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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

'Falcon Crest' S2: (Lana) Turner and Hooch

Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season
Watching every episode of the DVD release of the second season of '80s primetime soap "Falcon Crest" as preparation for reviewing the recent DVD release of that series' third season owas the most enjoyable homework since watching the DVDs of the directors' cuts of the prior films in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy in preparation for the next one on the big screen. This "hobbit" will continue regarding the second chapter in the spectacular "The Hobbit" trilogy.

 "Crest" is "unreal" escapist classic television fare that makes even light-weight sofa spuds gleeful that Warner Brothers created Warner Archive to release vintage (of course, pun intended) titles that admittedly are very unlikely to ever top the DVD sales charts.

Watching "Crest" for this review was particularly special because it evoked great memories of gathering with friends to watch these episodes after viewing its companion series "Dallas" on Friday nights. Just mentioning daffy Emma from  "Crest" to a former viewing buddy two weeks ago prompted a laugh.

The drama, melo and otherwise, on "Crest" was silly enough to mock. (Look for an annoying number of references to "Hell Denver; we're going down" in a future review of this series.) At the same time, the series was well-written and acted enough to hold our attention, elicit frustrated groans at episode-ending cliffhangers, and keep us glued in our seats to see how those cliffhangers were resolved.

"Crest" revolved around the (sometimes literal) trials and tribulations of the Channing and Gioberti families that operated the titular winery in the thinly disguised Napa Valley outside San Francisco. The depictions of the fierce competition among California winemakers made one wonder if Ernest and Julio Gallo were nice guys.

Ronald Reagan's former wife Jane Wyman's Angela Channing was at the center of the action and truly out Nancy Reaganed  subsequent Reagan wife Nancy regarding every aspect of Angela's life.

Angela ruled her business empire and her family with an iron glove and took a scorched earth policy regarding any betrayal. Second season examples included ruthless negotiating tactics and sharecropper-level living and working conditions for field hands.

Additionally daughter Julia and unfortunately named grandson Lance Cumson, played by the mahvelous Lorenzo Lamas, both faced real threats of being disinherited and entirely banished from Angela's life simply for acting to be with the ones whom they loved.

Adding former "Sweater Girl" Lana Turner to the cast as Jacqueline Perrault created similar drama with Angela in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes conflict with Wyman. This glamorous European socialite was the mother of Angela's nephew Chase Gioberti and constantly outshined Wyman. Like Angela, Wyman ultimately got her way.

Second season drama that preceded Perrault's appearance in the "Tuscnay Valley" included the aftermath of Chase learning at the end of the first season both the true circumstances of his father's death and Angela's role in the subterfuge. These developments paved the way for Chase to obtain a 50-percent interest in the winery and an active role in its operation in defiance of Angela's vehement opposition.

Early second season episodes also introduced David Selby as Richard Channing, the illegitimate son of Angela's late husband Douglas. Angela was as cold to Richard as Nancy Reagan was to Reagan son Michael whom Wyman and the Gipper had adopted.

Angela and Richard quickly developed the same type of toxic adversarial relationship as Blake  Carrington and Alexis Colby when Colby portrayor Joan Collins joined the cast of fellow '80s primetime soap "Dynasty" in that series' second season.

One primary source of conflict between Richard and Angela was her efforts to oust him from the San Fransisco newspaper that Douglas had left him. Not to be outdone, Richard sought to establish a foothold in California's wine industry that would have personally irked Angela and negatively affected Falcon Crest's profitability.

Richard additionally was at the center of a mystery regarding the identity of his birth mother, who Angela referred to as "the woman who ruined my life." Discovering the mother's identity created particularly awesome primetime soap drama, but even the Scooby gang would have deduced who she was on the first mention of her name.

For the Giobertis' part, 20-something son Cole becoming the prime suspect in the early-season murder of vineyard owner Carlo Agretti prompted Chase to redirect the detective skills that he used to discover the truth regarding his father's death to learn who killed Carlo. The possible motives for said homicide included heat of the moment rage, avoiding being disinherited, possible blackmail by Carlo, and desire for ownership of the Agretti vineyards.

The season finale's ultimate reveal regarding the murderer required very little detective work. The killer's identity was surprising but seemed rather contrived.

However, the writers titling this episode "Climax" indicated that they had a more clever sense of humor than previously believed. The final minutes, which involved killing a character, could very aptly be described as "la petite mort."

Lesser plot points involved both Cole and his younger sister Vickie entering serious romantic relationships with an older man and a cougar respectively, Chase's investigation and wife Maggie's screenwriting career leading to a separation, and melodramatic storylines related to Lance's loveless forced marriage of convenience to Carlo's daughter Melissa.

This summary of the love, lust, and larceny that occurred in roughly 990 minutes supports this site's theory that classic scripted drama has infinitely more entertainment value than any reality show. It is difficult to imagine that "The Real Housewifes of the Tuscany Valley" could earn as large a fanbase as "Crest" or maintain it for 30 years.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Crest" is encouraged to email me.