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

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by James from London, Sep 18, 2016.

  1. kenneth

    kenneth Soap Chat Member

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    Too bad Sheila did not know of April's gold digger past. I would have loved for her to throw that in Bobby's face rather than slapping him.
     
  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    15 Nov 90: KNOTS LANDING: The Best Laid Plans v. 16 Nov 90: DALLAS: One Last Kiss

    Much of the Ewingverse’s action this week focuses on its two sets of unlikely roommates: Anne and Nick on KNOTS, and Bobby and Sheila on DALLAS. The former spend most of their time fighting their mutual attraction while sharing the same bed, kind of like a weird ‘90s version of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, before finally succumbing to it. Anne also uses her feminine wiles to convince Nick to let her face her supposed blackmailer alone — with an attache case containing $1,000,000. However, at the last moment, Nick surreptitiously switches the case for a duplicate rigged with an explosive. The episode ends with Anne leaving her apartment hugging the case to her chest, in the mistaken belief that she is carrying her newly acquired fortune rather than a Tommy McKay-style bomb.

    Over in Paris, Bobby likewise deceives Sheila. While appearing to follow her orders, he secretly enlists the aid of Mark Harris, a teenage cyclist (played by Patrick Duffy’s real son and named after his character in THE MAN FROM ATLANTIS), to find out where April is being held. And then while Sheila is getting her beauty sleep, he sneaks out of their hotel, heads to a less salubrious part of the city (in fact, the scuzziest surroundings we’ve seen Bobby in since his own kidnapping in Season 1) where he scales a building and busts a window or two in order to rescue his bride. He and April share but a few moments together before they are discovered. April is spirited away and Bobby is rendered unconscious.

    On paper, this sounds like the usual kind of generic action sequence Soap Land gives us whenever its characters become embroiled in an “international intrigue” storyline (such as the Dimitri Marinos doppelgänger plot in DALLAS Season 8), but it really pulls this one off with panache. The genuine foreign locations and stylish camera work help enormously. Also, Sheila Foley makes a terrific villain. Bobby regains consciousness to find her standing over him, furious. She’s shot from below, making her seem even more twisted and evil than she already does. “No more long leash,” she snarls at him. “From now on, it’s my rules all the way!”

    Back on KNOTS, the Danny Waleska case is closed after Julie admits that she inadvertently broke his fingers in a sliding door while trying to escape his clutches, and then watched him drown. There are echoes here of the last time a teenage girl solved a whodunnit on KNOTS — Diana's statement to the police about Chip killing Ciji. (Mack is present in both cases, watching quietly from the sidelines.) Just as Diana remained unrepentant about her role in the affair even after Chip’s death (“I cherish the pain!”), Julie likewise shocks her father by telling him she doesn’t regret her actions. “I don’t feel bad,” she insists. “He killed Mom, and I let him drown because I didn’t want him to kill anyone else … I’d do it again.” But whereas Diana’s actions had ongoing ramifications for the rest of the show's characters, Julie’s confession creates nary a ripple beyond the Williams’ front door. Even Val appears to have forgotten all about Danny since moving on to her latest storyline.

    Just as Bobby and April’s honeymoon hasn’t quite gone according to plan, Val and Gary’s impending nuptials also go somewhat awry. When Gary sees her in her wedding dress a few days before the ceremony, Val turns into Bridezilla. First, she turns up for their rehearsal dinner a day early and blames it all on Gary and then, when the zipper breaks on her party frock, she calls the whole thing off. “I don’t wanna marry you,” she informs him. “You’re gonna cancel a wedding because of a stupid dress??” he asks her incredulously.

    With Nick and Anne doing the light-hearted screwball romcom thing and Val getting wackier by the scene, gravitas and complexity are in short supply on KNOTS. By far the highlight of the episode is a little gem of a scene where Paige, after Greg has asked her to move in with him, comes to Mack’s office looking for relationship advice and ends up receiving an impassioned lecture from her father. “You know, Paige, I’m just sorry I wasn’t around when you were growing up so that I could make you understand how special you are,” he tells her. “Yeah well, don’t worry about not being there — I had Mother,” she replies flippantly. “That’s the wonderful thing about being young,” he reflects, “the confidence with which to judge other people and damn them … You know — there are big, fat, gigantic, humungous chunks of life that you’ve never experienced and never can imagine, and you can sit around and feel sorry for yourself because your mother dragged you across Europe, but did you ever stop and think about how tough it was on her, bringing up a kid by herself? How much easier it might have been if she’d just shipped you off to her parents? … Every choice that your mother made, she made for you! And you can sit around and think about, ‘Boy, they were bad choices’ but Paige, everyone is brilliant in hindsight.”

    Back on DALLAS, the captive April receives a visit from Sheila and realises for the first time that the lonely widow lady she and Bobby befriended at the airport is also the person behind her kidnapping. “Just tell me why you’re doing this!” April demands. Just like Mack did Paige, Sheila tells April she’s too naive to comprehend the bigger picture: “You don’t know anything about pain or tragedy … Look at you — a foolish little rich girl off on a great romance while the rest of us are going through hell!” Whereas Mack’s words get through to Paige — it’s not often we see her tear up but she does here — April rewards Sheila with a sarcastic round of applause for “a wonderful, sincere performance — now why don’t I believe any of it?” Both scenes end on an ominous note. “Can you really imagine yourself years from now looking back on your life with that man?” asks Mack, referring to Greg. “All I have to do is nod my head and you’ll be dead before you hit the ground,” Sheila warns April.

    Both soaps have felt unusually fragmented of late, and KNOTS takes steps to rectify this by having Greg’s sister Claudia move into Abby’s old house on the cul-de-sac. On DALLAS, meanwhile, the Ewings could not be more scattered — as Sly discovers when she tries to track down at least one member of the family to help rescue JR from the sanatarium where he is currently being pumped full of Thorazine. “They can’t just have dropped off the face of the earth!” she exclaims. “Nobody knows at Southfork?” asks Jackie. “Nobody’s at Southfork,” she replies. “What am I gonna do?” (Remember when all it took was someone not turning up for dinner on time for Jock to complain that the family was falling apart?) Sly finally resorts to taking out a full-page newspaper appealing to Cally to make contact.

    This leads to a great scene where Cally visits a doped up JR and agrees to get him released, but only under certain conditions: “I want the divorce … and I want you out of my life forever … but once I’m gone, I want you to remember me as the woman who, for a while at least, brought out the best in you, and not some pathetic plaything you got tired of.”

    We’re willing JR to comply because we want him out of that boring dressing gown and pyjamas and back at the centre of the action where he belongs. If the sanatarium storyline was DALLAS’s answer to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (just as the chain gang story from Season 11 contained echoes of Cool Hand Luke), it unexpectedly veers into It’s a Wonderful Life territory this week as it transpires that all the inmates, even nympho Anita, are better people for having known JR. To my surprise, I found the bizarrely sentimental scene where JR distributes parting gifts to all of his dayroom buddies quite sweet, even as a different part of my brain was yelling “Make it stop! Make it stop!”

    Inevitably, JR’s first port of call upon being released is Ewing Oil where Sly is waiting with a welcome-back hug. He tells her he’s eager to get back to work, gives her a few preliminary instructions and then casually tells her to “write yourself a letter of recommendation. After that letter-switching fiasco, you are fired.” This small but deliciously unthinkable moment gives off the same all-bets-are-off, anything-could-happen signal that FALCON CREST’s final season did a year ago.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (1) KNOTS LANDING
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    29 Nov 90: KNOTS LANDING: Side by Side v. 30 Nov 90: DALLAS: Tunnel of Love

    Last week, DALLAS ended with Bobby kneeling over April’s prone body following a shootout in Paris. This week, KNOTS begins with Paige kneeling over an unconscious Greg in his office. While nothing can be done for April, Greg is rushed to Soap Land Memorial Hospital. “I hate you,” a clearly conflicted Paige whispers at his bedside. Bobby’s grief is also mixed with anger. “If you’d have listened to me, my wife wouldn’t be lying in a morgue right now!” he snarls at the French police when they offer their condolences. “You can go to hell, all of you!”

    While it wouldn’t be quite fair to say that Soap Land is playing terrorism for laughs this week, bomb threats and political assassinations are dealt with with a lightness of touch that would be almost inconceivable a decade or so later. When JR first hears that “some American tried to assassinate one of the major leaders of OPEC”, he sounds decidedly impressed: “That’s really something … I guarantee you, it wasn’t a Texan’s finger on that trigger. He wouldn’t have missed. Any way you look at it, they oughta hang a medal on that fella!”

    Then there’s the continuing story of the explosive-rigged attache case on KNOTS. As with the briefcase Tommy McKay booby-trapped on DALLAS a year ago, the bomb is set to go off as soon as the case is opened. Back then, DALLAS teased us for a whole episode by having Bobby, and then Christopher, almost-but-not-quite opening the case on several occasions before the explosive final scene. KNOTS pulls a similar trick, but on a bigger scale. Anne, initially believing that the case contains a million dollars, stashes it in her daughter’s office at the Sumner Group. Then Linda Fairgate comes across it when she’s snooping through Paige’s office looking for some classified research. Assuming the locked case contains what she’s looking for, she steals it. Meanwhile, Nick tells Anne what’s really in the case and they return to the office to retrieve it, only to find it missing. Panicked, they go in search of Paige. Unable to open the case, Linda returns it to Paige’s office. Soon afterwards, Anne gets an attack of conscience (“There are limits to what I’ll do,” she tells Nick. “I’m not gonna leave a bomb in a building with hundreds of people in it!”) and call in an anonymous bomb threat to the police. The Sumner Group is evacuated (by Tom Ryan, of all people), but not before Paige receives an earlier message about her mother looking for a briefcase. Seeing it in her office, she takes it with her and brings it back to the apartment. At the end of the episode, Nick and Anne agree to split the million dollars. They then realise Paige has placed the case with the bomb right next to the identical one with the cash. “Which one has the money?” Anne asks. “I don’t know,” replies Nick.

    Back on DALLAS, JR only learns what has happened to April when he receives a call from the Associated Press asking for a quote “about what happened in Paris … your sister-in-law’s death.” Meanwhile, for reasons best known to herself, Greg’s sister Claudia leaks the story of his collapse to the press by making it sound as if he and Paige were in a compromising position, Alexis and Cecil-style, when it happened. “A captain of American industry collapses in the arms of his beautiful assistant,” is how she describes it.

    While Claudia wastes no time in keeping Paige and others away from Greg’s hospital room, hiding behind a “family only” visitors policy, Bobby doesn’t want even family near him in the aftermath of his tragedy. “I don’t want you here … I don’t need help,” he tells JR coldly over the phone during their first conversation for seven whole episodes. He doesn’t want Mama to know what’s happened either.

    Instead, he buries April alone in Paris — the only other mourners, Mark Harris’s teen cycling team, watching from a respectful distance. The funeral ceremony appears to be Catholic and is conducted in French — a far cry from those Baptist spirituals in Springdale April’s mother described so fondly last season. It’s poignant and beautifully shot in a distinctly un-DALLAS way. Again, the Parisian locations do half the work. There’s a more cynical display of religiosity on KNOTS when Claudia follows Greg’s manservant Carlos into the hospital chapel. She pretends she’s there to pray, but really it’s to weasel information out of him about the contents of Greg’s will.

    Almost everyone in DALLAS is impacted by April’s death — from the stunned secretaries at Ewing Oil to a tearful Cliff to a frustrated James who is annoyed when Sly reneges on her promise to help him get back at JR. “What is the point of hanging on to all that anger?” she reasons. “When you compare it to April, it really doesn’t add up to very much … I think this might be the perfect time for you to make up with JR.” James gives it a go, but his timing is seriously off. When he walks into his father’s office, JR has just received an ear-bashing from Bobby about not being around when he needed him. “This whole mess is your fault,” JR snaps at his son. “If you hadn’t kept me in that sanatarium, I’d have been able to help Bobby … April’s dead, Bobby’s at my throat, and all because I got a vengeful so-called son!”

    On KNOTS, Mack compliments Frank on how well he’s dealing with the loss of his wife. “Half the time I’m staring at these law books, not reading a thing,” he admits. “I sleep maybe two hours. I keep wanting to reach over and … You know how many times I have to stop myself from picking up that phone and calling her?” What Frank describes, Bobby is living. We see him wander the streets of Paris, lost and weeping. As we’ve seen previously, raw grief is hard a thing for Soap Land to convey, but DALLAS doesn’t do too badly here. It helps to have “the most romantic city in the world” as a backdrop. I mean, if you’re gonna stumble around aimlessly, grief-stricken and bereft, there are uglier places to do it in.

    KNOTS LANDING’s Julie bunks off school to watch Return of the Living Dead, Part II this week. It’s an apt title as the living dead are all over the place. In his hospital bed, Greg Sumner “sees” his niece Kate, sweetly reciting e.e. cummings’ poem ‘anyone lived in a pretty how town’ (“He sang his didn’t, he danced his did”) morph into his late daughter Mary Frances, angrily reading Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ (“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”). In Paris, Bobby “sees” April, first through a shop window and then again later, running towards him at the airport as he’s preparing to fly home. Most poignant of all is when he returns to Dallas and stops by April’s apartment. “Oh my God!” he gasps, momentarily mistaking Cally for his dead wife: “I just saw your hair and I …”

    Interestingly, Cally is the first person Bobby allows to console him. She explains that she’s been staying at April’s since JR kicked her off the ranch and she now plans to divorce him. “Good,” he replies. “Get away from my family — and don’t just walk, run. Marrying a Ewing is a curse and the only way you can beat it is to run.” Following this logic, he would also approve of Val’s decision to call off her wedding to his brother. Gary, however, is just confused. Rather than a curse, Val attributes her a decision to a prophecy. “The dress was an omen,” she insists, referring to the wedding gown Gary saw her in by accident. “It represents everything that ever went wrong between us.” Gary’s had enough. “I’m too old to enjoy marriage to the queen of her own drama,” he tells the Mackenzies wearily.

    Already this season, we’ve lost Danny Waleska (drowned), April Ewing (shot) and Jordan Lee (murdered in a telephone kiosk — a Soap Land first). Now it’s time for some new faces. On KNOTS, Julie brings home Jason, a pal from school. We eavesdrop on them sitting outside the Williams’ house, discussing contemporary music makers: George Michael (“OK if you don’t wanna think,” says Jason), Sinead O’Connor (“She’s got brains,” he says approvingly), Ziggy Marley (“let’s you dance and think at the same time,” enthuses Julie) and a Chilean sounding band called Voodoo Child who are favourites of Jason: “They talk about peace and stuff. It’s weird. I like ‘em.” This is an incidental exchange of no dramatic import, but it’s arguably the first time we’ve heard Soap Land teenagers discussing pop culture without sounding like they’re from the 1950s.

    Jason has long hair and cuts class, but he also offers to fix Meg’s toy so we know he’s not all bad. DALLAS’s latest arrival, New York gangster Johnny Dancer, also has long hair, but whereas Jason’s is proto-grunge, Johnny’s is a Nicholas Pearce-era mullet. And there’s nothing to suggest he is anything but totally rotten. This week, his ex-girlfriend Liz Adams learns that he murdered her brother in order to acquire his company and launder money through it. So Liz dumps Cliff (who’s just asked her to marry him) to get back together with Johnny so she can spy on him. Because as well as being a New York supermodel, Liz is also a gangster’s moll turned government agent.

    The threat of the week is from Liz’s handler, who approaches Cliff from behind with a gun: “I see you like Chinese food. That’s good. Because if I ever see you in the same room with Liz Adams again, I’m gonna turn your brains into moo goo gai pan.”

    Elsewhere on DALLAS, in a move that anticipates the next era of soap hero, i.e., MELROSE PLACE’s Jake Hanson, a down-on-his-luck James takes a job in a motorcycle repair shop. “I like it, it’s honest work,” he insists. Meanwhile, JR witnesses Rose McKay’s Sue Ellen tribute act at the Oil Baron’s Club, whereupon she gets drunk in public and loudly complains about her husband’s neglect. “Why don’t you make love to me anymore, Mack? … You don’t even touch me!” she yells. This, in turn, allows JR to revive a few of the impotency-related wisecracks he previously aimed at Dusty: “What’s the matter — can’t raise the flag?” he asks McKay. “You better get yourself home, take care of business, boy.” JR and Rose later “take care of business” on McKay’s desk.

    Bobby returns to Ewing Oil in the last scene and makes what could be interpreted as a declaration of intent for DALLAS’s final season: “You better take a real good look around, JR, because I’m changing all the rules and nothing’s gonna be the same from now on!”

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
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  4. kenneth

    kenneth Soap Chat Member

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    Poor Jordan Lee. He deserved a better send off, in a scenario more true to his character.
     
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  5. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    06 Dec 90: KNOTS LANDING: The Lady or the Tiger v. 07 Dec 90: DALLAS: Heart and Soul

    On KNOTS, Greg Sumner is preparing to shuffle off this mortal coil. “Don’t bury me within a thousand miles of the old lady,” he instructs his sister Claudia. (This is our first indication that Ruth Galveston must have died at some point in the past five years.) “No funeral, no preacher, no flowers, no speeches. If you wanna prop my body up like John Barrymore’s, have a few drinks and play five-card stud, that’d be OK.” Over on DALLAS, April’s funeral arrangements are the subject of some disagreement. Michelle Stevens makes her position clear by slapping Bobby across the face. (Such outbursts are fast becoming a weekly event: first Sheila slaps Bobby, then April slaps Sheila, then Sly slaps James.) “How dare you bury April in France? You had no right to bury her without me … without my mother, without anyone that loved her!” she yells. The newly hardened Bobby is unapologetic. “I did what I thought what I thought was best,” he snaps back. “Now leave me alone!”

    Michelle is one of three (or five, if you include John Ross and Christopher) characters making a welcome return on DALLAS this week. While Clayton comes back from his travels (without Miss Ellie), the lovely Vanessa arrives from New York, ostensibly to offer Bobby her condolences but really to see JR.

    With Greg at death’s door, speculation is rife at the Sumner Group over who will take over the company. Even Mort and Bob think they’re in with a chance — but Larry Riley’s jaunty score (complete with some jazzy scatting from the man himself) telegraphs to the audience that this particular plot strand is Not To Be Taken Seriously.

    A much bleaker storyline is unfolding at Soap Land Memorial Hospital. Having gleaned during last week’s KNOTS who gets what in Greg’s will (Carlos, the ranch; Meg, everything else), Claudia’s focus now turns towards keeping her brother alive. He needs a transplant, and a compatible liver has been found, but as his doctor explains, that does not mean he will be the patient who receives it: “There are other factors besides compatibility … The [review] board has an obligation to select the candidate who stands the best chance of surviving the operation.” Claudia gets mad when she learns Greg is not that candidate and the husband of a young woman she has cynically befriended in the hospital cafeteria is. “The two dozen lawyers my brother employs will turn their full attention to the dismantling of this institution!” she barks. The hospital administrator is sympathetic but insists that “the selection process for organ recipients is strictly regulated. We couldn’t make an exception even for the President.” Claudia laughs mirthlessly at this claim, before making her pitch to the review board: “I know that every person on this earth is as valuable as everyone else, that every soul is as important and as precious as the next, but …” She then essentially bribes the board on Greg’s behalf: if he gets the liver, they'll get their new burns centre. Sure enough, next thing we know, Greg has been scheduled for surgery. “Our prayers have been answered, the hospital found a liver for you!” Claudia announces. Cut to the young wife — and soon-to-be widow — sobbing in the hallway. Like the hundreds of Africans poisoned by Camaride, her husband is another unseen victim of Greg’s wealth and power. To quote Mary Frances speaking to her father last season, “You never see the end results of your actions … Like a B-52 pilot dropping bombs, you don’t see what happens when those bombs fall.”

    In this case, however, it’s the end result of Claudia’s actions. Because she has no onscreen confidante, we can’t be entirely sure of her motives for wanting to save Greg. Is it solely to get her hands on his money, or does she harbour some genuine sisterly affection towards him? We’re used to seeing Soap Land’s villains revelling in their badness — the likes of JR, Abby and Alexis clearly enjoyed their work, while even the implacable Jeremy Wendell or Angela Channing at her most imperious were shown to derive some pleasure from their plotting and planning. Not so Claudia. There’s a sweaty, almost queasy desperation about her scheming; there’s nothing gleeful or sexy about it.

    In that sense, she might be Soap Land’s most “real” villain — she doesn’t do what she does because she likes it, but because she feels she has to. While this makes the character intriguing, it also makes her somewhat distant. We aren’t invited along for the ride so we don’t find ourselves rooting for her to succeed the way we did Abby, for example. Still, it’s early days.

    Jealousy and envy are common traits in long-lost soap siblings. The first of these rears its head during a conversation between Claudia and Greg about their mother. “She loved you a lot more than she loved me,” Claudia points out. “It’s because she loved Paul Galveston a lot more than she loved my father.” This elicits an unexpected response from Greg: “I got to give it to you, you learned something from her … You saw how she screwed up her family and you did well by yours. That Katie’s a winner.” Claudia is understandably taken aback — this is the first remotely positive thing Greg has said to her since she arrived in KNOTS. DALLAS’s Michelle never had much good to say about her sister either, but that’s all changed now that April’s dead. During a tearful monologue in a Catholic Church (morally dubious blondes in such surroundings have been something of a Soap Land trend in recent years: first Sammy Jo visiting Tanner McBride on DYNASTY, then KL’s Paige and FC’s Genele each taking Confession last season), Michelle admits to envying April: “Couldn’t you see how much I wanted to be you? … I loved you so much and you never knew.”

    Greg may not have included his money-hungry sister in his will, but the same cannot be said of April: Michelle cops the lot! It’s a great soap moment — like FALCON CREST’s Terry and DYNASTY’s Sammy Jo inheriting Michael Ranson’s and Daniel Reece’s respective fortunes all over again.

    While Frank Williams comes down hard on daughter Julie for skipping school (“If I ever hear about you cutting classes again … I’ll be coming to your classes myself and I will sit in the back of your classroom until the damn bell rings!”), fellow widower Bobby Ewing gently explains to son Christopher how he’s planning to come down even harder on April’s killers: “I have to go after them myself and once I’ve taken care of them, then we can get on with our life.”

    In spite of Frank’s best efforts, Julie and her new friend Jason are caught trying to buy beer and cigarettes when they should be in class. We then follow Jason back to his suburban house, the exterior of which is filmed in such a way as to make it appear both wholesome and sinister at the same time, like something from one of Tim Burton’s dark fairytales. Edward Scissorhands springs most easily to mind, with the long-haired, sad-eyed Jason as a kind of scissor-less substitute for Johnny Depp in the title role. (According to Wikipedia, that movie opened the very week this episode first aired.) When Jason enters the house, the camera remains outside and we eavesdrop on an argument between him and an angry-sounding grownup (presumably his father) who demands to know why he is late home. When Jason’s answers fail to satisfy, we hear what sounds like someone being hit. Another contemporary reference point for this scene might be the “nightmare behind the white picket fence” world of post-modern soap TWIN PEAKS, which was at the height of its popularity at this time. Only three weeks earlier, Laura Palmer’s killer was revealed to have been her outwardly respectable but abusive father Leland.

    An even more explicit homage to TWIN PEAKS occurs in the closing scene of DALLAS where a hotel maid is delivering room service to Johnny Dancer. The scene begins, for no specific narrative reason, with a lingering close-up of a slice of cherry pie — a recurring visual motif on TWIN PEAKS and a dish rhapsodised about by its hero, Agent Cooper. The maid subsequently discovers the body of Johnny Dancer, shot dead in his room by a mystery assailant. The concurrent season of TWIN PEAKS had likewise opened with a hotel waiter discovering Agent Cooper in his room, having also been shot by a person unknown.

    While KNOTS continues to veer all over the place in terms of mood and tone, DALLAS is all of a piece. The faces may have changed — a casual viewer would be hard-pressed to recognise more than about four of this week’s cast — but the action is reassuringly soapy: will readings, blackmail and espionage (JR coerces Rose McKay into planting a bug in her husband’s office), juicy office showdowns (“Don’t underestimate me, JR, I’m not the same naive little girl you shipped away to Bermuda!” warns Michelle, and her new wardrobe — silkier, fractionally less revealing — would appear to bear this out) and the show’s newest villain, Johnny Dancer, clocking up death threats throughout the episode (Cliff: “If I see you again, I’ll kill you!”; McKay: “You make one move to take over my company, you’re a dead man!”; Liz, pulling a gun on him in one scene, then assuring Cliff that she’ll “take care of him” in another), all leading up to that “Who Shot Johnny?” cliffhanger.

    While Michelle inherits a fortune on DALLAS, KNOTS’ equivalent blonde schemer, Anne Matheson, is left with nothing, after Tom Ryan, in a satisfying little twist, figures out what she and Nick have been up to, swipes their million dollars and books a one-way ticket to Brussels. “I’m right back where I started … a poor person,” she laments. “Money isn’t everything,” Nick replies — a sentiment echoed by Clayton on DALLAS after he turns down McKay’s offer to become Chairman of the Board of West Star. “West Star stock has already gone up 10% since Dusty acquired it. You vote it the right way and he’s gonna end up a very, very rich man,” Mack tells him. “It’s not a matter of money,” Clayton insists. “After what happened to April … why should I go back to this business when there’s so much life left to enjoy?” Such reasoning helps to justify his returning overseas to the stubbornly off-screen Miss Ellie.

    While Ellie remains absent, her nearest matriarchal equivalent, KNOTS LANDING’s Karen, has also been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile of late. Having reached the pinnacle of her role as the show’s Every Woman with her “I want to be a Pollyanna! … Nice should be the norm!” outburst earlier in the season, she has now been given a slightly different role, that of the show’s Every Fan. Observing Gary and Val’s story from the sidelines, she represents a sizeable portion of the audience in her eagerness for them to remarry. This week, when Val makes the reasonable argument that “another marriage with Gary just wouldn’t work: we’ve already got two failed marriages between us, I’d say that’s enough”, Karen counters with the memorable line, “I never think of you and Gary as having failed at marriage. It seems that the divorces haven’t worked.”

    Interestingly, JR and Vanessa address the same problem on DALLAS that KNOTS seems to be facing with Val and Gary: What happens to a star-crossed TV couple when there are suddenly no obstacles to them ending up happily ever after — what happens to all that delicious dramatic tension? “For the first time in our lives, we’re both free,” JR points out. “Three times we’ve been together, Vanessa, and three times I let you go.” “… We had something so special,” she replies. “Did it last because we spent so much time apart? Will we destroy it if we stay together permanently?” “I don’t believe that for a minute,” JR insists. “Oh, Vanessa, we have so little time,” he adds, as if subliminally aware of DALLAS’s imminent cancellation.

    Tortured metaphor of the week: “You’re like a wild horse that’s never been ridden, but I’m gonna break you and I’m gonna enjoy every second it takes to put my saddle on you,” Johnny Dancer tells Liz. No wonder somebody shot him.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING

    Oh, I loved the way they got rid of Jordan!
     
  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    13 Dec 90: KNOTS LANDING: Asked to Rise v. 14 Dec 90: DALLAS: The Fabulous Ewing Boys

    Jason Lochner starts off playing the tough teen on this week’s KNOTS — slashing Mack’s tyres (“You little piece of garbage!” Mack growls) and ridiculing Frank after he makes good on his threat to sit on in Julie’s classes. Later, however, he inadvertently passes the Claudia Blaisdel Sensitivity Test by displaying an affinity with the words of Emily Dickinson during a poetry class, even as his friends appear glassy-eyed with boredom. Back in DYNASTY Season 1, Steven Carrington drew a parallel between Dickinson and Claudia: “She was a very special person and I think you’re a very special person too.” Ergo, Jason must also be very special. Even Mack’s attitude towards him starts to soften when he tells him about his father’s tragic death. But then another layer of the Jason onion falls away when this story turns out to be a lie. Mack finally gets close to the truth when he walks up to Jason’s house and oh so conveniently overhears the commotion going on inside — Jason yelling, “Let me alone! Cut it out! Stop it! That hurts!” accompanied by various bangs and crashes.

    As well as possible child abuse, there’s also child neglect on KNOTS. Gary finds the twins consuming candy and soda for dinner and watching television unsupervised. “Mommy’s nice and you’re stupid!” Betsy tells him when he tries to intervene. Bobby goes one better by calling him “a son of a bitch daddy!” By the end of the episode, the twins have somehow wound up on the roof of Val’s house (a Clements family trait — Mommy Val, Gooma Lilimae and Uncle Joshua have each found themselves atop a building at some point in the past nine years), while Mommy herself is busy getting an asymmetrical hairdo. Back in the day, this new ‘do really did seem like a “Mental Person Haircut” but now it just looks quite nice.

    According to his son James, JR is no better a parent than his intermittent sister-in-law Val. In fact, he’s “a lying, cheating, whoring, no-good bastard.” “Not in front of the boys,” cautions Clayton when JR tries to pick a fight with him in front of John Ross and Christopher. “Well, I think they’re entitled to know what kind of a traitor their grandmother married,” JR replies, referring to Clayton’s decision to give Carter McKay his voting rights in West Star. Clayton makes a grab for him, JR retaliates and it falls to Bobby to break them up. “Another fight about the oil business!” he snaps. “I just buried my wife because of the oil business! I think it’s time I buried Daddy too … I’m selling Ewing Oil!” Somehow, that last declaration never loses its end-of-episode impact.

    Despite Greg Sumner’s transplant proving successful, his sister Claudia is far from happy when she learns that he proposed marriage to Paige shortly before his collapse and that Paige has yet to give him an answer. However, she is careful not to reveal her true feelings. “I’m speechless!” she says instead, even managing a little laugh. Over on DALLAS, it’s a foregone conclusion that JR will propose to the lovely Vanessa, and unlike Claudia, James makes no secret of his opposition to their union. “Live with him if you want,” he advises his mother, “just don’t marry him. You’ll find out what he’s really like and then you’ll run away from him, just like Cally and his first wife did.” “And if I decide to marry him?” ventures Vanessa. “Don’t invite me to the wedding,” he replies.

    Rather sweetly, Cally presents Vanessa with a more optimistic viewpoint (“Maybe you’re the one that can make it work with him. I think you’re the woman he measured all the rest of us against and we all fell short”), before completely ruining the moment by blurting out the news that she is carrying JR’s baby. “You better hope for both our sakes that he never finds out,” she warns Vanessa, “because if he does, he’ll come after my child and nothing, and I mean nothing, on God’s green earth will be able to stop him. Not even you.” Understandably, Vanessa is left somewhat ambivalent about a future with JR.

    Back on KNOTS, Claudia succeeds in keeping her brother and Paige apart for almost the entire episode (without either of them realising that’s what she’s doing), but towards the end of the hour, Paige finally manages to gain access to Greg’s hospital room. “I wanna marry you,” she tells him. At this precise moment, two separate cases of fraud are being perpetrated, one against Greg, the other against Paige. As Claudia is forging Greg’s will (and appointing herself its executrix), Anne is pretending to be Paige while exchanging wedding vows with Nick.

    Following the drowning of Danny Waleska at the start of this season’s KNOTS, the fatal shooting of Johnny Dancer provides the Ewingverse with its second mini-whodunnit of the season. Liz’s shady government handler thinks she did it, Liz thinks Cliff did it, and Rose thinks McKay did it after he orders her to give him an alibi for the night in question. In spite of her misgivings, she does so. But Rose is as much a liability as she is an asset. Thanks to the bug she planted in her husband’s office, JR gets to hear the conversation between McKay and Johnny Dancer where he threatened Dancer’s life. “I wonder what McKay would give to get a hold of this?” JR muses.

    There’s further espionage afoot on KNOTS where Alex Giorgi, the representative of a company that is secretly scheming to acquire the Sumner Group, tries to charm the ambitious and under-appreciated Linda Fairgate into passing on classified information. But she proves less malleable than Rose McKay. Before handing over the information he’s after, she presents him with “a contingency contract guaranteeing my employment with Calloway Industries should I be terminated here for any reason. I’ve also included fees for a defence attorney should the need arise. This is a freelance contract for my services to your company while I’m still employed in my present position. I’ll be paid as a consultant through my loan out company which doesn’t have my name on it. This contract also includes legal indemnification.” It’s as if Linda has seen how all the other Soap Land spies have come a cropper in the past and is taking care not to repeat their mistakes. There again, there are no absolutely consequences for Sly after she admits to JR that she handed confidential information about him to James. Instead, he offers her her old job back.

    A week after DALLAS tipped its hat to TWIN PEAKS with a close up of a piece of cherry pie, KNOTS references its time slot competitor LA LAW with Mort claiming to be wearing the same tie as Corbin Bernsen did on last Thursday's show. While certainly meta, this isn't quite as witty DALLAS's dig at its then-rival, MIAMI VICE, four years ago. There’s further self-awareness on KNOTS when Karen describes Val’s recent behaviour as “so unreasonable … so extreme”. “… Val has always been extreme,” Mack replies. “I mean I love her, but calling Val extreme is like calling Magic Johnson a basketball player.”

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    20 Dec 90: KNOTS LANDING: A Merry Little Christmas v. 21 Dec 90: DALLAS: The Odessa File

    Mack Mackenzie and Bobby Ewing both set out to right wrongs this week. Mack stakes out Jason Lochner’s house, hears a fight start inside and alerts the authorities. Bobby drives to Odessa, Michelle riding shotgun, to confront the woman who kidnapped his wife. Along the way, he and Michelle compete as to which of them is the most vengeful. “If you don’t have the guts to take her down, I do!” Michelle snarls. “I’m gonna see how she likes it when the thing she loves most is destroyed!” Bobby vows.

    Neither man gets the results he was hoping for. Instead of thanking Mack for rescuing him from his abusive father, Jason spits in his face and then disappears into The System until he is eventually released back into his father’s custody. Meanwhile, the Sheila Foley Bobby finds in a psychiatric hospital turns out not be the Sheila Foley he encountered in Paris.

    “If this is the real Sheila Foley, why did the one in Paris use her name?” Michelle asks, but nobody knows the answer. However, we do know why Anne Matheson used Paige’s name when she married Nick last week: to get her hands on Paige’s inheritance.

    There’s an end of an era vibe hanging over this week’s DALLAS. Not only is Bobby determined to get rid of Ewing Oil, and fast, but Carter McKay also wants out of the oil business (“My life has been one battle after another, Rosie, and I’m fed up. If I can make the right deal, I’m going to retire”). There’s something momentous about Cally telling JR, “Don’t ruin it with Vanessa because I truly believe she’s your last chance to ever be happy.” And there’s a really good argument between JR and Harve Smithfield who, save the secretaries, is now the series’ last remaining recurring character. “Dammit, what side are you on anyhow?” JR barks after Harve refuses to delay implementing Bobby’s instructions regarding the sale of Ewing Oil. “Do I have to play you the Battle Hymn of the Republic? This company was Daddy’s, you were his attorney. Where’s your loyalty …?” “JR, my job has always been to follow the orders of the man in charge of Ewing Oil … That’s the way it has to be,” Harve replies solemnly.

    During the best scene on this week’s KNOTS, a handful of Sumner Group employees are summoned to Greg’s hospital room and subjected to an angry dressing down from the man himself regarding a substandard report on a proposed merger. To Mort’s satisfaction, most of Greg’s ire is directed at his new fiancee, Paige. “Did you read this?” he barks at her, brandishing the report. “I wrote it,” she replies. “If you’re interested in fiction, write a novel!” he yells. “I guess we know who’ll be handling the family cheque book!” There’s some intriguing ambiguity here (or possibly just a lack of understanding on my part): it’s not clear if Paige really is guilty of taking her eye off the ball at work or if she has been set up to take a fall by Linda Fairgate, the pretender to her throne. Either way, Paige is not happy at being bawled out like any other employee. “How can you have done that to me?” she asks Greg. “It wasn’t personal,” he insists. “You had an important job to do and you dropped the ball. Anyone who would have done that I would have pounded on.” “You should have taken my feelings into account,” she insists. Here is yet another interesting contradiction about Paige: she is fiercely independent while still expecting preferential treatment.

    Although business interferes with Greg and Paige’s relationship, it isn’t a problem for JR and Vanessa’s. In fact, Vanessa makes it clear that she supports JR in his fight to hold onto Ewing Oil: “It should be your company, something for you to hand down to James and John Ross.” While Greg wins Paige around by having Carlos deliver a fancy necklace to her door (“Now this you should take personally!” reads the accompanying note), JR does the hiring-out-an-entire-restaurant-and-orchestra thing in order to formally propose to Vanessa. “As soon as my divorce is final, I want you to be my bride,” he tells her. “Oh JR, I don’t know what to do, I’m so happy!” she gasps.

    But their romantic evening together interrupted by a call from Sly informing JR that Bobby is in the process of signing Ewing Oil over to LeeAnn De La Vega, a “mystery woman” from Venezuela. With a name and description like that, one might have expected an exotic, enigmatic figure like Angelica Nero. Instead, we get Barbara Eden from I DREAM OF JEANNIE, who is just as blonde and perky as can be. JR arrives at Ewing Oil mere seconds after Bobby has signed the papers and headed off to Paris, following another lead on Sheila Foley. JR and LeeAnn pass each other briefly and there’s a frisson of recognition between them. Is it from the ‘60s sitcom they co-starred in or somewhere else?

    Humour has always been an essential component of Soap Land. There is a streak of absurdity running through the genre which means that events on screen can often seem thrillingly exciting and laughably ridiculous at the same time. Sometimes, the acting feeds into this. The performances of Larry Hagman and Joan Collins, for example, are infused with an innate sense of comedic “knowingness” that skilfully manages to stay just the right side of self-parody. There’s also the humour that is part of a scene — the characters who say sharp, witty things simply because they are sharp, witty people. This is especially common on KNOTS, which has occasionally spun entire episodes out of a deliciously light comedic sensibility.

    But there is another type of comedy that is probably my least favourite aspect of Soap Land. It’s when a scene or a storyline is played for laughs at the expense of the drama and is often underscored by jaunty or whimsical music that announces upfront that “This is a funny scene”, instead of allowing the audience the chance to find the humour for themselves. This heavy-handed approach invariably kills whatever laughs exist stone dead — and because any genuine drama has already been jettisoned in favour of humour, all that’s left is an unfunny “funny" scene. Of the main four soaps, FALCON CREST was the most guilty of this approach and DYNASTY the least. (That series, however nuts it got, played pretty much everything as serious melodrama.) For my money, latter-day DALLAS isn’t anywhere near as big a culprit as its reputation suggests. The story of JR’s Haleyville/chain-gang ordeal, for example, might be silly and farfetched, but it is nevertheless told with a straight face.

    Having teetered on the edge for the past few episodes, this week’s KNOTS finally crosses over into dreaded “playing for laughs” territory. In the offending scene, Anne and Nick are celebrating their fake wedding when Claudia arrives at the door. She has heard rumours of a marriage involving Paige and has shown up on a little fishing expedition. Anne, meanwhile, has no idea that Paige has just gotten engaged to Greg. The stage is therefore set for some enjoyable cross-purpose talk about Paige and marriage, potentially leading to some inadvertent revelations. However, any such straightforward intrigue is discarded in favour of the “thought bubble” gimmick, whereby each line Anne and Claudia deliver to each other is accompanied by another in voice-over, which is meant to convey to us what the character is really thinking. Sadly, none of these thoughts is particularly revelatory (“She doesn’t know anything! She’s fishing!”) and at one point, Anne even recycles her “And I’m the Queen of England!” quip from two years ago (which was funny when she said it to Paige, but lame when she “thinks” it to us). Because the motivation behind every line is spelt out, there’s no tension or subtext to the scene and all remains are some unfunny "funny" lines.

    Such ham-fisted attempts at humour — whether it’s thought bubbles on KNOTS or outdated mental patient stereotypes on DALLAS or Melissa’s slapstick hysteria on FALCON CREST — betray a fundamental lack of confidence on the part of the series, both in the viewers’ capacity to decide for ourselves what is or isn’t funny, and in its own ability to sustain an ongoing narrative without resorting to cheap laughs and gimmicks. Perhaps the underlying anxiety is that being a plain old ‘80s supersoap that tells its over-the-top stories in a straight-faced linear fashion just isn’t enough anymore. And, given that this is no longer the ‘80s and the supersoap genre is nearing extinction, perhaps one can understand KNOTS’ sudden crisis of confidence.

    In the event, Anne learns from a lawyer that Paige’s inheritance was poorly invested and is now nonexistent. This means all of her scheming — the faux blackmail, the identical attache cases, the fake marriage — was for nought. Adding insult to injury, the lawyer then charges her for his services. This feels more like an ending to a sitcom rather than the conclusion of a soap opera storyline. There’s even a closing punchline: “We’ve been robbed!” Anne exclaims.

    Then ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ by Michele Lee kicks in and for the length of the accompanying montage at least, all is forgiven as the episode’s disparate storylines and characters are gathered together in a way that complements them all. In particular, Gary's and Anne’s eyes meeting in church feels like a potentially game-changing moment. The emotional pinnacle of the song, “Hang the shining star upon the highest bough” recurs three times and each time is matched by an equally emotional moment onscreen — Frank arriving home with a tree after previously telling Julie there was no point in celebrating Christmas without Pat; Mack picking up Meg after learning “they just returned Jason to his father” and, finally, Jason walking down his Tim Burton-esque suburban street, now transformed from Edward Scissorhands into an idealised winter wonderland, just as Mack appears in front of his house in a full Santa outfit, his hand outstretched. “You don’t have to go in there,” he tells Jason. What should be a hideously mawkish collision of sentiment and social issue somehow — in the seasonal no man’s land of this montage — works.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  8. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Fan

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    Great job, as always, James!
    I'm intrigued by your observations about infusing humor into the soaps. I generally never liked it either. The little quips from characters such as JR or Alexis, those I enjoyed immensely, but the forced. Going the comic route, was eye-rolling

    However, one character who for the most part that seemed to work being played for laughs was Anne Matheson. I loved the character and Ms. Phillipd portrayal of her I felt they successfully walked a thin line wih her in that she provided comic relief, but she never became an eye rolling joke herself. I recall when I first watched the episode with the "thought bubble" gimmick between Anne and Claudia, I saw it as a fun novelty. When they included Nick, in Italian, that added to the fun. Of course, a little of that goes a very long way, and your observations have given me a new perspective. When Claudia is trying to find out about Paige's possible marriage, I like your point that it could have been more intriguing without the " thought bubbles." That would have been a really "Knotsian" scene. Also, when Anne finds out that the money she's been trying to defraud her own daughter out of doesn't exist, as you suggest, was too "sitcom" when it could have had a darker irony to it. It would be fascinating to see alternative versions of these scenes the way you would have had them.
    I will give KL writers credit, though, because it's still impressive that for a show that has been on as long as KL has been at this point, they still delivered engaging television. KL is the only soap I stayed with from the first episode I saw until the very last.
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    I thought Anne was really funny too. When she first returns to KNOTS, the humour in her scenes mostly stems from her being a sharp, witty character who deliberately says things to either amuse or appal the people she comes into contact with. Then when Nick moves in on her, she sort of becomes the straight man in the situation and that's funny too. It's only really the "thought bubble" stuff that leaves me a bit cold.
     
  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    I think some of the reactions she provoked were funny, like when Karen had to "explain" that Anne had to take out the trash herself.
    I liked Anne in her first season: slightly ditzy, enchanting, seductive and sometimes cruel too - but she's never been one of my super-favourite KL characters.
    Not necessarily the character itself, but I found most of the Nick & Anne schemes unwatchable. She became shriek and childish, and there was too much bitchy wisecracking going on that we hadn't seen on Knots before.
    Abby never needed any thought bubbles, and it's not like I could always instantly figure out how her mind worked. A character has to play it, not tell it, and I think Kathleen Noone was very good at acting with her eyes.

    I understand that producers/writers want to try something different to keep the show fresh, but most of season 12 was painfully devoid of the nuance I had come to expect from Knots Landing.
    Sorry.
     
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  11. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Fan

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    "Abby never needed any thought bubbles." True. Abby, and Donna Mills' performance were awesome and not easily matched by anyone else.:cool1
     
  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    Yes, exactly - that's a far more succinct version of what I was trying to say!
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    Do you think that's because you held KNOTS to a higher standard than the other soaps? In other words, would "thought bubbles" etc. have been more acceptable on DALLAS or DYNASTY? I've been thinking about that myself and I don't think I would have chosen to hear what any of the characters on any of the shows were thinking. It's more interesting to imagine. The first time KNOTS used thought bubbles was in a scene between Abby - one of Soap land's most intriguing characters - and Charles Scott, but Abby's thoughts, something about how his appearance, were disappointingly banal.

    It's like when LOST used to do flashbacks to the characters' pasts to "explain" their behaviour in the present, they almost always became less interesting as a result.

    I think it's because people's genuine thoughts are too messy and abstract for TV. For example, whenever I think of Led Zeppelin, I also picture the bakery I used to buy bread and butter pudding from as a kid. I don't know why, but it's real - only not much use in furthering a fictional narrative.
     
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  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    Oops.
    No, at that time the standard was season 11, one of my favourites.
    It's not that I totally dislike the storylines of season 12, they're not my favourites but not everything can be the best.
    But it felt kinda lazy, like Danny who hopes he killed Gary, Valene's accident-turns-brain virus, and Claudia and Anne's rivalry wasn't exactly dynamite, even if there hadn't been any thought bubbles.
    Thankfully, everything changed in season 13 (and the last episodes of S12), the Tidal Wave Energy felt like old-school Knots because it was such a very Gary thing to do.
    And the show's always had a flair for all things "eco".
    As far as I'm concerned it doesn't even work in sitcoms.
    As you pointed out, a thought is almost never a sort of communication with full sentences. Of course it's perfectly acceptable, necessary even, in comic strips.
    And that's why I like the ambiguity of Blake and Alexis' past. At the end of the series' run I was still none the wiser. Only they know what really happened.
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    03 Jan 91: KNOTS LANDING: The Unknown v. 04 Jan 91: DALLAS: Sail On

    On KNOTS, Greg raises eyebrows by relocating his hospital bed, complete with IV and drips, to the executive suite at the Sumner Group. “His office looks like a set from GENERAL HOSPITAL or something,” remarks Linda Fairgate. On DALLAS, JR finds the future owner of Ewing Oil, LeeAnn De Vega, making herself at home in his office. “My name’s still on the door,” he points out. “Oh yes, but not for long,” she replies. He then tries to persuade her to sell him back the company, explaining how much it means to him. She nods sympathetically. “It’s a terrible tragedy to lose what you love the most,” she says, then adds cheerily, “but you’ll get over it!”

    Mack Mackenzie and James Beaumont greet the impending nuptials of Greg and Paige, and JR and Vanessa, with weary resignation. “If Paige wants to marry the worst person on earth, and she does, that’s her problem,” Mack tells Anne. “If she wants to marry some dying old man out of pity, and she does, that’s her problem. If Paige wants to marry a different lunatic each week, and she does, that’s her problem.” “I don’t want any part of your marriage,” James tells his mother. “If you think you’re gonna be happy, fine, but I know you won’t.”

    For the first time that I can recall, the dawning of a new year is acknowledged onscreen when Julie Williams’ teacher asks her class if they have made any resolutions. “More fun in ’91,” drawls Jason Lochner.

    After we get our first glimpse inside the Lochner house, it quickly becomes apparent that Jason and his father are this season’s Amanda and Danny — a dysfunctional family from outside the cul-de-sac through whom we explore a social taboo. In place of marital rape, it’s parent-on-child violence. Instead of Danny making bitterly sarcastic putdowns to his wife, we have Dick Lochner doing the same to his son (“I’d never do anything to harm my precious little angel I’m shackled with,” he sneers). Rather than Gary riding to the rescue (or attempting to), there is Mack. However, Jason makes for a more interesting “victim” than Amanda did. Also, the issue itself is treated in a less didactic manner; there are some shades of grey. “Maybe the kid’s father did spank him, maybe he hit him across the butt, but I wouldn’t call that physical violence,” Frank says to Mack. ”Sometimes kids need a spanking, it’s how they learn.” “All they get to learn is that the big person hits the little person,” Mack argues. Frank then tries to pin him down: “So you’re saying you should never hit a child, ever? Is that what you’re saying?” Mack replies hesitantly as if he were making up his mind in the present moment: “Yeah, maybe I am.” Then he adds, more firmly: “Yeah, I am.” When we later see Frank apologising to Julie for spanking her when she was younger, she shrugs it off, seeming to regard it as less of a big deal than he does.

    Meanwhile, Jason remains hostile in the face of Mack’s continued efforts to help him. “Is this what you do all day — follow teenagers, huh?” he asks when Mack approaches him outside his school. “Are you some kind of pervert who hangs around kids’ houses in a little red Santa suit — is that it, huh? Am I your type?” Conversely on DALLAS, Vanessa continues to behave graciously to James in spite of his hostility towards her. When she tells him she’s made an offer on the bike shop where he works (“It’s yours if you want it”), he throws the offer back in her face. “You sound just like JR,” he snaps. “You wanna help me? Stay out of my life.”

    The turning point in both relationships is a semi-public gathering where a young man addresses the room. On KNOTS, it’s a school presentation of Spoon River Anthology. (According to the internet, this is “a collection of short free-verse poems” by Edgar Lee Masters that “shattered the myth of small-town America as the bastion of American virtue”. Given what is occurring behind the Lochners’ white picket fence, this seems quite apropos.) Mack tags along with Frank to the reading and they sit on the front row. Jason gives a sensitive recitation of ‘The Unknown’, a striking poem about a wounded hawk (“I put him in a cage where he lived many days, cawing angrily at me when I offered him food”). Just like the rock ballads Ciji used to perform at Richard’s restaurant, the words of the poem turn out to be applicable to our characters — Jason is clearly the caged bird lashing out at Mack. Jason evidently makes this connection himself because when Mack returns home at the end of the episode, he finds Jason sitting on the doorstep waiting for him. (Like their Santa moment last week, this sounds horribly hokey, but is actually quite touching.)

    Another character for whom the caged bird metaphor is applicable is Paige — it’s what she fears she will become if she marries Greg. Fittingly, Mack makes a not-in-so-many-words comparison between Paige and Jason elsewhere in the episode. “I’ve had it with her,” he says of his daughter. “All she’s ever done is complain about her lousy upbringing. There’s a lot of kids out there who have it a hell of a lot worse than Paige Matheson ever did. She’s had more advantages than ninety-nine per cent of the population out there and she still can’t get her act together.” Vanessa expresses a similar exasperation towards her son on DALLAS: “You’re an adult. When are you going to start taking responsibility for yourself?”

    The equivalent gathering on DALLAS is more glamorous. It’s JR and Vanessa’s engagement party, which serves as this season’s Oil Baron’s Ball substitute. In place of Jason Lochner’s poetry reading, we have James Beaumont’s toast to the bride and groom. “I’d like to toast the new Mrs Ewing on her wedding to be … and the ex-Mrs Ewing on her child to be.” Cally and Vanessa each reward him with a slap in the face.

    Unborn children are also an issue for the Ewingverse’s other engaged couple, Greg and Paige. Greg casually informs Paige that kids are off the agenda for them because he’s had one of those offscreen Soap Land vasectomies nobody told us about at the time (see also: Richard Channing on FALCON CREST, Cliff Barnes on DALLAS). This one occurred “after Meg was born.” He then wrong-foots Paige still further by suggesting a quickie wedding (“We’ll do it on our lunch hour”) and presenting her with a pre-nuptial agreement (“All grownups have ‘em these days”).

    KNOTS is less reliant on gimmicks this week — no thought bubbles or musical montages — and is all better for it. Paige does, however, encounter her future self, Mrs Paige Sumner, in a bar in a dream, and finds her sad, tipsy and full of regret about marrying Greg (but still more dignified than the Future Alexis Paige really will turn into). “I had one good chance for a happy life,” Future Paige recalls. “Once he said to me, ‘You wanna call it off?’ All I had to do was say yes.” The dream later bleeds into reality when Paige and Greg are arguing about the prenup. “You wanna call this off?” asks Greg, almost as a joke. There’s a pause, then Paige replies solemnly, “Yes. Let’s call it off.”

    Back on DALLAS, James letting the cat out of the bag about Cally’s baby fulfils the same function as the Ghost of Paige’s Future: “I wanted you to see what you were marrying,” he explains to his mother. “He went after her, didn’t he?” he asks her, referring to JR and Cally. Vanessa doesn’t reply. “I knew it!” he continues. “Nothing is more important to him than leaving behind pieces of himself … Mother, you just don’t get it. JR is evil. He’s a monster.” “The only monster I see is you,” she replies sadly, “destroying other people’s lives and happiness because you can’t be happy.”

    There is the sound of more doors slamming shut on DALLAS this week. JR’s Harry McSween replacement Rattigan makes his final appearance of the series when McKay uses a combination of bribery and blackmail to force him into retrieving the tape of him (McKay) threatening Johnny Dancer’s life from JR’s office. JR catches Rattigan red-handed (“That’s the trouble with a crooked cop — you always lose ‘em to the highest bidder”) and sends him packing (“You’re outta here, boy”). Rose then leaves McKay after he tries to get her to sleep with JR again, and McKay finally is arrested for murder and hauled off to jail. Meanwhile, JR and Cally are divorced in one of those sadly matter-of-fact court hearings.

    Best of all is Cally’s departing scene at the end of the episode, which ranks as one of the all-time best Soap Land exits. She already has her bags packed and is putting them into her car when JR’s limousine pulls up beside her. She tries to get away from him, but he grabs her by the arm. “I’m not letting you go until that child is born and being raised under my roof,” he snarls. “I’m not letting my child be raised on a pig farm by a little country hick like you!” “Sorry, JR, you don’t have a choice,” she yells back, “because you’re the not the father — James is!” She then zooms off in her little car, leaving chaos in her wake.

    Here, DALLAS seems to be following the final season blueprint laid down by last year’s FALCON CREST. First, you kick off the season by killing off a major female character in shockingly tragic circumstances (Maggie’s drowning, April’s shooting). Then, just after Christmas, you have another central female character, who is pregnant, abruptly depart for an unknown destination (Emma then, Cally now). Meanwhile, ownership of the family business is up for grabs yet again, but in a way that somehow manages to feel fresh and urgent.

    When the story of Val’s erratic behaviour on KNOTS focuses on her and Gary’s relationship, rather than on visual stunts like a wacky haircut or kids on the roof, it becomes totally worth watching for the acting alone. Val’s continual shifts in mood from furious to scared to paranoid to horny, often within the same shot, and Gary’s responses to them, are fascinating to watch. The combination of sad and funny (Val delivering the line, “You haven’t even said anything about my hair!” with the same level of outrage with which she accuses Gary of turning the twins against her) recalls Krystle’s plate-throwing outburst in the final season of DYNASTY. The crucial difference, of course, is that we already know Val’s brain disorder isn’t life-threatening, whereas Krystle’s definitely was.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    10 Jan 91: KNOTS LANDING: Simmer v. 11 Jan 91: DALLAS: Lock, Stock and Jock

    There are four separate storylines in this week’s KNOTS, ranging from the really good to the slightly irritating.

    The best of the bunch deals with the aftermath of Greg and Paige’s broken engagement. Interestingly, this is shown solely from a workplace perspective. There are no scenes of the pair discussing their relationship — we don’t even know if they have a relationship anymore. For the second time in recent months, Paige is obliged to return her co-workers’ wedding gifts. We see her becoming increasingly impatient with their platitudes until, with Mort, she finally snaps: “Yeah I know, you’re here for me if I need you, you’re there for me if I wanna share, you care deeply, you hear what I’m saying, you know where I’m coming from, you’re special, I’m special. Thanks, Mort.” “Bitch!” he exclaims as she walks away. “What?” she asks, turning back around in surprise. “I said you’re 0 for 2 in the wedding league and I’m beginning to see why,” he replies calmly. She is left speechless. This is a fascinatingly unexpected exchange: Mort is the buffoon of the show; Paige one of its heroines. Indeed, the series places so much importance on her, it even followed her into her subconscious last week where she encountered a version of her future self. And yet here Mort is granted the upper hand. It’s the equivalent of Ozwald Valentine getting the better of Sue Ellen.

    Something just as unexpected happens over on DALLAS — after nearly ten years of undiluted niceness, Phyllis finally tells JR off following an argument between him and Bobby. “How could you talk to him that way after all he’s been through? … He’s your brother!” she exclaims. Unlike Paige, JR still gets the last word. “If you wanna keep on working here, you better watch your mouth, little lady!” he barks.

    Mort isn’t the only thorn in Paige’s side at the Sumner Group. Only a few episodes ago, Linda Fairgate was doing everything she could to curry favour with her. Now that she (Linda) has been promoted, it’s a different story. “I need everything you can find on the history of the Richfield holdings before 1971 … This is high priority,” Paige tells her snappily. “I’ll see if I can find someone willing to change his or her schedule and get right on it,” Linda replies with icy disdain. Paige’s subsequent complaint to Greg (“She doesn’t have a sense of urgency, she doesn’t demonstrate responsibility and she is openly rude”) falls on stony ground. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” he suggests.

    The closest DALLAS gets to an adversarial female relationship this week is Vanessa Beaumont and LeeAnn De La Vega (I do like typing that ludicrous name) who have one those “ladies who lunch while wearing big hats and making cryptic remarks” scenes we haven’t seen in Soap Land for a while. They make an enjoyably odd combination. Vanessa is sophisticated, almost regal, in a specifically English way, but is about as far from Sable or Alexis Colby as one could get. She’s full of warmth and sincerity, and evidently willing to open her heart to someone she doesn’t know from Adam. LeeAnn, meanwhile, is all twinkly-eyed Dolly Parton folksiness — so much the better to conceal her vengeful scheming. Her final line to Vanessa is delightful in its soapy absurdity: “I do want you to know how wonderful it is that you mean so much to JR, and he to you — it gives me something to think about.”

    And that’s not even LeeAnn’s best line of the episode! “Oh, didn’t I mention it at lunch? I signed the papers this morning. Ewing Oil no long exists,” she informs JR airily. It appears that, much like Michael Sharpe when he took possession of Falcon Crest, she regards the company as a minor acquisition compared to her other holdings. For this reason, she asks JR to help run it for her (“You’ll be in almost complete control”) in exchange for ten percent ownership. He agrees, with a view to eventually snatching the whole thing back from her. “Sooner or later, she’s gonna drop her guard and when she does, that’s when I’m gonna make my move,” he assures Sly. “I’m gonna beat Mrs De La Vega yet.”

    The second best story on KNOTS is Jason’s. The sight of Mack and Karen welcoming him into their house and offering him a place to stay, all the while taking care not to scare him away as one might a skittish dog, is very touching. After one night, however, the inevitable legalities kick in and he returns to his father’s house before eventually running away. The episode ends with an allusion to Mack’s own backstory: “Why in the world would anyone expect a fifteen-year-old to know what to do? When I was fifteen, I didn’t know what to do — I didn’t know enough to run away.”

    Meanwhile, during an extended flashback on DALLAS, LeeAnn reveals her teenage trauma to gal pal Michelle: a college fling with JR that resulted in pregnancy, humiliation (“He called me everything but the village whore”) and a botched abortion performed by “a miserable dirty quack … in some nasty little hotel room” that left her unable to have another baby. Yes, it’s the same sorry (but dramatically useful) tale as previously told by Dana Carrington, Channing Colby and Cliff Barnes on behalf of his late fiancee Penny who died during her illegal abortion.

    Whereas the violence we are witness to between Jason and his dad this week is more psychological than physical, DALLAS opens with a hands-on altercation between father and son as JR drags James out of his cot at the bike shop, grabs him by the scruff of the neck (“You filthy piece of garbage, I oughta do you in right now!”) and pushes him across the room. “You and Cally making out behind my back!” JR rants. “She told me you were the father of that child … You took advantage of that poor girl just to get back at me!” Seeing how unhappy it makes his father, James plays along with Cally’s lie, but then agrees to his request to keep quiet about it: “Trust me, Daddy, it’ll be our little secret and it’ll be something you’ll always remember — that’s good enough for me.” This results in a weird kind of truce between them: “You’ve got no morals, you’ve got no scruples. You might be worthy of me yet,” JR tells James. He then manages to win points with Vanessa by telling her that, for the sake of their marriage, he had decided not to pursue the baby he secretly thinks is James’s, even though it’s really his own.

    Third on the list of KNOTS plots is the ongoing story of crazy Val. While she is busy hiding her medication and painting her nails different colours, Gary seeks respite at the gym where Anne is waiting to “accidentally” run into him at the juice bar. She flicks water on herself so he’ll think she’s been working out and cracks corny jokes about how exercise is bad for you, all of which makes her seem more wacky than witty. (Juice bars in gyms seem to be the meeting place du jour. It’s where LeeAnn and Michelle hatch their scheme to break up JR and Vanessa on DALLAS.)

    In my least favourite KNOTS storyline of the week, Frank Williams ties himself up in, er, knots trying to work out if the art exhibition Julie’s teacher Charlotte has invited him to constitutes a date. Hedging his bets, he invites the dreaded Peggy along as his beard. Cue lots of socially awkward sitcom acting from all concerned. Back on DALLAS, Frank’s fellow widower, Bobby, is also getting on with his life by packing up his office at what used to be Ewing Oil. He’s about to take down Jock’s painting, but JR stops him: “I want that picture to stay right where it is — Daddy looking down on the one boy he can still be proud of,” he insists. “Fine, you can have it, and you’re right — Daddy wouldn’t have understood, but I don’t give a damn!” Bobby replies blasphemously.

    Ex-lovers James and Michelle have undergone a reversal of fortunes of late. She's now rich while he's poor. This week, she visits him at the bike shop and their meeting ends with a bonkers bit of innuendo. “If I need a mechanic, I’ll call you,” she tells him. “Don’t bother,” he replies. “I don’t think I can fix the problem you have with your motor!” “Not anymore, that’s for damn sure!” she pouts.

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
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  17. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    31 Jan 91: KNOTS LANDING: A Sense of Urgency v. 01 Feb 91: DALLAS: Designing Women

    In spite of its episode title, this week’s KNOTS is a pretty lightweight affair for the most part. Linda is frustrated at having to entertain Mrs Richfield’s sneezy niece, Val stir-fries the twins’ hermit crabs without realising, and Frank breaks a date with Charlotte in order to keep Julie happy — only it turns out Julie was trying to play matchmaker for them all along! When Frank realises the misunderstanding, he laughs longer and harder than anyone in the history of Soap Land (and possibly the world) ever has before. Oh, and Kate strikes up a rapport with the immediately likeable Steve Brewer, a freelance photo-journalist who wants to write an “aspiring athlete” article about her.

    Two of these storylines include references that specifically evoke the early ‘90s — first, Charlotte’s response when Frank suggests they take in a movie at the local multiplex: “Twelve screens, stale popcorn, deafening sound? Perfect!” and then Steve asking Kate if she watches THE SIMPSONS and COSBY. (The predominance of sitcoms in the TV landscape at this point is also reflected in the title of this week’s DALLAS, which also includes another, more retro sitcom reference: LeeAnn De La Vega tells JR her maiden name was Nelson - which just happens to be the name of his character in I DREAM OF JEANNIE, the show they both once starred in.)

    Hair colour of the week: brunette. Kate admits to Steve that her red-haired look is out of a bottle and that her natural shade is Mary Frances-brown. Meanwhile, at Ewing - sorry - De La Vega Oil, secretary Jackie is suddenly a brunette.

    While Mack is trying to track down the missing Jason Lochner, Bobby Ewing is trying to find the missing Sheila Foley (real name Hilary Taylor). So preoccupied is Mack that he misses Meg’s stage debut (as a bumble bee in her school play). “Oh no! Oh damn!” he says angrily when he realises. “My father never came to anything I was in — no play, game, graduation. I was a varsity two letterman. Did he ever see me play? No.” As if heeding Mack’s words, Bobby takes the week off from his quest in order to spend some quality time with Christopher — including showing up to one of his baseball games the way Mack’s father never did. But even there, Bobby is plagued by dreams and visions of the happy life he and April were cheated out of. The contrast between these drippy dreams (during the baseball one, the lovebirds joke about the fact that huddle rhymes with cuddle) and the dark reality when Bobby wakes up alone in the dark, covered in sweat and filled with vengeance, are a very effective illustration of how much more interesting he is as an angry widower than a loved-up newlywed. In a way, Bobby’s dreams about April are the opposite of Pam’s about him in Season 8 — back then, his murder was the nightmare, and the start of their happy new life what she (eventually) woke up to. For Bobby, it’s the other way around.

    Back on KNOTS, Jason eventually calls Mack, asking for help. I’m always moved by the scene at the end of the ep where they sit in Mack’s jeep outside the Lochner house and Mack recounts the violence his father meted out to him as a child: “It’s hard for me to say out loud that he abused me and it was wrong and he was wrong … All you have to do is tell me you don’t wanna go in there. Tell me to take you someplace else, kid.” Last week’s DALLAS also ended with an emotional admission from a central male character, as Cliff — after years of being arrested for either shooting or murdering a Ewing brother or one of their secretaries — finally confessed to killing someone: Johnny Dancer. The only snag is that Carter McKay, in Soap Land’s speediest murder trial (two scenes and a newspaper headline), has already been tried, convicted and sent to Death Row. Not wanting to risk his career by having the whole case retried, the District Attorney gets McKay released on a technicality, but everyone still thinks he did it. His worlds in tatters, he shows up at LeeAnn De La Vega’s party this week breathing fire. “First I’m gonna nail Dancer’s murderer and then I’m coming after you!” he roars at JR.

    In fact, this week’s DALLAS could hardly be soapier. Rose McKay pays tribute to Sable Colby by first pointing a gun at her husband and then shooting a nearby lamp, just to prove she means business, before ordering him to sign a substantial property settlement. Vanessa Beaumont, meanwhile, is left to wonder why, when she calls JR’s hotel room in Caracas, LeeAnn is the one who answers — the very same thing Krystle used to wonder about Alexis and Blake when they were away on business.

    LeeAnn also plays Holly Harwood to Vanessa Beaumont’s Sue Ellen, first by befriending her, then by gradually chipping away at her confidence in JR’s fidelity, and then by falsely claiming that she and JR are lovers. “You’re lying,” Vanessa insists, just as Sue Ellen did when Holly said the same thing to her. “See for yourself,” LeeAnn replies, offering her a key. “This opens the door to my suite. Tonight, during the party, even with you there, JR and I will be up here making love.” As Vanessa reaches hesitantly to take the key, her eyelashes fluttering and mouth trembling, she even looks like Sue Ellen.

    Sure enough, at the party, JR tells Vanessa he’s slipping upstairs with LeeAnn for an emergency meeting. She follows them and then stands outside the room where JR and LeeAnn are kissing, just like Sue Ellen did outside Holly’s house eight years earlier. However, instead of opening the door, she changes her mind at the last minute and throws LeeAnn’s room key in a trash can — which exactly mirrors Paige’s response to her female adversary on this week’s KNOTS. When Linda hands her a report to give to Greg prior to an important board meeting, Paige dumps it in the trash.

    Then, also like Paige, Vanessa breaks off her engagement to her show’s most powerful man, and for the same reason — self-preservation. “I don’t like being suspicious and I was ashamed of turning into a spy … There’ll always be a LeeAnn in your life or a Ewing Oil to fight for … and I don’t want to share you with anyone or anything,” she explains. In other words, she’s too sane and lovely to spend the rest of her life in a soap opera. ‘Perhaps we were only meant to be together for brief moments and to share this bittersweet sort of love,’ she concludes. “Au revoir, my darling.” “We’ll meet again,” JR assures her. “Someday,” she agrees. I really hope they did.

    As well as adieu to Vanessa, we must also bid bye-bye to LeeAnn, the most delightfully miscast Soap Land character since Mandy Winger ran a newspaper on THE YELLOW ROSE. Ultimately, Barbara Eden is just too bright-eyed and chipper to convince as a woman driven by hatred and revenge, but it’s been a lot of fun watching her try. Having gotten even with JR — by busting up him and Vanessa, then dangling the promise of a full partnership in De La Vega Oil in front of him before snatching it away at the last minute — she happily announces that she’s “going home — I’ve had enough revenge to last me a lifetime!” However, she saves the best till the final seconds of the episode when she suggests to JR that he be nice to Michelle, as “she’s the new owner of what used to be Ewing Oil!”

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    07 Feb 91: KNOTS LANDING: Always on Your Side v. 08 Feb 91: DALLAS: 90265

    This week’s DALLAS finds Michelle Stevens revelling in her new position as the head of Ewing Oil. First, she fires JR, then Sly and Phyllis, and then she pulls the same gag Alexis Colby did eight years ago — lining up a reception full of hunky male models to find her new secretary. “It looks like a collar ad convention out there,” says James after walking past them. “When the Ewings had it, it looked like the Miss Texas contest,” she counters. Then she and James marry and that’s fun too. James is amusingly unenthusiastic during the proceedings. Instead of “I do”, he shrugs and says, “Sure.” When it comes to “You may kiss the bride”, the most he can muster is a peck on the cheek.

    Having lost the family business, JR turns his focus to the family homestead. “This house used to be full of people,” he recalls. “We’d have cocktails in here. We’d talk and laugh and sometimes we’d get in a fight and Daddy would jump on us. Don’t you miss that?” “Of course I do,“ replies Bobby, “but you remember something — nobody ever left this house because they wanted to.” His words fall on deaf ears. “I need our family, the family we used to have,” JR insists. In his attempt to recreate the past, he tries once more to bury the hatchet with James. “You came here looking for some kind of sitcom version of a father who’d sing you a lullaby and tuck you into bed at night,” he tells him. “You didn’t want a real father with real flaws, you wanted somebody perfect … I’m not perfect nor will I ever be, but dammit, son, you’re my blood … I want you to come home to Southfork. We can start living like a family again.” James plays along and agrees to return to the ranch. (“Maybe you’re right, Daddy, maybe we ought to try to be one big happy family again.”) He even recreates the circumstances of the first-ever episode of DALLAS by bringing a wife home with him — one that JR can’t stand. “Is it all right if I call you Daddy too?” Michelle asks sweetly (echoing James’s line to Cally when he first moved onto Southfork: “Do I call you Mom?”). James goes so far as to propose they reinstate Jock’s old rule of the family “sitting down to dinner at six o’clock sharp.”

    The subject of mealtimes also arises on KNOTS when the Mackenzies receive a visit from a social worker regarding their suitability as foster parents for Jason. “We have dinner around 6.30,” Karen explains. “As a family, at the table,” adds Mack. “Three nights a week,” says Karen. “Four nights,” corrects Mack. "Four nights," repeats Karen. They’re both nervous, trying too hard to impress and keep tripping themselves up as a result. Then Meg wanders in dressed as a bumblebee and has a little tantrum, which only flusters them even more. Oh, if only they could see what we and the indulgently smiling social worker can see — that they don’t have to try to be wonderful parents, they already are wonderful parents! It feels a tad disingenuous.

    The same could be said of Frank and Charlotte’s storyline. Having agreed to go out on a casual “non-date”, we see a montage of them each trying on a succession of outfits in front of the mirror, both anxiously looking for the one that will make the best impression. This is accompanied by some upbeat jazzy piano music (Larry Riley again) that rams home the lighthearted romcom feel the sequence is meant to have. Then we observe them in a trendy restaurant, each pretending to enjoy their nouveau riche meal. Eventually, Frank can’t take it anymore and comes clean about how uncomfortable he is. Cut to them sitting in a brightly lit cafeteria eating plain wholesome food. “I’m a meat and potatoes man,” Frank declares before reeling off a list of his likes (science fiction movies, old Marvel comics, gardening) and dislikes (French menus, public smoking, baseball). “I suppose I thought if you saw the real me, you wouldn’t be interested,” he explains to Charlotte who, needless to say, is as charmed by “the real him” as the social worker was by the real Mackenzies. An old-fashioned doo-wop number plays in the background, just to underline what an authentic guy Frank is.

    KNOTS gets better as soon as it gets serious. At a court hearing to determine Jason’s future, the judge makes the surprise ruling that he be returned to his father. Mack impulsively takes the law into his own hands, sneaking Jason out of the courthouse away from his father. While everyone else is wondering where they are, we see Jason and Mack shooting hoops and laughing. It’s the first time we’ve seen Jason look genuinely unguarded and free, yet the music that underscores the scene is dramatic and urgent, evoking the seriousness of their wider situation. The juxtaposition is strangely moving in a way that’s hard to pin down; as such, it’s the direct opposite of the Frank/Charlotte scenes where everything — the music, the acting, the humour — feels oversold and forced and, ultimately, somewhat bogus.

    Mack later receives an ultimatum: “Give the kid back to the father … or you’re gonna be at the receiving end of half a dozen criminal charges.” He refuses to comply and the episode ends with him being handcuffed and led away by the cops.

    While Mack reaches a point of no return, Bobby Ewing’s own personal crusade continues, albeit in more pleasant surroundings. Calling himself Bobby Southworth, he moves into a conveniently empty Malibu beach house right next door to the one occupied by Hilary Taylor (aka Sheila Foley)’s daughter Jory. Jory has an air stewardess roommate called Kit Marlowe, which is also the name of the character played by Kim Novak on FALCON CREST four years ago, and the stage name Novak herself almost adopted at the start of her career. So unless it’s a coincidence, this is an in-joke about an in-joke.

    Although not quite as brutally shocking as the final season of FALCON CREST (no-one’s been suffocated in their bed, at least not yet), there has been a steady succession of “unthinkable” moments thus far on DALLAS this season — from Jordan Lee’s defection to April’s death to Bobby selling Ewing Oil to Barbara Eden to Cliff confessing to murder to Phyllis telling off JR — and this week there is yet another. After ten years of working together, Sly and JR finally have a one night stand. It’s funny stuff, but unlike KNOTS’ heavy-handed attempts at comedy, DALLAS plays the whole thing — from Sly’s come-on line, “I’ve always wanted you to be on top”, to her palpable relief the next morning that JR doesn’t expect a repeat performance — with a completely straight-face.

    Back at Southfork, the newlyweds put on a united front for JR’s benefit, but behind closed doors, James is as immune to his new bride’s charms as JR was Sue Ellen’s when DALLAS first began. “Don’t bother waiting up for me, I got a date,” he informs Michelle on their wedding night. “I think you’re putting on weight, I’m going downstairs to watch TV,” he tells her after she slips out of her negligee on their first night at the ranch.

    With Michelle taking over Ewing Oil and the rivalry between Paige and Linda intensifying at the Sumner Group (last week, Linda was promoted in spite of Paige’s best efforts; this week, Paige swipes an account from under Linda’s nose), there is a new generation of ambitious blonde businesswomen emerging in the Ewingverse. Meanwhile, two other twenty-something females, Kate Whittaker on KNOTS and Jory Taylor on DALLAS, have very different career goals — the former to be an athlete, the latter an actress. Unusually for Soap Land, they’re both self-deprecating about their ambitions. “You bring enlightenment to the world; I just play tennis,” says Kate to her history-teaching mother, while Jory is acutely aware of what a cliche she is. “If you asked a hundred pretty girls in LA what they were, ninety-nine of them would say, ‘Actress and model,'” she admits ruefully.

    Kate is interviewed by her new pal Steve Brewer and Jory questioned by her new neighbour Bobby Southworth, ostensibly about their chosen professions — yet somehow both conversations keep returning to their respective mothers. “Did your mother encourage you to play tennis? … What about your father? … How long were they married?” Steve wants to know. Meanwhile, Bobby’s ears prick up when Jory tells him that she was given the beach house by her mom. In return, Kate and Jory want to know about Steve and Bobby’s backgrounds. “No fair - I’m interviewing you,” replies Steve. “I guess that’s fair,” concedes Bobby, before giving Jory an edited version of his recent past: “I lost my wife a while back … That’s why I came here … to put the pieces back together.” Steve is less forthcoming but does mention his parents in the past tense (“They were great”), suggesting that he, like Bobby, is recently bereaved. Whereas we already know why Bobby is so interested in Jory, all we know for sure about Steve thus far is that he is Not What He Seems: he pockets Kate’s house keys when she’s not looking and appears to have a parole officer.

    Towards the end of this week’s KNOTS, Kate breaks her losing streak with a victory on the tennis court and celebrates by dyeing her hair back to Mary Frances’s original colour. At the end of this week’s DALLAS, it looks like Jory’s also caught a career break. When Bobby overhears her receive some good news on the phone, he assumes she's got the acting job she just auditioned for. But as she explains, it’s something even better than that: “My mother’s flying in to be with me!”

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (1) DALLAS
    2 (2) KNOTS LANDING
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
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  19. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Mega Star

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    14 Feb 91: KNOTS LANDING: In the Dog House v. 15 Feb 91: DALLAS: Smooth Operator

    There’s a new kind of knottiness in this week’s KNOTS. Instead of most of the characters being tangled up in the same plot, this season’s compartmentalised storylines, which have varied greatly in style and content, from screwball comedy to social commentary to soap opera pastiche, now start to rub up against and impact one another. For instance, Val’s wacky brain virus (pastiche) has led to her being hospitalised, leaving her house empty for Mack to hide Jason from his father and the authorities (social comment). The near-silent scene where Gary discovers Jason in Val’s bedroom and then leaves without saying anything is a fascinating instance of When Storylines Collide.

    Mack is jailed after he refuses to disclose Jason’s whereabouts. When Paige goes to see him, it’s not just a daughter visiting her father behind bars, it’s a character crossing over from one genre — the soapy, not-a-hair-out-of-place corporate world of the Sumner Group — to another, more self-consciously “real” one, where Mack quotes non-fictional statistics at her: “You know how many cases of child abuse or child neglect were reported to social services last year? One hundred and fourteen thousand. Reported. How many went unreported — twice as many? Ten times as many? That’s just one part of one state. Paige, what’s it like nationwide?” “One person isn’t gonna change the world,” Paige replies from inside her escapist soap bubble. “The world will change when enough people, one at a time, decide to make a change,” he insists.

    Later, after Claudia, just for the hell of it, tells her about Anne’s attempts to steal her trust fund, Paige finds herself straddling genres again as she compares her morally-crusading dad with her screwball comedy mom. “I can’t believe I have a father who would go to jail to protect a kid off the street and a mother who would wanna steal from her own child!” she exclaims angrily.

    While Paige evicts Anne from her apartment (“You have a suitcase and a mutt. Take ‘em with you when you leave”), the Ewing boys are in a more hospitable mood. Gary extends an invitation to Jason, via Karen, to hide out at his ranch and JR adopts a more welcoming attitude to James and Michelle at Southfork. “I wish you’d known your granddaddy,” JR tells his son. “His shoes are gonna be hard to fill. Maybe you can do it … I’m rooting for you, boy. I want you to make me proud.” When she sees James softening towards his father, Michelle is disgusted: “He starts playing daddy and you wag your tail and start begging for another bone!” This conflict is exactly what JR intended. “I’m gonna give him the father he always wanted. He’s gonna be so happy to call me Daddy and we’re gonna team together and push that little tramp Michelle right outta Ewing Oil,” he explains to Sly.

    However, the best parent/child confrontation of the week occurs when Steve Brewer comes face to face with Claudia Whittaker. She quickly sees through his story about interviewing Kate for a magazine and brands him a fraud. He responds with a great speech that places an archetypal Soap Land revelation in a striking real-world context: “You know, a couple of years back, I got a shot in El Salvador of a woman with an automatic weapon in one hand and a baby in the other. I’ve seen women throw themselves on their children in a mortar blast. Most of the time, they didn’t get up. I’ve seen women completely submerged in rivers, holding their babies above their heads to get them to safety. I’ve seen mothers commit suicide from the grief of losing a child. I always wondered what kind of mother you were. I always wondered what it would be like, what I would do when I finally met you. I’m the kid you never expected, never wanted to see. I’m the son you gave away.”

    At the other end of the maternal scale, and much to Bobby Ewing’s surprise, Jory Taylor paints a totally different picture of her mother, Hilary. Turns out she’s actually her stepmother. “Dad died when I was eight,” Jory explains. “I don’t think Hilary was any older than I am now. She could have dumped me anywhere. She didn’t. She loved me and cared for me just as if I were her own daughter.”

    DALLAS makes another TWIN PEAKS reference this week, even more blatant than the cherry pie closeup a few weeks ago. While hanging out with Jory and her gal pals, Malibu Bobby gets stuck listening to a coked-up TV wannabe who has just pitched “a great thirty-minute drama. It’s all about this dwarf that sings backwards … a woman that talks to logs … a couple of jelly doughnuts.” This suggests that either TWIN PEAKS doesn’t yet exist in the Ewingverse or the guy is so coked off his tits he doesn’t know what he’s gibbering on about.

    Just as KNOTS has now become a mishmash of styles, Malibu Bobby gets sidetracked into a generic action-adventure story involving shady looking men with slicked-back hair and dark glasses, airhead air stewardesses and trashed apartments. None of this feels like it has much to do with anything, but Bobby’s reaction to Jory discovering a strange pawn ticket in her purse is deemed significant enough to warrant the end of episode freeze frame.

    Characters converging on one place resulting in an almighty cliffhanger is something of a speciality on KNOTS — the Belmar Hotel at the end of Season 5 being a prime example. There is a similar convergence at the end of this week’s ep, but of storylines rather than people. Gary is about to leave the ranch to pick up Jason from the cul-de-sac but is waylaid by the sudden appearance of Val who has checked herself the hospital because she believes he’s seeing another woman. After talking to the twins, she becomes convinced that the woman is Anne. Back at the cul-de-sac, Paige is babysitting Meg while Mack and Karen are in court. Jason’s uncles — more shady looking men with slicked-back hair and dark glasses — show up looking for him. There’s some tense cross-cutting between Mack defending himself in court and a heated argument on the Mackenzies’ front lawn between Paige and the uncles. Jason, on the lookout for Gary, watches from Val’s house, and when Paige is knocked to the ground, he runs outside to defend her. The uncles make a grab him, he and Paige fight back, but are soon overpowered. The uncles bundle Jason into their car and speed off. (There’s something quite poignant about Paige and Jason, characters from opposite ends of the KNOTS spectrum, trying to protect one another before they’ve even met.)

    And this week’s Top 2 are …

    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DALLAS
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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  20. Jimmy Todd

    Jimmy Todd Soap Chat Fan

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    These are so enjoyable to read, James! You're a good writer.
    It's impressive how good, imho, Knots stayed in this later season, even after losing key characters Abby, Laura, and Lillimae. It wasn't perfect. I wasn't thrilled with the Val "brain virus" storyline, for example, but it always stayed "must see t.v." for me.
     
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