Rumors of the behind-the-scenes shake up at The Young and the Restless are true. Veteran soap opera and primetime writer Charles Pratt, Jr. has been named Y&R’s new head writer.
First reported by Highlight Hollywood, and later confirmed by Daytime Confidential, Pratt’s hiring at Y&R has sent shockwaves through the industry. According to Daytime Confidential’s report, Pratt will also receive an executive producer credit (in name only); Emmy winning executive producer Jill Farren Phelps will remain as the showrunner. It is unclear what will happen to former head writers Jean Passanante, Shelly Altman and Tracey Thomson. Reports indicate they’ve been offered positions as breakdown writers for the show. CBS has yet to issue a statement regarding the creative change.
A veteran scribe with credentials spanning three decades, multiple networks and different genres, Charles Pratt’s return to daytime comes after the failure of his latest primetime projects. The Lying Game, which Pratt developed, co-produced and wrote for, was canceled in 2013 in its second season. Pratt’s other project, Twisted, which he served as co-producer and writer, was canceled at the conclusion of its first season. His other, more successful primetime credits include Melrose Place and Desperate Housewives
Pratt’s daytime resume is impressive on paper. Since 1982, Pratt has worked in a writing capacity on Santa Barbara, General Hospital and All My Children. He co-created NBC’s sexy (albeit short-lived) soap Sunset Beach with soap alums Robert Guza, Jr. and Josh Griffith. From 2002-2006, served as General Hospital’s co-head writer (and later consulting producer) with Guza. In 2008, Pratt returned to soaps, taking over as All My Children’s head writer, though he was fired the following November.
His AMC tenure began with much success, but critics and fans soon realized he wasn’t the right person for the job. Stunt casting went awry, plot-driven storylines bombed, characters became unrecognizable and the series’ rich history was disregarded for the sake of the current plot. Longtime All My Children star Susan Lucci (Erica) shared her reservations about Pratt’s hiring in her 2011 All My Life.
“I sensed that he was a bad fit for our show from the start. It was during one of our first meetings together that Chuck told the entire cast that he didn’t believe in character driven-driven story lines, that he didn’t care about characters. He said he was there to shake things up,” wrote the actress. “Now, shaking things up can be good, but it’s my view that you have to leave your show’s characters intact. You can’t take established characters and make then unrecognizable or bring in so many personalities that there is no connection for the viewers without some type of fallout. It doesn’t work. In fact, there were several times during Chuck’s tenure that I’d click the television to ABC and not realize I was watching All My Children. If the show was unrecognizable to me, I can only imagine how our viewers felt!”
I can only imagine how the actors feel about the third head writing change since 2012.
My Take: As I’ve said on Twitter, I do not understand this decision. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Have I enjoyed Pratt’s work? Sure, I have. I’ve been a huge fan of his primetime work over the years. I also enjoyed a lot of his work with Guza on GH from 02-06, in fact, I think GH took a turn for the worse when he departed. I can surmise his AMC reign in one word, tragic. He started off strong, but soon the wheels to the magic bus fell off and there was no way to fix it. Knowing there were other, better, options available and yet they still went with him is…mystifying. No writing team is perfect, but I truly believe that Passanante/Altman/Thomson had found their groove amidst loss & turnover. I’m saddened by this, what I believe to be an unnecessary creative change. As always, I am willing to give the new regime a chance. Sometimes people learn from their mistakes. Sometimes they’ll succeed, sometimes they’ll fail. Only time will tell, but forgive me if it takes me a while to muster up some excitement. I typically give a six month grace period, knowing that there will be hiccups and mistakes during the transition. Sometimes it takes longer to make your mark, but by that time there should at least a foundation for solid storytelling. There’s a great article on Daytime Confidential from Emmy winning soap writer-turned-journalist Sara Bibel, who spills details involving the hiring of Pratt over veteran Y&R writer Sally Sussman Morina.