Is Tyler Perry The New Bill Bell?
Tyler Perry’s latest movie, ‘Why Did I Get Married Too?’ is yet another of his unexpected hits. (How many profitable movies does a director have to make before box office prognosticators stop being surprised?) The polarizing writer/director/producer is dismissed by most critics, but his success in undeniable. The man’s low budget films usually turn a profit within two weeks. His television shows are wildly popular. Though neither his films nor his attempts at union busting — the multi-millionaire tried to avoid giving the writers on his television shows pension and health insurance — appeal to me, I admire his accomplishments. He has made a fortune by ignoring all of the conventional wisdom about the entertainment industry, and he has done it entirely on his own terms. I have an entirely unsubstantiated theory: Perry is patterning his career after Bill Bell, the creator of ‘The Young & The Restless‘ and ‘The Bold & The Beautiful.’
I first thought of the connection when Babara Walters interviewed Perry for her “Most Fascinating People of 2009” special. Perry said that his proudest accomplishment was making his mother’s dreams come true: “She used to talk about Ms. Chancellor growing up on ‘The Young and the Restless.’ She’s like, ‘If I could live like Ms. Chancellor, if I can have a house and a maid,’ and she has all those things.” The quote stuck out in my mind both because it is a testament to the importance of the aspirational, escapist aspects of soap opera viewing, and because it showed how out of touch writers and executives can be. I was working for Y&R during the period when Esther was stripped of her signature black and white uniform and the importance of her character to the canvas was questioned. Obviously, the very relationship that seemed old fashioned and pointless to some of TPTB was something that struck a chord with plenty of Y&R’s viewers.
Then last week I read another interview with Perry, in which he discussed his atypical television production model. Said Perry,”We shoot an episode a day, and I’ve now got about 340 episodes in the can, between ‘House of Payne’ and ‘Meet the Browns.’ It’s a whole different system from Hollywood. I remember a friend was in a sitcom once, and I sat there on the set for 12 hours, three days in a row, and they never once taped the show. I just thought, what a waste! I just figured out a better business model on my own.” His innovative new model is the way daytime has been produced since the 1950s.
Y&R’s core audience consists of people who live in the midwest and south, and African-Americans, viewers often derided as being demographically undesirable. So are Perry’s. Perry, like the Bell shows of the 70s and 80s, writes stories that endorse traditional family values and religious faith. Like old-school Y&R, his work is often described as melodramatic and old-fashioned.
Bell was savvy enough to produce ‘The Bold & The Beautiful’ himself, without a studio, thereby reaping all of the profits of a show his family turned into a huge international hit. Perry took this plan a step further. Not only does he produce everything himself, using his own money to finance his projects, he built his own studio.
For many years, the Bells chose to live in Chicago even though ‘The Young & The Restless’ taped in L.A. Living far from Hollywood undoubtedly kept him from living entirely in the entertainment industry bubble and kept him from losing touch with his viewers. Perry similarly chose to build his empire in Atlanta.
Perry was even savvy enough to cast a pre-‘Criminal Minds ‘Shemar Moore, then known solely for playing Malcolm on Y&R and hosting ‘Soul Train,’ as the love interest in his first film, ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman.’ Though Perry has followed his own path to success, I suspect he has at least a passing familiarity with the biography of the man who created his mother’s favorite show.
Bring on the Mictor Fan Fic
I am shipping a brand new potential couple: ‘Days of Our Lives’ Victor and Maggie. I had never considered the possibility of Salem’s favorite surrogate Mom and its magnificent bastard until the two shared scenes last Friday. Then I wondered why I had not thought of it sooner. Not only are John Aniston and Suzanne Rogers two of the show’s best actors, they already have more chemistry than most of the couples currently on the DOOL canvas. The recently widowed Maggie is too vibrant to spend the rest of her life alone. Maggie and Victor would be a fresh, later in life take on the classic good girl-bad boy romance. Victor is the precise opposite of the kind, generous Mickey. Though Victor has always gone for schemers and gold-diggers like Kate, Nicole and Vivian, the true love of his life was salt of the earth Caroline Brady. Deep down, Victor longs for a morally upright woman that he can corrupt — and who will keep him in check. These two have known each other for decades and have each other’s numbers. When Victor dropped by Maggie’s house to ask her to persuade Philip to let him back into his life, she did not mince words:
Maggie: But that poor boy has been manipulated ever since before he was born. And I’m not gonna try to steer him. ‘Cause I’d just be another one. Get it?
Victor: I get it. Well, I hope we can still be friends.
Maggie: We’re friends? Okay, all right, um… maybe I hope we are. Melanie just told me that you were going to marry Vivian Alamain. I wouldn’t want to miss that fiasco.
I, for one, would not want to miss the drama when coo-coo for coco puffs Vivian realizes that all her scheming to get Victor is for naught because his heart belongs to Maggie. Maggie would have to fend off Vivian’s attempts to ruin her life, perhaps with the help of Vivian’s other nemesis Carly, while doing everything she can to fight her own attraction to a man she finds despicable. Victor said it best:
Victor: You know, I always thought Mickey Horton was the luckiest man in the world. Can’t imagine having a wife who not only makes sense, but she isn’t scheming for my money. Or my life.
I cannot be the only one who saw those scenes as a chemistry test. The one thing that DOOL is currently lacking for me is what was once its biggest strength: carefully constructed, slow burn romances. The show took a major step toward rectifying that problem last week when EJ admitted he loved Sami. Victor and Maggie would be another, more unexpected potentially great love story with both internal and external conflict. The popularity of Y&R’s Katherine and Murphy shows that the audience will embrace a good love story between older characters. I hope that DOOL will be bold enough to put this relationship on front burner during the traditionally youth oriented summer months. Mictor (or is their shipper name Viggie?) would be a mature storyline in every sense of the word.
Y&R on The iPad
Good news for all you Early Adapters. Your new iPad may not have 3G, but it does have ‘The Young & The Restless.’ According to Broadcasting & Cable, CBS has made clips of Y&R, as well as several of its primetime shows, available for the tablet media device that will allegedly change the world. I am not sure why anyone would want to watch clips on the iPad when full episodes are available legally on several websites including this one, but its inclusion is a sign of Y&R’s on-line popularity. Way to go CBS for recognizing that Y&R is an important franchise — and that Y&R’s heavily female and minority fanbase likes new technology as much as the stereotypical white male geek.