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'The Young and the Restless': Michael Muhney waits while Gina Tognoni arrives

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CBS' still-number 1 daytime drama, 'The Young and the Restless', has lived through serious cast changes within the last year. Now, as Gina Tognoni is set to replace Michelle Stafford in the role of 'Phyllis', fans are hoping for more surprises. Michael Muhney's miraculous return clearly leads all wish lists.

Plenty of digital fodder was created for viewers to feed on since Muhney was stunningly let go in December. However, few people actually know what truly transpired five months ago, or how the role of 'Adam' will be recharged.

It appears that one of YR's most charismatic stars was terminated for off-screen actions, yet a full explanation hasn't, or can't, be publicly offered. That alone leaves this real life script open to interpretation, rather than confirmation.

There's no evidence that Muhney has sued anyone who is associated with his apparent former employer. Reports that a gag order prevented him from speaking specifically about whatever transpired and that he has cryptically (and rarely) commented about the situation ever since, indicate that money matters were directly tied to his nearly muted response. And yes, seasoned entertainment devotees understand that contractual issues surely are part of this mixed mess.

Is it possible that Muhney was removed from YR's ranks, but will return after a period of exile? The man does belong to a powerful actor's union, which rightly fights for its members rights whenever possible.

A more plausible scenario sees this great on-screen villain never returning to the role he made famous. Though, introducing the word 'never' into any Hollywood conversation is rarely wise.

Tognoni's hire apparently happened after Stafford agreed to play and was seen as 'Nina Clay' on 'General Hospital'. With that veteran actor having made her choice, executive producer Jill Farren Phelps decisively moved forward.

Comments about YR's ratings' decline have often been tied to the torrent of emotional rants about Muhney's departure. But, this 25-year ratings' champion actually hasn't lost many viewers when a measured mark is made.

An average of 4.5 million viewers were watching the show each week as of the fall 2012. Approximately 4.4 million viewers were watching as of the week ending May 16, 2014.

Muhney most certainly led a ratings' charge that added more than one million sets of eyes per week (5.75 million by late-January 2014) to Genoa City-based scenes. His termination resulted in YR's ratings declining to 2012 territory.

Surely Muhney's return to the show would cause a ratings' riot, at least for awhile. But, with the 'Phyllis' role resolved, it's fair to wonder what will happen if 'Adam's' replacement isn't who the fans want? This assumes that the role will be revived.

It's premature, or a misreading, to say that YR's car crashed since Muhney was shown the door. The show simply went on a two-year roller coaster ride. If daytime's top steamer slides toward the 4 million line this summer, then deep concern will be in order.

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