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

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

  1. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I recall at the end of the episode, Mack and Karen are in bed, post-lovemaking.
    Karen: "Dear Ann Landers...if the sex was any better---"
    Mack (interrupting): "I'd be a dead man!"
    :clap::clap::clap:
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    29 Mar 89: DYNASTY: Sins of the Father v. 30 Mar 89: KNOTS LANDING: Giganticus II: The Revenge v. 31 Mar 89: DALLAS: April Showers v. 31 Mar 89: FALCON CREST: Resurrection

    One way or another, Roger Grimes aka Tommy McKay causes an awful lot of trouble this week. On DYNASTY, Fallon wakes up screaming from a dream about him. “Looked like you were going ten rounds with Sugar Ray,” observes her bedmate Zorelli. “It’s like he’s inside my head. I can’t get him out!” she replies. On DALLAS, April can’t get him out of her apartment and later wakes up in the hospital looking like she’s gone ten rounds with Sugar Ray too.

    Zorelli suggests Fallon is suppressing some childhood trauma: “Some things are so painful, the mind just blocks things out.” We’ve been here before, of course — Miss Ellie’s denial after Jock’s death, Val becoming Verna after the loss of her twins, Emma flipping out after killing Jason, Fallon’s own incest fantasy-induced amnesia — but when Fallon turns to her mother for answers about Roger (“He did something that really terrified me,” she insists), Alexis is offended: “I hope you’re not suggesting that he molested you … Your father murdered him and now you’re trying to vilify him! He’s dead. For god sake, let him rest in peace!” Similarly, when April turns to Tommy’s sister for help early on in this week’s DALLAS (“He kicked down my front door and threatened me”), Tracey, like Alexis, refuses to take her seriously: “I just don’t believe that … Tommy’s been working very hard to turn things around. I’m not about to let someone like you spoil it all.”

    The seeds of Abby’s and Sue Ellen’s Soap Land departures are sewn this week, with Ted Melcher introducing the idea of Greg becoming the US Trade Representative for Japan (a post Abby will end up taking) and Don Lockwood asking Sue Ellen if she’s ever considered leaving Texas for good. (She claims never to have considered the notion.) More pressingly, it’s only six weeks until the entire Carrington/Colby clan will disappear from our screens without warning and so we must take our sense of closure where we can find it. Handily, there are a couple of scenes in this week’s DYNASTY where characters reflect upon their pasts. Alexis, in an interlude of alcohol-fuelled nostalgia, reviews her four husbands (“What a bunch!”). First, Blake (“He didn’t love me but he’d kill anyone who was going to make me happy”), then Cecil (“He died on the wedding night — and I got the blame!”), followed by “dear, dumb Sean” (“He died and tried to take me with him!”) and finally Dex (“The only feelings he’s got are between his waist and his knees”). She concludes while gazing longingly at a snapshot of Tommy McKay, that Roger Grimes was “the only man who ever loved me.”

    Then it’s Dex’s turn. During a heated exchange with Alexis, he insists that he has “put the last eight years on hold just so I could be there for you!” To be pedantic, Dex has only known Alexis for the past five years, but maybe time moves differently in Soap Land — which could also account for a passing remark of Karen Mackenzie over on KNOTS. After Paula Vertosick complements her on her house, she casually remarks that “we’ve been here about, oh, ten years.” Ten years is how long KNOTS has been running, which suggests that the Fairgates arrived in the cul-de-sac only a short time before Gary and Val moved in. There’s no specific reason why that shouldn’t be the case, but it’s never been mentioned before and with Sid and Karen being the mom and dad of Seaview Circle from the very beginning, it’s just always felt like they’d been there a longer amount of time.

    Back on DYNASTY, Sable finds Alexis, still brooding about the past, looking through some old mementoes, including a painting once gifted to her by Roger Grimes. Sable recognises it as the work of Frederich Stahl, Adolf Hitler’s favourite painter: “Hitler admired Stahl’s work so he stole everything the man ever painted … and none of his paintings were ever seen again.” It then emerges the Collection buried at the bottom of the Carrington Lake consists of precious artworks procured by the Nazis during World War II, and that this is the terrible secret Blake’s been hiding all season (and indeed, for the past thirty-something years). He explains to Sable to his father came by the treasure innocently, without realising what it was. Years later, with the aid of Dex’s father and Jason Colby, Blake hid the loot with a view to one day returning it to its rightful owners. The realisation that no-one we know was guilty of any wrongdoing is just the tiniest bit anti-climactic. It means that there is no cold-hearted, evil counterpart to FALCON CREST’s Nazi gold-diggers (Jacqueline Perrault, Henri Denault, Johann Reibman) for us to be shocked (and secretly thrilled) by. Apparently, the only person who sought to profit from Nazis’ crimes was this week’s resident troublemaker, Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay.

    Speaking of whom, in a brief scene on DALLAS (that I’m pretty sure was cut from the original BBC broadcast), Tommy/Roger becomes the first Soap Land character to snarf cocaine onscreen. Previously, whenever the likes of Olivia Cunningham or Peter De Vilbis were about to indulge, the camera would abruptly cut away. Following on directly from this scene, we see Tommy burst into April’s apartment, trash the place and then beat her unconscious. As far as depictions of male-on-female violence go, this is more brutal than anything Soap Land has previously served up. The only incident that comes close is the beating Sean Rowan gave Leslie Carrington at the end of last season’s DYNASTY.

    Tommy v April is an unfair fight in more ways than one. When April first arrived in Dallas, she was a sexy, witty gold-digger. During the past year or so, she has become an increasingly diluted character. A few weeks ago, she threw herself a one-person birthday party. The moment where she giggled delightedly at the pair of oversized fluffy duck slippers she’d gifted herself ranks as Soap Land’s most toe-curling moment since Melissa Agretti’s final meltdown. Tommy, on the other hand, is currently the most fascinating person on DALLAS. A long-haired, volatile young man, he’s trapped in a show where everyone else is either middle-aged and square or just acts like they’re middle-aged and square. He’s the first Soap Land character who seems to actively hate the programme he’s on and so spends his time frantically pounding on the self-destruct button, trying to find a way out.

    While one could legitimately argue that the scene between Tommy and April is gratuitous, that we don’t need to see every blow (although it’s the dubbed-on sound effects rather than the clearly pulled punches that give the scene its impact), the incident certainly isn’t treated lightly. Unlike the Sean/Leslie assault, after which Leslie was never mentioned again, it proves to be a major turning point for all the characters involved. It reignites both the feud between the Ewings and the McKays, and Bobby and April’s romance. Also, unlike those blurred lines that occur whenever JR coerces a woman into having sex with him, the show makes it clear that April is no way complicit in her ordeal. “I’m gonna press charges against him. I did everything I could to avoid it so I’m not gonna blame myself,” she tells Bobby afterwards. The assault also leads to further violence when Bobby goes after Tommy to give a taste of his own medicine. As the younger and bigger of the two, Tommy manages to get a few decent licks in, but ultimately it’s not his face in the opening credits and so he ends up taking a beating. (One way or another, it’s a week of violent retribution for Roger Grimes/Tommy McKay. As well as Bobby Ewing knocking him out for battering a defenceless woman, Blake Carrington concludes that “it was my father who killed Roger Grimes” after he caught Roger helping himself to the Nazi loot back in ’64.)

    Tommy’s attack on April aside, there is some notably blatant objectification of women on this week’s DALLAS, even by the series’ own standards. For the second time this season, JR meets Detective Rattigan in a PG-13 titty bar chockfull of women in skimpy bikinis and high heels either dancing in front of men or serving them drinks. Later in the ep, JR meets with Tommy, whom he finds at a newsstand ogling the centrefold of Boudoir magazine. Each of these scenes begins with JR making a quip about the other man’s lowbrow tastes and ends with him engrossed in what he has just supposedly disapproved of. In the bar scene, he becomes so distracted by the floor show he doesn’t even notice when Rattigan departs. After Tommy leaves the newsstand, JR picks up his discarded magazine to see what he was looking at. “Well, he doesn’t have such bad taste after all,” he murmurs, chuckling appreciatively.

    The Boudoir centrefold comes to life on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing encounters Samantha Ross, an enigmatic prostitute who just happens to be a dead ringer for the late Melissa Agretti. “Do all hookers hate men?” he asks her. “Yes,” she replies matter-of-factly. Richard, however, turns out to be the exception to the rule. “I am attracted to you,” she admits. “With you, it’s strictly pleasure, no business.” A hooker who doesn’t even charge — who could ask for more? However, the gender stereotype is intriguingly inverted at the end of the episode. “You’re a bigger whore than I am, Richard,” she tells him. “I am indeed,” he concurs, snogging her face off.

    Sexism rears its head on KNOTS LANDING too, this time in the workplace, as Paige finds herself playing gopher for Abby and fixing coffee for minions (“Could you make us a fresh pot, hon?” smarms Mort). Unlike DALLAS’s centrefolds and FALCON CREST’s fantasy prostitutes, she at least gets to voice her frustrations — which sets off a brilliantly (and wittily) plotted chain of events. “I have worked for you for over a year now,” she reminds Greg. “I know I can contribute substantially more to Sumner Group* than I do working as a glorified note-taker and errand-runner.” She then impresses the boss by suggesting he lobby for the Japanese trade representative post by ingratiating himself with Murakame, the corporation that recently bought Lotus Point. There’s only one problem, of course — Murakame is a fictitious company invented by Abby. To keep the charade going, she is forced to hire an actor to assume the role of Mr Nagata, a Murakame representative. (There’s more secret casting on DALLAS where Sue Ellen and Don Lockwood fly to Malibu to audition “a dozen JRs” for their movie.) Abby plans for Nagata to meet with Greg, “pronounce himself insulted at Greg’s offensive western ways” and refuse to have anything more to do with him. Paige unwittingly scuppers this scheme by enlisting a Mr Toyo to instruct Greg in how best “to do business without offending Japanese sensibilities.” While KNOTS is clearly having fun with Asian stereotypes here, the joke is ultimately at the expense of Americans’ ignorance of a culture other than their own. (This ignorance reaches its apotheosis on DALLAS when Gustav Hellstrom introduces himself to Cally as a Scandinavian. She looks at him blankly. “What’s a Scandinavian?” she asks.) At one point during his lesson with Mr Toyo, Greg holds his hands up in confusion: “Lemme get this straight — if Mr Nagata is smiling, it could be because he got the joke, because he didn’t get the joke or because I ticked him off?” “Yes,” replies Mr Toyo, a broad grin on his face. “How come you’re smiling?” Greg asks. “Because you pay me so much to explain these things to you!” he replies. This remark reminds me of an exchange between Bobby Ewing and Tilly, the black caterer at Ewings’ first barbecue back in the DALLAS mini-series. Bobby asks her to please stop addressing family members as “Mr Bobby” and “Mr Jock”. “Time I drop the mister, I have to charge 10% less,” she replies. Eleven years later, Mr Toyo (as well as Mr Nagata) is simply doing what Tilly did back then — making a profit by exploiting rich white people’s cultural preconceptions.

    The whole idea being her brainwave, Paige fully expects to attend the meeting with Greg and Mr Nagata, but is blocked by Abby: “I’ve only made a reservation at the restaurant for four people,” she smiles icily. “We can’t very well spring a fifth person on Mr Nagata. After all, he might think you’re a geisha girl!”

    The shift that occurs in Paige’s character at this point is fascinating. Somewhere during this storyline and without the viewer even noticing, she has been transformed from snooty heiress to plucky underdog. Here, she is essentially channelling Melanie Griffiths’ titular character in Working Girl while Abby mirrors Griffiths’ nemesis boss played by Sigourney Weaver. Who knows if this was mere coincidence, but the movie had been nominated for five Oscars just six weeks before this episode aired so it was certainly in the zeitgeist. Also, the characters’ wardrobe choices for this sequence — Paige circumspect in black, Abby bold in red — match Griffiths’ and Weaver’s in the film’s promotional poster.

    Two weeks ago, DALLAS celebrated its 300th episode by trapping JR and Bobby in an elevator. During this episode of KNOTS, Paige does the same thing to Abby so she can take her place at the meeting with Mr Nagata. Abby gets off easier than the Ewing boys, however. “Bobby and I have been stuck in an elevator for thirteen hours,” JR informs Cally at the start of this week’s DALLAS. “I’ve been stuck in there for over two hours!” complains Abby. Meanwhile, Angela Channing spends the entirety of this week’s FALCON CREST, its 200th episode no less, also trapped, albeit in the rather more spacious surroundings of the New Globe hospitality suite, courtesy of son Richard. She complains to Garth that she’s “a prisoner in a penthouse” after he catches her trying to pick the lock of the private elevator.

    The buried Nazi treasure isn’t the only twist on this week’s DYNASTY to echo an old storyline on FALCON CREST. Turns out Tanner McBride, the sweet guy from the hospital Sammy Jo has the hots for, is a priest. It’s Melissa and Father Christopher all over again, only then we knew from the start that Padre C was a man of the cloth.

    Frederich Stahl’s painting, a landscape of what looks like a country town, looks nice, but I’m not as excited by it as Hitler apparently was. Cally’s latest artwork on DALLAS is also a landscape, more Grandma Moses in style, and gets the thumbs up from Miss Ellie and Clayton. (“This one’s better than the last one!” declares Ellie.) All things considered, I think I’d prefer to have the Farlows rather than the Führer as my fan club.

    View attachment 14652

    View attachment 14653

    In spite of Blake’s and Abby’s best efforts, this week’s DYNASTY and KNOTS each end with someone stumbling upon the respective secret they’ve worked so hard to keep. On DYNASTY, Blake, Jeff and Dex are at the Carrington Lake checking on the site where the Collection is buried, unaware that Zorelli is observing them through a pair of binoculars. On KNOTS, Paige is watching cable TV in her recently acquired apartment when she spots the Executive Vice President of Murakame being terrorised by Giganticus, the hundred-foot star of his own badly dubbed black-and-white monster movie. Quicker than you or I could whip out a camera phone in 2019, Paige slams a tape into her VCR and hits the record button. I really love how this majestically crappy movie bookends this episode of KNOTS. In the first scene, we hear Pat Williams ordering her daughter Julie to turn it off, while the last shot of the ep has Paige looking intently at a close-up of Nagata.

    Trend of the week: Coincidences — or are they? “I thought that everything that happened was just a bizarre coincidence,” Blake tells Sable, “Grimes’s body preserved for all those years so close to where the Collection was buried [but] it all must be connected!” Sure, Roger’s body and the Collection might be connected, but Sable’s diver and Krystle being at the lake at the exact same time remains a coincidence — a pure, undiluted soapy coincidence.

    Likewise, Michael Fairgate just happens to meet Paula Vertosick, the very forest ranger who made a pass at his stepfather earlier in this season's KNOTS. “Isn’t that wild that we both heard her lecture?” he says to Mack. “It’s such a coincidence!” That’s not the half of it: Mack and Michael each meeting Paula separately at White Horse Mountain is one thing, Paula then coming to Knots Landing to teach a class at the same college Michael attends and being an expert in the exact field Karen needs someone to be an expert in so she can oppose the oil drilling at Lotus Point is quite another. But it all slots together so beautifully, so knottily, that it’s not that one merely forgives or overlooks the contrivance, the contrivance becomes an actively pleasurable part of the viewing experience.

    Other characters, meanwhile, use coincidence as a smokescreen for their own premeditated actions — such as when Cally and JR “accidentally” bump into Gustav Hellstrom. “Hopefully, there’s still some money to be made in oil — that’s why I’ve come to Dallas,” Gustav explains. “Well, that’s a coincidence,” exclaims JR. “Ewing’s my name and oil’s my game!”

    However, the biggest, soapiest, nuttiest coincidence of the week occurs on FALCON CREST when Richard Channing looks across a crowded restaurant and happens to see a woman who happens to be played by the same actress who used to play Melissa. It’s his “Holy shit, it’s Ciji!” moment. But while she may look just like the screechily hysterical Melissa who went up in flames, Samantha’s personality is more like Melissa’s when she first arrived in FC — controlled, measured, mysterious. It’s like welcoming back an old friend.

    This week’s Top 4 is … close! DALLAS’s violence and FC’s doppelgänger made their respective episodes memorable, while DYNASTY is a 5-star episode all the way. But KNOTS is even better than that — I’d forgotten how much I love this first era of the Sumner Group with Greg and Abby in adjacent offices and all that scheming in the shadows. It’s as good as soap gets.

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

    *This week’s KNOTS is the first time the Sumner Group has been referred to by name — only minus its definite article.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
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  3. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've read an explanation for this in a few places, though I didn't see the actual scenes:
    In the period when they were setting up the Knots Landing spin-off, Miss Ellie supposedly learned that Ewing Oil had a real-estate development subsidiary. She saw the plans for the cul-de-sac development in CA and came up with the idea to give one of the newly-built homes to Gary and Val as a wedding present for them to have a fresh start somewhere else. Bobby was somehow involved (maybe he was in charge of the subsidiary?) and helped make it happen. This would suggest that the houses were indeed newly-built, that maybe the other cul-de-sac families had lived in the houses for less than a year--long enough to feel 'settled in,' but not long-term residents. The plot point is undermined, however, by how "established" the landscaping looked around the houses. Typically it takes ten or more years to get trees and shrubs established in sub-divisions--probably longer in drought-prone SoCal.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2019
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  4. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    It's always interesting to get an observation about a BBC cut.


    With the bashing the later seasons get a comment like this makes me realise it's not all that black and white.


    It's quite endearing and I dare say the art department had great fun with it. I especially enjoy the scale of the people on the boat compared to the land lovers.



    Yes. In the Dallas episode Return Engagements, Bobby mentioned his development to Ellie and showed her photographs of the homes used on the show (to prove they were "nice houses"). She then showed the same pictures to Gary and Val and gave them the choice of whichever house they wanted.

    As the Ewings were shown moving into the new home the following week (an unspecified time in the not too distant future in soap time), I'd assumed that everyone living on the cul-de-sac had moved in within a short time of one another.
     
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  5. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    OK - I just had to take a peek at the scene again. And that's not quite the way it happened.

    Bobby did show Ellie photos of several houses, but they were houses he and his partner had bought to resell and take advantage of "that real estate boom in California". When Ellie flicked through the photos, we did see Val and Gary's future home, but we didn't get a proper look at any of the other pictures. I'd just jumped to the conclusion they were all on the cul-de-sac, without any evidence.

    So it's entirely possible (and from the dialogue, probable) that the Ewing house was the only property he purchased on Seaview Circle. The other homes he'd bought could have been dotted all over California.

    This has just turned a number of my preconceptions upside down. For the longest time I've marvelled at the fact that Gary and Val could have chosen the Avery house or the Fairgate house. But I'd thought that whatever choice they made they'd have ended up on Seaview Circle. As the first occupants in a new house. But it now seems highly likely that none of these were the case.
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    OK, that makes sense. The idea that the Ewings originally owned all the houses on Seaview Circle would be more than my brain could handle!
     
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  7. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    This is a funny confusion because I simply assumed that Miss Ellie gave them a new house i.e. not previously owned and inhabited by other people.
    It was a present after all.
    And yet I've never wondered how it compared to the other cul-de-sac properties.

    Looking at the layout of the cul-de-sac, it seems highly unlikely that Gary's house was built at a much later time. On the other hand, it doesn't make sense that that house would be empty for such a long time. Regardless of who owned the property, someone must have shown interest.

    But it is possible that the Fairgates had moved into the first completed house, followed by the Averys and then the Wards. This also creates the idea of the Fairgates being the first family of the cul-de-sac, literally and figuratively.
    It was Karen's "job" - as the First Lady of the cul-de-sac - to welcome their new neighbours.
     
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  8. Daniel Avery

    Daniel Avery Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm glad you researched that, @Mel O'Drama because it does put a new spin on things. I'd always assumed they wanted us to believe the cul-de-sac was new construction and that the others had moved there within the previous few months (within the year). The author of the companion book, Saga of Seaview Circle muddied the waters by writing a long, fanciful tale in the opening of the book that (supposedly) outlined the whole history of the area, going back to a bulk land purchase of various plots in 1936 made by Jock Ewing himself (hoping to explore for oil). She writes that Bobby found the deed for 20 undeveloped acres in the Knots Landing area (a community that was already developed) and went to see the property in person, then approved the construction of the neighborhood which, according to the author, was finished in early 1979. Dramatic license was definitely taken by the author, but very little of it could be labeled as "incorrect" because there is nothing stated to contradict this. The only mistake I can point out is that she says Bobby approved the construction of five houses, though in many long shots of the cul-de-sac we can see seven houses. The "action" occurred in the five she's referring to.

    I know from my own experience that when you move into an established sub-division, the neighbors waste no time filling you in on what the previous owners of your house were like and what they got up to. As if I cared. :D Unless there's a body buried in the backyard (or floating in the pool in KL's case), it's not really relevant. Gossipy Richard would have been only too happy to fill V&G in on the "previous owners of the house" if there had been any. But I've also seen spec houses built that sat vacant for years before someone moved in, since economic downturns can happen.
     
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  9. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    And I suppose the same goes for what we saw on TV to a degree. The background of the cul-de-sac up until the time the Ewings moved in is ambiguous enough that any combination of the theories above could apply. Or none of them.

    Which makes Karen's "ten years" comment even more intriguing.


    Wouldn't he just? I can imagine the three of them gathered round the infamous lightbulb as Richard dished the dirt.
     
  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    All of this makes for an interesting comparison between Knots and Brookside, the British 80s soap that also began with a premise of four families living in a cul-de-sac. On that show, the fact that all the houses were brand new was crucial to the story. By moving into Brookside Close, some characters were moving up the social ladder while others were sliding down and that contrast in backgrounds informed how the different households related to each other. There was little to none of that in Seaview Circle. But then class has always been a bigger preoccupation in the UK than the US.

    Well, the central focus of Brookside Close was always six houses, but to begin with, only four of them were occupied. It took about a year for the other two to be filled. So the Knots equivalent would have been a 78/79 season in which the Fairgates, Wards and Averys all move into the cul-de-sac around the same time and get to know each other, before Gary and Val join them a year later as the Californian Harry and Edna Cross:

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I guess that would then make Abby the singleton equivalent of Alan Partridge (no, not that one):

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    I must admit the saga aspect of that story kind of appealed to me - the idea that everything in the Ewingverse ultimately leads back to Jock's wildcatting days.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2019
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  11. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I enjoyed that aspect of Brookie. It's the sort of thing that you have to look harder to find in Knots. Susan Philby noting with approval that Sid's home is middle class suggests that he has upscaled since she last saw him. I can't think of it verbatim, but her phrasing (something about expecting it of him) further implies that Sid was driven to climb the ladder back when Susan knew him, or at least she could see that in him.

    Richard's disparaging "phoney Tudor" comment in the Pilot has always interested me as he seems like the kind of person who would have spun a description of his home to sound grander. It's not out of character though, and perhaps is even telling of his low self esteem even at that point.



    I think I might have officially heard it all now! :D

    It's fun to look for comparisons between the early years of the two series though. Snobby, judgemental Richard and his elegant-but-despairing wife would perhaps be a Knotsian Paul and Annabelle Collins. While the parallels are fairly clear between young, trendy professionals the Huntingdons and the Wards.



    It hit the spot for me too. And I imagine Laura Van Wormer's creativity in large part was inspired by the fact that Dallas: The Early Years aired some months before the Knots book was published.
     
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  12. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    I've never watched Brookside. Then as for the American 80s soaps I think it's starting to show by now that Knots Landing ran the longest. The other shows has started to decline in quality whereas Knots is still going strong! :)
     
  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    05 Apr 89: DYNASTY: Tale of the Tape v. 06 Apr 89: KNOTS LANDING: Dial M for Modem v. 07 Apr 89: DALLAS: And Away We Go! v. 07 Apr 89: FALCON CREST: Enquiring Minds

    Two of Soap Land’s most memorable songbirds make a comeback of sorts this week. On DYNASTY, Dominique Devereaux gets her first mention since leaving two years ago. “Your father had a black sister. I think that’s interesting,” Zorelli remarks to Fallon. It is interesting — in fact, at the time of discovery, it was utterly unique — yet this is the very first time Dominique’s race has been referred to on screen. (Ditto the Williams family and the description of Frank as “a very attractive black man” four weeks ago on KNOTS.)

    Like Zorelli, Cliff Barnes isn’t afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room when DALLAS’s own chanteuse, Afton Cooper, returns — as a redhead. “I like the colour of your hair,” he declares fearlessly. Aside from the new ‘do and the synthesised backing track that now accompanies her when she sings (“It takes two-ooo to flyyyy …”), it’s the same old Afton — her unique combination of fluffiness and solemnity still very much intact. As welcome as the returns of Monica and Not-Melissa to DYNASTY and FALCON CREST have been, this is the homecoming of the Soap Land season.

    DYNASTY has done a great job of keeping us guessing this year. No sooner was the “Who is the dead man in the lake?” mystery resolved than it was replaced by “Who killed Roger Grimes?” And now that the question of the terrible secret Blake has been hiding all these years has been answered, a new puzzle emerges to take its place: “Who blew open the vault and stole the Nazi treasure?” Blake thinks the solution could lie with his ex-wife. “Grimes might have given Alexis something besides that painting,” he speculates, “something that might tell us where the Collection had been moved to … I wonder if there isn’t a way we could find out what else she may have?” Sable volunteers for the job: “I do have a passkey to her suite.” Nor is she the only Soap Land character up for a spot of illegal trespass this week. On KNOTS, Karen Mackenzie and Paula Vertosick sneak onto what used to be Lotus Point in the hope of finding something to “keep this land from being destroyed.”

    The possible consequences of getting caught are dealt with in opposing ways on DYNASTY and KNOTS. “Mother, sneaking into Alexis’s suite is illegal!” Sable’s daughter Monica points out. “It’s called breaking and entering … Even rich and powerful people get thrown in jail, you know.” “If we get arrested, it’ll be good publicity for our cause,” Paula tells Karen. “Getting arrested for a cause — the possibility of that hasn’t happened since 1972,” Karen replies nostalgically. “If Mack could see me now, he’d say, ‘way to go!’”

    Karen and Paula get what they came for when they spot surveyors working in an area deemed environmentally off-limits. “They took a lot of pictures and Paula’s been cataloguing all the data on her computer — I think they can stop Murakame from drilling,” Michael later informs his Aunt Abby — not realising, of course, that she is Murakame. Sable’s search of Alexis’s suite, meanwhile, doesn’t yield any concrete discoveries, but she does overhear an urgent phone message from an art expert Alexis has engaged to examine the Frederich Stahl painting. It’s previously been established that the last thing Blake wants is for the existence of this painting to become public knowledge, so we know that this is not good news.

    Fortunately for Blake, all Sable needs to do to erase the message is press a couple of buttons on Alexis’s answering machine. It’s not so simple for Abby when it comes to eliminating Paula’s computerised evidence against Murakame, however. First, she must learn all about modems and viruses and “booting up”. Luckily, the Sumner Group’s computer whizz (they aren’t yet known as geeks) is only too happy to educate on her on such matters. (There was a similar situation during DALLAS’s Dream Season where JR likewise feigned interest in computer technology in order to gain access to Dimitri Marinos’s medical records.)

    While Sable erases messages and Abby wipes data, Lance Cumson favours a more traditional method of destroying evidence — in his case, the real deed proving that Falcon Crest genuinely belongs to the Agretti family. He burns it.

    At present, Lance is one of several characters who is concealing evidence of one wrongdoing while simultaneously investigating another. “Something is wrong!” he insists regarding his grandmother’s trip to Greece — but no-one will take him seriously (including a senatorial aide played by a youthful-looking Walter White from BREAKING BAD). Likewise on DYNASTY, while a federal marshal bursts into Alexis’s office with a warrant in order, as Sable puts it, “to find out some fascinatingly unpleasant things about Colby Co,” Alexis herself puts pressure on the cops to reopen the Roger Grimes murder investigation: “Listen to me, Captain. You keep on sitting on this case and I’m going to blast you right over the front page of my newspaper!” And while Zorelli bugs Dominique’s relatives, someone else is bugging Zorelli. Back on FC, Nick Agretti is trying to get to the bottom of what Lance is covering up (i.e., who really owns Falcon Crest) whilst also avoiding some tricky questions regarding Anna’s death. “There seems to be a question about the medication I prescribed for Miss Cellini,” her doctor tells him. “According to the law, that missing morphine has to be accounted for.”

    KNOTS LANDING’s Paige is likewise playing detective (last week, she was Melanie Griffiths in Working Girl; this week, she’s Nancy Drew), posing as a casting director (just as her father did earlier in the season) in order to track down the name of the actor masquerading as a Murakame executive. (Another Ewingverse blonde can also be seen sifting through actors’ headshots this week — DALLAS’s Lucy flies to Malibu to give her input into the casting of ex-husband Mitch in Sue Ellen’s movie.)

    As if all these unsolved mysteries weren’t enough, more arise throughout the course of this week’s eps: Who is the unknown person lurking outside Elsworth Chisolm’s apartment on DYNASTY? Is it the same unknown person that later pushes him to his death? Who is Gary’s mystery caller known only as 'Sally’s Friend' on KNOTS? And is theirs simply another mistaken identity “meet-cute” like Sammy Jo and Tanner’s on DYNASTY, or is something more sinister afoot? (The way the camera avoids showing her face suggests the latter.) And why does Richard look so pleased at the end of FALCON CREST as he observes Not-Melissa helping Angela escape from her penthouse prison? “Right on schedule and all according to plan,” he smiles enigmatically.

    In lieu of any such mystery on DALLAS, there’s a fake murder. JR and Cally take Gustav Hellstrom out for “an old-fashioned evening of Dallas nightlife.” One thing leads to another and Gustav ends up “killing” a jealous husband (played by the same stunt guy who’s appeared in virtually every barroom brawl on DALLAS since the series began). JR offers to intercede with the cops on Gustav’s behalf in return for “the name of the man behind the European consortium, and when and where the meeting is gonna be held … and the top dollar you’re willing to pay for the oil.” So it is that Gustav becomes the Scandinavian version of Walt Driscoll, but hey, call it Soap Karma for his other self, Hamilton Stone, betraying Alexis to Sable over those tankers earlier in the year.

    “Because of the way you are, everybody you know has to be related until life with you is like living in a soap opera,” Mack tells Karen after she decides to set Paula up on a date with Gary. If you think that’s meta, it’s nothing compared to what’s going on on DALLAS as Sue Ellen’s lover Don attempts to turn her soap opera reality into cinematic fiction. Overhearing him read a scene from the movie with an actress auditioning to play her, she mistakes their scripted exchange for soap opera reality and assumes he’s cheating on her. Just to add an extra layer of artificial reality, portraits of real-life movie stars gaze down at Sue Ellen as she eavesdrops — among them Joan Crawford, one of the prototypes for long-suffering soap heroines like ... Sue Ellen herself. And while we’re on the subject of classic Hollywood, is it mere coincidence, as the Murakame storyline grows ever murkier and Abby ever more villainous, that she should suddenly adopt the peekaboo hairstyle famously associated with film noir femme-fatale Veronica Lake?

    Each of the soaps sounds a note of finality this week. Blake receives his final divorce decree from Krystle. Val announces her decision to give up writing on KNOTS. Jordan Lee, the longest-serving member of the oil cartel on DALLAS, sells out to West Star. And on FALCON CREST, Tommy Ortega tells his girlfriend, Kelly, he doesn’t love her anymore. This last one shouldn’t matter as much as the other three — Tommy and Kelly only arrived in Soap Land this season and aren’t even in the opening credits — and yet somehow it does. The subsequent scene where Kelly approaches Maggie outside her office echoes previous encounters where a heartbroken poor girl confronts her uncomfortable rich rival: Claudia and Krystle at the art gallery in DYNASTY Season 1; Lucy and Betty the waitress on the cardboard patio in DALLAS Season 7. “It’s so unfair,” Kelly tells Maggie. “You have everything. If you let him go, he’ll come back to me.”

    There are other references to past storylines throughout the week: Zorelli’s visit to Dominique’s uncle, Cliff’s reply when Afton asks how he ended up a partner in Ewing Oil (“Pam — with her gone, my whole life changed”), Angela warning Not-Melissa against Richard (“He killed his step-father, the man who raised him from infancy”) and, most subtle of all, a brief reminder of Karen’s pill addiction on KNOTS when Paula turns up at the Mackenzies’ house with a celebratory bottle of wine. Karen politely declines to drink without explaining why, leaving Mack and Paula to share a toast “to the good guys.” There’s an equivalent moment on DALLAS when Tommy McKay’s doctor prescribes him pain medication following the beating he received from Bobby last week. “Don’t give him the bottle,” the doc warns Tracey. “Why?” she asks. “He’s an addict, isn’t he?” “He was.” “Then he still is.” Later, she and Tommy struggle over the medication and she is forced to finally see his drug problem for what it is. This has the effect of waking her up from the walking coma she’s been in ever since Tommy first arrived, making her suddenly interesting again. Alas, it also results in her following Tommy out of the show. Her farewell scene with Bobby (“Tommy’s gone — I have to find him, Bobby. He’s an addict” “… You’re condemning yourself to a terrible life” “… He’s my brother and I believe that he will die without me”) is as poignant as Afton’s and Mandy’s original departure scenes.

    There’s no Frederich Stahl or Cally Ewing painting on display this week, but there is a new portrait of Angela hanging at Falcon Crest (well, sort of new — it’s based on a Season 1 publicity shot). No-one comments on it directly, but its presence helps emphasise the absence of its subject from the family home. Over on DALLAS, Bobby and April get to make fun of modern art when he arrives at her place to find her hanging an abstract painting sent over from a gallery “on approval”. “What is it?” he asks, a comedically pained look on his face. “It’s an imitation Neo-classical interpretation of 1920s Dadaism … It’s pretty awful,” she replies smugly. There were a few equivalent exchanges between Paige and Greg last season when she was working for an art gallery and trying to persuade him to make some adventurous acquisitions. Like Bobby, Greg wasn’t always impressed with her choices, but there was nonetheless a light, witty quality to their discussions. By comparison, Bobby and April come across as narrow-minded and complacent, taking cheap shots at something they don’t understand and which is easy to mock — modern art, what a joke! Way back in Season 1, Jock’s bemused reaction to the abstract sculpture Sue Ellen gave him and Ellie for their anniversary was funny — because the joke was on Sue Ellen and JR, and how their attempts to impress had backfired, rather than the object itself. That’s not the case here. (I realise I’ve overthought what is a very brief scene, but hey — why stop now?)

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FALCON CREST
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2019
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12 Apr 89: DYNASTY: No Bones About It v. 13 Apr 89: KNOTS LANDING: That's What Friends Are For v. 14 Apr 89: DALLAS: Yellow Brick Road v. 14 Apr 89: FALCON CREST: Grand Delusions

    A streak of paranoia runs through this week’s episodes. On DYNASTY, Blake accuses Adam of framing him (“You called me, told me that man’s name, told me to go over there and now he’s dead … Is this the way you plan to get even with me?”) while Fallon accuses Zorelli of using her (“All you’ve ever wanted to do is prowl around my brain, trying to find a way to hang my father”). On KNOTS, Ted suspects Abby of setting him up (“Was that your plan all along — to drag me into this plot and hang me out to dry?”) while Paige suspects Ted of murder. On DALLAS, JR is suspicious of the brash American tourists who befriend Cally on their honeymoon. “I don’t trust people who become your best friends the first minute you meet ‘em,” he says while searching her purse for a surveillance device he thinks they planted. Over on FALCON CREST, it’s surveillance central: Angela has Richard followed, Richard has Samantha followed, and Pilar discovers that “Richard has recordings of some of our meetings, Malcolm, and on the tapes, it sounds as if we concocted everything the SEC is investigating just so we can extort money.”

    Even in matters of the heart, there is suspicion. Is Sable lying when she says she has no romantic designs on Blake? Is Paula lying when she says she has no romantic designs on Mack? “There’s nothing between me and Blake — except for Jeff’s nasty rumours,” Sable insists. “Honestly, when’s he going to grow up and stop treating me like the wicked stepmother?” “Grow up and quit reading your fantasies into other people’s actions,” Paula snaps at Mack. While the jury’s still out on Sable, Paula eventually confesses all — well, almost all. “There’s this guy that I really like but it’s not gonna work out … He’s that married,” she tells Michael when he finds her listening to ‘All I Want’ from Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ album — a Soap Land musical choice as pleasantly unexpected as The Doors’ ‘Break on Through (to the Other Side)’ would be on New DALLAS three-and-a-half decades later.

    Four weeks before Sue Ellen and Abby both exit by the Soap Land gift shop, the two former Mrs Ewings are in contrasting moods. As Sue Ellen pores over the past and frets about the future, Don advises her to “just take what we have and be happy” — the exact sentiment of the song Abby merrily sings along to in the Sumner Group elevator: ’Don’t Worry, Be Happy’. The Abster isn’t the only character to exhibit a heretofore unseen musical flair this week. But whereas Afton Cooper listens in respectful silence while Cliff plays the piano on DALLAS, Paige, who happens to be riding the elevator alongside Abby, bestows upon her the most contemptuous of eye-rolls during her big number. It’s a really funny moment.

    Speaking of the Sumner Group elevator, it is fast becoming a character in its own right — a space both sufficiently egalitarian for Greg and Abby to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, i.e., Mort, Bob and Harvey the messenger, and secluded enough for Abby to subvert Soap Land’s recent “stuck in an elevator” trend by deliberately stranding herself and Ted between floors long enough to seduce him.

    In its depiction of the Sumner Group, KNOTS gets to have its cake and eat it. In the executive offices, the story is about “them”, the backstabbing stars of the show; in the lobbies and hallways, it’s about “us”, the everyday workers, with Paige and Ted straddling both worlds. This week, Ted, in particular, embodies both the extraordinary and mundane. While not many of us have taken the afternoon off to murder a Japanese actor, we can all relate to his relief when he says, “It’s great getting out of the office. Between all those fluorescent lights, the air-conditioning and all those cubicles, it can really drive you crazy.” Seeing the corporation from the perspectives of both bosses and employees makes the Sumner Group seem three-dimensional in a way that the other show’s big businesses never really have. Probably the close we’ve come previously is the post-coital conversation between Blake Carrington’s chauffeur Michael and Cecil Colby’s secretary Jennifer back in DYNASTY Season 1. By chance, Jennifer resurfaces on this week’s DALLAS in a role that also combines elements of the extraordinary and the mundane: she’s a West Star agent posing as a loud American housewife who pals around with Cally in Austria.

    “I just can’t believe it, we’re really here in Europe!” Cally marvels. And they really are in Europe. Ordinarily in Soap Land, foreign climes are represented by an establishing shot of a well-known tourist spot followed by an appropriately decorated hotel room, but here we have genuine Bavarian locations. Wintry, mountainous, forbidding — this feels more like the setting for a Cold War spy thriller than an American super soap. The actors’ faces are red with cold, which simply never happens in Soap Land. While Cally gets the best lines (“How come they drive so fast on that auto-barn?” she enquires after arriving in Salzburg; “You mean like a cockroach?” she asks, baffled, when JR talks about the bug in her purse), Carter McKay gets the best scenes. Darkly dressed in a heavy overcoat, hat and gloves, he cuts a far more sinister figure looming in the shadows of a chilly Austrian night than he ever did sweltering under the heat of a Texas sun. April and Cally, meanwhile, combat the cold in massive fur coats, thereby indicating that Greg Sumner’s recently declared moratorium on such items in KNOTS (“Mother here won’t be able to wear her furs anymore”) doesn’t extend to its parent soap.

    Austria is also mentioned on DYNASTY. Visiting the art appraiser whom Alexis recently consulted about the Frederich Stahl painting, Sable persuades him, for a price, to keep quiet about its origins. She also learns that “a number of art dealers have received calls recently asking if his works have surfaced.” “Not that many people even knew about Stahl,” she subsequently informs Blake. “He was a local painter, local to Germany, Austria, and his works disappeared with Hitler. Why would anybody be asking about him?” (Meanwhile on FC, Nick Agretti finds proof that an equivalent appraiser forged the deeds to Falcon Crest at Angela’s behest — all of which suggests that the art world is just as corruptible as the corporate business one.)

    Overseas locations are likewise a subject matter on KNOTS and FALCON CREST as Abby and Richard each attempt to rid themselves of a liability. Much like Sable’s diver Gibson and Jill Bennett’s forger Mrs Bailey earlier in the season, The Actor Formerly Known as Mr Nagata and The Hooker Who Resembles Melissa are former assets who have now outlived their usefulness. While Abby furnishes Mr Nagata with a cab to the airport and an envelope full of cash (“This ought to give you some independence in Japan”), Richard explains to Samantha that “it would be safer for both of us if you went away for a while … Europe, the Far East — where would you like to go?” Neither, however, is in any hurry to leave. Instead of catching his plane, Mr Nagata doorsteps Abby in — where else? — the Sumner Group elevator. “Do you know how expensive things are in Japan these days?” he asks her. Whereas Mr N is motivated by greed, Samantha is motivated by passion. “I don’t want to go, Richard,” she purrs. “Let me show you just how much I can do for you.”

    While Abby submits to Nagata’s blackmail (“Paying him off buys me time,” she explains to Ted), Richard gets heavy with Samantha: “If anyone connected with Angela ever sees you, the trouble that it causes me will be nothing compared to what happens to you.” In both cases, the woman then uses her sexuality to manipulate her man. Samantha distracts Richard from his threats by taking him to bed and Abby charms Ted into delivering the payoff money to Nagata on her behalf. “I don’t think I can afford to be seen with our actor friend,” she coos.

    As chance would have it, Paige witnesses Ted’s meeting with Nagata then sees him getting into his car with him and driving away. She starts to follow, but loses them in traffic and spends the rest of the episode trying to get in contact with Ted. Finally, in the episode’s closing scene, he shows up at her apartment building. After buzzing him in, she sees on a news report that Mr Nagata was “killed instantly” in “a freak incident” on the freeway. This is the second suspicious death of a minor but pivotal Soap Land character in as many weeks. Last week’s DYNASTY ended with the discovery of Elsworth Chisolm, a self-proclaimed witness to the killing of Roger Grimes, lying dead on the ground underneath his apartment window. Did he jump or was he pushed? In the opinion of his granddaughter Phoenix, either Blake or Adam is to blame: “I go out for a couple of hours with Blake Carrington’s son, I come back and find my grandfather dead.” After accepting an invitation from her to come over, Adam opens the door to find her pointing a shotgun at him. Back on KNOTS, Paige is equally suspicious of Ted and before letting him through her door, ensures that she has a kitchen knife discreetly to hand. While Phoenix screams in Adam’s face and then collapses in his arms, Paige and Ted both keep their guard up, making “casual” conversation over a glass of wine as the camera assumes each of their points of view in turn, thus mirroring Jill and Val’s confrontation at the end of last season. It’s exquisitely tense.

    While it took five years for DYNASTY to acknowledge Dominique’s skin colour, Soap Land’s a little quicker off the mark when it comes to remarking on new hairdos. Val’s “reshaping” trim was incorporated into her post-Jill fresh start on KNOTS a few weeks ago, Cliff managed to blurt out “I like the colour of your hair” when confronted by Afton’s redhead look last week, and this week, Tanner McBride observes Sammy Jo’s new shaggy bob thusly: “You got your hair cut. It looks nice.” His face isn’t actually in shot when he’s saying this though, so it’s entirely possible that the line was inserted later as an afterthought.

    As Don Lockwood completes his screenplay on DALLAS (Sue Ellen’s verdict: “It’s wonderful but very difficult for me to read”), Val Gibson comes out of retirement approximately half an episode after giving up writing forever on KNOTS. Aunt Ginny marks the occasion by presenting her with her very own home computer. (Truly, the nineties are just around the corner.) Unlike Abby in last week’s ep, Val does not have a tech whizz on staff to give her a crash course in computers and so enlists the expertise of one Danny Waleska, whom Ginny is convinced Val knew in a previous life (“Danny was a scribe and you were a vestal virgin …”). By the end of his first scene, they’ve arranged a date. Gary, meanwhile, continues to chat to the mysterious “Sally’s Friend” over the phone. As a general rule, I try not to look too far ahead when re-watching the eps, but seeing these two seemingly unrelated storylines unfold simultaneously is even more interesting with the benefit of hindsight than it was without.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (3) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    26 Apr 89: DYNASTY: Here Comes the Son v. 27 Apr 89: KNOTS LANDING: The Perfect Opportunity v. 28 Apr 89: DALLAS: The Sound of Money

    The past comes back to haunt several characters on DYNASTY and DALLAS this week. For starters, there are the two skeletons Blake discovers in his basement. Then there’s the appearance of Roger Grimes’s long lost wife, Emily, who reveals that Roger also has a long lost son, Dennis. “Good-looking, isn’t he?” she says to Dex and Jeff, showing them a photo. “Just like his father. Unfortunately, too much like his father.” As well as Roger, Dennis also resembles Tommy McKay — long hair, a prison term and a proclivity for leather jackets. And in the same way that we have just learned, two decades after Roger’s death, that he fathered a son, so we’ll find out the same thing about Tommy, twenty-something years after his death, on New DALLAS. Back on Old DALLAS, it emerges that Afton has a secret child of her own, a five-year-old daughter called Pamela Rebecca. She vehemently denies that Cliff is the father, but he’s not listening. “Another Pamela Barnes!” he crows to Bobby over the phone. “Isn’t that great?” Fast-forwarding twenty-three years to Julie Gonzalo sitting at the Southfork dinner table, I can confirm that yes, it is great. (Dex Dexter, meanwhile, is kept in the dark about his own child-to-be after Sable confides her pregnancy to daughter Monica instead. Monica reacts much the same as Diana Fairgate and Vicky Gioberti did to their mothers’ late-in-life pregnancies. “You can’t keep it!” she insists.) The most intriguing of all of these “long losts”, however, is the woman who approaches JR during his late night stroll in Vienna. “Vanessa, I don’t believe it!” he exclaims. “It’s been so long, my love,” she replies.

    Vienna is this week’s stop on the DALLAS—goes-to-Europe tour. It’s less John Le Carre and more Timothy Dalton-era James Bond than Salzburg. There are some handsomely mounted scenes, the most atmospheric of which takes place in the catacombs of St. Stephen's Cathedral. They evoke a similar subterranean creepiness to the Carrington basement.

    When Carter McKay “just happened” to find himself in Salzburg at the same time as the Ewing boys last week, he suggested they call a truce. JR, though highly sceptical, played along. This week, both parties “just happen” to find themselves in Vienna and so the charade continues. “That is a little lesson in business and politics,” Bobby explains to April as they observe JR and Mack chit-chatting at a swanky reception. “Each one knows the other is lying and no-one is giving an inch.” In contrast, Zorelli’s attempt to bury the hatchet with Blake is utterly sincere, but Blake makes no effort to hide his disdain. “My daughter may buy that line of crap but I sure as hell don’t,” he informs him with the withering contempt he saves for special occasions.

    While DYNASTY opens with Zorelli quitting the police force for love (”It came down to a choice between my job and you,” he tells Fallon), KNOTS closes with Abby firing Paige from the Sumner Group for “misappropriating funds.” It’s a frame-up on Abby’s part, except for the bit about Paige “living in a Sumner Group apartment and charging it to the company” — the innocent and devious sides of her personality dovetailing neatly. It’s also the end of the road for Johnny Rourke after he ripped off Michael Fairgate’s computer vaccine and sold it to Greg. Greg offers him a deal: “$10,000 and I never wanna hear from you again.” I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but I’m kinda sad to see the back of old Johnny. As late ‘80s Soap Land conmen go, he was smarter than Casey Denault and less self-destructive than Tommy McKay. Heck, he even manages to leave town with ten grand in his pocket, which is more than you can say for the other two.

    Each of this week’s soaps is dominated by one overarching storyline involving most of its major players: the European oil deal on DALLAS, the Collection on DYNASTY and Murakame on KNOTS. In each case, one or two characters are left out in the cold and are therefore given a comparatively minor subplot in which to justify their existence: Sammy Jo listens to Tanner McBride talk touchingly about his priestly vocation on DYNASTY, Val proves endearingly klutzy during her first date with Danny the computer guy on KNOTS, and Miss Ellie hovers anxiously as Clayton wrestles with a random case of amnesia on DALLAS.

    As Clayton forgets, Fallon starts to remember. While moving into a cottage on the Carrington estate, she is haunted by a weirdly eerie childhood lullaby — ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ it ain’t. She also thinks she sees Roger Grimes peering through the windows. Zorelli assumes it’s her imagination, but we can see the figure too. No, it’s not Tommy McKay on the run from those angry Dallas drug dealers, but Roger’s son Dennis, pulling Soap Land’s first mobile phone out of his pocket. (It’s not quite the size of a brick, but close enough.) There is a further blurring of the real and unreal on KNOTS where Mack keeps lapsing into daydreams in which Paula comes onto him and he is unable to resist. It gets to the point where he sees her in his living room but can’t tell if she’s really there or not — until Karen appears to inform him that “Paula’s water heater broke and flooded her apartment … she’s gonna be with us for a couple of days.”

    Back on DYNASTY, Jeff and Monica are headline news, thanks to Adam. “Are Colby Brother and Sister Too Close For Comfort?” asks the National Inquisitor next to a doctored photo that makes it look as if they’re about to kiss. Sammy Jo’s concerned reaction leads Tanner to point out the obvious: “We’re not talking about the New York Times here. These rags make up stories all the time.” Mack makes a similar point on KNOTS when a TV news report that Mr. Nagata’s death “may be reclassified as a homicide” sends Paige into a panic. “These stations, they overplay a story just to get viewers … It happens all the time,” he assures her. Paige nervously pacing the Mackenzies’ living room floor while telling everything she knows about Murakame recalls an equally anxious Laura pacing the same floor five years earlier while spilling her guts about another of Abby’s dummy corporations, Apolune. Then, Mack rushed in to save the day. Now, he insists there is nothing to worry about.

    Shooting on Sue Ellen’s movie commences. During previous such storylines, Maggie Gioberti and Val Gibson met with the actresses who’d been cast to play them in the screen versions of their lives, but neither of those movies ever reached the filming stage. Here, we are asked to accept that JR’s bedroom at Southfork is now a facsimile of same. We then watch, along with Sue Ellen, Don and the rest of the film crew, as two competent if somewhat generic actors recreate the final scene from “New Beginnings” (a DALLAS Season 3 episode that originally aired eight years and one week before this one), in which a tentative reconciliation between JR and Sue Ellen is interrupted by the news that Kristin has given birth to JR’s son. Prior to this, the closest Soap Land has come to such a reenactment is when Jack Coleman and Emma Samms replaced their predecessors in flashback scenes on DYNASTY.

    Between takes, Don reminds Sue Ellen that “we’re not making a documentary, this is a movie” — only the scene being filmed doesn’t look like either a documentary or a movie: it looks like a soap opera. DALLAS follows this fiction-within-a-fiction scene with a sequence filmed at the real-life Spanish Riding School of Vienna where exotic Lipizzaner horses are shown ... doing whatever it is Lipizzaner horses do. This scene might as well be from a documentary, save for the Ewing brothers chipping in with some characteristic queries. “Say, how much are these horses?” JR asks. “Any chance I could ride one while I’m here?” enquires Bobby. The woman in charge who turns down both their requests is clearly a real person as opposed to an actor. You can tell this because she exudes the flat, muted quality of someone who is self-consciously not acting. Paradoxically, this makes her the least convincing person in the scene. From Vienna, DALLAS cuts to the cardboard Southfork patio where Clayton is trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t. “I am really confused. I don’t know where the hell I am,” he admits. It's understandable.

    And this week’s Top 3 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (4) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    03 May 89: DYNASTY: Blast From the Past v. 04 May 89: KNOTS LANDING: Straight Down the Line v. 05 May 89: DALLAS: The Great Texas Waltz v. 05 May 89: FALCON CREST: Ties That Bind

    “I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Monica, but Jason Colby isn’t your father,” declares Alexis. “It was me, It was me — I killed Roger Grimes!” cries Fallon. “Oh Vanessa, you were the love of my life,” JR informs a woman we’d never even heard of before last week. Each of these shocking statements would seem to overturn everything we’ve been told about a major character’s back story. Looked at a little closer, however, they actually enhance what we already know. If Monica and Miles were never legitimate members of the Colby dynasty, then Sable’s overprotectiveness towards them — or at least towards Miles — and her paranoia that he would lose his “rightful share” of Jason’s empire makes even more sense now than it did when THE COLBYS was on the air. It also finally answers the question as to why Sable is now as obsessed with destroying Alexis as she once was with keeping her family together: it’s thanks to Alexis spilling the beans to Jason about the twins’ paternity (in one of those off-screen events we were not privy to, much like Blake learning about Krystle’s illness or Abby discovering there was oil under Lotus Point) that she no longer has a family to protect, Jason having subsequently disowned both Sable and her children. (It’s interesting that the absent Jason is depicted in a somewhat harsher light on DYNASTY than he was on THE COLBYS, just as the Texas Ewings always have been on KNOTS.)

    Likewise, the discovery that Fallon shot Roger, a trauma she has suppressed since childhood, would surely help explain any number of her previously established neuroses — from the daddy fixation to the incest rape fantasies to possibly even her abduction by aliens.

    Meanwhile, the consequences of JR’s relationship with Vanessa Beaumont are spelt out for us. “You spoilt me for any woman that ever came after you,” he tells her, “and when we split up, I became cynical about love.” One might argue that we don’t require an explanation for JR’s womanising anymore than we needed the story of Charles Scott jilting Abby as a teenager to provide us with an origin story for her ruthless ambition, and that it’s been enough of a blast to watch JR and Abby behaving badly all these years simply for the hell of it. But whereas the casting of Charles Scott had a (temporarily) damaging effect on Abby’s character (why is she be so besotted with this wimp?), the gorgeousness of Gayle Hunnicut’s performance as Vanessa actually enhances JR’s. It’s not just that she's so radiantly romantic and (when JR gently declines her advances) elegantly lovelorn, but that she is so believably all those things. And because we believe in her, we can believe JR was once in love with her and so he becomes a more intriguing, multi-dimensional character in turn. Encountering Vanessa on his honeymoon is possibly the most interesting thing to have happened to JR all season — more than breaking rocks on a chain gang or spending a night in an elevator or even marrying Cally.

    The penultimate episode of DYNASTY contains two fantastic set pieces. As well as the ridiculously thrilling climax in the Carrington cottage, there’s the scene where all hell breaks loose in the lobby of the Carlton Hotel. After Sable informs Jeff that Adam is responsible for the tabloid headlines about him and Monica, he launches himself on Adam. Furniture is overturned, punches are thrown, names are called and accusations hurled (“You’ve been all over her!” “She’s my sister!” “That makes you a pervert!” “You’re slime!”). Then into the middle of the chaos strides Alexis, returning after an absence of three episodes, trailed by bellboys laden down with luggage. Swiftly apprised of the situation, she delivers the mother of all revelations: “It’s just not possible for there to have been incest between Monica and Jeff … Jeff and Monica are not brother and sister.” Cue more threats and insults (Sable: “You monster, I will tear your tongue out of your head!” Alexis: “Look at her, she’s like a rabid bitch!”) and pretty soon Alexis and Sable are scrapping alongside Adam and Jeff, with Monica and several extras running helplessly in-between them. There’s something oddly joyous about the whole thing. The shot where the camera takes a God’s eye view, surveying the mayhem from above, could have made an ideal end to the series: And there we leave them all, brawling and tearing each other’s hair out for the rest of eternity.

    There’s another God’s eye view shot on DALLAS. We’re shown JR’s bedroom from above as if the camera were on the ceiling looking down — except there is no ceiling. Instead, there's Don Lockwood and Sue Ellen perched in the rafters — because this isn’t JR’s actual bedroom, but the movie equivalent of it, which is indistinguishable from the real thing. So why would DALLAS go to the trouble of undermining one of its most iconic rooms (“one of the great battlegrounds of Texas,” as Sue Ellen referred to it a few months ago) by exposing it as a mere set? Maybe because the only way for Sue Ellen to truly break free of Southfork’s grasp is to fictionalise it, to reduce it to nothing more than a few plywood walls nailed together while a bunch of technicians mill around in-between takes. After all, if it’s not real, it won’t be so difficult for her to leave it behind. Sure enough, up in the rafters, she and Don are discussing his awkward relationship with John Ross — the next obstacle to be overcome before she can leave the show.

    Back on DYNASTY, the contretemps at the Carlton is followed by a pleasingly ironic scene where Sable is consoled by, of all people, Jeff. “You and I have been at each other’s throats ever since we first met, but I gotta tell you, I feel for you right now,” he says. That these two characters, who have been JR-versus-Pam-style enemies from the beginning of THE COLBYS, should achieve a level of understanding just one week before the DYNASTY-verse closes its doors for business is as satisfying as it is unexpected.

    Speaking of JR and Pam, Carter McKay delivers a great speech to April in Vienna which mirrors the ultimatum JR gave his sister-in-law at the start of DALLAS Season 6. “If you return to Bobby,” he told Pam then, “all hell is going to break loose. I’ll call off this truce that exists between him and me. We’ll be in a dogfight that will make what went on before look like a love match.” “If Bobby and JR steal this deal from me,” McKay tells April now, “they’re in for an all-out war … A war occupies all of a man’s life. Bobby’s not gonna have any time for you … He’s gonna have his back up against the wall and the only way he’s gonna win is by turning his heart to stone. If you have any hopes of becoming the next Mrs Bobby Ewing, pull him out of this deal.”

    The scene is further enhanced by the grandeur of its location — the State Hall of the Austrian National Library, no less. Sammy Jo finds herself in an equally evocative setting when she tracks Tanner McBride down to a church. FALCON CREST aside, the Catholic church is rarely seen in Soap Land and when it is, it’s invariably shown from the perspective of an outsider: Greg reluctantly attending his daughter’s baptism on KNOTS, Sue Ellen interrupting a grieving Kimberly Cryder on DALLAS and now Sammy Jo, who steals into the pew behind Tanner. “Don’t turn around,” she tells him. “I want to confess to you.” What follows is a her equivalent of Alexis’s recent review of past loves, only with the bitterness replaced by melancholy. “All my life I’ve fallen in love with the wrong people,” she begins sadly, before recounting her misadventures with Steven, Josh Harris, Jeff and now Tanner himself.

    Even rarer than the sight of a Soap Land character in church is to observe one actually praying. Ordinarily, a Soap Land character will offer up his innermost thoughts to a gravestone or a portrait or even an office chair rather than an actual deity. But after Sammy Jo leaves the church, we see an agonised Tanner praying at the altar: “Forgive me, dear God, I feel passion for this woman … Even though I know my thoughts are sinful, I can’t get her out of my heart … Please, dear God, help me.” At a time when every other plot strand on DYNASTY is interconnected, Sammy Jo and Tanner’s story feels weirdly extraneous, yet I find this scene very moving. (But then I’ve always been a sucker for crisis-of-faith stories).

    In Vienna, the Texas Ewings are set to make “one of the biggest deals in the history of the oil industry” as consortium head Rolf Brundin tells both them and McKay that “we will take all your crude for the next five years.” Back in California, the news is not so good for Abby. Rick Hawkins brings her advance word that Murakame’s drilling permits will be denied, which means she will be unable to access the oil under Lotus Point. At the same time, the Mackenzies are applying legal pressure for the real owners of Murakame to declare themselves. “You defrauded your partners out of their holdings,” Rick reminds Abby. “You could end up in jail, and it turns out it was all for nothing.”

    Blake Carrington might also end up behind bars — for the murder of Elsworth Chisolm. “We found your fingerprints in his apartment and a witness who heard you and him fighting just before he was killed,” Captain Handler informs him. “We’ve gotten convictions on a lot less.” By this point, we know that Handler and Roger Grimes’ son Dennis are the ones who bugged Zorelli’s apartment and that they are also after the Collection. (Unlikely alliances clearly run in Dennis’s blood — seven years ago, his grave-digging grandfather conspired with a psychiatrist to kidnap a Carrington baby.) We are also aware that Handler is taking his orders from higher up — but who? Could it be the same mysterious figures who are behind the European oil deal on DALLAS? “The consortium are not who they say they are,” Vanessa Beaumont informs the Ewing boys at the end of this week’s episode. “Before you sign any contracts, you must meet certain important friends of mine … This will all be made clear when you fly to Moscow tomorrow!”

    In a surprise move, Captain Handler blackmails Blake in broad daylight: “Mr Carrington, I’m representing some very important people, people who want to take an old art collection off your hands … Play ball with us and you may not have to go to jail for murder.” Back on KNOTS, it looks as if Rick Hawkins might also be about to blackmail Abby, but she heads him off at the pass. “I never intended to make you an accessory,” she coos apologetically, “[but] since you had prior knowledge of the oil at Lotus Point, you could be named as a co-conspirator with me.” She then comes up with a proposition that could save them both: “Could we predate … all the Murakame documentation … to reflect that someone else owned Murakame?” — that “someone else” being Ted Melcher.

    The brief window of time Abby has before the rest of the world, including Ted, learns that the oil under Lotus Point is worthless means she must move quickly. This puts her in a position similar to the one JR was in back in 1980 when he received advanced warning that his South East Asian oil wells were about to be nationalised. Just as JR managed to offload those leases onto unsuspecting members of the cartel, so Abby now attempts to pull a similar trick on Ted. In return for claiming that he has owned Murakame all along, she promises to split the (non-existent) oil profits with him fifty-fifty (“We can make millions!”). “You’re the only one I trust,” she assures him while whispering a similar tune in Rick’s ear: “You’re the one I depend on.”

    Meanwhile, Zorelli and Paige both return to their former place of employment — the police department and the Sumner Group respectively. “You bugged my apartment! … My ex-partner, my best friend!” Zorelli yells while attacking his erstwhile buddy Rudy. “You are a pathetic drone destined to die a junior vice president,” Paige snaps at Bob while clearing out her desk. In both cases, this behaviour is a smokescreen to mask their real agenda. Zorelli’s fight with Rudy is a stunt he hopes will lead to the genuinely corrupt cop showing his hand while Paige is trying to get to the bottom of Ted’s involvement with Murakame. “Whatever you’re doing, I am going to find out what is going on here,” she promises him.

    As the Murakame story grows increasingly dark, KNOTS starts making direct references to arguably the greatest film noir of them all, Billy Wilder’s 1944 classic Double Indemnity (starring THE COLBYS’ very own Barbara Stanwyck). It manages to do so in a more stylish way than the toe-curlingly contrived gags Bobby and April felt obliged to make about The Sound of Music on last week’s DALLAS just because they were in Austria. Double Indemnity first appears as one of a handful of black-and-white movies Mack and Paula are flicking between on late night TV. Every scene they happen upon shows a couple in a passionate embrace, which serves to exacerbate their own discomfort at being in close proximity to each other. Gary and Sally’s Friend are also watching the film while chatting on the phone. Inspired by the screen lovers’ secret assignation in Jerry’s Market, they arrange to finally meet in a similar location the following day. Abby and Ted, meanwhile, are too busy living their own version of Double Indemnity to watch it on TV. As if the parallels between their situation and Stanwyck and Fred McMurray’s in the movie weren’t clear enough already (a blonde femme fatale, a patsy she seduces into carrying out her dangerously illegal scheme, a crucial piece of legal documentation, murder), they are underlined by the shot of Abby and Ted in bed which turns slowly from black-and-white to colour, and a lush musical score that bears more than a passing resemblance to Miklós Rózsa’s for Double Indemnity.

    While KNOTS goes noir and DYNASTY is shot through with an end-of-season urgency (Blake: “We’re running out of time — we’ve got to find that collection!” Alexis: “They are ruining me — they’re stripping me of Colby Co and everything else I own!”), DALLAS proceeds at a more leisurely pace, with a grand ball and a prolonged making-love-for-the-first-time montage of Bobby and April in Austria. Meanwhile, an amnesiac Clayton goes walkabout in San Angelo. Fortunately, not all law enforcement officials in Soap Land are as rotten as Captain Handler, and a kindly sheriff helps Miss Ellie track her husband down to his first wife’s graveside (“I don’t remember her dying,” he tells her). But while a bewildered Clayton is free to wander the streets, a sane Angela Channing has been committed by her son to a mental hospital run by King Galen of Moldavia. She’s in a similar situation to Val Gibson at the beginning of this season’s KNOTS when no-one believed that Jill had tried to kill her and they all thought she was going crazy instead. Here, everyone thinks Angela’s losing it because of her claims of being imprisoned in Richard’s penthouse and Melissa coming back from the dead. Unlike Val, Angela has never seemed particularly frightened or even upset during her ordeal, just a bit cross. While she is clearly made of sterner stuff than Val and so less likely to show her emotions, her lack of reaction is one of the reasons the stakes on this week’s FALCON CREST don’t seem as high as on the other soaps. Only at the end of the ep, when she appears in court for her mental competency hearing and suddenly blurts out, “That’s the woman — the woman who pretended to be Melissa Agretti!”, only for a perfect stranger to turn around, does the gravity of Angela’s situation seem to impact her — and us.

    While Alexis flashes back twenty-something years to her breakup with Roger in the final scene of this week’s DYNASTY, JR and Vanessa also revisit the 1960s and the end of their own relationship. It turns out that Alexis and JR — Soap Land’s two biggest badasses — were each rejected by the love of their life. “Why weren’t you willing to run away with me? I would have married you,” JR asks Vanessa. “I wanted to go with him wherever he went, but he didn’t want me,” says Alexis of Roger. Whereas JR and Vanessa’s parting was at least bittersweet (“I loved my husband, but God, I loved you too, JR,” Vanessa replies), there was nothing sweet about Roger and Alexis’s final parting: “He was terrible to me — he was violent, he was threatening, he was horrible.”

    We watch in flashback as Roger strikes Alexis, knocking her unconscious, just four weeks after Roger’s other self, Tommy McKay, did the same thing to April on DALLAS. While in broadcast terms, only a month separates the two incidents, narratively, it is more than two decades. It’s as if Roger/Tommy were a Soap Land version of Eugene Tooms on THE X-FILES or Killer Bob from TWIN PEAKS — an evil entity who surfaces once every twenty-five years, unchanged by time, to beat the crap out of a female soap star.

    There’s more violent synchronicity in the Ewingverse as Terrence E. McNally becomes the first Soap Land actor to be murdered twice. As private detective Sam Barker, he was killed on DALLAS three years ago when Angelica Nero’s assistant Grace tampered with the brakes on his car. As Rick Hawkins, he is found electrocuted in his bathtub at the end of this week’s KNOTS. He’s the man who knew too much — about Marinos then, and Murakame now.

    If the Nazi treasure aspect of this season’s DYNASTY recalls a similar storyline on FALCON CREST, then the mystery of Roger Grimes’ death contains several echoes of the Hutch McKinney story on DALLAS: The remains of a long-dead shooting victim are found on the family property (Hutch on Southfork, Roger at the lake). The family patriarch becomes the prime suspect (Jock, then Blake). The campaign to convict him is led by a long-standing enemy (Cliff, Alexis). The truth finally surfaces via flashbacks to a violent argument about a wife’s infidelity (Digger goes nuts after realising Rebecca is about to leave him for Hutch, Roger cruelly rejects Alexis after Blake throws her out). There is a devastating discovery for a principal female character, too young to recall the events of the time (Pam discovers that she is Hutch’s daughter, Fallon realises that she shot Roger to save her mother). In each case, there’s also the added irony of Cliff and Alexis’s vengeance-fuelled schemes backfiring when the real killer turns out to be someone dear to them: Cliff’s father Digger, Alexis’s daughter Fallon.

    And this week’s Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DYNASTY
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (-) FALCON CREST
     
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  17. Mel O'Drama

    Mel O'Drama Super Moderator Staff Member

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    This has brought the end of Carry On Loving to mind.

    Oh wow. All these years and those parallels hadn't even registered with me.
     
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