18 February 1999 | Tom Hall-2
All-time best of the nighttime serial dramas
The second-longest-running drama on network television, Knots Landing was often overshadowed by the flashier serials Dallas and Dynasty. However, according to a Wall Street Journal article, Knots Landing's audience actually grew when the heyday of the nighttime soaps had passed, and it outlived its competitors. Its remarkable 14-season run was consistent in its use of believable plotlines and characters the viewers could care about. Knots Landing never insulted the intelligence of its audience while developing intricately intertwined relationships among the characters.
The series changed over the years, beginning as a California "Scenes from a Marriage" with four couples living on a cul-de-sac: Dallas transplants Valene and Gary Ewing, who had reunited after 15 years apart; Karen and Sid Fairgate, a community activist and the owner of a car dealership; Laura and Richard Avery, a bored housewife and a lawyer whose marriage was in trouble; and Ginger and Kenny Ward, the newlyweds. (The producers had developed Knots Landing before Dallas but created the latter when CBS wanted something flashier.) Over the years, Sid died and Karen remarried crusading attorney Mack Mackenzie; Richard abandoned Laura, who married politician/industrialist Gregory Sumner and later died; the Wards had numerous spats before moving to Nashville to pursue music careers; and Val and Gary divorced and married a third time. Sid's sister, Abby Fairgate, was introduced as a conniving vixen in the second season; her actions indirectly caused the death of her brother and directly caused the breakup of the Ewings. Others living on Seaview Circle at one time or another included Val's mother Lilimae Clements, second husband Ben Gibson and brother Joshua Rush; Joshua's wife Cathy Geary; Mack's daughter Paige Matheson and her mother Anne; Greg's sister Claudia Whitaker and her daughter Kate; and Pat and Frank Williams, whose family was under the federal witness protection program. Much of the action eventually moved to the Lotus Point resort or the Sumner Group offices, where underhanded business dealings flourished. However, the series ended where it all started, with the surviving original characters returning to the cul-de-sac.
Knots Landing was imbued with a sense of fun that never became camp, despite mind-boggling developments like the "return" of dead singer Ciji Dunne in the form of identical Cathy Geary. At its best, Knots Landing could make you laugh one moment and cry the next, as it did during the two-parter dealing with Laura's funeral. By this time, the actors knew their characters so well that they were able to improvise their own lines, which were incorporated into the script. Fans and TV critics acknowledged Knots Landing as the best of its genre. Perhaps more significantly, the show survived in its Thursday time slot against tough competition including Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. Even though Knots Landing left the air in 1993, its fans still miss the show--particularly the memorable characters who lived through births, deaths, marriages, divorces, murders and love affairs. Often overlooked but still imitated, Knots Landing is a place where many viewers would like to return.