Daytime Power: How Bradley Bell Has Made ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ a Must-Watch Soap
For TV Guide Magazine‘s first-ever Power Issue, the staff looked at the juggernauts dominating TV, from events to franchises to actors, producers, and other multihyphenates in show business. Here, we take a look at TV’s latest Power Daytimer. Plus: See why Empire is the most powerful show of the moment.
In these days of roller-coaster ratings and shrinking budgets, it’s hard to have a hit soap. It’s even harder to have a hit and take big chances with it. That requires balls and power. And Bradley Bell has ’em both to spare.
Of the four remaining daytime dramas, only Bell’s CBS show, The Bold and the Beautiful, delivers what made soaps so popular in their golden age (lush romance, juicy melodrama, trashy behavior) while pushing them into the future with hot-button topics and dazzling visuals. Bell has been B&B’s executive producer-head writer since the mid-’90s, and he operates with freedom and confidence—rare in this era of network interference—reminding us that soaps can be more than cool, goofy fun. They can also be important.
“My goal for the show is to not only keep up with the times,” Bell says, “but to also stay ahead of them.” That takes foresight: Earlier this year, when the nation first learned about Caitlyn Jenner, B&B was ready with a stunning revelation of its own—social-climbing supermodel Maya Avant (Karla Mosley) started out life as a boy! Bell’s exploration of transgender issues (marriage, surrogacy, parental freak-outs) has opened hearts and minds both here and internationally, where B&B is a mammoth hit (see “Bold Stats” below). The story will soon air in the Middle East.
“We may have people over there switching channels, but I’d rather be pushing the envelope than playing it safe,” Bell says. “The world is changing. It’s up to us in the U.S. to lead the charge and say, ‘If you’re able to find love, go for it. Celebrate it!’”
Wildly, Bell is writing B&B from Budapest these days. (His wife, Colleen Bell, was appointed U.S. ambassador to Hungary by President Obama). “We’re on the front lines of the Syrian refugee migration, a crisis that affects the entire world,” Bell says. “It has me thinking: Is there a way to somehow bring this story to B&B? I really want to try.”
- B&B, daytime’s No. 2-rated soap, debuted in 1987 and has scored 73 Daytime Emmys, including three consecutive wins as Outstanding Daytime Drama (2009–11).
- The show has consistently broken the fourth wall by hiring nonactors for a wide range of social-issue plots, including homelessness, animal rescue, lung-cancer survival and kids who age out of the foster-care system.
- While other soaps remain homebound, B&B has filmed on location in Italy, Australia, the Netherlands, France, Barbados, Denmark, Monaco and United Arab Emirates.
- According to Guinness World Records, The Bold and the Beautiful—seen by 30 million people each day in more than 100 countries—is the most-watched daytime serial on the planet. “If CBS ever canceled us, I think we could keep B&B alive based on its global appeal,” Bell says. “I’ve ridden this train so long, I don’t want to get off!”
The Bold and the Beautiful, Weekdays, CBS