In Y&R, CBS has the top-rated daytime drama, a huge and loyal following, an amazing cast, and writers who truly understand the genre and it's compexities. Writing for a show that airs five days a week, 52 weeks a year is vastly different than writing for the big screen, or for a weekly series. The pace is different. The level of relationship fans form with their favorite characters is different. In many ways, the daytime serial is as close to real time as drama can ever be. The writers of Y&R get all of this, and they mostly do a great job. At the moment, they're writing some of the best stuff seen on daytime in well over ten years.
So, what do you do when you've got a certified hit on your hands? A show that no one can even come close to, in terms of ratings or quality? Most people would pay attention to this success, try and figure out what the strongest assets are, and make use of them. CBS? CBS decides to mess with a good thing.
All Roads Lead To Victor
I know there are some people who disagree with me, but here's my take on Y&R: It's all about Victor Newman. Every relevant character, every story line worth watching right now, is connected to Victor. Take Victor out of the mix, and everything good about Y&R falls apart. Without Victor, there is no reason for Nikki to even exist. Without Victor, not one bit of Adam's story line means a thing and, in fact, Adam, himself, becomes irrelevant. Jack's sole reason for existing is his rivalry with Victor. Without Victor, Jack has no foil, Ashley has no great, star-crossed love, and Kay has no peer. Without Victor, Newman Industries becomes an empty shell, and Jabot, which only really exists to compete against Newman, becomes a ghost town. Without Victor, Michael doesn't have a client anyone gives a damn about, making both him and Lauren obsolete. Without Victor, Jack and Nick don't really have any differences, and are left with civility between them. Without Victor, Gloria has no one to grovel to, Paul has no one to constantly be suspicious of/work for. Without Victor, CBS' The Young and the Restless becomes a show where the main stories are Amber/Daniel/Kevin and some annoying art heist, Lily and Cain's boring marriage, Jill still acting like a petulant child around Kay, and Nick singing the 70s hit, "Torn Between Two Lovers.". That's it. Thats what's left if Victor leaves Genoa City.
I have no problem admitting that I love Victor Newman. He's the perfect soap opera character: a man who does terrible things, all the while believing he's being perfectly fair and just. He's a tyrant. He's a charmer. He's a controlling, egotistical son-of-a-bitch. I love him. He's been described as "the man every woman wants and every man wants to be." I don't know how true that is, but I do know that Victor Newman is the draw for many Y&R fans, including heterosexual men.
Soaps have long been the domain of women and gay men, but Victor Newman long ago made it perfectly acceptable for straight men to watch daytime television. I read a story, years ago, in Sports Illustrated, about a-day-in-the-life of the average NFL player. An integral part of the day for many NFL players, it turns out, is the hour set aside to watch Y&R. Players interviewed for the article pointed to Victor Newman as the reason Y&R was the show for them. Professional athletes who are fans of Y&R and Victor Newman include: Football players Boss and Champ Bailey, and Brett Favre, basketball player Patrick Ewing, and baseball players Dave Roberts, and Jim Rice.
Victor Newman is, in many ways, the glue that holds Genoa City together. And Eric Braeden is Victor Newman.
If you had a certified hit on your hands, and there was good reason to believe that one actor was responsible for a significant amount of that show's success, wouldn't you treat that actor well, keep him happy, and do what needed to be done to keep him around? I would. CBS, however, doesn't seem to think this is the best tactic. What they've chosen to do, instead, is invoke a clause which allows them to renegotiate an actor's contract every 26 weeks, and insist Braeden take a significant pay cut. Is this legal? Definitely. Is it a respectful way to treat an actor who has made the network tens of millions of dollars over the years? No. Is it good business? Definitely not: where he was clearly expected to timidly agree to terms posed by CBS, Braeden has instead chosen to hold his own and walk away from Y&R and Genoa City.
If CBS was trying to force their strongest link to to break, they've failed miserably. Eric Braeden, it turns out, is a lot more like Victor Newman than anyone at CBS thought he was. This isn't some 20 year old cupcake with no talent, no experience, and nothing to fall back on. This is an actor who has made sure he's remained recognizable to a wide range of viewers through television and film work spanning nearly 50 years. His recent interview with TV Guide makes it clear that he is not afraid to speak out, and that paying him so little respect has clearly been a mistake on the part of CBS.
What the hell are you doing?
Seriously, who makes these decisions at CBS, and what the hell are they doing? Someone get this guy a noose or a bottle of pills - faster is better, when it comes to suicide. Whoever you are, making all these crappy decisions, I have a message for you: If you need to save some money, why not cut fat, instead of meat? Instead of fixing what isn't broken, why not look at some of the weak links at Y&R? What if, instead of demanding Braeden take a pay cut mid-contract, you just wrap up the art heist crapfest, and have Kevin, Amber, Daniel and Kevin's annoying wife leave town for good? Surely, getting rid of four younger actors that no one cares about or follows makes more sense than gutting the core of Genoa City by forcing the hand of the actor that so many viewers enjoy, and doing away with the character who serves as a crucial linchpin to so many stories that viewers do care about and follow. But, wait - why would you consider this logical move? You're the same guys who decided to destroy every ounce of good will Guiding Light created with the LGBT community - a significant demographic with tons of spending power - by neutering Otalia. It's clear that idiots are running the show at CBS.
Fans of Guiding Light spent the summer repeating this mantra: FUCBS. It would seem the network is hell-bent on pissing off as many viewers as possible. Not satisfied with canceling the lowest rated soap - a show with a loyal following and a significant place in television history - they've aimed for a loftier goal: pissing off viewers of the top rated daytime drama. Well done - especially since CBS has ranked 8th in a list of major American corporations at risk of falling into bankruptcy. CBS, of course, vehemently denies they are in financial trouble. Why, then, would they even consider invoking the 26 week rule with their most popular daytime actor? Bankruptcy is clearly looming overhead, and no one in a position of power seems to have an ounce of common sense.
Unless there are further developments in the near future, Eric Braeden's final scenes air in early November. I've been a fan of Y&R since the 70s. After Braeden takes a bow, and it becomes the full-blown Amber Show (despite the fact that I have yet to meet a single Y&R viewer who can even stomach this character) I won't be watching, anymore.
Once again: FUCBS.
NOTE: As has been pointed out by a sharp reader, this should really be a FU to Sony, who owns Y&R and who Braeden, himself names as the corporation that has treated him so poorly. So, yes, FU SONY. But FUCBS, anyhow.
Next - Y&R part 3: Where are the strong black characters? Bring back Dru!