Young & the Restless Star Melody Thomas Scott On Her 45th Anniversary

Editors note: Melody Thomas Scott first joined the CBS daytime drama The Young and the Restless in 1979. To mark her 45th anniversary, Scott writes about her time on TV’s most-watched soap and why she thinks the genre remains important to viewers.

Having recently celebrated my 45th year playing Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless, I’m often asked how both Y&R and the daytime drama genre have changed since I first joined the show.

When I started playing Nikki in 1979, there were 13 daytime dramas on the air. Y&R was No. 3 in the ratings and would claim the top spot in December of 1988. There was a certain excitement for someone watching their soap live long before VCRS, DVRs, streaming and the ability to go online to read a recap of the episode. Fan mail was delivered by the truckload to the studio with cards and notes filled with commentary. Many of the actors required the help of an assistant to keep up with the volume of incoming mail; now viewers have the ability to post about the show’s storylines in real time using hashtags and handles to get an actor’s attention.

Viewing habits have changed since then thanks to the invention of cable television, DVRs, and streaming. The audience has an abundance of choices so the fact that Y&R continues to maintain and cultivate a loyal and dedicated fan base is something that is never taken for granted as it’s the sole reason for the show’s longevity. Anytime the genre has tried to adopt characteristics of other forms of programming (such as extreme pacing), it has learned a painful lesson not to veer too far from the recipe of success for the daytime drama: compelling storytelling with captivating characters who viewers want to invite into their homes five days a week.

An unforeseen curveball was thrown at daytime television in 1995 when a famous trial dominated the airwaves. During that time, viewers were deprived of their favorite soaps for months as this real-life courtroom drama played out in front of our eyes. Unfortunately, all of the soaps lost a significant amount of their audiences when viewing habits were broken. However, the experience reminded the genre of the importance of being at the top of their game in both production and promotion.

Today, four daytime dramas remain, with three of them standing on the shoulders of Bill Bell’s influence and the genius of his wife, Lee Phillip Bell who co-created both Y&R and B&B. I’m proud that Nikki is among the handful of characters created by William J. Bell who are still on the Y&R landscape today. There is no other medium that would have given me the opportunity and good fortune to have the same scene partner, the extraordinary Eric Braeden, for four decades!

Luckily, all of the daytime dramas are fortunate to have actors who have captivated audiences for decades such as Days’ Deidre Hall, James Reynolds and Suzanne Rogers, General Hospital’s Genie Francis and Maurice Bernard and Bold & the Beautiful’s Katherine Kelly Lang and John McCook.

The relationship that a viewer forms with the characters of a daytime drama is unparalleled to any other medium. This bond between the audience and the show lends to Y&R being able to entertain and educate its audience while exploring relevant social issues such as substance abuse and mental health. The trust and stability a viewer shares with a daytime drama is the reason they will not only survive but thrive for years to come.

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