Considering that they're in the business of selling fantasy, people connected with TV's newest daytime soap, The Bold and the Beautiful, have few illusions about overnight success. History, they concede, is not on their side. The last bona fide afternoon hit was Ryan's Hope, launched in 1975, and of the four soaps started since then, two (Capitol and Texas) are gone, while Santa Barbara is improving and Loving is closer to going than staying. Making The Bold and the Beautiful's prospects even uglier, it's up against two of daytime's ratings powerhouses, All My Children and Days of Our Lives. "The cast and chemistry are there," says CBS programming veep Michael S. Brockman, whose network has poured more than $2 million into the fledgling soap. But with the competition, Brock-man says, "we aren't expecting great returns in 13 weeks."

So it's surprising that six weeks after its March 23 debut, B&B, as it's known, is already racking up impressive ratings. Co-created by Bill Bell, who also helped develop The Young and the Restless, B&B is dedicated to the notion that the world of high fashion has dirty laundry to air. The quandaries faced by its characters—including rampant lust, pandemic greed, attempted rape and chronic acne—are pretty standard soap fare, but if B&B isn't conceptually bold, it is beautiful. It's probably the model-perfect beauty of its young cast that's grabbing the eye of most beholders, and to judge by viewer mail, it's probably Teri Ann Linn who's doing a lot of the grabbing.

Granted, some of Linn's letters come from men in correctional institutions, but you don't have to be in solitary to appreciate her beach-bunny charm. A green-eyed, 5'9", 130-lb. blonde, Linn, 26, is the kind of person who makes other women want to throw in the towel, hide in the pantry and scarf down a gallon of Häagen-Dazs. A Miss Hawaii USA 1981, she stars as B & B's rich bitch, Kristen. Linn is not afraid of getting stuck in the daytime ghetto. "This is an opportunity I had to take," she says. "Who knows when the next job will come along?" Meredith Brown, editor of Soap Opera Digest, thinks both Linn and B&B will be around for awhile. "I don't think it's the best show on the air by any standard," says Brown (her choice is As the World Turns), "but the writing is good and it has potential. It takes two years to build a real audience." As for Linn, Brown believes she could be a breakaway star. "Characters who get to act nasty are ones that become very popular in daytime."

Linn has the stuff to be popular offscreen as well. Put her together with her boyfriend, Merv Griffin's actor son Tony, 27, and you've got a quintessential California couple who surf together, jog together and even go on commercial auditions together.

In fact, they met at a commercial audition early last year. It was a spot for Movado watches and Teri made the first move by asking Tony, "Do you know what time it is?" A cliché, yes, but she landed the guy and they both landed the job. "She wasn't like all the girls who're just concerned with their makeup and their hair," says Tony, who sounds like he's trying out for an Ivory Soap spot. "She doesn't care about that. Teri is a real natural girl."

She should be. The daughter of an insurance agent and a former model, raised in Honolulu's Diamond Head area, Linn is a typical Hawaiian product. "Instead of going to church on Sundays we'd go to the tennis courts," she says. "It was our family affair. Hawaii's atmosphere lends itself to that. If you're not jogging or something, people think you're strange."

Between excelling at sports, especially tennis, in high school, Linn dabbled in acting (she had a bit part on Hawaii 5-0) and modeling (as the Fuji Film girl, her life-size cardboard portrait was propped up in stores across the country). After a year at Pepperdine and two at the University of San Diego, she dropped out and decided she lacked the staying power to be a professional tennis player. Instead Linn turned to full-time acting and modeling, winning the Hawaiian title and placing fifth in the Miss USA 1981 contest. "That was the year Miss New York was caught padding her bra. I thought, so what? There are a million girls here with boob jobs. So what if one padded her bra? I think making her leave the competition was ridiculous."

But if the contest left a bad taste, it gave Linn enough exposure to pursue acting. Since moving to L.A. in 1982, she's appeared on Hill Street Blues, Magnum, P.I., The Fall Guy and, more profitably, in more than 100 commercials. She tested for The Bold and the Beautiful last fall, originally reading for one of the more syrupy parts. But Linn's angry edge began to emerge after eight separate interviews. Later, the producers decided she was right for Kristen, the frigid, fractious daughter of a Bill Blass-type designer. "No problem creating bitchiness," says Linn, laughing. "Everybody has it in them."