April 27, 2006
Peter Levin, Henry Levin, Nicholas Sgarro, Roger Young,
Starring: Starring: James Houghton, Kim Lankford, Michele Lee, Constance McCashin, Don Murray, John Pleshette, Ted Shackelford, Joan Van Ark, ,
Originally a spin-off of popular primetime soap opera Dallas, Knots Landing went on to develop its own devoted following and enjoyed mainstream success, lasting 14 seasons, an impressive feat by any standards. It was created by David Jacobs and Michael Filerman and took its inspiration from the 1973 Ingmar Bergman movie, Scenes from a Marriage, only with four marriages. Before Desperate Housewives cornered the market on suburban melodrama in primetime, Knots Landing set the standard for suburban heartbreak, love and backstabbing a-plenty.
Gary Ewing (Shackelford), one of the sons of the powerful Ewing family and a recovering alcoholic, moves to an affluent coastal neighbourhood in California to start a new life with his wife Valene (Van Ark). The Ewings are quickly introduced to the friendly and feisty Karen Fairgate (Lee) only to see her husband Sid (Murray) throwing out his ne’er do well daughter Annie (guest star Karen Allen) and her boyfriend out of the house. Richard Avery (Pleshette) is the neighbourhood letch and completely tactless wasting no time hitting on Valene and badmouthing Karen. Annie has the hots for one of her father’s neighbours, Kenny Ward (Houghton), a music business type, unbeknownst to his nurturing wife Laura (McCashin).
The pilot episode quickly and effectively sets up this busy little cul-de-sac with its colourful inhabitants. Its tight plotting and quality writing become readily apparent and helped make it a stand-out among the soap operas of its time – hence its enduring legacy. Night time soaps, at the time, were a blossoming genre and Knots Landing was a spin-off, making it something of a gamble. While most soaps feature lots of glitz and glamour with fabulously wealthy people (Dallas, Dynasty, etc.), Knots Landing was about ordinary people who wore polyblend clothing, drove station wagons and lived in the ‘burbs. They were relatable characters and this was a large part of the appeal of the show. Knots Landing puts its characters in extraordinary situations and plotlines while not skimping on the trashy melodrama.
Joan Van Ark is adorable as Val and looks absolutely stunning running along the beach in her floral print dress in the pilot episode. She radiates wholesomeness and down home charm. In contrast, Michele Lee plays Karen as a strong-willed woman not afraid to speak her mind (she calls J.R. Ewing an “enemy” right to his face). She has a decidedly more exotic look which only adds to the appeal of her character.
Knots Landing dealt with hard-hitting issues like prejudice and even rape which was pretty risky for primetime T.V. in the 1970s. For those of you who have held onto your well-worn video tapes, it’s time to retire them. These episodes have never looked better, even surpassing their original broadcast quality. For fans of the show this is a trip down memory lane that was well worth the wait.
The first disc features an audio commentary on the “Pilot” episode by actors Joan Van Ark and Ted Shackelford. The two cast members joke and laugh during this trip down memory lane. They point out their dated fashion sense and reminisce about the weather conditions on location. This is an okay track but they spend too much time watching the episode and not enough time commenting on it.
The second disc features another commentary by Van Ark and Shackelford, this time on the episode “Home is for Healing.” More of the same kind of stuff we heard on the first track. Do yourself a favour and check out the featurette on disc four.
The fourth disc includes the featurette “Gary and Val: Together Again” taken from a primetime reunion special that aired in 2005 and reunited Shackelford and Van Ark on the set of Knots Landing as they fondly recalled their memories of working on the show after all these years. They first worked together on the Wonder Woman T.V. show and have never looked back since. At one point, Shackelford gets quite emotional about the whole experience proving that they still have that magical connection.