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

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

  1. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Thanks to the genius of a fellow forum member, I've been able to retrieve most (maybe even all) of the original posts from this thread. So I'll start re-posting them now.
     
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  2. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Dec/81: DYNASTY: Reconciliation v. 03/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: Moving In v. 04/Dec/81: DALLAS: Five Dollars a Barrel v. 04/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: In His Father's House

    FALCON CREST kicks off with a late addition to the Fatal Falls Epidemic of '81 when Jason Gioberti (the Digger Barnes of the Tuscany Valley) overreacts massively to a kiss between niece Emma and the brilliantly named Turner Bates. He and Turner get into a fight, Emma intervenes, she and Jason struggle and … Jason falls and/or is pushed through a broken balcony railing, just like Kristin Shepard and Constance Carlyle before him. Alas, without Constance's bouncy curls to cushion his fall, Jason is killed. For reasons that will become clearer (but not much clearer) later in the episode, Emma's mother Angela and her mute manservant attempt to make the suspicious circumstances of Jason's demise look fractionally less suspicious by sticking his body in a truck and driving it off a cliff - thereby re-enacting the circumstances of Sid Fairgate's death, only capping it off with a fiery explosion rather than an unsuccessful surgery.

    The episode crisscrosses between these dramatic events and a somewhat more mainstream domestic set-up in New York. This second set of characters turns out to be Jason's son Chase and his family. This sets up a variation on David Jacobs' "DALLAS was about 'them', KNOTS LANDING was about 'us'" equation, but this time, the contrast is as much between "weird" (the Channings) and "conventional" (the Giobertis) as it is between differing incomes.

    The "us and them" thread runs all through Soap Land this week. On DYNASTY, Frank Dean is surprised to learn from a TV news programme that his humble sister-in-law Krystle has been elevated to the status of a Carrington. Conversely on KNOTS, Val Ewing is shocked (nay, mortified) to see her mother Lilimae described as a bag lady in a local news report on how she helped stop a mugging. The attitudes of Frank and Lilimae towards the rich "them" they're vaguely related to help emphasise the gap between "them" and "us". "They're steak-dinner-for-the-dogs rich!" marvels Frank with reference the Carringtons, while Lilimae airily boasts to a man she owes money to that "my daughter is a Ewin', a Texas Ewin'." "And my cousin's a Rockefeller!" the man shouts after her cynically.

    Throughout this week's episodes, the poor and/or ordinary repeatedly fantasise about being rich and/or famous. When Sammy Jo Dean walks up the Carrington staircase for the first time, she pretends she's Scarlett O'Hara. Over on KNOTS, much fuss is made of Gary's first TV appearance in a commercial spot for Knots Landing Motors. While Richard points out his stiff arms and faltering delivery (which make Gary seem all the more like a regular Joe), Abby and Karen graciously compare him to Kirk Douglas and Robert Redford - which only serves to illustrate how far away Gary is from those legendary names. Lilimae, thrilled by her brief spell in the limelight as a crime fighting vigilante, giddily refers to herself as "some kind of national hero, like an astronaut or one of them Hollywood superstars!" Similarly, airline pilot Chase, aka FALCON CREST's Mr Normal, jokingly describes himself as "Neil Armstrong, home from the moon."

    The theme of family reunions crops up a lot too: Val and her mama, Krystle and her niece, the Channings and the Giobertis … even Gary swings by Southfork for a two scene visit. Steven Carrington is finally reconciled with his father, thereby tying up the one plot thread left dangling from DYNASTY's first season. With Steven happy to be back in the bosom of his family for the first time since, well, ever, the Carrington house becomes its own bubble, sealed off from the rest of the world.

    This lack of an outside perspective is underlined by a scene of Blake and Krystle embracing happily in the Carrington driveway, Blake's chauffeur standing expressionless in the background. In Season 1, that chauffeur would have been Michael, and there would have the slightest hint of a smirk or sneer on his face - just enough to undercut the celebratory nature of the scene. Now the chauffeur is a neutral looking extra with no point of view of his own.

    What prevents DYNASTY from yet becoming too smug is an intoxicating sense of paranoia that directly stems from this newfound insularity. Having inveigled her way into the house, Alexis stands guard over Steven's room, warding off anyone she irrationally suspects may do him harm - with Krystle and Fallon her most likely suspects. Meanwhile, Nick Toscanni, in-between checking on Steven, counselling Claudia and psychoanalysing Krystle, has ominous and unexplained visions of dangling feet whilst murmuring, "We all have debts to pay." Speaking of debts, there's also a sense of the Carringtons being attacked from without as Cecil Colby calls in his $9,000,000 loan.

    This distorted view extends to the episode's depiction of the "ordinary" world: When we're introduced to Frank Dean and his girlfriend Bedelia living in a trailer, it's hard not to notice the deliberately bad hairstyle the make up department have given him, or the depiction of Bedelia as a one-dimensional shrew. (She also sweats. Rich women in Soap Land never sweat.)

    It's kind of ironic that Robert Foxworth missed out on playing JR in DALLAS because he thought the character should be more sympathetic. Taking over the role of Chase Gioberti from Clu Gulager whose portrayal in the unaired FALCON CREST pilot was soft and ineffectual, Foxworth adds an acerbic edge to Chase, making him hard and remote, even cold. In his first scene, he speaks matter-of-factly about habitually missing his children's birthdays because of his job. "They live through it," he shrugs. Up at Falcon Crest, Angela and Lance are even more sinister and removed. Julia and Emma are potentially more good natured but are too cowed to express it. (After killing Jason, a traumatised Emma is banished to her room for the rest of the episode, essentially becoming the mad woman in the attic. And could Angela's description of Julia's drinking problem before we've seen it for ourselves mean that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? - i.e. Angela has convinced her daughter she's an alcoholic as a way of controlling her.) With Chase's children, Cole and Vicky, beset by the same sorts of problems as any nineteen and seventeen-year-old in the Big Apple (sex, violence and dance classes), it's left to wife Maggie to provide the show with its heart, and she does so admirably.

    Maggie joins Donna Krebbs and Val Ewing as Soap Land's third writer. It's no coincidence that all three are married women - "writer" being one of those TV-friendly jobs that can be done in the home environment while simultaneously fretting about family concerns. In other words, it's the perfect career woman/housewife hybrid. Ironically, when we first meet her, Maggie is writing an article about "Women's Rights in the Male Dominated Office".

    Maggie, Donna and Val are all at different stages of their careers - which are accorded a corresponding amount of respect by the characters surrounding them. Val is still a student and Lilimae blithely dismisses her daughter's creative writing classes, decreeing that such talent (such as her own for music) is God-given and cannot be taught ("Just came to me as natural as singin' comes to birds"). Maggie, meanwhile, is just getting established as a magazine writer in New York. "I love your writing," her husband assures her but is nonetheless insistent they give up everything and move to the Tuscany Valley. Donna Culver Krebbs, conversely, is on her way to New York where her first book is about to be published. Hubby Ray is so supportive he even drives her to the airport - but at what cost to his male ego?

    In the scene where Chase and Maggie argue about his decision to uproot the family to California, there's something appealingly gutsy and robust about their relationship. Could they be Soap Land's new Sid and Karen? (Certainly, Karen and Maggie share the same taste in jumpsuits.)

    As well as the beginning of FALCON CREST, this week also marks the first time Julie Harris and Heather Locklear appear as regular characters in their respective shows. Lilimae, in particular, is such a rich character - as warm, open-hearted and joyous as she is manipulative, dishonest and selfish. Just as Chase's plans for a fresh start in the Valley threaten to derail Angela's plans for Falcon Crest, Lilimae and Sammy Jo disrupt their respective new homes with a similar spirit of optimism, as well as non-conformity: Sammy Jo ordering pizza for dinner then sliding down the bannister and crashing into Alexis; Lilimae turning the kitchen upside down to create a good old fashioned country style breakfast that disrupts Val's running schedule. Lilimae's dreams of fame and her unquenchable belief in her own talent mirror Sammy Jo's almost evangelical enthusiasm for stock car racing ("the draftin' and sling shootin', the caromin' and flip floppin', the frammin' and bammin'!") and her sweetly sincere plans to become a mail order hair stylist.

    In FALCON CREST, we learn that Chase hasn't seen his father's family since his mother took him away from the Tuscany Valley some twenty years earlier - which would be around about the same time Val took Lucy away from Southfork. Interestingly, this week's KNOTS and DALLAS both acknowledge this event, but in different contexts. "I went to her with our baby in my arms and she turned me away," Val recalls bitterly, with reference to Lilimae. "I remember when Val ran off with Lucy, you managed to get her back. Having more trouble with your own child?" says Gary to JR, during a brief reunion with his mama and the rest of the Texas Ewin's at Southfork.

    JR's scenes with Gary and Ray where he tries to respectively bribe and blackmail their voting shares of Ewing Oil out of them are the best scenes of this week's DALLAS, along with the three he has with Cliff Barnes. (This is more one-to-one scenes than JR and Cliff have shared since the series began.) In the episode's final scene, Cliff claims his first major victory over his arch enemy: "After all these years, I've finally whipped JR Ewing." The ep ends with Cliff laughing gleefully at JR, just last week's ended with JR doing the same to Dusty. In the final scene of this week's DYNASTY, meanwhile, Alexis launches her first definitive strike against Krystle: enlisting one Morgan Hess to dig into her past.

    A last example of "them and us": When Chase and Maggie arrive in the Tuscany Valley for Soap Land's second funeral in as many weeks, they do so as Angela's guests and so travel in style - a chauffeur driven limousine ferries them across the San Francisco Bridge, through the vineyards and all the way to Falcon Crest, accompanied by a lushly triumphant version of the theme tune on the soundtrack (a great looking sequence that's immortalised in the show's opening titles). By contrast, when they return to the Valley permanently towards the end of the episode with Cole and Vicky in tow, it's in Sue Ellen's old station wagon.

    And the winner is … FALCON CREST
    2nd: KNOTS LANDING
    3rd: DYNASTY
    4th: DALLAS
     
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  3. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    08/Dec/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Stranger v. 09/Dec/81: DYNASTY: Viva Las Vegas v. 10/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: The Surprise v. 11/Dec/81: DALLAS: Starting Over v. 11/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: A Time for Saboteurs

    This week's instalments of FLAMINGO ROAD and FALCON CREST both closely resemble stand alone episodes from DALLAS's first season. "The Stranger" is a variation on "Home Again", the one where Miss Ellie is reunited with the long lost brother who deserted her years before, only to find out he's now dying. This time around, it's Lane Ballou and her long lost daddy. Adding to the sense of familiarity, he's played by Ray Krebbs' long lost (sort of) daddy, Amos. Turns out Amos is a singer who abandoned his young family to pursue a career in show business - making him also a male variation of KNOTS LANDING's Lilimae. The episode has the same bittersweet ending as "Home Again", only with Lane talking to Sam instead of Amos because he's already carked it on a bus station floor. Following Ernesto Sanchez, Sid Fairgate and Jason Gioberti, this makes him Soap Land's fourth father to die in the last three weeks. While Amos Krebbs is just as convincing as a loveable old charmer on FL'INGO ROAD as he was a devious drunk on DALLAS, this is a slight and overfamiliar tale.

    "A Time For Saboteurs", meanwhile, closely resembles "Fallon Idol", the DALLAS ep where Bobby's old college pal Guzzler shows up and tries to scam him with a fake business deal. This time around, the visitor is an old flying buddy of Chase's, Paul Salinger (later one of JR's Haleyville brothers-in-law, but let's not worry about that now). Like Guzzler, he holds court at the family dinner table with tales of derring-do, impressing everyone but except Chase's wife Maggie. Maggie also resents Paul and Chase's daredevil stunts the way Pam did Bobby and Guzzler's carousing. Where Guzzler flirted with Lucy, Paul seduces Julia. There's even a secret pact - between Paul and Angela instead of JR and Pam. Ultimately, however, Paul is a far nastier piece of work than his DALLAS counterpart and his falling out with Chase much uglier than Bobby and Guzzler's melancholy farewell. (It also involves a way cool airstrip chase sequence between Chase's jeep and Paul's light plane.)

    This feels like an odd choice for FALCON CREST's second episode. Having just brought the Gioberti and Channing clans together, you want to see them interact. Instead, half of the episode is devoted to a guest character. Still, we're given some insight into Chase's background (as we also learn of Nick Toscanni this week, he served in Vietnam) and Julia's isolation - and delaying the inevitable conflict between Chase and Angela is an interesting move (and a notable variation from the pilot version of the show, which began with the Giobertis and Angela already at war).

    As well his service record, this week's DYNASTY also fills us in on Nick Toscanni's Big Secret: he holds Blake responsible for his brother's suicide and has come to Denver to get his revenge - but how far will he go? "Are you a murderer? asks his sister Terry. "Do you want to kill the man?" "No, I don't wanna kill him," Nick replies. "I want him alive. I want to see Blake Carrington suffer." Nick may not be a killer, but Alexis is. When she pulls the trigger that fires the shot that startles the horse that throws the woman who miscarries the baby inside her, we're finally shown a character (a main character that is, as opposed to a guest-appearing hit man) who really will go to any lengths to get what they want (as opposed to arguing with someone next to a broken railing and waiting for them to fall through it). And the sight of a helpless Krystle being dragged along the ground by her horse, her foot caught in the stirrups, has lost none of its sadistic, melodramatic heroine-tied-to-a-railway-track power in the past three decades.

    Now we know how far Alexis will go, but what about Abby? In this week's KNOTS, having tracked Jeff and the kids to an unspecified location where Californian custody rulings do not apply, she takes her ex-husband to bed, wins his confidence and makes him (and everyone else) believe she wants to marry him again - only to then jilt him at the courthouse and issue him with a restraining order instead. Jeff falls for Abby's plan a little too easily, but it's all worth it for Donna Mills' mean-looking "He hurt me - nobody gets away with that!" freeze frame.

    Abby and Jeff aren't the only divorced couple getting it on in Soap Land. Angela Channing and ex-husband Douglas (previously Jock Ewing's lawyer at his murder trial, now proprietor of the New Globe newspaper) celebrate would have been their wedding anniversary with some discreetly off-screen nookie.

    Lust-at-first-sight rears its swollen head twice this week, and both times between it's between a spoilt, married heiress and a sinister stranger. In FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael Tyrone makes Constance Weldon Caryle purr by rubbing her neck with ice cubes, while on DYNASTY, Fallon Carrington Colby exchanges French pleasantries with Dr Nick whilst wearing only a towel, then later climbs through his apartment window to lie in wait for him. (Constance can't do that bit yet because she's still pretending to be paralysed.)

    There's some interesting stuff about gender roles in this week's Soap Land. "Women are into all kinds of different occupations nowadays," observes Val in KNOTS. Indeed they are - the principle antagonist in three of the five soaps is now a woman: Abby, Alexis and Angela. And the primary business in two of the soaps is female-owned and run. "I declare! A woman sellin' cars?? … What's a woman know about machines?" exclaims Lilimae upon hearing that Karen has taken a proactive involvement in the running of Knots Landing Motors. On the domestic front, FALCON CREST's best scene involves Chase watching smugly as an angry Maggie insists on changing her own tyre. Gender roles remain steadfastly traditional in DALLAS, meanwhile, much to Donna's frustration. "Do you feel it's a sign of weakness to talk to a woman about your problems?" Miss Ellie asks Ray, hitting the nail on the head.

    KNOTS and DALLAS each use a variation on the same gag this week. On KNOTS, Richard turns to Kenny for advice on where he can acquire a couple of call girls. On DALLAS, Bobby Ewing asks an old college pal turned doctor about the best way to determine the paternity of a child. Despite Richard and Bobby's insistence that they are enquiring on behalf of a third party (which they are), Kenny and the doc assume that the "friend" they're talking about is themselves.

    Meanwhile, Soap Land's psychiatric patients grow increasingly frustrated with their shrinks. "Boy, am I getting sick and tired of that!" snaps Claudia in DYNASTY. "I really hate it, you know? ... All of this probing. What are you looking for? What hidden motive?" "There's nothing left to talk about," Pam insists on DALLAS. "This is so futile … We can talk from now until doomsday about why I feel the way I feel and it won't change anything."

    Blake and JR are in both financial straits and each leaves town to try and raise the money he needs. Blake flies to Vegas to sell a share in his football team so he can repay Cecil Colby his $9,000,000. Meanwhile, JR travels to New York to discuss floating Ewing Oil on the Stock Exchange - a desperate attempt to raise the $20,000,000 plus interest he needs to stop Cliff, Vaughn Leland and the cartel foreclosing on the company's assets. (New York is represented by the same establishing shot of the Brooklyn Bridge and Twin Towers used throughout last week's FALCON CREST.) Blake's meeting, involving snarls, threats, haggling and hoodlums, is ultimately successful. JR's is not. However, the main purpose of both trips is to remove Blake and JR from the centre of the action for the majority of their respective episodes. When each man does return home, it's to a major baby-related drama: for in the same week that Alexis Carrington kills a baby, Bobby Ewing buys one - a fact acknowledged thirty-one years later in the brilliant drill site scene of New DALLAS's pilot episode. ("Bobby's not your dad," John Ross reminds Christopher. "Everybody knows your dad sold you when you were a little baby.")

    While the best scene in "Starting Over" is Sue Ellen breaking up with Dusty, (finally she gets to make the kind of noble sacrifice she talked about in "Lover, Come Back") the funnest part is the way all the other storylines - Ray's business problem, JR's stockpile of oil, Bobby's purchase of Christopher, Pam's breakdown and Miss Ellie's current de-facto role as head of the family - converge at the end of the episode to create one almighty misunderstanding that manages to be stupid, funny and thrilling all at the same time. "It happened! Oh, we’ve got a baby to adopt!" cries Pam as she grabs Christopher, her shrill elation hitting the perfect manic note for this nutty twist.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (4) DALLAS
    3 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    4 (1) FALCON CREST
    5 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  4. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    15/Dec/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Powers That Be v. 16/Dec/81: DYNASTY: The Miscarriage v. 17/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: One of a Kind v. 18/Dec/81: DALLAS: Waterloo at Southfork v. 18/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: The Tangled Vines

    Eudora's out-of-nowhere addiction to "nerve pills" comes to a head in this week's FLAMINGO ROAD when Constance finds her on all fours in her bedroom, going through withdrawal. Constance is so freaked out that she forgets to pretend she is paralysed and leaps out of her wheelchair and to her mother's side. At that precise moment, Field enters the room, having just returned from a senatorial trip to Tallahassee, and sees his crippled wife looking not so crippled after all. It's a scene as joyfully ridiculous as the "We've got a baby to adopt!" climax of last week's DALLAS. With Eudora taking Pam's place at the Soap Land Sanitarium - all the better for Claude to have her declared mentally incompetent so he can sell the barrio to Michael Tyrone without her signature - where does this leave Field and Constance's marriage, currently held together by a combination of guilt, emotional blackmail and mutual self-interest? "We're still man and wife," Constance reminds her husband. "What we are is a corporation and I'm still Chairman of the Board," Field replies.

    Last week, Pam Ewing was a hopeless depressive, unable to come to terms with her inability to have a child, while Krystle Carrington was a radiant mother-to-be. This week, they've swapped lives. With Christopher in her arms, Pam is miraculously cured and happier than she has ever been. After miscarrying her baby and being told she can't have another, Krystle is inconsolable. The hospital scene where Krystle grieves for her loss in front of Nick Toscanni carries a raw, red-eyed anguish more emotionally alive than anything we've seen during Pam's equivalent story-line. (Where Nick unlocks Krystle's pain in front of our eyes, Pam's neuroses remain sealed off from us, just as they are from Bobby.)

    This week brings Soap Land's first on-screen divorce, between JR and Sue Ellen, and its first Christmas, celebrated exclusively on KNOTS LANDING. Divorce is a nasty business, as Teddy Becker, an old boyfriend of Karen's visiting from New York, and Evelyn Michaelson, a patient at the hospital where Mitch Cooper is now interning, can attest. Teddy may have been divorced eight years ago, but he still bears the scars. "She's remarried now," he says of his ex-wife, smiling bravely. "I understand she's very happy." It's a similar story for Evelyn: "He's getting a new life, I'm getting a new face," she tells Mitch, smiling the same brave smile as Teddy. But those break ups sound almost idyllic compared to what JR has in store for Sue Ellen: "I have the witnesses and the depositions to prove that you're a drunk, a tramp and an unfit mother … I'll fight you till you're in the streets with nothin' more to your name but the clothes on your back and a little tin cup in your hand."

    The latest round of Soap Land Song Wars is between Lane Ballou on FLAMINGO ROAD (yet again) and the combined efforts of Lilimae, Brian, Olivia and the Wards on KNOTS. For a change, the songs are each part of the narrative rather than functioning simply as background music. In FLAM RD's main subplot, Lane puts her $3,000 savings where her mouth is to make a demo recording of "Could This Be Magic", her own composition no less, at Golden Groove Studios. However, the studio isn't quite what it seems - it's a cover for a bootleg operation - and when the bad guys receive a tip-off from Titus that the FBI is on their tail, they skedaddle, leaving Lane broke and demo-less, but with her dreams intact. Over on KNOTS, an emotional Karen listens from her bedroom window as the Seaview Circle carollers run through "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" and "Silent Night". Meanwhile, Gary watches from his own house. "She doesn't look any older than the little ones," he says of Lilimae, before painting an evocative picture of his mother-in-law as "a little country Peter Pan" who never grew up. Pretty as Lane's song is, it's no competition for Julie Harris and her autoharp. Once again, KNOTS is the winner.

    Soap Land is suddenly full of Yankees. "Why'd you leave New York? Did the Big Apple give you a tummy ache?" Fallon asks Nick in DYNASTY. Meanwhile, Teddy Becker becomes the first KNOTS character to properly acknowledge Karen as a native New Yorker. "I tried to picture you in California, but it's such an incongruous image," he tells her. "I just woke up one morning and decided I liked it here," she shrugs. It's not proving that simple an adjustment for FALCON CREST's Cole and Vicky, described by their mother as "born and bred New Yorkers." "How come it's so humid?" Vicky complains. "California's not supposed to be humid … I'm having a hard time getting used to living out here in the middle of nowhere … The whole town is one restaurant, one bar and one disco … I miss New York. I miss my friends and my dancing, going to the theatre. Falcon Crest just doesn't cut it!" (Not all of Soap Land's young folk are as resistant to new experiences. Vicky's KNOTS counterpart, Diana, is dazzled by the great and the good she mixes with whilst attending a governor's dinner on Teddy's arm, and rich boy Steven Carrington falls in love with the down and dirty world of stock car racing introduced to him by Sammy Jo on DYNASTY.)

    Things also get a bit meta this week. "It's a cute story," smirks Abby, referencing the obvious connection between Teddy and Diana on KNOTS. "'Daughter bags Mom's old boyfriend.' It's been done, of course, on soap operas." This line becomes even more ironic in hindsight when one recalls another time this soap opera story would be told - five years later, involving Abby herself, Olivia and Peter Hollister. Meanwhile, Vicky's line on FALCON CREST - "Dad's got this fantasy that living together on the vineyard's gonna turn us into the Waltons" - is a direct reference to the show that FC's creator, Earl Hamner, is most famous for.

    As Abby notes, the Karen/Teddy/Diana triangle is a familiar soap premise - becoming even soapier when Ted tells Karen he thinks Diana could be his daughter. However, KNOTS characteristically takes the less obvious route, and the whole situation is underplayed with the minimum of melodrama - perhaps too underplayed at times. But it's a sweetly touching ep, as Karen realises Teddy's need to believe Diana is his stems from losing his own kids after his marriage break-up.

    Divorce, childlessness, parental absenteeism … these themes permeate the week's episodes. On KNOTS, Sid's absence hovers over the Fairgates' Christmas while Lilimae's festive cheer only serves to remind Val of all the times her mother wasn't with her as a child ("When I hear her talk about those dear sweet Christmases that never were I just wanna throw up"). The scene where Lilimae presents Val with the dreaded patchwork quilt she has made for her and Val embraces her, thereby silently forgiving her for all those Christmases they missed out on in the past, always touches me.

    And then there's the brilliantly excruciating scene where, after Richard has given Laura the Christmas gift of a car, Laura's boss Scooter shows up and unintentionally upstages him by also giving her a car - only a much bigger and better one. Richard reacts as graciously as he can, insisting his wife keep Scooter's gift, but the blow to his pride is palpable.

    There's a similar dynamic on DALLAS between Ray, whose land deal has collapsed, and Donna, whose star is in the ascendant. Unlike the Averys, however, the Krebbses are past putting on a brave front. "Look at you," says Ray, "my wife, the girl that has everything. You got looks, you got brains, you got political savvy. You can sit down and write a book, and boom - just like that, I guarantee you it's gonna be a best seller. And look at the dummy you're married to."

    "Waterloo at Southfork" is the kind of DALLAS episode - action packed and filled with conflict - that makes you forget however many sluggish instalments or contrived plot devices it's taken to get us there. Sparks fly between Larry Hagman and Barbara Bel Geddes ("Then you're gonna have to break me, JR") while the scene where Miss Ellie stands up to the cartel is justifiably regarded as classic. Her line to Cliff, "How long are you going to perpetuate this stupid Barnes/Ewing feud, till we're all dead and gone?" seems more meaningful than ever in light of events on New DALLAS.

    A gibbering Eudora notwithstanding, old ladies are doing it for themselves in this week's Soap Land. As if Lilimae's homemade quilt weren't impressive enough, Miss Ellie strikes a deal with Clayton Farlow to pay off Ewing Oil's debt to the cartel and on FALCON CREST, Angela Channing acquires someone else's loan - she buys up vintner Carl Reed's mortgage in order to dissuade him from buying Chase's harvest, which in turn would have allowed Chase to pay off the taxes on the land he has inherited from his father. She also uses her influence with the bank to have them refuse Chase a loan. Her hope is that he will be forced to sell up (to her) and return from whence he came.

    Interestingly, the Giobertis have yet to figure out that Angela is behind their difficulties. Regarding her as an irksome but relatively harmless aunt, they have no idea of the extent of her ruthlessness. It's a similar situation on DYNASTY where Alexis is now free to roam the Carrington grounds, dropping poison into Claudia's ear about Krystle and Blake's about Sammy Jo, whilst also listening in on business conversations about Rashid Ahmed.

    Angela's grandson Lance, meanwhile, demonstrates to the audience what a fantastic little shit he can be - smugly threatening Carl Reed then petulantly trashing a bar owner's property and pinning the blame on Cole. The dynamic between Cole and Lance at this stage is not dissimilar from that between Christopher and John Ross in New DALLAS - cousins who might easily be friends but instead find themselves on opposite sides of a feud passed down from a previous generation.

    In each of this week's FALCON CREST and KNOTS, an old family photograph helps bring resolution to a storyline. Karen finds a picture of Sid's grandmother in which she bears a remarkable resemblance to Claudia Lonow with a wig on, thereby ending any confusion over who Diana's father might be. Meanwhile, Chase ruminates over an old snapshot: "That's me and my father. This must have been taken shortly before my mother left him and took me to Paris. We hardly had a chance to get to know one another." (The photo is dated 1950, which means Chase left the valley ten years earlier than was established in the opening episode - but hey, who's counting?) Chase shows the picture to his son Cole, who has been growing seriously disillusioned with grape farming ("I'm sick and tired of this vineyard!"). The pic, and Chase's accompanying history lesson, ("Some of the grapes in this vineyard have been ten generations in the making - my great grandfather came to this valley with cuttings from some of the same vines his great grandfather planted in Northern Italy") serve to imbue Cole with a sense of family pride and the possibility that maybe Falcon Crest can cut it after all.

    The end of "Tangled Vines" reminds me of the last scene of "Call Girl", the Season 1 episode of DALLAS, where JR becomes the last to learn that Pam and Bobby have reconciled at Southfork and the rest of the family chuckle at his dismayed reaction. Here, the Giobertis invite the Channings over to celebrate their good news: they've sold their brownstone in New York and now have enough money to remain at Falcon Crest permanently. Cue big smiles from everyone save Angela and Lance, who are caught looking suitably bemused in the freeze frame. Their look of defeat is mirrored by JR's in the closing moments of this week's DALLAS when the judge announces his decision to award custody of John Ross to his mother, with JR granted access on alternate weekends - a festive reminder, perhaps, that sometimes bad guys do finish last.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    22/Dec/81: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Little Foxes v. 24/Dec/81: KNOTS LANDING: Secrets v. 25/Dec/81: FALCON CREST: The Harvest

    Christmas arrives in FLAMINGO ROAD a week later than it did in KNOTS LANDING. The decorations are a tad more excessive - even the barrio slum dwellers have draped their doors with tinsel - but while Lane Ballou's version of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" pre-empts Karen Mackenzie's by nine years, "Silent Night" remains the carollers' festive song of choice. Overall, it's a less sentimental ep, with Michael Tyrone behaving positively Scrooge-like. "I want you to evict those Cuban trespassers," he orders. "On Christmas Eve?" asks a surprised Titus. "There are no holidays for men like us," he replies. "Their eviction notices will be in their Christmas stockings," Titus assures him.

    Where FLAMINGO ROAD has the Cuban Sanchez clan, FALCON CREST has the Mexican Nunouzes, a family of manual labourers headed by Gus Nunouz, Chase's right hand man in the vineyard. The budding romance between the Weldons' son Skipper and Alicia Sanchez on FL'RD mirrors the one between the Giobertis' daughter Vicky and Gus's son Mario on FALCON CREST. While Alicia's brother Julio disapproves of her associating with a rich Anglo, Mario's mother (also named Alicia) fears Mario's relationship with Vicky will jeopardise his college prospects. Unlike FL'RD, FALCON CREST does not address the issue of race directly. "We come from such different backgrounds" is as close at it gets - suggesting class as much as ethnicity. Vicky's cousin Lance, however, repeatedly taunts Mario, calling him "a picker" and managing to make the word sound like a racial epithet. After Lance sees Mario dancing with Vicky at The Hideaway (the young people's hangout of choice in FC - a somewhat less groovy version of The Blue Whale in DARK SHADOWS or the Hideaway in PEYTON PLACE) and stabs him with a broken bottle, Angela offers the Nunouzes a deal: a college scholarship for Mario if they drop assault charges against her grandson. They accept the bribe gratefully and without hesitation. By contrast, Julio Sanchez regards even an invitation to the Weldons' Christmas party as a handout and angrily declines it. Only when he is approached by Skipper's sister Constance, to whom he is clearly attracted, does his attitude soften.

    Minor trend of the week #1: One character casting a critical eye over the financial records of another. On KNOTS, Scooter Warren goes through the receipts of his estranged wife Miriam, questioning why he should be expected to pay $212 for her lover's green silk kimono, among other items. On FALCON CREST, Angela is so unimpressed with Lance's bank statement ("How can you spend such an exorbitant amount of money in one month?") that she cancels his checking account. And an entire subplot of this week's KNOTS is devoted to Karen and Gary's very entertaining attempts to first decipher Abby's bookkeeping entries and then persuade her to return to KLM in time for an audit by the IRS. (For her eventual meeting with the auditor, Gary notes that Abby has gone for the "silk blouse and no bra" approach.) On FLAMINGO ROAD, a document of another kind enables Eudora to realise that Claude has forged her signature in a fraudulent attempt to sell the barrio to Michael Tyrone.

    Minor trend of the week #2: Characters speaking and/or pretending to be Spanish. "Meester Avery no en casa," says Laura on KNOTS when a woman she mistakenly believes to be sleeping with Richard calls the marital home. Meanwhile, Lance converses in their mother tongue with the Mexican labourers Chase has hired to harvest his grapes, using a mixture of bribery and intimidation to persuade them not to turn up for work.

    On KNOTS LANDING, Richard's boss (played by Kyle Bennett, the lawyer who came to Sue Ellen's aid after she was arrested for shooting JR) has him handling what Jock Ewing used to refer to as the three Bs - booze, broads and booty. In other words, Richard now finds himself, reluctantly, in the role of company pimp. Following a party for some prospective Japanese clients, he tries to revive a comatose prostitute (a former colleague of Krystle Carrington no doubt fallen on hard times) in much the same way Nick Toscanni did Claudia following her recent overdose on DYNASTY, but more directly modelled on a scene from THE APARTMENT with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Meanwhile, Scooter takes Laura to the same swanky house currently occupied Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD (a location that will eventually appear in all five soaps) for a bungled seduction. By the end of the episode, the Averys' relationship starts to resemble Claude and Eudora's self-described "sham of a marriage" on FLAMINGO ROAD.

    This week's KNOTS also features what I believe to be the only use of the word "orgasms" in the entire history of Soap Land (ironic considering this is a genre where characters are continually having the best sex of their lives). It's Abby who drops the O bomb during a fun scene at the DALLAS Cattleman's Club with Karen.

    The bulk of this week's FALCON CREST has been adapted from the series' unaired pilot. Having grown weary of Lance's various misdemeanours, (tardiness, profligacy, violence, etc.) Angela begins grooming his cousin Cole to be her successor instead. Playing one potential heir off against another is a potent idea and this storyline pre-figures the reading of Jock's will in DALLAS by a full year.

    Cole's head is seriously turned when Angela presents him with a super-sexy sports car, (following the Rolls Royce convertible Blake surprised Krystle with a few weeks ago and the cars Scooter and Richard each presented Laura with in last week's KNOTS, jalopies are clearly the Soap Land gift du jour) and so begins the battle for Cole's soul. There's a very interesting scene where Lance appears to be warning his rival for his own good: "You're hooked, cousin, whether you know it or not, because first, you took the car and now you're in the house. One more step, you'll be trapped for the rest of your life … Lots of people get caught in Angie Channing's web so be careful, cousin." The distant sound of Emma's insane laughter as he speaks only serves to underline his words.

    FALCON CREST and FLAMINGO ROAD each end on a semi-religious note this week. Anonymous carol singers serenade Eudora and her Christmas party guests with "Silent Night", Titus undercutting the spiritual mood with a "Bah humbug!" in the final shot. On FALCON CREST, it's Harvest Day and no sooner has a Catholic priest blessed the Gioberti grapes than the pickers Lance scared off return to lend a hand. It's a miracle! A glowering Lance watching from a distance provides the equivalent of Titus's humbug.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 3 are …
    1 (2) FALCON CREST
    2 (4) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (5) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  6. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    01/Jan/82: DALLAS: Barbecue Two v. 01/Jan/82: FALCON CREST: Tony Comes Home

    ... or "When Family Reunions Go Bad."

    After a sprawling start to the season, it's almost as if DALLAS has hit the reset button: Pam is back at Southfork, Bobby is back at Ewing Oil looking over JR's shoulder, Sue Ellen and John Ross have returned to Dallas and Jock is on his way home - there's even a Ewing barbecue to celebrate. Alongside the familiarity is a new sense of homeliness, with Miss Ellie slaving over a pan of chilli the way she never did when Jock was around, Sue Ellen exchanging her haughty "lady of the manor" demeanour for jeans and furniture arranging, Pam cooing over a baby and Katherine putting her career on hold to set up home with her newfound family in Dallas (and becoming Soap Land's latest New York refugee in the process).

    Look more closely, however, and things are not as cosy as they first appear: Pam and Bobby's new baby isn't legally theirs, Katherine is perhaps a little too eager to dance with her sister's husband at the barbecue, Ray's tribute to Donna ("Everything my wife does is wonderful") is laced with bitter sarcasm, and his and JR's anticipation of their father's homecoming is tempered by the knowledge that each has failed him in his absence.

    Where DALLAS ends with Jock's homecoming party spoilt by the guest of honour failing to appear (on account of being missing presumed dead), FALCON CREST begins with Julia's birthday party disrupted by the arrival of a gate crasher - her estranged husband Tony (played by John Saxon one week before his debut as Rashid Ahmed on DYNASTY) whom she hasn't seen for twelve years.

    The DALLAS episode "Tony Comes Home" most closely resembles, though, is the "Reunion" two-parter from Season 1 where Gary and Val are briefly reunited with Lucy at Southfork. Similarly, Tony's hope is to make a fresh start with Julia and their son Lance. Where Gary's main obstacle was his brother JR, Tony's is his mother-in-law Angela. In this variation of the story, however, it's the one who got left behind, Julia, who has the alcohol problem and inferiority complex. ("You made me feel like a failure," she tells Angela.) As a character, Tony is perhaps a touch vanilla - he certainly doesn't have the same internal conflicts as Gary Ewing - but his normality at least creates a contrast with the twisted, dysfunctional family he left behind.

    Angela deals with this unwelcome face from the past in the same way that JR did - by inviting him into her home and her business in the hopes that, with a little push, history will repeat itself and he'll leave again. It does. This time around, though, Julia decides to go with him. However, once she reaches the front door, she literally can't leave the house - she is as psychologically trapped as one of the characters in Luis Buñuel's THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL - and so Tony leaves without her.

    A couple making a doomed bid for freedom is a common theme in Soap Land, especially during a show's first season. Julia and Tony this week, Gary and Val in "Reunion", Cliff and Sue Ellen in "For Love or Money", Field and Lane at various points during Season 1 of FLAMINGO ROAD, even Claudia in DYNASTY when she briefly appeals to Matthew for them to make a fresh start "somewhere far away from here" - in each case, hopes turn to dust as characters are dragged back into their former lives by a combination of their own failings, the manipulations of others and a powerful sense of predestination - that the die has already been cast and they are ultimately powerless to escape the lives they were born into. "You'll never leave Falcon Crest," Lance tells his mother with absolute certainty.

    "Someday, somehow I'll find the strength to leave here," Julia vows at the end of the episode - but at this stage, no one can predict the extraordinary, bloody lengths she'll have to go to in order to achieve this. Interestingly, a character once as trapped as Julia, Sue Ellen Ewing, moves into uncharted territory this week as she embarks on a new life as a single, independent woman. "I've never been alone before," she admits. "I'm sure I'm going to make a lot of mistakes." Indeed she will - mistakes that will eventually lead her right back into the trap she has only just escaped from.

    In the same week that Donna Krebbs' book hits the stores and her publisher asks her to write another, Maggie Gioberti's writing career also gets a leg up. Just as JR once used his influence to get Pam a promotion at The Store knowing the adverse effect it would have on her marriage, so Angela Channing talks her ex-husband into giving Maggie a reporting job on The New Globe. Sure enough, Chase quickly becomes as resentful at the time-consuming nature of his wife's new job as Ray is jealous of Donna's success. FALCON CREST being largely episodic at this stage, however, the marital status quo must be regained in time for the end credits and so a compromise is reached (Maggie finds a part time job on a smaller, more local paper). Conversely, just when some kind of stability seems finally to be within reach of the DALLAS Ewings, the unthinkable happens: "They say that - they say that - oh, they say that Jock is dead!”

    And this week's Soap Land Top 2 are …
    1 (-) DALLAS
    2 (1) FALCON CREST
     
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  7. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    05/Jan/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Old Friends v. 06/Jan/82: DYNASTY: The Mid-East Meeting v. 07/Jan/82: KNOTS LANDING: Mistaken Motives v. 08/Jan/82: DALLAS: The Search v. 08/Jan/82: FALCON CREST: Kindred Spirits

    So far this Soap Land season, we've had Cliff Barnes and the cartel buying up JR's promissory bank note to hold over his head and then Angela Channing purchasing the mortgage on Carl Reed's property so she could blackmail him into doing her bidding. In this week's FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael Tyrone goes one better. Furious at Claude Weldon's attempt to defraud him over the barrio, he simply buys the bank that holds the paper on the Weldon mill, then forecloses, wiping Claude out of business. This information is conveyed to Claude in the episode's brilliant opening scene where David Selby is almost demonic as Michael and Kevin McCarthy instantly falls apart as Claude - his clammy desperation simultaneously funny and pitiful. After contemplating suicide, Claude settles for being drunk and racist, branding the Cubans lazy and dirty and telling them to go back where they came from.

    Two weeks ago, Eudora was alternately threatening to divorce Claude and have him imprisoned for forgery. This week, having returned from the Soap Land Sanatarium where she has been cured of her addictions as speedily as she acquired them, she begins singing from the same hymn sheet as Ellie Ewing - insisting that the Weldon family always stick together in times of crisis. Constance appeals to Michael Tyrone's mercy in her own unique way - first slapping him, then passionately kissing him, then slapping him again before vowing, "You're gonna damn the day you ever set foot on Flamingo Road!" It finally falls to Field, after demonstrating complete indifference to his father-in-law's situation for most the episode, to save the day. He agrees to support Michael's gambling application in the senate in return for the Weldon mill. However, there's a twist - Field will manage the mill himself, with Claude merely a minority partner.

    In a relatively minor plot development, Michael pays off the gambling debts of Lute Mae's toy boy/employee, Tony. In return, Tony agrees to keep tabs on Lute Mae's house guest Sam Curtis - thereby becoming Soap Land's first spy in the house since Julie Grey. If Cecil Colby gets his way, Claudia Blaisdel - whom he runs into at Denver Carrington where she is now working - will be the next.

    In "Mistaken Motives", Sid Fairgate has been dead for four months while in "The Search", Jock Ewing has been missing for two days - but there are equivalent shots of both men's wives alone in their marital beds in this week's eps. Where Karen cradles a pillow and cries, Ellie gently reaches over and strokes Jock's side of the bed. There's more grieving in FALCON CREST and DYNASTY where "almost three months" have passed since Jason Gioberti's death and an unspecified number of weeks have elapsed since Krystle miscarried her baby. It is noted by concerned relatives that Emma Channing and Krystle have barely left their respective houses since these events.

    There is no shortage of well-meaning advice for those in mourning: On KNOTS, Val suggests to Karen that she attend a grief support group, which is where she becomes involved with widower Bill Medford. On FALCON CREST, Maggie recommends the Soap Land Sanatarium as a suitable place for Emma, (maybe she could have Eudora's old room?) which results in Emma running away from home. Meanwhile on DYNASTY, Blake first suggests, then cajoles, then finally orders a depressed Krystle to start seeing Dr. Nick Toscanni professionally.

    Bill Medford is a lot like Teddy Becker from two KNOTS' episodes ago - a male character whom Karen can apparently lean on, but who turns out to have his own share of unresolved grief and who she must eventually extricate herself from. The big difference is that Bill somehow feels a much more real, believable character than Teddy - there's a darkness about him that's really compelling.

    Logistically, it's a weird week for Gary, who must be kept at arm's length from Bill Medford, aka the original Gary in DALLAS, lest it causes a rip in the soap time continuum and both actors be sucked forever into the Soap Land vortex. In addition, the entirety of this week's KNOTS occurs during the time it takes for the Dallas Ewings to learn of Jock's disappearance and send the barbecue guests home. Gary is eventually told about his father offscreen when Ellie and then Lucy are seen to call him during "The Search". Perhaps understandably, Gary only appears once in this week's KNOTS, during a party scene where Lilimae entertains the neighbours with her latest composition, which she modestly introduces "the prettiest little song ever written."

    This leads us to the latest round of Soap Land Song Wars, which is between Lilimae and Emma from FALCON CREST. Both accompanying themselves on the autoharp, (clearly the instrument of choice for the borderline delusional) they each perform a song with childhood associations. Lilimae's is "about the Pine Country where Val and I have our roots", while Emma sings a French song "about being young and beautiful and in love", taught to her by her Uncle Jason when she was a girl. It's a pretty ditty, and Emma's use of flashbacks, in which we see her as a young girl singing the same song with Uncle Jason back when he looked like Serge Gainsbourg, is certainly innovative. However, the winner is once again Lilimae. Her performance is as spirited as ever, but it's the reaction of her audience - Gary's near hysterical laughter, Abby's ironic swaying, Val's mortification - that clinches it.

    There's also some minor teen girl rebellion brewing in Soap Land this week. Diana Fairgate, having misinterpreted her mother's relationship with Bill, retaliates by taking up with Roy (a high school Chip Roberts-in-training) and winds up in jail when he gets stopped for drunk driving. Meanwhile, a frustrated Vicky Gioberti ("Nobody here has ever even heard of New Wave - they're just now getting into Disco!") bails out on her chores to - gasp - go for a walk, which is how she ends up running into, and striking up a friendship with, the errant Emma.

    "The Search" is DALLAS's fourth annual "What if ..?" episode, in which the Ewings are forced to contemplate an almost unthinkable scenario. In "Triangle" (Season 1), it's "What will happen if JR and Bobby are really dead?" In "Ellie Saves The Day" (Season 2), it's "What's going to happen if JR fails to strike oil in Southeast Asia and the bank forecloses on Ewing Oil?" In "Ewing vs. Ewing" (Season 3), the family reflects on the possibility of Jock and Ellie's divorcing and the subsequent break-up of the Ewing empire. Here, the question is "What's gonna happen if they don't find Jock?" The character insights that follow, while revelatory in Season 1, now simply reaffirm what we already know (e.g. "Everything JR does, he does for his daddy"). This sense of familiarity is articulated by Miss Ellie: "I feel like I've been through this before." Only this time, the story ends differently. The "What if …?" scenario comes true. "It can't end here," protests JR, "not in this stinkin' mud hole." This was the line that echoed in my head while watching the Ewings in New DALLAS struggle to comprehend how JR's life could end in some cheap Mexican hotel room.

    I've always loved the scene where Pam catches Sue Ellen in JR's bedroom ordering a cab to take her and John Ross home ("Pam, I've gotta go now".) Caught between her past and her future - like Karen in this week's KNOTS, her character is "on new ground now" - Sue Ellen's decision to abandon the family in their time of need (like Eudora Weldon, Ellie believes "the family should pull together when there's trouble") is an act both of selfishness and self-preservation. Watching the scene this time around, all I could think of was the scene that takes place in the same room thirty-one years later where Sue Ellen raises a glass to JR's memory. In that context, the idea of self-preservation seems suddenly trivial.

    This week is the first time both DALLAS and DYNASTY travel overseas. While Alexis stays in "my favourite suite in all Italy!" - all flowers and concierges and "lovely boys" helping her with her luggage - the Ewing boys rough it, trekking through formulaic jungles, dossing down in tents and on makeshift cots (Matthew Blaisdel just out of sight). Lance, Chase and Cole also take a "Dove Hunt" style camping trip this week - Cole's inevitable injury allowing for some father/son bonding while Lance goes for help, only to become embroiled in a series of Kim-from-24 style misadventures. (Like Diana in KNOTS, he even endures a brief spell in jail.) Nice as Cole and Chase's heart to heart is, ("All my life, I always thought you could do anything ... I never thought I could measure up to you," Cole admits, thereby revealing himself to be yet another Soap Land son with his father on a pedestal) one can't help but feel the episode misses a trick by not having Cole and Lance be the ones left alone together - a much more combustible, intriguing combination.

    Although it's great fun to watch Alexis prowling the Carrington grounds and lurking in the shadows, it's even more of a blast to see her this week in her decadent, sinful element, flirting and scheming with old flame Rashid Ahmed. As Rashid, John Saxon is as flamboyant as he was pedestrian in last week's FALCON CREST. In fact, it's sort of fun to imagine Rashid as Tony Cumson's alter ego. The back stories of both characters slot together easily enough - having left the Tuscany Valley at the end of the 60s, Tony would have had plenty of time to reinvent himself as "a Mid-eastern Gulbenkian" (Angela Channing even referred to him having a background in oil) who then hooks up with Alexis in Capri, Portofino and Dubrovnik during her years as part of the 1970s jet set. His recent attempt to settle down with Julia and Lance at Falcon Crest having failed, he dons his fake moustache and accent once more before flying to Rome for another tryst with Alexis, aka "the beautiful woman who is always too busy enjoying herself wherever it is to worry about what time it is wherever she is not!"

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (-) DYNASTY
    2 (-) KNOTS LANDING
    3 (1) DALLAS
    4 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
    5 (2) FALCON CREST
     
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  8. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    12/Jan/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Strange Bedfellows v. 13/Jan/82: DYNASTY: The Psychiatrist v. 14/Jan/82: KNOTS LANDING: The Rose and the Briar v. 15/Jan/82: DALLAS: Denial v. 15/Jan/82: FALCON CREST: The Extortionist

    Elmo Tyson's surprise decision to stand for election as sheriff forms the main story of this week's FLAMINGO ROAD. The rivalry between honest Elmo and tyrannical Titus divides the town and the Weldon household in particular. Titus wastes no time in reminding the townsfolk of the dirt he has on them. There are allusions to scandals involving underage cousins, motel room raids and "lots more - questionable bank loans, income tax evasion, fraud, drinkin' problems. I tell ya, it is amazing what goes on in the average American family."

    Elmo's campaign is ultimately scuppered when Titus (with a little help from Michael Tyrone) uncovers evidence of the role he played in his dying wife's assisted suicide six years earlier. Unwilling to face a scandal, Elmo withdraws from the race. There's a strong resemblance between this plot twist and the revelation of Cliff Barnes' involvement in his fiancee's abortion death in the "Election" episode of DALLAS. However, this story feels a lot less powerful, probably because Elmo isn't as well drawn a character as Cliff.

    While FLAMINGO ROAD sometimes feels the most lightweight of the soaps, it does boast the broadest range of villains - from the cowardly (Claude) to the ruthless (Constance) to the evil (Titus) to the borderline satanic (Michael Tyrone) - and the show is at its greatest when these characters are knitted together to evoke an atmosphere thick with corruption and betrayal, where the good are powerless and only badness has the chance to flourish.

    In the ep's final scene, Michael toasts Titus's victory with a $500 bottle of Chateau Margaux. "A great wine is like a great victory. It's meant to be savoured," he says, clearly in training for his upcoming transformation into Richard Channing.

    Several Soap Land marriages are on shaky ground this week. In FL'INGO RD, Constance and Field mark their second anniversary (even though their wedding was screened only a year earlier) by each embarking on an affair - Constance with Julio Sanchez (like a hothead Latino moth to a blonde WASP flame), Field with reporter Sandie Swanson (recently seen posing as Rashid Ahmed's pregnant girlfriend on FALCON CREST). Over on DYNASTY, Blake and Krystle both succumb to some extra-marital kissing at almost exactly the same moment, despite being on different continents - he with Alexis in Italy, she with Nick Toscanni in Denver. Laura Avery comes close to joining the marry-go-round on KNOTS when she arrives at Scooter's door after a fight with Richard but finds him in the midst of a reconciliation with his estranged wife. And on DALLAS, a sad and bitter Ray is busy avoiding wife Donna when he runs into old flame Bonnie at the Longview Bar.

    Meanwhile, it's hard to imagine things getting much worse for Jeff and Fallon's marriage on DYNASTY - what with her telling him she doesn't love him ("I never did - it was all part of the deal"), all but admitting to an affair, and arranging to have an abortion without his consent. The latter leads Jeff to consult an attorney pal on behalf of "a friend" about the finer points of parental law. Bobby Ewing does exactly the same thing on this week's DALLAS, but while Jeff is looking for a legal way to stop Fallon going through with the termination, Bobby wants to know how best to forge Christopher's medical records.

    There's also a pregnancy subplot in this week's FALCON CREST which follows the blueprint of KNOTS LANDING's Season 1 episode "Small Surprises" - a middle-aged couple (then Sid and Karen, now Chase and Maggie) are shocked by the possibility of another child on the way. This time around, it's the expectant father rather than the mother-to-be who is the more ambivalent, while Cole's and Vicky's reactions exactly mirror those of their Fairgate counterparts. Vicky is as indignant and angry as Diana was, while Cole adopts the same easygoing attitude that Eric did. Instead of ending in miscarriage, however, this pregnancy turns out to be a false alarm.

    This week is a turning point for Sammy Jo on DYNASTY and Lucy on DALLAS. Up until now, Sammy Jo has been a sweet natured and industrious young thing, but when she realises her father has left her in Krystle's care permanently, something changes. She rejects out of hand her aunt's suggestion that she train to be a secretary. "That's how every girl gets a rich husband and a big house," she mutters sarcastically. "Bull!" Conversely, former spoilt brat Lucy decides that the best way to get over her grandfather's death is to join the working class - and so she contacts photographer Roger Larsen about resuming her modelling career. What could possibly go wrong?

    A couple of the other soaps intrude on this week's DYNASTY in unexpected ways. First Jeff finds Fallon watching the future Ben Gibson from KNOTS LANDING on an episode of GENERAL HOSPITAL, and then Victoria Principal's first husband, and Lucy Ewing's former classmate, is among those cheering Steven and Buddy on during their stock car rematch.

    This is a great episode of DYNASTY: lush, swirling, romantic, smart and witty, and helped enormously by the musical score, which continually drives the action forward and makes the various story-lines feel part of one continuous whole.

    Alexis and Abby both impress with their marital manipulations this week, but in different ways. Krystle is caught in a web Alexis has managed to spin from the other side of the world - an elaborate interlacing of foreign intrigue, international oil deals and misleading photographs on magazine covers. Meanwhile, Abby scarcely needs lift a finger to manoeuvre Val into volunteering Gary as Olivia's substitute father at a school function.

    Soap Land trend of the week: Predatory men and vulnerable women. Tony, Lute Mae's FLAMINGO ROAD toy boy, discovers Constance is her real daughter and blackmails her over it. Jackson Mobeley, Lilimae's new beau on KNOTS LANDING, poses as a country music bigwig in the hopes of getting his hands on part of the Ewing fortune. Tom Flintoff, Sue Ellen's dinner date on DALLAS, follows her home and tries to force himself on her. And Turner Bates, Emma's old sweetheart, shows up on FALCON CREST again and tries to blackmail Angela over Jason's death before kidnapping Emma. The only problem is, Emma's too loopy to notice she's been kidnapped.

    Three of the soaps, KNOTS, DALLAS and FALCON CREST, focus on a female character with a tenuous grip on reality - Lilimae, Emma and Miss Ellie. While Ellie and Emma's refusal to acknowledge the respective deaths of Jock and Jason would appear to be a psychological condition, Lilimae wears her "poetic" interpretation of the world like a badge of honour:

    "Valene, there are two kinds of minds in this world. There are minds that are logical and rational and sticklers for details, and then there are minds that are inspired by a larger vision. Now it's no fault of yours, but you have one kind and Jackson and I have the other. We see beauty and magic in what others find dull. You may get your facts straight, but we see the truth." (Sounds like an Old DALLAS v New DALLAS argument.)

    When Jackson confesses that he is a crook and a con artist who knows nothing about the music business, Lilimae just laughs. When Bobby tries to tackle his mother with the truth about Jock's death, Ellie falls apart, delivering her primal "I am Jock's woman" speech that ends with just a hint of self-awareness: "He's alive, Bobby. As long as I believe he's alive, he's alive." And when the memories of Jason's death - and most especially, her role in said death - start to resurface for Emma, she panics, causing a car crash which ironically results in yet another death (that of Turner Bates).

    This week sees Lilimae and Lane Ballou reprising their own compositions for the latest round of Soap Land Song Wars. Lilimae sings her ode to the Pine Country as an after dinner treat for Jackson, while Lane performs "Could It Be Love" (which I previously misnamed as "Could This Be Magic" - here's a thing all about it: http://hillplace.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/the-cristina-raines-song.html) at a fundraiser for Elmo. Based on these two songs alone, I'd call it an even draw, but then Lilimae goes the extra mile with an impromptu rendition of "Who's Going To Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?" on a greyhound bus, and then tops even that with a performance in Las Vegas's Sidewinder Lounge of "In The Merry Month of May" - an hilariously inappropriate death ballad delivered in her best Ethel Skinner meets Loretta Lynn wig, the last verse of which gives the episode its title.

    "The Rose and the Briar" (written by Scott Hamner, son of FALCON CREST's creator Earl) is a gem. The tale of an elderly woman eloping to Vegas with a loveable conman could easily be twee in lesser hands, but it's consistently funny, charming and cockle warming. Plus there are strong subplots to add ballast to the episode - a wife tossing a couple of her husband's suit jackets on the bedroom floor may not sound much in the context of your average '80s super soap, but within the confines of the Avery marriage it's a huge moment ("I'm just so tired of taking it and taking it and taking it!"). And with Lilimae home safe and sound, the episode ends on a surprisingly ominous note, with Val watching Gary, Abby and Olivia driving off to Olivia's school event, "just like a real family". "I'd look out for that man o' mine if I were you," warns Lilimae. "You got a good thing goin' here, Valene. You gotta protect your dream." There's a similar twist in the final moments of this week's FALCON CREST. The story of the week, Emma's kidnapping, has ended and, like Lilimae, Emma is now back in the bosom of her family. All is calm, but then Julia overhears Emma talking to their mother about how Uncle Jason "died twice" - and realises all is not as it appears.

    This week's DALLAS is fascinating. Two weeks have passed since Jock's death and everyone is in a very different place to when we last saw them, especially JR - shambling, unshaven and disconnected from the world around him. The FALCON CREST kidnap story sags a little, but the climactic car chase is cool.

    And so this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (2) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (1) DYNASTY
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
    5 (5) FALCON CREST
     
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  9. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    19/Jan/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Heatwave v. 20/Jan/82: DYNASTY: Sammy Jo and Steven Marry v. 21/Jan/82: KNOTS LANDING: The Three Sisters v. 22/Jan/82: DALLAS: Head of the Family v. 22/Jan/82: FALCON CREST: Lord of the Manor

    Once again, it's Pathetic Fallacy Week in Soap Land. The heavy rain Krystle drives through at the end of DYNASTY mirrors her presently stormy relationship with Blake and anticipates her tears when she stops to call home, only to hear Alexis's voice at the end of the line. The sudden icy wind Val experiences in the bathroom of the old house she visits in KNOTS LANDING is the first indication of her affinity with the supernatural. The ominous rumble of thunder over Southfork when JR fails yet again to show up for dinner heralds his explosive confrontation with Bobby later that same evening. But as its episode title suggests, nowhere are weather conditions more pronounced this week than in FLAMINGO ROAD. In Soap Land, as in film noir, a heatwave equals lust - perspiring, panting, innuendo-laden lust. So it comes to pass that Constance and Julio consummate their affair at the JR and Kristin Dirty Weekend Hotel in Tallahassee, the saxophone on the soundtrack going utterly berserk whenever they are together.

    Since the beginning of January, Soap Land has been averaging a marriage proposal a week - first Sam popped the question to Lane and was accepted, then Fallon asked Nick who deferred, and last week Lilimae accepted Jackson's proposal, only for it to be subsequently rescinded. This week, Steven and Sammy Jo cut straight to the chase and exchange vows in front of a kindly looking justice of the peace, thereby providing Soap Land with its first wedding of the season.

    I've never been too keen on the way Fallon's last minute change of heart regarding her abortion is depicted on DYNASTY. Blake's race-against-time dash to the Blandon Clinic echoes his similar rush to Claudia's house after her suicide attempt, suggesting that a woman's right to choose is something she needs to be protected from. That said, I'll grudgingly admit that there is something dramatically interesting about a character as headstrong and wilful as Fallon feeling compelled keeping a baby in spite of herself.

    This is the week that Soap Land first delves into the paranormal. First, Alexis consults Adriana the psychic before leaving Rome. During her brief but brilliantly mad appearance, Adriana blames Alexis for Krystle's accident, a flashback of which she conjures in her crystal ball, ("She was hurt because of YOU!") before predicting that Alexis will marry again and that her new husband will then die ("HEEE WILL EX-PI-RE!!").

    Wonderful as that scene is, it almost pales into insignificance next to what we're presented with on KNOTS LANDING. Dream seasons and UFOs notwithstanding, I'm not sure soap opera ever gets as perverse as this. Following an instalment where the Gary/Abby/Val triangle finally seemed to be gaining some traction after being teased for so long, (it is exactly a year since Abby first admitted to JR that she wanted Gary) and where Richard and Laura's marriage looked like it was headed towards some sort of climax, we are suddenly presented with the most stand alone, idiosyncratic episode in all of Soap Land. In fact, "The Three Sisters" doesn't really qualify as soap opera at all. Essentially, the cul-de-sac women are transposed to another genre, and with Abby sublimating her customary deviousness into an avid interest in ghost stories, it feels a bit like the DARK SHADOWS 1795 storyline where all the actors are re-cast as slight variations on their original characters. Even so, the episode makes better use of the women's existing personalities and relationships than KNOTS' last female-centric ep, "Moments of Truth", and throws up some interesting ironies. For example, a week after Lilimae criticised Val for being "logical and rational and a stickler for details" while she herself was "inspired by a larger vision", it is now Val who becomes the visionary. And as we see Joan van Ark first gaily skipping about in her nightdress playing peekaboo with the dead, and then preparing to join them by throwing herself from the roof of the house, we are witness to the birth of the high maintenance, highly strung "Poor Val" version of the character she will be for the rest of the series.

    Following Fallon's decision to keep her baby, Val's psychic link with three ghostly, abandoned children, born of her being deprived of raising her own daughter, ("there's been a big emptiness in her, a need that never was fulfilled") is the week's second example of the power of the maternal instinct. It's also interesting that that this story should come so quickly on the heels of last week's episode which ended with Val watching her husband driving away with another woman and her child, "just like a real family" - a premonition of what is to come.


    In Jock's absence, the title of this week's DALLAS episode, "Head of the Family", is an ambiguous one. The natural successor he may be, but JR shows no interest in assuming the mantle, preferring to bury himself in booze and hookers. A frustrated Bobby makes a bid for the title when he suggests to Miss Ellie that he take over as President of Ewing Oil, at least on an interim basis, but she won't hear of it. Then at the end of the episode, little John Ross throws his hat into the ring by assuming Jock's position at the head of the family dinner table. In contrast, the title of this week's FALCON CREST, "Lord of the Manor", is clearly an ironic reference to Lance, whom Angela entrusts with the family business while she attends a wine competition in Rome.

    With Alexis returning from Rome this week, it's entirely possible that the two women would have passed each other in mid-air. And just like Alexis in last week's DYNASTY, Angela is joined in Italy by her ex-husband - but this time, it's the man who wishes to rekindle the romance while the woman is more focused on business. Despite both FALCON CREST and DYNASTY acknowledging the comparative ease of international travel - Blake speaks of a three-hour flight on Concorde while Douglas Channing casually references "the jet age" - this is the precisely the kind of globetrotting one almost never sees on DALLAS.

    Given her family's history, Angela's Rome is understandably more rustic and quaint than Alexis's sumptuous, decadent version. It's also slightly less interesting. The more dramatic stuff in this week's FALCON CREST happens back in the Tuscany Valley, where Lance attempts to double-cross a crooked wine distributor by selling him low-quality wine in premium labelled bottles. It doesn't take him long to get out of his depth and by the time Chase cottons onto his scheme, Lance is no more interested in being lord of the manor than JR is in being head of the Ewings. "I don't care about her," Lance yells about his grandmother, "I don't care about Falcon Crest, I don't care about anything anymore!" "The man is dead - it doesn't matter anymore," shrugs JR with reference to his father. Interestingly, JR and Lance are then given polar opposite advice by their shows' respective good guys, Bobby and Chase. "I know what he'd want if he were alive," says Bobby of Jock. "He'd want his boys up and doin' - and that includes running Ewing Oil the way he ran it." "When are you gonna stop trying to fill Angela's shoes?" Chase asks Lance wearily. While Bobby's words are enough to put JR back on track, Lance remains in angry despair: "You don't know what it's like living in this house - I've got my grandmother on my back, my mother's out of her mind hiding from her in the laboratory - it's a mad house!"

    This week's DALLAS is strongest when it focuses on Ellie's and Bobby's attempts to rally JR, Ray and the rest of the family. The further from Southfork it strays - e.g. Lucy's first modelling session with Roger (oh, wouldn't it have been amazing if KNOTS' three ghostly sisters had shown up in the background of Lucy's glamour shots?), Sue Ellen's attempts at entertaining her weirdly bourgeois new social circle - the weaker and stupider it becomes.

    Like Claudia in DYNASTY, Sue Ellen is finding it difficult to adjust to life as a single woman. "I'm sure a lot of people find it easy, living alone, being single, but it's hard for me," she sighs. "I found this charming little apartment on 3rd Street. Well, the charm lasted a few hours. It's been a nightmare," complains Claudia. Both are fortunate enough to have a wealthy older man, Clayton Farlow and Cecil Colby respectively, to confide in, and to offer them alternative accommodation - Clayton reminds Sue Ellen she has a standing invitation to return to the Southern Cross while Cecil offers to rent Claudia a swanky Colby Co apartment at a reduced rate. In each case, we catch our first glimpse of the older man's as yet unspoken ulterior motive. While Clayton's are clearly romantic, Cecil's appear somewhat more sinister.

    Meanwhile, Donna's exasperation at her husband's treatment of her in this week's DALLAS ("I have let him do just about everything except ride over me on horseback ... I'm beginning not to care anymore") mirrors Laura's in last week's KNOTS ("I'm just so tired of taking it and taking it and taking it"). Donna being Donna, her idea of wanton retaliation isn't to throw herself at her married boss the way Laura did, but to commit herself to writing another political biography.

    Pam is the only Ewing wife who seems truly happy this week, but even her sense of wellbeing is precarious. To protect it, Bobby concocts a story about Christopher's biological parents as tragic as the tale of how KNOTS' three sisters were left to grow up alone - for if Pam were to learn the truth, she might end up on the roof of another building alongside Val. The central theme emerging from this week's Soap Land is that if a woman's maternal instinct isn't satisfied, if it is "frustrated and suppressed" as Laura describes Val's - as opposed to Fallon's which won't be denied - then the result is madness. (Blake's suggestion that Krystle's jealousy towards him and Alexis is solely a manifestation of the depression caused by her miscarriage seems to endorse this view.)

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …

    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (2) DYNASTY
    3 (3) DALLAS
    4 (5) FALCON CREST
    5 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  10. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    27/Jan/82: DYNASTY: The Car Explosion v. 28/Jan/82: KNOTS LANDING: Power Play v. 29/Jan/82: DALLAS: The Phoenix v. 29/Jan/82: FALCON CREST: Dark Journey

    The highlights of this week's DYNASTY are the reactions to Sammy Jo and Steven's elopement - Krystle's dismay, Alexis's disgust, Claudia's brave face, Fallon's forlorn sarcasm ("She can make a bed without a wrinkly sheet?"). From the characters' point of view, this is probably Soap Land's most controversial marriage since Bobby and Pam's.

    We don't get to see Blake's reaction to the news. Jeff is about to tell him when they are caught in the blast that gives the episode its title. DYNASTY being DYNASTY, this is a far bigger explosion than the one that killed Turner Bates on FALCON CREST two weeks ago. The spectacle is lost on Blake, however. "My God, I can't see," he exclaims. "I can't see anything at all!"

    As if to compensate for last week's foray into the other-worldly, KNOTS LANDING now embraces the traditional Soap Land themes of power, sex, money and oil as never before. Similarly, JR, the titular phoenix of this week's DALLAS, returns to the game after mourning his father for the past three weeks, finally bedding Marilee Stone to get back into business with the cartel. While Jock's death has yet to be acknowledged on KNOTS, there are several thematic crossovers between the two Ewingverse shows this week.

    Thirty years before his nephew champions methane ice as a viable source of alternate energy, Gary and Abby stumble onto something similar called methanol. On the brink of success, Gary's ambition manifests itself in a way it never has before. "A good job and a nice pay check are no big deal to me, they're nothin'!" he tells Val. "Unless you wanna be a wage slave the rest of your life, you gotta take risks … Is this all there is for us? Is Knots Landing as far as you wanna go?" On DALLAS, JR also has a new focus. "You built Ewing Oil from the ground up," he says to his father's portrait, communing with the dead as Val did in "The Three Sisters". "Whatever it took, you did it for Ewing Oil and I'm gonna do the same. I'm gonna pass it on bigger and stronger to my son. I'm back, Daddy, and nobody's gonna take Ewing Oil away from me or my son or his son. I swear to you, by God I'm gonna make you proud of me."

    Their deal leads Gary and Abby to Mexico, while a worried Val frets at home. The obvious Soap Land parallel here is with Blake and Alexis's recent trip to Rome in DYNASTY. There's even an old flame equivalent of Rashid Ahmed along for the ride - Richard, acting in his capacity as lawyer. (This leads to a wonderfully awkward scene where Richard, speaking from experience, tries to warn Gary against getting involved with Abby.) As juicy as the Rome storyline was, what makes this one even better is the complicated nature of the characters.

    Whereas on DYNASTY, there is no doubt that Krystle is an entirely blameless, innocent victim of Alexis's manipulations, Val brings her own history, her own doubts and neuroses to the table. One can see why Gary might feel stifled by her. "You gotta let him breathe, Valene," Lilimae advises. "Stand by your man, not on top of him."

    Gary and Abby share a passionate kiss in Mexico just as Blake and Alexis did in Italy, albeit against the backdrop of a farmyard distillery rather than in the grounds of a sumptuous villa. Preceding both embraces, the woman praises the man's business capabilities. Alexis recalls "a young wildcatter, a young handsome, hungry husband who shouted out to the world, 'I'll show them!' and you did." Abby, meanwhile, excites Gary by looking to his future. "You can do it! You can make this whole thing happen!" she insists.

    While neither Blake's self-belief nor his strengths as a businessman have ever been in question, the uncertainties surrounding Gary's are pivotal to this story. Whereas Val stands as a cautious reminder of his past failures and weaknesses, Abby symbolises his untapped potential. "She affects you in a way that really frightens me," Val admits. The difference between the two women is angrily articulated by Gary in the ep's final scene - while Val is worried that he will become a Ewing like his big brother, "ruthless and miserable", Abby is hoping he will.

    The subject of Ewing identity is also raised in DALLAS. Having bestowed the highest praise possible on his son, calling him "a real Ewing", JR likens Ray to Gary, saying that he "just doesn't have the strength of character of a real Ewing." "I am a Ewing," insists Gary on KNOTS, "I'm Gary Ewing." One of the things I've found so moving on New DALLAS is that the same struggles of family identity that surrounded the original "lesser Ewings", Gary and Ray, are now felt by the new generation of leading men, John Ross and Christopher. (Also, the miniature oil rig we see in John Ross's apartment in 2012 recalls the one JR shows him as a little boy on his first visit to Ewing Oil at the beginning of this week's episode.)

    That there is next to no musical score in this week's KNOTS adds a strangely neutral quality to the fast moving events of the ep - Gary going into partnership with Abby, Gary mortgaging his house without telling his wife. Without music to "comment" on these events, and Gary and Abby insisting that everything is going great, Val and her anxieties seem even more isolated and out of step.

    There is enough music to form a contender for this week's Soap Land Song Wars, however. It's an unidentified track - let's call it "Mighty Long Road" - a real nice country blues song by Charlie Hart, the recording of which Kenny presides over in his studio. It's up against Afton's opening night number at a swanky new club in DALLAS. A sexy, languid cover of the jazz standard "All of Me" as opposed to one of her own compositions, it's my favourite of all her performances. Two strong contenders then, both of which are met with onscreen bemusement - first Kenny's, when he sees that Lilimae, slippery as her elm tea, has managed to infiltrate Charlie's backing group, and then Sue Ellen's, when she walks into the club on Clayton's arm and sees her ex-husband's former mistress up onstage. Things get even more awkward when Sue Ellen realises that Afton is now involved with Cliff, whom she herself is also dating. All this super-soapy tension gives Afton's number the edge over Charlie's.

    But who could have guessed what a charming little double act Lilimae and Kenny make? There's an interesting parallel between Kenny's attitude towards Lilimae in this episode - he's the only character honest enough to tell her how untalented a musician she is - and James Houghton's admission that he couldn't match the excitement of the rest of the cast when Julie Harris joined the show because he wasn't sure who she was.

    This week's FALCON CREST contains Soap Land's most embarrassing moments to date. After a fight with her parents, Vicky decides to leave home so Lance hooks her up with Diana, an aspiring actress who lives in San Francisco. (Not to get bogged down in continuity, but it does seem odd that Vicky would trust Lance so readily just a few weeks after she witnessed him stab her boyfriend with a broken bottle.) Diana immediately starts grooming Vicky to star in a porno film. This is not part of some nefarious scheme of Lance's - the girl just happens to a procurer for the sex trade in the same way that the guy who picked Lucy up in "Hitchhike" just happened to be a gun toting lunatic (or the photographer whom Lucy has recently started modelling for just happens to start stalking her in this week's DALLAS).

    The scene where Vicky attends her first acting class and starts earnestly improvising with the pornographer who is pretending to be her drama coach playing the role of her father is so cringeworthy I had to watch it through my fingers. The sight of Chase posing as an out of town pervert looking for "kinky stuff" was almost as toe curling.

    It's interesting to see how FALCON CREST depicts the real world - full of red lights, inflatable sex dolls and statistics on missing teenagers. The message seems to be that however gothic, twisted or claustrophobic life gets in the Tuscany Valley, the world outside of it is even worse.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (1) KNOTS LANDING
    2 (3) DALLAS
    3 (2) DYNASTY
    4 (5) FALCON CREST
     
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  11. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    02/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: To Catch a Thief v. 03/Feb/82: DYNASTY: Blake's Blindness v. 05/Feb/82: DALLAS: My Father, My Son v. 05/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: Victims

    "When two people from different backgrounds try to be together, it can only mean trouble!" wails Alicia Sanchez to Skipper Weldon in FLAMINGO ROAD, before running away in tears. Alicia and Skipper aside, there are three couples in this week's Soap Land who fit this description - Steven and Sammy Jo in DYNASTY, Vicky and Mario in FALCON CREST, and Julio and Constance in FLAMINGO ROAD.

    On DYNASTY, Blake's dismayed reaction to the news of Steven's marriage to Sammy Jo is underlined by his own prejudice. "It's done," he sighs wearily. "We'll get used to her and she'll get used to us, and we'll train her to fit into the family." "Like you train your guard dogs or your servants?" snaps back Steven.

    For Vicky and Mario, it's an issue of race and class. Mario comes from a family of vineyard workers, "three generations back." Thanks to his college scholarship, he's the first member of his family with a chance at a better life. "You're really hung up on this ethnic thing," Vicky complains when he tells her he'd rather study than make out. (There's an interesting if unspoken, irony in the Giobertis giving up their fast-paced New York lifestyle to get back to nature in the Tuscany Valley, while the Nunuozes will do anything - including selling out to Angela - to give their son the opportunity to escape the valley.)

    This week's FLAMINGO ROAD (directed by Bill Duke, who also helmed last week's KNOTS) centres around an ingenious plot that plays on both class and race prejudices. A cat burglar breaks into Constance's bedroom and steals her jewellery. Julio Sanchez's fingerprints are found at the scene and Sheriff Titus, eager to get back at Field for hiring a Cubano as his aide, is only too happy to arrest him for the crime. Julio cannot be exonerated without his affair with Constance being exposed. Only Constance's mother Eudora, who learned of the affair in the last episode, knows the truth.

    There are plenty more secrets to be discovered in Soap Land this week. In the same way that Eudora overheard Constance and Julio, Sammy Jo eavesdrops on Steven and Alexis arguing over her claim that Blake is not Fallon's real father. Alexis, in turn, learns that the object of Fallon's affections is Nick Toscanni. And when she stakes out Nick's apartment, Fallon's suspicions are confirmed that the object of Nick's affections is Krystle. This discovery is mirrored by JR's detective in DALLAS keeping watch outside Sue Ellen's townhouse and then reporting back to him that Cliff Barnes has stayed there overnight.

    Neither Fallon nor JR wastes much time in passing on what they have learned. Fallon tells Alexis about Krystle, and JR breaks the news about Cliff to Afton. While Alexis immediately starts scheming against her nemesis, Afton refuses to get involved in JR's plan to bust up Cliff and Sue Ellen. Instead, she throws the news right back in his face. "I think you’re jealous," she tells him. "I think you’re jealous right out of your cotton picking gourd.” (There's no Song Wars for her to compete in, but Afton still wins Line of the Week for that little doozy.) But while Alexis's endgame is to break up a marriage, ("Not only are we going to get Krystle out of Nick's life, we're gonna get her out of Blake's life too," she assures Fallon) JR's is to put one back together ("I have a feelin' your mama's gonna be back on Southfork again real soon," he tells John Ross).

    To that end, there's a great little montage scene where JR scrambles about in the kiddy park with John Ross while Sue Ellen looks on tentatively, having a good time almost in spite of herself. New DALLAS has given me a new perspective on such scenes. I guess that back in the day, JR made such an impression on me as an anti-hero that seeing him behave as anything other than a despicable husband or father felt like a compromise - a dilution of the character rather than an expansion of it. Somehow, the depiction of JR in New DALLAS - his physical frailty, his emotional vulnerability and ultimately his death - have helped humanise the character for me, and now these older scenes resonate in a way they never did before. Similarly, Sue Ellen's vacillation over her relationships now seems to me plausible behaviour for a recent divorcee rather than merely the result of a writer-induced lobotomy to help facilitate the plot.

    JR and Fallon have both leapt to the conclusion that the relationships they're so concerned about - Sue Ellen's with Cliff, Nick's with Krystle - has been consummated, but the reality is that Nick and Cliff are each besotted by a woman who may be dependent on him, but cannot match the intensity of his feelings. Having made a similar assumption about Mitch and Evelyn Michaelson when she sees them in matching tennis whites, DALLAS's Lucy turns to Roger the photographer, who promptly kisses her in a scene so emotionally overheated it never fails to make me laugh.

    Another Soap Land trend: Field and Constance, Fallon and Jeff, and Blake and Krystle are all now occupying separate bedrooms. (For the first two couples, it's by mutual consent. Not so the latter, as this nifty little speech by Blake illustrates: "I can get hundreds of people to bring me a cup of coffee. I can snap my fingers and have a table set for two-hundred people. I can pick up the phone and I can have a government in South America fall. These are not things I need a wife for. I need a wife in my bed. Now is that what you're offering? Don't bother to answer.") If Ray and Donna Krebbs haven't yet entered the "separate rooms" stage, it's only because the DALLAS set designers have just gotten around to furnishing their house with one bedroom, let alone two. As an alternative, Donna goes off to Laredo to research her new book, more or less telling Ray to consider it a mini-separation. While she has yet to learn of his fling with Bonnie, Field has pretty much figured out by the end of this week's FLAMINGO ROAD that Constance is sleeping with Julio, but he doesn't really care. Meanwhile, Jeff continues to feign indifference about Fallon's affair (unaware that it's with Nick Toscanni and that he's dumped her).

    The fact that FLAMINGO ROAD is still in "story of the week" mode means that however much fun it is, there's a limit to how far an episode can go - whereas on DYNASTY, the emotional extremes feel almost boundless. As Blake rages against his blindness and his inability to bring the man responsible to justice, the programme - specifically, the music - rages with him. There's an underlying hysteria that pulsates throughout the episode.

    This week's FALCON CREST is rich in atmosphere. There's something wonderfully sinister about the way Lance casually dotes on his pet falcon in the family living room while brooding over his latest plot. This bird of prey/nefarious activity interface is mirrored in FLAMINGO ROAD by Michael Tyrone, who has his own exotic birds to pamper while he goes about seducing Lute-Mae Sanders for reasons as yet unclear.

    An ancient Soap Land curse decrees that the first woman of a series to conceive a child is doomed to miscarry. As it was with Pam Ewing, Karen Fairgate and Krystle Carrington, so it must now be with FALCON CREST's Emma who finds herself with child as a result of the episode where Turner Bates kidnapped/seduced her and then burst into flames. Lance's reaction ("She can't have this baby! Another grandchild - another heir!") echoes Alexis's to Krystle's pregnancy five weeks ago and JR's to Pam's back in the DALLAS mini-series. Only last week, the subject of unwelcome heirs came up again in DALLAS, during a discussion about Jock's will. "All of the heirs would be provided for," JR was told by his lawyer. "Your brothers could have sons and ... the will would provide for them also." "That could spread a hundred shares of stock pretty thin, couldn't it?" mused JR worriedly.

    Without the word itself being mentioned, Lance suggests that Emma be given an abortion. In contrast to DYNASTY's recent flirtation with the topic, the issue is dealt with by Angela in five little words: "That is never gonna happen." Ultimately, Lance's role in Emma's miscarriage follows more in JR's footsteps than Alexis's. He and Emma argue, there's a struggle and she falls. Yes, it's "Barbecue" all over again, but this time set at the top of a winery staircase rather than a hayloft.

    The subplot of this week's FALCON CREST deals with the immigrant vineyard workers being threatened with deportation lest they give into the demands of a protection racket. It's an interesting dilemma and one for which the episode offers no a pat solution. "As long as there's people without work permits willing to do more for less, they're going to be exploited," Gus Nunuoz tells Chase. "The men who do this are usually undocumented themselves. You can stop them for a while, but they always come back, like parasites feeding on their own kind." Nor does the show make a judgement on the illegals themselves, which from a present day perspective seems kind of remarkable.

    Inevitably, however, it's the white man who comes to the rescue, with Chase giving Mario the courage he needs to speak out against the ringleader (the second of this week's Soap Land Latinos to be named Julio). As its title suggests, the episode largely depicts its non-white characters as helpless victims. The same might be said of the wrongly accused Julio in this week's FLAMINGO ROAD, but there are more interesting shades of grey in his case. Julio is portrayed less as a victim to be rescued than as a pawn to be fought over by Titus, Constance and Field, all of whom are motivated by their own self-interests. And the fact that Julio himself is hardly blameless - he is sleeping with his boss's wife while hypocritically condemning his sister for her relationship with a white man - makes him a juicier character than his saintly counterparts in the Tuscany Valley.

    FALCON CREST's Sheriff Tobias moonlights this week as Blake's ophthalmologist in DYNASTY. "I was detained at a convention in Los Angeles," he explains to Blake when he arrives late for their appointment. (Translation: "I got stuck looking for Vicky Gioberti in a weird porno-themed episode of FALCON CREST.") In neither role is he able to offer much practical help. Having diagnosed Blake's blindness as "a severe psychological trauma brought on by the accident," he is unable to say when or if his sight will return. He has no words of comfort for Chase in FALCON CREST either. "It just doesn't seem fair," says Chase, referring to the ongoing protection racket. "Not much up here is," the sheriff shrugs.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 4 are …
    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (4) FALCON CREST
    4 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  12. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    09/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Explosion v. 10/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Hearing v. 11/Feb/82: KNOTS LANDING: Possibilities v. 12/Feb/82: DALLAS: Anniversary v. 12/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: For Love or Money

    This week's FLAMINGO ROAD begins with characters reacting to Skipper's anti-gambling editorial in The Clarion. Michael Tyrone, worried that the bad publicity will jeopardise his gaming bill, is far from pleased. There's a certain irony to the future Richard Channing having to battle a newspaper. Meanwhile, on DYNASTY, Blake Carrington has the opposite problem. Having lobbied for a senate investigation into Logan Rhinewood - the man he believes has blinded him - he is hugely frustrated to learn that the subsequent committee hearing will be closed to the press.

    I've never understood the precise nature of this hearing, but it seems to be a grander, more bad-tempered variation on the one that delved into JR's involvement in the Asian revolution at the end of last season's DALLAS. Weirdly, this hearing is chaired by DALLAS's Harve Smithfield. Perhaps he was still smarting from the ticking off he received from Miss Ellie three weeks ago when he accepted an afternoon's work on the Ewings' rival show.

    Back on F'LINGO RD, Richard Channing - I mean, Michael Tyrone - threatens to withdraw his business from Truro County unless Sheriff Titus can find a way to silence The Clarion. Titus's solution is simple - he pays someone to blow up the newspaper office. As with DYNASTY's equivalent explosion three weeks ago, a main character is blinded. Unlike Blake Carrington, however, currently suffering "hysterical blindness caused by a terrible shock", Skipper Weldon's injuries are unequivocally physical - he is diagnosed with "severe eye damage". (Still, compared to Titus's last unintentional victim, Skipper's fiancee, who burnt to death when he set the mill on fire in the pilot episode, Skipper himself got off pretty easy.)

    "You're on your own for the first time. You're not used to it," Clayton tells Sue Ellen in this week's DALLAS, but his words are equally applicable to Karen in KNOTS LANDING. "I'm alone, but not single," is how she weepily (but amusingly) describes herself as she struggles to come to terms with the idea of dating again. Following the triple whammy of "The Rose and the Briar", "The Three Sisters" and "Power Play", this week's KNOTS feels at first like a bit of an anti-climax, but gradually develops into a sweet and interesting, if low-key, episode. Ginger's burning desire to become a singer (encouraged by Digger Barnes's former nephew Jimmy, now an up and coming record producer) comes out of nowhere, but shows a freshly assertive and stubborn side to her character (as well as a surprisingly attacking singing style reminiscent of her real life boyfriend Warren Zevon). Just like Chase on FALCON CREST a few weeks ago, Kenny isn't happy with his wife's newfound ambition, but his attempts to reach an end-of-episode compromise the way Giobertis did prove unsuccessful.

    Over on DALLAS, Bobby has the same dilemma in reverse, in that he's trying to encourage his wife back to work (as part of his ongoing efforts to prevent Pam discovering Christopher's true parentage). "There are places where women can bring their children to work," Liz Craig informs him. The recording studio where Ginger sings her heart out is one, the aerobics studio Bobby purchases for Pam is another. Following Karen at Knots Landing Motors, this makes Pam Soap Land's second "instant businesswoman" of the season.

    A red sports car features prominently in both KNOTS and FALCON CREST this week. In KNOTS, it's the vehicle of choice for Karen's suitor Charles and an indication to the neighbours of what a good catch he is. (Abby refers to him as "the dashing man in the sports car".) It also prompts the most touching line of the episode: "Don't let him drive too fast," pleads Michael quietly, just before Karen and Charles leave on a date. FALCON CREST, meanwhile, opens with Lance driving his red Corvette very fast, a relatively unfazed Angela in the passenger seat. He is driving the same car when he accidentally runs a young cyclist, Lori, off the road and promptly falls in love with her. Lori's bike-riding symbolises the freedom Lance can never have unless he breaks free of Falcon Crest and the lifestyle that goes with it, which is represented by the Corvette.

    This episode also serves as our introduction to vineyardist Carlo Agretti. Angela calmly informs Lance that he is to marry Carlo's daughter Melissa in order to form an alliance between their two families. This kind of arrangement is nothing new in Soap Land: the unions of Lucy and Kit in DALLAS, Fallon and Jeff in DYNASTY and Constance and Field in FLAMINGO ROAD were all regarded as mergers made in Heaven by their respective families. In each of those cases, however, some consideration was given to the bride and groom's happiness. Not so here: Angela is as indifferent to the way Lance feels about Melissa as she is to his newfound love for Lori. (Lance and Lori's hopes of a future together in "For Love or Money" last about as long as Cliff and Sue Ellen's in the DALLAS Season 1 episode of the same name.)

    Disability, an uncommon subject in a place as glamorous as Soap Land, crops up throughout this week's episodes. FLAMINGO ROAD and DYNASTY each now features a blind man, while FALCON CREST's central guest character, Elizabeth Bradbury, has spent the last four decades in a wheelchair, the victim of a hit and run accident when she was eighteen. "I think the rest of us are just crippled in other ways," says Julia darkly. Eventually, we learn that it was Angela "and her deadly blue convertible" that were responsible for crippling Elizabeth. There is no explanation given for the accident and Angela expresses no remorse. Interestingly, it's the lack of detail that makes the revelation so powerful. All we know is that Angela's crime went undetected, that her brother Jason abandoned Elizabeth, his childhood sweetheart, in her hour of need and that he never forgave himself.

    The final scene in three of this week's soaps revolves around an inanimate object: a letter in DYNASTY, a videotape in DALLAS and a tape recording in FALCON CREST. Alexis and Angela each use the object to distort the truth in the hopes of destroying a relationship, while JR deploys his to rekindle one. "Why do so many frustrated wives end up in bed with their shrinks? Ask your wife," says the anonymous letter Alexis has Fallon read to her father. "Who in hell needs Chase Gioberti? … I don't have a son," states Jason Gioberti on the tape Angela plays for Chase. "From Austin, we have Sue Ellen Shepard - twenty years old, five-foot seven-and-a-half inches," announces the host of the 1967 Miss Texas beauty contest on the video JR shows to his ex-wife before moving in for the kiss. Romantic as he is in this scene, JR still finds time for a little relationship-wrecking this week, as he arranges for Donna to find Ray in bed with another woman. Meanwhile, Evelyn Michaelson's lie that she and Mitch are sleeping together sends Lucy scuttling into the arms of Roger Larsen. By contrast, Abby's designs on Gary are put on hold in this week's KNOTS. In fact, they never even appear in the same scene.

    The friction between Chase and Angela moves up a notch at the end of this week's FALCON CREST. "You win at any cost, don't you?" says Chase after Angela has played the tape of his father to him. Angela responds by reciting details about Maggie's childhood. The shocking realisation then dawns on Chase: "My God, you've started a file on my wife!" It's a terrific moment.

    Echoes of earlier works reverberate throughout this week's Soap Land. FALCON CREST contains traces of Edgar Allen Poe (Chase discovers a walled up room containing books full of his father's tormented writings) and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (Angela cripples a woman in a car accident, then allows suspicion to fall on her mentally unstable sibling). On DYNASTY, Alexis and Sammy Jo's chance encounter at the furriers could be a scene from George Cukor's 1939 picture THE WOMEN, and while the episode's climax may lack logic, (why do Alexis and Fallon go to the trouble of sending a missive in ransom-note lettering to a blind man? And why does Fallon think that informing Blake of his wife's supposed infidelity will break up her relationship with Nick?) the sheer melodrama of its execution - the long anguished walk Fallon takes up to her father's room, the moment when Blake regains his sight and sees the letter in his hand - evokes those delirious Douglas Sirk pictures of the late 40s, in particular MAGNIFICENT OBSESSION - which just happened to star one Angela Channing as a woman blinded after being hit by a car ...

    And this week's Soap Land Top 5 are …
    1 (3) FALCON CREST
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (1) DYNASTY
    4 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
    5 (-) KNOTS LANDING
     
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  13. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Chance of a Lifetime v. 17/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Iago Syndrome v. 18/Feb/82: KNOTS LANDING: Reunion v. 19/Feb/82: DALLAS: Adoption v. 19/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: Family Reunion

    Having started off as Soap Land's ultimate outcast, Lane Ballou this week enters its inner circle by becoming Mrs. Sam Curtis of Flamingo Road. "Flamingo Road," she sighs happily. "Funny, three years ago I got itchy feet if I had to spend two nights in the same town. Now I don't ever wanna leave!" It's an indication of how her importance within the show has diminished that her and Sam's wedding generates so little controversy (save for Constance's prediction that the ceremony will "probably have all the dignity of two cats matin' in the alley"). The highlight is a sweet moment where Field congratulates his former love on her big day - the kind of scene that might have taken place in DALLAS had Bobby lived to see Pam marry Mark, complete with Jenna No.1 glaring possessively in the background.

    Lane might be joining the establishment, but others in Soap Land are getting out. On DYNASTY, Nick Toscanni turns his back on the lucrative world of psychiatry, or as he describes it, "babysitting for spoiled rich wives or spoiled athletes - just not my idea of what a doctor's all about", in favour of a more modestly paid hospital job. Over on DALLAS, while Sue Ellen finds herself being drawn back into the bosom of the Ewing family - she even accepts an invitation to dinner at Southfork - Ray is headed in the opposite direction: "I'm cutting my ties with the Ewings," he announces. In the same week that Krystle Carrington rejects Blake's "sad world, filled with manipulation and deception", Ray has also "had a belly full of the high and mighty … I'm gonna stop pretending to be something I'm not." Krystle tells Blake that she's going back to Ohio "where people are just what they are, not wearing a dozen faces." "She doesn't have a fancy background," says Ray of girlfriend Bonnie. "She's got no money. She doesn't have an important last name." "Common people, as Alexis would say," says Krystle, referring to her friends back home. "Plain folk" is Donna's ironic description of Bonnie.

    In the event, Krystle and Ray each have a last minute change of heart (indicated by Krystle deliberately missing her flight and Ray decisively putting the cap back on his bottle of booze). So does Sue Ellen - but in the opposite direction. This week's DALLAS ends with her throwing the gift of a necklace back at JR and branding their relationship "sick, sick, sick!" On KNOTS LANDING, meanwhile, Laura begins the episode by telling Scooter (now her lover) that she too is getting out, i.e. divorcing Richard. By the end of the hour, she has discovered that she's pregnant. How this will impact her decision to end her marriage is not yet clear.

    Having debated Flaubert with Lucy Ewing and cheered on Steven Carrington's opposite number during his stock car race, Victoria Principal's first husband resurfaces in Soap Land yet again, this time sporting a three-piece suit on FLAMINGO ROAD and chuckling politely when Field Carlyle informs him that it is illegal in Oklahoma to drive with a cow in the front seat of your vehicle but not in the back.

    Skipper's reaction to his blindness on FLAMINGO ROAD is like a watered down version of Blake's on DYNASTY. Where Blake ranted and raged at everyone he came into contact with - his doctors, the justice system, his family, his servants - Skipper just gets a bit sulky about using his cane. Where Blake treated his wife like dirt, Skipper almost breaks up with his girlfriend, but then changes his mind. Where Blake campaigned for a senate investigation into the man he believed blinded him, Skipper snaps at chief suspect Elmo Tyson, (framed by Titus) then immediately apologises.

    Blake's sight is now fully restored, but he continues to fake his disability just as Skipper's sister Constance did her paralysis at the beginning of the season. While Constance's deception was fun, Blake's feels borderline Shakespearean, (hence the episode title) as he manipulates those around him whilst observing their reactions from behind his blind man's glasses.

    A week after Pam Ewing gets into the aerobics business, the Carrington exercise room makes its debut appearance. With VP and Joanie both breaking out the leotards and leg warmers, it's time for Soap Land's first round of Lycra Wars - and Pam beats Alexis without breaking a sweat.

    And just as Bobby and Pam are awarded temporary custody of Christopher, DYNASTY also jumps on the adoption bandwagon. It isn't an adorable little newborn Blake Carrington wishes to claim as his own, however, but his fully grown estranged son-in-law Jeff. Nowhere else in the entire history of fact or fiction have I heard of one adult male trying to adopt another adult male, but no one in DYNASTY seems to find it unusual.

    This week's Soap Land boasts several strong female confrontation scenes - between Krystle and Alexis on DYNASTY ("I think the reason you moved back here is the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks - because that's where the money is!"), Karen and Victoria Hill on KNOTS LANDING ("Cut the motherhood stuff, will ya, Karen? It's a biological function, not a holy calling!"), Donna and Bonnie on DALLAS ("Now that we know what you are, let's haggle over your fee!"), and Angela and Jacqueline on FALCON CREST ("You'd have killed him with your bare hands before you'd have let him have any part of Falcon Crest - Power, that's all you love."). However, the week's two strongest showdowns are between men, and each feels like it's been a long time coming. On DYNASTY, after some prevarication, Nick Toscanni at long last admits to Blake that reason he came to Denver was to avenge his brother's death ("One word from you could have saved my brother's life! One word!") while on DALLAS, Ray finally relinquishes his status as Jock's son by signing his voting shares in Ewing Oil over to JR ("You never loved him." "Didn't I?" "Not the way I did."). In each case, there's a physical barrier between the men which enhances the tension of the scene: On DYNASTY, it's those dark glasses behind which Blake conceals his watchful eyes; on DALLAS, its the bars of the jail cell where JR has arranged for Ray to spend the night. At one point in their scene, Nick holds the flame from his cigarette lighter up to Blake's face - Blake's eyes do not flicker. By contrast, JR flinches nervously as he hands the voting document through the bars of the cell for Ray to sign, as if Ray were a caged animal that might suddenly yank his arm off.

    For all of Blake's clever manipulations, he remains curiously blind (so to speak) to his ex-wife's scheming. For instance, it doesn't seem to occur to him that Alexis might be responsible for the anonymous letter he has received. When she kisses him on the lips, playfully "taking advantage" of his apparent condition, he simply smiles. Like Sue Ellen blinking back tears as JR declares his love for her on this week's DALLAS, he is willing to believe that his ex-spouse is a changed person. Such are the conventions of Soap Land - after all, JR's and Alexis's schemes to win back their respective exes would stand no chance at all of working were Sue Ellen and Blake not so willing to forgive and/or forget - at least until such a time as the plot dictates otherwise. (For Sue Ellen, that time comes later in the ep when Bobby informs her that Christopher is Kristin's biological child.) What sets KNOTS LANDING's equivalent storyline - Abby's slow seduction of Gary - apart is that Gary isn't conveniently blinded to Abby's machinations in the same way. Instead, he looks her straight in the eye and sees what we see. "What are you doing?" he asks her. "Do you know what you're doing, or does it just come so naturally to you, you don't realise you're doing it? … Are you trying to be persuasive or seductive? You talk about a business venture as if it were a tryst. Your idea of being convincing is to stand very close and wet your lips … I'm getting a little tired of you thinking you can manipulate me by being sexy." He's right, of course, but that's not the whole story. "Do you want me to stop?" Abby asks him at the end of the scene. "I didn't say that," he replies. That these characters are smart enough to call each other so incisively on their behaviour makes the writing smart and incisive too.

    As their episode titles suggest, this week's KNOTS and FALCON CREST have a lot in common. KNOTS' "Reunion" is between Karen and her college roommate Victoria Hill, aka "the greatest designer in New York". ("She knows Yoko Ono!" marvels Diana.) FALCON CREST's "Family Reunion" is between the Giobertis and Chase's mother Jacqueline Perrault, now a multi-millionairess living in France. ("We'll have to have Prince Charles and Lady Di over," wisecracks Maggie, having scrubbed the house in preparation for her visit.) Both women disrupt their hosts' carefully laid plans - Victoria by arriving a day late, Jacqueline hours early - thereby catching them unawares. Each look down on their new surroundings. "How can you stand it?" asks Victoria, regarding life in a cul-de-sac. "Here, wine is a business, and in France it's an art," says Jacqueline sniffily.

    Diana Fairgate and Vicky Gioberti are each mightily impressed by the glamorous older woman in their midst, who encourages them to spread their wings and realise their potential. Victoria declares Diana "much too hip to languish in the suburbs" while Jacqueline tells her granddaughter how "I left my parents' home in France as soon as I found something better." When Victoria and Jacqueline offer to help the Fairgates and Giobertis relocate to New York and France respectively, Diana and Vicky jump at the idea. While Karen goes so far as to put her house and business on the market, Chase will not consider leaving Falcon Crest, in spite of Jacqueline repeatedly warning him how dangerous Angela is. When Karen changes her mind about leaving Knots Landing, Diana rebels and insists that she will accept Victoria's invitation on her own. Likewise Vicky. In both cases, a sense of family prevails before the end credits with both girls agreeing to stay put. Along the way, Karen and Victoria have a chance to air long held grievances, ("You always use my life as a yardstick to measure yours! You've been competing with me since the day I met you!") as do Jacqueline and Chase, ("I resented you for so long …" "I suppose we didn't like each other very much") before reconciling and bidding a fond adieu. Victoria says her good-byes in the Fairgate driveway. "I hate airport scenes," she explains. Watching the final moments of this week's FALCON CREST, you get the feeling Lana Turner loves them.

    Following Teddy Becker seven episodes ago, Victoria Hill is the second New Yorker from Karen's past, now leading a glamorous but lonely (i.e. childless) life, to arrive in Seaview Circle and promptly fall head over heels for Diana. With Karen emerging the wiser, happier party in each of these episodes, it's hard not to feel KNOTS values suburban motherhood over other lifestyle choices. However, "Reunion" is nuanced enough not to become too smug or self-congratulatory - and considering how soon and how fast things are going to start changing in the cul-de-sac, maybe KNOTS is allowed to celebrate itself just this once.

    During Karen and Victoria's big confrontation scene, Michele Lee's and Jessica Walters' performances reminded me of Shirley MacLaine's and Anne Bancroft's in the 1977 movie THE TURNING POINT, i.e. two scenery-chewing Broadway actresses going at each other hammer and tongs. When Angela and Jacqueline meet at Jason's graveside on FALCON CREST, however, the effect is pure Old Hollywood. The comparison Julia makes between the two characters ("Jacqueline's been living in France all these years enjoying the finest things that life has to offer [while Angela's] been here, obsessed with Falcon Crest") captures the contrast between the actresses as well: Lana Turner, every inch the pampered, chauffeur-driven MGM star, and Jane Wyman, the no-nonsense, disciplined Warner Brothers actress.

    While "Family Reunion" feels like an important, dramatic instalment in the FALCON CREST saga, it's also somewhat deceiving. By the time Jacqueline leaves at the end of the episode, we're really no further on in the story. Her appearance may have opened up old wounds in much the same way Alexis's return did on DYNASTY, but unlike Alexis, all she has revealed about the past is that Angela was dominant and Jason was weak - which is nothing we haven't already known since the very first episode. It's a clever sleight of hand on the part of the writers.

    In this week's Soap Land Top 5 ... there's not much to choose between DALLAS and DYNASTY. Now each seven episodes away from the end of the season, both move up a notch in terms of drama this week, with one great scene after another. Again, it's the music that defines the differences between them: DYNASTY's relentless, exciting score driving everything forward, while DALLAS's imbues its soapy story-telling with poignancy and gravitas. DYNASTY is cinematic and sweeping and full of grand entrances; DALLAS is more televisual - homely and intimate and all about the close ups.

    1 (3) DYNASTY
    2 (2) DALLAS
    3 (1) FALCON CREST
    4 (5) KNOTS LANDING
    5 (4) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  14. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    23/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Double Exposure v. 24/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Party v. 26/Feb/82: DALLAS: The Maelstrom v. 26/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: The Candidate

    There’s an unusual sense of optimism in the air in this week's Soap Land. DALLAS begins with the Ewings toasting Christopher’s adoption while Fallon, now blissfully in love with Nick Toscanni, spends much of this week’s DYNASTY planning a party in honour of Steven and Sammy Jo’s marriage. Blake and Krystle are back together, Ray Krebbs has turned over a new leaf and FLAMINGO ROAD opens with Sam and Lane enjoying an idyllic honeymoon. (Conversely, this week's FALCON CREST begins with a cold-blooded murder.)

    Clothing wise, the Carrington party is DYNASTY's equivalent of Victoria Hill's fashion show in last week's KNOTS, with the female characters decked out more glamorously and/or ridiculously than we've ever previously seen them. One might say the outfits on KNOTS symbolised the tail end of the 70s - viewed from today's perspective they have a certain retro charm - while the gowns in this week's DYNASTY represent a large step towards what we now regard as the quintessential '80s look: opulent, garish and borderline tasteless. In their shiny, boldly coloured party dresses, the DYNASTY women resemble various Quality Street wrappers, with Claudia, appropriately enough, as the nutty purple one (aka everyone's favourite). The women of DALLAS, meanwhile, continue to dress like office workers. The frock Lucy wears under her fur coat while sprawled on a car bonnet during a photo shoot, for instance, could just as easily belong to Sly or Phyllis.

    With their marriages each now under repair, the time has come for Ray on DALLAS and Krystle on DYNASTY to bid farewell to their respective love interests, Bonnie and Nick. While both goodbye scenes are equally effective, the contrast between them helps to illustrate the difference between the two soaps at this point. Krystle and Nick's farewell, which takes place against the backdrop of the Carrington party with Blake (still pretending to be blind) eavesdropping from a distance, is exciting and glamorous, the dialogue fraught with melodrama. ("You're still the most beautiful woman I've ever known, the most desirable!” "I can't believe that routine you handed me - those lies ... Thank God I never let you touch me!") Meanwhile, the scene where Ray ends his relationship with Bonnie at the Longview Bar is down-home, poignant and bittersweet. ("I feel terrible about using about using you. It was wrong. I know it." "Listen, your wife isn't one of my favourite people ... but if it can work for you, for keeps, then you can't beat it.")

    There again, there are times where DALLAS and DYNASTY seem to occupy the same dramatic territory. A simmering Sue Ellen suddenly smashing the sculpture given to her by JR against a wall, Fallon losing control of her car as Alexis confesses she doesn’t know who her father is - both actions are the result of emotions too large to be contained spilling over into a kind of destruction that is riveting to watch.

    Two formerly adulterous affairs are rekindled this week: between Alexis and her ex-husband's nemesis Cecil in DYNASTY, and between Sue Ellen and her ex-husband's nemesis Cliff in DALLAS. Neither party keeps their relationship a secret - Alexis brings Cecil to the Carrington party as her date while Sue Ellen delights in calling Cliff in front of JR ("I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed being with you last night").

    Whereas Alexis appears to take pleasure in her time with Cecil purely for its own sake, ("Isn't it wonderful how afternoon lovemaking still hasn't lost its charm?") Sue Ellen is clearly out for vengeance ("Does Cliff know he's your way of getting back at JR?" Clayton asks her). Nor is she the only lover in Soap Land with an ulterior motive. Just as Field falls for Sandie Swanson in FLAMINGO ROAD, it becomes clear (to the audience at least) that Sandie is allied with Michael Tyrone and that the affair is part of some mysterious master plan of his. Concurrently, Field's wife Constance misleads her lover Julio about the strength of her feelings for him in order to persuade him to spy on Field and Sandie. On DYNASTY, Claudia more or less picks up Jeff at the Carrington party in order to spy on him while Krystle accuses Nick of using Fallon, calling her his "new victim". And back on DALLAS, Lucy publicly kisses Roger's face off just to spite estranged husband Mitch. In this context, Bonnie's sad little question to Ray ("You don't think I know the difference between this and somethin' real?") feels particularly apposite.

    There are two jewellery thefts in Soap Land this week. On DYNASTY, Sammy Jo steals Fallon's diamond and emerald necklace, leading to a showdown where she blurts out A Big Family Secret. Meanwhile, the subplot of this week's FALCON CREST focuses on the repercussions of Emma’s attempt at some Lilimae-style shoplifting from a jewellery store.

    This week's DALLAS and DYNASTY both end with a long held paternity-related secret coming to light. After a drunken Sammy Jo informs her that Blake ain't her real daddy, Fallon takes her mother for a drive and demands to hear the truth. "Blake could be your father," admits a nervous Alexis as the car swerves dramatically all over the road, "or … " "Or, Mother?" "Cecil Colby!" Over on DALLAS, the equivalent revelation takes place against a far more tranquil, domestic backdrop. Bobby, Pam and Ellie are cooing over Baby Christopher in the Southfork living room when a call from a lawyer in New York tips JR off to the possibility that Bobby and Pam's son and Kristin's baby are one and the same. JR instructs the lawyer to dig deeper. As he looks over at Bobby and his little family, Larry Hagman's sweet-but-sinister delivery of the line "I'm mighty interested in that little baby" carries as much drama and excitement as the DYNASTY car crash following Alexis's confession. (Well, maybe almost as much.)

    Following Claudia and Lindsay's at the end of Season 1, Alexis and Fallon's is DYNASTY's second mother/daughter car accident. However, if the sight of a heavily pregnant woman slumped unconscious behind the wheel of a crashed car prompts memories of any previous Soap Land storyline, it is, of course, Sue Ellen's at the end of DALLAS's first season.

    This week’s FALCON CREST is a richly satisfying stand-alone instalment which marries the plots of two early DALLAS episodes, "Election” (Chase runs for County Supervisor against a candidate owned by Angela) and "The Dove Hunt” (one of the little people whose life has been casually destroyed by Angela is driven to violent revenge).

    In a week where DYNASTY starts to lose objectivity about its own characters - Fallon, once a source of cynicism and wisecracks that served to undercut the pomposity of the Carrington world, now talks with wide-eyed sincerity about how proud she is to be Blake's daughter - FALCON CREST portrays a murderer and hostage taker as an ordinary, decent family man driven to desperate measures by Angela Channing. The series might be fascinated by Angela, but it does not yet celebrate her.

    The episode also serves to illustrate the difference between Angela and her Soap Land counterparts. The Jock Ewing we’re introduced to when DALLAS begins may have committed an awful lot of wrongs in the course of building his empire, but since his retirement has mellowed somewhat - while JR's own ambitions are tempered (to an extent) by the rest of his family. On DYNASTY, the global scale of Denver Carrington's business means that the majority of Blake's ruthlessness (at least professionally) is alluded to rather than shown on screen. Unlike Jock, Angela has not mellowed. Unlike JR, her actions are not constrained by more powerful members of her family. And the human cost of her business practices, unlike Blake Carrington’s, can be seen in the very valley in which she lives.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) DYNASTY
    4 (5) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  15. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    23/Feb/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Double Exposure v. 24/Feb/82: DYNASTY: The Party v. 26/Feb/82: DALLAS: The Maelstrom v. 26/Feb/82: FALCON CREST: The Candidate

    There’s an unusual sense of optimism in the air in this week's Soap Land. DALLAS begins with the Ewings toasting Christopher’s adoption while Fallon, now blissfully in love with Nick Toscanni, spends much of this week’s DYNASTY planning a party in honour of Steven and Sammy Jo’s marriage. Blake and Krystle are back together, Ray Krebbs has turned over a new leaf and FLAMINGO ROAD opens with Sam and Lane enjoying an idyllic honeymoon. (Conversely, this week's FALCON CREST begins with a cold-blooded murder.)

    Clothing wise, the Carrington party is DYNASTY's equivalent of Victoria Hill's fashion show in last week's KNOTS, with the female characters decked out more glamorously and/or ridiculously than we've ever previously seen them. One might say the outfits on KNOTS symbolised the tail end of the 70s - viewed from today's perspective they have a certain retro charm - while the gowns in this week's DYNASTY represent a large step towards what we now regard as the quintessential '80s look: opulent, garish and borderline tasteless. In their shiny, boldly coloured party dresses, the DYNASTY women resemble various Quality Street wrappers, with Claudia, appropriately enough, as the nutty purple one (aka everyone's favourite). The women of DALLAS, meanwhile, continue to dress like office workers. The frock Lucy wears under her fur coat while sprawled on a car bonnet during a photo shoot, for instance, could just as easily belong to Sly or Phyllis.

    With their marriages each now under repair, the time has come for Ray on DALLAS and Krystle on DYNASTY to bid farewell to their respective love interests, Bonnie and Nick. While both goodbye scenes are equally effective, the contrast between them helps to illustrate the difference between the two soaps at this point. Krystle and Nick's farewell, which takes place against the backdrop of the Carrington party with Blake (still pretending to be blind) eavesdropping from a distance, is exciting and glamorous, the dialogue fraught with melodrama. ("You're still the most beautiful woman I've ever known, the most desirable!” "I can't believe that routine you handed me - those lies ... Thank God I never let you touch me!") Meanwhile, the scene where Ray ends his relationship with Bonnie at the Longview Bar is down-home, poignant and bittersweet. ("I feel terrible about using about using you. It was wrong. I know it." "Listen, your wife isn't one of my favourite people ... but if it can work for you, for keeps, then you can't beat it.")

    There again, there are times where DALLAS and DYNASTY seem to occupy the same dramatic territory. A simmering Sue Ellen suddenly smashing the sculpture given to her by JR against a wall, Fallon losing control of her car as Alexis confesses she doesn’t know who her father is - both actions are the result of emotions too large to be contained spilling over into a kind of destruction that is riveting to watch.

    Two formerly adulterous affairs are rekindled this week: between Alexis and her ex-husband's nemesis Cecil in DYNASTY, and between Sue Ellen and her ex-husband's nemesis Cliff in DALLAS. Neither party keeps their relationship a secret - Alexis brings Cecil to the Carrington party as her date while Sue Ellen delights in calling Cliff in front of JR ("I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed being with you last night").

    Whereas Alexis appears to take pleasure in her time with Cecil purely for its own sake, ("Isn't it wonderful how afternoon lovemaking still hasn't lost its charm?") Sue Ellen is clearly out for vengeance ("Does Cliff know he's your way of getting back at JR?" Clayton asks her). Nor is she the only lover in Soap Land with an ulterior motive. Just as Field falls for Sandie Swanson in FLAMINGO ROAD, it becomes clear (to the audience at least) that Sandie is allied with Michael Tyrone and that the affair is part of some mysterious master plan of his. Concurrently, Field's wife Constance misleads her lover Julio about the strength of her feelings for him in order to persuade him to spy on Field and Sandie. On DYNASTY, Claudia more or less picks up Jeff at the Carrington party in order to spy on him while Krystle accuses Nick of using Fallon, calling her his "new victim". And back on DALLAS, Lucy publicly kisses Roger's face off just to spite estranged husband Mitch. In this context, Bonnie's sad little question to Ray ("You don't think I know the difference between this and somethin' real?") feels particularly apposite.

    There are two jewellery thefts in Soap Land this week. On DYNASTY, Sammy Jo steals Fallon's diamond and emerald necklace, leading to a showdown where she blurts out A Big Family Secret. Meanwhile, the subplot of this week's FALCON CREST focuses on the repercussions of Emma’s attempt at some Lilimae-style shoplifting from a jewellery store.

    This week's DALLAS and DYNASTY both end with a long held paternity-related secret coming to light. After a drunken Sammy Jo informs her that Blake ain't her real daddy, Fallon takes her mother for a drive and demands to hear the truth. "Blake could be your father," admits a nervous Alexis as the car swerves dramatically all over the road, "or … " "Or, Mother?" "Cecil Colby!" Over on DALLAS, the equivalent revelation takes place against a far more tranquil, domestic backdrop. Bobby, Pam and Ellie are cooing over Baby Christopher in the Southfork living room when a call from a lawyer in New York tips JR off to the possibility that Bobby and Pam's son and Kristin's baby are one and the same. JR instructs the lawyer to dig deeper. As he looks over at Bobby and his little family, Larry Hagman's sweet-but-sinister delivery of the line "I'm mighty interested in that little baby" carries as much drama and excitement as the DYNASTY car crash following Alexis's confession. (Well, maybe almost as much.)

    Following Claudia and Lindsay's at the end of Season 1, Alexis and Fallon's is DYNASTY's second mother/daughter car accident. However, if the sight of a heavily pregnant woman slumped unconscious behind the wheel of a crashed car prompts memories of any previous Soap Land storyline, it is, of course, Sue Ellen's at the end of DALLAS's first season.

    This week’s FALCON CREST is a richly satisfying stand-alone instalment which marries the plots of two early DALLAS episodes, "Election” (Chase runs for County Supervisor against a candidate owned by Angela) and "The Dove Hunt” (one of the little people whose life has been casually destroyed by Angela is driven to violent revenge).

    In a week where DYNASTY starts to lose objectivity about its own characters - Fallon, once a source of cynicism and wisecracks that served to undercut the pomposity of the Carrington world, now talks with wide-eyed sincerity about how proud she is to be Blake's daughter - FALCON CREST portrays a murderer and hostage taker as an ordinary, decent family man driven to desperate measures by Angela Channing. The series might be fascinated by Angela, but it does not yet celebrate her.

    The episode also serves to illustrate the difference between Angela and her Soap Land counterparts. The Jock Ewing we’re introduced to when DALLAS begins may have committed an awful lot of wrongs in the course of building his empire, but since his retirement has mellowed somewhat - while JR's own ambitions are tempered (to an extent) by the rest of his family. On DYNASTY, the global scale of Denver Carrington's business means that the majority of Blake's ruthlessness (at least professionally) is alluded to rather than shown on screen. Unlike Jock, Angela has not mellowed. Unlike JR, her actions are not constrained by more powerful members of her family. And the human cost of her business practices, unlike Blake Carrington’s, can be seen in the very valley in which she lives.

    And this week's Soap Land Top 4 are …

    1 (2) DALLAS
    2 (3) FALCON CREST
    3 (1) DYNASTY
    4 (5) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  16. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    10/Mar/82: DYNASTY: Mother and Son v. 11/Mar/82: KNOTS LANDING: Best Intentions v. 12/Mar/82: DALLAS: Vengeance v. 12/Mar/82: FALCON CREST: House of Cards

    This week’s KNOTS LANDING and DYNASTY are notable in that they give more focus than usual to their respective third and fourth female lead characters, Laura Avery and Claudia Blaisdel. Laura’s journey from unhappy housewife to Seaview Circle’s first career woman has oft been acknowledged, albeit bitterly, by spouse Richard, and this week Jeff Colby pays tribute to Claudia, a former mental patient abandoned by her husband and child who is now single and working at Denver Carrington, by calling her "a woman who had the courage to make a new life for herself.” Both women now find themselves burdened by secrets that could jeopardise their hard-won independence and self-esteem: Laura is pregnant by one man and sleeping with another, while Claudia is being blackmailed by her new lover’s uncle into spying on him.

    Real life ex-spouses Michele Lee and James Farentino dispense similar you’re-gonna-regret-it baby-related advice this week, to Laura in KNOTS and Fallon in DYNASTY. “If you have the abortion without discussing it with Richard,” counsels Karen, "you’re going to regret it. Even if he never finds out about it, you’re gonna feel guilty and bitter.” Not to be outdone, DYNASTY’s Dr Nick delivers an even grimmer prognosis. “You've given birth to a son who's fighting for his life,” he tells Fallon. "If you refuse to see him before the surgery, if you LOSE him ... I guarantee you, emotionally, you'll never make it through the rest of your own life!"

    Jeff Colby and Richard Avery are repeatedly wrong-footed by the women in their lives in this week’s Soap Land. Reconciled to the fact that Fallon wants nothing to do with their newborn baby and that he is to raise the child alone, Jeff is shocked when she changes her mind after the baby survives his dangerous operation. “I still want the divorce,” Fallon tells him, “but I’m not gonna give the baby up and I can’t give you custody." "How unstable can you be about all of this?!” he shouts. Over on KNOTS, Richard is overjoyed when Laura tells him she’s pregnant, believing the baby to be the solution to all their marital problems. Only after she has allowed him to talk her into a reconciliation and even a vacation in France does Laura finally come clean, announcing that she plans to leave him and get an abortion.

    Both situations lead to violence - if not quite on the scale of what Alexis describes as “that little contretemps in my studio" in last week’s DYNASTY. ("In my world, we call it a fight,” counters Krystle, "a good, dirty, no holds barred catfight.”) Jeff vents his frustrations with Fallon by punching Nick, while Richard slaps Laura across the face. "You said abortion and I saw Jason,” he explains afterwards.

    The moment where Laura tells Richard she has decided to keep the baby is depicted very differently to Fallon's change of heart regarding her abortion earlier in the season. There’s no last-possible-minute melodrama, no gushing displays of emotion, there’s not even any musical score. Instead, there’s a kind of grown up, matter-of-fact honesty about the Averys' exchange. The scene is small and understated, the unspoken feelings messy and complex. In short, it feels like a scene from a genuine marriage.

    As this week’s KNOTS and DYNASTY progress, it is Richard's and Claudia's situations that start to merge. Both characters are wracked with guilt - Richard for mistreating his pregnant wife, Claudia after she is caught photographing secret files in Jeff's office. Over lunch with Karen, Richard vows to change his ways, but there’s already a manic quality to his behaviour. Meanwhile, Jeff returns from confronting his uncle to find a fragile Claudia preparing to resign from her job. Worse is to follow when he tells her that Matthew and Lindsay, just like Jock Ewing ten weeks ago, are missing presumed dead following an accident in the jungles of South America.

    The final scenes of both shows see Richard and Claudia returning to their empty homes, shrouded in darkness. Richard calls out to Laura, before realising that she has already taken their son and moved out. Claudia, meanwhile, helplessly bemoans the loss of her spouse and child (“Matthew, my Lindsay - gone”). The episodes end with Richard and Claudia sitting alone in the dark - him staring at Laura’s goodbye note, her at the gun Matthew once bought for her. “I’ll kill him,” she mutters, referring to Cecil Colby.

    Like DYNASTY, DALLAS also ends with a character speaking aloud in an empty room. Having received written confirmation that he is Christopher’s father, JR realises that he is in a position to blackmail Bobby into handing over his Ewing Oil voting shares. “And soon, my son,” he says, addressing a photograph of Josh Ross, "with your ten shares, I’ll have total control of Ewing Oil.” Where Claudia is traumatised, JR is triumphant - but both declarations sound equally ominous.

    A theme recurring throughout all of this week’s soaps is that of meddling mothers. It is Lilimae’s snooping in KNOTS that affords Abby the opportunity to get her hands on Val’s novel-to-be. (“It’s all about the Ewings of Dallas,” Lilimae tells her, "right down to the nastiest thing JR ever did.”) Meanwhile, Angela Channing, who has spent an entire season of FALCON CREST keeping disturbed daughter Emma prisoner for fear the truth of Jason’s death will surface, now schemes to marry grandson Lance off to Melissa Agretti. Conversely, on DYNASTY, Alexis tries to conceal her involvement in breaking up her son's marriage. Now it looks as though a season’s worth of maternal scheming is about to catch up with both Angela and Alexis. "It’s all slipping away, isn’t it?” observes Angela’s former husband Douglas. "This carefully constructed plan to keep the truth from coming out.” “I wanna talk about Alexis and one of her Alexis lies,” Steven snarls at his mother on DYNASTY. "What are you holding back to protect yourself?” For both mothers, attack proves the readiest means of defence. “I can’t trust any of you,” snaps Angela when she discovers her daughter Julia has taken Emma to see a psychotherapist behind her back. "I am sick to death of being hammered at by both of my children when all I've done since I've been back is to try and help you and Fallon!” Alexis yells at Steven.

    Despite their bravado, Alexis and Angela must each make a serious concession this week. Alexis is obliged to admit to Blake that Cecil Colby could be Fallon’s father ("It's not enough that you betray me, but that you betray me with him?!”) while Angela confides to Julia that Emma “murdered” Jason. Julia’s heartbroken reaction is as surprising as it is effective.

    Maternal interference is par the course for Lilimae, Alexis and Angela, but it is far more unusual for the matriarchs of DALLAS to involve themselves in their sons’ personal lives. Miss Ellie and Rebecca's uncharacteristic behaviour, therefore, helps impress upon the audience how grave the implications of the JR/Sue Ellen/Cliff triangle have become. “This is quite unlike you to question me about my personal life,” a twitchy Sue Ellen points out to her ex-mother-in-law. "Normally I wouldn’t,” Miss Ellie agrees, "but there's a lot more at stake than just your personal interests. Two whole families are involved.” Ellie's sentiments are echoed later in the episode by Rebecca. "I'm sorry to pry into your private business,” she tells son Cliff, "but I have to know - are you using [Sue Ellen] to get back at JR?”

    As Angela's and Alexis's schemes threaten to crash down around them, Abby’s and JR’s are just taking off. Their respective pawns, Val Ewing and Cliff Barnes, can scarcely believe their good fortune: Val’s glorified homework assignment is apparently good enough to warrant the attentions of a prestigious New York publisher, while an opportunity to get rich, prove himself to Sue Ellen and get back at JR seems to just fall into Cliff’s lap. Given the scale of some of JR’s previous masterplans (i.e. the ones involving South East Asia), suckering Cliff into a phoney oil deal feels a tad lightweight - due in part to the use of a cartoony Marilee Stone as his front woman - but the show manages to sell the drama of it, even if it isn’t, to quote Lilimae, "the nastiest thing JR ever did." Meanwhile, Val’s concerns about not telling Gary that the book she has written is "a thinly disguised expose of dirty dealings in the Ewing family” are mirrored by her sister-in-law Donna's in DALLAS, who worries about informing Miss Ellie of the dirty dealings involving Jock that she has uncovered whilst researching her new book.

    Several relationships come to an end this week (at least for now - does anything ever really end in Soap Land?). Jeff’s discovery of Claudia in his office effectively destroys their budding love affair, JR shaming Clayton over his feelings for Sue Ellen ("You're a fraud - call yourself a gentleman, her friend, her protector, and all the time you wanted her for yourself”) kills that relationship before it can even get going, Laura finishes her affair with Scooter prior to walking out on her marriage and Mitch Cooper follows her example on DALLAS by asking Lucy for a divorce. Cliff Barnes bucks the trend by asking Sue Ellen to marry him.

    As one classic soap triangle (JR/Sue Ellen/Cliff) escalates, another (Abby/Gary/Val) gathers pace and a third (Alexis/Blake/Krystle) falters badly. Meanwhile, a fourth commences on FALCON CREST with the arrival of Melissa Agretti (as played by an actress instead of a mute extra). It is clearly established in her first scene that while Melissa might be all but betrothed to dark prince Lance, it is his fair-haired cousin Cole in whom she is really interested.

    Young, beautiful, wilful and capricious, Melissa fits easily into the same “spoiled princess” bracket as Lucy, Fallon and Constance (although we’ve never seen Claude Weldon or Blake Carrington manhandle his daughter as roughly as Carlo Agretti does Melissa when he sees her with Cole in this week’s ep. From the edit, it’s unclear whether or not he actually strikes her.) However, the Soap Land character Melissa most resembles at this point is DALLAS’s Marilee Stone. Like Marilee, she purrs all her dialogue and makes everything sound like a come on. “Marilee, you are insatiable!” says JR in this week’s DALLAS. “She looks like a man-eater to me,” says Vicky Gioberti of Melissa. Indeed, as well as playing Cole and Lance off against each other, she also toys with the affections of a third man.

    Just as the love triangle in DALLAS brings out Cliff's more reckless side - in his eagerness to prove himself worthy of Sue Ellen, he not only embezzles money from his mother’s company but sinks all of his own savings into the bogus deal as well - so Cole’s involvement with Melissa reveals a darker aspect to his character. In the scene where he keeps jealous watch outside her house when she returns home from a date, he’s like a less extreme version of Roger Larsen on DALLAS, who this week lies in wait for Lucy before jumping into her car and ordering her to “drive - I’ll tell you where.”

    Meanwhile, Lance Cumson’s bid for independence - he moves out of Falcon Crest and takes a job at the New Globe - is as short-lived as Eric Fairgate’s was in last week’s KNOTS when he defied his mother’s wishes for him to pursue a college education. In both cases, a conversation with an older male relative - Eric’s Uncle Joe and Lance’s grandfather Douglas - leads them to reconsider their actions.

    Douglas Channing also provides an interesting snippet of back story during a scene with his ex-wife Angela: "Prohibition almost ruined Falcon Crest and without my money, it would have been impossible …” At that point, Angela cuts him off, but it’s pretty clear that she married him to save her family’s land. Substitute the words “Prohibition" and "Falcon Crest" with “Depression" and “Southfork", and you’ve got the origins of Jock and Ellie’s marriage in DALLAS. Douglas even suffers a Jock-style heart attack at the end of the episode.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    16/Mar/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: Sins of the Fathers v. 19/Mar/82: DALLAS: Blackmail v. 19/Mar/82: FALCON CREST: Heir Apparent

    On DALLAS, writer Donna Krebbs has uncovered evidence that, fifty years earlier, Jock Ewing was party to (and profited from) Sam Culver’s decision to commit his Uncle Jonas to an asylum - an action that led directly to Jonas's suicide. On this week’s FLAMINGO ROAD, reporter Sandie Swanson produces documentation suggesting that, twenty-five years earlier, the late and much revered Judge Andrew Carlyle was, alongside Sheriff Titus Semple, involved a profit-making scheme to farm out convicts as slave labour.

    The question is: how will Jock’s widow Miss Ellie and Judge Carlyle’s son Field react to having their loved ones' reputations tarnished? “It’s like she’s got Jock on a pedestal,” says Donna of Ellie. “You always had this image of the judge as some kind of saint,” Titus tells Field.

    While Ellie rejects Donna’s allegations outright, ("You came here to get my permission to destroy the reputation of the finest man who ever lived? To tell lies about him when he's not here to defend himself? All for the sake of some cheap book? How dare you?!”) Field wrestles with the possibility that his father might not have been quite the man he remembers. This leads to a particularly good scene between Field and his father-in-law Claude, with whom he is customarily at odds, where they are briefly bonded by their fond memories of Judge Carlyle. It’s remarkable how much a sense of history can enrich a soap opera storyline. This is something that FLAMINGO ROAD, being more about a disparate community and less of a multi-generational family saga, can tap into less readily than some of its contemporaries.

    Following the most recent episodes of KNOTS LANDING and DYNASTY, which gave Constance McCashin and Pamela Bellwood so many good scenes, it’s interesting that the emotional centrepiece of DALLAS’s hundredth episode - the showdown between Miss Ellie and Donna - should serve as a showcase for Susan Howard’s talents. Like McCashin as Laura and Bellwood as Claudia, Howard is her show’s least utilised, but arguably best, “opening titles" actress.

    To uncover the truth about his father, Field turns to Wayne Stern, formerly the judge’s clerk now a broken down alcoholic. Mike Kellin gives a sweetly sad performance as Stern, the kind of drunken old-timer that Soap Land does very well. His revelation, that Sheriff Titus was the real slave master while Judge Carlyle was as honest as his reputation suggests, is a bit anti-climactic, but the real interest comes from discovering Michael Tyrone engineered the entire plot as part of his vengeful masterplan: “It won’t be over till we’ve got the whole town pitted against each other,” he tells Sandie. “We’re going to destroy all those people who murdered our father.” So it is that we learn that Michael and Sandie are brother and sister.

    Similarly, the Jonas Culver story-line on DALLAS is tied to a larger plot as, following Donna’s disclosure, Miss Ellie withdraws from the rest of the family and begins the process of finally facing the reality of Jock’s death.

    This week's FLAMINGO ROAD and FALCON CREST both suffer from somewhat sappy subplots involving their fair-haired sons, Skipper Weldon and Cole Gioberti respectively. In FALCON CREST, we are introduced to Bill Reed, a river-rafting, poetry writing friend of Cole’s, who delivers a clunky speech about being at one with nature and then promptly drowns in a freak accident with his girlfriend. This brings FALCON CREST’s death count so far this season up to five - as much as DALLAS', KNOTS' and DYNASTY's entire first seasons combined. The plot feels both incongruous and overwrought but is redeemed by a meaty scene between a guilt-ridden Cole and his father Chase, who relates some of the life and death decisions he was forced to make in Vietnam (more history). Meanwhile, on FLAMINGO ROAD, blind Skipper’s dependence on the people around him makes him fear that they’ll eventually abandon him so he decides to push them away first, but then Lane teaches him to have the courage to … blah blah blah.

    “Death is an inevitable tragedy that all of us must face,” the minister at Bill Reed’s funeral proclaims cheerily. In this week's DALLAS, Bobby faces death when he discovers Jeff Farraday lying face down with a bullet hole in his back. Following Turner Bates on FALCON CREST, Farraday is Soap Land's second extortionist transient of the season to meet a gruesome end. Meanwhile, the blackmail of this week's DALLAS episode title comes from the offer JR makes Bobby regarding the true identity of his adoptive son: "I won't say a word about Christopher to anyone as long as I know you'll vote my twenty shares of Ewing Oil my way, anytime I want.”

    Blackmail raises its head in this week's FLAMINGO ROAD and FALCON CREST too. “You’re blackmailing me!” exclaims Titus when Field tells him he will suppress the evidence of his slave boss past in return for certain favours, starting with dropping the charges against Elmo Tyson for blowing up his own newspaper office (an explosion which Titus himself arranged). Meanwhile, FALCON CREST’s Lance, after becoming the latest family member to learn how Jason died, threatens to spill the beans to Chase unless his place in Angela’s will is secured. Angela, however, proves a tougher nut to crack than either Sheriff Titus or Bobby Ewing. She responds with an ultimatum, telling Lance he has ninety days to marry Melissa Agretti. One minor complication: Melissa is now secretly pregnant, probably by Cole.

    FLAMINGO ROAD ends with Michael Tyrone breaking a Soap Land taboo that is also raised and then immediately discounted by JR in DALLAS. “After living with his son, you couldn’t feel that way about Clayton, could you?” he asks Sue Ellen. There are no such qualms for Michael who cheats on his lover Lute-Mae with her daughter, Constance. While Constance knows about Michael’s relationship with Lute-Mae at this point, she has no idea that Lute-Mae is her real mother. Michael, however, does. In fact, that’s precisely the reason he does it.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 3 are …

    1 (3) DALLAS
    2 (2) FALCON CREST
    3 (-) FLAMINGO ROAD
     
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  18. James from London

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    30/Mar/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The High and the Mighty v. 01/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Letting Go v. 02/Apr/82: DALLAS: Acceptance v. 02/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: The Good, The Bad and the Profane

    It’s been a hectic week in Soap Land. While FLAMINGO ROAD’s Field and Sam fly to Nassau to investigate Michael Tyrone’s past, Gary and Abby, chaperoned by Val, travel to Sacramento to beg a busy senator to help repeal an outdated bill that prevents them importing methanol from Mexico. Last week, Michael Tyrone went to extraordinary lengths to get his gambling bill passed by the legislature - including staging his sister’s overdose and arranging her kidnapping. The question on this week’s KNOTS is: how far will Abby go to persuade the senator to see things her way?

    Field and Sam putting their differences aside to oppose a common enemy feels very New DALLAS. When they reach the Caribbean and encounter several spooked and spooky black people who speak of voodoo and spirits and hexes, the vibe becomes distinctly LIVE AND LET DIE. This supernatural atmosphere is fresh territory for Soap Land (KNOTS’ “Three Sisters” episode notwithstanding) and is as exciting as it is completely deranged.

    While being held prisoner in Nassau, Sandie Swanson somehow manages to get word to Field that he is in danger if he remains on the island. Another reformed “Spy Who Loved Me” also comes up trumps this week: Afton offers Cliff her support on DALLAS after everyone else has turned their backs on him. (The sight of Cliff alone in his apartment with a gun, only to be interrupted by a blonde visitor, also calls to mind Claudia Blaisdel at the end of last week’s DYNASTY.)

    In spite of Sandie’s warning, Sam and Field’s plane is sabotaged. After it crashes somewhere in the jungles of South America - sorry, I mean the Everglades - the episode turns into a cross between DALLAS instalments “Survival” (Bobby and JR’s plane crash) and “The Search” (the Ewing boys look for Jock), only with added snake bites and voodoo dolls. “If I were you, I’d get out my widow’s weeds,” Sheriff Titus advises Constance with his customary tact. "Where they went down, they find one in a hundred,” he adds, making it sound as though Sam and Field have as much chance of being rescued as Jock Ewing or Matthew and Lindsay Blaisdel (or even Sam’s future self, Mark Graison, after his DALLAS plane crash).

    This week’s Soap Land includes no less than three proposals of marriage. Michael Tyrone asks Lute-Mae to marry him on FLAMINGO ROAD, while Mario and Lance pop the question to Vicky and Melissa respectively on FALCON CREST. Mario and Vicky - following the example set by Soap Land's other young, interracial couple, Skipper and Alicia, in last week’s FLAMINGO ROAD - decide to elope, only to get cold feet at the last second. Lance, meanwhile, proposes to Melissa solely to appease his grandmother. As Melissa has shown not the slightest interest in him, he is confident of a rejection. He is somewhat dismayed, therefore, when she accepts his hand in marriage.

    It’s interesting that a character as recently introduced as Melissa should have become so prominent on FALCON CREST so quickly. Not only is she given a large amount of screen time, but we also see much of the action from her point of view. The fact that no one, save her doctor, knows she is pregnant (or by whom) creates a complicity between the character and the viewer. It is this that sets Melissa apart from her Soap Land contemporaries, Fallon Colby and Constance Carlyle.

    All season long, we have been privy to information about Fallon and Constance that they themselves have been unaware of (the possibly that Blake might not be Fallon’s father, the fact that Lute-Mae is Constance’s mother, plus the knowledge that each of the men they are involved with - Nick Toscanni and Michael Tyrone - has been secretly plotting vendettas against their families). Melissa, on the other hand, is a keeper of secrets, not a victim of them. Unlike Fallon, who was pressured into eloping with Jeff by Cecil Colby, Melissa has made her decision to marry a man she doesn’t love independently. Like Abby in this week's KNOTS LANDING, she is the one in control.

    Speaking of Abby, Val is anxious to know exactly how she managed to persuade the handsome senator to repeal the outdated bill. Abby’s explanation is both circuitous and revealing: “There are people who have a lot of money and they use that money to get what they want. There are people who have power and they use that. You use whatever you have. Whatever tools you can find, whatever resources are available, you use them to get what you want.” For Melissa on FALCON CREST, that means the Agretti vineyards: “Power is land.” “We don’t always do what our emotions tell us,” she says to boyfriend Cole by way of explaining her decision to marry Lance. "Sometimes we have to use our heads instead of our hearts.”

    Cole and Val are equally appalled by such cold-blooded pragmatism. “I thought we loved each other!” Cole protests. “What about what’s right and wrong?” Val asks Abby. “Morality is something you dwell on after you know where your next meal’s coming from,” Abby replies. “I think that I better keep my eye on you all the time,” Val tells her. “Val, do,” Abby smiles sweetly. "How else are you gonna learn?” Melissa ends her conversation with Cole on a similarly "generous" note: "Too bad you’re not the heir to Falcon Crest. Maybe someday I can share the spoils with you.”

    The night before their wedding, Lance arranges for Melissa to find him in bed with another woman - a taster, he explains, of what to expect if she goes ahead with their marriage. Watching in hindsight, this scene feels like a subversion of the honey trap Holly Harwood set for JR and Sue Ellen in DALLAS - but that won’t happen for another year. What fascinates most is Melissa’s reaction, or lack thereof, to what she sees. Her face, shrouded in darkness, does not flicker. She doesn’t cry, she doesn’t laugh, she doesn’t deliver a bitchy one-liner or make a vow of vengeance. She just stares silently back at Lance. It’s hard to think of another Soap Land female at this point who would react the same way. Where Fallon might be more cultured and witty, closer to the archetypal madcap heiress of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, Melissa is the Soap Land equivalent of the film noir femme fatale - inscrutable, maybe even deadly.

    Lance and Melissa are the fourth Soap Land couple to make it up the aisle this season, and theirs is easily the darkest, juiciest and most beautifully filmed Soap Land wedding to date. The juxtaposition between the overt religiosity of the ceremony, performed by a real Catholic priest, (Father Bob, who also wed Skipper and Alicia in last week’s FLAMINGO ROAD) and the utter amorality of the characters involved, for whom this is but a cynical business transaction, (“I marry Melissa, you get the power,” says Lance to his grandmother) is deliciously perverse. As with Blake and Krystle’s wedding on DYNASTY, the action cuts between the happy couple and the bride’s other love interest - but instead of brooding on a hilltop like Matthew Blaisdel, Cole is inside the church, lurking behind a pillar near the altar - and while Melissa is saying her vows to Lance, her eyes are trained on Cole's. Have I mentioned how perverse this wedding is?

    As their titles - “Letting Go” and “Acceptance” - suggest, this week’s episodes of KNOTS LANDING and DALLAS cover similar ground. Each deals with a widow coming to terms with the death of her husband. For Karen Fairgate on KNOTS, this means letting go of the past (her marriage to Sid) and facing the future as a single woman. For Miss Ellie on DALLAS, it’s about accepting the fact that the past (Jock’s death) even happened at all. On KNOTS, Karen’s new friend Larry asks her away for the weekend. On DALLAS, Punk Anderson invites an already fragile Ellie to join him and his wife at the Oil Barons' Ball where the Jock Ewing Memorial Scholarship is to be presented. Both invitations catch the women off guard, leading to a period of introspection. While Karen seeks counsel from her wise, kind brother Joe (a less insane version of Nick Toscanni), Ellie reluctantly listens to her equally kind stepson Ray.

    Both women reach a kind of emotional catharsis whilst surrounded by their family. The Fairgates are watching home movies, the Ewings are sitting down to dinner. For Karen, it's the images of Sid alive and well, and for Ellie, it’s the sight of Jock’s empty chair at an otherwise full table, that makes each of them suddenly feel their loss so keenly. Ellie’s crockery-smashing breakdown in the Southfork kitchen is very touching, but the home movie scene in KNOTS - which shows Karen and the kids first laughing at the footage of Sid clowning around, then crying as the reality of his absence catches up with each of them - is in a league of its own. It’s a simple, truthful and profoundly moving sequence, and has the same transcendent quality as some of the scenes in New DALLAS following JR’s death.

    In the final scenes of their respective episodes, Karen visits Sid’s grave and Miss Ellie stops by the Krebbs’ house. Karen talks to Sid about letting go of “my fantasy, the one that hovers around telling me this didn’t really happen, you’re not really gone, it’s all been a terrible nightmare. You are gone and it’s real.” This acknowledgement is echoed by Ellie: “I know that Jock is not coming back.” When Ellie, seated at the Krebbs’ table, finally admits that “Jock is dead”, Donna is moved to kneel in front of her and take her hand. This action is mirrored by Joe Cooper in an earlier scene of KNOTS where he crouches in front of Karen before gently reminding her that she is "not Sid Fairgate's wife anymore.” While Karen speaks to Sid of “our beautiful, sacred memories”, Ellie closes this episode of DALLAS by declaring, “I have my memories of him, and my memories are forever.” It’s a lovely conclusion, but there’s also a kind of TV neatness about it - the freeze frame of BBG smiling fondly into the middle distance suggests that normal serenity has now been resumed - whereas Karen’s speech at the graveside has a wonderfully messy quality - the emotion of the scene is repeatedly undercut by her self-consciousness about talking to a headstone - which again lifts it out of the ordinary.

    At the opposite end of the emotional scale to DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING, this week’s FLAMINGO ROAD ends on a deliciously ominous note and FALCON CREST on a delectably wicked one. Both are quintessential Soap Land moments. In FL’INGO RD, Michael is sitting in front of a chess board. “Soon I shall destroy each and every one of them,” he murmurs, "Titus, Claude, Field, Constance … ” As he mentions each name, he knocks over a different chess piece. Then he picks up the Queen and holds in front of his face. “... But the very first move in the game is Lute-Mae Sanders,” he adds, before tossing it onto the fireplace where it begins to burn. It’s a brilliant scene. Utterly bonkers, but brilliant.

    Meanwhile, on FALCON CREST, new bride Melissa waits until the very end of the episode, and the cutting of the cake, to inform her groom that she’s pregnant. “It’s not mine,” Lance replies. “It is now,” she tells him, popping a piece of cake into his mouth. Just then, someone snaps a picture of the happy couple. Freeze frame on Lance, looking stunned with a gobful of Victoria Sponge. Exquisitely funny.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    07/Apr/82: DYNASTY: The Fragment v. 08/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Expose v. 09/Apr/82: DALLAS: Goodbye, Cliff Barnes v. 09/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: Penultimate Questions

    Most of this week’s DYNASTY is taken up with Krystle's latest predicament where, like Bobby in last week’s DALLAS, she finds herself implicated in an apartment shooting. Just as we saw Bobby discover Jeff Farraday’s already dead body, we also saw the circumstances leading up to Claudia's accidental shooting. However, in spite of their innocence, both Bobby and Krystle harbour secrets they worry a police investigation will expose. For Bobby, it’s that Farraday sold him a baby; for Krystle, it’s her previous affair with Claudia’s husband.

    A key difference between the two cases is how Bobby and Krystle are regarded by the police. Despite the impressive amount of circumstantial evidence against him - his fingerprints and an envelope with his name on it found at the crime scene, an eyewitness who heard him threaten the victim’s life - DALLAS detectives assure Bobby that he is "the least likely suspect in this killing” - presumably, because he’s a Ewing. On DYNASTY, however, if Blake Carrington is to be believed, the authorities suspect Krystle solely because she’s a Carrington: “The DA’s office, so they’re behind this, huh? … They’ve been trying to get back at me since my trial. Now they’re trying to do it through my wife … They’re still boiling because I got off on probation.”

    This contrast echoes what happened a year earlier when JR and Blake both faced possible criminal proceedings regarding their respective involvement in the Southeast Asian counterrevolution and Ted Dinard’s death. While the good old boys in Austin initially voted to shelve any further enquiry into Ewing Oil, ("The Ewing name still carries a lot of weight in some circles”) the politicians Blake had previously antagonised were eager to try him for first-degree murder on what would ordinarily have been a manslaughter charge. (“They've been sitting around just waiting for a chance like this - to watch Blake Carrington go under.”)

    The envelope in Jeff Farraday’s apartment contains a receipt for a Los Angeles hospital bill in Kristin’s name. Bobby decides to investigate further. “Is something wrong? Is it Gary?” Pam asks when he tells her that he is going to California. Bobby assures her that his trip has nothing to do with Gary. However, there is something wrong with Gary in this week’s KNOTS, and it does pertain to the DALLAS Ewings: he’s just found out his wife’s written a book about them, for which she’s been offered a publishing deal. This leads to the first reference to Jock’s death in KNOTS LANDING when Karen speculates that “Gary might be dead set against airing his family’s dirty laundry in public, especially since his father just passed away.”

    It’s interesting to compare Gary’s reaction to Val’s story with Miss Ellie's response to Donna’s recent revelations about Jock, which she also intended to publish. "How can you believe such lies about Jock?” Ellie asked her daughter-in-law. "How could you do such a thing?” Gary asks his wife. Where Ellie accused Donna of trying “to destroy the reputation of the finest man whoever lived”, Gary tells Val that in fictionalising his family, "you made them into villains and fools.” "You go ahead and write your book,” Miss Ellie told Donna, "and the day it's published, I'll sue you through every court in the land if I have to. I will not allow you to do this to my husband!” Gary is calmer, but no less adamant: “You cannot publish this book and that's all there is to it.”

    Two lonely husbands frequent prostitutes in this week’s Soap Land. Steven Carrington, still in Los Angeles following his failed attempt to reconcile with Sammy Jo, spends time with a woman credited only as Nameless Hooker. On KNOTS LANDING, Richard Avery, who hasn’t yet given up hope of patching things up with his wife, visits Marni, the call girl he befriended a few weeks ago. In different ways, both shows draw a link between the woman's profession and the fantasy of Hollywood stardom. "I make believe that this one's a movie star, that one's a TV star,” says Nameless Hooker of her johns. "Sometimes when I'm walking down Hollywood Boulevard and there's all those names on the sidewalk, I say to myself, 'You don't know it, Burt, or Clint, or Paul, but we're gonna party tonight.’” (The idea that your average sex worker does anything of the kind is, of course, a fantasy in itself.) Marni, meanwhile, turns out to be an aspiring actress. We see a TV producer tempt her with the possibility of a “small but interesting” role as someone’s sister in a "Movie of the Week” if she’ll get Richard on tape admitting to supplying prostitutes to clients on behalf of his firm.

    “This is Hollywood and everything's supposed to be make-believe,” Nameless Hooker tells Steven. “Don’t people work in Los Angeles?” echoes Pam in DALLAS when she and Bobby show up in LA to investigate Kristin's hospital bill and find themselves surrounded by a bevy of bikini’d lovelies. “Only at night so they don’t spoil their tans,” he replies.

    Something I never noticed before: bearing in mind Kristin was raised to believe that marrying the right man was all-important, it’s kind of poignant to hear her friend Sharon describe her and Jeff Farraday’s nuptials as “not much of a wedding.”

    Kristin’s secret miscarriage and second pregnancy is the first of several last minute have-your-cake-and-eat-it plot twists peppered throughout DALLAS’s run. Others include: Jock’s posthumous request for his sons to run his company together after they have spent a year fighting each other for it, Jock’s secret sale and repurchase of Ewing Oil back in the 1930s, the extra passenger Jock’s helicopter picked up in South America before it crashed, and JR’s secret cancer in New DALLAS. The difference between the latter and the rest is that where the last minute revelation has traditionally been a way of pressing the reset button and returning the saga to some kind of status quo - Bobby and Pam remain Christopher’s parents, Bobby and JR each remains president of the company, the Ewings retain ownership of Ewing Oil, Jock remains dead - the aftermath of JR’s Masterpiece is set to take the show into excitingly uncharted territory.

    The discovery that JR is not Christopher’s father leads to an end-of-season vow from Bobby: “When we get back to Dallas, I'm gonna vote to throw him out of Ewing Oil.” By contrast, Lance’s assertion on FALCON CREST that he is not responsible for his new bride’s pregnancy falls on deaf ears. “I’m not the father,” he insists during a family dinner. “Well, you’ll do,” replies his grandmother coolly. Meanwhile, Melissa feigns tears to amusing effect.

    Both Val on KNOTS and Maggie on FALCON CREST are feeling neglected by their husbands this week. Gary is wrapped up in his methanol business with Abby, while Chase has become increasingly preoccupied with learning the truth about his father’s death. "You’re always having these constant meetings with [Abby], every night and every weekend,” complains Val. “You have come home from this office before midnight two nights this week,” Maggie points out to Chase. In each case, the woman is worried that the fresh start her family made when they moved to California is at risk. “Chase, you came here because you said you wanted us to pull together,” Maggie reminds her husband. "We’ve struggled too hard to get where we are now and it’s important to both of us to protect it,” insists Val. Whereas Maggie then joins forces with Chase to look into Jason’s death, (the couple that investigates together stays together - see also: Bobby and Pam) Val and Gary remain at odds, thanks in part to Abby’s meddling, and this week’s KNOTS ends with Val defying her man and signing the publishing contract for her book.

    Melissa spends much of her first week as a married woman on FALCON CREST prowling round her in-laws’ house, lurking on staircases and listening at doorways, just as Alexis has been doing in the Carrington mansion for most of this season’s DYNASTY. Melissa then passes on what she has overheard to Chase who eventually has enough information to call for an inquest into his father’s death.

    While Alexis is surprised and delighted to see Krystle on the late night news linked to Claudia's shooting, Richard Avery is shocked and devastated to hear his pillow talk with Marni broadcast as part of a TV exposé into prostitution and big business. (Coincidentally, recordings of JR's private conversations with Leslie Stewart were played out in court almost exactly a year earlier.) Conversely, on FALCON CREST, Angela’s sole consolation regarding the inquest into her brother’s death is that it will be closed to the media.

    There are parallel scenes in this week’s KNOTS and DALLAS where Richard, shortly after losing his job, shows up uninvited at Laura’s house and Cliff Barnes, fired from his job last week by his mother, does the same at Sue Ellen’s. Both men are desperate. “I'm in trouble, and all I need to know is, are you with me or are you with them?” Richard asks Laura before breaking down in tears. “I’ve lost everything, but I know I can start over if you just believe in me and love me,” pleads an equally shaky Cliff, as he too starts to cry. Both women have moved on with their lives and want to put as much distance between themselves and these sad little men as possible. But while Sue Ellen sends Cliff away, telling him that she has agreed to remarry JR, Laura feels she has no choice but to take Richard in her arms and comfort him (as Val and Ginger look on uncomfortably).

    While I can’t totally buy into JR and Sue Ellen’s latest reconciliation, the proposal scene is very nice. At the point where JR pops the question, I couldn’t help but mentally flash forward to Sue Ellen at his funeral: “The answer’s yes, JR”. Meanwhile, in Denver, Cecil Colby (aka Logan Rhinewood) prods Alexis about his marriage proposal: "It would be a delightful union. Just think of the possibilities."

    In its own way, the opening of Jason Gioberti's inquest on FALCON CREST feels as momentous as the Ted Dinard murder trial on DYNASTY a year ago - this is what the series has been building towards all season. We’re even given some prior character insight into Martin Deering, the D.A. fighting Chase’s corner, just as we were Jake Dunham on DYNASTY. While Deering’s not quite the charismatic powerhouse Dunham was, (he’s played by the same slimy advertising guy who’ll try it on with Lucy Ewing early next season) he’s tough, determined and apparently incorruptible. As if Angela being called first to testify wasn't exciting enough, Emma - whom Angela has trying to keep under lock and key all season - then appears in the courtroom unexpectedly. This sends Angela rushing to her daughter’s side in defiance of the court. Then, without warning, her ex-husband Douglas collapses to the floor with a second heart attack.

    This season’s DALLAS finale doesn’t have quite the same TV-show-on-the-edge-of-a-cliff quality as the previous two. In fact, I was reminded of Gary’s critique of Val’s depiction of the Ewings while watching it: “You made them into villains and fools.” (Sudden thought: what if DALLAS’s original thirteen year run was an adaptation of Val’s novel?) It’s as if the DALLAS writers are still hastily shuffling the characters into the positions they need to be in for the final denouement. Not that that shuffling doesn’t generate an interesting frisson of its own. In fact, this episode of DALLAS might be subtitled “The Attack of the Supporting Players”, as a handful of recurring characters rise up to wrest control of the narrative. While an uncharacteristically bold Clayton prepares to propose to Sue Ellen, Marilee Stone arbitrarily switches sides in the Barnes/Ewing feud and admits to Cliff that she was JR’s front woman for the Wellington land deal. This confession is overheard by Afton Cooper who passes it along to Rebecca Wentworth after Cliff’s suicide attempt. Rebecca then declares war on the Ewings, which finally pits the family against each other.

    "I swear I’ll break the Ewing family,” Rebecca tells Miss Ellie in the ep’s best scene, "and I have the money to do it!” This is not the only vengeful vow from a wealthy woman of a certain age in this week’s Soap Land. “I’ll never forgive you for this - never!” Angela promises Chase after Douglas is pronounced dead in the thrilling closing seconds of FALCON CREST. Finally - the gloves are off.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are … there is isn’t much to choose between the top two, but FC’s exciting climax just gives it the edge …

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

    James from London Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    13/Apr/82: FLAMINGO ROAD: The Bad and the Beautiful v. 14/Apr/82: DYNASTY: The Shakedown v. 15/Apr/82: KNOTS LANDING: Night v. 16/Apr/82: FALCON CREST: Ultimate Answers

    Like FALCON CREST’s Lance, Michael Tyrone in FLAMINGO ROAD reserves his tenderest side for the exotic bird in his care: “Such carnal creatures, so soft, so receptive,” he murmurs, stroking him. “He could just as easily fly away,” suggests Michael’s fiancée Lute Mae. “He’s too much a part of me now, he wouldn’t know how,” says Michael. “Neither would I,” replies Lute Mae dreamily.

    Tyrone returns to this theme later in the episode: "People I’m associated with soon learn they have no control over their destinies, Constance. Only I have that power. You will obey me. You have no other choice.” Constance might not be the pushover Lute Mae is, but she finds this speech of Michael's incredibly sexy and immediately straddles him.

    This week, FLAMINGO ROAD turns into a vehicle for that brooding, demonic thing David Selby does so brilliantly. It’s almost as if the writers of the show have become as enslaved to his power as Lute Mae and Constance have. The casual viewer might think they’re watching some cheap 70s horror flick - a Hammer Horror or some European knock off of THE EXORCIST or THE OMEN, or maybe one of those DARK SHADOWS movie adaptations in which Selby himself appeared.

    Julia Porter, Michael’s gravelly voiced voodoo mammy arrives from the Caribbean - full of signs and portents, ominous warnings and black magic talismans. She adds a unique flavour to Soap Land. Her stay might be brief, but there will never be another character quite like her.

    There’s a different kind of otherworldly madness on this week’s DYNASTY where an unhinged Claudia Blaisdel returns to the Carrington mansion and becomes the equivalent of Emma Channing on FALCON CREST, i.e. the mad woman in the attic. At one point, she appears in Krystle’s bedroom, head still swathed in bandages, to inform her that her miscarriage was a punishment from God. "He took your baby because you took mine ... You deserved to lose your baby!” Meanwhile on FALCON CREST, Emma herself hosts an invisible wine tasting for Lance and Melissa. This turns out to be a ruse on Emma’s part to lull her family into a false sense of security so she can escape into town and speak the truth at her uncle’s inquest. Back on FLAMINGO ROAD, Michael’s sister Sandie also escapes her family’s clutches and heads back to Truro to reveal all about her brother.

    Whether or not Michael and Julia genuinely possess supernatural powers is open to interpretation. Having learnt of Sandie’s escape, we see Michael lighting candles and ceremonially burning his sister's photograph. Soon afterwards, we see Sandie lose control of her car and plunge over a cliff, like Sid Fairgate and Jason Gioberti (sort of) before her. Is this merely a freak accident or are there dark forces at work?

    What’s less ambiguous is Michael’s subsequent command to one of Julia’s devotees (future prison warden Leo Glynn in OZ, to be precise) to pull the plug on Sandie's life support system. By ordering his own sister’s murder, Michael is committing the ultimate Soap Land transgression - just as Cliff Barnes will on New DALLAS thirty-one years later. (Ironically, both men kill members of their family in the process of avenging their family.)

    Michael Tyrone is not the only principal Soap Land character the audience now knows to be capable of murder. Last week’s DYNASTY showed Cecil Colby and Logan Rhinewood to be one and the same, thereby revealing Cecil to be behind the assassination attempt that blinded Blake earlier in the season. This week, we also learn that Cecil suffers from heart problems, much like the recently deceased Douglas Channing in FALCON CREST.

    The scene in FLAMINGO ROAD where Michael exacts his revenge on Lute-Mae is an all-time Soap Land highlight - insanely melodramatic and thrillingly sadistic. Having been stood up on an important date, an indignant Lute-Mae shows up at Michael’s house dressed to the nines. The storm raging outside could not be stormier. The thunder is so loud, it threatens to drown out the dialogue. Michael comes down the staircase dressed in only a bathrobe. Like Lance in last week’s FALCON CREST, he has lured his fiancée to where he is having sex with another woman. He does not reveal that straight away, however. Instead, he calmly informs Lute-Mae that he has never had any feelings for her: “You’re just like all the other people in this town - you’re a leech, a parasite, a tramp.” Lute-Mae gasps and slaps him. As she tries to hit him again, he grabs her by the neck and holds her off. “You’ve been paid for your services, far more than they’re worth, lady,” he adds, reminding her of the prostitute she once was. Only then does Lute-Mae looks up to see Constance, her own daughter, standing at the top of the stairs, naked but for a bed sheet wrapped around her. “Michael, haven’t you gotten rid of her yet?” Constance asks, looking at Lute-Mae with utter contempt. Michael orders her to wait for him in the bedroom. He then bellows at Lute-Mae to get out and she runs off into the night, her humiliation complete. (That Stella Stevens is such a clueless actor and David Selby such a masterful one only serves to emphasise his character’s effortless dominance of the scene.)

    In the opening of this week’s KNOTS LANDING, there is a comparable altercation, albeit on a smaller scale and with a different outcome. After a dinner date that has cost him $140, Richard is a little angry that Abby won’t put out. She tells him that he should have spent his money on a hooker; it would have been cheaper. “How much do you charge?” he asks her. Abby doesn’t appreciate being likened to a prostitute any more than Lute Mae does and likewise slaps Richard across the face. He then grabs her the way Michael did and for a second, it looks like he might hit her back, but Abby has the power in the scene and when she orders him to leave, he does so.

    The scene Michael and Lute Mae’s confrontation most resembles, however, is the final one in this week’s DYNASTY, between Blake and Alexis. Blake has just learned that his ex-wife is responsible for the miscarriage suffered by Krystle earlier in the season. Just as Lute-Mae has finally seen Michael for what he really is, Blake’s eyes are now opened to Alexis’s true nature. ("I forgot about you,” he tells her bitterly, "I forgot how vicious and ruthless you can be when you want something.”) It’s the moment the audience has been waiting for all season. The pivotal difference between the two scenes is that where Michael Tyrone rips off his own mask, Alexis is stripped involuntarily of hers. "You shot that gun on purpose,” Blake tells her. "You fired it and then you watched. You watched that horse throw Krystle and drag her clear across that field, killing the child inside of her." "Oh Blake,” Alexis pleads with all her might, "how could you possibly think I'm capable of such a thing? I'm the mother of your two children!” But all her protestations are for nought and, like Lute-Mae, she is left crying in a heap.

    Three significant names are mentioned for the first time in Soap Land this week, each shrouded in mystery. “How do you think I could kill a baby after what happened to our baby - Adam?” asks Alexis in the midst of her argument with Blake. "We swore never to talk about that,” he snaps in reply. “Who’s Richard Channing?” wonders Angela on FALCON CREST, after learning that a man with that name is to be the chief beneficiary of her ex-husband’s estate. Towards the end of this week's episode (also the season finale), Melissa relays a phone message from a New York associate of Lance’s: “He said there are only two things that scare him - violent death and Richard Channing.” As tantalising Soap Land introductions go, that’s up there with Fallon’s gasp of “My God, that’s my mother!” a year earlier. "I can’t wait to meet him,” Melissa adds, speaking for all of us.

    As we'll discover next season, Richard Channing is Michael Tyrone’s future self. Meanwhile, the name of Tyrone’s past self is also spoken this week. "Michael Edwards,” are Sandie Swanson’s last words before her death. It doesn’t take Sheriff Titus and Claude Weldon long to conclude that Michael Edwards, aka Michael Tyrone, is the son of someone called Tom Edwards. Whoever that may be, this is clearly not good news.

    While the all powerful Michael Tyrone dominates this week’s FLAMINGO ROAD, the apparently impotent Richard Avery is the focus of this week’s KNOTS. Scenes from his estranged marriage quickly escalate into a full-blown siege situation, complete with a SWAT team in the cul-de-sac, as he holds his pregnant wife and son hostage at gunpoint. Following "Winds of Vengeance” (DALLAS) and "Moments of Truth” (KNOTS), “Night” is Soap Land’s third siege-based episode thus far. Tauter and more concentrated in its focus than its predecessors, it lacks their structural clunkiness. It’s also the first such story to arise solely out of the characters’ existing relationships - not just the central one between Richard and Laura, but also the ones between Richard and his neighbours, especially Karen and Gary.

    There’s also a strange sense of finality about the episode. When Karen compares the breakdown of the Averys’ marriage to the loss of her own husband, (“It’s like a death”) it feels somehow as if we’re witnessing the end of an era. Unlike those earlier stand-alone sieges, things will never be quite the same after this.

    The climax of the ep comes where Richard steps outside of his house and finds himself surrounded by armed men training their weapons on him. He slowly raises the gun in his own hand to his head and squeezes the trigger. Nothing. He sits down on the ground and pulls it again and again, but the chamber is empty. End of scene.

    "Do you think he'll come back here?” wonders Joe Cooper in the episode’s coda as we see Laura packing Richard's belongings and closing up the house. "I don’t know,” she replies. It really seems like Richard may have gone for good. Either way, it’s surely the end of the line for him and Laura. The ep’s closing moments have the Wards returning from a weekend away. As they walk towards their house, Kenny excitedly telling Karen about his plans for Ginger’s singing career, (plans he’ll eventually transfer to Ciji) the camera lingers on the Averys' phoney Tudor house … which suddenly looks as lonely and abandoned as the Miflan place did in “The Three Sisters”.

    It takes most of this week’s FALCON CREST to get the story back to where it was a week ago before Douglas collapsed and Emma was preparing to tell all in court. After she finally makes it to the witness stand and testifies to how Jason really died back in Episode 1, the full extent of Angela’s deception is laid bare - obstruction of justice, perjury and the small matter of planting her brother’s corpse in a truck and setting it on fire. However, nobody seems inclined to press charges against her for any of this. Moreover, owing to the convoluted nature of Angela’s father’s will, Chase is now legally entitled to inherit Falcon Crest in its entirety. Remarkably, he turns this down in favour of a fifty-fifty partnership with Angela. Her response is apt: “You can’t be serious.” Unlikely as this turn of events may seem, it’s also the premise upon which the rest of the series is based so I guess you either accept it or you don’t.

    While Richard Avery’s defeat on KNOTS is unequivocal, the final shot of each of the other soaps is reserved for a female character who has also lost ... but is now fighting back. The most desperate of these is Lute-Mae Sanders. As with Claudia in DYNASTY three episodes ago, this week's F’LINGO RD ends with Lute-Mae retrieving a gun from a secure hiding place and contemplating it vengefully. (It’s interesting how often the handgun motif has recurred in Soap Land during recent weeks - each time as the refuge of the wretched, the unhinged and/or the suicidal: Cliff on DALLAS, Claudia on DYNASTY, Richard on KNOTS and now Lute-Mae.) Meanwhile on DYNASTY, an uncharacteristically dishevelled Alexis briefly buries her head in her hands after being condemned by Blake, only to then raise it up again. “Oh no Blake,” she vows breathily to an empty room, "it’s not gonna end this way, I may have lost you now, but I’m not gonna lose everything. Oh no, oh no.” Over on FALCON CREST, Angela’s smirk outside the courtroom following her discussion with Chase says it all: “He thinks he’s won!” These final words of Alexis and Angela are genuine turning points. From now on, "Alexis versus Blake" and "Angela versus Chase" will be the central conflict fuelling their respective shows. Interesting that in each case, the woman is the bad guy.

    And this week’s Soap Land Top 4 are …

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