The Young and the Restless is as a phenomenon on television as it is a cultural phenomenon. It is one of the biggest—if not already being the biggest—dramas on TV, with a single core plot spanning two generations, for three decades and counting.
Which leads one to think—how can such hate spawn so much… well, hate? Do these characters even remember who Jill and Katherine are? For those who do not watch the show, The Young and the Restless (shortened to The Y&R) is all about the rivalry between two families, originally, the Abbotts and the Williams. Now, after thirty years of bickering, plotting, scheming, and screwing with one another, they have managed to involve several other families into the whole sordid mess. Congratulations, they have just created a modern-day blood feud.
In medieval times, blood ties were thicker than water, and even hand-braided leather. When someone incurs a familial insult, honor (and possible brashness) dictates that a member of the family avenge the insult given. Afterwards, another member from the offending family avenges the new insult, and then another member of the offended family avenges this new insult—and so on and so forth, until nobody even remembers where that much hatred came from.
Arguably, this has been Y&R’s greatest weakness, and its greatest strength. Why? Because you can also stretch a single plot only so much—it will either unravel or snap in two along the way. You would have to be amazed at how much underhanded chicanery can slip by unnoticed in a single city—especially when most atrocities seem to focus on only a handful of families. Are these the only people within that city? Are the lawmakers and citizens of fictional Genoa City (for there is an existing Genoa City) so laid back that they shrug off plane crashes and falsification of live births and all that other stuff? Do the judges allow such crimes go unnoticed and unhindered—since the crimes tend to repeat themselves—because they have been raking millions of cash from the divorces and remarriages among these families alone? No one can say. But what loyal viewers can and do say is that Y&R is becoming more and more like old soup. After all, after you have seen an adulterous affair for the nth time, you clearly have seen them all.
But the sheer genius of it comes from the fact that even though those who were once young and restless will always be replaced by another generation of restless youths. Just as the blood feud continues to renew itself, those who leave the audience are constantly replenished by others who have not had their fill of sordid affairs. Having a singular plot helps tie new watchers together, as it makes the unfolding drama easier to follow. It is one of the most brilliant and most ridiculous stunts any writer has pulled, and it has kept the restlessness for almost forty years.
The show, the plot, the assortment of characters and their kaleidoscope of nuances are both intriguing and disappointing. Mesmerizing and tiring. Brilliant and idiotic. Simple and complex. Something old and something new.