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'The Young and the Restless': Jill Farren Phelps addresses Michael Muhney recast

An Adam Newman recast will create a public storm.
Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Staffing decisions made in Hollywoodland produce consequences that are different than the rest of the working world, as those within 'The Young and the Restless' surely know. So, might Jill Farren Phelps revisit a Robert Wightman moment in time if she completes the recast of Michael Muhney's old 'Adam Newman' role, as her recent comments seem to imply?

Old school television fans, who were alive when antennas were king, remember that Richard Thomas was a major star in the 1970s. He initially portrayed the original 'John Walton, Jr.'. That fine actor's efforts as 'John-Boy' (so-called because the now-departed and always beloved Ralph Waite filled the 'John Walton, Sr.' role) helped make that iconic family saga a nighttime ratings' powerhouse four decades ago.

Thomas decided to pursue other career options and left his full-time job on 'The Waltons' after Season 5. After appearing in a few episodes one season later, he never played 'John-Boy' during the regular series run again, though he did return for three reunion movies in the 1990s.

By Season 8, show executives decided to cast Wigthman in Thomas' old role. That actor remained in place through the end of the ninth season in 1981.

Fan outcries about the controversial choice were seen in newspaper reports way back when. But, pockets of strong public consensus weren't able to be projected through social media because the internet revolution was mere science fiction at the time.

Thomas left 'The Waltons' amicably and on his own accord. Muhney was removed from YR last December for still-unexplained reasons. So, the situations aren't the same. Yet, an 'Adam Newman' recast will clearly create a similar public storm with many modern implications.

Daytime drama recasts are hardly an exception. 'Jack Abbott' (Terry Lester, Peter Bergman), 'Jill Abbott' (Brenda Dickson, Deborah Adair, Jess Walton), the adult version of 'Billy Abbott' (Billy Miller, David Tom, Burgess Jenkins), the younger and adult versions of 'Victoria Newman Abbott' (Heather Tom, Amelia Heinle), 'Phyllis Summers' (The soon-to-arrive Gina Tognoni, Michelle Stafford, Sandra Nelson) and 'Shelia Carter' (Kimberlin Brown and Michelle Stafford in a script writer's plastic surgery twist) represent six roles, among many others, where more than one actor was paid to play.

There are certain viewers who take serialized stories, now known as daytime dramas, too seriously. Those poor souls might not be entertainment snobs, but they do build vast pedestals for people who simply act on a stage.

However, it's not wrong to fairly critique the performances of two, or more, actors, who have played one part on any show. It's also reasonable to believe that some characters should only be embodied by one person, due to storyline stature. There are certain measured exceptions, like when 'Katherine Chancellor' was played by Michael Learned ('Olivia Walton' from 'The Waltons') during a brief 14-episode run in 2011. That temporary solution allowed 'Katherine's' portion of the plot to move forward while Jeanne Cooper dealt with real-life health concerns.

Until Phelps actually hires someone else, it's still possible that Muhney could return. But, if YR decides to go the Wightman route, by replacing an actor who many passionate fans adore, Genoa City supporters (both past and present) will surely take to their digital devices. That modern, collectively sustained response will make timeworn 'Walton's Mountain' scenes seem infinitely mild if subsequently compared.

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