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Primetime TV Book Reviews
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
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
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
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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