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DYNASTY versus DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by James from London, Sep 20, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    18 Nov 87: DYNASTY: The Primary v. 19 Nov 87: KNOTS LANDING: Flight of the Sunbirds v. 20 Nov 87: DALLAS: Bedtime Stories v. 20 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: Man Hunt

    Alexis Colby and Abby Ewing both put romance before business this week. While Alexis allows Sean to whisk her away to an idyllic island just three days before the primary election on DYNASTY, Abby cancels an important board meeting to have dinner with Charles Scott on KNOTS. Conversely on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s business and not-quite- romantic-yet interests are perfectly in sync — when Nicholas Pearce talks about taking her away, it’s to Miami to open the latest branch of Valentine Lingerie.

    Neither intimate interlude goes according to plan. Alexis is left alone on the island overnight when Sean, having gone to fetch supplies from the mainland, is prevented from returning by bad weather. As the storm rages, Alexis screams and panics and ends sobbing on the floor. Abby is also abandoned when work commitments prevent Charles from making their date. Angry, she flashes back twenty years to when she learnt of Charles’s engagement to another woman. Like the present day Alexis, the teenage Abby falls apart, sobbing and throwing things — but then there’s a shift. She suddenly stops crying, looks at herself in the mirror and vows, “Never again,” before starting to brush her hair in a determined fashion. In a way, this is Abby’s equivalent of Val’s transformative “mirror moment” in Season 6 where she turned herself into Verna. Abby likewise becomes her own creation — the very character we have been watching for the past seven seasons. While it’s interesting to see this turning point in her life play out on screen, it also begs the question: does Abby’s quintessential Abby-ness really need explaining? Unlike the behaviour of JR and Alexis, which we’ve always known to be a result of their respective backstories (a son’s dysfunctional need to prove himself to his father; a scorned woman’s obsessive wish to avenge herself on her ex-husband), Abby has always seemed unfettered by her past; she’s not tortured — she wants more simply because she wants more. It’s kind of refreshing. By comparison, this new explanation, that she is the way she is just because of a broken heart, seems a little commonplace. (In fact, this very cliché was referenced during last week’s DALLAS — “What makes you so tough?” Nicholas Pearce asked April Stevens before concluding, tongue in cheek, that “someone, or lots of someones, hurt you way back when.”) Nonetheless, Gary’s question to Abby later in the episode — “Are you ever not performing?” — feels especially resonant given this fresh insight into her history.

    KNOTS’ sudden wish to root Abby’s ruthless behaviour in a sad experience from her past echoes another scene from DALLAS, this one involving Casey Denault. Casey has always felt to me like a latter-day version of Alan Beam, a previous lackey of JR’s with his eye on the main chance and one of DALLAS’s most effective supporting characters ever. Whereas we were given no insight into what motivated Alan beyond his own greed (“I was born devious, JR, just like you,” he boasted), the current era of the show feels the need to explain Casey’s ambition by giving him a sentimental speech about his father. “My daddy died last year,” he tells a sympathetic realtor with a sob in his voice and violins on the soundtrack. “Spent most of his life working hard, making other people rich. He never had an office, he never had a view, he never had much of anything … I’m not gonna live like my daddy did or die like he did.”

    On last week’s KNOTS, Al Parker proposed marriage to a woman he’d only known for a few episodes. Sean Rowan does the same thing on this week’s DYNASTY. “Marry you? I don’t even know you!” Lilimae exclaimed in response to Al’s question. “How can I marry you? I hardly know you,” echoes Alexis in reply to Sean’s. Each man discounts this argument, citing a similar example from his own family. “You wanna know how long my father knew my mother before they got married? Two weeks and not one day longer,” Sean tells Alexis, “and they spent all of their lives together and it was the best marriage I ever knew or heard about.” “My great-grandparents met the day they married and they stayed married till they died,” Al informs Lilimae. “Were they happy?” she asks, perhaps expecting a tale of unequivocal bliss similar to Sean’s. “I never met them,” Al shrugs. “You’ve known men, Alexis, and I’ve known women,” Sean continues breathlessly, “what we have together, where would we ever find it again?” Again, Al puts his own spin on this argument. “I know you well enough to know I know you well enough,” he tells Lilimae.

    While Alexis yields, Lilimae comes up with a counter-proposition. “I’m very flattered by your marriage proposal, Al,” she begins. “Don’t say ‘but’,” he pleads. (There’s a similar exchange on this week’s DALLAS: “Lisa, you’re a very special person,” says Bobby. “There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t there?” she anticipates correctly.) “I think we should live together,” Lilimae continues. “Is that what they call it?” By the end of this week’s episodes, Alexis has married her fourth husband and Lilimae and Al have driven away into the sunset, never to be seen again. Their departure is funny and touching — a rare combination in Soap Land, but one entirely befitting Lilimae’s character.

    “The bride wore red … It’s the only dress I packed,” explains Alexis at her impromptu nuptials. DALLAS’s bride-to-be Jenna dispenses with formality also. “The whole idea of a fancy full-dress wedding … It’s just not us. That’s for the people at Southfork,” she tells Ray. Back on KNOTS, Linda may have already married Eric Fairgate, but like Jenna has firm ideas about what she doesn’t want at her wedding reception: “Who needs hundreds of dollars worth of flowers and a champagne fountain … and an orchestra … and prime rib …?” This sounds like a blatant rejection of Soap Land convention. The DYNASTY wedding is also notable for the fact that the ceremony is conducted entirely in Spanish — with Sean translating for Alexis’s (and our) benefit. (Who could have imagined back then that New DYNASTY would contain entire scenes delivered in Spanish without so much as a concessionary subtitle?)

    This week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each end with a one-sided phone call. “Why did you call me here? It’s too late. It’s already done — I married the woman,” mutters Sean to an unknown someone. What could he mean? “It’s just you and me, kid,” Greg tells his baby daughter following his own middle of the night call — and we realise only too well what he means.

    While Sean Rowan receives a mysterious call, his big-haired DALLAS counterpart, Nicholas Pearce, makes one. He calls his papa to warn him that, “I bumped into some guy called Pete something-or-other from the old neighbourhood” during last week’s episode. “He thought he recognised me, but I think I convinced him he was wrong.” After witnessing this meeting, April Stevens was so intrigued that she got a private detective on the case — the first instance on DALLAS of two second-tier characters with their own storyline that’s entirely separate from the main cast.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Fallon drags Jeff along to a UFO encounter group where Vernon Weddle, one of Soap Land’s best character actors, appears as an alien abductee: “I boarded the spacecraft and I thought, ‘Who are these forms — devils of some sort? Is this Hell?’” It's a long way from Pride, Texas, which is where we last saw Weddle, playing a weary foreman pleading with Bobby not to put his town out of business, and even further from his role as Afferton the snooty wedding planner in the DYNASTY pilot.

    “I know it was wrong with Sammy Jo,” admits Josh on this week’s DYNASTY, referring to the kiss Steven witnessed between them at the end of the previous episode. “It was just a friendly little pass,” insists Sammy Jo in another scene. Gary and Val, who also shared a guilty smooch during last week’s KNOTS, spend this week’s ep telling everyone who’ll listen that the only reason they’re seeing each other is “for the kids’ sake.” However, despite all protestations to the contrary, both sets of blondes end up facing temptation again in their respective episodes’ penultimate scenes. “You shouldn’t be here,” Sammy Jo tells Josh. “I know,” he replies. “I guess I better leave,” Gary tells Val. “Yeah,” she replies. But then both couples end up in each other’s arms all over again. DALLAS ends on a similarly illicit note, minus the blonde hair, with JR on the brink of an affair. “If I choose, I can help you beat West Star,” purrs Kimberly Cryder, in that girlish but steely way of hers. “Why would you do that?” JR asks. “Your husband is the new chairman.” “Perhaps I’d like to see the two of you in combat, see who really is the strongest — winner take all,” she replies.

    Carlton Travis arranges a more literal form of combat to observe on this week’s FALCON CREST. He casts Richard Channing into the wilderness and orders his henchmen to track him down and kill him. Don’t ask me why, but he agrees to call off the hunt if Angela and Maggie can prove within twenty-four hours that he isn’t responsible for the murder of his brother which took place fifty years before. This results in a vague mashup of JR and BD Calhoun’s fight to the death on DALLAS, and Caress Morelle’s attempt to solve the mystery of the fire that killed Ellen Carrington on DYNASTY, with an added against-the-clock deadline. Maggie’s appalled reaction to the insanely convoluted world she now finds herself in rings true, but the rest of the story is lame. In particular, the sight of Richard Channing as a kick-ass survivalist, complete with a RAMBO-style bandana, is kind of embarrassing. At least when JR went up against Calhoun, we weren’t expected to buy him as a credible opponent.

    Following Abby Ewing and Angela Channing, DALLAS’s Bobby becomes the latest Soap Land character of late to run into someone from his youth. Rather than a former sweetheart, Tammy Miller is a classmate from the University of Texas, who confesses to a secret crush on Bobby back in the day. Tammy functions primarily as a pretty blonde plot point, but to make her seem sympathetic and vulnerable rather than just some anonymous pickup, she is written as an insecure divorcee, acutely aware of the ageing process and the double standards that exist between men and women. “Here I am, a woman in my thirties and I’ve only made love to one man in my life,” she admits. “Men just seem to get better with age. It's true - a woman has to worry about every pound and every wrinkle.” Abby touches on the same topic, albeit more glibly, after Gary compliments her appearance. “Ah do try,” she says in her phoney southern belle accent. “God knows, it gets mow and mow difficult.” Gary chuckles. “I do hope you’re laughing with me and not at me,” she adds in her normal voice.

    While we’re on the subject, it feels as if DALLAS has indeed been laughing at rather than with Marilee Stone recently. While she’s always been a cartoonish, larger than life character, the combination of her age and sexual appetite has made her the object of JR and Casey’s shared derision of late in a way that feels a little nastier than it has in the past. While it’s hard to imagine two female characters making fun of JR for the same reasons, the subject of his age vis-à-vis his sexual reputation is raised this week. “I wonder if all the wonderful things I’ve heard about you could possibly be true?” Kimberly Cryder enquires. “Oh, I was a pretty fair long-distance runner in my time,” he replies. “Not any longer?” she asks teasingly.

    When Tammy invites Bobby back to her place at the end of their evening together, one assumes he’ll politely turn her down, just as he has so many women before (the first two Jennas, Joanna Cassidy, Marilee, Holly, Katherine, etc.), and at first he does (“I don’t think I should”) — but then he changes his mind. On one level, this is unremarkable — one-night-stands in Soap Land are hardly new — but on another, this is uncharted territory. We’re talking about Bobby Ewing here, the genre’s original Romeo. There again, in the prequel novelisation of DALLAS by Lee Raintree, his nickname was “the screwing Ewing”. Finally, after all these years, he has the chance to live up to it. But he also has competition — for the first ever time in the onscreen Ewing-verse, all three brothers are at it simultaneously: Gary’s cheating on Jill with Val, JR’s cheating on Sue Ellen with Kimberly, and even though Bobby might not technically be cheating on Pam with Tammy, it still kind of feels like it.

    Synchronicity of the week: “You’re becoming like a surrogate mother for him [Christopher] — and that’s just not right,” Bobby tells Lisa on DALLAS in the same week that Karen Atkinson becomes a surrogate mother for Adam’s baby on DYNASTY — and that just doesn’t feel right to Dana. “I might be the biological mother of Adam’s child, but that’s where it ends,” Karen assures her. Turns out Lisa Alden is the biological aunt of Bobby’s child, but that isn’t where it ends — not if the shot of her watching Christopher from a distance after Bobby has given her her marching orders is anything to go by.

    Back on FALCON CREST, Dan Fixx acquires his very own Dandy Dandridge, a borderline vagrant who does his best to make himself indispensable (helping Dab rebuild his house) while simultaneously availing himself of the contents of his wallet. But whereas Dandy merely reminded Cliff of his long-lost daddy, this guy actually is Dan’s long-lost daddy. Suffice to say, he’s more Amos Krebbs than Paul Galveston.

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (-) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    25 Nov 87: DYNASTY: The Testing v. 27 Nov 87: DALLAS: Lovers and Other Liars v. 27 Nov 87: FALCON CREST: Hunter's Moon

    On last week’s DYNASTY, Blake channelled the Miss Ellie within as he fought (successfully) to save an area of natural beauty from being ruined by big business. This week, he connects with his inner Jock while he deliberates over which of his children to entrust with control of his company (the divestiture of his holdings being a soap-friendly requirement of Blake's running for governor). Just as taking a ride in a spaceship seems to have restored some of Fallon’s former spikiness, killing Matthew Blaisdel has likewise reinvigorated Steven’s personality. Adam, meanwhile, remains as competitive as ever and so when the siblings convene to learn of their father’s decision, there is a perceptible crackle between them. “I don’t trust you,” Adam tells Steven. “I don’t trust you,” Fallon tells Adam. “Doesn’t that make us a neat little triangle?” And she’s right, it does.

    As Blake contemplates surrendering control of his empire, he recalls striking oil as a seventeen-year-old boy, “grimy, work blisters on my hands, and in my head, dreams — dreams about oil being down there somewhere under that ground. Then all of sudden, it happened. It was there, gushing out of the ground, a hundred feet in the air ... It was beautiful.” What Blake describes on DYNASTY, we witness on DALLAS, but this time it's the dreams of a seventy-odd-year-old man, Dandy Dandridge, coming true — for all of about thirty seconds. “You mean your wonderful nose just found me one cubic foot of oil? All those millions for a thimbleful?!” yells Cliff amusingly as the oil disappears just as suddenly as it erupted out of the ground.

    Elsewhere on this week's DALLAS, Nicholas Pearce drags Sue Ellen to the Fairview Hotel to pitch the idea of a Valentine boutique in every lobby of a chain of hotels. “Sex and hotels — what a natural combination,” she nods — just in time to see her own husband in an embrace with Kimberly Cryder as they ride the glass elevator up to the penthouse suite. She later retaliates in kind, summoning Nicholas to her hotel room in Miami and kissing his face off. Meanwhile, in a hotel room in New York, Leslie Carrington is doing the very same thing to Jeff Colby. While Jeff cheating on his wife with her cousin doesn’t seem quite as transgressive as what Bobby Ewing got up to with Tammy Miller in her hotel room on last week’s DALLAS, it’s still somewhat eyebrow-raising. If Bobby and Pam were DALLAS's Romeo and Juliet, then Jeff and Fallon were THE COLBYS' equivalent — the soft focus golden couple elevated above the dysfunction surrounding them. However, since re-inheriting the couple, DYNASTY has depicted Fallon and Jeff’s relationship with an irreverence similar to the way post-dream DALLAS immediately set about undercutting some of the more precious aspects of that show's previous season: Sue Ellen’s pious sobriety, JR’s solemn reverence for his beloved bro Bobby.

    In the penultimate scene of this week’s DYNASTY, we find Sean Rowan and his sister standing in a familiar-looking house. “This is the room where he shot himself, Victoria … Joseph Anders, servant to the Carringtons. They bought him off and then they betrayed him. Our father gave his life waiting upon them and not one single damned Carrington mourned him.” In the final scene of this week’s DALLAS, JR asks Kimberly Cryder what she knows about Dr Herbert Styles, aka West Star’s biggest shareholder. “Styles is from Austin,” she replies. “He was a handsome man with a big powerful voice, a man who could do anything … but now he’s old and sick and he doesn’t have long to live … He’s my father.”

    Even though we only learned of Kimberly’s existence a few episodes ago and this is the first week Dr Styles has been mentioned, DALLAS nonetheless manages to make the discovery of their relationship feel at least as significant as that of Sean and Joseph on DYNASTY. Plot-wise, both revelations are linked to Sean and JR’s respective masterplan for the season, each of which is unveiled this week. “Why look for revenge by hurting other people?” Sean's sister Victoria asks him. “I have no intention of hurting a single one of [the Carringtons]," he replies. "They’re going to destroy each other — father, mother and children — and I’m only here to help them do it.” Meanwhile on DALLAS, it gradually becomes apparent that JR’s plan is to take over West Star. Destroy the Carringtons, assume control of West Star: those are the objectives, we don’t quite yet know how Sean and JR intend to achieve them.

    Another week, another marriage proposal: this time it’s Richard Channing popping the question to Maggie on FALCON CREST. Just like Jenna on DALLAS a few weeks ago, Maggie is unsure, concerned about rushing into something new too quickly, and so explains to her suitor that she needs time to think. Richard takes her response about as well as Ray did Jenna’s, but instead of flying off to Washington to visit his ex-wife and newborn baby, he busies himself by helping out a long-lost teenage pal. Yep, following hot on the heels of Charles Scott, Carlton Travis and Tammy Miller, Liz “Stretch” McDowell (played by Colette Ferrier from PAPER DOLLS) is the latest teenage pal from someone's past to arrive in Soap Land. Following her father’s recent death, she needs help fending off a takeover bid for his baseball team from the Japanese. (The Japanese?? Looks like the concept of globalisation has just arrived in Soap Land.)

    While FC gives us a glimpse of Stretch’s baseball team via an onscreen practice session, DYNASTY has thus far chosen to evoke the authenticity of the Carrington football team by focusing on the action in the locker room. Whereas Stretch is all too aware of the problems facing her team, Steven Carrington has no idea that his prize-quarterback is not only screwing his ex-wife but apparently has a drug problem too (Soap Land’s first since Olivia Cunningham’s).

    FALCON CREST is the Soap Land equivalent of whiplash, constantly veering from the borderline unwatchable to the comparatively sublime and back again. On one hand, the scenes between Richard and Maggie, as he waits for an answer to his proposal, are as rich with tension and emotion as anything you could hope to see on KNOTS LANDING — it’s all about what isn’t said. On the other, the sequence in which Melissa throws a leaving party for herself at The Max (the club where she’s worked for all of five episodes) and invites Angela to be the guest of honour so she can embarrass her is excruciatingly unfunny and as feeble than anything Soap Land has offered us thus far. Elsewhere, Lance’s race-against-time storyline, in which he rushes to find an antidote to the fatal poison he’s been injected with (a vague ripoff of the 1949 film noir, DOA), is marginally better than the race-against-time story involving Richard in last week’s episode, but by now all the convoluted but short-lived FC plots in which a major character is almost-but-not-quite murdered by a passing guest star are starting to merge into one. However, just as one is tempted to write FALCON CREST off altogether, in strides Lauren Hutton, a breath of fresh air as Stretch McDowell. Unsurprisingly, Stretch is a globetrotting photojournalist — the profession of choice for such free-spirited Soap Land women as Ruth Sumner Galveston and Lady Ashley Mitchell. However, Stretch is in an idiosyncratically sexy, tomboy-ish class of her own, exemplified by that gap-toothed smile of hers. Briefly, one imagines that she might be the one to turn FALCON CREST around -- but then comes her line to Richard at the end of the ep: “I think someone just tried to kill me!” Oh great: yet another FC murder storyline about people we don’t really know.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (3) DYNASTY
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  3. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Suddenly I have this image of trembling and sweating writers in tiny rooms (and somehow I imagine these are called the Plotholes) trying to figure out how to turn these bold statements into storylines.
    If I was allowed to ignore the time frame I'd say Abby Ewing was stirring up trouble outside the borders of SoapLand i.e. her office in Japan.
    But why bringing in a Japanese Cartel when they already had the guys from Chinatown?
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02 Dec 87: DYNASTY: The Setup v. 03 Dec 87: KNOTS LANDING: Noises Everywhere (1) v. 04 Dec 87: DALLAS: Brothers and Sons v. 04 Dec 87: FALCON CREST: Lovers and Friends

    “Governor? You can’t even run your own family, let alone Colorado!” And with that, the half-season long truce between Alexis and Blake on DYNASTY is officially over. “That damn paragon of virtue, that saint among saints,” Alexis seethes, her sarcasm matched by Richard Avery’s on the following night’s KNOTS LANDING. “What we got here is a whole town full of saints,” he says to a room of former friends and neighbours. “I just hate to see you people sitting around calling a heel a saint,” counters Abby after Val expresses some sympathy for “poor Richard.” “I never claimed that I was a saint,” Tucker Fixx tells his son Dan on Friday’s FALCON CREST. Fixx and Richard are both guilty of abandoning their wives and young families several years before. “He was a lousy husband who walked out on Laura and her two sons,” Abby reminds the KNOTS gang. “I was ten years old. You told me with tears running down your face that it wasn’t my fault, that you just weren’t cut out to be a father,” Dan reminds Tucker. Both men have had more success the second time around. Richard tells his former neighbours that he is happily remarried to a “wonderful lady, wonderful wife”, while Dan is hurt to learn that his father “started a whole new family” less than a year after walking out on him: “You stayed with them. I bet you didn’t even tell them about me.”

    Blake’s decision to give three of his children an equal say in the running of Denver Carrington ensures that Adam and Steven are back at each other’s throats by the end of this week’s DYNASTY. “You resent me so much, you would do anything to make me look bad,” Steven accuses his brother. “You don’t need me to make you look bad, Steven — you’re doing a wonderful job all by yourself,” Adam replies. Over on DALLAS, another long-dormant sibling rivalry twitches back into life as Bobby rediscovers his passion for the oil business. “JR was the oilman,” he recalls. “He was the one that was always supposed to follow in Daddy’s footsteps, but when it comes right down to it, I have just as much oil in my veins as he does.”

    Following Jeff Colby’s and JR Ewing’s respective “sex and hotels” indiscretions last week, it's now time for the aftermath. Events unfold swiftly for Jeff: Fallon surmises correctly that he has slept with Leslie, he does a lousy job of denying it, she tells him their marriage over, they agree to keep up appearances for the sake of Blake’s campaign (just as Gary and Abby did when Gary was running for the Senate last season), and he moves into his own bedroom at the mansion. Whereas Fallon seems unsurprised by the end of her marriage (“We’ve both tried, but it doesn’t work anymore”), Sue Ellen is shocked by her husband’s latest infidelity. “Things have been so good between me and JR this year,” she tells Nicholas Pearce. “I really felt that he believed in us and our marriage — and then he goes off with another woman!” Unlike Fallon, Sue Ellen keeps her discovery of JR’s affair a secret — she doesn’t cry or yell or pick up a drink or demand an open marriage. Instead, she carries on as if nothing has happened and even invites JR’s bedmate, Kimberly Cryder, to the Ewing barbecue. “It’s called setting the stage,” she explains when Nicholas asks what she’s up to.

    Ray Krebbs, meanwhile, keeps his romantic rival even closer by asking Bobby to be best man at his wedding — thus affording Jenna the opportunity to finally walk down the aisle towards her first love (as well as the man she’s actually marrying). Over on FALCON CREST, Richard angers Maggie by inviting Stretch McDowell to move in with them, following Stretch’s claims that she is being stalked by gravity-defying ninjas. (Well, how else do you expect the Japanese do business in Soap Land?)

    Fallon’s UFO adventure having expanded Soap Land’s paranormal boundaries, the concept of ninjas in the Tuscany Valley works as a sort of prototype X-File, with Maggie playing the bemused sceptic (“Do you believe that cockamamie story?” she scoffs) to Richard’s free-thinking investigator (he visits a martial arts wise man to inquire about the existence of ninjas).

    “I’ve spent my entire life being someone’s little girl — first Daddy and then you … I just don’t wanna be that little girl anymore, I can’t,” Fallon tells Jeff on DYNASTY. “I went from my father’s house to Chase’s house to your house. I have never felt independent in my entire life and I am afraid that if I marry you now, I never will,” Maggie tells Richard on FALCON CREST. Over on KNOTS, Val Gibson makes her own bid for independence — but hers is not sparked not by an infidelity or a proposal of marriage, but by a pot of coffee. “You act like you think I’m not capable of anything,” she snaps at Karen. “No matter what you think, I am capable … I got news for you, Karen. I can make the coffee as well as you can and I can live my life as well as you can!” This isn’t really about coffee, of course — it’s about the fact that Karen knew Laura was dying but chose not to tell Val.

    By any standards, this is A Very Special Episode of KNOTS LANDING — ‘Episode 200’, in fact, as a caption at the beginning of the ep makes a point of informing us. When DALLAS reached the same landmark a couple of years ago, it marked the occasion with an expansively shot, almost cinematic instalment centred around the thrills and spills of the Southfork rodeo. KNOTS goes in the opposite direction, narrowing its focus to a single location and concentrating solely on the show's six remaining principal cast members, plus one returning character from the early years.

    As commemorative episodes go, it is not without ironies. An instalment to mark 200 episodes about the lives of a suburban community, it doesn’t once set foot in the cul-de-sac itself. Instead, Seaview Circle residents past and present turn up at the home of the show’s most anti-social character and expect him to play host. (While Greg remains impenetrable behind dark glasses, the rest of the characters emote around him.) Moreover, the gathering is a wake without a body. (“Mrs Avery’s remains have been inadvertently delivered to the wrong mortuary,” runs the official explanation. Mack has his own: “You know, Laura left here and she’s determined never to come back.”)

    Not only is Laura corporally absent, but this is the very first week Constance McCashin has not appeared in the show’s opening credits. (DALLAS marked its bicentennial ep with a similarly curious omission — it was the first ever episode in which Bobby Ewing’s name was not mentioned.) As the instalment unfolds, two seemingly contradictory impressions of Laura emerge. On one hand, there’s the Laura who made a success of her life (“A lot of people talk about turning their lives around, but Laura did it,” acknowledges Gary), while on the other, there’s the Laura who chose to end her life in such a solitary way (“She was alone when she died?” asks Richard uncomprehendingly). How to reconcile these opposing aspects of her character? Richard implies that the answer may lie in the rotting heart of Seaview Circle itself: “God, all these years I’ve lived with this guilt for what I did, but you guys — well, we all know that Knots Landing is the world’s most perfect community, I mean a veritable utopia, the solar system’s ideal community, but Laura left here to die.

    The suggestion that the Knots gang are all somehow culpable in Laura’s decision is an intriguing, if not wholly substantive one, just as Sean Rowan’s claim on last week’s DYNASTY that the Carringtons are all equally to blame for Joseph Anders’ downfall (“They bought him off and then they betrayed him — our father gave his life waiting upon them and not one single damned Carrington mourned him”) is exciting, without being altogether accurate. Ultimately, it’s an open verdict: “We don’t know why Laura chose to do what she did,” says Karen simply. Perhaps it isn’t Greg, but Laura who is/was KNOTS’ most ambiguous character.

    Another unanswered question: what exactly is Abby doing at Laura’s wake? Laura only died the night before the events of this episode which means Abby would have had to have dropped everything in order to spend the day with a group of people she doesn’t especially like to commemorate a woman she actively disliked. Maybe it's the same reason JR is at Ray and Jenna’s wedding on this week’s DALLAS (“Mama, how long is this going to take? I got things to do”), i.e., social obligation, or maybe it’s the same reason Cliff is at the Southfork barbecue (“Barnes, this is a Ewing barbecue — who invited you?” JR asks him), i.e., plot requirement. Or maybe this is just KNOTS turning back the clock to a time when Abby would voluntarily choose to spend time with her old neighbours (like in “Three Sisters” where she practically stowed away in Laura’s car in order to be in on the ghostly real estate action). Whichever, putting Abby in close proximity to the likes of Val and Richard for the best part of an hour is one of the episode’s highlights.

    Richard’s return acknowledges the gap between the comparatively down to earth KNOTS he was once a part of and the supersoap the show has since become. “How are we all — richer?” he asks his former neighbours. Likewise on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s attendance at her first meeting of the Daughters of the Alamo for eight seasons illustrates how much things have changed since those early episodes when her days revolved around charity luncheons. “Darling, do you know how many girls wish they had the guts to do what you did?” asks a DOA gal, echoing Gary’s tribute to Laura (“A lot of people talk about turning their lives around, but Laura did it.”)

    Also present at Laura’s wake is Meg’s new nanny Barbara. As she quietly goes about her business, she acts as kind of a sounding board for the characters, much as caterers Sam and Tilly did for the Ewings at the original DALLAS “Barbecue”. Where Tilly regarded the Ewings with a cynically arched eyebrow, Barbara is more neutral. She listens in near silence as, one by one, Greg’s guests drop by the kitchen and start talking, mostly about themselves — Gary tearfully reflecting on the mistakes he’s made, Mack making drunken wisecracks, Abby delivering some witheringly incisive observations on Greg (“the man with a black hole where his soul ought to be”) and Val (“Laura sure knew what she was doing leaving this group — if you were dying would you want Valene Gibson dressed in her latest teenage fashion standing next to your bedside telling you every personal problem she’d ever had in the world?”). Barbara’s presence has the effect of distancing us slightly from the characters we know so well as we start to view them through her eyes instead. Consequently, the scene where Karen cries over Laura’s death, which could easily have been the emotional climax of the episode, instead becomes just as much about Barbara’s awkward reaction to a stranger bursting into tears as it is about Karen and her feelings. The characters’ surprise upon learning that Barbara has two kids and a home of her own is also revealing — like servants and secretaries, Soap Land’s domestic staff aren’t supposed to have lives independent of their employers.

    “I don’t know why her death has brought out the worst in everyone,” sighs Karen and indeed, this episode highlights the flaws, the self-involvement and the shrill histrionics of the KNOTS characters. It even exposes the lie at the heart of the show that they are just like us, only richer and prettier with more dramatic lives — which means they’re not like us at all. However, underneath all their “bad” behaviour and self-indulgences lie some basic human fears (fear of death, fear of facing the end alone — hell, the fear of being abruptly written out of a hit TV series after nearly two-hundred episodes), which suggests that, deep down, they are just like us. Well, kind of.

    Back at the ranch, DALLAS brings Dandy Dandridge’s storyline to a close by reaching back into the distant past — “DALLAS: The Early Years” to be precise — to the time when Digger pulled a gun on Jock at the Ewing barbecue, 1951. History repeats itself when Dandy does the same to Cliff at this week’s barbecue. Unlike Digger and Jock, Dandy and Cliff manage to resolve their differences and Dandy limps off into the sunset, maybe not quite as happily as Lilimae and Al did a couple of weeks ago, but close enough. Angela also hosts a barbecue on this week’s FALCON CREST. It only lasts one scene, but that’s long enough to bring Tucker Fixx into her orbit. Pretty soon, she’s uncovered the truth about his secret family and he is too headed out of town. Other familial revelations this week: Christopher learns that Lucas is Bobby’s biological son during Ray and Jenna’s wedding, Bobby learns that Lisa is Christopher’s biological aunt during the Ewing barbecue, and Sean Rowan learns that Adam was the father of the baby Dana secretly aborted as a teenager during a fact-finding mission to Billings, Montana.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09 Dec 87: DYNASTY: The Fair v. 10 Dec 87: KNOTS LANDING: Noises Everywhere (2) v. 11 Dec 87: DALLAS: Brother, Can You Spare a Child? v. 11 Dec 87: FALCON CREST: Across the Bridge

    Another week, another marriage proposal: This time, Josh Harris gets down on one knee in front of Sammy Jo in the stables of Delta Rho. Instead of hesitating like DALLAS’s Jenna and FALCON CREST’s Maggie (who, after three weeks, still hasn’t given Richard a straight answer) or accepting like DYNASTY’s Alexis or even suggesting an alternative like KNOTS LANDING’s Lilimae, Sammy Jo unequivocally refuses. “Josh, it can’t be,” she tells him.

    The centrepiece of this week’s DYNASTY is Ye Olde English Fayre hosted by Alexis at the Carlton Hotel. It has much in common with the farewell party Melissa threw for herself at The Max on FALCON CREST a few weeks ago — eagerly overacting extras, silly costumes, stilted dialogue and a general sense of forced gaiety. For some reason, however, it made me laugh all the way through (even as my toes curled at the terrible English accents) whereas Melissa’s bash just made me lose the will to live. Perhaps it’s because the party shenanigans on DYNASTY exist as part of a bigger picture rather than an end in themselves — it still feels as if I’m watching a soap opera rather than a stiflingly unfunny sitcom.

    KNOTS LANDING is also dominated by a social gathering this week, albeit with a very different atmosphere. Given that it’s Laura’s funeral, that’s hardly surprising. (“You might try a different theme next time,” Jill advises Greg). Just like at the fair on DYNASTY, there are clueless extras in attendance, but here they are acknowledged as such by the script. “I don’t know half these people and the half I do know I don’t even like,” says Greg.

    As this is Soap Land, there are adversaries as well as friends present at both gatherings. Indeed, Blake and Krystle are obliged to attend Alexis’s party as it is a fundraiser for the drug rehabilitation centre of which Krystle is chairman. Meanwhile, a suspicious Gary asks Abby what she’s doing at Laura’s funeral. “I came for the food,” she replies. At the start of this week’s DALLAS, where the Ewing barbecue is still in full swing, Miss Ellie sees Krystle’s rehab centre and raises her a shelter for the homeless as she agrees to head up the DOA’s latest fundraising project.

    Dana Carrington and Mack Mackenzie are conspicuously late arrivals to the fair and funeral respectively. Dana, currently being blackmailed over her convoluted past by Alexis’s new husband, tries to duck out of the party altogether, but finally cedes to Adam’s wish that she attend. Mack’s crisis is more existential. “Spare me the song and dance about counting your blessings,” he tells Gary when he eventually shows up at Greg’s ranch, the worse for drink and owing $112 in cab fare. “I’ve been doing that for two days and you know what? I still feel like feeling sorry for myself.” He arrives in time to overhear Paige describing Laura as “a very worthwhile person.” “Who talks like that?” he sneers. “It’s a lucky thing that she didn’t grow up with me. She’d be finishing all her sentences with prepositions.” One wonders what Mack would make of Paige’s funeral etiquette now that she’s turned into Alexis on New DYNASTY. Would her announcement at Tom Carrington’s send-off last week — “Sorry I’m late, traffic was a bitch” — be more to his liking?

    The DYNASTY and KNOTS parties both feature a physical altercation between two women. While Alexis ends up cleavage down in the mud following a tug of war with Krystle, Jill Bennett whacks Paige in the back with the bag in which she had hidden the urn containing Peter’s ashes, which feels all kinds of appropriate. Fallon’s powder room spat with cousin Leslie is strictly verbal, but she nonetheless manages to draw blood with this observation: “Poor Leslie, you have no idea how obvious you are. Look at yourself. You may see Alexis, but everyone else sees a pathetic imitation. You have no identity, Leslie. You’ve tried to take one woman’s style and another woman’s husband and you’ve failed at both.”

    No Soap Land party is complete without a gatecrasher. Last week’s DALLAS ended with Lisa Alden showing up at the Southfork barbecue to tell Bobby she’s suing him for custody of Christopher. (More excitingly, this week’s DALLAS ends with the revelation that JR is secretly behind her lawsuit.) While Josh Harris staggers uninvited into the DYNASTY fair still reeling from Sammy Jo’s rejection, Michael Fairgate’s admirably clingy girlfriend Jodie turns up at Greg’s, miffed that Michael didn’t bring her along as his date in the first place. “If we’re going together, we should be together all the time,” she reasons. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Ray and Jenna return from their honeymoon to find that Charlie and boyfriend Randy are “being together all the time” a bit too much for their liking.

    “I don’t even touch the stuff!” laughs Josh when Steven accuses him of drinking too much at the fair, but he’s clearly high on something. Jill has definitely been putting the booze away at Laura’s remembrance, but the reason she tells Gary to stop the car on the way home isn’t so she can throw up — it’s so she can scatter Peter’s ashes over a clifftop. It’s a moment that manages to be funny, sad and slightly campy all at the same time. Back on DALLAS, April Stevens gets drunk too — not at the Ewing barbecue, but because she wasn’t invited to it. “Last year, when I was flat broke,” she sobs to Nicholas Pearce, “I went to that barbecue — with Cliff Barnes!” Yeah, and she was a lot more fun then too.

    While Blake won’t hear of Fallon and Jeff staying together for the sake of his campaign (“Please don’t live any more lies because of me … Be honest with yourselves”) Sue Ellen admits to Nicholas during the best scene of this week’s DALLAS that she fully intends to live a lie: “I’m going to play the devoted, caring wife … until I find out exactly what it is that will hurt [JR] the most.”

    Turns out Jeff Colby and Richard Avery were raised with similar expectations of marriage. “I grew up expecting that the husband works hard and he takes care of the family. The wife is there to support him. It’s just not that way. I feel lost,” Jeff tells Krystle. Same goes for Richard. “Ten years ago it was all women’s lib, women were leaving their husbands," he tells Karen. "For us, the shoe was on the other foot. [Laura] started making all that money. I just couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t brought up that way. None of us was.”

    The barbecue, the fair, the funeral — each gathering throws up at least one unusual combination of characters. Despite co-existing on DYNASTY for six seasons (albeit on and off), Jeff and Sammy Jo have never shared a conversation before now — and it emerges that they have a thing or two in common. “You look as if you’re having as much fun as I’m having,” observes Jeff. “Why is it so hard to let go?” Sammy Jo asks him. “You’re asking the wrong person,” he sighs. Meanwhile, eras collide on KNOTS when Richard gets into conversation with Jill. “I see Gary Ewing,” she explains. “You’re certainly in good company,” he replies. “I think my ex-wife is the only woman in this town who didn’t see Gary Ewing. Then, she’s dead so I’ll never really know for sure.” The unusual meeting on DALLAS doesn’t occur at the barbecue but because of it. Following his run-in with Dandy at Southfork, Cliff meets with Miss Ellie to tell her he got that whole Barnes/Ewing feud thing completely wrong. “Jock was telling the truth, Cliff,” Ellie tells him. “I know that now!” he agrees. “I tell you what would have about made this day perfect … if Pam could have been here, just to see her brother learn his lesson.” Then they hug it out.

    While Cliff and Miss Ellie achieve a kind of bittersweet closure in Pam’s absence, Richard and Karen attempt to do the same in Laura’s. The main difference is that in the process of burying the hatchet on DALLAS, the ambiguity that gave the Barnes/Ewing feud its potency is lost — Jock was right, Digger was wrong and that’s that (at least until New DALLAS). Over on KNOTS, Richard also is trying to come to terms with the past, but here there are no easy answers, no clear-cut rights and wrongs. “People keep looking at me like, ‘Am I sad enough?’,” he tells Karen. “I am sad, I guess, but probably not as sad as most of you. Laura was too strong for me … I still can’t wait to get out of here. Being here brings it all back. Being here is worse for me than Laura dying.” Somehow their conversation gets back to the manner in which Laura died. “We are not responsible for Laura’s decision,” Karen insists. “She chose to die alone.” But Richard still can’t accept this, even after the screening of Laura’s videotaped messages has created a kind of collective catharsis amongst the group. “I've figured out why you all stick together,” he tells the Mackenzies. “No-one else will have you … I can’t stand it that she died alone! … I left her, but you let her down.” By now, Mack has emerged from his two-episode funk to deliver a touchingly open-ended coda. “We didn’t let her down,” he tells Richard. “She let us down … I’m not blaming her. I’m saying she was wrong. I’m also saying ‘so what?’ … It was her right to be wrong … You spend the time you can with the people that you can. You don’t look ahead, you don’t look back and you be damn grateful for the time you had together.” “I am,” Richard replies, kinda choked up, and then he leaves.

    It hit me during this re-watch that “Noises Everywhere” is as much Richard’s farewell as Laura’s — it’s the goodbye he wasn’t able to articulate when he left the first time around. For me, his last words are the most moving part of the episode — save for Laura’s final message to Greg where he talks back to the TV screen, which is so intimate, so personal, it feels almost intrusive to write about it.

    After watching Laura’s tape, Val ends up sobbing on the kitchen floor surrounded by broken crockery (that darn coffee pot again) just as Miss Ellie did after the realisation of Jock’s death hit her on DALLAS. Karen joins her on the floor and pretty soon they’re emoting their heads off. Abby walks in and hovers uncomfortably (“It’s difficult to make a graceful exit out of this place”). Abby looking down on Karen and Val, both literally and figuratively, yet at the same time aware that she doesn’t really understand this bond that they share — it’s a perfect illustration of the dynamic between the three of them.

    KNOTS ends with one last glimpse of Laura, reading “Goodnight Moon” to her daughter Meg. I always remembered this as being one of the video recordings she leaves behind, but it isn’t — Meg is actually present as she is reading, and Laura is looking at her rather than the camera. So I guess that makes it a flashback, except nobody's remembering it -- it's just between her and us. (Regardless of whatever offscreen politics may have surrounded Constance McCashin’s departure from KNOTS, both this episode and "The Gift of Life" feel like very respectful, even loving, tributes to the character, just as the very gentle, gradual writing out of Susan Howard’s Donna did on DALLAS. There are plenty of Soap Land characters whom one feels have been unceremoniously bundled off of their respective show, but that’s not the case here.)

    Videotape is also a plot point on this week’s DYNASTY. At the end of the episode, Alexis screens a doctored tape to her party guests that makes it appear as though Blake is a regular visitor to Cora van Heusen’s house of prostitution. There’s a whiff of Scooby Doo about this dastardly scheme just as there is in the final scene of this week’s FALCON CREST where Stretch McDowell rips the mask off her ninja assailant to reveal a caucasian woman whom she herself has hired to, well ... do whatever it is that ninjas do, I guess. There’s further Scoobiness elsewhere on FC as Angela enlists the aid Foster Glenn, some sort of pyrotechnic wizard-cum-Vegas illusionist, to gaslight Melissa (who’s already pretty much lit, if you ask me). For this role, FC grants Buck Henry a unique “Cameo Appearance by …” at the beginning of the episode. By contrast, Brad Pitt is buried amongst the secretaries and receptionists in the end credits of this week’s DALLAS.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DYNASTY
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    06 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Interview v. 07 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Only 'Til Friday v. 08 Jan 88: DALLAS: It's Me Again v. 08 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: Rescue Me

    When the rest of Soap Land shut up shop for Christmas, DYNASTY kept working — administering a fatal cocaine overdose to Josh Harris (who turned out to be a far more convincing drug addict than KNOTS LANDING’s Olivia), inventing an entire West African country called Natumbe and pitting Alexis against Blake in the race for governor, thereby turning up the heat under that particular storyline.

    Indeed, the same cynicism that Soap Land exhibited towards political campaigning during the senatorial battle on last season’s KNOTS now resurfaces on DYNASTY. Gone are the days of stand-alone election episodes of DALLAS and FLAMINGO ROAD when all it took to knock Cliff Barnes or Elmo Tyson out of the running was for their opponent to dig up their deepest darkest secret. These days, it’s all about public perception and media manipulation and characters suddenly espousing opinions about issues that have never previously had any relevance in Soap Land. Apparently, Blake is “strong on educational needs and on aid for senior citizens” — who’d’ve guessed?

    During last year’s election on KNOTS, Gary Ewing was forced to miss a TV debate due to a crisis involving his stepdaughter. The same thing happens to Blake this week, but this time he has been deliberately sabotaged by Sean Rowan. The situation is given a fun twist when Krystle takes his place in the debate. Pitting Krystle and Alexis against each other within the confines of a televised political discussion gives their rivalry a shot in the arm resulting in a great have-your-cake-and-eat-it exchange where they denounce sexism via an exchange of bitchy one-liners (“Before you took over Colby Co on the death of your second of four husbands, tell me, did you ever hold down a job?” asks Krystle. “If you’re asking me was I ever a secretary whose main job it was to bring coffee to a male chauvinist boss, the answer is no,” Alexis replies) which has the same kind of facetious zing New DYNASTY is full of.

    Nobody is where they’re meant to be on this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS: Blake’s stranded in the middle of nowhere when he should be on television, Sean’s in bed with Leslie while his wife is announcing her candidacy for governor, Abby and Charles are also in bed together when they should be sitting across from each other at a formal business meeting. Meanwhile, everyone at Lotus Point assumes Mack and Karen are vacationing in Tahiti when they’re really babysitting Meg for Greg who’s in New York on business — except he’s secretly hiding out at his ranch. Paige, in her new capacity as art gallery assistant, discovers his deception when she stops by to drop off a painting. She keeps his whereabouts a secret from the Mackenzies, thus becoming his co-conspirator. This has the effect of making a storyline about parental neglect feels sexily intriguing rather than upsetting.

    While Greg is receptive to Paige’s ideas about the art he should purchase (“I can tell the top from the bottom,” he says approvingly of a picture she shows him. “You are gonna be a big-time art patron, Pops,” she predicts), Clayton Farlow seems a bit out of his comfort zone during his art-related storyline on DALLAS. When meeting David Shulton, the artist whose painting he bought in last week’s ep, he is curt and defensive, unable to explain why he is so drawn to the picture or why he feels the need to meet the beautiful girl depicted in it. “I just wanted to meet her and I don’t want any preconceived ideas,” he insists huffily.

    The girl in question is Laurel Ellis whose own taste leans towards 60s pop art, specifically Roy Lichtenstein, if the prints on her walls are anything to go by. Happily, DALLAS does not feel the need to crudely obscure Lichtenstein’s name the way KNOTS did Jeffrey Archer’s when we caught Abby reading one of his novels in last week’s episode. Weirdly, KNOTS does the same thing again in this week’s ep:

    [​IMG]

    When not reading crudely disguised populist blockbusters, Abby allows Charles to persuade her to play hooky from work in order to do “anything you want to do.” There follows a montage of the couple indulging in such non-Abbyish pursuits such as foosball, wearing double denim and horse-riding along the beach. (I’m pretty sure we never saw Abby atop a horse during the entire time she lived on Gary’s ranch.) Perhaps this montage makes the most sense if we think of it as an alternate universe version of Abby — this is the carefree, outdoorsy person she might have become if she and Charles had never split up.

    As this is the first week of a new year, it’s fitting that we should be introduced to several new characters — most of whom are twenty-somethings from out of town. First off, there’s Johnny Rourke who flies into KNOTS LANDING from overseas. The elderly lady sitting next to him on the plane is pleased with herself when she correctly guesses that he’s not a native American, but it’s not exactly hard to figure out. While Sean Rowan’s Irish lilt fades in and out on DYNASTY, Johnny lays his Irish accent (and accompanying stereotypical charm) on with a trowel. “You have the gift of gab!” exclaims the old woman, too busy swooning to notice him swipe her credit card. Just as Johnny plays the Irish card, Laurel Ellis plays the English one on DALLAS, referring to her bonsai trees as “little buggers” and inviting Clayton to join her in “a cup of tea”. FALCON CREST newcomer Shannon shares Laurel’s plummy Sloane Ranger accent as well as her English Rose looks. (One can easily imagine either of them having a spell as Princess Di’s lady-in-waiting on her résumé.) By way of contrast, Dan Fixx’s long lost sister Carly, aka “Tuscany’s newest rebel without a cause”, also arrives in FALCON CREST this week. She dresses like early Madonna and is prone to dancing in parking lots and taking tractors for joyrides. As is rapidly becoming the Soap Land custom, her rebellious exploits are soundtracked by sixties Motown: ‘Dancing in the Streets’ (the Martha Reeves and the Vandellas’ original as opposed to Cathy Geary’s cover from ’85) and Fontella Bass’s ‘Rescue Me’ (which, like last week’s ‘Twist & Shout’, supplies this week’s FC with its episode title). The only soap to remain immune to the ‘60s revivalism is DYNASTY. Instead, the recent scene in which Sammy Jo discovered Josh Harris following his fatal overdose was accompanied by an elevator muzak version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ — a bizarre, if at least contemporary, choice at the time, but one that feels more poignantly appropriate in retrospect.

    Following the departures of Dominique Devereaux, Nick Kimble and Emma Channing’s adopted son Wendell at the end of last season, Soap Land has become a whites-only enclave once again (servants and bit players notwithstanding) — or at least until Pat and Julie Williams move into the cul-de-sac on this week’s KNOTS. Their arrival mirrors Gary and Val’s eight years earlier, i.e., they immediately find themselves in the middle of a crisis involving Karen’s surrogate daughter (in ’79, that was Sid’s daughter Annie getting arrested; in '88, it’s Greg’s daughter Meg momentarily disappearing before Julie spots her behind the sofa). Two scenes in, it’s evident that the new neighbours have Something to Hide. Johnny Rourke’s under-the-counter acquisition of a gun upon arriving in LA suggests he does too. So does FC’s Shannon. “You’re very unhappy and you’re hiding something and you need to talk about it!” Lance tells her while standing in front of Soap Land’s fakest looking backdrop since the cardboard patio at Southfork circa ’78. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Dana finally confesses her big secret to Adam, which bears an eerie resemblance to Channing’s fake big secret on last season’s COLBYS: a high school pregnancy leading to a botched abortion resulting in infertility. Dana does at least give the scenario one original twist: the father of the baby she got rid of was Adam himself!

    Elsewhere on this week’s DYNASTY, Fallon goes blonde. This could read either as a post-separation symbol of female emancipation, like Val’s femullet on KNOTS (“I feel like someone who has been released from a cage. I’m finally myself … my own person,” she announces solemnly), or as the latest whim of a directionless heiress with too much time on her hands, like pretty much everything Melissa has done thus far on this season’s FALCON CREST. (“It may be gone by tomorrow,” Fallon admits.)

    Soap Land’s childhood sweethearts aren’t fairing too well this week: Fallon starts divorce proceedings against Jeff on DYNASTY, Val ends her fling with Gary on KNOTS (“For the first time in our lives, let’s just be to each other what we really are — ex-husband and wife,” she suggests) and after Jenna admits to Bobby that she’s still in love with him on DALLAS, he throws it back in her face: “If you’re still in love, it’s with the Bobby that you grew up with. He just doesn’t exist anymore so you can forget him.”

    This week’s ‘Did he really just say that?’ award goes to Jeff Colby as he explains to Fallon why he’s moving out of the Carrington mansion: “You can’t expect me to live under the same roof after you’ve served me divorce papers, can you?” Can’t she? Wow. I guess we really aren’t on THE COLBYS anymore.

    On last week’s DALLAS, Bobby flashed back to a Season 4 scene involving Jeff Farraday. On this week’s DYNASTY, Sean Rowan flashes back to a Season 4 scene involving his sister Kirby. Much like DALLAS, DYNASTY has leant heavily on its past this season. We’ve already had the returns of Matthew Blaisdel and Chris Deegan, a clip of Alexis testifying at Blake’s trial and Sean recalling his father’s suicide and sister’s rape. This week, Dana’s confession prompts Adam to remember the baby he and Kirby lost, and the episode ends with Krystle flashing back to both her own miscarriage and a five-year-old conversation between her and Alexis regarding the suspicious circumstances of Cecil Colby’s death. Meanwhile at Southfork, Sue Ellen looks daggers at JR when Kristin’s name is mentioned during a family discussion about the custody battle Bobby is facing over Christopher. “I hope he handles it better than you did when I took John Ross away from you,” she adds for good measure.

    FALCON CREST celebrates the New Year with a white slavery storyline (well, ninjas are just so 1987) as Theodore Bickel whisks Vicky off to the Adriatic Sea to sell her into the sex trade. Once again, it is Maggie’s reaction to the craziness going on around her that proves most compelling. On this occasion, she pulls a gun on a man she believes might know something about her daughter’s abduction. ”What’s happening to me?” she asks later. “I don’t like what I’m turning into … I put a gun in a man’s ribs … I saw my dark side, Richard. It scared me.” In a way, her behaviour mirrors Jill Bennett’s upon finding her brother’s ashes on Greg Sumner’s coffee table — sometimes, the only sane response to the madness of living in a soap opera is to go a little nuts. Meanwhile, the revelation that Richard is culpable in Vicky’s abduction (thanks to an unholy alliance he’s made with a shadowy syndicate known as the Thirteen) is as juicy a twist as JR turning out to be behind Lisa Alden’s custody suit on DALLAS.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (-) DYNASTY
    3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (3) FALCON CREST
     
    • Winner Winner x 1
  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    13 Jan 88: DYNASTY: Images v. 14 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Ties That Bind v. 15 Jan 88: DALLAS: Marriage on the Rocks v. 15 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: Hornet's Nest

    This week’s DYNASTY includes a graveyard scene that relies solely on a series of soap tropes to advance the plot without any concession to external logic. The result is absurd, surreal and dreamlike. First, we observe Sean Rowan speaking aloud at his father’s graveside — a familiar Soap Land device — reiterating his vow of revenge against the Carringtons: “I won’t stop. I’ll never stop until they have destroyed each other. I promise you, Dad, I’ll make them pay.” No sooner does he exit the scene than Leslie Carrington appears from behind a tree and it’s clear she’s heard every word of his soliloquy. (Where would Soap Land be without such moments of opportune eavesdropping?) Then comes a convention that seems to belong to DYNASTY alone — the exposition-spouting gravedigger. He materialises out of nowhere and proceeds to fill Leslie in on Joseph Anders’ backstory: “He was butler for those rich Carringtons … The man shot himself in the head, clear to oblivion. Mr Carrington must have said to himself, ‘Why? Why did he do it?’ … Well, nice talking to you.” This perfect storm of contrivances provides Leslie with the ammunition she needs to blackmail Sean into giving her a promotion at Colby Co: “And I want it real soon or else!”

    Whilst being threatened by Leslie, Sean finds he has lost his own leverage over Dana now that Adam knows about her secret abortion. There’s further redundant blackmail on KNOTS LANDING where Johnny Rourke offers to keep silent about Paige faking her own death in return for $20,000. Only trouble is, everyone already knows about it. When Adam accuses Sean of blackmailing his wife, Sean distracts him by dangling a bright future at Colby Co in front of his eyes: “I want you to think about new horizons, new opportunities.” (Sean may be a cardboard villain, but he’s a really good one.) Johnny Rourke likewise takes his failure to extort money from Paige in his stride and instead charms her father into offering him a place to stay.

    The theme of blackmail continues on FALCON CREST with the arrival of the show’s latest guest character, Madame Malec. She’s played by Honey Ryder, the original Bond girl from Dr No — and FC can’t resist an in-joke on the subject. “You keep acting like James Bond, you’re gonna wind up going home in a body bag,” Richard warns Eric as they argue over the best way to free Vicky from her luxury prison in Dubrovnik. (In fairness, both DALLAS and EMERALD POINT NAS made similar references when they had Bond girls on the payroll. “You had to play James Bond,” Holly Goodhead (Moonraker) chided Bobby Ewing in 1983. “This is real life, not some James Bond movie,” Tiffany Case (Diamonds are Forever) reminded Harlan Adams in 1984.) “You’re such an easy woman to blackmail,” Richard informs Madame Malec just before threatening to expose her lavish lifestyle to her fellow communist party members unless she aids him in rescuing Vicky. Evidently, Mme Malec doesn’t have the same reservations about being addressed by the M word that Alexis expressed on last week’s DYNASTY: “I resent the appellation ‘madam’,” she informed her opponent during their televised political debate. “My home is not a house, as it were, and I consider that to be a sexist remark.”

    To further her election campaign this week, Alexis consults public relations expert Russ Kelton who proceeds to critique her dress sense. “I’ve seen photos of you in Vogue and Harpers Bazaar,” he tells her. “You’re going to have to change your style somewhat … You’ve got to start to underplay. Go for pastels.” “Pastels?” she repeats, her look of utter dismay an episode highlight. “Stay away from blacks and reds and yellows, and too much white,” he continues. (Inevitably, black, red and white are the very colours Alexis is wearing at this moment.) “Don’t forget, most of the voters out there can’t afford your cleaning bills.” The merest suggestion that a soap diva’s wardrobe might not meet with universal approval feels positively transgressive. There’s an equivalent moment on this week’s KNOTS when Charles Scott’s wife Judith (a less neurotic version of Cash Cassidy’s wife Adrienne on THE COLBYS) shows up, interrupting her husband’s cosy little dinner with Abby to remind him of an imminent dinner party with an ambassador. She and Abby are all smiles until the obligatory powder room showdown. “Charles didn’t forget about the ambassador’s dinner,” Judith explains. “He just couldn’t show up with someone like you.” There’s something about those three words — or more specifically, Abby’s wounded reaction to them — that makes us suddenly see Abby as Judith sees her -- not a glamorous soap villainess, but a garishly made-up middle-aged woman wearing a short dress with a puffball skirt that's about ten years too young for her. (In the same way that Alexis “just happens” to be dressed in the precise colours her publicist is critical of, Abby’s choice of outfit for her unplanned meeting with Judith doesn’t seem to be a coincidence on the part of KNOTS' wardrobe department.) Sure, Abby later gets one over on Judith by showing up at the ambassador’s dinner on Greg’s arm, but it’s the “someone like you” moment that lingers in the memory. It suggests that Abby’s real Achilles heel isn’t so much the guy who dumped her when she was nineteen as the fact that he did so for someone of a higher social standing.

    The deconstruction on DYNASTY continues as Alexis’s publicist runs an equally critical eye over a campaign video she’s had assembled that shows her striking various opening titles-style poses: answering the phone in a variety of outfits, studying papers at her desk and generally looking important. Again, it does not pass muster. “You’re coming on too strong, like a Mack truck,” he insists. “Well, I think that strength is an attribute in a leader,” she argues. “Look at Mrs Thatcher.” In spite of having been Britain’s prime minister since just after John Ross Ewing was born, this is the first mention of Thatcher in Soap Land. (With Abby reading Jeffrey Archer books on KNOTS, there’s clearly something Tory in the air.) “There are strengths and there are strengths,” Kelton replies ambivalently. It would be nice to imagine this line as a dig aimed just as much at Thatcher as at Alexis, but alas, the former was riding high at this point having just become the century’s longest-serving British PM (a position she would retain until the day of April Ewing’s death in Paris in 1990), so it seems unlikely.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Fallon ditches the blonde wig and puts on her business hat, flying off to Natumbe with Dex to find out more about the Vitron oil deal. Like Dubrovnik on this week’s FALCON CREST, Natumbe is depicted as an unstable, murky place full of bribery, corruption and intrigue. There’s talk of the government being “pretty shaky” and a threat of revolution is in the air. This evokes exciting memories not of DYNASTY’s last fictional land, Moldavia, but of the unnamed country in South East Asia that caused the Ewings so much drama when their oil wells were nationalised on DALLAS eight years ago. Business concluded, Fallon gets drunk in a bar and over-excites the locals when she tries her hand at belly-dancing. Dex intervenes, punches are exchanged and he ends up throwing a protesting Fallon over his shoulder before making a hasty exit. Fallon remains cute and funny and sexy throughout the scene — one can only imagine how excruciatingly loud and shrill it would have been with FALCON CREST’s Melissa in the same scenario.

    The mysteries surrounding Soap Land’s newcomers deepen. When Meg is taken ill on KNOTS, Pat Williams displays a surprising amount of medical expertise for a banking clerk (“Mom, you’re not supposed to be doing this,” whispers Julie as she assists Mack). Over on DALLAS, Sue Ellen’s curiosity is piqued by Nicholas. “His home is beautifully decorated,” she tells April, “but the strange thing is except for one photograph of him with his brothers, there’s no sense of family, no feeling of where he came from.” Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, we discover what Shannon has been hiding. She has a secret baby! And Lance’s father is the daddy! Which means that, by sheer coincidence, she is now sleeping with her baby’s brother — which, I think it’s safe to say, must be a Soap Land first.

    Trend of the week: characters acting as parents to children who aren’t theirs. Karen is out of town for most of this week’s KNOTS, leaving Mack to cope with Meg’s medical crisis. By the time she returns, he is well and truly smitten. “I was afraid you’d get too attached to her,” she tells him. “I knew it would happen.” While Richard is in Dubrovnik on FALCON CREST, Maggie defies his instructions and allows Angela access to her grandson Michael. “Your son … is soon to be my stepson,” Maggie argues upon Richard's return. Having caught Charlie in the barn with Brad Pitt on DALLAS, Ray asks Jenna if he can be the one to give her The Talk. “She’s my stepdaughter,” he reasons. “If I’m gonna be a father to her, I better start acting like one.”

    Whereas Soap Land’s references to AIDS originally focused on high-risk groups like gay men, prostitutes and Marilee Stone, they’ve gradually shifted towards young people in general. When forced into an awkward conversation about pre-marital sex with Michael’s girlfriend Jodie a couple of months ago, KNOTS LANDING’s Karen vaguely alluded to the dangers facing the younger generation. “You have to be very careful. It’s not a question of morals today, it’s a question of … health.” During his scene with Charlie this week, Ray makes the same point more explicitly. “Are you telling me that you never went to bed with a woman you didn’t care about?” Charlie asks him. “Yeah, OK, I did, but that was a long time before I heard about AIDS,” he replies. FALCON CREST made its own contribution to the discussion a couple of weeks ago when Richard made a throwaway comment about the New Globe running a series of articles about safe sex.

    Judith Scott and Abby’s faux friendly behaviour during their initial meeting on KNOTS mirrors Kimberly Cryder and Sue Ellen’s over the past few weeks on DALLAS. Eventually, the veneer cracks for both sets of women. Under the guise of “girl talk”, Kimberly informs Sue Ellen during a DOA meeting that she has filed for divorce. “I keep marrying these powerful men — I probably will again,” she smiles. This is her disingenuous way of letting Sue Ellen know she has JR in her sights. “Well, Kimberly,” Sue Ellen replies, smiling back, “I’m sure you’ll be able to muddle through for the next couple of months until you find the man of your dreams. You know, you’re not unattractive in an obvious sort of way.” (Interestingly, “obvious” is what Fallon called her husband’s mistress, Leslie, a few weeks ago.) For all her cool, Sue Ellen is clearly rattled and walks out of the meeting, ignoring Miss Ellie as she does so. During their powder room tête-à-tête, Judith casually asks Abby if she and Charles are sleeping together. Abby is blindsided by the question just as Nicholas Pearce is when JR invites him to lunch and cordially informs him that “your acquisition of my wife is my top priority.” While Abby plays dumb (“What?” she asks), Nicholas plays innocent (“I’m not in the habit of acquiring other men’s wives”). Between them, however, Kimberly and JR have succeeded in more or less driving Sue Ellen and Nick into bed. There’s a sitcom variation on this scenario on FALCON CREST, where a Mrs Haberman asks Emma — in her new capacity as agony aunt of the New Globe — to “cure” her husband’s sexual problems by going to bed with him. (This later turns out to be a scam cooked up by the couple in order to blackmail Emma.)

    This week’s Soap Land marriage proposal is deemed significant enough to warrant an end of episode cliffhanger. “Marry me,” Charles urges Abby just before the closing credits of KNOTS. DALLAS, meanwhile, ends with a remarkably sexy scene where Sue Ellen comes to Nicholas’s apartment and immediately starts peeling off his clothes while he’s on the phone, causing him to respond in kind. (So sexy is it that someone I know watched the scene as a child while receiving a haircut from his babysitter and was left with a lifelong haircutting fetish as a result.) As with Jenna’s similarly steamy seduction of Ray earlier in the season, it’s notable that the woman is the initiator.

    Back on FALCON CREST, in an effort to save wife Vicky from being auctioned off to the richest sex monster in the Balkans, Eric Stavros becomes the latest Soap Land character to transform himself into a wall-scaling, explosive-detonating action hero, and a reasonably credible job he makes of it. The whole rescue sequence is like a less boring reenactment of Lance’s attempt to rescue Peter Stavros from his evil son-in-law back in Season 5. I couldn’t swear to it, but I think Vicky is even being held in the same villa Peter was.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    20 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Rifle v. 21 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: Another Modest Proposal v. 22 Jan 88: DALLAS: Anniversary Waltz v. 22 Jan 88: FALCON CREST: The Uncertainty Principle

    There are two fraternal punch-ups in Soap Land this week — one between Steven and Adam on DYNASTY, the other between Bobby and JR on DALLAS. The first takes place in the Carrington gym, a familiar setting for a DYNASTY fight, and arises from familiar buttons being pushed. “How much do you wanna to prove yourself to Dad?” sneers Steven as he and Adam argue over the Vitron oil deal. “How much do you need to use this company to assert your manhood?” counters Adam, prompting Steven to land the first punch. Even though we’ve been here before, some handheld camera work gives the brawl a fresh sense of urgency and the brothers even manage to shatter some windows before Blake arrives to break them up. This is a pretty evenly matched fight whereas Bobby is clearly the aggressor during the Ewing brawl. He snaps after realising that JR has masterminded Lisa Alden’s custody suit for Christopher and ends up trying to drown him in the Southfork swimming pool — just as he did three seasons earlier upon learning that JR had sent Pam to the Caribbean to search for Mark Graison. As with the DYNASTY scene, the show tries to ring the changes with shaky camera work and then raises the stakes by using the fight for its end of episode cliffhanger. “Son of a bitch! You don’t deserve to live!” Bobby yells, holding his brother’s head under the water in time for the freeze frame. There’s more pool-related violence on FALCON CREST when Dan Fixx interrupts Melissa and Carly’s catfight, which is taking place in the middle of Maggie and Richard’s wedding, to push them both in a pool as well.

    A week after Alexis’s mention of Margaret Thatcher on DYNASTY, Dave Culver shows up on DALLAS with some even more topical political references: “What with all the headlines the last couple of months — this Iran business, the Contras, the mess in the Gulf — it started me thinking about that dumb thing JR pulled in Saudi Arabia last year … That was really kind of minor compared to what’s being going on lately.” In other words, truth is even stranger than soap, which is a clever way of downplaying JR’s terrorist activities (“I don’t know if anyone really cares about that anymore,” shrugs Dave) and raising the possibility that the Ewings might be able to trade under the name of Ewing Oil once again. Such are the demands of Soap Land storylines that while some old plots can be conveniently dismissed, others resurface when you least expect, such as the dubious circumstances surrounding the adoption of Christopher Ewing and the death of Cecil Colby.

    As well as Bobby drowning his brother on DALLAS and Maggie shoving a gun in someone’s ribs in a recent episode of FALCON CREST, DYNASTY’s Krystle has also exhibited a darker side of late, interviewing minor cast members who were around for Cecil’s deathbed scenes back in Season 3 in the hopes of uncovering a scandal that will discredit Alexis’s political campaign. Blake objects, insisting that he can win the election without resorting to such dirty tricks, and for about half a scene, things are distinctly frosty between husband and wife.

    Alexis is considering pulling out of the election anyway, not least because of her enforced change of wardrobe. “I’m going have to wear those awful pastels that I hate!” she complains. Abby is likewise dressed more conservatively at the start of this week’s KNOTS than she was when Judith Scott looked down her nose at her in last week’s ep, although she later changes into a bright pink frock — just in time for a scene where Judith tries to embarrass her in front of Charles’ social circle.

    The recent loss of some of the Ewing-verse’s major players, Pam and Donna on DALLAS and Laura and Lilimae on KNOTS, means that less significant characters have ended up with more screen time — sometimes in scenes and situations entirely separate from those involving the main cast. April Stevens’ investigation into Nicholas Pearce’s past is ongoing on DALLAS and in this week’s episode, we’re privy to a scene between David Shulton and Laurel Ellis, the respective artist and subject of the portrait recently purchased by Clayton. Over on KNOTS, there’s a lengthy sequence in which enigmatic newcomer Johnny Rourke (“You still can’t keep your accent straight,” notes Paige this week) observes from his cabin at Lotus Point the furtive comings and goings of an even more mysterious newcomer, who doesn’t even have a name. (He’s played by Ray Wise, midway through his soap evolution from enthusiastic modelling agent Blair Sullivan on DALLAS to the tormented and terrifying Leland Palmer on TWIN PEAKS.) In order to denote the passing of time and to keep the sequence — which essentially consists of Johnny watching the stranger opening his cabin door to various “customers” — visually interesting, KNOTS employs a succession of transition wipes. According to Wikipedia, “a wipe is a type of film transition where one shot replaces another by travelling from one side of the frame to another.” The STAR WARS movies are full of them.

    There are no less than five surprise parties in this week’s Soap Land — two for Gary’s birthday on KNOTS, one to celebrate Miss Ellie and Clayton’s anniversary on DALLAS and a stag do and wedding shower ahead of Richard and Maggie’s nuptials on FALCON CREST. Gary’s first party, at Lotus Point, is a low-key affair. The only people in attendance are Jill, Michael Fairgate, Marsha the recurring dogsbody (i.e., the KNOTS’ equivalent of Sherilyn Katzman), a passing Johnny Rourke and an assortment of extras. The drama comes later when Gary ends up arriving too late for his second surprise party at Val’s house, by which time the disappointed twins have gone to bed. This leads to a fierce argument between him and Val.

    The anniversary bash on DALLAS, meanwhile, is a family affair. (Jenna arrives at Southfork with Ray, leading to some uncomfortable glances between her and Bobby.) The party is a surprise for Clayton in more ways than one — he has been too preoccupied with Laurel Ellis to even realise it’s his wedding anniversary. Then comes the small matter of Bobby trying to kill JR.

    The gatherings on FALCON CREST are both of Emma’s devising. The shower at Angela’s house is gushy and girly and not terribly eventful. The stag at The Max is odder and more interesting. The guest list is a curious mix of Richard’s past enemies and people with whom he has no real association: Lance, Eric, Dan Fixx, Tony Cumson and — because no stag party would be complete without the groom-to-be’s estranged mother’s manservant — Chao Li. It feels terribly awkward, but some of that awkwardness arises naturally out of the situation — it appears that the guests are only there out of obligation to Emma — but then, somewhat uncharacteristically, Richard decides he’s in the mood to party. “I think we should have some fun!” he declares. There’s a loose, kind of improvisatory feel to what follows, almost as if this were a guys-only version of “Noises Everywhere” (even if the bonhomie between the actors doesn’t necessarily jibe with their ongoing screen relationships). However, FC’s weakness for lame sitcom humour is never far from the surface — for example, Chao Li’s confession during a truth game that he once served cat food at a party of Angela’s. On the plus side, Eric Stavros emerges as the Jill Bennett-style loose cannon of the group, sending Dan into a rage when he drunkenly observes that, “we all have something that we share … all of us have slept with Melissa!”

    The most painful part of the party is Lance’s hip-thrusting version of Eddie Floyd’s ‘Knock on Wood’ (yet more ’60s soul in Soap Land). Factor in Richard’s dad dancing and you have possibly the most excruciating musical performance in Soap Land history. By comparison, Johnny Rourke’s singing debut on last week’s KNOTS was quite a tranquil experience.

    The post-party fight between Gary and Val on KNOTS is really juicy — and they have a lot to fight about. “You lied to me for years about the kids,” Gary reminds her. (It’s kind of cool that their onscreen history is now as rich as their original backstory.) “You’re lucky that I let you see them at all,” Val snaps. “Lucky? I don’t feel lucky. I feel like some jerk who’s been run over by a truck with you as the driver,” he replies. It’s strangely satisfying to see Gary standing up to Val for once: “I never know what you’re gonna say or do. I don’t think you know what you’re gonna say from one minute to the next … There are other divorced couples who manage to work it out with their kids,” he continues. “Why the hell can’t we? … This is the uncleanest break in the history of marriage!”

    Tell that to Jeff and Fallon on DYNASTY. This week, their son LB overhears them arguing over the best way to tell him about their impending divorce. “I just don’t know how to tell him his world’s coming apart and everything he thought would last forever is over,” says Jeff. “I did something bad,” LB later concludes. “Now my mom and dad don’t wanna be my mom and dad anymore.” Back on DALLAS, Christopher eavesdropping on his father and Ray has a more positive effect. “He’s my boy ... I have to try and protect him any way I can,” says Bobby and Christopher is finally convinced that his daddy loves him after all. The boot is on the other foot elsewhere on DALLAS as Jenna overhears Charlie scheming to spend the night with Brad Pitt. Charlie and Olivia on KNOTS are very much the yin to each other’s yang — whenever one is well-behaved (as Olivia has been of late, dreamily mooning over her mom’s romance with Michael York), the other becomes a teenage nightmare. “I hate you, I hate both of you and I’m not gonna take any more lectures from you!” Charlie yells, prompting Jenna to air slap her as hard as Krystle did Alexis during their big showdown two weeks ago.

    There are several adulterous liaisons presently underway in Soap Land. In each case, the other woman, or man, is proving somewhat demanding. DYNASTY’s Leslie is the epitome of the clingy mistress, inviting herself along on Sean’s business trip to Natumbe and then whining because he has no time to spend with her there. DALLAS’s Nicholas pouts when Sue Ellen refuses to stay the night and accuses her of sleeping with him to make JR jealous: “Some people enjoy being used like a tool. I’m not one of them.” DALLAS’s Kimberly and KNOTS LANDING’s Abby both make it clear that they’re not prepared to play “the other woman” for long. While Abby is angry that Charles has asked her to marry him without bothering to end things with Judith first, Kimberly offers JR an ultimatum: “If you want to get your hands on West Star, listen well. Without my daddy, you don’t have a prayer. Without me, you don’t get Daddy. And without leaving your wife, you don’t get me. So if you care about West Star, I suggest you give Sue Ellen a quick kiss goodbye.” Whereas Charles meekly complies with Abby’s wishes, finally standing up to Judith just because she’s told him to, JR’s reaction to Kimberly is less predictable. He grabs her by her hair and tells her she can’t twist him around her finger the way she does her father and husband. “You’ll never touch me again until you leave Sue Ellen!” she insists. He calls her bluff by kissing her roughly. Despite her protests, she clearly likes it (don’t they all?), but as soon as she responds, he pushes her away, leaving her high and dry. There’s a similarly visceral quality to the row between Val and Gary, especially when she tries to puts her hand over his mouth to physically prevent him from saying he’s the twins’ father.

    DYNASTY ends with a thrillingly twisted variation on the end of KNOTS’ fifth season. Instead of taking a bullet intended for her estranged husband in the lobby of the Belmar Hotel as Karen Mackenzie did, Alexis takes one meant for her ex-husband Blake on live TV during a political debate. Not only that, but the shooter is her new husband Sean! Husband shoots wife (albeit by mistake) — it’s a Soap Land first!

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DYNASTY
    2 (3) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) DALLAS
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    27 Jan 88: DYNASTY: The Bracelet v. 28 Jan 88: KNOTS LANDING: If Not Now, When?

    As Soap Land shootings go, Alexis’s is a pretty casual affair. (“The bullet only grazed her skull,” reports her doctor — the same doctor Pam Ewing met in Jamaica when she was looking for Mark Graison, only without the cool Caribbean accent.) She’s out of the hospital by episode's end and doesn’t even require a Sable-style turban to hide her tiny bandage. However, she’s still determined to pull out of the election (“This campaign’s almost cost me my life!”) — until she realises that the shooting has dramatically increased her chances of winning. “You’re a heroine,” Gordon Wales, ace reporter and a recurring thorn in both Alexis’ and Blake’s sides, informs her during his final DYNASTY scene. “The sympathy and concern is pouring in … If you ran for the presidency tonight, you’d give the front runners a run for their money.” This is presumably a reference to the real-life US presidential elections of 1988, which means that Wales’s remark that “digging up dirt on candidates may be hot right now” most likely alludes to the scandal surrounding Gary Hart, the Democratic nominee who had recently dropped out of said election due to allegations of an extramarital affair. These references follow on from Dave Culver’s mention of Iran and the Contras during last week’s DALLAS, and Alexis’ and Abby’s recent shout-outs to Margaret Thatcher and Ayatollah Khomeini. Now that the primetime soap is no longer the hot cultural item it once was, placing the shows’ fictional events in a present real-world context might be an attempt to keep them seeming relevant and contemporary. There’s further blurring between truth and fiction when Alexis receives a get-well message “from The White House”. The last time Reagan impacted Soap Land so directly was when he called Senator Dowling during last season’s DALLAS.

    Elsewhere on DYNASTY, Jeff and Sammy Jo draw closer together. First, he offers to help her out of a financial hole by investing in Delta Rho and then he saves her from an attack by a downtown rapey guy who gets the wrong idea when she offers him a campaign button on Blake’s behalf (“In this neighbourhood, what you show you owe!” he snarls). To the seasoned soap viewer, it looks as if Jeff and Sammy Jo might be the next Ray and Jenna or Richard and Maggie, i.e., two long-running but hitherto separate characters gradually forming a bond that leads to romance. That’s certainly the conclusion Steven jumps to and he’s not happy about it. “You’ve messed up my sister’s life. I am not gonna let you do that to Sammy Jo!” he tells Jeff before offering him a deal: he’ll capitulate on a decision involving the Colby pipeline (which is still proving a useful Macguffin even after THE COLBYS itself has ceased to exist) if Jeff severs his ties with Sammy Jo. I must admit I’m very much liking this leaner, meaner, slightly power-mad Steven who has taken over his father’s company. Jeff, on the other hand, responds by instructing a nameless someone “to buy as much available stock in Denver Carrington as you can get your hands on … It’s for me, but keep my name out of it. Grab all you can get.” There’s a lot of that sort of thing going on in Soap Land lately: for the past few episodes of DALLAS, JR has had April, Sly, Casey Denault and even Cliff acquiring stock, just as anonymously, in West Star. Meanwhile on this week’s KNOTS, when Charles breaks the news to Abby that he and Judith will have to delay their divorce until their company’s acquisition of Eastern Mining Group is complete, she retaliates by teaming up with Greg to secretly purchase shares in EMG, thereby sabotaging the deal.

    Given that KNOTS’ original focus was the relationships of four married couples living in a cul-de-sac, it’s always interesting to observe scenes from other marriages on the show. So far, we’ve seen Earl and Judy Trent’s (brittle), Greg and Jane Sumner’s (estranged), Cathy and Ray Geary’s (abusive) and Harry and Sheila Fisher’s (unstable). This week, we’re shown several scenes from Charles and Judith Scott’s marriage, which might best be described as businesslike (save for the scene where Judith humiliates herself, Adrienne Cassidy-style, by lying in wait for Charles in his bed). As with Charles and Abby’s grand romance, there’s something oddly self-conscious about Charles and Judith’s scenes together, as if there were "inverted commas" surrounding their relationship. By comparison, an equivalent scene from an extraneous marriage on DYNASTY — between Karen Atkinson, the surrogate carrying Adam and Dana’s baby, and her husband Jessie — feels refreshingly earnest.

    Up until now, DYNASTY has presented Karen a single mother. “That’s the thing,” Jessie explains to her. “We’re not divorced. I couldn’t bring myself to sign the final papers.” Likewise on KNOTS, Karen Mackenzie assumes that new neighbour Pat is raising her daughter Julie alone — until she pops over to invite them round for dinner and Pat’s jumpy husband Frank puts his head around the door. “I have never met two more secretive people,” Karen tells Mack later. “It’s almost as if Pat and Frank have done something — robbed a bank, I don’t know, kidnapped their daughter.” Indeed, the Williamses give off a weirdly artificial vibe. Obviously, that’s part of their storyline — for whatever reason, they’re posing as a normal suburban family just as the last occupant of their house, Anne Matheson, played at being an everyday suburban neighbour. But it also ties in with the contradiction at the heart of KNOTS itself — a series that still purports to be about a regular folk like “us” when really it’s about “them”: incredibly rich and glamorous people, some of whom still live in a cul-de-sac because … well, for the same only-on-TV reason that the Ewings of DALLAS all live under the same roof even though they don’t have to. A third layer of artifice stems from the actors playing the Williamses, each of whom is very appealing, but who have yet to fully gel into a convincing family unit. Sweet little Julie, in particular, looks as nervous when saying goodnight to her father as she does when interacting with her strange new neighbours. As a result, it’s hard to see where one strand of artificiality ends and another begins.

    While DYNASTY concludes with Alexis making an unpleasant discovery about her new husband (“You bastard!” she says to Sean’s photo after finding Leslie Carrington’s bracelet on the floor of their bedroom), KNOTS ends with the audience making one about Abby’s new fiancee. “Is there anything to tell the investors?” a mystery man asks Charles over the phone. “Everything’s going according to plan … we’re right on schedule,” Charles assures him. “Congratulations, Charles. We all want you to have a long and happy marriage,” replies the caller. Like the phone conversation Sean Rowan had at the end of the ep in which he and Alexis were married (“It’s already done — I married the woman”), the suggestion is that Charles’s relationship with Abby is part of a larger, somewhat sinister, agenda. As vague as this suggestion is, it’s a relief to discover Charles isn’t quite what he appears to be — because what he’s appeared to be thus far isn’t all that interesting. The Charles we’ve been introduced to is a smarmy pushover who acquiesces to Abby’s every whim. It seems odd that someone like that should have gotten under her skin in the first place, much less continued to have the emotional hold over her that he does. Adding to this lopsidedness is the sense of importance KNOTS has placed on their relationship (it’s not every proposal of marriage in Soap Land that gets the end-of-episode cliffhanger treatment). We know that Charles is the love of Abby’s life because the characters say that he is and we know that their romance is A Big Deal because the show presents it as such, but we don’t necessarily feel these things ourselves. Therefore, anything that undermines the elevated nature of that relationship is welcome. DYNASTY, on the other hand, makes no such claims regarding Alexis and Sean’s relationship and so we’re free to just sit back and watch the whole tawdry affair unravel, as it inevitably will.

    KNOTS nevertheless boasts the best scenes of the week — those involving Gary and Val’s ongoing dispute over his access to Betsy and Bobby. At one point, their argument spills out into the cul-de-sac and Mack has to physically restrain Val from attacking Gary. Instead, she screams at him that he’s a son of a bitch — just one week after Bobby Ewing yelled the same insult at JR, while also physically attacking him. (Miss Ellie must be so proud.) Now that all the external obstacles to Gary and Val’s happiness (save Jill) have been removed — Ben, Abby, the secrecy surrounding the twins’ paternity — it’s fascinating that their relationship has never been more openly hostile. In a way, it’s not dissimilar to what happened to Jeff and Fallon following their return to Denver. Without the complications of living under the same roof as Miles and the rest of the Colbys to distract them from each other, their relationship lasted about five minutes. One wonders how well Bobby and Pam’s second marriage might have fared had they not had Jenna’s pregnancy to agonise over.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DYNASTY
     
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    The Scotts aren't very popular amongst Knots fans, personally I liked them and I also like to think of him as Sabella and Francesca's cousin.
    It's not easy to portray a soap romance in the span of a few flashback scenes, although it worked better for Mack and Anne, but hey, she looked like Nicolette Sheridan in and out of a bikini.
    Their relationship was also very unfinished, but continued to feel unfinished because of Michele Phillips' semi-dreamy and California Scheming portrayal of Anne Matheson.
    Still I don't find it so out-of-character of ambitious Abby - kinda wasting away in her brother's greasy garage - to be attracted to Charles' euro-posh.
    Now I don't remember if Charles actually was European, but since Michael York is, I think it makes sense to make this comparison.
    Either way, in his flashback days he looked like a Patrick Juvet/Jeff Colby mash-up, not exactly the "reptile" as some fans tend to describe Charles.
    upload_2018-5-6_17-27-25.png
    And he also reminds me of Greg's way-too-young professor from the Empire Valley season, but prettier, and in an expensive and very cool car.
    I agree that the whole courtship stuff was a bit meh, (to use a popular slang) but in retrospect it was a wicked and twist-y storyline. It's just that it looked like an extended stand-alone story from season 3. But I liked it better than, say, Paige's Mexican adventure.
    Oh, and he also had a fabulous introduction:
    upload_2018-5-6_17-37-10.png

    Yes, all the terrible things Jeff did to Fallon (cough-cough)
    And Sammy Jo would still be a happy, sexy roller-skater instead of sitting in that depressing Delta Rho living room if Steven hadn't messed up her life (it's the same far-fetched logic).

    But since Sammy Jo is no longer the ruthless vixen, and Jeff's had his fair share of soap shenanigans, I think they had the chance to become the most stable couple in the history of Dynasty.
    I could even see them as the new "Blake & Krystle" in a Dynasty sequel series.
    Incidentally, Sammy Jo, despite her provocative past as soft-core model, has never been the slutty adulterous type - something I can't say about Jeff and Fallon.

    Interesting. What's bonding the soap couples more: the good times or the bad times?
     
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  11. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Didn't she have an affair with a married man in Season 4, in order to gain a modeling contract? The guy was a big fat dude with glasses, and after he couldn't come through with the contract, she threatened to tell his wife about them - and he responded by beating her.
     
  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    There's a difference between sluts and whores (imo) - although some people are both.
     
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  13. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yes. Whores have to be paid, sluts give themselves away. And I can believe there are those who are both. ^^
     
  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Yeah, I found the flashback story quite plausible. It's the present day romance that's puzzling.

    He has an American accent, but he gives off the same aristocratic, quasi-English vibe that King Galen did.

    He did indeed. And the set up - having Abby refer to him at the end of the previous season - worked very well.

    Although Sammy Jo willingly went to bed with the kind of men Abby and Alexis wouldn't be seen dead with -- the portly adverting exec, Morgan Hess. I'd say that makes her practical.
     
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  15. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Yes, but I don't think it had anything to do with the way he looked. Maybe it was more like we (audience) were missing the "link".
    Maybe this time the writers failed to show the story from the character's point of view, and that what was explained felt a bit stuck on.
    Personally I would have put the emphasis on being in love with a memory, or the need to fix that shattered dream. But that would only be possible if Abby would come to realize that (point of view) and then she'd probably change her mind, scoffing at her own silliness, which would end the storyline right there and then - without the twist of Charles' real intentions.
    Not nearly as practical as Pilar Ortega, who banged some unsavoury type while she was very happily married to Lance.
    But what I really meant was that Sammy Jo didn't strike me as particularly self-indulgent when it came to sex & romance. Not that there's anything wrong with single people having non-committing sexual relationships.
     
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    03 Feb 88: DYNASTY: The Warning v. 04 Feb 88: KNOTS LANDING: In Too Deep v. 05 Feb 88: DALLAS: Brotherly Love v. 05 Feb 88: FALCON CREST: A Madness Most Discreet

    Instead of confronting JR when she found out about his affair with Kimberly Cryder earlier in this season’s DALLAS, Sue Ellen chose to keep quiet and bide her time. Having discovered Sean’s infidelity with Leslie Carrington at the end of last week’s DYNASTY, Alexis now does the same thing. Where Sue Ellen went out of her way to befriend her husband’s mistress, to the point where it made both JR and Kimberly uncomfortable, Alexis lavishes praise on Leslie, while still keeping her off-balance by indulging in some New DYNASTY-style double entendres: “Leslie darling, you must have been on the job morning, noon and night … It takes a tremendous amount of energy to do what you’re doing, Leslie. I hope Sean appreciates it … It’s so reassuring to know that I can leave everything in your capable hands, Leslie … etc.” And just as Sue Ellen set aside her hurt feelings to become the public face of Valentine Lingerie, Alexis also puts on a show, providing “the entire Colorado press corps” with some witty soundbites about the election. Back on DALLAS, Sue Ellen has now given up any pretence at playing the devoted wife. “You are dirt, JR!” she informs her husband upon learning at the start of this week’s episode that he is behind Lisa Alden’s custody suit.

    His plan to enlist Bobby in his fight against West Star having backfired, JR sends Lisa packing. “We’re not gonna take him to court. We never were,” he tells her, handing her “a one-way ticket out of town.” No sooner does one custody storyline draw to an apparent close than another springs up. “Do you know what this could mean? A custody battle,” predicts DYNASTY’s Adam after hearing that Karen Atkinson’s not so ex-husband Jessie has resurfaced. Like Lisa Alden, Jessie Atkinson is secretly in the pay of a villainous character with a season-long masterplan: Sean Rowan. “I want Adam Carrington to think he’s gonna lose his child,” Sean tells Jessie. Their methods may have been suspect, but Lisa and Jessie each insist their aim is true. “I just want enough money so Karen and me can make a fresh start,” Jessie explains to Sean. “I really care about Christopher now. He’s all I’ve got,” Lisa tells JR.

    “I am just protecting my children because they’re all I’ve got,” echoes Val on KNOTS LANDING. To that end, she refuses to legally acknowledge Gary as the twins’ father. He retaliates by slapping her with a lawsuit. Karen finds herself caught between them when Gary subpoenas her to answer under oath whether or not Val ever told her he was the daddy. (“You probably knew before I did,” he guesses correctly.) Val, meanwhile, begs her to lie. “You shouldn’t put me in the middle of this,” Karen protests, but neither of them is listening and so she delivers a touchingly effective soliloquy to Laura instead. (In lieu of a portrait or a headstone, she uses Laura’s daughter as a stand-in).

    The 1988 presidential election, the Iran–Contra affair and Margaret Thatcher have all been alluded to by various Soap Land characters in recent weeks. This week, it’s the turn of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. And who better to raise such a sensitive, complex issue than KNOTS LANDING’s teen airhead Olivia Cunningham during some lighthearted flirtation with phoney Irishman Johnny Rourke? “What about all the killing … weren’t you a part of —?” she asks him. “You mean was I IRA or UDF? That’s something you never ask an Irishman and if you do, he’ll never tell ya!” he replies teasingly. “This much I will say — everyday life there has a way of reminding you to be careful. You begin to develop a sixth sense. You start to see things that are there that shouldn’t be.” “Kind of like in the comics when they say, ‘What’s wrong with this picture?’” Michael’s now ex-girlfriend Jodie chips in brightly. “Exactly, lass!” Johnny laughs. “Wouldn’t you love to go out with him?” Olivia later asks Jodie dreamily. “I bet he was in the IRA or something.” While this all feels deeply ignorant on many levels, I guess it’s more indicative of America’s romanticised “one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” view of what was happening in Northern Ireland at the time than anything else — and character-wise, there’s no reason why either Olivia or Johnny should really know (much less care) what the hell they’re talking about. Still, it’s perhaps telling that in at least one syndicated version of this ep, all of this dialogue has been excised.

    Johnny appears to be enjoying an innocent day out at the seaside with Olivia and Jodie, but it’s a front. In reality, he is undertaking a shady transaction for his equally shady new boss (referred to in the end credits only as The Dealer) and gets beaten up by some extras in the process. It’s a well-staged brawl, but as Johnny’s the only character involved that we know, and we don’t even know him very well, it all feels somewhat anonymous. It certainly lacks the frisson and sense of danger that comes from two striking scenes involving Soap Land’s other untrustworthy Irishman, Sean Rowan. (“The Dublin police locked me up for a while,” is as much as we know about his disreputable past across the water.) In the first scene, he terrifies his mistress by holding an African mamba (“one of God’s deadliest creatures … they strike very quickly and it’s a slow agonising death”) inches away from her face. In the second, at the end of this week's ep, he stares at his sleeping wife while wrapping his tie around his fists until he has fashioned a makeshift garrotte. “No-one gets away, Alexis. No-one, not even you,” he murmurs. Such sadistic behaviour recalls that of FLAMINGO ROAD’s Michael Tyrone — another demonic character out to avenge his father’s death by pitting almost an entire cast of characters against each other.

    Speaking of Michael Tyrone, aka Richard Channing, FALCON CREST returns to its noirishly sinister glory days with a couple of scenes in which Richard is summoned to a darkened office and asked to make a pact with the devil, aka a mysterious organisation known as The Thirteen. “Join us,” a shadowy bald man asks him. “We can offer you wealth, influence, power … more than you ever dreamed of.” (Key to the appeal of such scene, I think, is the juxtaposition between the sparseness of the scene itself — which consists of little more than a desk and some dark shadows — and the intoxicatingly extravagant world Richard is being tempted with.) From the sublime to the pitiful: the same ep also includes a dumb sitcom subplot about a honey trap that requires Melissa to adopt a “hilarious” southern accent while sporting a Dolly Parton wig twice the size of the one Fallon wore during her recent foray into blondness on DYNASTY.

    More resonant is the dead body of a blonde girl washing up on the beach in KNOTS LANDING. The sight of Michael struggling through a crowd of extras to see who it belongs to (he fears it could be Jodie) not only echoes Gary Ewing stumbling upon Ciji’s body five seasons earlier, but eerily foreshadows the discovery of Laura Palmer’s corpse on the shoreline of TWIN PEAKS in two years’ time — a connection compounded by the fact that Laura and the unnamed KNOTS girl have the same killer: Ray Wise, aka The Dealer.

    For once, the Ewing-verse’s teenage girls are in sync. On KNOTS, Olivia is beyond thrilled by Abby’s engagement until she overhears her mother trading bitchy remarks with Judith and realises Charles is married, whereupon her romantic bubble promptly bursts. She then spends the rest of the episode moaning to gal pal Jodie (“Why do parents lie? Maybe they don’t feel their children are worth telling the truth to!”). On DALLAS, Charlie is busy moaning to her gal pal Marnie about her mom grounding her for two months: “Parents! I’m never gonna treat my kids like this!” In the battle of the truculent teens, Charlie gets my vote. She’s less self-righteously strident than Olivia and, more importantly, has a picture of Pee Wee Herman in her school locker.

    Two long-running female characters reach the end of their tethers this week. “I am so angry, I could scream!” exclaims Miss Ellie, fists clenched, after finding one of her sons trying to drown the other at the beginning of this week’s DALLAS. “Believe me, I want out,” Maggie tells Angela on FALCON CREST. “I’m sick to death of this endless feud between you and Richard. My God, the man is your son and you treat him like he has some kind of contagious disease!” Whereas Miss Ellie’s tantrum makes her seem weak and oddly babyish (Clayton tells her off for once again living through her sons and she meekly agrees), the ultimatum Maggie delivers to her brand new mother-in-law is full of righteous anger and makes her seem strong and compelling: “You wanna reunite your family? Then go to him and prove to him that you love him. You want my winery? Work for it!”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (-) FALCON CREST
    2 (1) DYNASTY
    3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (-) DALLAS

    "California Scheming" - ha! I wish I'd thought of that!
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2018
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  17. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Dream Maker

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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Well, I've been thinking it might be interesting to re-watch it alongside New DALLAS so maybe, yeah.
     
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  19. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Oh, my!
    That would be very, very interesting. Maybe you could add Empire to the mix (I've never seen it) and those obscure episodes of Don Johnson's Blood & Oil.
     
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  20. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Have you watched Twin Peaks, Willie?

    I was just thinking the same thing.

    I've seen the first season and it definitely has the feel of a 21st century '80s soap.

    I didn't even realise that got made! Just watched the trailer and now I'm properly intrigued -- and the whole thing's available (for a price) on YouTube!
     

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