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FALCON CREST versus DYNASTY versus DALLAS versus KNOTS LANDING versus the rest of them, week by week

Discussion in 'Falcon Crest' started by James from London, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    01 Feb 89: DYNASTY: Delta Woe v. 02 Feb 89: KNOTS LANDING: Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory with the Wrench v. 03 Feb 89: DALLAS: The Switch v. 03 Feb 89: FALCON CREST: True Confessions

    There are more echoes of DALLAS than usual in this week’s DYNASTY. For starters, the post-coital scene between Fallon and Zorelli at the start of the ep is almost identical to the equivalent scene between Sue Ellen and Nicholas Pearce last season (following the cliffhanger where they ripped each other’s clothes off). Back then, the hungry lovers feasted on spaghetti; here, they make do with pizza. Where Sue Ellen looked ravishingly ravished, her hair sexily tousled, while wearing Nick’s bathrobe, Fallon looks even better in just her red underwear. All is well until it becomes apparent that Fallon, like Sue Ellen before her, isn’t planning to stay the night. At this point, Zorelli, just as Nicholas did, cops an attitude and suggests that she had an ulterior motive for going to bed with him in the first place. Whereas Nick accused Sue Ellen of using him to make JR jealous, Zorelli reckons Fallon did the deed to get her father off the hook for murder: “You were hoping that if you and I got together, then I wouldn’t be so hard on your old man.” During a later phone conversation with Zorelli, Blake suggests that the shoe is on the other foot: “I will not tolerate you using my family!”

    There are similar accusations at the start of this week’s DALLAS. Arriving back at April’s condo after the Oil Barons Ball, JR makes it clear he expects to sleep with her, even though he is now married to Cally. April declines, offering him the couch instead. Then she realises: “She’s gonna think we spent the night together. Is that what this is all about?” “Don’t you think I wanna make love to you?” JR asks her. “Not really. I think you’re just using me to get rid of her,” she replies. Across town, Cliff suggests that Tammy Miller also has a hidden reason for inviting him to spend the night at her apartment (which, weirdly, has the same exterior as Jill Bennett’s place on KNOTS). “I think you were ready to prove to yourself that you didn’t care about Bobby anymore. What better way to do that than to go to bed with me?” he asks.

    Fallon makes it back to the Carrington mansion in the early hours of the morning to discover Adam lurking in the shadows — which is just where Sue Ellen used to find JR when she would return to Southfork after one of her trysts with Dusty or Clint in DALLAS’s early years. The exchange that follows sizzles with the same kind of venomous animosity the feuding Ewings shared. “Well, if it isn’t Cinderella … I guess you got your ticket to the Policeman’s Ball,” sneers Adam. “You really are an ass, aren’t you?” Fallon retorts. “And what are you, Fallon — what would you call the woman who’s sleeping with the cop who’s trying to put her own father in jail?” “A lesson in morals from a man who has none!” And on they go, the insults landing thick and fast. They talk over each other too, as people do all the time in real life but hardly ever in Soap Land (KNOTS being an occasional exception), not least because it makes editing a scene a major hassle. The overlapping dialogue works really well, adding both momentum and verisimilitude to their sparring.

    Fallon’s late night doesn’t go unnoticed by her father either. “I don’t know you anymore, Fallon. My own flesh and blood and I swear, I don’t know you,” he tells her coldly over breakfast the next morning. By the time JR gets home to Southfork (having slept on April’s sofa), breakfast is over. His plan to upset Cally by his absence has worked, but when she asks him directly, “Did you make love to her?”, he cannot bring himself to lie, which is the first indication that his attitude towards her might be softening.

    Back on DYNASTY, even the dead are giving Fallon a hard time for sleeping with Zorelli. The most blatant of the episode’s DALLAS references is the scene in which the three most memorable aspects of Bobby Ewing’s resurrection — a dream sequence, a dead man and a shower — are conflated into one: a dream sequence involving a dead man that takes place in a shower. Fallon is doing her ablutions when she is visited once more by Roger Grimes, his appearance distorted by the steamed-up glass of the shower door and his voice by an echoey vocoder-style effect. “If you really cared for me, you wouldn’t be fooling around with him!” he snarls at her. It’s as mental as it sounds, but also really good.

    Another DALLAS-style scene takes place as the extended Carrington family (which now includes Dex, Sable, Virginia, Jeff and Sammy Jo) gather in the library for pre-dinner cocktails. Adam and Fallon continue to bicker like a blood-related version of JR and Sue Ellen, Virginia throws her martini at Dex and storms off, Blake follows her, Jeff, Sable and Dex each make their excuses and leave, and Sammy Jo is left to referee Adam and Fallon over dinner.

    Sable’s discreet exit comes after she hears Sammy Jo describe the intruder who spooked her at Delta Rho in last week’s ep. She realises that it must be Gibson, the man she paid to dive to the bottom of the Carrington lake (for reasons we have yet to ascertain) at the start of the season. She tracks him down to a motel where she finds him in bed with an anonymous blonde and gives him his marching orders: “You were brought here to do a job. You were paid and very well … Time to go home, Mr Gibson.”

    Gibson, the diver, is to Sable on DYNASTY what Mrs Bailey, the forger, is to Jill Bennett on KNOTS — a loose end who needs to be silenced before they can incriminate her. While Sable rams her point home by threatening Gibson with his own knife, Jill does something far worse to Mrs Bailey — but we aren’t told precisely what. Just as DYNASTY ends with an exchange of gunfire between Gibson and Sammy Jo, each of them falling to the ground after being shot, KNOTS also concludes with a life hanging in the balance. Mack and co. discover Mrs Bailey lying in a hospital bed in some kind of catatonic state, unable to answer any of their questions about Jill. “She’s not going to recover,” says Frank. Cut to Jill eavesdropping in the hallway, smirking triumphantly.

    There are no exterior scenes in this week’s DYNASTY, presumably for budgetary reasons, but such limitations work to the show’s advantage. In the same way that Alexis’s continued absence adds to her stature, the resultant hemmed-in, claustrophobic atmosphere only increases the episode’s tension. Again, I’m reminded of early era DALLAS where, towards the end of a season, the show would become increasingly studio-bound just as the dramatic stakes were getting higher.

    While DYNASTY looks inward, the KNOTS and FALCON CREST universes expand. KNOTS does a nice line in one-scene characters as Mack and Frank, during their search for Mrs Bailey, encounter an assortment of her neighbours, past and present, each of whom manage to make an impression in the space of a few screen minutes. My favourite is an eccentrically cantankerous landlord who, upon seeing through Mack’s claims to be Mrs B’s nephew who ran away to sea, calls him a bird brain. FC, meanwhile, introduces some new tertiary characters, one of whom, Cookie Nash’s father Justin, is played by DYNASTY’s dead major-domo, Joseph. Whereas Joseph was vehemently against his daughter Kirby getting involved with a Colby or Carrington, Justin is as eager to marry Cookie off to Lance as Angela is. While Kirby first arrived on DYNASTY after breaking up with a man called Jean Pierre, Cookie hasn’t “slept with anyone since Jean Claude left me. That was six months ago.” Or so she tells Lance when he asks if he is really the father of the baby she is carrying.

    “Any woman who builds her life around her husband is headed for disaster,” declared Sue Ellen on DALLAS a couple of years ago. Exchange the word “husband” for “man” and there’s no shortage of Soap Land gals who have yet to heed her warning. Take Tommy Ortega’s girlfriend Kelly on FALCON CREST, for example. We met her briefly a few weeks ago, but this week’s ep is our first opportunity to see how desperately needy she is. She’s clearly threatened by Tommy’s newfound fulfilment in his work at the Tuscany Herald. “You’ve got a job that you love and that’s great,” she lies. “I have a man that I love and I wanna be with him … Work doesn’t have to be your whole life.” There’s something heartbreaking about the way she clings onto him even as she realises that in doing so, she’s actually driving him away. “Is there somebody else?” she asks. “No,” he replies — but it’s not true. In a gender reversal of the May/December romances between Cally and JR, and Paige and Greg, Tommy has quietly fallen for his boss, Maggie Channing. And as with Peter Richards’ infatuation for Sue Ellen, his feelings are writ large for everyone to see.

    Whereas FC’s Kelly is stuck in a small-town dead-end job, KNOTS LANDING’s Jill is a successful attorney — at least by day. By night, she’s even more unhealthily obsessed by a man than Kelly is. In fact, her behaviour more closely resembles Ray Krebbs’ spurned girlfriend-turned-stalker Connie from last season’s DALLAS. We see her spying on Gary through the window of his house then letting herself in when he’s not there. While Kelly brings up the subject of marriage to a reluctant Tommy, Jill goes so far as to buy and then wear a wedding dress in preparation for her and Gary’s nonexistent big day. (After her thrillingly original campaign against Val at the end of last season, such behaviour feels a tad psycho-for-beginners.)

    Unlike Kelly and Jill, DALLAS’s Cally has already married the object of her desire. She just needs him to acknowledge the fact. To that end, she turns to her predecessor for advice. “To JR, the chase is more important than anything,” Sue Ellen explains. “You have to tease him and tantalise him … The more he can’t have you, the more he’s gonna want you.” As Sue Ellen and Bobby have already stated, we know that Cally “would be better off just forgetting about the marriage and going on back home”, yet we’re still rooting for her to achieve her goal. To borrow Cally’s own phrase, “That’s kind of sick, ain’t it?”

    Jill and Cally each subsequently succeed in turning the tables on her respective Ewing man. When Gary, hoping to find “something that would prove … one way or the other” her involvement in Val’s overdose, is apprehended breaking into Jill’s apartment, she seizes the opportunity to accuse him of harassment: “Gary, can’t you see yourself? You’re acting crazy!” Meanwhile at Southfork, once Cally remembers to leaves her bedroom door open while she’s trying on a pair of silk stockings, JR quickly becomes the one who’s getting hot and bothered over her.

    Sable Colby and JR Ewing each conduct business in a den of vice this week. From behind a one-way mirror in a gambling club (“a temple for illegal pursuits”), Sable and Dex observe Fritz Heath, Colby Co’s controller, “happily racking up debt after debt with no idea that we both have him in our crosshairs … He’s like a science project. Let’s dissect him, shall we?” Meanwhile, JR meets Rattigan, his younger, more physically imposing Harry McSween replacement, in a daytime titty bar — a kind of televisual precursor to Tony Soprano’s Bada Bing, but without the casual nudity. At one point, however, a girl in an itty-bitty bikini dances in front of JR with her back to the camera. After he tucks a wad of notes into her briefs, she removes her top and throws it to him. As Soap Land depictions of the female form go, this is certainly more grubby than glam, but in a way that hearkens back to the DALLAS’s early years. The bar is populated by the same kind of middle-aged male clientele who used to ogle the big-breasted waitresses at the Cattleman’s Club, the show’s original hang out before Soap Land fell under DYNASTY’s designer spell.

    JR’s dancer at the titty bar and Gibson’s bed partner at his motel are both nameless blondes mostly shown naked from behind. We know nothing about them, but that doesn’t prevent characters from referring to them as if they were a lesser species. “Your wit is about on par with your women,” Sable tells Gibson after she has ordered the girl to leave them alone. “You don’t wanna go home with this, JR,” says Rattigan, handing the dancer back her bikini top.

    As the breakout star on THE COLBYS, the decision to bring Sable over to DYNASTY was in one sense a no-brainer. Looked at another way, however, she’s almost the least likely character to cross over. As the ultimate “woman who builds her life around her husband”, Sable’s entire existence focused on Jason and their children. Even after their divorce, she went to remarkable lengths to remain in the family home. How would she, of all people, fare as an outsider in another city in another show about another family? The answer is, of course, remarkably well. But whereas her motives on THE COLBYS were easy to read — everything she did was to protect her family and/or her place within it — here, they are shrouded in ambiguity. Aside from revenge on Alexis, what does she want? And why has she gone to such lengths to befriend the Carringtons — is she after a future with Blake or a tumble with Dex? Or both? And what reason could she have for sending a diver to the bottom of the Carrington lake? Sable’s newly mercurial nature is reflected in her vocal delivery which is both fascinating and ever-changing. In some scenes, her mood seems to shift from one line of dialogue to the next. One second, her voice will be dripping with honey and generosity, the next, it’s suddenly ice cold and full of malice.

    Speaking of unclear motives, I’m not at all sure why Richard Channing spends most of this week’s FALCON CREST in Chicago with Pilar Ortega and a man called Malcolm St Clair while pretending to Maggie that he’s in New York, except that it has to do with banks and consortiums and dummy corporations and takeovers. I’m intrigued, but also plain baffled. I don’t know if that reflects a fault in the storytelling or just my own limited grasp of such matters. Or perhaps we’re not yet meant to fully grasp whatever is going on. We do at least get some kind of explanation at the end of the ep: “We’re gonna have it all — the whole of the Tuscany Valley!” crows Richard to St Clair. The music swells, the frame freezes and it feels like a satisfyingly dramatic end to the episode — even if “the whole of the Tuscany Valley” seems like pretty small potatoes next to “the entire California wine industry”, which is what Richard was after when he first arrived in FC — but I guess times are tough.

    Minor trend of the week: Bosses rejecting their secretaries’ interior design ideas. On DALLAS, Cliff and Jackie bicker over a tastefully scenic painting she thinks “would have looked great hanging in your office.” “… I’m not paying $12,000 for that!” he argues. Throughout this week’s KNOTS, Peggy tries out various trees and plants as decor for Mack’s new office, all of which he rejects. What should be a running gag becomes instead a running irritant thanks to Peggy’s ham-fisted attempts at comedy.

    Krystle Carrington and Pam Ewing cast a shadow over their respective shows this week. “We’re all so fond of Mrs Carrington. It hasn’t been the same since she’s been gone,” laments a touchingly awkward Jeanette on DYNASTY. Meanwhile on DALLAS, Bobby talks to his son about his relationship with Tracey Lawton. “What if Mama came back and you were married?” Christopher asks. “Mama is never coming back,” insists Bobby firmly. Over on FALCON CREST, there’s a sweet little scene where Ben Agretti gets to say the kind of things to his long-lost mother that Christopher will never have the chance to say to Pam: “I always thought that I’d done something wrong and that’s why I didn’t have a mom … I wanted you so much, I didn’t know if I could ever forgive you for leaving me.”

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

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