Sunday, February 21, 2016

KNOTS LANDING Episode 018 of 344: KRISTIN

Episode Title: Kristin

Season 02, Episode 05

Episode 018 of 344

Written by Diana Gould

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro 

Original Airdate: Thursday, December 18th, 1980

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com):.                Kristin Shepard is in Los Angeles following the shooting of J.R. in Dallas. After being arrested at a party for drug use, she calls Gary and Val for help and manipulates Val into letting her stay with the Ewings, but ends up causing trouble in the cul-de-sac. Kenny ends his relationship with Sylvie and tries to reconcile with Ginger, but his involvement with Kristin poses a problem.


                After the high of highs that was Chance of a Lifetime, could any episode immediately following it even come close to measuring up?  Hmmm, perhaps, like let’s say if The Plesh had gotten to just write another episode directly after that one, or if the episode in question continued on the path being set by that hour of television that was, for me, so extremely enjoyable.  However, our next episode goes a slightly different direction, bringing us our first Dallas crossover since Home is For Healing.  How does this episode measure up when compared to the previous?  Let’s explore.

                Kristin represents our fourth out of what will turn out to be nine KL eps featuring crossover characters from the parent series.  You’ll recall that Patrick Duffy had a little appearance as Bobby  back in Pilot, dropping Gary and Val off at their new home.  The very next episode, Community Spirit, featured Larry Hagman as J.R. as a pivotal guest character for that week, and then a few episodes later, in Home is For Healing, Charlene Tilton showed up as Lucy Ewing, visiting Gary and Val for a few days.  So who’s our special crossover guest star this week?  Why, that would be Kristin, played by the delightfully wicked Mary Crosby.  It’s at this point that I’ll take a moment to discuss where Kristin falls in relation to both KL as well as its parent series.

                We actually saw Mary Crosby fairly recently, in our two Brief Dallas Interludes.  However, we did not watch the famous Dallas episode entitled Who Done It?, mainly because it did not feature Gary or Val in an appearance, and I’m only including the Dallas eps that feature one or both of those characters.  However, I think anyone with a little knowledge of the television medium knows what a big freaking deal Who Done It?  was.  For those who aren’t aware, that would be the episode where we found out who, in fact, shot J.R. in the closing moments of the third season of that series.  This episode went down in history as the most watched television episode ever (with something ridiculous like 300 million people worldwide or something), and it has only been beaten twice as of this writing (once by the final episode of MASH in 1983 and once by the 2007 Super Bowl).

                My point?  Everyone was watching that episode of Dallas.  It was a major media circus and that particular episode was hyped up as an event everyone had to see.  Anyway, that episode aired on Friday, November 21st, 1980, and in it, we learned that J.R. had been shot by his villainous little mistress/sister-in-law, Kristin.  Now, we have Kristin showing up in a KL episode airing Thursday, December 18th, 1980.  Why do I note these dates?  Mostly because I wish to demonstrate what a tacky and obvious crossover this is, that they take a character who is at the peak of her fifteen minutes of fame (sorry, Mary) and, less than a month after the airing of the famous Dallas episode, they transplant her over to the spinoff series in an obvious attempt at ratings boosting.  A quick reminder that Dallas would finish the 1980-1981 season ranking at #1 while KL ranked at #28, so was this cross-promotion in any way successful?  I’m not sure, as I don’t have the exact facts and figures of how many people watched this particular episode of KL (I would be very interested to see a seasonal chart of the ratings and how they go up and down throughout a single year).  

                In any case, I’m not against tacky cross-promotion, and one of the things I really enjoy about the early years of KL is that it does seem so strictly linked back to its parent series.  As I mentioned, after 1985 I don’t think KL ever mentions Dallas again, although I’ll keep my ears open when I get to that juncture of the series.  Here in the early days, the two shows are going to great strides to demonstrate that they exist in the same universe and to remind us that, while J.R. and Bobby are doing whatever they’re doing over in Texas, just down in California, Gary and his friends are having adventures of their own.  So I like very much the idea of one big world with all these different characters from the two series existing in it.  At the same time, however, this is almost surely gonna rank at the very bottom of the nine crossover eps.  Bringing in Mary Crosby at this particular date in the series is just too obvious for me.  However, I could get over that if she had anything interesting to do, but unfortunately she does not. 

                I will applaud the writers of the two series for having a good continuity from show to show, however, as Kristin’s presence in California makes sense for the last time we saw her on Dallas.  See, she revealed that she shot J.R., but the thing to remember is that only J.R. and Sue Ellen know that.  If you’ll recall, just as J.R. is about to phone the police, Kristin reveals that she is pregnant with J.R.’s baby.  The result?  Rather than turn her in, J.R. ships her off to California and hopes never to see her again (spoiler alert, but Kristin will end up dead in the Southfork pool at the conclusion of this television season, so she doesn’t wind up pestering J.R. for long).  Anyway, as we begin the episode, Kristin is in California at some party.  Of course, being pregnant, perhaps Kristin shouldn’t be surrounding herself with alcohol and drugs, but whatever, she was never gonna be mother of the year, anyway.  I suppose I should note that Kristin is not actually shown taking any drugs, it’s more of a 7th Heaven situation where someone hands her some drugs (I think it’s coke?) and then a second later some cops materialize and arrest her.  So we’re about five minutes into the episode and Kristin has already been taken to jail for possession.  We’re moving right along now.

                I guess Kristin must have remembered that Dallas episode she appeared in where Gary and Val got their new house in California (for those who have forgotten, it was Return Engagements and it was Brief Dallas Interlude #4 out of 12), or perhaps she just remembers Gary since he just recently came to Texas to visit.   In any case, she calls up Val and tells her she is in prison.  Ever the nice and goodhearted person, Val comes and gets her out of jail and even lets her stay at the house for awhile.

                When Gary arrives home, he is not terribly pleased to see Kristin waiting there for him.  We get a reminder of not one or two but five  characters back in Texas.  First off, Gary gives Bobby a call to tell him who has stopped by for a visit.  We don’t see Bobby, but we know that’s who Gary is talking to (if you’re in need of a Bobby fix, don’t worry, as he will be crossing over into KL very shortly in the ep The Loudest Word).  Secondly, Gary tells Bobby “My love to Lucy and Mama,” so we get a mention of those two.  Finally, while arguing in the kitchen about Kristin’s presence in the house, Val points out that Kristin isn’t like Sue Ellen just like Gary is nothing like J.R.  Again, I reiterate my appreciation for the casual mentions of characters from over on the parent series. 

                Unfortunately, the vast majority of the rest of the ep deals entirely with, sigh, Kenny and Ginger.  My goodness, wasn’t our last episode so refreshing without either of these two in it?  The Plesh was smart when writing his script for Chance of a Lifetime because he didn’t even bother to write a part for Kenny or Ginger.  He knew they were boring and that nobody cared.  However, the writer of this episode (Diana Gould) decides to devote nearly the whole hour to these toxic bores, and every second they are onscreen sinks my esteem for this ep further and further down into the gutter. 

                I guess we have to talk about them, so let’s get to it.  You’ll recall from season one that Kenny was enjoying an affair with his little singing whore Sylvie at least as early as Home is For Healing.  At the climax of the first season, Ginger finally caught Kenny and Sylvie together, her eyes got all big and bugged out and frightening, and she threw Kenny out of the house.  Now, as we commence the second season, the couple is still split up though not technically divorced, and they did enjoy a quick romp in the sack back in Remember the Good Times.  Aside from that, however, their relationship is ending, at least so far as Ginger is concerned. 

                In this episode, Ginger finally starts dating a new person who she seems to really like.  I’m fine with this development because I also like this actor.  The character’s name is Karl Russelman and he’s played by the bearded David Haskell.  Don’t be alarmed if you have no idea who this guy is or why I care about him; he’s just a character actor who pops up in stuff throughout the ‘80s.  Looking at his IMDb, I am shocked to note that he died in 2000 at the age of 52 of brain cancer.  I honestly had no idea.  Anyway, the movie I go to when I see this guy is always Brian De Palma’s Body Double, in which he has a hilarious and memorable role as a pretentious drama teacher.  As for the character of Karl, it’s not as if he does anything interesting; in fact, he’s pretty damn bland. However, I like the actor and I like his beard and I’d frankly rather see Ginger dating this guy versus having boring relationship dramas with Kenny, so I’ll take it.  Mr. Haskell will return for two more eps of KL, both in the second season, and they are Breach of Faith and Scapegoats.  I’ll discuss him more in those later eps.

                Over in Kenny’s neighborhood (and speaking of which, where the heck is Kenny living now that Ginger has thrown him out?  Is he living at Sylvie’s?), things are getting complicated.  He’s clearly at the end of his rope with Sylvie, who’s boring and bland bitchiness is really getting out of control.  She makes it very clear that she does not want Kenny working with any new lady singers, none whatsoever, conveniently ignoring the fact that Kenny’s job is a “Hip young record producer,” so probably female singers are going to be a part of his daily life.  Kenny basically breaks up with Sylvie in this episode, but I have the feeling it doesn’t take since Sylvie is still going to be in a few eps throughout the second season.  Meanwhile, Kenny meets up with Kristin and gets an immediate boner for her.  The two hang out in the abandoned recording studio sipping cocktails for awhile and a heavy flirtation follows. 

                We were about halfway through the episode and I was wondering why I was having such a hard time paying attention to the developments.  Finally I realized that my problem was that there is SO MUCH Kenny and Ginger in this episode!  True, Kristin moves in briefly with Gary and Val, so we get some scenes with them, and we have a few little scenes with my other beloved friends from the cul-de-sac (including a fabulous scene of sexy gardening between Richard and Abs), but for the most part, this is The Kenny and Ginger Show and that’s a pretty god damned uninteresting show to have to sit through.  As I watched, I tried to put my finger on what exactly is wrong with these characters.  After all, all these shenanigans about adultery and new romances should feel right at home on any nighttime soap, so why is it so dull here?  The answer lies in pretty much all three of the principal characters, and I’m including Sylvie there, as well.  Since Kenny and Ginger are just so fundamentally boring to watch, nothing they do can peak my interest.  Ginger is just a generic “nice girl” and Kenny is just a block of wood, easily the least engaging cast member in the entire series run.  Finally, Sylvie may be a bitch, but she’s not an interesting bitch.  She snarls and makes evil faces and acts generally wicked, but who can possibly care about this character? 

                The same goes for Kristin, I’m sorry to say.  Now, let me make sure it’s clear before I go on: I am only referring to Kristin being dull within the confines of this episode.  Throughout her 28 episodes of Dallas, I thoroughly enjoyed the character and her wicked ways (although my favorite evil woman on Dallas will always be the delicious Katherine Wentworth).  She fit in so very well over on that series, but as she crosses over for this KL, it’s like all the energy and life has been sucked right out of her.  I’ll just blame Kenny and Ginger, since Kristin plays so heavily into their story this week, and those two just cultivate blandness around them; Kristin is merely sucked into their boring black hole and becomes boring herself.

                Even as a guest actress, I honestly get the feeling that Mary Crosby didn’t want to be here at all.  She doesn’t display the same energy she showed over on Dallas and she honestly just looks bored. I wonder if this little guest spot was something she had zero interest in and was somewhat forced to do to cash in on the “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon.  Hell, I could be completely wrong, but that’s sure the sense I get.  There’s none of that mischievous evil fun she displayed on Dallas.  Here, you get the sense that she’s an evil girl, but she doesn’t seem all that evil, if that makes any sense. 

                The episode limps along for awhile before reaching an abrupt conclusion.  One scene I did kinda like occurs between Kristin and Val, in the guest bedroom that will shortly be occupied for some six years by Lilimae (who, by the way, I am really missing right now and looking forward to seeing become part of the main cast).  In this scene, Kristin reveals to Val that she is pregnant, maintaining the continuity with Dallas.  I like this alright, although I do wish the scene hadn’t included Val snuggling her face up into Kristin’s lap (why does she do this?!).  Also, this doesn’t exactly go anywhere.  Kristin reveals she’s pregnant and then, well, that’s it.  This is her one and only appearance on KL, and then she’d return to Dallas at the close of the season just to be killed off.

                This brings me to another problem with this episode.  Even though I would encourage those watching KL for the first time to start with those four Brief Dallas Interludes, it’s not that big a deal if one were to just start watching KL without any knowledge of the parent series.  However, Kristin’s guest spot here feels completely random and useless if one has no knowledge or interest in what’s going on over in Texas.  If you are just watching KL, she shows up, she causes some very minor shenanigans, she reveals that she is pregnant, and then she disappears never to be heard from again.  I could see a viewer (not a viewer in 1980, by the way, since I’m pretty sure everyone knew who she was and that she had shot J.R.) being very confused by who this chick is and what she’s doing here on this series.  It’d be one thing if she showed up for a series of episodes and became part of a greater storyline, but instead she’s just stopping by while taking a brief break from her gig on Dallas.

                I’ll take another moment to talk about the very last scene of the episode.  Basically Kenny is cutting a record with….um….somebody (is it Sylvie?) and everything’s going along great.  However, just as they are mid song, a man arrives with a little envelope for Kenny.  “Are you Kenny Ward?” he asks, and then hands him the envelope, revealing that Ginger is officially filing for divorce.  Boom, we get the “Executive Producers: Michael Filerman and David Jacobs” text on the screen and the episode concludes.  At this point, I actually yelled out, “That was a terrible episode!” and just to show that I am not alone, My Beloved Grammy agreed. She even called it the worst episode we’ve watched so far. 

She’s a wise lady, and I absolutely agree with her.  This is the worst episode of the eighteen that we’ve watched so far.  It’s the worst for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but let me reiterate real fast: Kristin’s guest spot feels rather unrelated to anything going on over here in the KL universe, not to mention the fact that Mary Crosby looks completely bored and disinterested throughout the whole 48 minutes.  Also, the episode is just so God damned heavy on the Kenny and Ginger material.  In fact, let’s take a moment to ask what the writers could possibly have been thinking while penning this script.

Okay, you have Dallas, which is a complete screaming success at this point, the #1 show on television that just had the most watched episode of TV ever presented.  Okay, so you want to get some of those Dallas viewers to tune in to the spinoff on Thursday nights, right?  That’s all fine well and good, but if you are bringing in a guest star and trying to rope in new viewers, why would you then present them with such a boring episode?  I’m trying to imagine myself as a viewer in 1980 (I wasn’t born until 1990, so please follow me on this little hypothetical).  Let’s say I’m a loyal Dallas viewer who has, at this point, never seen an episode of KL.  Well, perhaps all the “Who Shot J.R.?” hype and the promotion of Mary Crosby crossing over to KL peaks my interest, so let’s say I tune in to this particular episode.  After spending an hour watching Kenny and Ginger’s relationship dramas, I don’t think I would be tuning in again next week.  I would say, “No thanks,” and return to being a loyal Dallas viewer.  If you are trying to get new viewers, don’t you want to make the tacky crossover episode the best one ever?  Don’t you want them to give the show a chance and then be blown away by how great and exciting it is?  That’s how you attract an audience, but this episode is so bland that I doubt anyone would watch it and then be ready the next Thursday for another ep. 

By the way, if I sound really angry and hostile, please don’t misunderstand me.  My heart will always belong to KL; I love it and its characters and its world and this is only episode 18 out of freaking 344, so we’ve still got plenty of material to talk about.  I’m just making the argument that, at this point in the series, I think this episode is an almost complete failure and is the worst of the series so far, even worse than the stupid-but-kinda-fun-to-watch Land of the Free  (whether it will remain the worst is still a mystery, but finding out is what this blog is all about, no?).  Even so, it’s easy to forgive because when you have 344 episodes, of course you’re gonna have a few stinkers along the way, and we’re still in the very earliest years of the series, when they are working to find their footing and establish themselves.  Sometimes these things take time and I’ll take a bad episode or two considering how many wonderful and exciting hours of television KL will wind up bringing us.
But wait, I'm not completely done yet.  Kristin may not be notable for much, but it is notable for being the last KL episode of 1980.  So, as I did with 1978 (in Brief Dallas Interlude Reunion: Part Two) and 1979 (in the KL Pilot) beforehand, let's take a moment to go over significant cultural or historical things that happened throughout 1980.  Well, Stephen King only published one book this year (slow year for King!), and that was Firestarter (a decent enough book, but not one of my favorites from the first ten years of his output).  However, this was also the year that Stanley Kubrick released his brilliant movie adaptation of The Shining, although it deviated greatly from the source material. 
Hmmm, what else?  Well, Brian De Palma released two movies this year, one that almost nobody besides me has seen (Home Movies) and one that remains one of his most popular and successful (Dressed to Kill).  In fact branching off from that, I think of 1980 as one of the premiere years of the horror film, as we had just a ton of them released that year.  The most remembered (and for good reason) is the very first Friday the 13th movie, which cost less than a million dollars to make and wound up grossing nearly 60 million (which explains why there are eleven more movies in that franchise).  We also had Prom Night, He Knows You're Alone, The Fog, and Terror Train.  
My favorite serial killer, Ted Bundy, was officially incarcerated this year and Ann Rule published her brilliant book about knowing him and working to solve his murders, The Stranger Beside Me.  On the subject of evil people, Ronald Reagan was also elected as President of the United States during November of 1980, a job he would retain all the way until January of 1989 (so basically the entire 1980s are "The Reagan Years").  Also, there was that whole famous "Hostages Coming Home" thing that I've never really paid that much attention to (but I did enjoy the movie Argo). 
Obviously stupid shit like who was the President of the United States pales in comparison to what was truly important: The top ten shows of the 1979-1980 season, and they were (going from #10 to #1) One Day at a Time, The Dukes of Hazzard, The Jeffersons, Flo, Dallas, Alice, MASH, That's Incredible!, Three's Company, and 60 Minutes
That about does it for my wrapup of the year 1980 (although I'm sure I missed a ton of important stuff) along with my thoughts on current series low-point Kristin.  Tune in next week for our first episode of 1981, Step One.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with most your critique, even though I don't share your complete dislike of the Wards. I am still not sure whether it's the stuff that they have been given or whether it's the actors. But Kim Lankford can pull it together when she has to (like on the creepy episode in season one with the long-ago abortion).

    Anyway, I thought there were two noteworthy bits in this episode. One was more comical but well acted -- it's when Kenny shows up at the Ewings and meets Kristin for the first time. Gary is explaining who she is but Kenny is clearly not listening and is flirting with her. All the while, Gary keeps saying something ("she is my sister-in-law's sister, which I guess makes her my sister-in-law in-law or my sister-in-law squared.... actually I can't stand my sister-in-law") but is completely ignored. (Val is running off to the kitchen to make sure the gravy is not burned...)

    The other bit is a nice piece of continuity. While Richard does some sexy gardening with Abby ("the placement of the seedling is very important"), Karen shows up and she and Richard engage in a really childish fight about why Richard was dropped from Sid's case a few episodes back. After Abby intervenes they make up. I thought this was a nice bit of continuity that resolves the ending of the hitchhiker episodes.

    Oh and Sylvie (super annoying, yes) wears a Cosmic Steeple t-shirt. Wasn't this the "crazy" band from season one, when Lucy was visiting? A nice touch!