CBS' The Bold and the Beautiful, which celebrates its 25th anniversary March 23, is daytime's youngest soap — and it's only getting younger! TV Guide Magazine spoke with exec producer-head writer Bradley Bell about the show's increasing emphasis on its twentysomething stars and what this will mean to the show's veteran players. What was he thinking when he dropped Jack Wagner?
TV Guide Magazine: Congrats on hitting the 25-year mark! I'd love to wish you another 25 but, given the woes of the soap industry, that seems a little delusional.
Bell: It's crazy! It's a number worth really celebrating because back when we launched B&B in 1987 most betting guys would not have believed our little half-hour show would someday hit the quarter-century mark. These are difficult times for the soaps and luring the younger demo is what really matters right now. The key to B&B's survival is youth, relevance and topicality. I'm trying to stay current and do issue stories that are entertaining but also informative.
TV Guide Magazine: Like this prescription-meds plot that's coming up for Hope?
Bell: Exactly. It's especially timely, what with the sad passing of Whitney Houston. Addiction to prescription drugs is so widely spread around the world. I think this will have an impact everywhere B&B is seen. And it most certainly is prevalent in the social circles Hope and the Forresters and the Spencers all travel in.
TV Guide Magazine: How does our sweet, virginal Hope get hooked?
Bell: She's been the spokesperson for the Hope for the Future clothing line, and has been trying to lead a youth movement to encourage kids to become politically active, and to care for the environment and to be more sexually responsible — ideally waiting until marriage to have sex. And here she is living with Liam, a married man. It's completely contrary to everything she's been up on her box espousing. Parents are buying Hope's clothes for their kids because they want a positive, anti-Kardashian role model. When it's revealed that she's living with Liam, they feel they've been duped. She's labeled an adulteress and hypocrite and it becomes a media nightmare. The paparazzi will swarm her and the people who were once her fans turn on her on the various websites. She's already been taking anti-anxiety pills — prescribed by a psychiatrist — but the story will take a turn and those pills become detrimental to her well-being. This is going to be a wonderful acting challenge for Kim Matula, who plays Hope. It's really going to stretch her.
TV Guide Magazine: How far will you take her addiction?
Bell: At first she'll be secretly dependant and the story will build to several peaks in April and May. As Hope's desire for pills increases, Amber gets involved, and that's never good news. We're going to look at the availability online of prescription drugs that aren't fully sanctioned or vetted. They come from everywhere: Canada, Mexico, China.
TV Guide Magazine: You've been playing the Hope, Liam and Steffy saga so heavily that it's taken over the show.
Bell: It's very much like we were 25 years ago when Ridge and Brooke were the centerpiece of B&B. I've been looking for this for quite some time. Not since the days of Amber, Rick, Kimberly, and CJ have we had such a strong young group. Maybe this current group even eclipses them. They have been such a success for us in the ratings and the demos. We're up 400,000 viewers from last year, half of them in the 18-49 demo. So I am committed to telling younger and younger stories.
TV Guide Magazine: To the point where you've dropped Jack Wagner [Nick], Lesley-Anne Down [Jackie] and Brandon Beemer [Owen]. That's pretty much a whole family.
Bell: It reflects a continuing shifting of the storylines and our need to keep things fresh. The focus now is on the next generation of Forresters and Spencers. Those families need room to grow.
TV Guide Magazine: But Wagner's a daytime superstar! Plus, you'll be missing out on all the attention he'll be getting for Dancing With the Stars.
Bell: It wasn't an easy decision. It's no secret I haven't given him the types of stories that he deserved. He is an incredibly gifted actor, with such range and talent, and he's also a great gentleman. It's really best for both of us.
TV Guide Magazine: So no qualms about General Hospital taking him back?
Bell: Professionally, I'd love for him to remain available to us on a recurring basis. Personally, I wish him nothing but the best and, if that means losing him to GH, then I'll have to live with that.
TV Guide Magazine: When we spoke last summer, you claimed Jack was getting a big story and a new love interest. Now this. What the hell happened?
Bell: Things just changed. I'm always in flux and trying to respond to what seems to be working on screen.
TV Guide Magazine: You have another young heroine, Caroline Spencer, arriving at the end of the month. What's in store for her?
Bell: We're getting her involved with Rick and Thomas and Amber and creating a second young group. She's a very different kind of character for us, a well-traveled New York sophisticate with a prep-school background who thinks all L.A. people are crazy. Rick and Thomas will find her very interesting. [Laughs] And we may find out that Caroline's mom, Karen, has other kids we didn't know about.
TV Guide Magazine: Yikes. Who fathered these kids?
Bell: That remains to be seen.
TV Guide Magazine: Meaning you ain't telling? Or you don't know yet?
Bell: I have an idea but nothing is set. It's for later down the road if the Spencer family continues to work for us. We're remaining intentionally vague about who fathered these children.
TV Guide Magazine: We know Karen and Ridge had a fling a few years back. Is he in the running?
Bell: Potentially, but I'm more interested in keeping Ridge and Brooke a happy couple for a while. We've spent 25 years mixing up their love lives. We're looking to the next generation to do that now. Ridge and Brooke will remain the romantic leads they've always been but there will be less sexual gymnastics. They'll be dealing with conflicts and challenges of a more parental nature. Like a fine wine, their romance will age and grow and be sweeter and richer. [Laughs] But they'll always have their steam-room scenes! As for Eric and Stephanie, we recently had them remarry so we could really celebrate the show's 25th. That landmark would have seemed so hollow if they weren't actually together.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you feel about the support the show is getting from CBS? Is the network committed to keeping B&B and The Young and the Restless on the air?
Bell: Even in these more difficult times for soaps, the network has been fantastic. Les Moonves and Nina Tassler have been very complimentary and continue to allow me great creative freedom. I can't imagine a better working relationship with a network. NBC and ABC have made the mistake in their daytime divisions of programming to the bottom line, just putting on cost-effective shows solely to make a profit. CBS puts quality and loyalty first and I have great faith that they will keep us around. We're all feeling very blessed.
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