The Young and Restless Life of William J. Bell: Creator of The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful Hardcover – Jun 15 2012
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About the Author
Michael Maloney is a contributing editor at Soaps In Depth magazine. A graduate of Boston University's College of Communication, Michael is a member of the Television Critics Association. He lives in Los Angeles.
Lee Phillip Bell is known to millions of TV viewers as a soap opera creator, co-executive producer, television talk show host and documentarian. She was married to William J. Bell for 50 years. Together, Lee and Bill co-created The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. Lee lives in Beverly Hills.
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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.
With admiration and awe dripping from every word, the author misses opportunities to delve more deeply into conflicts and behind-the-scenes insights that would have enriched the story-telling for the reader.
As a long-time fan of both Y&R and B&B, I did find the book overall enjoyable, but it left me wanting more. There is very little, if anything, in this book that one couldn't find on the Internet, and that is unfortunate.
I highly recommend this to anyone. If you loved Y&R, B&B, or any daytime drama, for that matter, it's a must read.
Well written and tough to put down. I can't say enough good things about it.
William J. Bell was mentored by Chicago soap mother,creator, writer, and visionary producer Irna Phillips, who wasn't an easy woman but an incredible genius who mentored William J. Bell and Agnes Nixon (creator and head writer of All My Children and One Life To Live). They were her proteges and a reminder of the old triumvirate of daytime dramatic television.
William J. Bell married the lovely Lee Phillip, a Chicago television personality for thirty years before Oprah Winfrey. They are the parents of William J. Bell Jr., Lauralee Bell, and Bradey Bell.
Their partnership onscreen and offscreen have created two soaps, "The Young and The Restless" and "The Bold and the Beautiful." After years of writing for Irna, Bill finally got a chance to write and create his own soap.
"The Young and the Restless" debuted in 1973 and took only a few years before becoming the first in the soap opera ratings. Unlike the other soaps, "The Young and The Restless" was definitely different drama in terms of storytelling, characters, and style. His show had a different feel that was largely masculine, cold, dark, and distant at times but his characters were realistic, appealing, and very identifiable to audiences for years.
His stories were written carefully and character driven. Some story lines even took years to develop and unfold for audiences but they were well worth the wait in gold to finally see fruition. Like an onion, Bell peeled off the characters and storylines layer by layer.
Unlike General Hospital with it's Luke and Laura, Bell created and developed his characters to be realistic. Unlike it's competition, Bell never relied on superstar couples, outlandish storylines, and back from the dead. Once Jeanne Cooper stated that their characters stayed dead on their show. Times have changed since then.
In fact, "The Young and the Restless," was once the soap that others inspired too but now it's about survival. Too bad, William J. Bell and Irna Phillips didn't live to see the destruction of the soap opera genre in American television. They would be appalled and saddened that their genre is dying away as we speak and fighting for survival like an endangered speices.
I still think William J. Bell should have been awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Television with his wife as well. I once wrote a letter to the Kennedy Center for the annual honors ceremony. William J. Bell and Helen Wagner (As The World Turns Actress for 54 years) were whom I suggested that they should be recognized for their contributions and services to television. Of course, I think Bill Bell deserved more accolades like the National Medal of The Arts as well. In retrospect, I wished the book was written before Bell's death.
I still believe William J. Bell deserves a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame even posthumously for television. When I think of writers and visionaries, I think of William J. Bell, Irna Phillups, and Agnes Nixon who were the triumvirate of daytime dramas. Their visionary ideas have produced unforgettable images, characters, and memories that should not be forgotten. I just wished that others would honor and respect them even now.
He also respected his audiences in his writing styles. He wrote to the audiences and not at them. He never alienated the viewers but brought them. His style of writing is sorely missed.
William J. Bell was forced into retirement because of his Alzheimer's disease. He is now interred with celebrities at Westwood Cemetery. I know we'll never have the likes of a William J. Bell again. He was brilliant, kind, genius, compassionate, and understood people in a way that writers should aspire too. Too bad, his shows have turned into an embarrassing mess of failed story lines, poor acting, and lack of vision and direction.
Michael Maloney is an excellent writer and the perfect person to tell his tale. He paints the picture with careful, respectful strokes much in the way the Bell's have lived their lives, "with that midwest loveliness and elegance" Readers who are looking for a more dishy, Kitty Kelly-esque expose will be disappointed here. These pages are a glowing tribute with dozens and dozens of quotes from those who knew him best.
The final quarter of the book, (I wanted it to go on forever) wrap things up perhaps a bit too quick, with many summary paragraphs spanning long periods of time, leading to the heartbreaking final years of Bill Bell and his sad passing with his loving wife by his side to the very end.
"The Young & Restless Life of Bill Bell" is a must read for long-time Y&R fans and every budding writer to learn not only how The Master of The Game ruled television, but, even more importantly--especially in Hollywood--How to do so with grace, elegance and compassion for people.