The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell: Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful - Book Review From The TV MegaSite
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The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell: Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful HardcoverThe Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell: Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful Hardcover
by Michael Maloney

I really enjoyed reading this book. I've watched Y&R since 1986 and B&B, a few years later. For a long time, Y&R was a great soap, and that's because it was owned, written, and produced by the late, great, Bill Bell.

The book starts with his early life and how he got started writing, and how he met his wife. I find it very interesting that he always wanted to be a soap opera writer from a young age. You won't find that very often, especially now.  He got his first writing job in advertising, so that's very fascinating as well. Even though he and his wife lived in Chicago, they got started writing soaps that were produced on Los Angeles. From what I've heard, that is quite common (or at least, it used to be). I'm sure it would be even easier to do now with the internet, but there might be other reasons that the soap writers want to live in Southern California.

Anyway, Bell learned from the late Irna Phillips, one of the pioneers of soaps in both radio and TV. (Someday I need to read her biography as well because she was quite a character from what I've read elsewhere)  He helped to save "Days of Our Lives" with his great writing, and then CBS hired him to start a new soap. That's how Y&R got started, and then later, B&B.

Eventually it turned into a huge family business, and they moved to L.A.  Now their children are running the shows, more or less. SONY has more control now of Y&R, and they fired Bill's daughter-in-law, Maria, who was running the show from 2008 -2013.  Bill's son Brad still runs B&B.

I have to say that I agreed with most of what the book said Bill believed, and I wish that today's soap opera writers, producers, and network executives would read this book.  He wrote great soaps because he had creative control. The network didn't tell him what to do or who to hire and fire.  He didn't believe in recasting characters very often (something I noticed years ago about Y&R as compared to other soaps), and he believed in making great characters and that the story should come from the characters, not the other way around.  Today's shows are mostly story-driven, which is not nearly as good.

Unfortunately, Y&R has been quite a mess since Bill left, and it's only gotten worse in the past year. I hope it can be salvaged. There are way too many recasts, characters we don't care about, and really boring stories.  I'm sure Brad Bell does as good of a job as he can with B&B, and there are probably things the network does that he can't fight as well as his father would have. However, one major thing I did disagree with was when the author said Bill believed that it was important to always come up with exciting stories, and he pushed Brad to take chances. Well, for the most part, Brad just recycles old stories. When he does take chances, like when Brooke slept with her daughter's boyfriend by accident (one of the stories the book's writer mentions), these are outlandish, ridiculous, unbelievable stories. I doubt that Bill would have approved of these awful tales.  However, I'm sure it's very difficult for anyone who's not someone as great as Bill Bell to come up with great new stories all of the time. Everyone says Brad is a very nice guy and, just like his dad, well-loved by all.

I really enjoyed reading about how the two shows came about, and little tidbits here and there about the actors and how Bill and his family interacted with them.  Bill was definitely an unusual guy. He called his actors by their characters' names!  Writers and artists are often a little unusual, though. By all accounts, he was very talented and beloved. He sounds like a bit of a workaholic, too, but I guess that's probably true of most rich and successful men (or as in this case, men who do what they love.)

Michael Maloney is a fine writer and really makes it all seem very interesting. He does a good job of laying it all out.   There's no doubt that Bill Bell and his type are really missed in the soap opera world.  Any fan of the soaps should definitely read this informative and fun book.

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Updated 1/15/14


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