For me, loneliness and daytime television have always gone hand-in-hand. As a metronome for the morning, I'll switch the TV on as I prepare for the day. Some afternoons I find myself standing alone in my kitchen intrigued by a talk show train wreck or a CNN prediction of doom. During my college years, I remember the guilty displeasure of Luke and Laura. Today, daytime's preponderance of lawyer, technical school, and lapband commercials make it appear as though people at home could use some shining inspiration. It's there, but you have to dig behind the scenes to find TV's daytime gold.
Thom Bierdz's return to The Young and the Restless is 24K brilliance. In 1989 his character, twenty-eight- year-old Phillip Chancellor III, drove his car off a cliff in a drunken fog. All the bells and whistles pealed for a big-haired 'eighties funeral that left legions of fans teary eyed over the end of handsome, young, rebellious Phillip. This summer in a Friday afternoon closing cliffhanger, Thom Bierdz, as Phillip, appeared back on the soap. It seems that Phillip has risen from the dead, but in truth Mr. Bierdz has come back to restore Phillip Chancellor's dignity and give middle America a shot of humanity.
When Phillip Chancellor III drove his car over that deadly drop-off, Thom Bierdz was left sitting in the driver's seat of his own destiny. He was free of his daytime contract; he had his eye pinpointed at a film career. He felt damned near indestructible - it was as rosy as a Tinseltown story gets.
Scant weeks later an ugly reality came ringing on Thom's Hollywood Hills phone. From Wisconsin, his sister screamed that brother Troy had murdered mother Phyllis with a baseball bat. With the swing of a club, everything had become twisted. A revealing read, Thom's book Forgiving Troy is about his processing the grief, anger, confusion, and mental illness that drove his brother over the precipice of insanity.
For a smile and a nod to inventiveness, it's intriguing how a team of writers resurrected Thom's character from his twenty-years of being dead. Soap opera's impossible truth revealed that Phillip faked his own death. Running away, Phillip Chancellor secretly finally found peace and solitude - true to himself - as a gay man.
In the real world hundreds of young men and women run away or commit suicide every year. As America's last sanctioned prejudice, homophobia, especially when it's directed against gay youth, routinely starts at home. Young adults are forced from their roots with nothing but a "rot in hell" from their parents. Religious-based rhetoric slashes gay men and women with hate and isolation. It's no wonder Phillip Chancellor drove off that cliff. Let's just hope the writers don't make poor Phillip a jerk.
The ridge Thom Bierdz went over the day of his mother's murder doesn't frighten him anymore. Thom fought the demons that dared him to give up. He's discovered his one-in-a-million talent as an artist. His paintings reflect a sense of color and show his imaginative and effervescent spirit.
Thom Bierdz in real life -- after the suds and toothpaste commercials -- is a beacon of hope to anyone who feels like they can't pull, push, trudge, and persevere thorough any more rough times. Thom would say, do something, get out of your head, and enjoy today.
Thom's website opens with Enya's haunting song "Book of Days." A portion of its lyrics:
No day, no night, no moment,
Can hold me back from trying.
I'll fly, I'll fall, I'll falter,
I'll find my day may be,
Far and away,
Far and away
For daytime TV viewers, it's not just Oprah anymore. Thom Bierdz is back on the dial. His mother would be proud.