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Y&R's Chuck Pratt on Bill Bell: "You Can't Sit There and Try to Duplicate Genius"

Chuck Pratt

Chuck Pratt

The one thing I admire about controversial soap opera writer and producer Chuck Pratt is that he refuses to offer up b.s. about his work. No matter what show he's at, Pratt shoots from the hip in interviews. 

No annual Ken Corday promises of "restoring soaps to their core" or "getting back to the basics" for this guy. The sad fact about his bravado is he's usually refusing to apologize for absolutely abysmal storytelling.

I'm sure Pratt's latest press tour causes a sense of  déjà vu  for any fan who bore witness to the destruction he wrought at All My Children. A few weeks ago, Pratt told Michael Fairman he enjoyed writing beloved heroine Sharon Newman (Sharon Case) as "crazy", despite legions of fans demanding the bipolar character be given back her dignity. He also poked fun at his penchant for absurd storylines, christening them "Doppelchucks" and said veteran soap star Steve Burton merely plays Steve Burton on The Young and the Restless

Then on Thursday, TV Guide Magazine's Michael Logan published a joint interview with Pratt and Jill Farren Phelps. The interview again debunks what I was assured by network sources about Chuck's executive producer credit. According to both Phelps and Pratt, he has just as much power as she does at the No. 1 soap in daytime. I guess the joke was on me.

I give Phelps credit for admitting she was scared when Pratt came in pitching doppelgangers. Maybe next time she'll think about that before allegedly pulling a coup to block Sally Sussman Morina's return? 

Speaking of the storyline that finds corporate raider Victor Newman (Eric Braeden) enlisting a Jack Abbott (Peter Bergman) lookalike to steal his rival's cosmetics company, let's take a peek at Pratt's rationale for that plot twist.  

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Said Pratt to Logan:

 "Jack was becoming little more than the happy-go-lucky businessman all the women wanted to sleep with, and the show wasn't using him much. And Victor was becoming a caricature. The doppelgänger story we can play and play, and it can go away and maybe come back again down the line if we don't kill off one or the other. That was 100 percent of the reason for it. A doppelgänger story is the last thing I wanted to do but it solved what I felt was a huge problem. At my first story meeting with everyone, the first thing I said was, "Two Jacks." And everyone went, "Are you kidding?"  

Let me see if I follow. Since Victor was "becoming a caricature", Pratt decided the character needed to hire a doppelganger and have a sociopath chain Jack to a bed in a foreign land  filled with dumb islander cops. Got it. 

Pratt and Phelps addressed the Bill Bell factor earlier in the interview. This is a particular sticking point for me, as everyone at CBS is starting to use the "Bill Bell is gone" rhetoric. Pratt and Phelps pretty much echoed similar platitudes to the ones I've been hearing about trying to "honor legacies" while "shaking things up".

How exactly is yet another doppelganger storyline in daytime shaking things up? General Hospital just wrapped a doppelganger-turned-mental illness story that most fans and critics panned. A few years ago, Stefano DiMera (Joe Mascolo) hired a Rafe (Galen Gering) doppelganger to pork Sami Brady (Alison Sweeney) on Days of Our Lives leading to fan backlash. Y&R's Maria Arena Bell lost all credibility with fans—and supposedly the network—by having a pair of dueling dopps. Again, how is this shaking things up? I'm starting to feel like we were wrong is supporting Sony and CBS in ousting MAB. 

Victor hired a Cassie (Camryn Grimes) lookalike just last year. This isn't fresh or new. It's a writer cashing a huge check for serving leftovers from the myriad of other soaps he helped tank. Putting parsley on the side of the plate doesn't change that. 

I think we all realize Bill Bell is gone. We aren't stupid. However, if Bill Bell-esques stories are on one end of the soap opera equivalent of the Kinsey Scale, with crazy, bipolar bitches and doppelgangers on the other end, surely Sony and CBS are capable of finding storytellers who can come in somewhere in the middle?