12 Fun Facts About 'The Young & the Restless' First 12,000 Episodes

The Young and the Restless cast
Sonja Flemming/CBS

On December 1, The Young and the Restless becomes the the fifth-ever American soap opera to cross the 12,000-episode threshold.

Of course, the CBS daytime drama still has a way to go to catch up to the ABC soap General Hospital, which recently became the longest-running drama in American television history. GH premiered in 1963; Y&R debuted a decade later.

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We speak to the star about the early days, the wedding of her soap son, Chance, and whether she'll be back for more.

Still, the 12,000th episode marks a major milestone for The Young and the Restless, so we’re celebrating by rounding up a dozen fun facts about the show—one for every 1,000 episodes!

1. Name Change

The working title for the soap was The Innocent Years, until married co-creators William J. Bell and Lee Phillip Bell came to the “inescapable conclusion” that America’s youth had lost their innocence. “We needed another title, one that reflected the youth and mood of the early seventies,” they wrote in the preface to a 1996 book. “Thus was born The Young and the Restless.”

2. Genoa City Exists

The Bells named the show’s setting after the real-life town of Genoa City, Wisconsin, which they drove through on their weekend drives from Chicago, Illinois—their home—to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.

3. A Cast of Newbies

When The Young and the Restless premiered in 1973, it had the youngest cast ever assembled for a soap. “Most of the actors—tanned, healthy looking, trying to break into nighttime TV and movies—are in their twenties, few had ever done soaps before,” Annie Gilbert wrote in the 1979 book All My Afternoons: The Heart and Soul of the TV Soap Opera.

4. Theme Music Origin

The Young and the Restless theme music originated as “Cotton’s Dream,” a track Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin Jr. composed for the soundtrack to the 1971 film Bless the Beasts and Children. The track became known as “Nadia’s Theme” after ABC’s Wide World of Sports used it for a rebroadcast of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comănec’s 1976 Summer Olympics performance. The track was released as a single a few weeks later and peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts.

5. It Started Short & Sweet

The Young and the Restless originally aired 30-minute episodes, as did other daytime dramas of the era. Once Y&R became a runaway hit, CBS pressured William to expand the show to an hour, and he wrote in the 1997 book Worlds Without End : The Art and History of the Soap Opera that it took the show three years to become #1 again and that a lot of actors left the show as a result. “The issue of performing in a one-hour show had not been part of their contracts,” he wrote. “And some of our leading actors understandably felt their popularity on Restless would open the door to fame and fortune or films.”

6. A "Mistake" Was Made

As a result of all those cast departures, William shifted the focus away from the established Brooks and Foster families and toward new characters in the Williams and Abbott families—despite the head of daytime for CBS advising him “with the strongest possible conviction” that he was making a grave mistake.

The Young and the Restless Abbott Family

CBS

7. It's a Looker

Coming after years of daytime dramas prioritizing dialogue and story over aesthetics, The Young and the Restless was “the first truly visual soap opera,” as the Museum of Television and Radio observed in World Without End: “Shadowy, sensuous lighting, intriguing camera angles, and Hollywood production values supplied a lavish romanticism that not only appealed to its female viewers but also influenced the way other soaps were photographed.”

8. It's State-of-the-Art

Speaking of visuals, The Young and the Restless was the first daytime drama to be broadcast in high definition, switching to an HD picture in June 2001. Its sister show, The Bold and the Beautiful, didn’t make the switch to HD until September 2011.

9. It Has a Record-Breaking Feud

In 2012, the official Y&R website touted  the feud between Katherine Chancellor and Jill Foster Abbott as daytime’s longest rivalry, adding, “For nearly 27 years, these two women have been constantly getting in the way of each other’s happiness. Whether it’s over men, money, or the custody of a child, Katherine and Jill are always in direct competition.”

10. Walk of Fame First

Jeanne Cooper, who played Katherine, was the first daytime actor to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, receiving the honor in 1993.

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'Young and the Restless' Celebrates Katherine Chancellor With 5 Classic Episodes

In honor of the late Jeanne Cooper, 'Y&R' is dipping into the vault to present five episodes that present Kay at her finest.

11. It's Not Going Anywhere

This January, CBS closed a deal with Sony Pictures Television to renew The Young and the Restless through the 2023–2024 broadcast season. “Having the No. 1 show for any length of time in any daypart is a tremendous accomplishment,” CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl said in a statement at the time. “But The Young & the Restless has been daytime’s top drama for over three decades. The last time any other show was on top, Ronald Reagan was president, and the Berlin Wall was still standing. It’s a remarkable achievement and a testament to the extraordinary cast, gifted writers, talented producers and supremely passionate fans.”

12. It Lost Its Top Ranking

In March, however, The Bold and the Beautiful topped the weekly daytime Nielsen ratings and ended The Young and the Restless’ three-decade run as the top-ranked soap.

The Young and the Restless, Weekdays, CBS — check local listings for air times.