chances. It was considered “the racy soap,” one that broke ground with its depiction of casual sex and its frank talk about abortion. Now, it’s so risk-averse, we doubt that it would wager a dollar to buy a lottery ticket.
It’s 2021. The times, they have a-changed, and so has The Young and the Restless… into a show we barely recognize. If it wants to attract new viewers, young viewers, it can’t just throw around terms like “media influencer” and think that’s gonna do the trick. Kids are more discerning than that. No, it has to develop the residents of Genoa City into fully fleshed-out characters in whom we can see ourselves (or wish to). It has to give them problems to which we can relate (and no, “Some meany’s trying to steal my hotel” is not a relatable problem). It has to intrigue and inspire, it has to move and make sense.
It can do it, too. It has — for decades.
It’s just lost its way. What do you think, Young & Restless fans? Do you believe that our 10-step program would improve the show? What changes would you prescribe? Hit the comments with your suggestions, then check out the below photo gallery in which we predict what will happen next on this and all the soaps.