Melody Thomas Scott stars as Nikki Newman and Eric Braeden stars as Victor… (Robert Voets / CBS )
"The Young and the Restless" isn't so young anymore. But for those associated with daytime's top-rated drama, these days are more restless than usual.
The CBS soap, which premiered March 26, 1973, is celebrating its 40th anniversary, and the cast and producers have been caught up in a recent whirlwind of activities marking the milestone, including an appearence on CBS' "The Talk" and countless media interviews.
The premiere date 40 years ago Tuesday will be commemorated in a private cake-cutting ceremony on the show's CBS Television City sound stage that will be attended by cast, crew and producers.
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"The Young and The Restless," produced by Bell Dramatic Serial Company in association with Sony Pictures Television, has been the top-rated daytime series for more than 24 consecutive years. The show has received 113 Daytime Emmy Awards, more than any other daytime drama.
Eric Braeden, who plays the charming but complicated Victor Newman and has been on "The Young and the Restless for 33 years, said he has been so busy working on the series that he hasn't had much time to enjoy the significance of the show's longevity.
"To be frank, I haven't taken notice of it," said Braeden. "You don't have that luxury when you work as hard as we do. The other day, we did 68 pages. We usually do between 80 and 100 pages a day. This is really the hardest medium there is, and every day we have to deal with an enormous amount of dialogue and pages."
He and others associated with "The Young and The Restless" credited the show's continued popularity to the foundation laid by the show's co-creator William J. Bell.
Said Braeden, "Bill Bell insisted on stories that tackled contemporary issues. There was disease, there was drug addiction, there were real social issues. It was as real as a soap could be. The mistake that other soaps made that didn't succeed is that their stories made no sense, became too phantasmorical."
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The actor, who intended to stay with the show for only three months when he first signed on, said his character and others are infinitely rich.
"Victor has a complexity that I have not been able to play before," said Braeden. "The real reason the show is such a success is the good writing and having the fortune of a group of very good actors and production people."
Melody Thomas Scott, who plays Nikki Newman, the "ultimate survivor" who has been married 13 times, called the 40-year anninversary "fabulous" and a bit overwhelming. I've had four generations of a family come up and ask me for my autograph."
The long-lasting appeal of "The Young and The Restless" is "due to a combination of things," said Scott. "It all starts with the writing. Bill really set the tone there. There has to be a little bit of luck. And then there's this elusive thing — chemistry. There's this incrediible chemistry between Eric and I that no one can explain."
When "The Young and the Restless" first rose to top of the daytime ratings mountain, there were 13 soap operas on the air. Now there are four. Declining ratings for most soaps have led to their replacement by less expensive talk shows.
Participating in the celebration with another perspective was executive producer Jill Farren Phelps, who has been with the show for seven months.
"It's an interesting experience to be part of this," Phelps said. "It's part of my cells. It's really an honor to be here." She noted that many of the people working in front of and behind the camera have been with the most for most of its 40 years it's been on.
Helping to steer the soap into the future "will be daunting, challenging and fun," Phelps said. " 'The Young and the Restless' has such a legacy. My charge is to bring it into the next decade and do so without disrupting anything, particularly the viewers who are so important to us. Our goal is to keep it fresh, keep it going for another 40 years."
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