Deep Soap: ‘The Young & the Restless’ Gets New Headwriter, Executive Producer

Maria Bell (L), Jill Farren Phelps (R) (Photo: Michael Buckner/Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

There’s another major shake-up rocking the soap world. “The Young & the Restless” has hired Jill Farren Phelps, best known for executive producing “General Hospital,” as its new executive producer.

Josh Griffith, who was formerly part of the show’s writing team, returns as the show’s headwriter. Maria Arena Bellpreviously handled both jobs.

Associate headwriter Scott Hamner has also chosen to leave “Y&R.” Phelps and Griffith served as the executive producer and headwriter of the telenovela “Hollywood Heights,” which is currently airing on Nick at Nite. Like “Y&R,” “Hollywood Heights” is produced by Sony. The studio was obviously pleased with their work.

In a press release, Steve Kent, Sony’s executive vice president of U.S. Television, stated, “We are excited to have such a talented daytime veteran leading our team at ‘Y&R.’ Jill has a stellar record of success in the daytime genre. We are also happy to welcome Josh back to ‘The Young and The Restless’ and are looking forward to his creative input and ideas.”

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This shake up will have a huge impact on the number one daytime soap. Bell, the daughter-in-law of “Y&R” creator Bill Bell, took over the show during the 2007 writing strike. Though her initial work was a critical and ratings success, the show has struggled creatively for the past six months. Ironically, Phelps was ousted from “GH” at the end of 2011 for similar reasons. Phelps is known for her focus on youth-oriented storylines, commitment to high production values, willingness to kill off beloved characters, and an unparalleled ability to put together a great Emmy reel.

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Between them, Griffith and Phelps have worked on nearly every soap that has been on the air in the past 20 years. Their resumes are a marked contrast to Bell’s, who has worked only the two Bell-owned soap operas, “The Young & the Restless’ and “The Bold & the Beautiful.” Bell’s departure marks the end of any creative input from into Y&R from members of the Bell family. Y&R was headwritten exclusively by Bill Bell from the show’s creation in 1973 until his retirement in 1998, when his protegees Kay Alden and Jack Smith assumed the reigns of the show. In 2006, then-CBS daytime topper Barbara Bloom felt it was time for a change and brought in Lynn Marie Latham as head writer and executive producer. From that point onward, the show was no longer daytime’s bastion of stability and consistency. There were frequent changes to the shows writing, directing and producing teams, with many people who had been with the show for decades departing and being replaced by others with extensive resumes but no experience with the show. Many fans felt that Y&R lost its distinctive tone and voice. Will Phelps and Griffith be the ones who restore the show to its former greatness, or will this prove to be yet another round of musical chairs? Will the show’s cast remain intact, or will the new regime opt to make changes in front of the camera? Stay tuned.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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