Highlight Hollywood Investigation, SONY Studios Plan To Make ‘Y&R’ More Like Nick At Nite’s ‘Hollywood Heights’ And To Backburner The Legacy Characters On The Soap, Saving Money The Bottom Line

Highlight Hollywood spoke with an executive at SONY Studios on Monday, who agreed to talk as long as he was not on record by name. Fans want to know what “The Young and the Restless” plans are for the new regime. Jill Farren Phelps, previously executive producer of “General Hospital,” canceled “Another World,” canceled “One Life To Live,” canceled “Guiding Light” and canceled “Santa Barbara,” has been named the show’s executive producer, a post previously held my Bel Air based producer and Emmy Award-winning head writer Maria Arena Bell. “Jill was willing to play ball. She wasn’t really happy after being fired by [ABC/Disney] from ‘General Hospital,’ and she wanted to go back to daytime. She has an agenda, she wants to prove she’s not poison to a show. She was not pleased just being relegated to ‘Hollywood Heights’, a super-cheap soap, and lobbied hard to get Maria’s job,” said the insider.

“Part of the problem with Maria Bell, was that any time one of her veteran stars had complaints about a lack of airtime, Sony would be told by her, that she felt she still needed to write for the veterans and legacy characters. Sony wants the youth audience, period. We feel like she was too involved with the talent, fighting for actors, and put them before Sony’s interests, and would not agree to bring in some young fresh blood and change the show to look a bit more like ‘Hollywood Heights, younger fresh-faces and hip.’ Jill was very open and willing to do so,” the exec continued.

“Whether you like it or not, Tommy, and I know you don’t. The young people are where this genre needs to go now,” said the source. When asked isn’t it a concern that Jill Farren Phelps has helmed so many failed series in the past, and all except one had been canceled, and that she doesn’t know anything about “Y&R,” and the beloved cast members viewers have been watching for close to 40 years? The source laughed, “Tommy, you are living in the past. That’s the problem. We are moving forward. And no, Jill was not chosen to write the show. Everyone knows that’s not her strong suit.”  Though when asked why Josh Griffith has been named head writer, especially after his inability to handle the pressures of the job before, having been fired twice as a writer for the show. The source said, “Well, that is worrisome.  But Josh has connections in very high places here at Sony. He’s very close friends with Steve Kent, who you know of, he’s got Josh’s back, and will do their bidding, both Josh and Jill are counting on him. All they must do is lean down the older cast, and that includes some of the veterans. Maria wanted to write for people, that frankly SONY never heard of. You guys may know them from years in daytime TV, but that’s not where we are headed,” the source continued.

This is all about money, I threw at the source. “What isn’t,” he quipped. “Getting younger people on the show, moving the older cast back and ultimately off the show, and letting the young people have their time. We believe ultimately this will benefit the ratings.” When I pressed that kids are fickle, and that “Y&R’s” loyal audience over 40 and over 50, are dedicated to their favorites, such as Jeanne Cooper, (Katherine), Eric Braeden, (Victor), Michelle Stafford, (Phyllis), Melody Thomas Scott, (Nikki). The source reminded me. “The public, the audience they are all fickle as you claim the young viewers are. Jeanne’s got a new book, Jill can just cut her back, and spin it, that she [Jeanne] is out promoting her book on tour now, as for others, they will just have to live with it. Because SONY is out to save money, stop spending on these cash burdening actors, and fans won’t miss them after a while. We will just have to bide our time, and I think you’ll come around too,” the source concluded.

A telephone call to Maria Bell’s home was not returned by press time.  We put in a request through her assistant for an official interview with Maria whenever she’s able to speak with us.  However, viewers had better expect some major changes for Genoa City. Backburner and minor storylines for several fan favorites, and cost cutting measures, that Sony doesn’t believe viewers will care about in the long run. Time will tell.

“Y&R” does not comment on storylines and contract issues, so no calls were made to the production offices today for this story.

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Written By: Tommy Lightfoot Garrett
Photographs are Courtesy: Sony Studios/CBS
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