Bell was daytime soap opera pioneer

Sudser scribe dies at 78

Emmy-winning TV soap writer and producer William Joseph Bell died Friday in Los Angeles from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 78.

The co-creator of “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful” earned nine Emmys during his four-decade career, three for his writing on “Y&R” and the rest for producing or writing “Days of Our Lives.”

Bell’s soaps had a loyal following among daytime TV viewers, particularly fans hooked on the lives and loves of the residents in the fictional Genoa City portrayed on “Y&R.” The CBS show has long held the No. 1 spot against other daytime soaps.

“Bill Bell is one of the true pioneers of daytime television. … He is without peer in his ability to create the most compelling, endearing stories and characters, and keep them fascinating for years on end,” CBS chairman Leslie Moonves said in a statement Saturday.

The Chicago native got his start in 1956 as a writer on “Guiding Light.” A year later, he left to write for “As the World Turns.”

In 1966, Bell became head writer on “Days of Our Lives,” helping to turn the flagging series into one of the top audience draws four years later.

In 1973, Bell and his wife, Lee Phillip Bell, created “The Young and the Restless.” The hourlong show was among the first serials in the 1970s to exploit America’s burgeoning youth obsession.

In the late 1990s, Bell surrendered the head writer’s role at the show but took over as exec producer.

Bell and his wife in 1987 created another daytime stalwart: “The Bold and the Beautiful,” which also offered viewers plenty of attractive characters wrestling with romantic challenges.

“Bill Bell understood that daytime drama was not just about lavish weddings and extravagant remotes, but about the smaller, day-to-day moments between family, friends and community,” said Rhonda Friedman, “Bold’s” supervising producer.

Throughout his career, Bell’s writing and production work is credited with contributing to 15,000 episodes of TV daytime drama.

His three children followed him into the business.

Son Bill is president of Bell’s L.A.-based TV production company, Bell-Phillip Prods.; son Bradley is head writer and exec producer on “The Bold and the Beautiful”; and daughter Lauralee is an actress on “Restless.”

In addition to his children and wife of 50 years, Bell is survived by eight grandchildren.

— Associated Press

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