Series / Knots Landing

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Life in The '80s in an upper-middle-class cul-de-sac in California.

In the mid-1970s, David Jacobs (Family, later Lois & Clark) and Michael Filerman (later Falcon Crest) created Knots Landing, a concept for a Prime Time Soap inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1973 film, Scenes from a Marriage. It would center around four families in suburban California. Initially rejected in 1977, Jacobs went on to create Dallas, which proved wildly popular. Jacobs then re-visited Knots Landing, turning it into a Spin-Off by inserting one of the Ewing brothers, Black Sheep middle brother Gary.

On the Dallas third season episode "Return Engagements" (December 21, 1979), a Poorly Disguised Pilot, Gary (Ted Shackleford) remarried ex-wife Valene Clements Ewing (Joan Van Ark), and Gary's mother bought them a house in California to get away from the other turmoil in the Ewing family. Their daughter Lucy, already almost an adult herself, did not resettle with them, and only appeared on this show as a guest in the first season. The house was one of several his brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) was flipping to take advantage of California's housing boom at the time.

The pilot episode has them meeting their neighbors in the cul-de-sac, Seaview Circle. One of those neighbors, Karen Fairgate (Michele Lee), was the real star of the show.

During the first few seasons, occasional guest appearances by Dallas cast would occur, especially Gary's brothers Bobby and J.R. (Larry Hagman). However, the last crossover between the two series would occur when Gary got the news that Bobby died at the beginning of their 7th season. Though Bobby's death was retconned from Dallas, Knots Landing was not treated in the same way. In that series, Bobby remained dead, and the two series were treated separately from that point on.

Knots Landing ran from December 27, 1979 (literally the tail end of the decade) until 1993. It's fondly remembered by its fans, but wasn't nearly as popular as Dallas, though both were equal Long-Runners (both went 14 seasons). Like Gary, it became something of a black sheep. It's only seen its first two seasons released on DVD.

This trope page needs to be expanded, and probably re-written by somebody with more first-hand knowledge of the show.

This show provides examples of:

  • As Himself: Zsa Zsa Gabor, Billy Curtis and Mike Douglas in "Svengali", Dick Sargent in "Weighing of Evils" and Mary Lou Retten in "Letting Go".
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Michael Fairgate is diagnosed as having ADHD, referred to by its then commonly used name of hyperkineticity, in the Season Two episode "Scapegoats".
  • Ambiguous Situation: The audience is never given an exact answer of what happened to Val's second husband Ben Gibson, as he went to South America and never came back.
  • Back for the Finale: Valene (who also came back for the Dallas finale) and Abby.
  • Bar Brawl: Gary, while drunk, gets into one in "Bottom of the Bottle, Part I".
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Throughout the second season, the only one in which they were both regular characters, Sid's Big Brother Instinct towards Abby (who is fourteen years younger than him) often blinds him to her faults and/or leads him to make excuses for her behaviour.
    • Also in Season Two, Sid's son Eric is very kind and considerate towards his younger brother Michael after he is diagnosed with ADHD. Their older sister Diana, not so much.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter:
    • Diana and then some. She always had elements of this but they increased after Sid's death.
    • It clearly runs in the family as Annie, Sid's daughter from his first marriage and Diana's older half-sister, demonstrates the same qualities in abundance in the pilot.
  • '80s Hair: Karen Fairgate, Abby Fairgate, Cathy Geary and Valene Ewing are some of the more prominent examples. Joan Van Ark refers to Val's "fe-mullet" 'do on the 2005 re-union show.
  • Cain and Abel: JR Ewing and Gary.
  • Continuity Overlap
    • Heavily averted and then some. Although Bobby's "resurrection" represented the permanent parting of the ways between the two show's continuities (at least until Gary and Valene's return in the Dallas Revival 27 years later), things had already been heading in that direction for several years. No Dallas characters appeared in Knots Landing after the latter's fourth season and, other than Bobby's death, the only major Dallas storyline that ever had a significant impact on Knots Landing was Jock's death as Gary inherited $10 million in his father's will. After the reading of said will in Dallas' sixth season, Gary only made two further appearances on that series: in the ninth season premiere "The Family Ewing" in which he returned to Southfork for Bobby's funeral and in the Series Finale "Conundrum" which has a It's a Wonderful Plot in which J.R. is shown what would have happened to the Ewings and others if he had never been born. "Conundrum" also marked Valene's only Dallas appearance after its fifth season.
    • Prior to Bobby's death and resurrection, the most extreme example of this lack of Continuity Overlap is the fact that Lucy only appears in one episode of Knots Landing in spite of the fact that she is Gary and Valene's daughter. The original plan, as discussed in early episodes of Knots Landing and contemporaneous episodes of Dallas, was for Lucy to move out to California to live with her parents but this idea was abandoned. Speaking of Gary and Valene's children, the Dallas Dream Season revelation meant that their twins Bobby (named after his "late" uncle) and Betsy are never mentioned in Dallas. Miss Ellie seemingly never found out that she had two other grandchildren while Lucy seemingly never found out that she had two younger siblings. Less extreme examples include Miss Ellie never visiting her supposed favourite son in Knots Landing once in fourteen years, none of the Texas Ewings bar J.R. ever meeting Gary's second wife Abby and Gary's unexplained absence from various family events in Dallas. In the Dallas / Knots Landing universe, Texas and California might as well be at opposite ends of the galaxy.
  • Crossover with Dallas (at least until Season 4, completely cut off by Dallas' "Dream Season")
  • Distaff Counterpart: Abby was introduced as the series' creator David Jacobs wanted a female J.R.
  • Divorce Is Temporary: Eight years after their second divorce, Gary and Valene married for the third time in the 300th episode "The Last One Out".
  • Dying Alone: Laura Avery Sumner when she goes off to a clinic to die of a brain tumor.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Mack's first name is Marion.
  • Fake Band: Kenny is the record producer for the bands Cosmic Steeple, a fake band populated by Fake Brits, and Kiwi Surprise, who are from New Zealand as their name suggests.
  • Final Season Casting: Having been with the show since the beginning, Joan Van Ark (Valene) left the series at the end of Season Thirteen to do a sitcom which was never made.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Michael Fairgate and Paige Matheson have an affair in Season Eight.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Paige Matheson, numerous times at the Sumner Group.
  • Happily Married: Karen and Sid and, after Sid's death, Karen and Mack.
  • Hostage Situation happens in season 2.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Donna Mills' amazing blue eyes are perfect for flashing a wicked grin or dirty look — whichever is required.
  • Identical Grandson: Nicollette Sheridan plays Paige's mother Anne Matheson in several flashback scenes in Season Eight.
  • Identical Stranger: Ciji Dunne and Cathy Geary were played by the same actress, though were completely different people. Unlike many examples of this trope, Cathy and Ciji never met as the former arrived at Knots Landing after the latter's murder.
  • Jerk With a Heart of Gold: Gregory Sumner.
  • Jerkass: Richard Avery takes the cake, also Gary when he's been drinking.
    • Kenny certainly has his moments as well.
  • Killed Off for Real:
    • Sid flatlined in surgery after a car crash, at the start of season 3. His actor, Don Murray, was credited as a regular for the first episode of the season, so viewers would be surprised by his death.
    • Laura died of a brain tumor in season 9.
    • Joshua fell off a roof and died from his injuries, in season 7.
    • Ciji was murdered in season 5, prompting a murder mystery.
    • Jill accidentally killed herself while trying to frame Gary for her kidnapping, in season 10.
    • Subverted. Val was believed to have died in a car explosion at the conclusion of season 13, though turned up alive at the end of the following season, the series finale.
  • Large Ham: Karen Fairgate on a few occasions, most notably in the pilot episode where she confronts Sid's Bratty Teenage Daughter who was staying with them for a week.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Sid and Eric are both very nice, principled and reliable.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: Michele Lee (Karen) and Ted Shackelford (Gary) were the only actors who were regular cast members for all 14 seasons, though Joan Van Ark (Valene) was a regular for the first thirteen and returned for the Series Finale.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Gary, Valene and Judy Trent in Season Two.
    • Gary, Valene and Abby in Season Three.
    • Diana, Ciji and Chip in Season Four.
  • Not Herself: Val — after the abduction of her twins sends her over the edge and into schizophrenic state, she takes on the personality of "Verna Ellers", a diner waitress back in Tennessee.
  • Only in It for the Money: Abby's main reason for marrying Gary Ewing.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The Season Three episode "The Three Sisters" was a Paranormal Episode in which the women of Seaview Circle visit a supposedly haunted house.
  • The Pollyanna: Poor, poor Val — despite all that life throws at her, as Karen says, she's like "the little engine who could". However, Michele Lee (Karen) wanted her character to be a "Pollyanna".
  • Pretty in Mink: Fancy furs are worn, as was the norm for these series.
  • Promotion to Opening Titles:
    • Julie Harris (Lilimae) in Season Four, having guest starred once in Season One and having been a recurring guest star in Season Three.
    • Claudia Lonow (Diana) in (only) Season Five, having been with the series since the pilot. She appeared as a guest star in two episodes of Season Six but was not seen again until she returned for three episodes of Season Fourteen.
    • Lisa Hartman (Cathy) in Season Six. This is a less straightforward example than the others as she played Ciji in Season Four and the Identical Stranger Cathy in Season Five.
    • Nicollette Sheridan (Paige) in Season Ten, having been with the series since the end of Season Seven.
    • Teri Austin (Jill) in (only) Season Ten, having been with the series since Season Six.
    • Tonya Crowe (Olivia) in (only) Season Eleven, having been with the series since the second season premiere.
    • Pat Petersen (Michael) in Season Eleven, having been with the series since the pilot. He left in Season Twelve, making him the longest serving actor other than Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark.
    • Larry Riley (Frank) in Season Twelve, having been with the series since Season Nine.
    • Michelle Phillips (Anne) in Season Twelve, having previously appeared in Seasons Eight, Ten and Eleven.
    • Stacy Galina (Kate) and Kathleen Noone (Claudia) in Season Thirteen, having both had recurring roles in Season Twelve.
  • Put on a Bus: Numerous examples of characters ultimately leaving Knots Landing for various reasons, including Kenny, Ginger, Richard, Diana, Michael, Olivia, Cathy, Ben (who actually disappeared), Frank, and most notably, Abby.
    • In two tragic cases, Real Life Writes the Plot as Steve Shaw, who had played Eric Fairgate since the pilot, died in a car accident in 1990 while Larry Riley, who played Frank Williams, died of AIDS related renal failure in 1992.
    • In several other cases, the Bus Came Back. Richard returned for the Season Nine two-parter "Noises Everywhere" for Laura's funeral, Abby returned for the Series Finale "Just Like Old Times" and the Reunion Show miniseries "Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac" while Ginger, Michael and Olivia also all returned for the miniseries, after an absence of 14 years in Ginger's case.
  • Really Gets Around: Kenny Ward; who has been having extra-marital relations behind Ginger's back since the first season. Could also extend to Gary Ewing.
  • Required Spinoff Crossover: Three episodes of the first season feature Dallas regular characters: Bobby appeared in "Pilot", J.R. appeared in "Community Spirit" and Lucy appeared in "Home is for Healing". There were four such episodes in Season Two: Kristin Shepard appeared in "Kristin" ( coming less than month after it was revealed that she shot J.R., her appearance was no doubt designed to capitalise on the record breaking ratings experienced by Dallas), J.R. appeared in both "A Family Matter" and "Designs" and Bobby appeared in "The Loudest Word". There were none in Season Three but it happened twice more in Season Four, which was the last time that any Dallas character appeared in Knots Landing: J.R. appeared in "Daniel" and both he and Bobby appeared in "New Beginnings", the second part of a two-part crossover with Dallas and the only Knots Landing episode to feature all three of Jock and Miss Ellie's sons.
  • Serial Spouse: Valene has been married five times, the most of anyone in the Dallas / Knots Landing universe: she married and divorced Gary twice, then she married Ben Gibson and was widowed, then she married and divorced Danny Waleska and then she married Gary for the third time. Gary married and divorced Abby between his second and third marriages to Valene.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Cathy Geary does this to Gary when he yells at her for trying to be look-alike Ciji Dunne.
  • Sibling Triangle: Michael has an affair with his brother Eric's wife Linda in Season Eleven.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: The show generally avoided this as Claudia Lonow (Diana), Steve Shaw (Eric), Pat Petersen (Michael) and Tonya Crowe (Olivia) all remained with the series for years, eleven in Shaw's case (until his death) and twelve in Petersen's case, so their characters aged in real time. The only children on the series who were played by multiple actors were Meg Mac Kenzie, Brian Cunningham and Jason Avery. Except for the pilot (in which he was played by Justin Dana), Jason was played by Danny Gellis until 1982 when he was replaced by Danny Ponce, who played the character until 1986. Even this is not an example of SORAS since Ponce was actually a year and a half younger than Gellis.
  • Spinoff Sendoff: In the pilot, Bobby appeared to help Gary and Valene settle into the cul-de-sac.
  • The Three Faces of Eve: The three main women fill these roles perfectly: Karen is The Wife, the wiser, calmer aspect, and someone around whom one could build a home life. Abby is The Seductress — sexually experienced and independent. Val is the third, The "Child" (who does not have to be a child literally) and is innocent, perhaps to the point of naïveté.
  • The Alcoholic: Gary Ewing.
  • Title Sequence/ Evolving Credits: For the first season, an opening montage featuring overhead frame of the cul de sac and the cast members in alphabetical order. Also accompanied by a catchy jazz tune composed by Jerrold Immel. This was replaced in Season 3 by the most well-known version, a montage of clips of the show playing in small boxes going by from right to left. Replaced again in Season 9 by a slow panning shot over a painting similar to the splattered style of Jackson Pollock. That was soon replaced in Season 11 by sandcastle structures of the cul-de-sac houses as well as some skyscrapers representing Los Angeles on a beautiful beach, which was replaced in Season 12 by..... the return of the across-the-screen style of scrolling clips. Although this time, it had faster moving, color-framed boxes.
  • Witness Protection: The Williams family (Frank, Patricia and Julie) who moved next door to Karen and Mack Mackenzie. Their real names are Jerry and Samantha Sollars. Samantha testified against some mobsters who are after them so the whole family assumed new identities and moved to Knots Landing to be safe.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Richard Avery very much so. Gary Ewing as well; Kenny Ward as well plus he Really Gets Around


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