KNOTS LANDING versus DALLAS versus the rest of them week by week

Discussion in 'Knots Landing' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    Thanks to the genius of a fellow forum member, I've been able to retrieve most (maybe even all) of the original posts from this thread. So I'll start re-posting them now.
     
  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    An attempt to watch all the episodes of the 80s soaps in the order they originally aired and then make unfair comparisons between them.

    Seems fitting that the first time two different soaps aired in the same seven-day period was in the first week of the 1980s:

    03/Jan/80: KNOTS LANDING: Community Spirit v. 04/Jan/80: DALLAS: Power Play

    I recognise a lot of the music in "Community Spirit" from the DALLAS episode "Kidnapped" that aired the year before. Then Cliff Barnes was the reluctant hero, obliged to act as a go-between for the Ewings and Bobby's kidnappers. Here, that role is taken by Gary, pressured by Karen into stopping JR from drilling for oil in the Knots Landing Ocean. (Given David Jacobs' claim that he originally conceived Karen to be the KNOTS equivalent of JR, it's ironic that Gary should find himself caught between them in this ep.)

    Gary's words at JR's funeral - that everything he'd ever done, good or bad, had been in response to his elder brother - are borne out in this episode. It was running away from JR that brought Gary to Knots Landing, it's standing up to him here that makes him part of a community instead of the loner he always has been.

    Jacobs' theory that DALLAS is about "them" and KNOTS about "us" are also neatly illustrated in "Community Spirit". As Karen and Laura observe Gary, Val and JR from the Avery window and try to figure out what's going on, they're doing what the average viewer at home was doing at the time - watching and talking about the Ewings. Karen even describes JR as "bigger than life", enforcing the idea that her world is more real than the one he comes from.

    JR aside, the episode gives us our first look at the dynamic between Richard and Laura: he's desperate and she's compromised. Laura also becomes the first woman in prime time soap to "do an Afton", i.e. sleep with a man she detests for the sake of her man - just as Kat Moon would do in EASTENDERS in 2004 and Ann Ewing, disappointingly, wouldn't do in New DALLAS in 2012.

    Foreshadow Alert 1: A crooked PR guy called Chip in KNOTS.

    Foreshadow Alert 2: Slant drilling is key to resolving the offshore story-line on KNOTS, just as it has been to the Oil-on-Southfork story of New DALLAS. (I got a similar frisson hearing Seth Stone pre-echo Elena Ramos's talk of salt domes in "Julie's Return".)

    Historic moment: Enter Serena, JR's No. 1 hooker for the next ten years (AIDS era notwithstanding). Procured by Alan Beam, she's his lasting contribution to the show.

    Pop culture moment: The Barnes for Congress roller disco. Disco officially started sucking almost exactly six months earlier. Looking at this scene, it's not hard to see why.

    Things I never noticed before: Digger Barnes wearing a hearing aid (or two). Richard Avery smoking a pipe. If he hadn't ditched that, I don't reckon he'd have ever got Donna Mills into that jacuzzi.

    This is my favourite period of Old DALLAS - it's lurid, pulpy, trashy and exciting. In "Power Play", everything we need to know about each of the principal characters could be summed up by two lines on the back of a sleazy novel. JR Ewing: "His daddy taught him everything he knew - except when to stop!" Lucy Ewing: "The spoiled little rich girl who grew up with everything but her parents' love - and now she'll make the whole world pay for it!" Alan Beam: "He clawed his way out of the backstreets of Chicago - now he'll stop at nothing to make it to the top in Dallas!" I love watching Alan and Kristin jockeying for position as JR's favourite (we'll glimpse something similar between Casey Denault and April in Season 10). Kristin's furious attempts to prove her indispensability to JR ($200 for that polaroid camera!) are so much fun. Like Hagman, Mary Crosby plays her character's twistedness completely straight, which just makes her all the funnier.

    Lucy is at her bubble-headed brainless best in the scenes where Alan dumps her and JR exposes her affair in front of the family, knowing it will goad her into accepting Alan's proposal. When Hagman and Tilton are in the same shot, it's funny on several levels at the same time: the disparity in their height, Charlene acting her little heart out while Hagman just has a ball, Lucy stomping her feet as JR run rings round her. He runs rings round Miss Ellie, Jock, Pam and Bobby too, come to that. At this point in the show, more than independently motivated characters, the others Ewings are like chess pieces to be moved around the board by JR.

    There's something cartoon-like about this era of DALLAS - I thinking that's what attracted me to it as a child; I remember now that I used to draw my own comic strip: DALLAS In Space. But if the characters are two dimensional, that doesn't make them bland and cardboard. Rather, they're vivid and vibrant … "Bigger than life," as Karen Fairgate would say.

    The KNOTS world JR enters in "Community Spirit", however, is very different. It's messy and chaotic, a world of pot luck dinners, screaming teenagers, overlapping dialogue and shaky camera footage of a grown woman in a child's dress euphorically splashing about in the ocean. JR's bewilderment when Karen abruptly excuses herself from their hotel room seduction in order to collect the kids from school and Sid's tan suit from the cleaners encapsulates the difference between their two worlds.

    Gary's foray into industrial espionage, i.e. offering a few mumbled excuses to JR's secretary before being granted access to his confidential files, are less convincing than anything to have occurred on DALLAS thus far, (he could have at least shown her some psychic paper) but getaway driver Val being moved on by the cops is a pure KNOTS moment.

    Ultimately, there's nothing much at stake for JR in "Community Spirit". Compared to the South East Asian deal that had gone down in DALLAS a few weeks earlier, which meant the difference between the Ewings becoming billionaires or losing everything, here it's about whether Ewing Oil makes a fifteen or twenty million dollar profit.

    Re-watching this era, more and more I'm convinced that the fine comedic line Larry Hagman treads as JR is a major part of what made the Ewings such a phenomenon. His scenes in Gary and Val's house are brilliantly funny, while never losing sight of the threat underlying his Mr. Nice Guy act.

    And so it comes to pass that this week's winner is … somewhat to my surprise ... KNOTS LANDING.
     
    Ome likes this.
  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    10/Jan/80: KNOTS LANDING: "Let Me Count the Ways" v. 11/Jan/80: DALLAS: "Paternity Suit"

    In "Let Me Count The Ways", ambitious lawyer Richard Avery campaigns aggressively to elected to the school board. He fails. In "Paternity Suit", ambitious lawyer Cliff Barnes campaigns aggressively to get elected to Congress. He fails. In each case, Richard and Cliff's story serves as a springboard for the main plot of their episode, which deals with marital difficulties. There the similarity ends - while JR and Sue Ellen's problems are splashed over the front page of the Dallas Press, Sid Fairgate spends the whole ep blissfully unaware that there are any problems in his marriage.

    On KNOTS, Richard is campaigning against David Crane, a groovy teacher at Knots Landing High intent on educating the kids about a whole bunch of controversial issues - guns, drugs, teenage sexuality, venereal disease - all of which will eventually find their way onto the cul-de-sac itself. (OK, maybe no one on Seaview Circle will actually contract VD, but it will prove key to exposing Jill Bennett's attempt to kill Val in Season 10.) While Richard runs around with a megaphone, Karen dares to look in the bathroom mirror and confront some real soap opera taboos: ageing, the menopause, what was once firm now starting to droop.

    Over on DALLAS, JR and Sue Ellen must also face some of the realities they have striven to insulate themselves against. Having been sued by Cliff for paternity of John Ross, they're obliged to sit in a doctor's waiting room to await blood tests. Watching them briefly co-exist with some poor people and their poor people's germs is really funny. For Sue Ellen, the prospect of living in the world outside of Southfork on a more permanent basis becomes scarily real when JR promises her that if Cliff is proven to be the daddy, he'll divorce her immediately and "you, my dear, can walk the streets." (Foreshadow Alert: Sue Ellen will indeed walk the streets both in Pam's dream and in a parallel DALLAS universe once removed, i.e. the deleted scene on the new series DVD where she mentions that she was once "almost homeless".)

    "Let Me Count The Ways" remains an early KNOTS gem. Every time I watch it, something new leaps out at me. This time, it's the perfume ritual twice performed by Karen in front of the bathroom mirror, first before bedtime with Sid, then again as she prepares for her date with David. And I really like the Fairgate kitchen scene that introduces the episode, where Michael (the face of a twelve-year-old boy, the voice of Marge Simpson) offers romantic advice to his shy elder brother. I'm still a little confused by the scene where Sid brings home the nonstick pans and forces Karen to watch him fry cheese. Who fries cheese? And is the assumption that it tastes as bad as it looks, or is it that just that Sid could get so excited about something so mundane that prompts Karen to arrange her assignation with David? (How generous of Cliff Barnes to lend them his apartment, considering all he's got on his plate this week, and how discreet of Digger to make himself scarce - unless he was passed out behind a cheese plant.) David's "Do I make the bed" speech and Karen's midlife monologue ("more endings than beginnings") are classics.

    There's no room for the Wards or Gary in this ep, and Laura and Val only get a couple of scenes each. It really is Karen's episode. Her latent activism, her attraction to a younger man, her personal insecurities and her instincts as a parent are all fused together in this story. Given David Jacobs' claim that Karen is the KNOTS character he most identified with, it's not surprising she should be the most fully realised female on the show. It's the other wives' lack of identity, and their various attempts to remedy that, that will define each of them as the series progresses.

    This is second episode in a row where Karen enters a libidinous man's room, gets his little engine running and then abruptly walks out. When Laura tries that, it's "The Lie." Here, it's BRIEF ENCOUNTER meets DEAD POETS SOCIETY. It's also the 80s soaps' first (and maybe best) older woman/younger man scenario.

    "Paternity Suit" also contains a few milestones, such as the first time we see JR and Marilee Stone together when we learn that Marilee is not just another bitchy wife but the real owner of her husband's oil company (which will help explain his suicide later in the season). Jock and Cliff come as close as they ever will to an actual confrontation when Cliff tries to attack JR in the Cattleman's Club - a much more salubrious establishment here than the big-boobs-and-sawdust hang out it will later become. ("Cool it, boy!" Jock snarls.) Jock also has more interaction with Sue Ellen than ever before, as he insists she sues Cliff for slander.

    Once again, there is plenty of humour in this episode: as well as the aforementioned waiting room scene and Kristin gloating over her sister's scandal, it's great fun watching Sue Ellen and JR squirm as Jock and Harve Smithfield (George O. Petrie is very funny here) self-righteously discuss the best way to publicly punish Cliff for his outrageous lies.

    There are unexpected pockets of poignancy too: Sue Ellen confiding her fears to Bobby on the cardboard patio ("I just never imagined my life would turn out like this") and of course the final moments of the episode, where JR picks up and kisses Baby Josh for the first time. It's an absolute turning point for the whole DALLAS saga and seems even more resonant in light of the new series. I guess the equivalent scenes in New DALLAS would be the "you're my son from tip to tail" scene at the end of Season 1, and their final phone call together. If the end of "Paternity Suit" is JR saying hello to his son, then that phone call is him bidding him good-bye.

    I think John Ross's nursery is now my favourite room at Southfork, even more than Jock's den. It's the hushed nighttime scenes, where there's something haunting about the brightly decorated room and the dark shadowy lighting. It's also the place where the characters are at their most unguarded and isolated (aside from Baby Josh).

    Speaking of dark, I've always loved the moment where Cliff, having learned that he is not the daddy, refuses to take solace in knowing that the baby is safe from neurofibromatosis. Pam marvels at his bitterness - that he would rather the kid be his and die than JR's and live. It hearkens back to JR and Sue Ellen's silent relief at the end of "Barbecue" that Pam's baby is dead. It also now resonates with Cliff's willingness to sacrifice his (and Pam's) grandchildren in New DALLAS.

    Similarly, Jock's warning to JR regarding Cliff - "You take away a man's dignity and he'll do almost anything to get it back" - echoes what he told him about subtlety back at the start of the series ("A lack of it turns competitors into enemies and enemies into fanatics") as well as foreshadowing the shooting of JR at the end of this season. In addition, it now serves as a prophecy of what Cliff turns out to be capable of in 2013.

    With "Ewings Unite" being such a prominent theme of the new series, references to the family sticking together seem far more pertinent than they ever used to. In this episode, Miss Ellie responds to the paternity scandal by throwing a cocktail party. (“Honey, the Ewings have nerves of steel,” murmurs Andy Bradley's wife.) By the same token, Sue Ellen deals with her public humiliation by wearing her most revealing party dress of the entire series. This seems to be a variation on the philosophy later espoused by Fallon in Season 1 of DYNASTY: "The poor cut back in hard times, that's why they're poor. The rich know that's the time to spend."

    So much happens in "Paternity Suit" - as well as everything else, Sue Ellen also finds time to start an affair - and it's really thrilling and funny and poignant.

    And so the winner is … DALLAS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    17/Jan/80: KNOTS LANDING: The Lie v. 18/Jan/80: DALLAS: Jenna's Return

    So far this season, each episode of DALLAS has foregrounded one particular story-line, bringing it to boiling point while the other stories bubble away in the background. It's a neat way of keeping the drama peaking. KNOTS' instalments have been comparatively low-key thus far. This week, there's a switch around. "Jenna's Return" bucks the DALLAS Season 2 convention by focusing not on one story, but on three, each involving a romantically linked couple: Bobby and Jenna, Donna and Ray, and Dusty and Sue Ellen. (Also unusually, DALLAS's chief antagonist, JR, keeps a relatively low profile for much of this ep.) Meanwhile in "The Lie", front page headlines about a serial rapist in the neighbourhood mean that tensions are running high on the cul-de-sac from the opening scene.

    In contrast to the KNOTS' couples, quaking in their jim-jams, Ray and Donna and Dusty and Sue Ellen start off their episode happily cocooned in their respective love nests. (Yes, Sue Ellen is actually happy.) All you need is love, they assure each other. It's only gradually that certain realities start to encroach on their bliss - the cultural distance between Ray and Donna, the geographical distance between Sue Ellen and Dusty. (Foreshadow alert! We learn that Dusty has been flying his own plane back and forth from San Angelo to Fort Worth for his hotel trysts with Sue Ellen.)

    Both episodes boast some stand-out acting. Susan Howard and Steve Kanaly are really great in "Jenna's Return", imbuing their scenes in Donna's apartment with the sort of maturity and believability one doesn't ordinarily expect on DALLAS. (Cool apartment, by the way - but then all of the apartments in this season - Donna's, Dusty's, Kristin's, Alan Beam's - are. Must be a turn of the decade thing.) Ray and Donna's behaviour feels so recognisably "real" they might almost be in a different show. Even better are Pleshette and McCashin as the Averys on KNOTS. Their two bedroom scenes in "The Lie" - the first when Richard finds Laura with her dress ripped and assumes she's been raped, the second when he tells her he loves her and she's virtually paralysed with guilt - are so raw and intimate, they really feel like, well, scenes from a marriage.

    Oh and it's worth mentioning the debut appearance of Lou Ann Culver, Donna's step-daughter-in-law, in DALLAS. I think she only appears a couple of times, but she makes such an impression it like feels more. That's a sign of a drama series in good health I think - when even the minor characters feel potentially major.

    "The Lie" does a really good job of juxtaposing its melodrama with small details of everyday suburbia: the fact that Val and Laura are the only characters home alone during in the day, the really nice scene where Gary, Val and Karen are sitting on the kerb eating ice cream in the early evening, even the breakfast scene at the beginning where Laura laughs off the goofs she's made with Richard's eggs and laundry. I find myself believing in this world; I could watch these people doing anything … or nothing.

    Faced with a sense of powerlessness after Laura's attack, Sid momentarily considers taking the law into his own hands - introducing the theme of vigilantism, which KNOTS will return to time and again over the years.

    It's only a week since Karen was alone in a young man's apartment. Like Laura's rapist (nameless in the episode, but credited as Martin in the closing titles), David Crane was an artistic soul. He charmed Karen by making up a poem about her; Martin lures Laura back to his place with a sketch he's made of her. David makes a thing of not knowing whether to make the bed or not (he does); Martin's bed is pointedly unmade when he shows it to Laura. Neither woman ever speaks (least of all to their husband) what went on in that room. In both cases, an in-the-way Val comes closest to finding out.

    The unique thing about "The Lie" is that it's the story of a woman who pretends she was raped without ever realising that she was raped. It's not even clear if the programme itself understands that she was raped. The lovely, lonely, mournful score that plays throughout the episode starts when Laura appears in her red dress and embarks upon her double life. It would seem to suggest that that is her tragedy and whatever happens afterwards is merely an extension of that. The show doesn't judge Laura, a young wife and mother, for spending her afternoons in a pick up joint. It isn't really concerned with whether or not she was raped. What it does care about is how Laura feels about herself.

    Laura's lie means that Scarface (the "real" rapist) is set free. However, he is then caught red-handed so Laura is off the hook, lie-wise. Nevertheless, she still calls the police to admit she lied to them about her attack and to tell them not to bother looking for Martin (the "non-existent" rapist). So in the eyes of the law, she's Done The Right Thing. So that's good. But by the end of the episode, she's back at the bar, doing the cigarette thing. So that's bad. It's not an episode about rape, it's a show about woman's silent struggle with her own self-worth. It's slippery, elusive. It's hard to even talk about without getting tangled up in KNOTS.

    JR snaps back into life towards the end of "Jenna's Return" during an argument with Kristin (their first) where she jealously accuses him of being jealous of Sue Ellen's mystery man. There follows a great nighttime nursery scene between JR and Sue Ellen where she delights in telling him he no longer has any control over her comings and goings. This spurs him into action, and the next morning he insists on accompanying her to a DOA meeting, which was only ever her cover for an assignation with Dusty. (This is all played out for Mama and Daddy's benefit. The importance of humouring Jock and Ellie adds a whole extra layer of tension to DALLAS in its early years.) At the meeting, JR runs into Ray, escorting Donna, and drips a few expertly judged words of poison into his ear, thus destroying any confidence Ray had that he could ever be worthy of Donna or make her happy. Ray never really recovers from this. JR's words play right into his lack of self-worth (that word again!) and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. And JR does this with nothing to gain - purely out of spite, simply to pass the time.

    Of the three couples featured in this week's DALLAS, the least interesting is Bobby and Jenna. Jenna 2 lacks Jenna 1's edge and Jenna 3's beauty and is probably the dullest guest actor of the series so far. (Evidently, the programme makers agreed and so eradicated all trace of Jenna 2's narrative - her career in fashion journalism, her ongoing working relationship with Pam, Charlie's relationship with Naldo - when she returned as Jenna 3.) Nevertheless, the episode ends with one of DALLAS's first bona fide cliffhanging questions: will Bobby sleep with Jenna? Back in the day, it seemed like a distinct possibility.

    "The Lie" is also open ended. Its final shot, of the anonymous man lighting Laura's cigarette, looks like something out of a French movie, like a fantasy. I guess that's what Laura is chasing here - a fantasy, an escape, a chance to be something other than who she is.

    And the winner is … no contest, really … KNOTS LANDING.
     
    Richard Channing likes this.
  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    31/Jan/80: KNOTS LANDING: Home is For Healing v. 01/Feb/80: DALLAS: Sue Ellen's Choice

    I enjoyed re-watching "Home is for Healing" more than I was expecting to. No doubt about it, Lucy Ewing's a problematic character. I've said it before and I'll cut and paste it again: "The televisual equivalent of a hothouse flower, she could only ever truly make sense as part the original DALLAS ensemble. She didn't survive on KNOTS LANDING, nor would she on a 21st century DALLAS, God bless her." But actually, her inability to fit in on the cul-de-sac is what this episode is all about. I've always assumed the way Lucy goes completely and totally gaga over her poky new bedroom and a couple of childhood keepsakes - a moth-eaten stuffed rabbit ("Flopsy!!") and a crinoline toilet holder - was down to Charlene Tilton's ridiculous over-acting, and maybe it is a little bit, but it's also Lucy trying to turn back the clock and recreate the idyllic childhood she never had. She spends the whole episode trying on different guises: Mama's little girl cooing over her dolls, spoilt rich bitch maxing out Jock's credit card, Cosmic Steeple gang banger, even a teenage protestor against the transportation of nuclear waste. That last one was never gonna fly, but I love the exchange between her and Diana where Diana has to explain that the reason she and her friends are protesting against nuclear waste is because it's dangerous.

    There's a lovely fragility between Gary and Val in this episode - as Laura says, they're like china dolls - and a touching uncertainty between the two of them and Lucy.

    "H4H" also introduces us to Sylvie, Knots Landing Motors and Richard's roving eye ("Who's the nifty little blonde?" he drools re Lucy). We get a bigger slice of the Wards than previously: Kenny's enjoyably sleazy, Ginger's enjoyably dumb, and that's all that's really required of them here.

    The crossover with DALLAS isn't exactly seamless: Lucy's engagement to Alan Beam is temporarily forgotten as she plans a new life with her folks in California, while the early scene where Val nips over to Dallas to explain herself to an upset Lucy (basically a retread of their first encounter in "Secrets") feels like it's taking place around the corner from Seaview Circle. Oh and Cosmic Steeple remain the biggest bunch of KNOTS knob heads this side of Benny Appleman.

    The end of the episode - Gary, Lucy and Val running in the ocean - is hokey, bonkers and glorious all at the same time. In hindsight, knowing that Lucy never made it back to KNOTS after this ep, makes this fleeting moment between them all the more precious. This was as good as it ever got between them and that it happens in slow motion and ends in a freeze frame makes it kinda poignant.

    "Sue Ellen's Choice" feels like the first proper serialised instalment of DALLAS, and as such offers a template for all the other '80s soaps: it picks up the morning after the episode before, no single plot dominates the hour, and it has unrelated storylines rubbing up against each other in the same scene - the nighttime scene where Pam and Sue Ellen, each wrapped in their own private torment, pass each other on the fake patio while JR looks on unpityingly is a great example. Other soap tropes pioneered in this episode include: women in love with the same man barging into each other's offices to throw down ultimatums (Jenna v Pam) and chance encounters where characters vow to destroy one another while stunned bystanders look on (Donna v JR). Plus we're gearing up for the end of the season now, so there's that soapy equivalent of a train hurtling inexorably towards its destination - but in this case, as Katzman, Marchetta and co are practically inventing the genre as they go along, there's no thought of how to preserve the characters for the next however many seasons. Instead, they're pushing them hell for leather, leaving nothing in reserve. Little wonder this was always my fave season.

    Foreshadow alerts:
    1. During a scene with Pam, Cliff has some clearly dubbed on dialogue establishing that he is the only Barnes sibling to have displayed symptoms of neurofibromatosis thus far - and even then there's only a 50% chance of him passing on the disease to his offspring. This is a far more optimistic diagnosis then we were given initially.
    2. Donna compares Jock's bond with Ray to a father/son relationship.
    3. Dusty refers to his father and the Southern Cross for the first time.

    Donna and Ray's good-bye scene is killer, (even when you know it ain't a permanent good-bye) while Donna's first and only scene with Jock remains a series highlight. Watching someone as dignified as her go begging to Jock, only for him to gently refuse to intercede with Ray on her behalf - wow, it's a powerful moment.

    While the heart of the episode belongs to Ray and Donna, its intoxicating thrills are supplied by JR and Sue Ellen. The background music swells when Sue Ellen accepts Dusty's marriage proposal, then sizzles and snaps when JR tells her, during another great nighttime nursery scene, that he'll give her a divorce but will never let a drunken tramp like her take his baby. The look on Sue Ellen's face at the end of the episode, when she returns to the psychological prison that is Southfork after breaking up with Dusty, is one of the best freeze frames ever.

    Watching these scenes, I get the same ridiculous sense of euphoria as I do when watching New DALLAS: it's like I almost can't bear how much guilty fun this is. Sure, there are other soaps I've been emotionally invested in, probably even more so: KNOTS, DYNASTY Season 1, '80s BROOKSIDE, EASTENDERS on a good day, where the writing's brilliant and the acting's so good you find yourself empathising and identifying with the blah blah blah - but when DALLAS is at its most intoxicating, those conventional considerations don't (necessarily) apply. It becomes a rush all its own - a guilty, giddy thrill ride with no redeeming qualities beyond its own unrefined DALLASness.

    There's no reference to Lucy's visit to California in "Sue Ellen's Choice", but she does seem less interested in Alan Beam all of a sudden - maybe her all-nighter with Cosmic Steeple made a bigger impression than we realised.

    And the winner is … DALLAS
     
    Ome likes this.
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    07/Feb/80: KNOTS LANDING: Land of the Free v. 08/Feb/80: DALLAS: Second Thoughts

    Whenever I've watched "Land of the Free" in the past, I've tried to make sense of it and failed. So this time, I decided just to chill out and watch it for what it is (whatever that might be).

    It starts out with the ladies of KNOTS sunbathing on what looks like a freezing cold beach, there's some nice everyday banter between them and the kids, and then suddenly without warning, we're watching BIKER BEACH ATTACK!, an obscure early 70s exploitation flick where hairy bikers terrorise screaming white chicks in bikinis - all handheld camera moves and wacca-wacca music on the soundtrack. Then we're back to suburbia for some nice character stuff, then back to the beach the following day for BIKER BEACH ATTACK! PART II. This flip-flop continues for some time as if Roger Corman were battling David Jacobs for control of the editing suite. The result is a schizoid, paranoid hour that keeps threatening to become a genuinely interesting "base under siege" story, even as the frenetically jazzy score keeps trying to pull it somewhere else. The bikers are authentically menacing and the regulars' reactions are fascinating: Karen gives good outrage, Richard good complacency, Val manages to tie in her DALLAS backstory, and there's some shocking sexism from Kenny AND Ginger. Running throughout the ep are scenes of everyday folks trying to live their everyday lives under increasingly surreal and frightening circumstances. The Fairgate kids are particularly good here.

    The story also taps into a kind of right-wing, Daily Mail-type anxiety that all the fancy houses and higher taxes in the world can't protect decent, affluent white folks from being raped and murdered in their beds by hairy men (and women) on motorbikes. Finally, Sid, Gary and Kenny all turn into Dustin Hoffman in STRAW DOGS and head down to the beach for a shoreline showdown with the bad guys. (Richard's role is to provide comic relief in much the same way JR does during the barroom brawl in "The Dove Hunt".) Naturally, goodness prevails and the episode ends with all the husbands laughing and saying how terrific they feel for resorting to violence in order to protect their womenfolk. Yes, vigilantism has saved the day. For such a liberal-minded show, KNOTS has quite the conservative streak.

    After the comparative darkness of "Sue Ellen's Choice", "Second Thoughts" sees DALLAS back in fun cartoon mode. The focus is once again on JR, Lucy, Alan Beam and Kristin. The episode is kind of a cross between a house of cards and a game of dominos: every action has a reaction, and it can all fall apart at any moment.

    JR's scheme to get Lucy married off and out of Dallas backfires when Jock offers the groom-to-be a partnership in Smithfield and Bennett. (Harve's about to retire, apparently.) Having goaded Lucy into accepting Alan's proposal in the first place, there's nothing JR can do to stop the wedding. Then Kristin's attempt to get back in JR's good books by telling Lucy about Alan's secret girlfriend backfires when a dithering Lucy reacts by setting the wedding date. JR reacts to this by telling Kristin that her days in Dallas are numbered. Then Alan's plan to double cross JR backfires when Lucy and Betty Lou both dump him on the same night. That leaves Kristin and Alan out in the cold.

    Meanwhile, Sue Ellen has spent the whole episode being strangely attentive towards JR in front of the family. It's only when they're alone in the delicious final scene that the truth is revealed. Sue Ellen, laughing in JR's face in the dark, tells him that it's all part of an act for her to get custody of her son by appearing like the perfect wife and mother. Girl gives good gloat, but it's only a matter of time before this scheme backfires too.

    The one noble creature in the ep is Alan's girlfriend Betty Lou, who refuses to be bribed by JR into blowing the whistle on their relationship to Lucy, and instead leaves Dallas with her heart broken but head held high (only to resurface a few years later as Maggie's slutty sister on FALCON CREST). Like Lou Ann Culver, Betty Lou is a really great minor character.

    Foreshadow alert: "I'll rot in hell before I'll accept a handout from a Ewing," vows Cliff after refusing a job offer set up for him by Bobby. Now he's rotting in a Mexican jail having refused Bobby's offer to help him beat the JR murder rap in return for confessing to his real crimes: “I have never done anything that the Ewings asked me to do, and I’m not going to start today.”

    I've never enjoyed "Land of the Free" as much as I did this time around, but the winner is … DALLAS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    14/Feb/80: KNOTS LANDING: Civil Wives v 15/Feb/80: DALLAS: Divorce - Ewing Style

    Two marital-themed episodes, very different in approach, but neither ideally suited for Valentine's Day.

    "Civil Wives" feels like an overlooked gem. Five of the first eight KNOTS episodes involve visits from estranged relatives and this is the last of them. As Sid's snooty, bitchy, neurotic ex-wife, it's easy to see what Susan is meant to represent: she's everything down-to-earth, unpretentious Karen isn't. When they first meet on the kerb outside the Fairgate house, Susan is all tailored chic while Karen's in jeans with her hair in bunches and dirt on her face. It's the same contrast we were given between Lucy and Diana in "Home is for Healing". Susan may be at the other end of the social scale to the "Land of the Free" biker gang, but like them, she covets what Karen, aka the KNOTS Everywoman, aka the audience's representative, has*. She's also a forerunner of Anne Matheson, the snooty, bitchy, neurotic ex of Karen's next husband. (Plus, she's a rehearsal Abby for Richard.)

    But the character Susan reminded me of most this time around is Guzzler Bennett, Bobby's old college pal from "Fallen Idol" (DALLAS Season 1). Like "Fallen Idol" (and "Let Me Count the Ways" to an extent), "Civil Wives" is an episode that's taken me a long time to really "get". Maybe it's a story that has more resonance as one gets older. Like Guzzler with the Ewings, Susan inveigles her way into the Fairgate family home in a doomed attempt to recapture, however fleetingly, some idealised moment of happiness from her long faded youth. Sure, she's a rich bitch archetype, but she's also pitiful and very sad.

    Karen's own insecurities, while they may not resonate as strongly as the ones she expressed in "Let Me Count the Ways", are still absorbing to watch: Underneath her open-and-honest, cards-on-the-table exterior lies a whole bunch of hidden motivations for inviting Susan to stay in her house. The inevitable Susan versus Karen scene, when it finally comes, is everything one doesn't expect from an "I'm gonna take your man" soap opera confrontation. It's restrained, intelligent and fascinating. Almost every line comes as a surprise.

    Throughout the episode, Sid refuses to buy into either wife's neurosis. He remains stoic until the final scene where he delivers a touching little speech to Karen about the first time he realised how much he loved her.

    Oh and there's a lot of wit in this episode too. The initial reaction of Karen, Val and a gum chewing Laura to Susan is particularly funny. **

    Susan Philby later shows up in a 1990 episode of DALLAS as trashy talk show host Lizzie Burns. Cally appears on Lizzie's show to discuss her life as the wife of JR Ewing. Ten years earlier, such behaviour would be unthinkable for Sue Ellen, but "Divorce - Ewing Style" takes the tension that has always existed between the "pretty picture" she and JR present to their family and friends, and what really goes on behind closed doors, and pushes it to the max - until it explodes spectacularly in a brilliant cocktails-before-dinner scene at the end of the episode. Sue Ellen physically attacking JR in front of Jock and Miss Ellie?! It's so thrilling as to be almost pornographic.

    Needless to say, it's all JR's doing. In previous DALLAS episodes, his "scheme of the week" has targeted a black sheep brother, a nitwit niece or a penniless politician. Now he moves closer to home, i.e. his own bedroom, as he matter-of-factly decides that the only way to get Sue Ellen out of his toupee is to send her back to the sanitarium. And the only way he can do that is to make it look like she's fallen off the wagon - and if she should genuinely start drinking again in the process, so much the better. To further his scheme, he enlists the aid of Kristin, recently ousted from Ewing Oil. Eager to claw her way back into favour, and gleeful at the idea of destroying her sister, Kristin agrees - on the strict understanding that she become the next Mrs. JR Ewing.

    Everything about Kristin is twisted: her behaviour, her body language, her hair, her mouth - even her eyes threaten to turn boss-eyed like Karen Black's but never quite do. She's fantastic and very funny. In spite of all her cunning, her willingness to believe JR's promise to marry her somehow makes her not a fool, but just so wonderfully, comedically desperate. Equally, Jock and Miss Ellie, who remain so incredibly, hilariously gullible throughout the episode, don't come across as cardboard morons, but as cartoon characters worthy of THE SIMPSONS.

    During the recent scene in New DALLAS where Sue Ellen tells Bum that the last time she saw him was twenty years earlier in her rearview mirror when he was tailing her on behalf of JR, it reminded me of this episode. Here, JR discovers (via his rearview mirror) that Sue Ellen is having him tailed by a detective, and promptly has her tailed by Harry McSween and a couple of cops who then pick her up on a bogus drink-driving charge - another example of the special relationship between the Dallas PD and the "mean old boys" described by Val in "Land of the Free" last week.

    And the winner is … DALLAS.


    * Come to think of it, the biker gang don't covet what Karen has. They simply want to f*** with her. Their motive is malicious but not acquisitive; Susan's is the opposite.

    ** Just been in discussion with sunshineboyuk on Facebook regarding the motivation behind Laura's gum chewing. My theory: The chewing gum distinguishes Laura from Susan: Karen has dirt on her face, Val is dressed like a child, Laura has the gum. The irony is that in four years time, they've all become Susan. Kinda sorta.
     
    Ome likes this.
  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    21/Feb/80: KNOTS LANDING: Constant Companion v 22/Feb/80: DALLAS: Jock's Trial (1)

    KNOTS Season 1 is the gift that keeps on giving. Despite repeated viewings, however, "Constant Companion" is the one episode that refuses to yield its secrets to me. That said, I now find myself more kindly disposed to it than ever before.

    The crux of the episode is this: Who is sending Ginger all the weird presents and stuff? Is it Denny, the adorably cute black kid in her class who wants to know why boys and girls have to use separate toilets at school when they don't at home and can't pronounce chrysanthemums? Or is it the unusually tall school janitor who always reminds me of the giant in TWIN PEAKS, or the almost as tall mechanic who diagnoses Ginger's car as having a stolen hubcap, or Arthur the really, really small man who works at the same school, (doing what, one can only imagine) lives with his mother, possesses zero social skills and drives a tiny comedy car? (Part of me thinks the depiction of Arthur is kinda racist against small people, but on the other hand, don't small people have the same right to be depicted as hopeless emotional cripples as the rest of us? And however small Arthur is, he's taller than the singing dwarf who turns up at Ginger's front door. I sh*t you knot). The one conventionally-sized suspect is a cop played by Captain Furillo from HILL STREET BLUES. He's brilliantly sinister and eerily still, his spookiness aided by some groovily weird camera angles. The bit where he looms behind Ginger, and it isn't clear whether he's about to comfort her or peel off her face and eat it, is the episode's one genuinely scary moment. More importantly, it results in Ginger becoming the first person in the Ewingverse (and therefore the entire '80s soap genre) to call someone a bastard (that's not counting JR's use of the word to describe his unborn son in DALLAS Season 1).

    The combination of all of these never-before-seen weirdos results in a strange mixture of TWIN PEAKS and SCOOBY DOO. Re-watching the episode, I found myself wondering how it might have panned out had the men Ginger suspected of tormenting her been characters already familiar to her, i.e. her friends and neighbours. Richard, Eric and even Kenny would have made very interesting candidates. That these characters are all still relatively unknown to the audience at this point could have worked to the story's advantage. However, the episode seems to have been structured in order to give some of the regulars a bit of a break. Sid appears in only two scenes, the Averys in one, and Diana has a total of three words to say. Even the ubiquitous Karen only shows up in the last third of the show. This leaves Ginger, the least well developed member of the KNOTS ensemble, to shoulder the weight of an episode in a way no one else thus far has had to. And I gotta say, Kim Lankford, given what she has to work with, does a perfectly good job of acting befuddled and frightened. And I also found myself enjoying Kenny doing his smirky, not-really-sure-what's-going-on thing.

    There's a sweet subplot about Val taking her high school equivalency exam. It's lighthearted in tone (thus diluting the impact of Ginger's PG-13 slasher movie still further), but serves an early indication of both Val's feelings of inadequacy (she's self-conscious that the other wives have a college education while she never even finished high school) and her determination to prove herself - a combination that will eventually lead to her sitting next to Greg Sumner while he blows cigar smoke in her face.

    Priscilla Pointer gives a great performance as Ginger's tormentor, aka Judith Ryland in a kaftan. She is given as much to sink her teeth into in two scenes of KNOTS as she will be in the three years spent as Julie Gonzalo's grandmother on DALLAS. However, the use of once burning issues like abortion and the Vietnam War to explain the motivation behind Pointer's reign of chrysanthemum-based terror sits oddly with all the wacky girl-in-peril stuff that has gone before. And the fact that Ginger's mother "forced" her to have an abortion is a bit of a cop out.

    Here's a fab bit of synchronicity that totally justifies my foolhardy decision to watch all of everything chronologically: The night after Priscilla Pointer guest stars on "Constant Companion", her future DALLAS character gets her first mention in "Jock's Trial, Part 1". Or at least her initials, as engraved on Hutch McKinney's belt buckle, do: "To HM, with love RB," reads Rebecca's none-the-wiser son, Cliff, newly appointed to the district attorney's office. (This is the first of three crucial, if contrived, uses of an engraved belt buckle in DALLAS: In Season 9, Miss Ellie discovers Jock's buckle in Wes Parmalee's bunkhouse, and then there's the whole thing with JR's belt buckle after his death in New DALLAS which I still don't completely understand.)

    Cliff's interest in a twenty-eight year old corpse (or whatever age VP was claiming to be back in 1980) found on Southfork is that it's a way for him to avenge his daddy, currently residing at Dallas Memorial Hospital after one last binge. ("There's a lot of that going around," cracks JR, and indeed there is. Later in the episode, the news of Dusty's death will drive Sue Ellen back to the booze, just as JR's own death will thirty-three years later.) Of course, the huge irony of Cliff using the murder of Hutch McKinney to bring down the Ewings, specifically Jock, is that his actions will instead bring about the final humiliation of the man he is trying to avenge: poor old Digger. But an even bigger irony is that the truth of Hutch's murder will also unlock the door to Cliff's future fortune, i.e. Barnes Industries. Or Wentworth Global. Or Katherine Tool & Die. Or whatever we're calling this week. There's also a direct line between the increasingly vengeance obsessed Cliff we see here and the dementedly vengeful one we discover in New DALLAS.

    In other news: Baby Josh proves his innate sense of ironic timing by uttering his first word, "Mama!" at the precise moment Sue Ellen turns her back to abandon him. With JR making life at Southfork intolerable for her, Sue Ellen is caught between a rock and a hard place, and it's suddenly easy to understand why Valene and Gary made the decisions they did when faced with a similar situation eighteen years earlier (or however old Charlene Tilton ... etc.)

    And while Miss Ellie and Matt Devlin re-enact their own low key version of the Jock and Julie Grey story, JR and Bobby play out a dynamic that's now familiar from watching John Ross and Christopher in New DALLAS. First they battle over business, (foreshadow alert as Bobby threatens for the first time to challenge JR for control of Ewing Oil) and then over a woman, (now Sue Ellen's sole ally at Southfork, Bobby defends her from JR in front of the rest of the family) before putting their differences aside to heed a rallying cry of "Ewings unite!" from Jock. But their attempts to derail Cliff's investigation into Hutch's death come to nothing. Jock is arrested for murder. "TO BE CONTINUED!"

    And the winner is … soz, Ginger … DALLAS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    13/Mar/80: KNOTS LANDING: Courageous Convictions v 14/Mar/80: DALLAS: The Wheeler Dealer

    Again, two very different hours of television with a surprisingly similar starting point. On KNOTS, Richard is sweating badly when an oil company he bought shares in goes belly up. He now has a week to raise $20,000 or face bankruptcy and unemployment. On DALLAS, a shaky JR stands to lose billions if Ewing Oil's Southeast Asian oil wells are nationalised in a military coup in two days' time. (I love the vagueness of all this overseas drama - we don't even know which part of Southeast Asia and we don't care.)

    Richard's solution is to throw a barbecue for the neighbours. Doing his best to follow Fallon Carrington's dictum - "The poor cut back in hard times, that's why they're poor. The rich know that's the time to spend" - he instructs Laura that only the best steaks and bourbon will do. During the party, he approaches Sid then Kenny for a loan, (ironic that he doesn't even go near Gary, "the Texas Ewing") only for them to turn him down. It's a wonderfully excruciating scene: Richard's desperate, Sid and Kenny are embarrassed, and Laura's mortified when she realises what's going on - yet everyone wears their best party face throughout. Finally, Sid stumps up $5,000, but it's not enough.

    On "The Wheeler Dealer", JR's plan also involves his so-called friends, i.e. Vaughn Leland and the cartel, whom he suckers into buying the Asian leases off him at a huge markup, just hours before news of the revolution breaks. It's JR's most outrageous scheme to date, and what's interesting is how genuinely nervous he is about pulling it off. (When he pours himself a drink in one scene, his hand is visibly shaking.) What's at stake is not just the family fortune, but something even more valuable: his daddy's approval. But even at the beginning of the episode when things are still going well - the bank loans have been paid off and Ewing Oil is more prosperous than it ever has been - Jock still cannot forgive JR for mortgaging Southfork in the first place.

    There's a parallel between that scene and the great one in "Courageous Convictions" where Richard asks his father-in-law Hank to mortgage his house on his behalf. Hank has always lived within his means and cannot understand the mess Richard has got himself into. The gulf between generations, between two completely different sets of values, is plain to see. (Not that I'm suggesting Jock and Hank have the same values, but you know, they've both got white hair and stuff.)

    "Courageous Convictions" is also a turning point for Laura. When KNOTS began, she was the suburban equivalent of Sue Ellen, a malfunctioning Stepford Wife living a life of quiet desperation and afternoon sex. The episode titles say it all: "The Lie" was about Laura's inability to admit the truth, "Courageous Convictions" is about, amongst other things, Laura summoning the guts to stand up to her husband for what she believes is right. Sure, it would have been predictable, and probably more fun to watch, had Laura continued down a path of self-destruction, but this is KNOTS, through the character, taking the high road instead. And while a housewife taking a job and control of the family finances might not be a revolution in South East Asia, it's still a revolution. Back in DALLAS, meanwhile, Sue Ellen has given up the fight. In session with Dr Elby, she describes herself as "a lush, just like her husband says she is."

    "Courageous Convictions" also contains a subplot about Diana, her first serious boyfriend, and a hundred dollar bill he steals from Sid. I really like the way KNOTS takes Diana as seriously as she takes herself which, as a solemn sixteen-year-old, is very seriously indeed. And there's a lovely scene between her and Sid where they talk about betrayal and forgiveness.

    "The Wheeler Dealer" is DALLAS in extra time. The season was meant to end all nice and neat with Digger's funeral at the end of "Jock's Trial Part 2". At the last minute, the network asked for two more episodes so this is the writers looking back at what stories they already had and seeing what further drama they could pull from them.

    Would we have ever met Amanda Ewing had Miss Ellie not suggested to Jock that they visit her in the sanitarium where she resides (the grounds of which look suspiciously like the one Sue Ellen at was this time last season)? Watching Jock and Ellie's discussion, I got all warm and fuzzy when I saw the shot of them that New DALLAS has based its "what-the-hell-is-it?" portrait of them on. In the short term, sending Jock, Ellie, Bobby and Pam off to Colorado is a convenient way of occupying them for half an episode. In the long run, Amanda confusing Bobby for a young Jock will pay off handsomely when it comes to resolving the "Who really owns Ewing Oil?" mystery of Season 7. Amanda's isn't the only case of mistaken identity in this ep: a boozed up Sue Ellen thinks Mark Jennings from DYNASTY is Dusty come back from the dead. (She'll have to wait until next season for that.)

    As well as an off-screen revolution and a crazy ex-wife, this writers also rustle up a long lost document giving Cliff a share of Ewing 23, a really good barroom brawl where Ray and Bobby ride to an ungrateful Sue Ellen's rescue, the first indication that Pam's mama might be alive, and the final nail in JR's affair with his sister-in-law. The suggestion that she sleep with his business associates proves the last straw for Kristin as it did for Julie. And just as Julie joined forces with Cliff (or was about to when she was killed), so Kristin does the same with Alan Beam.

    All this plus an excellent Southfork cocktail scene, the one by which all others must be measured: Sue Ellen sneaks a drink at the bar, JR denounces her as an alcoholic, Bobby defends her, Lucy throws in a zinger, JR changes tack and impunes Pam's paternity and sanity, Pam runs off, Bobby punches JR, Jock puts his boys in line, and Sue Ellen finishes off the scene with a one-liner in JR's ear.

    And the winner is … DALLAS
     
    Ome likes this.
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    20/Mar/80: KNOTS LANDING: Bottom of the Bottle (1) v. 21/Mar/80: DALLAS: A House Divided

    These episodes share a similar out-of-control, coming-apart-at-the-seams vibe. If they were spaceships, they'd be on Red Alert.

    Look beyond the retro boogie-ing at the beginning of "Bottom of the Bottle" and there's something unsettling about all the characters, save Val, getting so drunk and manic at the Fairgates' house party. Suddenly there's no one at the helm of the good ship KNOTS, no one to steer us through uncharted waters.

    When Gary takes that first drink, it's not staged as A Big Moment the way it was for Sue Ellen two weeks earlier. He isn't trying to blot out the news of his lover's death in a plane crash, he's just celebrating his new promotion. As he tells Val excitedly, their lives are finally coming together. The irony is, of course, that in celebrating this fact, their lives are about to fall apart. And quickly.

    "A House Divided" moves fast too. This is perfect comic book DALLAS - full of big close ups and big emotions, threats and ultimatums. The action is non-stop (in pace if not in structure, it's this season of the old series that New DALLAS resembles most) and as the episode builds, there's an increasing sense of a world coming off its axis, a centre unable to hold.

    This feeling is complimented by the episode's colour scheme. There are lots of shadows and half lit faces in this episode of DALLAS, while the women are dressed in deep reds, purples and pinks. The effect is both dark and sinister, and lurid and vivid. I love the purplish light on Bobby's face as he turns towards the camera to deliver his "I've put up with all the wheeling and dealing and backstabbing that I'm going to …" speech. I can so imagine that shot in a cartoon strip.

    The look of "Bottom of the Bottle" couldn't be more different, but as with "A House Divided", there's something distinctive about it. After picking a fight with Val after the party, Gary takes off into the night like a wounded animal and spends the rest of the episode away from the cul-de-sac. There is a strikingly visceral quality to some of the scenes that follow - when he goes ballistic in a bar and starts smashing the place up with a pool cue, or when he reaches across the counter of a liquor store for a bottle of whiskey only for the owner to whip out a gun and press it to his neck, or the final scene where he wakes up under the boardwalk and staggers down the beach - his physical and mental state underlined by the unsteady camera work... None of these scenes look like anything we've seen on KNOTS before.

    The worlds of DALLAS and KNOTS feel very far apart here, but there are some interesting cross references. "You drove Gary away, you tried to bribe Valene," Sue Ellen reminds JR in front of his parents. Yeah, JR drove Gary and Val all the way to California ... where we find Val in her kitchen talking about the same thing to Sid and Karen: "I used to think that he [Gary] drank because he didn't fit in, because his daddy and his brothers said he was weak and he had no character because he wasn't a tough and ruthless Ewing like them." Then comes the terrible realisation: "Gary doesn't need a special reason to drink. He'll drink for any reason."

    There's a parallel between this speech of Val's and what happens to Bobby in "A House Divided". When Jock sides with JR over his decision to close down Ewing 23 rather than let Cliff reap his rightful share of the profits, it's the final straw for Bobby. JR is delighted, whispering in Jock's ear that Bobby is "just plain weak." Jock does not disagree, just as he wouldn't have done when JR said the same thing about Gary all those years before. Jock insists that as Ewings, they must stick together no matter what (sounding very New DALLAS). "At the expense of everyone else? I can't live that way," replies Bobby (sounding very Gary). The following morning, Bobby leaves Southfork, "driven way" just as Gary was, apparently for good. The momentousness of his decision, and the emotional scene where he bids good-bye to his parents, while it makes little sense in any real world way, (so a rich married man in his late twenties decides to move out of his parents' house? Cry me a river) it strikes right at the heart of the Ewingverse. For me the most poignant moment of the episode is the final, wordless look between Bobby and his father before he leaves.

    Similarly, some of the most touching scenes in "Bottom of the Bottle" are between Gary and his surrogate father, Sid. One of the weird things about KNOTS is how relationships between the characters seem to develop organically even when they're not on screen. We've only seen Sid and Gary alone together a couple of times since the series began, their working life at Knots Landing Motors largely spoken about rather than shown. Yet when we see them together in this episode - Sid naively trying to reach out to Gary; Gary raging at Sid before his eyes fill instantly with shame and remorse - the father/son dynamic between them is in full force.

    Gary's demons drive him away from the cul-de-sac almost as soon as he starts drinking again. While he must navigate a Knots Landing underbelly of arid sidewalks, seedy bars, jive talking muggers and ageing hookers, fellow drunk Sue Ellen remains safely cocooned at Southfork. Her first scene in "A House Divided" finds her nursing a hangover while propped up in bed with a breakfast tray, watching the news of JR's latest atrocity (Seth Stone's suicide) reported on television. But as the episode continues, the noose around her - around the show itself - gets steadily tighter and tighter, until something finally has to give. And we all know what that is. The bang of that first shot still makes me jump.

    Oh and in the last scene of "Bottom of the Bottle Part 1", there's a line of dialogue I never noticed before, and it really touched me. It's after Gary wakes up on the beach and swipes a bottle of booze from the arms of a sleeping derelict. The man wakes up, briefly protests, then goes back to sleep. Before he does, he mumbles, "Mama, I'm gonna quit drinking." When Gary hears this, it seems to hit home. He makes a gesture to hand back the bottle even though he's already drunk its contents.

    In the background of the final shot, as a dishevelled Gary quietly breaks down and starts to cry, an oblivious jogger runs past him. This echoes the beginning of the episode where Richard is trying to persuade Gary to loosen up and have a drink at the Fairgates' party, and Gary excuses himself by saying that he plans to go jogging in the morning. What a difference three days makes. By the end, it's the sheer loneliness of Gary that gets me. (I also have to say I bloody love Ted Shackelford. In an episode that's all about Gary, he doesn't make it All About Ted. His acting is so understated and real, we barely notice it. Our focus is on the character rather than the actor, which is how it should be.)

    And yet, as great as "Bottom of the Bottle" is, "A House Divided" is just such a breathtakingly wild ride. The highlights are endless: Vaughn Leland's snarl, Sue Ellen's rage, her spooky prediction to Dr Elby ("He's gonna teach my son to be just like him and it's gonna go on and on and on"), the casualness with which JR and Harry threaten Alan Beam with a rape charge, Kristin playing the cornered rat to the perfection .. Sometimes you just have to press pause and laugh because it's so much fun. And so the winner is … DALLAS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    20/11/80: KNOTS LANDING: Hitchhike (1) v. 21/11/80: DALLAS: Who Done It?

    When Karen called hitchhiking dangerous in "The Lie" (KNOTS Season 1), she was referring the risks a teenage girl (specifically her daughter) runs when getting into the car of a strange man. She wasn't thinking about the risks a man (specifically her husband) might be taking by letting a strange teenage girl into his car. "Hitchhike" deals with the latter scenario.

    This is the second episode of KNOTS in eleven months to focus on a false accusation of rape (or in this instance, assault with intent to rape.) Two out of DALLAS's first four episodes also included a false accusation of rape. In the DALLAS eps, the issue wasn't explored in any great depth. The message just seemed to be: When women get themselves into a jam, they cry rape. By contrast, "Hitchhike", like its predecessor, "The Lie", deals with the complexities of the subject in unexpected and fascinating ways. Nothing is quite as it seems, preconceptions are continually overturned:

    "We're not nice people … What we are doesn't give anyone the right to rape us."

    "Hitchhike" and "Who Done It?" both put a major character behind bars - Sid, briefly, for assault and Sue Ellen, overnight, for the small matter of shooting her husband. It's a blast to see Miss Texas put through the indignity of jail, but it's when she and Sid are released that things get really interesting.

    Sid's response to the assault accusation is to shrug it off and get on with his everyday life - Sid Fairgate rapist? No one's gonna believe that! (And to begin with, they don't - the police are sympathetic, even apologetic towards him, while Laura all but laughs with disbelief when she hears the news.) And so, Sid and Karen throw a welcome-to-the-neighbourhood party (just coffee and cake, out of consideration for a newly sober Gary) for Sid's visiting sister Abby. As soap diva entrances go, Abby's is decidedly low-key, although her unruly kids restore to the cul-de-sac some of the domestic noise and chaos that was present in the pilot episode.

    Unlike Sid, Sue Ellen has no everyday life to fall back on. As always, the Ewings have united against their common enemy - and this time, it's her. A mysterious benefactor might have posted her bail, but after that, she's on her own. It's kind of fascinating to watch an exiled Sue Ellen in action: first she takes a cab to Southfork and stands outside the gates looking in (as Ewing outsiders--Gary and Val in 1978, John Ross and Elena in 2012--are wont to do), then she turns up at Cliff's condo, then Kristin's, and then lurks outside Ewing Oil, where she begs Bobby to let her see her son. And what are those things she's suddenly wearing on an impressive variety of outfits, despite having no money or possessions to her name - shoulder pads? Truly, the '80s have arrived.

    Gradually, over the course of "Hitchhike, Part 1", the repercussions of Sid's arrest begins to make themselves felt. He might not have made the front page of the Knots Landing Tribune the way Sue Ellen has the Dallas Press, but he and a fist-waving Karen still make a decent splash on Page 5. Pretty soon, the sight of the Fairgate mailbox proves enough to scare off potential neighbours, Diana and Michael are getting a hard time at school (damn that Helen Hunt!) and even mild-mannered Eric wants to know why his dad picked up that tramp in the first place. Sid greets all of this, and the dirty looks he receives at KLM, with a bewildered smile which becomes more and more frozen with fear.

    For both Sue Ellen and Sid, matters are further complicated by their choice of legal representation. Understandably, JR - who seems genuinely freaked out by the idea that the woman who shares his bed might have tried to kill him - is less than happy that an attorney he employs, Kyle Bennett, should be defending her. In the first of what will become a DALLAS staple, the two minute lunch meeting, JR - fascinatingly encumbered by a wheelchair and a couple of dopey security guards - coerces Kyle into dropping the case.

    Sid, meanwhile, turns for help to neighbour Richard, who happens to be an attorney. So far, so convenient. What becomes less convenient, as the episode goes on, is Karen's increasing sense that Richard isn't up to the job (which he isn't, as we realise when he tries to bribe Sid's accuser). However, Sid is reluctant to fire him - because he doesn't want to hurt his feelings. On most any other TV show, Sid's sheer inability to grasp the enormity of what is happening to him would render him an idiot. Here, its precisely what makes his situation so believable: "This can't be happening!" Isn't this how most of us would react in the same position?

    Sue Ellen's predicament, i.e. she was so drunk, she has no idea whether or not she shot her husband, is somewhat less universally identifiable. In fact, the way it's been depicted - stretched out over four episodes, with Sue Ellen either wild-eyed with fear or lip-twitching with guilt and only the weirdly deadpan Dr Elby for her to confide in - makes it DALLAS's most bizarre story-line to date - which isn't to say it isn't still really enjoyable. It's just that at this point in the series' run, I find myself starting to laugh at as much as with it.

    By the time we get to the hypnosis scene, the show feels less like the deliciously twisty turny DALLAS of the previous year and more like a piece of 1970s science fiction. When Dr Elby puts Sue Ellen under, I'm reminded of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN Bigfoot episode, where an extra-terrestrial Stefanie Powers scans Steve Austin's brain for flashbacks. It also feels reeeeally slooooow, which is due in part to the background music: Because of a strike by the musician's union, these episodes of DALLAS and KNOTS are obliged to share the same generic score on their soundtracks. The music evokes slow-moving, doom-laden foreboding quite well; dramatic urgency, not so much. This works for "Hitchhike", where it takes the whole episode for the seriousness of the situation he's in to really hit home for Sid. On "Who Done It?", as we gear up for the revelation the whole world has been waiting months to hear, it kind of kills the momentum.

    The last scene, where Sue Ellen confronts JR and Kristin on the cardboard Southfork patio, is also hampered by some strangely clunky editing. It looks as if certain shots were hastily inserted after the bulk of the scene had been filmed. Presumably, it was something to do with keeping the identity of JR's assailant under wraps. Still, I'm sure the billion trillion zillion people watching back in the day wouldn't have cared about the odd weird edit, and the whole thing is still delightfully nuts.

    But however much fun this episode of DALLAS is, the Season 2 opener of KNOTS is in a different league. For example, nothing in "Who Done It?" - not even the great dressing down Donna Culver gives Cliff at their second meeting - is as smart or as witty as the sequence at the beginning of "Hitchhike" where Diana and her talent show pals' performance of "If My Friends Could See Me Now" is juxtaposed with the sight of Sid getting arrested. "What a set up, Holy cow!" indeed.

    And so the winner is … KNOTS LANDING.
     
    Ome likes this.
  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    27/11/80: KNOTS LANDING: Hitchhike (2) v. 28/11/80: DALLAS: Taste of Success

    It's an unwritten rule of two-part episodes that in the second half, things have to get a whole lot worse before they can start to get better - call it the "darkest before dawn" syndrome. This is why, in "Hitchhike, Part 2", we find the normally resilient Karen Fairgate sat drinking in her living room in the middle of the day with the curtains closed. "We're dead, Sid," she announces. Later on, the perennially optimistic Sid is obliged to admit that "my life is falling apart."

    The biggest meltdown, however, and the highlight of the episode, is provided by Richard. Drunk and angry after Sid finally sees sense and fires him as his lawyer, he goes nuts in the middle of the cul-de-sac. Shouting matches between neighbours are relatively rare on KNOTS, (especially compared with British soaps where they're a more or less daily occurrence) and this is one of the best. Richard really lets fly at Sid, who comes close to hitting him - while the irony of a sober Gary trying to calm a drunken Richard only episodes after their situations were reversed is lost on nobody. There's a similar switch at Knots Landing Motors where Sid is now the liability that Gary used to be. Grateful to Sid for standing by him in his darkest hour, Gary is determined to return the favour. Slowly and subtly, the experiences that the cul-de-sac gang have shared are beginning to inform their day to day relationships. It's as if their back story were being written in front of us.

    Although Abby stays pretty much on the sidelines in this ep, nearly all her scenes take on an extra significance in hindsight. Dropping by KLM to see Sid, she chats a while with Gary. Her idly flirtatious question, "Isn't this [i.e. Southern California] where they make make-believe come true?" now seems full of portent. It points to a world of possibilities and untapped potential - to Seasons 4 and 5, in other words. And how ironic that it should be Val who persuades Abby to stay in Knots Landing and Laura who rents her the house on the cul-de-sac. Meanwhile, Karen's cheerful end-of-episode ignorance of her sister-in-law becoming a permanent fixture in the street foreshadows the very end of the series where everybody is stunned to see Abby moving back to the cul-de-sac. There goes the neighbourhood ...

    Ultimately, the plot of "Hitchhike" turns on a contrivance - proof of Sid's innocence depends on Karen remembering the licence plate number of a van she only saw by coincidence in the first place - but the way it's presented still makes it feel more plausible than the hypnosis-solves-all approach of last week's DALLAS.

    Synchronicity alert: In both "Hitchhike, Part 2" and "Taste of Success", a main character is compared to Don Quixote. On KNOTS, Sid declines Richard's advice that he to plead guilty to a lesser charge, insisting instead that he be allowed to clear his name entirely. Wearily accepting his client's decision, Richard refers to himself as Pancho Sanchez [sic] and to Sid as Don Quixote. Over cut price margaritas in DALLAS, Cliff defends his preoccupation with the Ewings to Donna, describing them as "a symbol of everything that's wrong". "So were windmills to Don Quixote," replies Donna drily.

    On "Taste of Success", Kristin and the entire "Who Shot JR?" story-line are dispensed with in two scenes and hastily bundled off to California before the audience can say, "Hang on, what about …?" As fun as it's been, it's kind of a relief to see DALLAS getting back to normal … even if the structure of the show has now changed. Gone are the Plots of the Week, this is now the start of continuous story-lines - with Lucy inevitably shunted off to one side in an unrelated subplot - that will prevail for the rest of the series.

    Up until now, the business stories on DALLAS have served primarily as MacGuffins - a backdrop against which JR can do something outrageous like forge his daddy's will or mortgage his mama's ranch. Now Bobby's in charge of the company, we're suddenly meant to be paying attention to the details of the deals themselves. It's a bit of a jolt. Where once the guest cast of an episode was limited to those involved in the Plot of the Week, there's now a revolving door of grey-haired bit players that we need to keep track of: refinery owners, oil crew foremen, a couple of rival bankers, the good ole boys in the cartel. (Even though the cartel have been around since Season 1, they're still pretty anonymous: in this ep, Bobby seems to think Andy's first name is Bradley.) As a kid, I remember finding this sudden shift of emphasis a bit dry and unsexy, but now I love all the detail.

    Perhaps to compensate for all those old men in suits, this episode also boasts Lucy's impromptu striptease in Mitch's apartment. It's kind of amusingly sleazy and endearingly chaste all at the same time: On one hand, it's the the most overtly rude thing anyone's done on DALLAS thus far - we've never been asked to imagine a character standing fully naked in a room before - but on the other, we've seen more actual Tilton flesh when Lucy's sunning herself on the cardboard patio. Actually, the scenes of Mitch and Lucy's initial courtship, i.e. earnest young scholar has his studies continually disrupted by loveably incompetent screwball, have a certain charm.

    Following JR's shooting and Bobby's brief departure from Southfork, Miss Ellie's determination to keep her sons at the ranch ("Whatever it takes!") now feels borderline obsessive. To prevent Bobby from leaving again, she orders Jock to give him complete control of Ewing Oil. JR, now recovered from his injuries, is naturally furious at having been supplanted by his baby brother. Something I've never realised before: through this interference, Ellie becomes jointly responsible for instigating the rivalry for the company that will now develop between her sons. Meanwhile, Bobby is emotionally blackmailing his father quite openly - either give me your full support on all decisions or I leave Southfork for good, he tells him. Bobby may insist that he has only the interests of the family at heart, but Pam - currently between breakdowns and exhibiting a refreshingly steely cynicism - has his number, just as Donna has Cliff's elsewhere in the episode. Both women understand that, lofty protestations to the contrary, these men love power for its own sake. Add to this Sue Ellen's willing return to the dark side, (her "I hate you! I hate you!" reconciliation scene with JR is a blast) and the Ewings as a whole have never seemed so morally twisted.

    The last scene, in particular, feels fabulously off kilter. In spite of JR's best efforts to sabotage the deal, Bobby has bought Ewing Oil a refinery, delighting Jock in the process. Alone in their bedroom, Sue Ellen regards JR's seething jealousy with a perversely crooked smile. "I'm gonna bring Bobby down if I have to destroy Ewing Oil to do it!" he promises her. Wow, that's … kind of insane, ain't it?

    And the winner is … DALLAS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    04/Dec/80: KNOTS LANDING: Remember the Good Times v. 05/Dec/80: DALLAS: The Venezuelan Connection

    When I was a kid being taught by priests, groovy-but-earnest Father Ray (thinking back, he wasn't particularly groovy, just a bit younger than all the other priests) lent me a book. It was a true life, first person account of a Puerto Rican boy who ran away from his abusive parents and became a New York gang leader. It was dead gritty and exciting and full of violence and drugs and it pulled me right in, and when it got to the part where the gang leader had a religious experience which he literally fought against until he could resist it no longer, it was hard not to be moved. I hadn't thought about this book for years, but watching Earl Trent, the alcoholic Gary attempts to help in "Remember the Good Times", I kept being reminded of it. Clearly Earl, a somewhat effete failed novelist, is no Puerto Rican gang leader, but there's something about the force of his anger, his utter contempt for sobriety combined with his desperate need for it, that has some of the same power as that story (while at the same time feeling ever so slightly like a text-book-case-study). I had a look on the internet and found out the book was "Run Baby Run" by Nicky Cruz. Further googling revealed that Cruz's conversion was depicted in a film called THE CROSS AND THE SWITCHBLADE, written and directed by … our very own Sid Fairgate. Wow. Could be this … A Sign? And once you connect Don Murray with Christianity, so much about his portrayal of Sid falls into place: the unabashed goodness; the martyrdom of Sid in "Hitchhike", which Murray wrote; Sid's outstretched arms à la Christ on the cross when he dies on the operating table … (I mean Sid on the operating table, not Christ. Or maybe it's both.)

    The focus of "Remember the Good Times" is on Gary's newfound sobriety. Apparently, it's not been as smooth an adjustment as the happy ending of Season 1 and his crossover appearance on DALLAS after JR's shooting might have suggested. At AA meetings, of which he's obliged to attend five a week, he's cynical and bored. When presented with the opportunity to help an alcoholic in need, he's reluctant and scornful. But Val insists on befriending Earl and his weird wife Judy anyway. Ah, Earl and Judy. What a pair - brittle, disillusioned, terminally sniping, they're what the Averys might have become had they stayed together another ten years. Earl sneering about Southern California ("a haven for the insincere") sure sounds like Richard when he's on a roll. But are Gary and Val any less fragile a couple than the Trents? Almost a year after moving to Knots Landing, Val feels like they're finally starting to fit in. She marks the occasion by buying some dishes, the first she's ever owned brand new. Halfway through the episode, the dishes are smashed. Guess there's a metaphor in there somewhere. ("We're all china plates" perhaps?)

    My favourite scene of the episode is where Gary, Earl and Judy are in the motel room, a neon light flashing red, the colour of Hell, through the window. As he lies in bed going through alcoholic withdrawal, the depth of Earl's suffering, his sweating, contorting and howling, is very moving, as is the patience with which Gary tends to him, even as Earl throws up coffee all over his shirt. Meanwhile, Judy looks on, expressionless and unmoving. There's something oddly religious, almost biblical - and, as Gary and Judy grow closer, a little bit illicit - about the scene. Cut out of this picture is Val, waiting anxiously at home in a darkened cul-de-sac, alone with her broken crockery. This is the episode where we first begin to glimpse the extent of her co-dependence. When Kirk Douglas's ex-wife suggests in a later scene that she start thinking about her own needs, Val looks bewildered: "All I've ever really wanted to do is what's best for Gary."

    At the end of the episode, we learn that caring for a fellow alcoholic has had a profound effect on Gary. "It was like I loved the guy," he marvels, all trace of cynicism vanished, as he and Val walk smiling out of shot. On one level, this has been a tale of salvation, of redemption - not necessarily Earl's, but Gary's. However, soaps in general, because of their open ended structure, and KNOTS in particular, by dint of its own knottiness, cannot be morality plays. There can be no happy endings because the story never ends. They're a bit like life in that respect. A few years after Father Ray lent me that book in the earnest hope that it would bring me closer to the Church, he left the priesthood to shack up with a woman.

    Story-lines bubbling under in this episode: Gary mumbles something to Sid about cheap parts, Michael's excess energy manifests itself (and is erroneously diagnosed by Sid as an indication of good health) and Abby flirts with Richard. Well, to be honest, she flirts with everyone, including her own nephew. There's also some on-again, off-again stuff with Kenny and Ginger - and the first glimpse of Abby's devious side. To be sure, it's amusing, low-level domestic deviousness: she manages to manipulate the rest of the women into cleaning and arranging her new house while she suns herself by the pool - but it's a sign of things to come.

    Over on DALLAS, "The Venezuelan Connection" introduces us a brand new television archetype: the '80s super soap businesswoman. While we've been previously assured that Donna Culver and Marilee Stone were the real powers behind their late husbands' thrones, Sally Bullock, wife of good ole Mr Eugene, is the first one we've seen in action. Like many that will follow in her path, including Abby, she's overtly sexual and completely untrustworthy. Unlike Abby, she's also entirely one dimensional. Still, in spite, or perhaps because of her habit of rubbing herself up against whomever she's negotiating with (in this case, Bobby) and speaking mostly in clichés, (during a secret meeting with JR, she describes them as "birds of a feather" and tells him how much she enjoys "mixing business with pleasure") she's quite good fun.

    While Lucy subjects Mitch to some pool-party culture shock, the rest of the Ewings continue to serve their own interests. Determined to prove to his daddy that selling off $100,000,000 of Ewing assets to buy a refinery wasn't a mistake, Bobby speedily cuts a couple more interconnected deals, the details of which my brain is just about able to grasp. Meanwhile, JR joins forces with Sally to sabotage Bobby's efforts, going so far as to sink a tanker carrying $18,000,000 worth of Ewing crude.

    However, it's Sue Ellen's bad behaviour that stands out. During the previous season, via her sessions with Dr Elby, viewers had been privy to her hard won transformation from neurotic mess to slightly less neurotic mess, and it's kind of shocking to see her revert so readily to the cold bitch she was when the series began. And by turning against Bobby - the one person who has supported her unquestioningly throughout the series - it's almost as if she's turning her back on the viewers as well. "I don't need any of you anymore," she seems to be saying, "not now I'm back with JR." It's a brave and fascinating choice for the writers to make with arguably their most sympathetic character (although it's entirely possible they just didn't know what else to do with her).

    So with Bobby dealing, JR scheming, Sue Ellen bitching, Miss Ellie threatening, ("If Bobby leaves Southfork, I'll never forgive you," she tells Jock) and Pam off in search of her own identity, (.i.e. her possibly-not-dead mother) who is left to provide the moral compass at Southfork? Weirdly, it's Jock. Trying to figure out a way to do right by both his sons and his wife, he's the only Ewing in this episode with a conception of anyone's needs but his own.

    This doesn't stop him bunking off to a cattle auction in Fort Worth with Ray, however, which is where he bumps into Punk Anderson. Despite having been referred to as Jock's buddy since "Winds of Vengeance", this is the first time he's appeared on screen. The two men greet each other as if they haven't spoken in months, or even years - yet only five episodes ago, Jock was apparently at Punk's house when JR was shot. Hmmm, suspicious. And what's that swampland Punk's talking about developing …?

    And the winner is … DALLAS.
     
    Ome and Willie Oleson like this.
  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    11/Dec/80: KNOTS LANDING: Chance of a Lifetime v. 12/Dec/80: DALLAS: The Fourth Son

    By now we all know David Jacobs' theory - DALLAS represented the rich them, and KNOTS the ordinary us. Well, in each of these episodes, the them and us come face to face - and not in a swimsuit-at-gunpoint kind of a way.

    In "Chance of a Lifetime", one of them, a powerful and prestigious lawyer named Lynn Baker Cargill, (played by Brian "Winds of Vengeance" Dennehy) casually makes a job offer to one of us - Richard Avery - with little or no thought for the consequences of his words. The offer, to work for Cargill's firm in Chicago, represents a fresh start for Richard - a way out of his dead-end job ("I've been peeling potatoes and scrubbing latrines around here since Day One") and to finally realise his potential. It's also a way for him to pass on Laura's chips for staying out late celebrating her first house sale instead of rushing home to make dinner for him and their son. To that end, in an excruciating scene, he turns up drunk and singing ("Chicago! Chicago!") at Laura's office, disrupting her meeting with a client and spilling champagne over said client's house plans. He then delights in telling his present boss where he can shove his offer of a partnership, otherwise known as shooting himself in the foot. Inevitably, Richard's chance of a lifetime turns out to be a mirage. The salary Cargill is offering for the privilege of working under him "wouldn't support a first-year law student," protests Richard. "I've got a wife and kid." Cargill shrugs and walks away, leaving Richard's dreams and career in tatters.

    In "The Fourth Son", the them is Bobby Ewing and the us is Mort Wilkinson. No, I wouldn't have either. Turns out he's a small-time refinery owner from Galveston who for the past twenty years has had a handshake arrangement with the Ewings for a monthly shipment of crude. Bobby, in a tight spot following the sinking of the tanker carrying 60,000 barrels of his oil, orders Wilkinson's shipment to be deferred by a week so he can make good on a commitment of his own. The foreman of the Ewing tank farm tries to explain that even a seven-day delay will spell disaster for Wilkinson's company, but Bobby has more important fish to fry. There's a great scene where Wilkinson comes to Bobby's office to plead his case in person. The refinery is all he has, he tells Bobby, begging him to reconsider his decision. The scene reminded me of the one between Bobby, Pam and Nancy Scotfield in Season 9 where Mrs. Scotfield pleads with Bobby to come visit her husband, the disgraced rigger who set fire to an oil field after the Ewings closed it down, in jail. Both scenes provide a rare opportunity on DALLAS to see the consequences of big business on "the little man".

    Sometimes the gulf between them and us isn't all that wide. It's interesting to compare Bobby's recent business dealings on DALLAS with those of Gary on KNOTS LANDING. In his haste to make his mark at Ewing Oil, prove himself to Jock and indulge his own taste for power, Bobby has rushed into a transportation deal with Sally Bullock without examining the finer details of the insurance policy. In this week's episode, he discovers that the Bullock tanker that sank to the bottom of ocean was insured, but the Ewing oil it was (apparently) carrying was not. Meanwhile, Gary, in his haste to make his mark at Knots Landing Motors, prove himself to Sid and indulge his own taste for power, has rushed into a deal with the Orchid Cab Firm, aka Frank and Roy, without examining the finer details of his new partners' business record. Bobby's oversight was accidental, Gary's is deliberate - a chance to make a fast buck. Bobby quickly sees through JR and Sally's scheme, retrieves his missing oil (thus neatly resolving the Mort Wilkinson dilemma) and is back on top by the end of the episode. Things ain't gonna be that easily resolved for Gary.

    The role of women in the work place is explored from a variety of angles in "Chance of a Lifetime". Richard's disapproval of Laura's career receives support from an unlikely source. "As far as I'm concerned," says Abby while counting his chest hairs, "in any relationship, the man has to be dominant. That was one of the big problems with my marriage. Jeff wanted me to be the boss and I just couldn't do it. It's not in my personality." Hmm, is Abby just telling Richard what he wants to hear, or is she a little like JR in that it's all about the chase - she doesn't want to be given the role of boss, she wants to take it? Meanwhile, the appointment of Linda, "a lady mechanic", at Knots Landing Motors is regarded with bemusement by Sid and approval by Karen. Either way, she's a novelty.

    The client Mr. Cargill is representing is Charlie Flagg. (Like Earl Trent in last week's episode and Abby the week before, Flagg expresses a distaste for the "smog-filled godforsaken state" of California.) His personal assistant, Miss Vesper, is an attractive young blonde who is briefly seen aboard Flagg's yacht in a skimpy bikini. Richard describes her to Cargill as "efficient" in the same knowing way that Mr. Eugene describes his wife Sally to Bobby on DALLAS as "very vigorous", i.e., he's talking about her business skills, but he's not really talking about her business skills. In each of these scenes, I'm not sure exactly where the sexism lies - is it solely with the characters, or with the programme itself, or does it simply reflect the time in which it made, and what was expected of women in the real business world? Perhaps it's a little of each.

    Back at the cul-de-sac, Val's reading Moby Dick for a college class. "It's about a whale," she informs Karen. Over on Southfork, Pam is sitting up in bed reading Romance & The Wind. It's about Princess Fiona deciding whether or not to marry the Duke, she tells Bobby when he gets in from yet another late meeting.

    "The Fourth Son" is a visually striking episode. Even Bobby's trip to the tank farm looks like something out of James Bond, while Jock's visit to Ray's new house, set against an open prairie backdrop, gives it a timeless Western quality, fitting for such a momentous scene.

    It's interesting that the audience's discovery of Ray's paternity comes mid-episode, the same as it will with James Beaumont's in Season 12. In each case, the episode's freeze frame ending is saved for JR's reaction to the news of a third brother and second son respectively. Lost long daddy/mama/brother/sister scenes are ten-a-penny in soap land, but the one between Jock and Ray is beautifully done and wonderfully acted. Ray's line to his father, "I wanna do what's best for you, that's all I care about", and Miss Ellie's in a later scene, "I have the rest of my life to listen to you, Jock", never fail to move me.

    This is the first we hear of Ray's mother, Margaret Hunter. Margaret, like Rebecca and Pamela, has become one of the names that sort of echoes throughout the Ewingverse, having taken on new meaning and resonance over the years.

    And let us not forget the wonderfully devilish Amos Krebbs, ("it ain't that tough bein' a bastard - I was") who, much like Sue Ellen when she figures out JR's involvement in the tanker disaster, simply does not give a shit about anything but his own pleasures.

    And the winner is … boy, this one was close - "The Fourth Son" is great, almost a classic, but "Chance of a Lifetime" is just so clever and rich in detail and humour … KNOTS LANDING.
     
    Ome likes this.
  15. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson Struck by boogie lightning Winner of SC Big Brother 2017 5 Nomination Wins 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat The Bachelor 2016

    Messages:
    2,064
    Likes Received:
    4,400
    Trophy Points:
    4,370
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    On the set of the new cop show "Tosh & Turnie"
    Original Member Since:
    April 2002
    This is going to be so much fun. I must confess I started reading your thread at a later time, so I also look forward reading about Paper Dolls (and Emerald Point?).
     
    James from London likes this.
  16. Ome

    Ome Admin

    Messages:
    3,972
    Likes Received:
    6,999
    Trophy Points:
    2,070
    Gender:
    Male
    Original Member Since:
    Dec 2005
    I was following them originally and quit while I watched DYNASTY and then I lost the momentum, but now I'm back on course and enjoying them like it was my first reading.
     
  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    18/Dec/80: KNOTS LANDING: Kristin v. 19/Dec/80: DALLAS: Trouble at Ewing 23

    The chief link between these two episodes is that they're the weakest of their respective seasons thus far.

    On paper, "Kristin" sure sounds good: DALLAS's most infamous supporting character comes to California to wreak havoc on the cul-de-sac. Except she doesn't, not really. She just does what Annie Fairgate did in the pilot, (gets arrested, bonds with Val, sleeps with Kenny) only in a slightly different order. The main problem is, Kristin is hobbled by her inability to talk about her two incredibly juicy secrets, the ones that in 1980 made her such a hot booking for KNOTS in the first place - she's the one who shot JR, and now she's carrying his baby!!

    Indeed, most the references to DALLAS characters in this ep fall a bit flat. When Kristin tells Val and Gary what good friends she and Lucy have become over the last year, we should want to laugh out loud at the sheer outrageousness of the lie, but we don't - there's no one on screen to share in the joke. And Gary's call to Dallas in which Bobby fails to mention Kristin's murderous impulses? One can only assume that because Bobby was not present for the scene where Kristin "confessed" to the rest of the family, that they somehow forgot to mention it to him and/or he's been so stunned by the news that Ray is now his brother that he just wants to get Gary off the phone as quickly as possible. Still, it is interesting to hear Gary and Val's attitude towards Sue Ellen (resoundingly negative) in light of their recent encounters with her on New DALLAS.

    Only in her last two scenes, after Ginger finds her with Kenny, do Kristin, and the episode, really come to life. In her bedroom scene with Val, she comes as close as she ever has to dropping the charade to reveal what really lies beneath her mother's Geisha training. (On the other hand, one might ask that as Kristin was so perfect as a two-dimensional comic book character on DALLAS, do we really need to see what exists beneath the surface?) By next morning, the mask is back in place, accompanied by a pair of shoulder-pads - a fashion first for KNOTS. Shoulder-pads are becoming more common in DALLAS too. Pam even wears a pair to bed this week.

    Elsewhere on Seaview Circle, Ginger has started seeing Karl, the divorced dad of one of the kids in her class. Karl's a little meh, all onion soup and jazz clubs, and I find myself wishing she'd hooked up the father of Denny, the cute little ad-libbing black boy from Season 1, instead. Might have been fun to watch all the neighbours pretending not to freak out each time a big '70s Afro drops by the cul-de-sac. Better are the few scenes of Richard discovering the pleasures of unemployment - game shows and gardening, inertia and indifference - while Laura looks on anxiously.

    At the end of the episode, we see Sylvie belting out a song in Kenny's recording studio. Cutting edge it ain't. In fact, it sounds just like a big ballad from a Broadway show. Did this kind of thing really get to No. 23 in the US charts in 1980? Given that Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was Number 1 (forever) only three years earlier, it probably did. Small wonder that Lisa Hartman doing Pat Benatar cover versions will be greeted as a music revolution in a few seasons' time.

    For the most part, "Trouble at Ewing 23" is a very interesting, if low-key instalment. The stock musical score suits the slower pace, infusing even a prolonged shot of Ray opening his mailbox with a sense of foreboding. (Not-quite-a-crossover alert: the front page of Ray's newspaper features a picture of Dave Culver. On KNOTS the night before, the actor who plays Dave Culver is seen talking to Kristin - about Washington, of all places.)

    There's something of a calm-before-storm vibe regarding JR and Ellie's measured reactions to Ray joining the family. When Sue Ellen, once again the would-be Lady MacBeth she was in "Reunion", worries about her darlin' being pushed out of the family bosom in favour of his brothers, JR pats her on the head and tells her to keep working on her tan. (Funny how Sue Ellen gets more Southern whenever she and JR are back together.)

    Cliff and Donna, celebrating their seven-week anniversary, make an intriguing couple. We never see them in bed together, but it seems more likely than not that they've progressed to that stage - the 1980 night owl version of Donna isn't yet the conservative she'll become. Donna's very interesting at this point - a strong, independent woman not defined by her relationships with men. That makes her pretty unique amongst females on Old DALLAS.

    The scene where Donna pays a visit to Ray's new house reminded me of the first time she sees his next new house in Season 9. On both occasions, she declines his offer of a guided tour, preferring instead to cut to the chase. Here, that means breaking the news about her and Cliff. "I got tired of being alone," she explains to Ray before admitting, "it's not the same." The scene feels poignant, romantic and grown up, all at the same time.

    It's towards the end of the episode that "T@E23" runs out of steam. In the last fifteen minutes, a stand-alone plot abruptly takes over the show: an unknown man is threatening to blow up Ewing 23 unless he receives $5,000,000 by 3pm. We're in the same territory as "Kidnapped", Season 1, as Bobby tries to deal with the extortionist by the book (raising the money, involving the police) while JR prefers more a more devious, deadly approach. Unlike the wacky gang in "Kidnapped", the blackmailer remains fairly anonymous. What we do learn about him is intriguing - he had been one of the crew on Ewing 23 until JR shut the field down at the end of last season, just to spite Cliff. As with Mort Wilkinson's refinery last week, this is another example of the trickle-down effect of the Ewings' arbitrary decisions. It's an interesting theme but isn't developed.

    The closer we get to the bomber's 3pm deadline, more the episode suddenly starts to drag. There's a strange, lingering scene of Bobby looking out over Ewing 23 as if he's about to cry before heading to the airport where it takes an age for the Ewing jet to land. The generic score is cranked up to eleven but fails to connect with the visuals. Then it all goes "Swan Song" slow-mo, as JR emerges from the plane flanked by armed guards. Gillis (the bomber) pulls a gun, is shot and Bobby lets out an elongated "NOOOO!" (a bit like his Swan Song "PAAAAM!" only with a different vowel). With his dying finger, Gillis detonates the bomb, unleashing some endearingly terrible (and I mean terrible) FX. Despite the odds, the genuinely distraught look on P Duffy's face manages to sell the freeze frame.

    And the winner is … DALLAS - but as 1980 draws to a close, neither show is exactly firing on all cylinders. And with two new pretenders snapping at their heels, they better pull their fingers out ...
     
    Ome likes this.
  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    30/Dec/80: FLAMINGO ROAD: Pilot v. 01/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: Step One v. 02/Jan/81: DALLAS: The Prodigal Mother

    A new year and a momentous week in Soap Land - not only the debut of FLAMINGO ROAD but of David Paulsen and Rebecca Wentworth as, respectively, writer and titular character of "The Prodigal Mother".

    Unlike the rest of the 80s prime time soaps, FLAMINGO ROAD was a literary adaptation. As with PEYTON PLACE, the granddaddy of the genre, it was originally a novel (published in 1942), then a film (released in 1949). Despite the TV Guide ads screaming, "From the makers of DALLAS!" it's PEYTON PLACE that FLAMINGO ROAD most closely resembles in its premise. First off, its focus is on a town, Truro, as opposed to a single family, or even a cul-de-sac, and there is a clear social divide between the rich residents of Flamingo Road and the hoi polloi getting by on River Street.

    As in PEYTON PLACE, the town's main source of employment is a family owned mill run by an aloof but weak-willed patriarch (Claude Weldon), the town's conscience is provided by the local newspaper proprietor (Elmore Tyson), and the principle drinking establishment is owned and run by a been-there-done-that mother figure (Lute-Mae Sanders - played by an irritatingly dumb Stella Stevens, the weakest link in the cast).

    There are plenty of similarities with DALLAS too, especially in the casting. At times, FLAMINGO ROAD feels like "Dallas through the looking glass" - an upside down world where disgraced Senator "Wild Bill" Orloff now runs a diner, Jordan Lee officiates at Jenna Wade's wedding, and Mark Graison plays cards with Andy Bradley in the back room of the local whorehouse before venturing out front to boogie down with Dora Mae.

    The exterior of the Weldon house looks not unlike the mini-series version of the Ewing ranch, but this is Florida, not Texas: where Southfork is all patios and chirping crickets, FLAMINGO ROAD is verandahs and croaking frogs, and although they live in a mere house on a mere street, the Weldons feel somehow grander than the Ewings, more genteel and refined. At one point, they're described as "Southern aristocracy", a phrase I don't think I've ever heard on DALLAS.

    However, the Ewings of Dallas and the Weldons of Truro are both trumped in the interior design stakes by the Wentworths of Houston. The brief tour we're given of their house in "The Prodigal Mother" reveals an indoor pool, a grand staircase in the centre of the hallway and even the letter "W" engraved into the pattern of the glass of the front door. (And this was a real house - did the design team really have the budget to change the glass for such a tiny detail, or was the "W" a happy coincidence?)

    While the FLAMINGO ROAD pilot beats DALLAS to the first fancy wedding in primetime soap by four weeks, "The Prodigal Mother" trumps it with Soap Land's biggest party to date, (a kind of prototype Oil Baron's Ball) in honour of Dave Culver's senatorial campaign. Over on KNOTS, "Step One" has its own charity fundraiser, albeit on a more modest scale, (although try telling that to Michele Lee, va-va-vooming through her big number as if headlining in Vegas) in aid of the ERA. While Karen's support for such a liberal organisation needs no explaining, ("It's your cause too!" she yells at Diana) Sue Ellen is puzzled as to why the Ewings should be so keen to publicly endorse Culver, "as liberal a politician as the state of Texas allows." The thinking behind JR's response, “Ewing money always flows in the direction of power," helps also explain why Fielding Carlyle's political future is so important to the movers and shakers in FLAMINGO ROAD, and why his romantic relationship with an outsider poses such a threat.

    Field is possibly the most interesting character on FLAMINGO ROAD. The romantic male lead, he's Rodney Harrington in PEYTON PLACE, but with a childlike innocence, or Bobby Ewing in DALLAS, only more compromised. The Ewing he reminds me of most is Sue Ellen. Like her, he has been moulded almost from birth to fulfil a specific role, in this case, marry the daughter of the well-to-do Weldons and forge a political career. It takes the arrival of Lane Ballou, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, to make him question the path that has been laid out for him, just as Pam and Bobby's happiness as newlyweds awoke Sue Ellen to the sham her own marriage had become.

    Lane Ballou is a trashier, tougher version of Pam - the Pam she might have been had she not married Bobby. In contrast to Field's puppy dog innocence, she has an interestingly bruised quality (i.e. she scowls a lot and smokes like a chimney). Her nemesis is the show's JR, Sheriff Titus Semple, a surrogate father to Field who has his political future all mapped out for him. Unlike Pam and JR, Lane and Titus don't have a fifty-year family feud behind them, nor are they related and living in the same house - they have no shared history - so their animosity must be established quickly and explosively. In quick succession, Titus has Lane fired from her waitressing job and blackballed from working anywhere else in town, she spits in his face and calls him a bastard, he calls her scum and has her jailed for prostitution - and that's just in the first fifty minutes.

    When Field attempts to defy Titus and make a life with Lane, Titus slaps him down the same way JR did Cliff and Sue Ellen when they made a bid for freedom in "For Love or Money". Just as Sue Ellen was forced to return to Southfork so Field is obliged to go through with his wedding to Constance, played by Morgan Fairchild.

    There's also a parallel to be drawn between Lane Ballou and Mitch Cooper, each from a poor background and refusing to apologise for it. But while Mitch completely rejects the Ewing lifestyle at the same time as accepting Lucy's proposal of marriage, Lane is determined to make it to the top (i.e. Flamingo Road itself) at the same time as turning down a proposal of marriage from rich playboy Mark Graison - I mean Sam Curtis. Mark/Sam are truly indivisible - and not just because they're played by the same actor and share the same social status and cheerful disposition: each openly declares his love for a woman who is openly in love with someone else; each is sure that a combination of persistence, charm and facial hair will eventually win her round. (Speaking of actors in duel roles, Jordan Lee pulls off a soap first by playing two different characters in the same week - he's the Reverend Somebody who marries Constance and Field on Tuesday, then is back to his old cartel self on Friday. Add his blink-and-you-miss-it turn as the judge who arraigned Sid at the end of "Hitchhike, Part 1" and that's three soaps in five weeks.)

    Prior to popping the question, Lucy seeks counsel from the rest of the cast - Jock, Ray, Bobby, Muriel - about her relationship with Mitch. There's something very sweet about these scenes: Lucy's one-to-one conversation with Jock will be their last of the series, and I really like her pool-based chat with Bobby, who delivers his traditional no-advice-is-the-best-advice-of-all thing. On KNOTS, Diana is also in need of guidance about her love life, but Karen is too preoccupied to notice. Instead, she must rely on the wisdom of her girlfriends - Danielle, Ellie and Brenda. The interplay between the four of them, their spontaneous laughter and asides, feels fresh and believable and is probably the highlight of the ep. The story - Diana almost has sex with boyfriend Bobby and then doesn't - is small and sweet and touching. There are no huge lessons learned, no big message for the audience to take away, it's just a non-judgemental depiction of the unavoidable growing pains of being a teenager.

    By contrast, "The Prodigal Mother" feels like a turning point in the DALLAS saga. It's been a long time, maybe as much as a year, since VP had as much to do in an episode as she does here, and she's really good - sexily cynical with Bobby, then moving and vulnerable in her scenes with Rebecca, first when watching her from outside the Wentworth gates with the kindly detective, and then in the scenes where they come face to face.

    These scenes become even more poignant in light of the similar journey Christopher will make in search his mother at the end of New DALLAS Season 2, and with the knowledge that he'll never get to say the words to Pam that she says to Rebecca: "I found you, you’re alive."

    It's interesting to compare Rebecca and Pam in this episode with what took place between Jock and Ray just two weeks earlier. That was a quiet, restrained acknowledgement of something both men had somehow known all along. The dynamic here ("You're my mother!"/"No I'm not!"/"OK, I am, but I might as well not be!") is very different but no less effective. The critique on the Dallas Decoder site makes some great observations about how "The Prodigal Mother" resembles a Douglas Sirk movie from the 50s: http://dallasdecoder.com/2012/07/24/critique-dallas-episode-63-the-prodigal-mother/

    As well as the first soap wedding, the FLAMINGO ROAD pilot also boasts the first soap fire (in which Annabelle the waitress dies gruesomely and noisily) and the first black person to appear in a soap's opening credits. As an ex-hooker behind bars, (what were you expecting - an international chanteuse and businesswoman?) she's played by Melba Moore (who had a big disco hit in the 70s called "This Is It") and disappears after a couple of scenes.

    FLAMINGO ROAD and KNOTS each end on a song this week. On FL'INGO RD, Lane Ballou quietly croons "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" at Lute Mae's piano, while in "Step One", the Fairgate gals launch into a full on, fourth-wall-be-damned song and dance rendition of "Sit On A Happy Face" (an old joke but mine own), complete with Kabuki make-up, high kicks and jazz hands. To quote Lane Ballou in another context, "It's 1980. I thought things like this didn't happen anymore!" The freeze frame of mother and daughter staring out at us, faces arsenic-white with Joker-red smiles, is terrifying - more terrifying than the blood-curdling screams of Annabelle as she burns to death in the FLAMINGO ROAD mill. It's also completely at odds with the sweet and sensitive hour of drama that precedes it. Thus, in the first of an occasional bout of inter-soap Song Wars, Lane Ballou emerges triumphant.

    As for the episodes themselves, the winner is … DALLAS, followed by FLAMINGO ROAD, then KNOTS.
     
    Ome likes this.
  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    06/Jan/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Hostages v. 08/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: Breach of Faith v. 09/Jan/81: DALLAS: Executive Wife

    This (double length) episode of FLAMINGO ROAD foreshadows DALLAS's future in a few unintentional ways: For starters, Mark Graison's Pimpmobile. Yes, as well as their other similarities, it turns out Sam Curtis and Mark even drive the same type of car. Secondly, towards the end of the episode, Sam/Mark heroically flies his helicopter over the Gulf in search of the hostages of the episode's title - the same Gulf that Mark/Sam's plane will explode over in three years time. (One peculiarity of Sam's that Mark does not share: a tendency to greet women with whom he is platonically acquainted by kissing them hard on the mouth.) Lastly, Alejandro Rey, aka Captain Rueda, the Columbian police captain who orchestrates Pam's kidnapping during DALLAS Season 8, shows up here as a bad guy who orchestrates the kidnapping of Constance and Field, currently in the Bahamas on their honeymoon, as revenge on Sheriff Titus for double-crossing him in a drug deal.

    At first glance, it may seem like a strange move for a soap to fling its characters into a kidnapping storyline when we've barely gotten to know them - and it is. I guess the DALLAS equivalent would have been to immediately follow "Digger's Daughter" with a two-hour version of "Runaway" (the episode where Lucy takes off from Southfork and gets taken hostage by the nut job she hitches a ride with). Still, "The Hostages" does give us the opportunity to see how the various townsfolk react in a crisis.

    Acting under advice from Titus (who is of course primarily concerned with covering his own back), Constance's parents, Claude and Eudora Weldon, comply with the kidnappers' orders not to contact the authorities. Even as they set about frantically raising the money to save their daughter's life, there's something inherently amusing about Eudora and Claude. I'm not sure what it is exactly; the actors aren't sending the show up, nor do they possess that indefinable comic "thing" that Larry Hagman has. Perhaps it's a combination of the thick Southern accents they've adopted for the show and the implicit absurdity of the dialogue and storylines they're obliged to play out. Upstanding newspaperman Elmore Tyson (recast since the pilot, he's now played by the doctor who removed a bullet from JR after his shooting and will later be Fox Mulder's dad on THE X-FILES) is the only character who suggests calling the FBI; he's also the one person to suspect that Titus knows more than he's saying. (Another change since the pilot: Lane Ballou's cigarette habit has been replaced by a much daintier interest in embroidery.)

    By the time Sam Curtis/Mark Graison's helicopter rides to the rescue, Constance and Field are in the middle of the ocean, (did I mention they were taken hostage on a yacht?) making a largely unsuccessful getaway attempt in a rowing boat peppered with machine gun bullet holes. Field has been shot in the shoulder, sustaining a Jock-Ewing-in-Dove-Hunt level of injury. As he attempts a one-handed climb up the helicopter rope ladder to safety, an anxious Morgan Fairchild looking on in hot pants, it's clear we're in Saturday Morning Picture Show territory. As I have very fond memories of Saturday Morning Picture Shows, this isn't necessarily a problem.

    The really unusual, one might even say subversive, aspect of this story -- aside from Titus dealing in drugs (you wouldn't get a starring character in any of the other soaps doing that; there again, most of them are already so rich that they wouldn't have to) -- is that the bad guys don't get caught. Not even Alejandro Rey, who gives the order for Constance and Field be executed even after the ransom money had been handed over. This is the opposite of what happens in "Kidnapped", (DALLAS Season 1) where the gang that snatched Bobby make good on their word to return him unharmed, only to be mown down by JR's boys anyway. Does this make FLAMINGO ROAD or DALLAS the more amoral soap? I can't tell.

    As with DALLAS's first season mortal-jeopardy episodes, ("Winds of Vengeance", "Kidnapped", "Survival") "The Hostages" ends with the show's regulars safe and sound … and a little soapy sting in the tail to remind us that there are some situations that can't be quite so neatly resolved. Having gone to all the trouble of rescuing Field, Sam gauges from Lane's reaction that, despite all her protestations to the contrary, she's still not over him (Field, that is). Meanwhile Lute-Mae, aka the town tramp who just happens to be Constance's biological mother, can only watch silently from the sidelines as Eudora gives Constance a maternal welcome-home embrace.

    Episodes that manage to be self-contained and yet somehow open-ended are a speciality of the prime time soaps in their early seasons. The final scene of "Bottom of the Bottle" (KNOTS LANDING Season 1), in which Gary attends his first AA meeting, feels like a happy ending to that story, only for "Remember The Good Times" (KNOTS Season 2) to show the further consequences of his decision to get sober. That episode also ended on an upbeat note, with Gary experiencing the joys of helping another alcoholic. "Breach of Faith" peels another layer of that story away, revealing yet more complications about the characters.

    The one direct connection I can make between FLAMINGO ROAD and KNOTS LANDING this week is the drunken toast Richard makes at the party to celebrate his wife getting her real estate licence: "To Laura Avery, whose lust for money and power thrust her up the ladder of success, not caring who she stepped on to reach the top - soon to be made into a motior majon picture starring Joan Crawford." In the real world, FLAMINGO ROAD has already been a "motior majon" picture starring Joan Crawford, and now it's been made into a soap opera.

    Both Gary in "Breach of Faith" and Bobby in "Executive Wife" grow increasingly neglectful of their wives. Gary's preoccupation is with work and helping the Trents adjust to Earl's sobriety (or lack thereof); Bobby's is with the various demands of running Ewing Oil (and hello, Jeremy Wendell, making his debut appearance with a darkly tempting business offer for Bobby). While Val does her best to be an understanding wife and berates herself when she fails, Pam is gloriously, gorgeously angry throughout. As a contrast to Bobby's neglect, Alex Ward, aka DYNASTY's future King Galen of Moldavia and a more fatherly prototype of Mark Graison, showers Pam with attention and extravagant, only-for-rich-people-on-TV romantic gestures, i.e. filling her office with flowers, hiring an entire restaurant just for one dinner date. These gestures are a novelty for Pam, and for us, but will soon become a staple of the nighttime soaps as the 1980s get their extravagant capitalist groove on.

    While a single kiss between Pam and Alex is as close to adultery as DALLAS gets this week, "Breach of Faith" is KNOTS LANDING as the tabloid press originally hyped it: a steamy saga of bed-hopping in suburbia (in this episode, Sid is the only cul-de-sac husband not cheating on his wife) - only with far more depth than we could have anticipated.

    There is a sense of displacement about the characters' behaviour running through this ep that repeatedly subverts our expectations. Gary only decides to sleep with Judy whilst making a dutiful-husband call to Val, when he suddenly finds himself lying about his whereabouts. When Richard's behaviour at Laura's party makes it clear to everyone that he and Abby are having an affair, Val seems more emotionally affected than Laura. (The irony being that at as Val weeps for what her friend has been subjected to, her own husband is doing the very same thing to her.) When Laura finally plucks up the courage to confront Richard about the state of their marriage, she doesn't even mention his infidelity. Within this context of marital turmoil, even the Karl/Ginger/Kenny/Sylvie situation becomes interesting - even if the unfortunate timing of Ginger's pregnancy, i.e. just as she is filing for divorce and getting involved with another man, is soap at its most conventional.

    Watching "Executive Wife", it's kind of hard to believe that we're not even halfway through this season of DALLAS. The episode has a weirdly unhinged quality that reminds me of the latter part of DYNASTY Season 2. Suddenly, everyone's philosophising about the nature of power in a way no one on DALLAS ever has before. Sue Ellen practically fetishises the subject when discussing it with Bobby. "It's a game, and you have to love it to play it well," she says, savouring every word. "JR's a natural born businessman, the best." Bobby asks her how he measures up. "You will always be JR's little brother," she sneers, the sexual innuendo unmistakable. P Duffy's reaction to this is really good. As the show's romantic hero, he rarely, if ever, gets to play humiliation the way Hagman and Kercheval habitually do, but here Sue Ellen's jab really connects. Bobby has never looked smaller or more emasculated. Conversely, as she gets increasingly drawn into in Bobby's wheeling and dealing at the office, Connie, formerly just another meek little secretary, starts to look more and more aroused. She even gets close-ups where she regards Bobby with unbridled lust. It's as if everyone's gone slightly mad.

    In the same episode, Bobby and Jock have their most intense scene of the series, and again power is the subject under discussion: "If I did give you power," Jock growls, "you got nothin'. Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take!" While it's a great sounding, eminently quotable line, I'm not sure I've ever fully understood the meaning of it before now. As with JR's sexual conquests, what's important isn't the having of power, it's the hunt for it, the chase, the moment of acquisition. This chimes with what Garnet McGee told Ray in "Triangle", "The wanting's like a disease, nothing ever cures it, nothing's ever enough", and explains why Abby wasn't interested in dominating her first husband: "Jeff wanted me to be the boss and I just couldn't do it." If Jeff wants her to have the power, then there's no chase, no challenge, no game to play.

    Naturally, JR is witness to Jock and Bobby's fight - in fact, he engineered it - and is clearly relishing every second. How else could he reprise Jock's words for John Ross thirty-one years later? The same cannot be said for the two other characters present, Punk Anderson and Pat Powers, who avert their eyes in discomfort. Clearly, by challenging his daddy in a public place, Bobby has crossed some unspoken line. This is not "Ewings Unite" behaviour. It also echoes the party scene in KNOTS the night before when everyone's instinctive response to Richard groping Abby is to pretend it isn't happening (everyone but Karen, that is).

    Like Kenny and Ginger in KNOTS, Lucy and Mitch are sort of swept up in the madness surrounding them and end up naming the date for their wedding, i.e. two episodes' time. I find myself much more taken with their story this time around. There's something sweetly touching in their belief that love is all you need, and I like how Lucy's need to belong to someone is linked to her childhood estrangement from Gary and Val ... who this week are up to their loins in ovulation charts as Val endeavours to re-start a family - which is a sad irony all of its own, given what Gary is getting up to elsewhere.

    Not much shoulder-pad action to speak of this week, but Pam Ewing and Judy Trent do favour similarly bright Kung Fu trouser suits. Judy's is the colour of tomato soup, while Pam's is the blue outfit she wears in the main Ewing publicity shot/family portrait for this season, i.e. the one that's hanging up in Jock's den. (Speaking of portraits, Dallas Decoder makes the great observation in its critique of "Executive Wife" that the famous painting of Jock is based on a shot from this episode: http://dallasdecoder.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/critique-dallas-episode-64-executive-wife-2.jpg)

    And the winner is … I'm torn between KNOTS (for its quality and depth) and DALLAS (for its sheer thrillingness), but I'll say … KNOTS, closely followed by DALLAS, with FLAMINGO ROAD clutching onto a rope ladder in third place.
     
    Ome likes this.
  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Addict Respected DVD Reviewer 15 Years on Soap Chat 10 Years on Soap Chat 5 Years on Soap Chat

    Messages:
    962
    Likes Received:
    1,324
    Trophy Points:
    5,670
    Gender:
    Male
    12/Jan/81: DYNASTY: Oil v. 13/Jan/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: Illicit Weekend v. 15/Jan/81: KNOTS LANDING: Scapegoats v. 16/Jan/81: DALLAS: End of the Road (1)

    From DYNASTY's first moments, we are presented with a world far more opulent than that of the Ewings - the huge mansion, the immaculate grounds, the manicured lawns, the chauffeur, the harp, the orchestra. Alex Ward's romantic gestures towards Pam in last week's episode of DALLAS now seem rather quaint. Filling Pam's office with flowers? Blake Carrington buys out an entire florists for fiancee Krystle. Hiring out a restaurant for an intimate dinner? Blake's private jet flies him and Krystle from Denver to San Francisco when she expresses a hankering for Chinese food.

    And yet … if private jets and fancy houses were all there was to the show, it would be nothing. Instead, the celebration of luxury is undercut at every turn. Sure, Krystle regards her new surroundings with wonder, but it's a wonder tempered with fear. The Carringtons may live, or attempt to live, in a fairy tale world, but the show itself does not. The pilot episode addresses "taboo" topics the other soaps have barely acknowledged (if at all), much less spoken about in such irreverent terms: race ("At the upper management level [of Denver Carrington]," announces Fallon airily, "there are no blacks, no Jews, no Eskimos and no women"), gays ("Give a cheer for a queer," rallies Steven sarcastically, while Blake's line about "The Steven Carrington Institute for the Treatment and Study of Faggotry" makes JR's recent description of Lucy's ex-fiancee as "a pansy" seem positively demur), even female masturbation ("Women have sexual fantasies just like men," says Claudia, "except mine were always about you, Matthew"). Factor in references to Oscar Wilde, Ralph Nader, Oedipus Rex, Dorothy Parker, low sperm counts, "The Joy of Sex" and a genuinely witty debate about foreign oil policies, and you've got a sophisticated, intelligent show about sophisticated, intelligent people (or as sophisticated and intelligent as an '80s super soap can be). The closest DALLAS gets to a cultural reference this week is Bobby driving past a PRIVATE BENJAMIN poster on his way to work.

    Aside from the Carringtons, there's the Blaisdel family who, in simplistic terms, provide the KNOTS factor. Like Gary and Val, Matthew and Claudia are the parents of a teenage daughter who are attempting to rebuild their life together after a period of estrangement. (Claudia has been in a psychiatric hospital for eighteen months, Matthew working in Saudi Arabia to pay for her treatment, and daughter Lindsay living with relatives.) Their family reunion, in a restaurant where Claudia has been working as a waitress, echoes that of Gary and co in "Reunion", (DALLAS Season 1) but is far more moving - due in large part to Katy Kurtzman's emotional, if mostly silent, performance as Lindsay.

    The bedroom conversation that takes place between Matthew and Claudia on the day of Blake and Krystle's wedding is a "Scene from a Marriage" to rival any we've seen on KNOTS thus far. In a way, it's the conversation Gary and Val never had, where they address what happened to each of them during the time they spent apart, with specific reference to sex, and admit how disappointing that aspect of their marriage has been since getting back together. ("It's lousy, Matthew. It's got all the flash and fire of two snails mating." "Snails are hermaphroditic - they mate by themselves." "I'm beginning to understand why.")

    Interestingly, the Blaisdel house looks a lot larger than any of those on the cul-de-sac. Maybe drilling for oil for Blake Carrington pays better than running your own car dealership, or maybe the fact that the Blaisdels' place is a real house (as opposed to a set) just means it photographs differently.

    Matthew's old buddy Walter Lankershim is a still-operational, non-alcoholic Digger Barnes, an old school wildcatter who boasts of "finding oil with your nose". Matthew talks about how the last time he and Walter "went smelling for oil, it cost me thirty thousand dollars - plus I just barely missed spending six months in jail for stock fraud." We don't know how long ago that was, but maybe the precariousness of her husband's wildcatting contributed to Claudia's breakdown, just as it did that of Jock Ewing's first wife Amanda.

    To be sure, at thrice the length of a regular episode, "Oil" is slow-going - more a gradual ooze than a series of eruptions. This was the first time I've tried to watch the whole thing in one go and I had to take a nap halfway through. Nonetheless, I love the melancholy pace. It seems to reflect the emotional state of the episode's outsiders -- Steven, Krystle, Matthew and Claudia, each of whom is isolated and lonely in a different way.

    Left alone in the Carrington ballroom with Afferton, the wedding planner, Krystle seems dwarfed by her surroundings. Afferton does his best to humiliate her, sneering at her tentative suggestion that the Wedding March be played as she walks down the aisle. "Which one?" he asks. "The Mendelssohn or the Wagner?" Krystle looks clueless. "Neither is very au courant," he concludes. But then Steven emerges from the shadows to turn the tables on Mr A: "I think what Miss Jennings actually had in mind was something a little more obscure … Bach's Siciliano from his Flute Sonata in E-Flat Major. You do know it, don't you, Mr Afferton?" (You can bet your sweet assets no one at Southfork does.)

    Over on KNOTS, Richard also uses classical music to discomfit. When Laura tries to broach the subject of his relationship with Abby, he drowns her out by playing Ravel's "Pavane for a Dead Princess" on his newfangled Walkman thingy.

    Excitingly, the night after his lovely little turn as the affected Mr Afferton, Vernon Weddle shows up as a hotel concierge on FLAMINGO ROAD, brandishing a Southern accent thick as molasses. The hotel he works at is familiar too: it's the one JR took Kristin to for their "business" trip in "Return Engagements" (DALLAS Season 2) - the same episode where Gary and Val were spun off into KNOTS LANDING.

    This time, the hotel is in Tallahassee, and "the illicit lovers" of the episode's title are Field Carlyle and Lane Ballou. To have FLAMINGO ROAD's Romeo and Juliet embark on an adulterous relationship turns the show's morality on its head. It's as if Bobby were married to the original Jenna Wade while having an affair with Pam on the side. Intriguingly, it also turns Constance, Field's rich bitch bride ("I want it all and I want it right now," she announces proudly), into the innocent party.

    FLAMINGO ROAD and DALLAS both tease their audience this week by having a wife almost catch her husband in flagrante with another woman. Encouraged by Sheriff Titus, (anxious to nip Field's affair with Lane in the bud) an unsuspecting Constance flies up to Tallahassee to surprise her husband while wearing nothing more than a fur coat. As she knocks on his door of his hotel room, Field is in bed with Lane. At Southfork, Sue Ellen excuses herself from Lucy's wedding shower to fetch John Ross from upstairs … where JR is making out with John Ross's future mother-in-law, little Afton Cooper. In each case, the wife's discovery is deferred to a later episode.

    There are two wedding showers in Soap Land this week: Lucy's and Krystle's. Given that Krystle's shower is also the very first time we see her, it's understandable that hers is the more significant occasion. We're introduced to Krystle through the eyes of her friends and work colleagues (including Sue Ellen's former obstetrician) who, when not swooning at a glimpse of the reptilian groom-to-be, cannot hide their sadness that Krystle's new life will inevitably remove her from their social orbit forever. At Lucy's shower, which takes place on the cardboard Southfork patio, everyone just giggles and makes jokes about stethoscopes. In fairness, it is her third engagement in as many years so it's hard for them to get too worked up about it.

    And of course, both weddings have a rich/poor dynamic. Viewed in tandem, Krystle's and Mitch's competing descriptions of their impoverished backgrounds take on a Pythonesque quality: "I grew up in a place half this size," says Mitch, referring to his one room apartment. "I was raised in a town that's smaller than your dining room," Krystle tells Blake. Trust DYNASTY to go one bigger (or smaller).

    DYNASTY's sexually provocative, spoiled princess, Fallon, effortlessly run rings round her prime time counterparts, Lucy and Constance. Her wisecracks are as incisive as they are relentless. (A personal favourite is the one she delivers to Krystle on the morning of her wedding when she has just been presented with a pre-marital property agreement: "Fact is, it reads a lot like the Bible - you brought nothing into this world and it is certain you can carry nothing out.")

    My favourite scene in "Oil" is the one on the hillside where Matthew lies to Krystle about his feelings for her, an act of sacrifice both on her behalf and his family's. It's beautifully shot (Linda Evans never looked lovelier) and beautifully acted, with achingly poignant dialogue: "After you left, I told myself you were dead. Some days I wished you were" … "You've got hold of somethin' good, Krystle. Grab it around the middle and run with it" … "Truth isn't hard to say, just spit it out and kick dirt over it."

    Something I never noticed before, part 1: There's an old-fashioned horse carriage parked in the Carrington garage. I can't imagine what practical use it might serve. Even though I hadn't registered it on previous viewings, I realise it's always given the scenes in the garage (Fallon "handling the servant problem", Blake's men beating up Walter) a kind of retro, UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS quality. For some reason, it also triggers a vague memory of the movie version of THE BETSY, or at least the ten minutes I saw of it when I was a kid. That memory's also there in the scene where Fallon finds Michael in her bath and holds his head under the water after he tries to blackmail her - it evokes a decadent, potboiler vibe that's somehow more Harold Robbins than Jackie Collins.

    Something I never noticed before, part 2: As if to emphasise her defenceless state, Krystle walks up the aisle alone - no bridesmaids or maid of honour, no father figure to give her away.

    Something I've never noticed before, part 3: At the end of the scene where Fallon beats Cecil at pool, there are no cutaways or camera inserts - we actually see Pamela Sue Martin pocket four balls with one shot. Impressive.

    Something I thought I'd never noticed before: Blake referring to Walter as a little dick. Recourse to the subtitles reveals he actually calls him a lunatic.

    While DYNASTY clearly wouldn't exist without DALLAS, what really sets it apart is its scale - not just in terms of wealth and opulence, but context: "Oil" takes place against an international (one might even say, a real world) backdrop: "I think you sold this country out, you and Colby and all the rest of you," Steven Carrington tells his father. "You didn't develop this country's resources when you had the chance to. No, you developed the Arabian fields instead because it was cheaper. You made billionaires out of the oil sheikhs."

    It's hard to imagine dialogue like that on DALLAS, which is more concerned with its own history and mythology than what's going on in the world outside of it, much less on FLAMINGO ROAD which, save for the occasional contemporary reference, (such as Lute-Mae's incongruous attempt at aerobics in this week's ep) is so cut off from the modern world it could almost be set at the time the movie version was made - 1949.

    Or could it? To my surprise, this week's episode of F'RD includes … placards! While not as extreme as the ones the Arab protestors are waving at the Denver Carrington jet as it leaves their country ("America Go Home!"), it turns out there's a strike at the Weldon mill. Already in financial difficulty, Claude Weldon is soon obliged to cede to the union's demands. "We all know that the secret of success in the South has been low labour costs," he sighs nostalgically. "Well, all that's changing now and where are we gonna go for profits? If we're gonna stay alive, we gotta modernise the plant … [New equipment] would cut labour costs in half." This statement neatly encapsulates a certain mindset of the early 80s, and interestingly, there's no counter-argument. Even Claude's wife Eudora - a weepier version of Miss Ellie - calls the workers' demands "exorbitant".

    The union leader, named Jake Polanksi, (which has to be a reference to CHINATOWN: Roman Polanksi/Jake Gittes) appears only fleetingly and is played by DALLAS cartel member Wade Luce. (I tell ya, those cartel boys get everywhere - Andy Bradley, already recurring as a politician pal of Mark Graison's on F'LINGO RD, also finds time to slum it as one of Walter Lankershim's ragtag oil crew on this week's DYNASTY.)

    As much as I love the way KNOTS LANDING will evolve over the years, "Scapegoats" is the one episode that makes me wonder what might have been: What if KNOTS had remained a show about four couples in a cul-de-sac? And what if Sid hadn't died? I would have been fascinated to see how Michael's hyperkenticness impacted the neighbourhood BRADY BUNCH in the long term. Sid and Karen's dynamic in this episode - each blaming the other for Michael's condition, each striking a raw nerve as they do so - is really interesting and rings so true to life. I love how, when passive Sid finally reacts to Michael's volatile behaviour during a beach volleyball game with the neighbours, assertive Karen suddenly thinks he's overreacting. It's classic parental yin and yang stuff, with the bewildered child caught in the middle. The bit where Michael runs off down the beach, Sid chasing after him, neither of them understanding what's happening - there's just something so moving, so primal about that. And the music's beautiful. Guess Claude Weldon must have settled the musicians' strike too. (Or maybe not - they're still using the generic score on DALLAS.)

    As well as being the week DYNASTY arrived on TV and Afton arrived in DALLAS, (her first line: "You really got all that money?") this is also the week that Abby, to paraphrase Richard Avery, begins her climb up the ladder of success, not caring who she'll step on to reach the top. Yep, it's time for the Abster to put down the suntan lotion and start work as a part-time bookkeeper at Knots Landing Motors. For me, Abby's awakening begins when she's sitting in the back of Gary's car on the way to work, listening to Sid and Gary argue about their deal with Frank and Roy (who are sort of the KNOTS equivalent of DALLAS's Jeb Ames and Willie Joe Garr: the thinner, younger one mostly does the talking, the bigger, slower one mostly looks menacing). Later, Abby listens in to Gary's meeting with Frank and Roy and learns what deep doo-doo he's in - but she doesn't tell Gary straight out what she's heard. Instead, she drops hints and lets him come to her. Only then does she set out her stall: "I like what you're trying to do for Sid … I admire the way you go after what you want, and I love a little excitement."

    Shoulder pads of the week: Fallon's one black one, one white one, as she bites the heads off the wedding cake bride and groom.

    On DALLAS, Bobby has a week to raise $12,000,000 or incur the wrath of the cartel. On KNOTS, Gary has a week to raise $50,000 or incur the wrath of Frank and Roy. Enter JR: he's already hatched a plan with Jeremy Wendell to supply Bobby with the money he needs - but with a condition guaranteed to pass off Daddy and cost Bob the presidency of Ewing Oil. Meanwhile, Abby's already snuck a look at next week's cast list and it looks like JR's gonna be town for some big oil conference …

    And the winner is … DYNASTY
    followed by …
    2. KNOTS LANDING
    3. DALLAS
    4. FLAMINGO ROAD
     
    Ome likes this.

Share This Page