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October 13, 2015

TV Squad Soap Report - Why Eric Braeden nearly bolted The Young and the Restless

by Allison Waldman, posted Apr 9th 2008 2:09PM
Y&R logoOne of the reasons for The Young and the Restless' ongoing success -- and when I say ongoing, I mean long-term, sustained and unprecedented -- is the acting ensemble that has remained intact for well over 20 years. Fans are happy to see their favorite characters, and the actors playing them, year in and year out. Leading that Y&R troupe is Eric Braeden, the dominating, dynamic and demanding Victor Newman. His character is a scion, a tycoon, a romantic and still terrifying figure in the tapestry of the show that Bill Bell created 35 years ago. Victor Newman has ruled for 28 of those years, and Eric Braeden has always played him, and played him very well. The former primetime performer -- Rat Patrol, 1966-68, when he went by the name Hans Gudegast, his real name -- and lots of episodic work -- has been one of the soap world's leading stars.

Therefore, it was a stunner to learn that during the tumultuous 2007 season, Braeden came very close to walking off the show. He had had enough of the Lynn Marie Latham era. The writer/executive producer, who began in 2006, has a history of excellent writing, including Homefront and Knots Landing in primetime. However, in her stint with Y&R, she emphasized many new, younger characters in an effort to put her imprint on the show. That rubbed Braeden the wrong way. He was not used to being shunted aside and he wasn't interested in putting up with that kind of treatment. Like the character he plays, Braeden is not a man with whom you mess.

According to an interview with SoapCentral.com, Eric was disgusted with the direction of his and other veteran characters on the show. He met with Latham to express his displeasure and ask for her to address his concerns. Apparently, her response was unsatisfactory, leading to Eric Braeden contemplating an exit.

Then came the writer's strike. Ms. Latham struck as a writer, and refused to work as executive producer, thereby abandoning her post. Her replacement has come from the Bell family -- Maria Arena Bell, daughter-in-law of Y&R co-creators Lee Phillip Bell and her late husband William. She is the new headwriter position, and Eric Braeden is pleased. "This is the happiest I've been on the show in a long time. The emphasis is again where it belongs, with the established characters on the show."

Eric Braeden is likely also thrilled that he's being given a new romance and storyline. The romance is a classic -- the May-September romance of an older man and a younger woman. You know, just like the movie Love in the Afternoon (how's that for a soap tie-in). It's also like two other Audrey Hepburn classics, Funny Face and Sabrina. In fact, the woman who has caught Victor Newman's discerning eye is named Sabrina (actress Raya Meddine), and she's a good friend of his grown daughter Victoria.

Normally, I like a good May-September romance as much as the next girl, but they did something just a week ago that really made me stand up and applaud. Sabrina is an art consultant and she's been pursuing Victor by trying to interest him in contemporary art. The idea that a conservative guy like Victor Newman would be impressed with such fippery as modern art makes the other characters scoff. That's not Victor! But Sabrina has piqued his interest -- in more than just art.

The show then set a sequence of scenes in Los Angeles. Sabrina invited Victor to come visit the Broad Contemporary Art Museum Exhibition in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. They went on location and took viewers through the amazing museum, showing exhibits like Jeff Koons Michael Jackson and Bubbles ceramic, the artist's Cracked Egg (Red) and Chris Burden's Urban Light. And as these pieces of art were beautifully shot and explained -- gently -- by Sabrina, the romance between her and Victor unfolded.

My friends, this was soap opera production at its finest. It wasn't just the depiction of a love story growing, which is so crucial to the success of the soap genre, it was taking viewers to a place that was new, unique and -- as far as I know -- a first for daytime. There have been soap locations to foreign lands (All My Children sent Erica to Budapest), and on magnificent ships (Patch and Kayla were married on one in Days of Our Lives). General Hospital's Luke and Laura had a memorable time romping in an empty department store. But this trip to a museum was new and fresh to me. And I've been watching and covering soaps for many years.*

Chances are The Young and the Restless, last year's co-winner for the Outstanding Show Emmy (with Guiding Light), will be nominated again. (Nominations are April 30, by the way). If it were up to me, I would submit one of these shows for the blue ribbon panel to judge. It was the best of soap, completely original, essentially simple and expertly executed. Bravo, Y&R. I can see now why Eric Braeden is happy as a clam.

*By the way, romping in a department store was legendarily done by Barbra Streisand in 1965 in her Emmy-winning TV special for CBS, My Name Is Barbra. She sang and danced in Bergdorf Goodman's after hours. And it was also Barbra who took viewers into a museum! In 1966, she was alone in the Philadelphia Museum of Art for Color Me Barbra, showing off the art like Y&R did!

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jean solomon

the december-may romance will thrill all your old guys..but i think they goofed when victor put the moves on his daughters best friend..it is not an age thing..its the proximity to his daughter that i find repulsive. its just too close to 'home'....i flip the remote when these two are on.......

April 29 2008 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My mom's an immigrant and when she was raising the three of us and it came time to feed us it would take her an hour. (Can you imagine feeding 3 mouths from ages 1-5? I was the 5 year old) So she would put on Y&R to help pass the time, and she learned a lot of idioms, phrases, and vernacular through the show. Of course she also got into the characters and the stories. I literally grew up with Victor. I didn't actually pay attention to what was going on until high school. I don't watch it on a daily basis but ever few weeks I'll ask my mom, "What's going on w/ Y&R?" I consider myself (and my mom) lucky that she picked what is arguably the best soap opera on television to watch. Eric Braeden is awesome to watch, although lately (as in last year) I would wonder to myself why he was phoning it in. This article helps explain a lot!

Thanks for this op-ed.

April 09 2008 at 11:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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