"The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell" is the autobiography of the man many belive, myself included, to be the best male writer American daytime soap operas has ever known. The book, which is co-written by Bill's wife Lee Phillip Bell and Michael Maloney, traces Bill's life in Chicago where he got his start working for the mother of serials Irna Philips who would become his mentor. It was through Irna that Bill learned the craft of soap opera story telling, something Agnes Nixon (creator of "All My Children") also experienced.
In the 1950's Bill was Irna's associate writer for CBS's "The Guiding Light" and he went on to write story and dialogue for the blockbuster soap "As the World Turns" upon its debut in 1956. Bill stayed with "World Turns" until 1966 when he received a call from Ted Corday who was trying to keep his soap "Days of Our Lives" from being cancelled. Unknown to Bill at the time Ted (with whom Bill worked with on "World Turns". Ted was a director) was dying and Ted asked if Bill could headwrite the new NBC soap. The next day Bill called Ted and said he would, much to the chagrin of Irna who though Bill would write both soaps, but Bill knew there was many things wrong with "Days" and he wanted to concentrate on it solely.
It was on "Days of Our Lives" that Bill really cut his teeth as a serial writer as almost immediately the actors knew the scripts improved dramatically and the ratings slowly rose. On this show Bill wrote stories with sexual themes and his storylines of brother vs. brother for the affections of a beautiful doctor (Mickey/Bill/Laura) and the battle between two former best friends for the love od a beautiful young man (Julie/Susan/David) saw the ratings go through the roof. Bill was also instrumental in casting on the show as he made stars out of Susan Flannery, Denise Alexander and Susan Seaforth Hayes.
By 1971 "Days of Our Lives" did the impossibe: it replaced "As the World Turns" as the #1 soap opera in the nation, the first time another soap had been #1 since 1958! CBS saw what was happening and contacted Bill about creating a new serial for their schedule.
Every soap writer's dream is to create their own show so Bill jumped at the chance to do his own serial. In 1972 he and his wife Lee went to Los Angeles and for a week stayed at the Beverly Hills Hotel and created a show about beautiful young people living in a town called Genoa City with the title being "The Innocent Years". CBS bought it, but Bill felt the title was proper since by the early seventies there was nothing innocent about that time with race riots and the Vietnam War in full swing. So the title of the new show became "The Young and the Restless" and the rest is history.
NBC would end up suing Bill for leaving "Days", but a contract was made making Bill the writing consultant for the show as he penned his new series. "The Toung and the Restless" became a huge hit for CBS hitting #1 and winning the Emmy as Best Daytime Drama only two years after its debut. Bill and his wife would beasked by CBS to create yet another show for them in 1986 and the outcome was "The Bold and the Beautiful" about the L.A. fashion world. That show went to #2 where it has stayed since and has become the most-watched soapopera in the world today with an estimated 26 million viewers.
An exceptional book. "The Young and Restless Life of Bill Bell" is an insight into a marvelous man who loved his family and loved the art of soap opera who died way too young from alzheimer's disease. Upon his death "The Young and the Restless" has seen a huge drop in ratings although it still manages to be the 31 serial in North America, but the stories are nowhere near as involving or interesting as they once where when Bill led the show.