Complete Second Season
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Ross Ruediger
ong overdue on DVD is this second season of the long running spin-off of “Dallas.” The first season was released over three years ago, but due to tepid sales, it’s been a long, dry wait for fans of this immensely popular soap. Thank goodness Warner Brothers is giving it another go, because “Knots Landing” was a weekly staple throughout the ‘80s, and now that “Dallas” is nearing the end of its releases, this is as good a time as any to get people interested in what was actually a very different kind of soap. Not just different than “Dallas,” mind you, but different than most of the other primetime soaps of the period. Whereas “Dallas,” “Dynasty” and “Falcon Crest” were all about wealthy folk, “Knots” was decidedly middle-class in its points of view. These characters didn’t have a lot of money; they were just average people, living in a coastal suburb of L.A., trying to do their best to make it through all the sticky situations that came their way.
The action takes place mostly within the cul-de-sac Seaview Circle, in the fictitious Knots Landing of the title. All the primary characters live next door or across the street from each other, which brings to mind “Desperate Housewives,” although this is a smarter show. Indeed, Marc Cherry must have been a big “Knots” fan, as it frequently echoes his popular series, and he even hired several “Knots” actors for “Housewives” (including Nicolette Sheridan, who would become a “Knots” regular in ‘86). Further, it tends to lean toward the female point of view, and the ladies on the show are its real stars – which, again, sets it apart from its predominantly male-oriented parent series.
First up are Gary and Valene Ewing (Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark), a recovering alcoholic and his sweet, naïve and yet supportive wife. Given that the couple has been through all manner of hell with Gary’s family in Dallas, they’ve relocated to L.A. to start fresh. Next door to them live the Fairgates, Sid and Karen (Don Murray and Michele Lee); he’s an auto mechanic and she’s a soccer mom. Then there are the Averys, Richard and Laura; he’s a lawyer and she’s an up and coming real estate agent. Finally, there’s Sid’s sister, Abby Cunningham (Donna Mills), who’s the newbie on the street, and she’s out to wreak as much havoc as possible, all while not only keeping her cool but also her looks. Another couple, the Wards, also live on the street, but their characters are, quite honestly, not as interesting as the rest. In any case, as you may glean, there are plenty of combinations for loads of soapy engagement on the show.
The season begins with an excellent two-parter, in which Sid is bogusly accused of rape by a teenage girl he was merely trying to help out, that’s very good drama. The rest of the 18-episode season is mostly relegated to standalone stories, with some dramatic threads carrying over through various episodes. It seems clear the show is still trying to build an audience at this point, and doesn’t want to alienate any potential viewers who aren’t caught up with the ongoing story. There are a number of issue driven installments, such as teenage sex, drugs (angel dust, no less!), cancer, infidelity – geez, that’s lowballing it. Fucking around deserves its own sentence. It is amazing the sheer amount of bed-hopping that goes on in this series. Characters you’d never imagine have it in ‘em, manage to really have it in ‘em. As if that’s not fun all on its own, the way their partners deal with these issues is actually quite mature and different. I mean, a show full of divorcing couples wouldn’t be nearly as cool. There are times when it almost wants to be “Swingtown,” minus the groovy tuneage.
Michele Lee is especially good, and as an actress always manages to make the very most of what’s handed to her. Donna Mills is just plain smokin’. Damn, there’s a scene between her and John Pleshette in a hot tub that’s amazing for TV circa 1980. Speaking of Pleshette, that guy’s work here is priceless. Richard is such an obnoxious jerk that you’ve just gotta love him, especially when he loses his job and does nothing with his days but carry on an affair right under his wife’s nose. And then he gets a new job, turns himself around, and you manage to see a real guy on the TV, albeit within the confines of the soap format. Much of it is surprisingly believable, but, then again, much of it is not. And for anyone versed in the ways of “Dallas,” Larry Hagman’s J.R. turns up for two episodes, while Patrick Duffy’s Bobby visits for one. Both are odd fits. It’s of course fun to see them, but they seem so out of place on this show, especially J.R., who almost seems cartoonish wandering around L.A. is his cowboy hat. Nevertheless, they provide great fodder for Shackelford and Van Ark to play off.
I’m sure this isn’t the best season of “Knots Landing,” but it’s pretty decent fare, and the only way future seasons are likely to be released is if people go out and purchase this one. It ends with a crazy storyline involving some mafia-type thugs that Gary gets involved with and there’s an intense cliffhanger that’ll leave you wanting Season Three. If nothing else, buy it for me, so I can see the third season and report back to you whether or not it’s worth checking out. For the record, you could easily watch this season without the primer of Season One, which was only 13 episodes. Or you could buy them both, which will be even more fun.