The Young and the Restless has been going through a lot of changes during 2016.
At the beginning of the year, beloved characters were going nuts, off their medication, murdering and being murdered, switching babies and writers seemed to be rehashing the same old (very tired) stories. Viewers were often left scratching their heads wondering where the spark had gone.
It's taken a while, but the forecast is sunny weather in Genoa City as sets have been added, characters are being redeemed, relationships are being reexamined and people are getting back to the office and out of local laboratories.
The Reinvigoration of Sets
This really cannot be said enough. The additional sets are simply fantastic.
When an entire city of people are all milling around three sets, it not only gets a little bit crowded, but it's impossible to keep a tether on reality. It starts to feel like you're watching the longest stage production in history. It gets boring.
Since Mal Young grabbed the Y&R reins, we've seen new bedrooms, gone camping and this week, Chancellor Park became an actual outdoor experience. Chloe and Victor had it out about Sage's journal pages while a gentle breeze blew by under blue skies as the sun shined down on Victor's noggin.
Call me crazy, but I think the fresh air did them both some good. Can you think of another reason they got closer to sanity regarding the journal pages?
A mixture of indoor and outdoor sets when you are filming on a studio lot in California seems like a no brainer. I can't wait to see what's on the horizon.
There were some really poor choices made with regard to character development and rehashing old plot lines. Sharon is at the epicenter.
I don't know about you, but I'm sick of the "going off your meds" story almost as much of baby switching storylines. How many kids in Genoa City started their lives in the wrong family? It's sickening.
It seems like the Sully is not Sharon's and is actually Christian who is not Nick's but Adam's story will be waylaid. Sharon has stopped having visions of Sage, she's happy, there's virtually no mention of it.
It has to come out eventually, of course, but not at the expense of the characters. There was too much going on at once, and characters were being sacrificed as a result.
Instead, we were treated to a wonderful moment this week when Summer went shopping for her wedding dress. She took her mom, and the entire staff of Chelsea 2.0 was there (yes, there were working, and on another new set!), giving the ladies of Y&R a chance to chit chat.
Despite the fact none of them got along famously before, it was a highlight of the week. Mariah didn't even call Summer Snowflake!
Mariah may be getting her chance at a happy ending, but it's not going to come without hard work.
With Chloe back in town, Kevin dropped Natalie like a hot potato to try to pick things up right where they left off (before they broke up and she went nuts...he's a little confused). He even roped Mariah into appealing to Chloe on his behalf. I know, right?
What's working with this story is the slow burn. It's coming off as a romantic movie. We've always known Mariah had it bad for Kevin, and we know Kevin has the same feelings for Mariah, he just doesn't know it yet.
For some reason though, the writers room either didn't want to go there or didn't know how. Now it seems like they might be heading in that direction as the slow burn could boil over as Mariah refuses to help Kevin, even giving him the same advice about Chloe Sharon is giving to her.
We need more organically growing romantic pairings that do not come out of nowhere (Summer/Luca, Summer/Dead Kidnapper, Sage/Nick, Sharon/Dylan, etc., etc.) or come only because of sex (Hillary/Devon, some say Phyllis/Billy).
The strongest couples will be born out of character development and circumstances dictated by the story.
Families, Fantasies, Mysteries
Then we have everything that's going on. First with Brash N Sassy, Jill is trying to manipulate every situation in what appears to be an overt attempt to get Billy and Victoria back together.
Billy isn't biting. One of the things that has been a soap staple over the decades and has been missing from Y&R recently has been dreams and fantasies. Soap operas used to go all out to whet the appetites of viewers with potential couples or impending storylines. They're a way to show what you haven't seen yet.
The technique was used twice this week (or more?). Once when Victoria was describing her marketing idea to Billy and it played out starring him and Phyllis. Very sexy. He's not biting into Victoria anytime soon, no matter what Jill hopes.
The other is when Adam imagined being released from prison in 20 years to a grown Connor, only to discover Chelsea on her death bed. He finally got to put his foot through that darned portrait of Victor, though. Who hasn't wanted to do that?
Paul and Dylan are on totally different pages because Dylan wants the truth about what happened to Adam, and Paul wants to follow the rules. Were Chloe and Victor working together, and to what end?
And somewhere in all of this, there is Luca and Travis and how they fit. Here's what I think: We have no idea. For the first time in ages, I think we will be surprised when a mystery is solved on a soap opera.
Something else that happens on British soaps is people gather to watch them and giant events happen without spoilers. I'm venturing to guess some of that, maybe just the tiniest bit, enough to keep us on our toes, will be infused into Y&R.
Wouldn't that be amazing? If we could watch the show and not know that Luca really isn't the slimeball we expect him to be? He hasn't been working Travis on some angle? Or maybe it's the opposite?
I really don't know, but it's a feeling. It's a fresh feeling, and it's coming from the blue skies and that gentle breeze. We might not know everything that's coming, but it's in good hands and will be worth the wait.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.