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Y&R: What a Soap Opera Should Be

Y&R: What a Soap Opera Should Be

Y&R is everything a soap opera is supposed to be and having been deprived of it for so long, I’m not ready to let it go.

While I’ve since gone back to watching, a year ago, I tuned out of General Hospital completely. Anyone who has watched a soap opera knows how difficult it is to turn off your television, ignore the clock as the minutes tick pass during show time, or delete the series recording off your DVR box. I soon missed the discussions and debates over characters and storylines. Other shows may have them, but soap fans are beyond passionate, sometimes to a fault. We embrace our characters, welcome them into our homes, and let them become a part of our lives. Who wouldn’t miss their stories? Still, I refused to let myself backtrack to a show that had bottomed out for me, and after many of suggestions, I set my DVR for The Young and the Restless.

At first, it was difficult to watch another soap opera. It’s frustrating to come into a show with such a rich history and to try and piece everything together. Stories get crossed as do identities, and how can you form an opinion about someone without knowing their entire past? After a month or so of watching, things finally began to click. I felt like I had gotten to know the characters and somewhat grasped their storylines.

The change in writing styles, the pacing of the stories, the relationships, and the depth to the show as a whole was non-comparable for me. There were romances, affairs, and rivalries fueled by passion and love, lust and greed, but the most fascinating aspect of all was how connected the characters were to one another. This was everything a soap opera was supposed to be, and I had been deprived of it for so long. Even though many complained about everything that was wrong with the show during the last year, I couldn’t get enough of it, and lately the show has exceeded my expectations and most of people I heard complain about it are enjoying it too.

Sharon was sleeping with Jack, Nick, and Billy, making a pregnancy too damn good to pass up. The truth about Delia’s paternity was out as were Chloe’s lies and she and Billy were set on getting married. Katherine was alive though no one believed it was really her. Victor and Ashley were expecting a child together and welcomed Adam back into their home. Mary Jane Benson had just come to Genoa City. Kevin was on the run as the Silver Chipmunk.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the single best thing about Y&R, but what instantly springs to mind is the deeply rooted relationships between the characters. From what I’ve seen, this show strives to honor history, something other soaps tend to struggle with, and it’s what makes their writing so fulfilling. There is a pay off for what you are a fan of. Relationships don’t crumble overnight and lack any sense as to why, and characters don’t play musical beds at random. They might sleep around, but it never fails to surprise you.

One of my favorite relationships is the quad of Nick/Phyllis/Jack/Sharon, Jack now replaced by Adam. It’s been going on for years now, and it doesn’t matter which pairing you a fan of because there’s something in it for everyone. Nick volleys between these two women constantly, torn between loving them both – or maybe he just thinks too much with the thing between his legs. I personally think that they are better off without Nick or Adam, but it doesn’t mean I appreciate the story any less. The writers manage to keep the story moving by having scenes between everyone and keeping the rivalries and the romance afloat.

Nick is jealous that Sharon married his brother, but is still in love with Phyllis while periodically lusting after his ex-wife. Sharon and Nick constantly share brief moments that link to their married life and what could have been in a way that doesn’t make the longing boring or overdone. They come across as two former lovers who appreciated what they had and sometimes wonder how things could have been different without all the other chaos in their life. When Nick or Sharon is mean or spiteful to one another, the harsher the words the harder they are trying to fight how much they love one another, and that’s what keeps their fans hooked.

As disgusted as some are by Sharon marrying Adam, it’s still all kinds of scandalous and soapy fun to watch unfold. Adam stole her baby, passed off as someone else’s, and then managed to get Sharon to fall in love with her afterward. Lots of people debate who loves who in that relationship. I honestly think Sharon didn’t want to be alone and wanted to be happy with someone. Adam just happened to be around and treated her like she was a capable woman who didn’t need a man, and I think in his own twisted way, he loves her. He told her the truth about her baby before their plane crashed, but Sharon conveniently didn’t remember, and instead of coming clean, he continued to cover it up. I think there’s something to be said about him wanting to know her baby is alive before she died. There’s some kind of conscious, even if it’s not enough of one for him to actually fess up.

Thankfully, Phyllis is starting to dig deeper into her brother-in-law’s past. What Adam does might not be any of her business, but I sure enjoy someone digging through the dirt of his life for some kind of truth. She’s also doing it behind Nick’s back, creating another of the many kinds of secrets that has threatened their relationship in the past. As much as she begs Nick to be honest with her and promises no secrets, they seem to happen anyway. Something tells me Nick won’t be so happy about her working on this one without him, but he’s also carrying a secret of his own regarding the scheme he thought up that just got Newman Jabot Cosmetics.

Adam’s scheme started another round of the long-running feud between Victor and Jack. Their hunger for power and one upping one another has kept them going in circles, and one wonders if either will ever truly win. I’ve only been privy to their battle for the last year, which may be why I’m not tired of it. Their feud touches so many people on the canvas from the members of their families to Katherine, who they agreed to work on the same side for. That probably should have been a warning to one of them that the other was going to use the truce to get the upper hand. This time Victor won out taking Jabot from the Abbotts, another notch on his belt just months after taking Colleen’s heart, the Abbotts generosity the only reason he’s alive right now.

I’m sure most doubted that Victor’s new heart would change the ruthless, cunning business man he is and always has been. If anything, it added a few more years to his life, years he’ll spend attempting to torture Jack and anyone else who gets in his way. The fun part about this story is that Victor won this round, which means the next can easily go to Jack, and seeing him take down The Mustache is going to be quite enjoyable and make for a hell of a story.

Victor’s Jabot takeover is one of fabulously written business oriented stories that’s currently going on. Lines were drawn in the sand when Katherine lost her company, and it’s happening yet again as the Abbott’s face off against Victor and anyone involved in Jabot. Billy has surprisingly softened to Victoria – she finally has chemistry with someone! – and she’s now the CEO of the company her father stole from Billy’s family. The possible beginning to a star crossed romance of the messy sort? I sure hope so. It would make for all kind of soapy goodness with Billy having used Restless Style to trash her and her father, not to mention that a romance between them would have everyone talking.

It would also take JT and Mac by surprise, who are obviously headed for a romance of their own. Fitting isn’t it? The four of them basically swapped spouses, a much needed change after Billy and Mac epically bombed together onscreen. So much for high school sweethearts lasting forever and all those romantic notions put forth by Billy and Mac and everything they could be. As annoying as the recast is (and maybe I shouldn’t talk much since I never saw the original), I enjoyed her and Billy giving it a go only to realize that they weren’t meant to be. It brought a little bit of realism to their story, and eventually led to Billy growing up a bit, much needed for a man who seemed to have the Peter Pan syndrome down pat.

Billy has changed a lot over the last year. He played the role of the loyal screw-up through a failed marriage, issues with his brother, his relationship with Mac, and his daughter, Delia. After a wakeup call from his father, (If a soap insists on having a character who is a ghost, John Abbott is a prime example of how to write one,) Billy realized he needed to sober up, grow up, and step up. I’ve enjoyed the change in him, knowing that while his reckless, screw-up side will show up from time to time, he’s at least willing to try now. A year ago, he treated Chloe like garbage, which might be understandable considering all the lying and manipulating she did, but he did lead her into a marriage he never wanted. As he said himself, all Chloe ever did was love and accept him, and it was nice to see him finally make peace with his ex-wife after all this time. This is a great example of how exes on a soap can co-exist and co-parent without a bunch of sleazy, conniving drama. Chloe and Billy have made great strides character wise and grown up a lot, largely because of Delia, but they also realized that there were more important things than partying and continent hopping for a good time. Some people call that boring, but I call it a growth, and it’s necessary if you want a character you can invest in.

And attention must be given to the veterans of the show, a majority of the characters and actors with heavy stories would likely be overlooked on other shows, and better yet romance actually sticks here. Michael and Lauren are a strong couple, often shown on dates and adorably lusting after one another. They’re an example of how angst can come from outside forces and create angst for a couple. Although I have to say, the Daisy and Ryder story line could have ended like yesterday. The only positive outcome to this is that it will only strengthen Michael and Lauren’s relationship and prove their love can withstand random, crazy people who they allow to infiltrate it and torture them with rats and blackmail those around them.

Murphy and Katherine are old romance at its best. As disgusting as it should be to see two very old people talk about hotel rooms and playlists for doing the dirty deed, it’s one of the most endearing things about the show. There’s something so sweet about Katherine having an ice fishing, flannel wearing husband to grow even older with, who will always stand by her side. It’s a tender reminder that opposites attract and love comes in all forms, and something tells me these two are in it for the long haul.

Tender romances are also brewing for Ashley and Neil, a pair I would have never thought of putting together, but fit perfectly, as well as Jack and Emily. While I found the Jack and Emily romance a little rushed, especially considering all the drama surrounding their coupling in regards to Patti, I do enjoy it if only because I saw the potential story from the start of the proposal. Did anyone else see what kind of wedding we were headed for with these two? The real question is how long will it take for someone to figure out that Patti has escaped and is marrying Jack while Emily is on her death bed from an overdose.

There’s only one thing that makes the romances in Genoa City better than they already are and that’s how all these characters come together. When something happens in Genoa City, it touches everyone. Katherine loses her company and business rivals Victor and Jack agree to put their feud aside to help her get it back. Sharon marries Adam and everyone in town has something to say about it. The missing evidence for Daniel’s murder case needs tracked down, and everyone digs through the town dump to find it. This isn’t a show where people come together and interact for weddings or funerals. They are constantly in one another’s orbit through well-written and creative stories that proves there’s more to this genre than repeated murder mysteries, who’s the daddy stories, trite affairs, and overdone explosions.

It has those things, but it also has rich characters, flawed people who cheat, lie, and steal, but also love hard and fight for the things they want. They are the most rootable group of people I’ve ever seen on a daytime drama. Hating Adam is actually kind of fun, not gut wrenching, and regardless of what couples you back as a viewer, chances are you’ll get a reward at some point. Maybe I’m so beaten to down by the writing of other shows, but if it came down to choosing between my one year love affair with Y&R and the long standing one I have with General Hospital, the choice is simple. Take me to Genoa City any day.

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About the author

Amber Cunigan

Amber Cunigan is a sarcastic mid-twenties undergrad, extreme book hoarder, Netflix addict, and reality TV aficionado. She enjoys excessive amounts of chocolate and caffeine, tweeting, and all things Ezra Fitz and Ryan Gosling. When it comes to TV, she expects to be thoroughly entertained and when not, she will slam and mock you, but still tune in next week. She's a glutton for punishment. Basically, she's awesome.