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Friday, July 12, 2013

'Falcon Crest' S3: Sex. Wine, and Corporate Control

Falcon Crest: The Complete Third Season
Watching all 28 episodes from the "must-see" third season of '80s prime time soap, and "Dallas" companion series, "Falcon Crest" for this review of Warner Archives' DVD release of that season revealed that the wonderfully "unreal" escapist aspects of the show passed the test of time well and that the program is still highly relevant.

This is not to mention that this season is the one with the off-the-charts melodramatic cliffhanger that features the unforgettable line "Hell Denver; we're going down." Suffice it to say, that last scene of the season greatly affected the contract-negotiation power of most of "Falcon Crest's" stars and was in the same spirit of fellow '80s prime time soap "Dynasty's" Moldavian Massacre.

The awesome aspects of every "Falcon Crest" episode extends well beyond its weekly melodrama and shameless use of sex and wealth to achieve goals while simultaneous betraying friends and family.

"Falcon Crest" is a true classic because the stars understand and relish their roles, and the writers sprinkle in humor that is worthy of classic sitcoms. A terrific example of lighter third-season moments is the poetic justice regarding bad-boy Lance, who is discussed further below, getting doused in red wine after two related displays of sour grapes.

"Crest's" setting of the thinly disguised Napa Valley wine country outside San Francisco provides a nice easy topic to start a deeper discussion of a Dickensian quantity of third season elements. That locale is central to "Crest," which centers around the California wine industry in a manner that has similarities with the Boston area craft beer market.

Thoughts of the aggressive (and sometimes ruthless) business tactics of long-time Falcon Crest Winery head Angela Channing, expertly played by Ronald Reagan's former spouse Jane Wyman, came to mind during a recent tour of the facilities of the fairly new start-up Newburyport Brewing Company roughly 30 miles from Boston on Massachusetts' north shore.

A more comprehensive "very special" review of this producer of really tasty "small batch" white beer and pale ales is scheduled for the end of the summer, but the parallels between that business and Falcon Crest's competitors are too obvious to ignore.

The analogy relates to the tendency of Angela, not so affectionately known as Angie to those who should be her nearest and dearest, using the power of Falcon Crest as the region's largest vineyard to crush her competitors like the grapes that are used to make their products. EVERY Tuscany Valley resident knows that he or she wants to avoid inclusion on "Angie's List."

An arguably improper FDA ruling that effectively eliminated competition from a company that a former Boston Beer Company executive founded is one of many indications that the Boston Beer Company, which produces the Sam Adams beers, at least partially emulates Angie in utilizing its market dominance to limit or entirely eliminate grocery store and/or bar sales of regional craft beers.

Any reports that the Newburyport Brewing Company can no longer obtain the special British grains, which genuinely make for good eating fresh from the silo, or variety of top-quality hops that it uses may provide additional evidence that the Boston Beer Company is taking a page from Angie's playbook.

Returning to "Falcon Crest" itself, the third season opens with the funeral of the latest victim of the character who shot vineyard owner Carlo Agretti in the second season. That death and the simultaneous wounding of Angie's nephew and highly unwelcome business partner Chase Gioberti set much of the third season action in motion.

The impact of Chase's injuries prompt Angie to "persuade" Chase's treating physician to declare Chase incompetent to participate in the daily operation of Falcon Crest; this declaration would grant Angie the sole control regarding how Falcon Crest operates that she enjoyed before Chase forced his way into the business in the second season. (A fairly cursory Google search did not produce any results regarding recalled power struggles at the Boston Beer Company.)

The funeral and medical plot lines also open the door for adding Cliff Robertson to the cast as Chase's emotionally scarred neurosurgeon cousin Michael Ranson. In addition to jumping in when members of the Channing or Gioberti clan face life-threatening injuries or illnesses, Michael hooks up with the sister of Chase's wife Maggie.

In true soap fashion, Michael's beloved is a former prostitute/party girl who moves to the Tuscany Valley to mooch off her wealthy sister and hop into any bed anytime that doing so provides physical or financial pleasure.

Not to be outdone, Angie's grandson the aforementioned dreamy but unfortunately named Lance Cumson continues to battle and scheme with and against his bride of convenience Melissa Agretti. Melissa's sources of power, with which she bargains evenly, are her son (and potential Falcon Crest heir) Joseph and her control over her murdered father's grape harvest.

Other story lines regarding Melissa involve the impact on her regarding the identity of her father's killer and the marriage of her former quasi-significant other Cole Gioberti to the daughter of a baker with a long-standing world-class grudge against the Channing and Gioberti families.

As if all this is not enough to keep you glued to your television or whatever device that you use to watch the DVDs, Lance' mother Julia Cumson goes off the rails in an even more campy fashion than her sister Emma Channing spectacularly did in the first season.

Julia's adventures include stints in an entertainingly brutal women's prison and a more humane mental hospital, a run from the law, and a terrifically dramatic effort at revenge. She ultimately resorts to an old habit (this reference will be hilarious when you watch the DVD) in the third season's final episodes.

The other main stories involve the intertwined plots of the importance of Chase's half-brother Richard Channing, who is the result of an affair between Chase's mother and Angie's husband, developing a literal bromance and Richard's determination to build a race track that would generally be contrary to the agricultural culture in the Tuscany Valley and specifically take vineyard land from Falcon Crest.

The race track plot line involves a scene that makes the audience genuinely sympathize with Angie. Although virtually everyone can find the methods of the divine Ms. C. to retain control over Falcon Crest and to see it thrive despicable, we can relate to her love of her land and her devotion to maintaining her family's legacy.

The epilog of this "novel" approach to sharing thoughts regarding television's most entertaining and informative look at the alcoholic beverage  industry is that the roughly 25-year gap between CBS putting a cork in "Falcon Crest" and this DVD set coming out shows that Warner Archives sometimes goes far beyond a policy of not releasing a DVD set before its time.

Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Falcon Crest" or who has good jokes about the "mahvelous" Lorenzo "Lance" Lamas is encouraged to email me.