William Joseph Bell, an Emmy award-winning daytime TV soap writer, producer and co-creator of “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful,” has died. He was 78.
Bell died Friday from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center, said Raul Rojas, publicist for Bell’s TV production company.
Bell’s career as a TV soap writer spanned more than four decades and earned him nine Emmy awards — three for his writing on “The Young and the Restless,” and the rest for producing or writing “Days of Our Lives.”
But Bell’s soaps didn’t just win awards, they won a following with daytime TV viewers, particularly fans hooked on the lives and loves of the residents in the fictional Genoa City portrayed on “The Young and the Restless.” 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.
“We are incredibly saddened by his passing for the daytime community has lost a true legend and the CBS family has lost a friend,” Moonves said.
The Chicago native got his start in 1956 as a writer on the soap “Guiding Light.” A year later, he left to write for another soap, “As the World Turns.”
In 1966, Bell become 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 teamed up with his wife, Lee Phillip Bell, and created “The Young and the Restless.” The hourlong show was among the first serials in the 1970s to exploit America’s burgeoning youth obsession.
“Bill Bell was a supremely gifted writer, a fearless and farseeing producer, a tireless champion of our industry and a gentleman,” Melody Thomas Scott, a veteran actress on “The Young and the Restless,” said in a statement.
In the late 1990s, Bell surrendered the head writer’s role at the show but took over as executive producer.
Bell and his wife also teamed up in 1987 to create 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, the show’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 also followed him into the business.
One son, Bill, is president of Bell’s TV production company. Another, Bradley, is head writer and executive producer on “The Bold and The Beautiful.” Daughter Lauralee is an actress on “Restless.”
In addition to his children and wife of 50 years, Bell is survived by eight grandchildren.