As 2011 comes to a close, it's time to take a look back on what worked on "The Young and the Restless" this year.
Best News: Nikki's BackJust in time for the holidays, the Newmans got an extra candy cane in their stocking when much-missed matriarch Nikki (Melody Thomas Scott) showed up at the ranch with more baggage than she could carry on a plane. A contract dispute swept Scott off the canvas and, had it not been for the Twitterverse demanding her return, she might have stayed at the world's worst rehab center for good. Like any good soap character, Nikki's connected to just about everybody in town and indeed, her friends and family have been bereft since her departure. Since she's been back, Nikki's been sucked into the vortex known as the world's longest murder mystery, mixed it up with her former paramour, the sleazy Deacon and bedded soul mate Victor. If recent events are any indication, 2011 should indeed be a good year for Mrs. Newman.
Biggest Coup: Genie FrancisGenie Francis is a lot like Susan Lucci. Even if you've never watched a single soap opera, you know who she is. She made history as half of the seminal supercouple Luke and Laura on "General Hospital," appeared on the cover of "Newsweek," and set the gold standard for soap opera heroines. "General Hospital" fans clamored for her return, but the show that made her a star (and the one she made a ton of money for) seemed uninterested in bringing her back to Port Charles.
Alas, a now infamous appearance on Oprah Winfrey's historic 25th season brought Francis to daytime's No. 1 soap. Francis would be playing decidedly against type as the barracuda Genevieve, a sharp contrast to sweet Laura. As a result of landing Francis, "The Young and The Restless" was rewarded with gallons of ink from the mainstream press and no doubt a few "General Hospital" viewers curious to see "Laura" on another soap. While Francis' introduction into Genoa City hasn't been all smooth sailing, there's no denying "The Young and the Restless" made one of the shrewdest casting moves of all time.
Best Reveal: Devon is Tucker's SonTucker was brought to town, ostensibly to give Genoa City's other gazillionaires (Victor and Katherine) heartburn. While he certainly gave Katherine fits and starts by hoodwinking her out of her company, he dropped another bombshell: he was the long-lost child she'd given away.
And then…nothing. Tucker was slotted in and out of one boring scene after another and given less than nothing to do. Things started to perk up when future stepdaughter Abby hit Tucker with her car. During his coma, it was revealed Tucker had a son he'd never met. The conventional thing would have been to bring a new actor to town. Lo and behold, it turned out to be someone the audience knew quite well: former foster child Devon who'd been adopted by Neil.
Instead of dragging the story line out for years, Tucker discovered the news pretty quickly and has had to deal with the ramifications of not putting his considerable assets toward finding his son, while PI Paul, who Katherine probably hired for a chicken dinner, solved the case in a matter of days. In one fell swoop, there's another layer to the discontent between mother and son (Katherine hid the truth from Tucker) and Devon's had to cope with learning he's the child of billionaires, not to mention it brought Debbi Morgan (Yolanda/Harmony) into the fold. Indeed, this twist promises years of rich story to come.
Best New Character: Avery Bailey ClarkWasn't it always a little curious that in all her years in Genoa City, no one had ever heard Phyllis mention her family? Considering how long Phyllis has been around, it was strange she seemed to have no familial ties other than her marriages and her children. The current Powers That Be decided to flesh out Phyllis' family tree by making the kooky yet cunning Avery her long-lost sister. Avery's definitely got an agenda where Phyllis is concerned, first by sleeping with her sister's ex, Nick and finagling visitation rights for the psychotic mother of Phyllis' granddaughter, whom Phyllis has custody of. While it's too soon to say whether the leisurely back story concerning an apparent Madoff-type scheme perpetuated by their father is worth all the angst between the sisters, watching Avery go toe-to-toe with Phyllis where other women (and even a few men) have wilted has been priceless.
Best Couple: Billy and VictoriaWas there any question it would be the lovable Mr. and Mrs. Abbott? This luminous romance has been filled with such disarming touches as dressing up as Hugh Hefner and a Playboy bunny for Halloween to watching reruns of "Father Knows Best" while curled up in their retro living room. On a much deeper level, Billy and Victoria bring out the best in each other. Even though they've spent a large chunk of time apart (mostly to accommodate Miller's burgeoning prime time -- check him out in the wonderfully twisty "Ringer" ) and have had to deal with the loss of their adopted daughter (thanks, Phyllis!) and Victor's machinations, their sweet yet scorching chemistry has the audience rooting for them to emerge victorious.
- Genie Francis
- Melody Thomas Scott