At this time of year, when we consider what we are grateful for, I am grateful for “Youth and Unrest.”
Yes, that’s right: The long-standing CBS soap opera was an unexpected gift for me throughout the pandemic.
I was only 5 years old when I started watching “Y&R” with my grandfather, who helped working parents, often taking care of my brother and me on weekdays. My grandfather was never part of the targeted demographic category of soap; during the soap opera of the 1960s and 1970s, the audience was mostly American housewives, not male diplomats working abroad, as my grandfather had done for many years through the Voice of America.
The long-lasting CBS soap opera is an unexpected gift for me throughout the pandemic.
But during his retirement in the 1980s, my grandfather began to experience health challenges that kept him at home most of the time. What could he do to not forget the pain (and probably boredom)? A friend suggested watching the movie “Young and Restless”, and after one episode, he got hooked.
He then turned his young granddaughter into a loyal spectator (much to my mother’s chagrin). At 12.30 in the afternoon, “Young and restless” would come on television while we would eat vegetable soup together in the kitchen. I was quickly fascinated by the lives of the sophisticated citizens of the city of Genoa and began to experience them as members of my extended family.
I also kept the connection that the show created between my grandfather and me, which continued even after his death, shortly before I turned 8 years old. I missed him greatly, but I found that when I adjusted to “Young and Restless,” the pain seemed to diminish. Somehow, watching the show, I felt connected to him and took comfort in learning that life in Genoa City was still going on, even though my life in Rockville, Md., Had changed greatly.
I appreciated the connection created by the show between my grandfather and me, which continued after his death.
Throughout high school, I was a real “super fan” of the show: I watched it almost every day and bought Saap Opera Digest every week. I even managed to get two books from the “Y&R” table, a CD with a soundtrack for the show and a musical score for playing the show’s themed song (“Nadia’s Theme”) on the piano. But in my twenties, work and graduate school made it difficult for me to watch regularly, and I soon found myself adjusted only when I was sick at home. My relationship with the fictional Newman and Abbott families began to resemble friends from “Christmas cards”: the species you only write to once a year.
But one afternoon this summer I needed a break from the constant news of the pandemic and decided to include “Young and Restless”. What I saw on the screen was such a happy surprise: the show ran out of new episodes in the spring, and is now (temporarily) airing a replay from 30 years ago. Just like that, I went back to the kitchen with Grandpa, fondly remembering the times when we could sit side by side and have fun together. I felt a smile return to my face and I immediately set up my DVR to record each subsequent episode.
At a time when my husband and I can’t have family or friends, I can still see my extended family soap on TV every day.
Production resumed in July, and when new episodes began airing in August, I met the newer residents of Genoa. And then I realized that watching “Young and Restless” is more than cathartic fun: At a time when my husband and I can’t have family or friends in our house, I can still see my extended family of soap on television day.
Soaps can’t solve the world’s problems, nor can they remove the pain we’ve all experienced this year. Yet, in the midst of so much uncertainty, “Y&R” provides me with consistency, a temporary departure from reality, and a connection to precious family memories from childhood. And not only that – it helps me imagine how my grandfather must have felt when he was tied to the house for days.
As for the show itself, not everything is peaceful in the city of Genoa these days; it’s soap after all! The long-lost twin, the corrupt ploys of a prodigal son, and a beloved character facing breast cancer are just some of the stories I’ve watched. And while the pandemic is not part of the plot, its presence is felt in the lack of love scenes and the six-foot distance between all the actors in the show.
I’m sure the authors and producers of the show are waiting for the day when they can get back to normal and accommodate more than four actors at once. Maybe they have considered the story of the pandemic before, thinking that something like that could happen “only on soap”, and not in real life! But I hope they know that every new episode is a gift to this fan: the one that brings me so close to normalcy and so close to my family (both on and off the screen). In 2020, you should be thanked for that.
More from America: