Deep Soap: ‘The Young and the Restless’ Paternity Saga Falls Flat

by | July 12, 2013 at 8:32 AM | Deep Soap

Peter Bergman of "The Young and the Restless" (Photo: CBS)

The Young & The Poorly Structured Reveal

This week on “The Young and the Restless,” everyone in Genoa City learned that Jack (Peter Bergman), not Nick (Joshua Morrow), is Summer’s biological father. I am so conflicted about the way that it played out. On one hand, the performances were superlative. Bergman has his Emmy reel for next year. When Jack learned that he had yet again been denied the opportunity to raise his child from birth, he unleashed the Man Tears. At once, Jack was furious that Nick had kept his child from him for 18 years and elated that a girl who always felt close to was his. He realized that his entire life would be different if he had known. He let Phyllis have it for not trusting him with the information the moment she found out. It is one of the show’s great ironies that the most family oriented man on the show never truly gets to be a Dad. Hunter King held her own with the vets, as Summer was crushed to learn that the father she loved not only lied to her for her entire life but had no biological connection to her. She was not a Newman, but an Abbott. Monday’s episode made for a moving, riveting hour of television.

On the other hand, the writing fell flat. When a secret like this is released into the soap wild, its consequences should ricochet through the town. But this time the impact is minimal. I think the show made a mistake by aging Summer to an 18-year-old high school graduate. She’s an adult who can do whatever she wants. If she were still a teen, and were forced to move in with Jack against her will, it could reignite the Abbott-Newman feud, which is always at its most interesting when the stakes are personal rather than merely financial.

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I would have loved it if Victor disinherited her and declared that she was no longer a Newman, that he couldn’t stand the sight of her now that he knew his sworn enemy’s blood was coursing through her veins. Instead he decided that biology did not matter. If Phyllis and Nick were still a couple, this devastating news could have ripped them apart. But they are already broken up, so it won’t make much of a difference in their relationship. Since Stafford is leaving the show, Jack and Phyllis’s relationship is probably over, but really it’s irrational for him to be angry with someone who was duped just like he was. Because both the Abbotts and the Newmans are filthy rich Summer’s lifestyle won’t change. Really, the only consequences are that Summer gets an extra dad and can’t date her current crush, her half-brother Kyle. With better structure, this could have been an explosive storyline. Instead, it’s a drizzle, not a storm.

Celebrating the Birth of Brik

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for creating a soap couple. If there were, no one would ever lament that shows were forcing two characters who have no chemistry down viewers throats. For example, “General Hospital” has spent over a year trying to convince me that Patrick (Jason Thompson) and Sabrina (Teresa Castillo) belong together. It has not worked despite hundreds of scenes of her pining after him but being too shy to confess her feelings, a makeover and an obstacle in the form of the scheming Britt (Kelly Thiebaud), who was determined to win Patrick for herself. I’ve written about my distaste for the couple before on a visceral level. I know the dup has plenty of fans, but toothache sweet ingenues with Cinderella fantasies are just not my cup of tea. But on a structural level, I think one of my larger issues is that while I am convinced that being with Patrick makes all of Sabrina’s trite dreams come true, I am not sure what he gets out of being with her. The only reason that GH has given me is that his daughter Emma likes her.  Patrick, the character that the audience cares most about, had no point-of-view in the storyline. He was merely the object of affection. Britt and Sabrina could have been competing for the attention of any of the other men on the show, and the storyline would hardly have changed.

A funny thing happened along the way. Britt, who started out as a one note bitch, became interesting. We learned that she is uber-villain Faison’s daughter and that her mother, Olbrecht, has Robin imprisoned in a European sanitarium. Britt is no longer some random doctor who ended up in Upstate New York. She has connections to the show’s history. It seems that her mother pressured her to pursue Patrick, and conceive a child with him, as part of a larger evil scheme. It both makes her smarter and more sympathetic. Deep down, she just wants to make her mother happy, and is hurt that not even getting pregnant made Patrick like her. Plus, in an instant classic scene that was featured on “The Soup“, she accidentally barbecued Emma’s doll last week. In contrast, all we know about Sabrina is that her mother died when she was young and she’s the cousin of an unpopular, barely remembered character who was briefly on GH during the 1990s. Who cares?

So when Britt ran into Nikolas (Tyler Christopher) shortly after the barbecue, and they commiserated about being dumped by their respective crushes, I was instantly smitten with the possibilities. Faison’s daughter dating a Cassadine seems like a story that could practically write itself. Plus, Liz (Becky Herbst), who rejected Nik, is bound to be jealous when she discovers he is spending time with someone she disliked. The actors had chemistry. Both characters have crazy European families and have had the paternity of their children called into question. I suspect an online dating site would attempt to pair them up. When a couple is intrinsically interesting, the writers don’t have to jump through hoops to convince me that they are meant to be. After just a few minutes of airtime, I was ready to captain the Brik (or whatever their couple name is) ship.

 Full Episodes of “General Hospital” Are Available Here on xfinityTV