Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Debuting December 20, 1979, on CBS, the Prime Time weekly soap opera Knots Landing was a spinoff of the immensely popular nighttime drama Dallas, centering around the weak-willed, alcoholic "black sheep" of the oil-rich Ewing family, Gary Ewing (Ted Shackleford). Recently remarried to his long-suffering wife Val (Joan Van Ark), Gary moved out of Dallas and into a cul-de-sac neighborhood in the cozy California community of Knots Landing, where he landed a well-paying job at Knots Landing Motors. When the series began, the spotlight was on four couples, all living in the same neighborhood: the aforementioned Gary and Val; Gary's boss Sid Fairgate (Don Murray and his much-younger wife Karen (Michele Lee); sharkish record executive Kenny Ward (James Houghton) and his bride Ginger (Kim Lankford); and philandering attorney Richard Avery (John Pleshette) and his real estate-agent spouse Laura (Constance McCashin). Also in the cast were the Fairgate's children, Diana (Claudia Lonow, Michael (Pat Petersen), Eric (Steve Shaw) and Jason (played by four different juvenile actors over an eight-year period). By the time the series concluded 14 years later, Michele Lee was the only regular to appear in each episode, and Lee and Ted Shackleford the only actors to star in every season. Ratings for Falcon Crest increased enormously with the second-season introduction of the series' premiere "you love to hate her" villainess, the scheming, predatory Abby Cunningham (Donna Mills), Sid's recently divorced sister. Abby brought along with her two young children, of which daughter Olivia (Tonya Crowe) would prove to be the most trouble-prone. Not only did Abby sleep with virtually every man in the cast, but she also had her well-manicured fingers in a number of shady business enterprises, notably the Lotus Point land development and the phony "Murakame" Corporation. Ultimately she would exit the series--or rather escape, fleeing to Japan after miraculously avoiding prosecution for her many illegal business transactions. When Sid Fairgate was murdered by criminals, his wife Karen took control of Knot's Landing Motors. She would later wed Federal Prosecutor-cum-Crime Commissioner "Mack" MacKenzie (Kevin Dobson), one of the series' few honest and incorruptible characters. And after the Averys broke up, Laura Avery married Mack's principal nemesis, mob-connection politician/entrepreneur Gregory Sumner (William Devane) (Kenny and Ginger Ward disappeared without a trace after being written off the show at the end of Season Four). Following Laura's death from a brain tumor, her house was purchase by the African American Williams family--husband Frank (Larry Riley), wife Patricia (Lynne Moody), daughter Julie (Kent Masters-King)--who turned out to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program! And after Abby's departure, a new all-purpose villainess was introduced in the person of Greg Sumner's mean-spirited sister Claudia Whittaker (Kathleen Noone). Other major characters included Julie Harris as Val's dotty mother Lilimae Clements; Alec Baldwin as Val's shady ex-evangelist brother Joshua Rush and Lisa Hartman as Joshua's benighted wife Cathy (Hartman had earlier played a singer named Cijji, whose murder resulted in the first of Gary Ewing's many arrests on suspicion); Nicolette Sheridan as Paige Matheson, Mack's illegitimate daughter; Michelle Phillips as Anne, Paige's conniving mother; Marie Cheatham as Mary Robeson, disreputable self-proclaimed biological mother of the late Laura Avery Sumner; Jill Bennett as the unhinged Teri Austin, who after trying to bump of Val tried to make her own suicide look like murder in order to get even with her erstwhile lover Gary Ewing (who of course was arrested yet again!); Hunt Block as crooked politico Peter Hollister, whose simultaneous romances with Abby Cunningham and her daughter Olivia indirectly brought about his sudden death; and Robin Strasser as Diane Kirkwood, producer of a TV show starring Karen, and a dangerous stalker in her spare time! And like many other nighttime dramas of the period, Knot's Landing attracted a number of prominent guest stars, notably Ava Gardner as Greg Sumner's stepmother Ruth Galveston, and Ruth Roman as Peter Hollister's alleged mom Sylvia Lean. Though late episodes tended to concentrate on the series' "second generation" of regulars--Eric Fairgate, Olivia Cunningham, Claudia Whittaker's daughter Kate (Stacy Galina), Kate's best friend Vanessa Hunt (Felicity Waterman), and Greg and Laura's daughter Meg (played by several actress), who wound up in the custody of the Ewings--the spotlight was seldom off Gary and Val Ewing for long. After innumerable breakups and several "interim" marriages--Gary to the rapacious Abby, Val to ill-fated reporter Ben Gibson (Douglas Sheehan) and serial rapist Danny Waleska (Sam Behrens)--the couple became man and wife for the third time in Season Thirteen, a union that lasted just long enough for Val to be kidnapped as a result of her research on a tell-all book about Greg Sumner! Knots Landing ended its incredibly lengthy run on May 13, 1993 with a thickly-plotted finale which wrapped up most of the loose plot ends--and in one respect, brought things back full-circle with the return of the redoubtable Abby Cunningham.