Falcon Crest (1981)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Prime-Time Drama [TV]  |   Run Time - 60 min.  |   Countries - United States   |  
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Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Another of the many "property" Prime Time soap operas seen on network television in the 1970s and 1980s, the CBS series Falcon Crest was created by Earl Hamner Jr., hitherto associated with such family-friendly entertainments as The Waltons. Jane Wyman headed the enormous cast as Angela Channing, the ruthless, iron-willed controller of the prestigious Falcon Crest vineyard and winery, and of all the water rights in the neighboring Tuscany Valley district of California. In the earliest episodes, the foremost challenge to Angela's supremacy was her virtuous nephew Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth), who'd inherited 50 acres of Angela's vineyards from her brother and his late father. The series' first group of regulars included Chase's journalist wife Maggie (Susan Sullivan), their children Cole (William R. Moses and Victoria (played first by Jamie Rose, later by Dana Sparks), and Angela's troubled daughters Emma (Margaret Ladd), who knew a lot more about the "accidental" death of Chase's father than she let on, and Julia (Abby Dalton), the neurotic mother of Angela's indolent, weak-willed playboy nephew Lance Cumson (Lorenzo Lamas). The subsequent death of Angela's ex-husband Joseph, publisher of the "San Francisco Globe", brought a new character into play, the ruthless Richard Channing (David Selby), ostensibly Joseph's illegitimate son but ultimately revealed to be Angela's biological son. Taking over the "Globe" (where Maggie had gotten a job as a columnist), Richard used every foul means at his disposal in his hopes of grabbing up all of Angela's property and ridding himself of the noble-purposed Chase, which actions brought him in close contact with such sinister criminal organizations as The Cartel and The Thirteen. Meanwhile, Angela sought to expand her empire by marrying Lance off to Melissa Agretti (Ana Alicia), the daughter of her principal business rival. It turned out that the scheming Melissa had her own agenda, which including the total takeover of Falcon Crest (as it happened, virtually everyone in the cast controlled Falcon Crest at one time or another on the series, including the cleaning lady!) Lance walked out on Melissa when he found out that her baby was not his but instead Cole Gioberti's, whereupon Melissa married Cole as a means of undermining both Angela and Cole's dad Chase; she continued her perfidy until her long-overdue demise in a spectacular fire. Elsewhere, Lance's mom and Angela's daughter, the deranged Julia, murdered Chase's mother Jacqueline Perrault (Lana Turner) and seriously wounded Chase, who was nursed back to health by pure-hearted Dr. Michael Ransom (Cliff Robertson)--who in turn used his power as executive of Jacqueline's estate to enable Chase to (temporarily, at least) force the duplicitous Richard to tow the line. Eventually, Chase was killed off while protecting his newborn child from Erin Jones (Jill Jacobson), a corrupt private eye whose reprehensible behavior had dominated most of Falcon Crest's sixth season. In the course of the series' nine years on the air, Angela had several suitors, who coveted her millions as much as her company. Early on, she was poised to wed her sharkish attorney Philip Erikson (Mel Ferrer), but he was killed by Richard's enemies in a booby-trapped airplane. Angela later entered into a marriage of convenience with suave shipping magnate Peter Stavros (Cesar Romero), who had been brought in to protect her from a vendetta fomented by her old enemy Cassandra Wilder (Anne Archer). And finally, Angela became the wife of her one-time business competitor Frank Agretti (Rod Taylor), which action inexpecably saved her from being declared incompetent by the villainous Richard. Throughout the series, the supporting cast was graced by a stunning array of A-list celebrities. In addition to the aforementioned Lana Turner and Cesar Romero), Gina Lollobrigida showed up as Francesca Gioberti, illegitimate sister of Angela's late brother Jason; Robert Stack chewed the scenery as billionaire crime kingpin Roland Saunders, who was done in by a poisoned cigar administered by yet another "celebrity" antagonist, Kim Novak as chameleonlike con artist Kit Marlowe; and singer Apollonia appeared as one of Lance's many mistresses--a singer named Apollonia! As the series wound down, Angela's daughter Emma, who choice in men was unfailingly lousy, married a dangerous character named Michael St. James (Mark Lindsay Chapman), whose shenigans resulted in Angela lapsing into a six-month coma! Shortly therafter, the nine-season run of Falcon Crest, which began on December 4, 1981, concluded on May 17 1990 with an outrageous finale in which a "message from above" miraculously turned virtually all of the series' bad characters into good guys overnight!