BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL marked its 30th anniversary on March 23, and while it may be daytime’s youngest soap, it’s as classic as they come. Set in the glamorous world of fashion, the show masterfully balances drama both on and off the catwalk with romantic triangles and exotic location shoots.
Thanks to Executive Producer/Head Writer Bradley Bell, who took over the reins in 1995 from his father (the late, great William J. Bell, who created the series with his wife, Lee Phillip Bell), it’s the only daytime drama to benefit from a lack of upheaval behind the scenes. This pays off in spades with regard to on-screen consistency, and Bell & Co. pack a lot of sudsy goodness into each daily installment of the genre’s lone 30-minute soap.
Vets play a key role at B&B, and its two remaining original cast members, Katherine Kelly Lang (Brooke) and John McCook (Eric), have both been re-energized in recent years. Eric’s romance with town pariah Quinn caused oceans of conflict in his family that reverberated for months, providing the kind of meaty material the actor hadn’t seen in years. And while Lang’s Brooke is still no stranger to romantic indecision, her back and forth between Ridge and his viable foe, Bill, has made this a triangle with no weak angles, which has not always been the case in the past.
With the fashion industry at its core, B&B expertly spins involving tales of corporate intrigue. Bill is fueling much of this at present, and the arrogant Goliath is finally getting a taste of his own medicine, courtesy of his “tree-hugging, yoga-practicing, tofu-eating” son, Liam (the fantastic Scott Clifton) — while Liam is finally getting in touch with his Spencer (i.e., ruthless) side. Liam’s decision to take a firm stand against his father’s manipulations feels natural (overdue, even) and has reinvigorated both characters.
Katie has also benefited from some terrific character development of late. While still playing on the long-held insecurities Katie harbors from growing up in the shadow of beautiful big sister Brooke, Heather Tom has guided her alter ego through a tumultuous betrayal by the two people she loved the most and has come out on the other side stronger for it. She’s now entangled in a surprising May-September romance with her former stepson, Wyatt, another soul battered by romantic misfortune. Not only is it fun to see the characters lighten up a bit, but we’re genuinely anticipating the day that Bill and Quinn discover their illicit romance.
When it comes to the surprise factor, B&B cannot be beat. The shocking return of Kimberlin Brown filled a big void, as the show was lacking in the villain department, and ushered in the engrossing “Summer of Sheila”. Sheila breezed in to town and immediately blew the lid off of the “affair” between Ridge and Quinn, whose lustful connection had been boiling for months, and also paved the way for the return of another fan favorite, Ian Buchanan’s James. (That said, it would be nice to get some definitive answers about what Sheila was really doing during her time away: Just who did Lauren kill on Y&R back in 2007? And since we’re on the topic, it would be a shame to waste the opportunity of a Lauren/Sheila crossover event for the longtime enemies — especially since Y&R revived the character of Scotty, Lauren’s son, who Sheila famously kidnapped and passed off as her own decades ago.)
The show does well when it focuses on its younger set, and despite the back-to-back resignations of Pierson Fodé (ex-Thomas) and Rome Flynn (ex-Zende), there is still a lot to build on. Sally and Thomas’s Romeo and Juliet coupling was just taking off, and it’s a shame to see it cut short, but Sally’s burgeoning friendship with Liam is already looking like it could lead to more, which would surely inflame the rivalry she has going with Steffy. And the door appears open to revisiting that never-consummated 2009 flirtation between Steffy and Bill.
Of course, that scenario (Steffy suppressing feelings for her father-in-law, spurred on by her husband’s interest in her brother’s ex) speaks to a narrative issue common to the world of soaps, but magnified to the point of near-absurdity (okay, actual absurdity) on B&B. As a byproduct of its smaller cast, many of its liaisons aren’t just dangerous, they’re borderline incestuous. Brooke has married, slept with, pined for or hallucinated about every Forrester man but Zende. Eric bedded Beth and married two of her daughters. Half brothers Liam and Wyatt have three common lovers, and the former also has carnal knowledge of the latter’s mother. While not new to the show’s storytelling habits (Brooke hopped into the sack with Eric, her ex’s dad and her mom’s ex, all the way back in 1990), it would be nice if someone, anyone, in the B&B universe considered someone off-limits if they’d been intimate with one (to say nothing of more) of their blood relatives.
Another complication of a large cast with a short episode running time is that actors often sit on the sidelines. Multiple players are gathering dust at the moment — most lamentably, Rick and Maya. B&B has never had a great track record when it comes to including characters from diverse backgrounds; with Flynn’s exit, Karla Mosley (Maya) and Reign Edwards (Nicole) are the only contract players who aren’t white. Mosley has the added distinction of playing the only transgender character on television, and the first to wed (into a core family, no less). So it is baffling that the show cannot seem to find a viable plot for her to tackle alongside on-screen hubby Jacob Young (Rick).
We’re fans not only of Maya, but the entire Avant clan — and while Bell has been featuring them a bit more in the rotation cycle, far more time and attention has been directed toward the resurrection of the Spectra gang. And there’s no question that the show has benefited from the infusion of energy provided by the new generation of the Forresters’ original foes. Sally, Shirley, Coco, Saul and Darlita are all solid, fun additions to the cast, but now that we’re invested in these characters, let’s get them out of that warehouse, please.
B&B is the only soap set in a real city, and its brass never fails to make use of the natural resources by taking the action outside, whether it’s the CBS studio doubling for the Forrester Creations loading dock or an impromptu wedding in Malibu. But it doesn’t limit its lush landscapes to California: This year alone, the show transported viewers to the world-famous Sydney Harbor in Australia for a luxe wedding and enthralled with a sun-drenched fashion showdown on the beaches of Monte Carlo. Viewers tune in to soaps as an escape and no other program delivers such an aspirational, globe-trotting aesthetic.
With first-rate production values, a top-notch cast and reliably engaging dramatic offerings, B&B remains a nimble and satisfying daily destination.