Sunday, October 4, 2015

KNOTS LANDING Episode 001 of 344: PILOT




Episode Title: Pilot

Season 01, Episode 01

Episode 001 of 344

Written by David Jacobs

Directed by Peter Levin

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 27th, 1979

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Gary and Val move to Knots Landing, in a new home that Gary's mother, Miss Ellie, bought for them. Once there, they get acquainted with their new neighbors, the Fairgates, the Averys, and the Wards. Sid Fairgate's 18-year-old rebellious daughter, Annie, from a previous marriage, is visiting the Fairgates and is causing havoc among the family. Val attempts to fix Annie's relationship with her father.



                Welcome to Knots Landing officially, yay!  After four Brief Dallas Interludes in a row, we are finally starting the seres proper, the one that this blog is all about.  First airing on Thursday, December 27th, 1979, who would have predicted that this seemingly simple series would end up spanning all the way through the ‘80s and into the early ‘90s?  Even if I may express some misgivings about the overall quality of the first three seasons of the series, let me just say right off the bat that I think this is a tremendous pilot and one of my favorites of all time.  Watching it just makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, like I’m revisiting with old friends, seeing all of them young and beautiful and fresh-faced, ready to have excitement and adventures.  Let’s dive in to this very first episode, shall we?

                Okay, I’m actually gonna start by mentioning that the little “Coming Up, A New Beginning in Knots Landing,” preview at the start may, in fact, not be accurate to the actual original airing of this episode.  What am I talking about?  Well, if you slide in season one of the series and start the pilot, the very first thing you see is a “Lorimar Presents” logo, followed by some narration and clips from the pilot.  The first time I watched this, I naturally assumed it was a part of the original airing, but now I’m not so sure, for two specific reasons.  First off, we start with a shot of a sorta cliff overlooking the ocean, a shot that we will see used in the opening credits all the way from seasons three through eight.  However, this shot is not a part of the opening credits at this point (I’ll discuss the layout and design of the opening in a few moments), and I don’t know that they would have even filmed this shot until they were ready to unveil the new, updated credits for season three.

                Secondly, when the narrator says, “New neighbors: Laura and Richard Avery,” we get a really quick shot of Laura and Richard in the kitchen, she just standing there and he cooking something.  Only problem?  This clip is from a much later episode, not even a season one episode.  In fact, if I’m not mistaken (and I’ll keep my eyes open as I head into season two), this shot comes from the first episode of season two, Hitchhike: Part One.  Since I know for sure they were not filming that far ahead, one has to wonder how this shot made it into the episode preview for Pilot.  My conclusion is that this was done later, perhaps for reruns or syndication.  However, it’s really hard to find this stuff out.  As we get started with the series, I should probably mention that there’s not a lot of research material for this series.  While you can go pick up a great big book about the making of all fourteen seasons of Dallas, there is nothing of the sort for KL, so I’m not really able to do any reading or research for random things like this; I just need to make my own assumptions and follow my own instincts.  One day, when I hope to interview some of the cast and crew involved with the series, I might be able to ask super nerdy and super specific questions such as this one.

                Whether this preview is part of the original 1979 airing or not, let me just take a minute to say I love it.  I love when TV shows had all the time in the world, and KL is a fantastic example of this.  Since each episode clocks in at around 48 minutes (versus today’s, what, 42 minutes?), it just feels like you have so much time to get ready.  First you have your preview, then you have your exceedingly long opening credits (probably peaking during season seven, when I think the opening clocks in at over two minutes), and then you have a second set of credits devoted to the episode at hand, usually playing over shots of the beach or the cul-de-sac or what have you.  I know many people would find these annoying and repetitive and even, God forbid, skip past them while binge-watching the series, but I love it and feel it’s a part of the entire experience.

                Plus, I can never get enough of the KL theme song, and now’s a perfect time to mention it.  While Dallas would ship Jerrold Immel in once per season to do a quick update and polish of the theme song, it never changed that drastically in its sound, and the entire layout of the opening only changed once, at the start of the thirteenth season (that would be 1989-1990, FYI).  Conversely, KL changed its opening every couple of seasons, not just the sound of the theme, but also the entire layout and style of the opening.  So as we start Pilot, we are seeing the first of what will wind up being five different styles of opening.  Where does this one rank?  Hmmm.  I’d say it’s probably my second favorite version, coming in behind the glorious scrolling credits of seasons three through eight, which is what immediately jumps into my head when I think of KL.

                This first style of opening credits lasts from December 27th, 1979, until March 26th, 1981, so not too terribly long in the grand scheme of the show, and it was designed by Wayne Fitzgerald.  Now, I did some reading on this guy and he’s actually a bit of a name, particularly in opening credit design for film and television (I learned that he created the opening for Dallas, as well, so good on Wayne!).  He also worked with lots of big important directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, and Quentin Tarantino.  Anyway, he created this opening, which heavily emphasizes the cul-de-sac theme of the series.  I’ll attach a link to the opening so everyone can see and experience the magic for themselves, but for now, let me describe.  We begin with an overhead shot of the ocean, and the camera is sorta spinning around in a circle, and then it hovers above the cul-de-sac and that’s when we see the title of the series.  From there, it zooms down into a tighter shot of Seaview Circle, and then it begins to zoom in on four specific houses, going in this order: The Fairgate house (with a shot of Karen and Sid kissing), the Ewing house (Val and Gary sitting on the couch, also kissing), the Avery house (Laura seductively undressing Richard, sorta, and I have to ask: What episode is this coming from?) and finally the, um, Ward house (Kenny and Ginger peering out of their porch door, another shot that’s never seen in the series proper). 

                This pilot has a very slightly different style than the one we will see for the rest of seasons one and two.  See, usually the camera pans into the street and the street sorta turns clear and reveals shots of the actors, but here the actors’ shots are played over where they live, if that makes sense.  So when we see James Houghton and Kim Lankford credited, their shots play over their house, but then we jump to the other side of the street for Michele Lee’s credit, playing over the house her character lives in.  This is something most people wouldn’t even notice, but it’s unique to the pilot and it immediately changes in the next episode, so it is worth noting.

                The theme song for the series was composed by Jerrold Immel, who also did the Dallas theme. I don’t know what the general consensus is on the Dallas theme versus the KL theme, but I very much prefer the latter.  While Dallas was big and booming, there’s something a smidge more gentle about the KL theme, gentle but exciting, at the same time, and it just gets me ready to go, excited to be watching the series.  As I said, the theme will change in some way every season, never to the point where it’s not recognizable, but enough to keep it feeling fresh over the course of fourteen years.  Oh yeah, and last of all, the theme does end with a little, shall we say, button on it, a lifting musical cue that I read is meant to be a little tribute to Dallas and, now that I think about it, it does sound like the last few notes of the Dallas theme song.

                Okay, with the preview and the opening taken care of, we now dive into the start of the very first episode.  Even though we’ve spent the last four weeks with Gary and Val, they are actually not the first people we see at the head of the series.  The very first character we ever see on KL is Don Murray as Sid Fairgate.  As far as main cast members go, Don Murray’s time on the show is amongst the shortest lived, as he only appears in 33 episodes out of 344, but still, for those 33 episodes he’s gonna be a pretty damn important character.  Anyway, we first spot him driving his car up the cul-de-sac, sneezing, apparently suffering from a bit of a cold.  He gets out of the car and we see our second main cast member, Constance McCashin as Laura Avery.  Now here’s a character I can’t wait to discuss, and she’ll be around for quite awhile, appearing in nearly 200 episodes and remaining a main cast member until early in season nine.  We don’t have much to say about her yet, however, so stay tuned.

                Anyway, Sid goes into the house, but he hears noises coming from upstairs, from his bedroom.  Now who could this be?  I’ll take a moment to note that, right away, I find this fairly risqué for late ‘70s/early ‘80s television, as we will soon find out that Sid’s wayward young daughter, Annie (guest star Karen Allen, probably best known for Raiders of the Lost Ark) is smoking in Sid and Karen’s bed after a nice afternoon delight with some strange boy.  So within the first five minutes of the first episode of the show, we have a barely legal girl screwing some guy in her father’s bed and then smoking a cigarette afterwards. All rather tawdry, wouldn’t you say?  (Oh yeah, and FYI, I say that the character is supposed to be barely legal; a glance at Karen Allen's IMDb page shows me that she would be around 28 years old right here).

                I always found KL to be a more visually interesting show than Dallas, and that is apparent right away, as well.  Now, make no mistake, this is not Twin Peaks or some modern cable show that you can watch on your big TV and have it look as cinematic as a film; this is still television from 1979-1980 and it still has the limits of the medium from this time.  However, I still see the show taking strides to look more interesting than the other nighttime soaps of the time, and there’s an interesting recurring motif through the use of mirrors in this first episode.  For instance, when Sid bursts into the bedroom to see what his daughter is up to, we don’t exactly follow him into the bedroom, but rather the camera pans into a mirror and we get a little glimpse of what’s going on.  This will occur at least two more times in the episode.

                From here, we cut back to outside, where we find Gary, Val, and SPECIAL GUEST STAR PATRICK DUFFY as Bobby Ewing, getting all unloaded and moved into their new house.  Note that Bobby’s little appearance here provides our first crossover from a Dallas cast member into the world of KL, and there will be a total of nine KL episodes to feature crossovers (including the very next episode we will be discussing, Community Spirit).  Anyway, Bobby’s the first, and while he doesn’t do much in this episode, it is nice to see him, and I enjoy that feeling of linkage, particularly if you followed my instructions and watched the Dallas episode Return Engagements before this.  Remember how that episode basically ended with Bobby, Gary, and Val visiting Knots Landing?  Well, thanks to Duffy’s appearance here, this feels like a very organic continuation of what we saw last week, as he’s now helping his brother and his sister-in-law get unpacked at their new house.  I do confess it would have been nice to see Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie here, as well.  I’m not really particularly fond of her character, but considering her love of Gary and the fact that this home was her gift to him, it would make sense to see her helping them move in.  However, despite all the harping Miss Ellie does over on Dallas about how much Gary means to her, she never once crosses over onto KL, so you know, what are you gonna do?

                For those who missed those Dallas episodes, we also get some exposition here regarding Gary and Val and their still unsteady relationship.  They express how happy they are that Miss Ellie bought them the house and blah blah blah, but then they also reiterate to Bobby that he’s “Not supposed to tell Lucy anything.”  So, as of this moment, young Lucy is totally unaware that her parents have remarried and moved to California, which seems, well, odd.  Why not tell Lucy?  They say how they want to be sure their relationship will work, but that seems awfully pessimistic to me, really, and you know Lucy would be happy about this marriage, no?  But whatever, it’s a plot point, and it’s Gary and Val’s decision, so let’s move on for now (although I will take a brief second to say that I love Valene’s unbelievably old-fashioned white gloves that she is wearing here at the start; they speak volumes about the old-fashioned tastes of this character and her naivette at this point in the saga).

                Next up on our list of neighbors to meet is, without a doubt, the series’ most important character, Karen Fairgate, played brilliantly by Michele Lee, the only cast member to appear in all 344 episodes of the entire series.  I’ll say right now that Karen is my favorite character, at least from memory.  I loved her right away from her first appearance here and my feelings stayed the same throughout the show.  However, part of the fun of this blog will be rewatching and seeing if I change my mind about any things.  Could Karen not be as amazing as I remembered?  Will I find Michele Lee’s acting not quite what it was upon first glance?  I highly doubt that, but opinions do change, so stay tuned to see if a new favorite character emerges or not.

                Why do I love Karen?  Honestly, it’s all on display right here from the start.  She approaches Gary and Val, she is warm and open and welcoming, and she immediately makes efforts to help them feel at home.  She also informs them (and, of course, us) that the Fairgates are the “Neighborhood Brady Bunch,” and that they have two sons, a daughter, and a dog (of course, we never ever see this dog or hear it mentioned ever again, much in the same way we never saw The Brady Bunch's dog after a season or two, so let’s just assume it died somewhere between episode one and episode two, okay?).  Everyone’s all nice and friendly, but then things get EXCITING when the door to the Fairgate house bursts open and Sid throws that mysterious afternoon delight boy out on the street, barely dressed, flinging his clothes out behind him.

                Karen runs up to Sid and we get some really bad ADR for Michele Lee, going, “My God, Sid, what’s going on?!”  Oh boy, is this some obvious looping, almost comically so, but I say that with love.  There is a real charm to some of the more old fashioned elements of the series, and this obvious looping, while ridiculous, does indeed make me smile, and I kinda love it.

                Our first KL fight is between Karen and Sid.  Through this fight, we are able to figure out that this is not Sid’s first marriage, though it is Karen’s, and we learn that Annie is Sid’s daughter from his previous marriage (rest easy, for we shall also be meeting Sid’s ex-wife very shortly, in Civil Wives).  Apparently Annie is supposed to be visiting California for two weeks, but she’s such a hellion that Karen wants her out of the house tonight.  Sid is devoted to the two week idea, probably feeling that sending her back early would be an admission of defeat, but Karen gets a nice little button on the scene when she says, “You want her to stay, you wash the sheets!”

                A quick parlay related to sex in your parents’ bed: What’s the deal with that?  Was this ever actually something that kids liked to do or is it just a product of old movies and TV shows?  I’m immediately thinking of the original 1978 Halloween, where P.J. Soles and her boyfriend come over to a neighbor’s house specifically to screw in their bed, but I also get a sense that there’s this idea of sex in your parents’ bed being this naughty, sexy thing.  Sorry, but I don’t see it.  If I was having sex in my parents’ bed, I would honestly just be thinking about the fact that my parents could very well have had sex in the bed the night before, and I would not be aroused.  But then, perhaps Annie is just doing this specifically to piss Sid off; it’s almost as if she wants to get caught (indeed, when he comes bursting into the room, she doesn’t react with any kind of shock, but instead just says, “Oh, hi Daddy!”).

                Next on the roster is the glorious John Pleshette as Richard Avery.  Richard will be a main cast member for the first four seasons of the show, and he’s a highlight of these early years and, in all honestly, probably my second favorite character from the series after Karen.  Remember that this is just the pilot, so we’re gonna have a lot more time to live and breathe with these characters and get to know them.  For now I will say that Richard is wonderfully deep and one of the most complex characters we ever see.  Is he an asshole?  Is he a nice person?  Well, he’s kinda both, and he has always struck me as very realistic, a person you could know in real life.  I would love to see Pleshette in more stuff, but really all I’ve seen him in is Rocky II and a few episodes of The Wonder Years.  Why this wonderful actor (who, we will later see, is also a brilliant writer and director, beginning with his writing credit on season one's finale, Bottom of the Bottle: Part Two) remains somewhat mired in obscurity is a real mystery to me.

                Anyway, Richard enters the new Ewing home to greet Val, and we get a real good sense of him right off the bat.  There’s something slightly lecherous about the way he peers around, trying to take in information, and correct me if I’m wrong, but do you also get a slightly flirtatious vibe through his interactions with Val?  I get the sense that he’s sorta checking her out, intrigued by the new lady on the block.  Now, to my recollection, nothing sexual ever goes on between Richard and Val, but it’s fun to reflect that this is episode one out of over three hundred and I imagine the writers really had no idea where this could go, so perhaps they were thinking something Richard/Val related might be on the horizons, no?  Richard also finishes this little scene with a fabulous line about how if he doesn’t return home, “My wife will think the worst of you right off, before we give her good reason to.”  Oh, Richard, I love you so much, God bless you.

                Karen and Sid have Gary and Val over for a welcome-to-the-neighborhood dinner.  This is a good little scene not only because it establishes that neighborhood atmosphere, but also because we meet some important characters who will be around for awhile.  First off, we have Claudia Lonow as Diana Fairgate, who will be an important character for the first five years of the show (she even gets bumped up to main cast member for the fifth season), along with Steve Shaw as Eric (he will be around, more or less, until 1990, when the actor sadly died in a car accident) and Pat Petersen as Michael, the youngest Fairgate son.  Michael will actually be in the most episodes out of these three actors, staying with the series until 1991 and even being a main cast member for seasons eleven and twelve of the series.  Michael is pretty young here (according to his birthday, he would be about thirteen right here), basically a little boy, but your patience will be rewarded as you watch him slowly blossom into the most perfect specimen of Sexy All American Boy to ever grace the small screen.  I shant be creepy and write perverse things about a boy who would be, in this episode, thirteen years old, but be prepared for the perverted comments to start around, oh, seasons six/seven/eight time, okay? 

                One of the things I really enjoy and respect about KL, particularly when compared to the parent series, is the consistency of the actors.  For instance, here we meet the three Fairgate children.  Now, these will be the same actors throughout nearly the entire run of the show.  At no point do they age them upwards with SORAS or have them transform into different actors; instead, we really get to watch them grow up over the course of the series.  Next season we will meet Tonya Crowe as Olivia, and she is nine years old when introduced and nineteen years old when she leaves the show, so we get to see her grow and change into a young adult woman right before our eyes.  Compare this with Dallas where Bobby and J.R.’s sons both got aged between seasons and turned into different actors, or where Jenna Wade was played by three different actresses, or where Miss Ellie morphed from Barbara Bel Geddes into Donna Reed and then back into Barbara Bel Geddes again.  KL doesn’t pull that crap; they respected their actors and stuck with them (well, for the most part; I believe Jason Avery morphs between this episode and the next and then he morphs again at some point, and maybe even one more time; I can't remember).

                Next up is the neighborhood block party, which gives us the chance to meet our last two neighbors, Kenny and Ginger Ward.  Oh boy.  You know all that praise I’ve heaped on pretty much everyone so far?  Well, none of that goes towards Kenny and Ginger.  Before I go on to spend the next four seasons insulting them constantly, I should probably add a little caveat that I am sure James Houghton and Kim Lankford are lovely, lovely people, and I mean them no disrespect personally and if they stumble upon my blog, hopefully their feelings won't be hurt by anything I say.  However, they are, bar none, my two least favorite characters ever on the series.  They will be with us for the first four seasons, but trust me, them leaving town at the end of season four is one of the best decisions the show ever makes, and it improves immediately without them around. 

                Why do I hate them so much?  Well, mostly because they’re so boring.  Neither of them are offensive characters, but they’re so achingly bland, and neither of the actors do much of anything to elevate their material, ever.  There’s a reason you probably haven’t seen either of them in, well, anything, and that’s because they aren’t very good actors.  Kenny and Ginger are established as the youngest couple of the block, and he’s a “Hip record producer” (although when we first meet him, he’s playing the worst public domain music I’ve ever heard on his gigantic stereo system) and she’s a school teacher.  Honestly, don’t even waste your energy trying to pay attention to these characters.  Any time they show up on screen, I would highly encourage a break to go pee, to make some popcorn, to make some coffee, to do anything besides sit and be bored by them and their storylines.

                Despite all that, there is one small thing I like about their portion of this pilot episode, and that’s a certain aura of mystery surrounding what happened between Annie and Kenny.  See, Annie wanders over to the Ward house and starts hanging out with Kenny while Ginger is out and about.  She makes some vague reference to doing “What we did last night,” and I am going to assume that the two did, indeed, shag.  Annie sure is a busy girl, no?  We’re about three years away from AIDS being officially named as a life-threatening virus, so this feels like the last hurrah of the “free love” generation, that young Annie can screw Kenny one night, then screw some stranger the next morning, and then return to Kenny for another quick screw just a few hours later.

                While these shenanigans are going on at the Ward house, we’ve got the block party in full swing over at the Avery house.  Not only is this a helpful way to establish exposition (as Richard is pretty much functioning to tell the viewers all the details about the cast of characters), but it also brought me back to a simpler, better time.  Does anybody have neighborhood block parties anymore?  I did some research, and apparently the block party would have been just starting to go out of style right around this time, but it makes sense that these characters, in their ‘30s and ‘40s all (Don Murray is the oldest, I believe, and would have been fifty in this first episode), would still enjoy throwing block parties.  I checked with my parents, by the way (born 1960 and 1962), and they confirmed for me that, as children in the ‘60s and ‘70s, they had block parties all the time, but that by the ‘80s and ‘90s, it wasn’t really something they did anymore. 

                Karen hears that Annie is over at Kenny and Ginger’s house, so she sneaks off to go and investigate.  I will take this time to say that, in the pilot, there is a very slight difference in Karen’s character.  In fact, she seems almost a smidge villainous here, particularly in this scene, and in a way that I don’t think continues throughout the series.  For instance, she busts in on Kenny and Annie dancing to that awful reggae style music, kicks Annie out, and then has a rather threatening conversation with Kenny, something to the effect of how, if Sid finds out about Kenny screwing Annie, he will “Rearrange your face, and then it won’t be so handsome anymore.”  Okay, so it’s not like Karen is acting like J.R. or anything, but it is still a fairly threatening little speech, and she comes off as rather intimidating in this scene, honestly. 

                Next up, we get some DRUNK DRIVING!  See, Annie and Diana return to the Fairgate home late at night, Annie operating the motor vehicle, both of them extremely intoxicated on whiskey and, apparently, returning from a nice swim in the Atlantic Ocean.  Ah, this scene takes me back to a simpler time, as well, as nobody really mentions or cares about the fact that the girls were driving drunk, but only that they were out swimming in the ocean drunk.  Sid slaps Diana, which seems odd, but Karen quickly reminds him that, “You hit the wrong daughter!”  She’s right, by the way.  Okay, so Diana’s drunk, but she’s also only fifteen and clearly under the influence of bad girl Annie, so what do you expect from her?  Annie probably seems cool and rebellious, doing whatever she pleases, not taking any crap from anyone.  The scene actually ends on a nice quiet note, as we watch Annie fiddle with a garden hose, watering some plants, looking rather whimsical.  The music gets quieter, sadder, and we get a sense of the profound confusion in Annie’s mind.

                Annie decides to sneak out that night, but Karen tries to put a stop to this.  That mirror motif I mentioned earlier continues here, as well.  See, Karen gets up out of bed and sneaks out, and then the camera zooms in on the mirror reflecting Sid asleep.  I like that.  Other shows would just, you know, show Sid asleep, and that would be that, but here, we get a nice little bit of style from the use of the reflection.  Then we get some rather interesting cutting when Annie gets angry and breaks the mirror in the downstairs living room.  See, this is done in both slow motion and with strange, rapid jump cuts, which actually creates a rather arresting effect.  Annie runs off into the night, Sid and Karen fight a little bit, and then he runs out after her.

                The next morning, Val gets a call from Annie, who is now at the police station.  See, apparently she got picked up for hustling, even though she wasn’t actually doing that (or was she?  Hard to tell).  Val picks her up from the station and the two drive out to the beach and we get THE BIG SCENE from this first episode.  See, Val gives us the classic line, “I’ve never seen the ocean before,” which will actually return in a pivotal way in the very last episode of the series, and when she and Annie get to the beach, I just have one word for you: Magic.  This is Val’s first time seeing the great big ocean, and she kicks off her shoes and plays in the tide, letting the water collect around her feet, frolicking to and fro, clearly in love with her new surroundings.  The theme kicks in with a little bit of an extra disco beat to it and it’s all just so good.  Cheesy?  You bet, but that’s why I love it so much. 

                Jesus Christ, this is turning into a long writeup, but what can I say, I have a lot to note about this seminal pilot episode.  However, we’re almost to the end here, so let’s get this all wrapped up.  Basically, Val returns Annie to Sid and Karen, there’s another big argument (including Annie implying that Karen used to be a hooker, which is a nice little burn), and then Annie goes running inside, probably to pack and leave town, I dunno.  Fortunately, Sid comes into the bedroom to speak with her, and it’s here that we see what’s going to make this show so very good and so very special: It has heart.  I never really felt moved by Dallas; I don’t think an episode ever made me cry or made me feel something particular for the characters.  Rather, it was, in the words of Patrick Duffy, “Boardrooms and bedrooms.”  Here, I truly care about nearly all of the characters, and I believe in them, so when Sid tries one last time to connect with his angry daughter, I am with him and I want him to succeed.  Both Don Murray and Karen Allen are great in this scene, and while I didn’t cry (Warning: There are future episodes that will probably make me cry), it did move me.

                Things wrap up nicely in the last minute or two of the show.  We get a little pan over the neighborhood and see all the characters doing their thing, such as Gary painting the name “Ewing” in front of their mailbox.  Karen and Sid have a heart to heart and make up with a nice screw in the backseat of the car Sid has been working on.  Then they go for a joyride and we conclude the episode with some more wonderfully bad ADR, this time something to the effect of Sid saying, “My cold is gone, but my back is killing me,” and then we hear Karen sneeze and Sid say, “God bless you.”  They drive off into the sunset and the episode concludes (although the very last thing we see is actually a little preview for next week’s episode featuring J.R. in a crossover).

                In conclusion, I think this is a fantastic pilot, up there with the very best of all time.  It sets up all our main players very elegantly, it manages to provide stories for pretty much everyone (although poor Laura sure doesn’t get much to do here, does she?), and you get the sense that David Jacobs has thought hard about these characters in advance and that he knows them and understands them.  Karen Allen is a great guest star, and it’s something of a shame that we never see her again, because she imbues a real life into this little guest spot, and even though she’s a rebel and sorta a bitch, you do feel for her.  Bobby Ewing’s little cameo at the start provides an elegant linkage from the parent series to the spinoff, and we have plenty of emotional moments that demonstrate what KL will do so well throughout its entire run.  As I said before, the first three seasons are probably among my least favorite of the show, but this is a fantastic start and shows a lot of promise for the series to follow. 
               But wait, I'm not totally done yet!  Not only is this our first KL episode of all time, but it's also the first and last episode of 1979 and of the entire '70s, for that matter (unless you're one of those people who considers 1980 the last year of the '70s and 1990 the last year of the '80s and so on and so forth), so I think it's time for a quick little reflection on some of the important things that happened in the world in 1979.  Lemme think here, hmmm, well, Jimmy Carter was still President of the United States.  In February, Sid Vicious was found dead of a heroin overdose at age 21.  In May, Margaret Thatcher became Britain's first female prime minister.  In June, McDonald's introduced THE HAPPY MEAL in its efforts to further clog the arteries of all of us already-too-fat Americans, this time by specifically targeting our children.  Stephen King had two books this year, first The Long Walk (published under his pen name of Richard Bachman) in July and then one of his all time greatest, The Dead Zone, in August.  As for King movies, Tobe Hooper directed the TV movie of Salem's Lot which aired this year on CBS (and which I still think has many legitimately frightening moments).  One of my favorite James Bond movies, Moonraker, also came out that year.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture also came out, turning that TV series into a cinematic force to be reckoned with that continues to this day.  Steven Spielberg released one of his absolute worst movies of all time this year, the "comedy" movie 1941 (I forgive him for this terrible movie because it's sandwiched between two masterpieces, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark).  Finally, on the television landscape, the top ten series of the 1978-1979 season (going from #10 to #1) were Taxi, All in the Family, The Ropers, MASH, 60 Minutes, Angie, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Three's Company, and Laverne & Shirley.

             That's about all I got for our little 1979 wrapup as well as my feelings on the majestic Pilot of KL.  Mark my words that we are off on an adventure, that we are about to have fourteen years of some of the most glorious television ever committed to the small screen, and it all starts right here.  Tune in next week when I discuss the first of five guest spots by Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing with Community Spirit




  1. As epic as I expected it would be.

    I am very excited for you to get to such juicy episodes as The Lie and the horror of Land of the Free.

  2. Once again, another great read. Looking forward to the next!

  3. Great blog and much appreciated (unlike the brilliant KL, by most it seems!)

  4. Awesomeness! I expected nothing less. You pointed out things (like the mirror shots) that I hadn't really noticed before. And I wish Karen Allen would have stayed with the series. I saw some interview with her at some point where she said that people still ask her about the pilot. It was a small blip in her acting career, but a big deal to the Knot's fanatics like us!

    And I am SO looking forward to 70 or so episodes of you ragging on Kenny and Ginger. You are so right. They never fit into the show. If you had the ability to edit them out of the show, it wouldn't affect the overall series universe much. And that public domain music was hideous. I was a kid in 1979, but I can swear that NOBODY would have thought that music was cool...let alone a supposedly "hip" record producer.

  5. Amazing 1st episode. I too think Karen Allen would have been interesting character if she had stay.

  6. Amazing Pilot and another amazing job covering each and every detail that gives KL that extra magic that was missing from the other 80's prime time soaps. Most pilots are the worst episode of any series because there is such much exposition and world building. The exposition is here but there is an actual storyline going on that feels true to life. I kind of like that we do not get complete closure on Annie's story. We are left to wonder if she gets her act together and repairs her relationship with her father. This is unique in a time when television was more episodic then serialized and issues were resolved by the end of the hour. There are seeds being planted throughout the episode that will resonate through the whole first season and even throughout the entire series.

  7. Val on the beach--such a magical scene. There is something about the first season that just captures the essence of the beginning of the 80's like a perfect little time capsule. I love season one if for no other reason than that one. This is probably going to get redundant for you to read 344+ more times, but I'm loving these write ups and so happy to be revisiting this amazing series through your words.

  8. Nice job. The LORIMAR set-up at the beginning was added as part of the syndication package as a means to provide extra exposition so viewers who weren't watching regularly M-F could jump in. Dallas did the same thing when it went into syndication. It didn't really work. Neither lasted long in syndication.

  9. Question. Do you know where I might be able to get my hands on a copy of the pilot script? I am taking a class and of course I chose Knots.

  10. I just Love the very first episode of "Knots Landing", Sid Fairgate (Don Murray) is my all-time favorite character. So sad when Sid died.

    Many thanks for sharing such a great post! ♥

  11. Miss Ellie: Here ya go, Gah-Ry and Va-al! Here's yer new house! I'll nevah visit, not even when I ha-ave gra-and-children!" LOL!

    When I was younger, I was all about the smooth, blond guys, but man Kenny looked hot! I want to run my fingers through his chest hair!

    Karen Allen filmed "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1980, so I guess she was too big to come back next season. It's a shame they couldn't have recasted her, though! Especially when you-know-who dies!

  12. The best part of the Pilot is Val at the beach.

  13. What a fantastic review !
    What a fantastic blog... I've discovered your blog yesterday and I'm already addicted !

    Greetings from Belgium

  14. Brett, I agree with you about the sitcom Friends.