What is it about Falcon Crest?

Discussion in 'Falcon Crest' started by Snarky's Ghost, Mar 3, 2019.

  1. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Even Angela made the comment very early on in the series that there's just something about Falcon Crest which pulls you back in. Likewise, her ex-husband, Douglas Channing, described the place as having a mesmerizing effect on all of them, even himself. And a few years ago, JfL started a thread on it (wiped out by the 9/11 site crash of 2016).

    But, indeed, what is it?

    I, myself, who never dreams nocturnally of the soaps, has nevertheless dreamed off-and-on since the early-'80s about the Falcon Crest foyer, and for decades had no idea why... I have also said that while I loved DALLAS the most, had the most aspirations for DYNASTY but was most disappointed by it, respected KNOTS the most for its intelligence and relative consistency, I cared the least about FALCON CREST yet felt somehow the closest to it.

    Was it those elaborate mancaves, set back against the orange mountains surrounding the valley, that the Channings and the Giobertis lived in?

    Now, why would I "care the least" about FALCON CREST? Even though DALLAS slid in its last few seasons, it had provided nearly a decade of good-to-excellent seasons, so its eventual decline can be chalked up to the usual creative fatigue associated with a series running a long time... KNOTS only succumbed to daytime-TV-itis in its last couple of seasons in terms of the incoming youthful cast, while maintaining story quality nearly all the way... And DYNASTY seemed to commit suicide early on, an innate '80s-style insecurity and neurotic rigidity quickly cancelling out its immense potential...

    But FALCON CREST was murdered, or at least mortally wounded, after about Season 3 or 4, due in large part to a Lorimar executive demanding the show's brain and de facto show-runner, Robert McCullough (and his writers, Stern & Black) be fired at the close of S3, studio politics the apparent culprit. Someone close to the show also once stated that FALCON CREST was the most harassed Top 10 show in the history of television, referring to constant interference from executives, not just at Lorimar but also at CBS (among other things, the network demanded that the Nazi treasure plot be immediately dropped just 10 episodes before the end of Season 4, that year's main storyline, forcing the writers to cobble together enough fractured narrative to complete the season --- this point being where I see FC derailing permanently). Subsequent seasons just didn't work: Season 5 was too drab and cluttered (and could've used a new murder mystery), Season 6 felt at first like a renaissance for the show before turning to excessive campiness by the end of that year, a shlocky vibe which devoured Season 7; CBS demanded that producers "fix" the show after the S7 droop in the ratings, but Season 8's attempt to go straight again just resulted in a greater decline in the Nielsen numbers as the show no longer seemed to know how to tell a serious tale without becoming boring; and while some argue that the writing improved during Season 9 after another internal staff shake-up, the show no longer looked nor felt like FALCON CREST, be it good or bad.

    Yet during the first few seasons of FALCON CREST, the series just seemed to have had ..... something. Something unique... But what was it??

    All the four successful nighttime soaps of the '80s were particularly well-cast. That had a lot to do with why they worked (for a while) and why they lasted well-passed the point the producers seemed to drop the ball in terms of their narratives. But in their key seasons, FALCON CREST possessed an element even the others didn't quite. For one thing, early-FC was the most earth-bound, the most organic, of the bunch; DALLAS had its earthy moments, shooting on location six weeks every summer to obtain as much Texas-based footage as possible for the year, with a fair amount of chatter, mostly from Miss Ellie, about the hallowed nature of Southfork Ranch; KNOTS LANDING had the beach right there, but literally countless shows over the decades have filmed in southern California; DYNASTY, of course, filmed inside a closet -- with room for everyone but Steven... there was no sense of location, geographic or otherwise, to DYNASTY (especially after Seasons 1 & 2, when they'd at least made a nominal effort).

    It was FALCON CREST which initially had the most pronounced atmosphere. The sense of the land, the vineyards, the family legacy --- shadows, secrets, mysteries, treasure, all buried and ready to be exhumed. DALLAS tried for this, too, and came the closest to succeeding, but CREST had the edge.... Again, what was it?? Along with the perfect casting, CREST had the enigmatic beauty of Napa Valley, the appeal of the rolling and hilly streets of nearby San Francisco with its chic shoppes and restaurants, the quaint backdrop of the local village, those aforementioned mancaves, and a corporate product derived from the ground itself: haute vino -- top-shelf wines.

    There was something gently hypnotic, quietly gothic about early-FALCON CREST, shrouded, rural and hidden away. And the program's popularity increased tourism in Napa pointedly, leading some guileless yuppies to attempt to adopt the vintner lifestyle, sometimes losing their shirts in the doing, locals and long-timers frequently resenting the invasion (just as Angela would've). But the vague séance quality of the series made it distinctive, even among the other shows of the same genre.

    The Spring of 1985 seemed the spiritual precipice of the primetime soaps, the forlorn point at which they all could have ended and it might have felt right -- and you could detect that at the time: Bobby died on DALLAS, the Moldavia massacre occurred on DYNASTY, the return of Val's babies saw KNOTS hit #1 for the week the only time in its history, and FALCON CREST cried out for that earthquake cliffhanger which I'd read someplace had been planned for the end of Season 4 but got delayed by a year (at which point it seemed almost extraneous)… Yes, I'd've hated to miss Season 10 (per DVD count) of DALLAS (with the alleged Ghost of Jock and the terrorism of BD Calhoun), or Season 9 of DYNASTY (which David Paulsen tried valiantly to heal), or the next five seasons of stalwart and dependable KNOTS, and even Season 6 of FC (which I mostly liked). But, let's face it, these series largely lost their mojos: DALLAS began turning to the self-conscious camp for which they'd derided other shows to stooping, DYNASTY became overly-enamored of itself and imploded strangely, and FALCON CREST -- which had once had as strong a personality of any of them, lost that identity utterly as its final five years seemed to wander from one mahogany-turned-pastel room to another like a cheapy, over-lit daytime drama. All of which were further damaged and down-marketed by Lorimar's blurry post-production video look which kicked in circa 1986 (DYNASTY, produced by Aaron Spelling Productions, did something similar, but it looked incredibly splotchy and grainy as opposed to blurry). Some of which can be visually corrected with today's technology, some of which can't.

    In their later years, DALLAS needed to become darker and dustier (but did the reverse), DYNASTY needed to become more lavish and majestic (yeah, they wish!), KNOTS was fine (until the '90s, at least), while FALCON CREST needed to become even more gothic, sort of like The Wizard of Oz (which clearly did not happen, any gestures in that direction done for misguided laughs and purposes of parody).

    One wonders how these shows would have fared (and how their reputations might have been positively impacted) had they not gone off track so very badly in the mid-'80s. It's a mystery as great as the deaths of Hutch McKinney, Carlo Agretti, and Roger Grimes --- and at least we got the answers to those eventually.

    But the first three or four seasons of FALCON CREST offer up a taste of something tribal, some well-aged vintage which teased the palate and suggested something deeper, darker, more primal. One can only imagine where it could have gone had the '80s phantoms of fate not interceded.

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    Last edited: Mar 7, 2019
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  2. Chris2

    Chris2 Soap Chat Active Member

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    Falcon Crest was the most beautiful looking of the four big 80s soaps. I loved Dallas the best, but had no desire to live at dusty, flat Southfork. I didn’t want to live in a Southern Californian cul-de-sac either.

    But that house! And that scenery! I would have even gladly settled for Chase’s “middle-class” house, which I’m sure was worth millions even back then.
     
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  3. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yes, as I've often said: so goes the foyer, so goes the series; don't paint the godd*mn thing blue and white.
     
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  4. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    [​IMG]
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  5. Arlene Halloran

    Arlene Halloran Soap Chat Active Member

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    I liked the wine concept, the old villa miravalle mansion, the talented cast c/w guest stars, the unbeatable Angela Channing, funny dialogue and those top of the pile cliffhangers. Oh the show was very atmospheric too.
     
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  6. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    It also all seemed to be very Eden-like (the gorgeous terrain, vines, gardens, flowers) immediately adjacent to the Door to Hell (which one assumes on instinct must be directly below the mansion in Angela Channing's cellar -- which those Nazis eventually proved).

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  7. Chris2

    Chris2 Soap Chat Active Member

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    For a second there, I thought that last picture was a Lego Falcon Crest. Now, that’s a way they could revive the series.
     
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  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    There's one big difference between Dynasty and Falcon Crest: Dynasty was a story that needed to be told (but they dropped too many storylines, as if the Dynasty Dream had to be frozen) and Falcon Crest...well, all they had to was to set up a camera and start filming, as it were*.
    The screen presence of this group of actors was out of this world, some of them managed to hold on to it (especially Foxworth, Selby and Sullivan) while other characters were toned down or hysterically "upgraded" (just think of the season 6 comedy camp, oh the horror!).

    Falcon Crest suffered from over-plotting, which didn't match the mesmerizing and enigmatic vibe of the Tuscany Valley.
    I'm going out on a limb by saying that all the exciting stuff from season 2 and 3 happened too soon. Don't get me wrong, I love all of it, but I also would have loved to see more of the season 1 style - more "valley" - before it became this big super-soap.
    Maybe it should have started in 1978, like Dallas, but then I probably would have missed the first seasons.

    *this scene shows both the organic vibe and the "something-really-exciting-has-to-happen" approach:
     
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  9. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    The two shows were soooooooooooo similar in the early seasons, it's astounding.
    And that's a big part of it. All four shows were very well cast, but on FALCON CREST you really felt as if they were all actually related to each other.
     
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  10. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    How much of the original interior was used on Falcon Crest?

    Angela's hall seemed bigger, I mean the distance between the front door and the centre of the hall.
    upload_2019-3-9_10-57-53.png

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  11. Jock Og

    Jock Og Soap Chat Fan

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    FALCON CREST had a lot of ingredients to lure the viewer, in the show's heyday. For a start you had all those vineyards; the main Victorian mansion, the Gioberti castle, the droll wit, the presence of three dimensional characters e.g. Julia, Richard and even Angela, the plethora of guest stars from Hollywood's golden oldie era, the core cast of which the formidable Jane Wyman was top billing and then there was the Catholic element. The most distinctive trait the show had over the other prime timers was a very blood thirsty nature. Characters succumbed to a plane crash, murder, drowning, a fire, an earthquake, falling and on the rare incident by natural causes.





    Maggie and Chase are partying in the winery function room, to celebrate gaining complete control of Falcon Crest. There are many other vintners present. Chase takes the opportunity to announce about the production of his champagne. Angela, Phillip and Lance arrive uninvited, (a scene from season 3, 1983 - '84):

    Maggie: "Well it looks like we have some party crashers."

    Chase: "The nerve of that woman."

    Maggie: "I don't know, somehow it doesn't surprise me."

    Angela: "Well am I disturbing something, a celebration of a sort?"

    Maggie: "As a matter of fact you are Angela."

    Angela: "That's absurd you should be holding a wake."

    Chase: "I beg your pardon."

    Phillip: "We've just come from election headquarters. Richard Channing's racetrack initiative passed by a substantial majority."

    Richard's racetrack would be cutting through a area of the vineyards.

    Chase: "Well that wasn't impossible."

    Phillip: "It's a clear mandate Chase."

    Angela: "I offered Chase my help. Together we could have defeated this initiative but he refused."

    The camera moves to Terri and Lance.

    Terri: "Is that true?"

    Lance referring to Chase: "I think the bottom line is that your brother-in-law is a born loser."

    Terri: "Either that or Richard Channing is a born winner."

    Chase wants to have a word with Angela, away from the rest of the company.

    Chase: "You coming here like this doesn't surprise me in the least but I resent you continuing to act as though you run Falcon Crest."

    Angela: "I am running Falcon Crest. Right into the ground. Before I'm through you'll begging to give it back to me."

    Freeze frame on Angela, fade to black and then the closing credits.
     
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  12. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Only the unaired THE VINTAGE YEARS pilot actually filmed inside the house. When the interior sets were constructed, they added 5 additional feet of depth to the foyer, and lessened the depth of the study.

    They also shortened the living room, and took the fireplace out of the dining room.

    And they added steps inside of the front door and then gradually removed them.

    I always wondered why they left in the "P" (for Parrott) in the stained glass over the front doorway, and didn't replace it from the beginning with an "FC" or a "G" for Gioberti. (Several years in, they just replaced it with a design).
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
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  13. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    The P for Perrault?
     
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  14. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    During the first three seasons or so, it looked like FALCON CREST was set to become one of the best contemporary gothic melodramas imaginable.

    But Jane didn't want the gay writer couple staying together in Napa, which led to their leaving and, indirectly, to the show's brain, Bob McCullough, losing his job after the third year, and the show was never quite the same. Then another producer (was it Ann Marcus?) felt she was fired because she wasn't chipper enough to Jane one morning. Lana Turner and Mel Ferrer were both convinced they lost their jobs because of Wyman.

    Perfect casting?

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    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
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  15. Falcon Crest I

    Falcon Crest I Soap Chat Active Member

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    Aye the split screen technique was reported to have been used for Jane and Lana because of their animosity towards each other. While Mel claimed Jane stopped phoning him and he was axed soon after. Quite a gal our Jane.
     
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  16. Snarky's Ghost

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    Split screen?
     
  17. Falcon Crest I

    Falcon Crest I Soap Chat Active Member

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    Their scenes together were filmed separartely and then spliced. I think it may have been used outside the Gioberti house and in the cemetery, in the first season.
     
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  18. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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  19. Gioberti84

    Gioberti84 Soap Chat Active Member

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    Mr. Earl Hamner God bless his soul, a legendary American T.V. creator.
     
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  20. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yes, though I'm not sure his claims of plagiarist "innocence" really ring true when the author of "The Vintage Years" had already submitted their Napa Valley based script to Lorimar under the same title.

    I mean.... come on. ;)
     

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