Thursday, February 27, 2020




Episode Title: Missing Persons

Season 09, Episode 01

Episode 191 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan

Original Airdate: Thursday, September 24th, 1987

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): After five weeks, no one can find Peter. Val grieves over Ben, and makes up with Laura. Abby's really worried about Olivia, who has been having nightmares, and has reverted to infantile behavior. Mack becomes friendly with a man from his messenger service, Al Baker. Paige goes to Greg, concerned about her paternity. He plants a passionate kiss on her to prove he's not her father. Then Mack and Paige discover that they are both allergic to cantaloupe, so he must be her father! The crack at the Lotus Point playground gets worse. Workmen say it's structural, and needs to come out. Abby just wants it patched, but Gary and Karen out vote her. The workmen remove the cement and find Peter's body.


Welcome back to a brand new season of KL.  Here we are in late September of 1987 (a year MBG remembers as one of the best years of her life; she was dating my Grampy, they moved into their house together, I was less than three years away from coming into the universe, and everyone was very happy) and I’m very excited to get started discussing a brand new season.  After my lukewarm response to season eight (“lukewarm” being an understatement), I’m totally ready for a fresh new start with a fresh new year.  I’m ready to leave all my season eight problems in the past and look onward towards the future, and I feel a high degree of confidence in saying this season should be a vast improvement over our last one, and perhaps even an improvement over season seven, as well.  Let’s get started.

                The first thing we see as we start Missing Persons is our usual thirty second preview giving us a little taste of what’s to come.  That’s all fine, well, and good, but then we move into something completely different, and that’s our brand new opening credits design, that of the painting, the design that will span through all of seasons nine and ten before we get another new opening in season eleven.  This is pretty exciting because we’ve had the same design for the opening all the way since season three when the glory of the scrolling squares on black background was first unveiled.  To me, that’s the most classic and iconic opening design of the show, and it also coincides with the best years of the show (seasons four through six), so it’s the opening my brain always jumps to when I’m thinking of KL.  Of course, the style and sound of the musical theme got a little adjustment every year, but the physical layout of the credits remained pretty much the same all the way from The Vigil on November 12th, 1981 to Cement the Relationship on May 14th, 1987.  That opening spanned six years and 159 eps, so it’s definitely been some time since we got a redesign.  In fact, MBG was rather put off by this new opening, asking why they felt the need to change it, and I reminded her that they have already changed it once before, since the first two seasons had a totally different style of opening, as well.

                Okay, so what happens in this opening?  Well, we start with a Rocky style scroll of words across the screen (or a Cruising style scroll, if you prefer), the title of the series unfolding in glorious cursive before our very eyes while a mellow bit of music plays.  Then we jump into the main thrust of the opening, which is the camera panning up over this bizarre Jackson-Pollack-looking painting (I did my research and found that this painting and this entire opening were designed by a man named Sandy Dvore who also designed the opening credits for The Young and the Restless and, after giving those credits a quick look, I would say they definitely have a similar flavor).  Anyway, as the camera pans over the painting, we get the actors shots in little circles that sorta appear in the middle of the screen, and pretty much every cast member’s shot is a hysterical laugh riot.  In fact, the first time I hit this ep originally, I was very upset to see this new opening and immediately yearned for my beautiful scrolling squares.  However, I quickly got over that issue and found myself enjoying this opening as high camp, which is how it’s best viewed.  See, the theme song has been slowed down a ton (I believe J.V.A. referred to this version of the theme as “a funeral dirge” and she's not exactly wrong) and so now we’re getting a more mellow, more soothing arrangement of the theme versus the more bombastic and exciting sounding themes of yore.  While I don’t like this theme as much as many from seasons past (although I would put this theme over the atrocious season eight version), I have also come to appreciate the sounds of the opening theme this year and next year.  Once you listen to it a few times, it becomes rather soothing and also manages to stick in your head.  But really, the piece da resistance of this opening is the hilariously campy actors’ shots.  Pretty much nobody escapes this opening unscathed, so let’s just go down the list, In Alphabetical Order, as always.  In fact, I’ll even give a little commentary on what I think is running through the brains of these actors as they pose for these ridiculous shots. 

  •  William Devane: "I’m gonna start out looking straight ahead and then slowly turn my head to face the camera looking ever so perfectly masculine and serious."
  • Kevin Dobson: "I will look sadly down at the ground while wearing a little half frown so as to show that I'm a sweet, sensitive kind of guy."
  • Julie Harris: "Even though I look a little silly because this opening is a little silly, I’m probably the only cast member to manage to escape this with my dignity intact, plus I’m also the only one who bothers to put on a smile for the camera."
  • Michele Lee: "I’m naked for some reason."
  • Constance McCashin: "This opening is stupid and they’ve just fired me after being one of the best characters on the show all the way since the very first episode, so I’m doing my Constance McCashin Spin and I don’t give a shit if you like it or not."
  • Donna Mills: "I guess I’m trying to look sexy, but for some reason this particular version of 'looking sexy' looks a hell of a lot more like Jack Nicholson in the last half hour of The Shining." 
  • Ted Shackelford: "I’m gonna do the opposite of Mack by starting out looking down ponderously and then slowly turning my head up to face the audience, and you know what, I’ll even throw in a little half smile but not a full one."
  • Joan Van Ark: "Do you like my new Flock of Seagulls haircut?"  

That pretty much takes care of our cast, and then the opening finishes up by zooming out from the painting so we can see the entirety of it and realize that it doesn’t look like anything except a big glob of multicolored paint that someone flung onto a blank white canvas.  Finally, we see the full, epic title of the series presented before us in cursive, and that pretty much ends our opening.  However, before I move on, I do want to note that The Constance McCashin Spin is a highlight of the entire series for me.  This is easily the silliest and campiest looking screen credit of any actor in a television series, ever, but I like to think Constance was doing that on purpose, that she saw how silly and overly-serious this attempt-to-be-arty opening was and decided to just embrace the camp and unveil The Constance McCashin Spin.  Laura is not long for the series, as we will be seeing her for the very final time in the eleventh ep of the season, Noises Everywhere: Part Two, so make sure to soak up as much of The Constance McCashin Spin as you can get before it goes away.  Anyway, like I said, this opening doesn’t rank up there with the peak openings of seasons five through seven, but I’ve also come to love it over the years and now I embrace it for the high camp, recognizing that it looks way more daytime soap opera than our previous openings, but not really minding it all that much.

After the opening, we get something like five minutes of recap from the concluding hours of our last season (indeed, we are at the seven minute mark before we finally get to new footage from this ep).  How do fans feel about these long recaps?  I’m obsessed with watching the show properly, and that means watching the whole package, the thirty second preview, the opening credits, the recaps, all of it; whatever is presented before me must be watched.  I’m a big fan of the gigantic recaps that start out new seasons because, first of all, it helps to remind me of the great big summer that has gone by and how long it’s been since a new KL ep graced the screen.  It’s very different to watch the show nowadays in the way MBG and I are doing it, several eps in a row, consistently getting together to keep watching.  I like to try and pretend it’s the 1980s and imagine how it would feel to have a big cliffhanger like Cement the Relationship and then have to wait nearly five months to see the story continue.  I really don’t think I would cope well waiting all summer for resolution; I feel I would become consumed and obsessed with the cliffhanger and think about it all summer and be unable to enjoy any other aspects of my life.  I think I’m just allergic to watching shows the old fashioned way, because when I have watched current series as they air, I would usually stock up five or six eps before powering through them all in a marathon, versus watching just one a week.  I also think it would cause me to put a great deal of stock in how the cliffhanger resolves itself, versus watching the series more quickly and not caring quite so much about the resolutions. 

The first new footage we get to see after our long recap is positively fabulous, and that is a very surreal sequence of a bunch of creepy kids walking around the playground like zombies and singing London Bridge is Falling Down together.  What a strange way to start the ep, and I mean that in a complimentary way.  I assume we are supposed to take this footage at face value, that Abs is really hanging around the playground at Lotus Point and watching these creepy ass kids chanting an old nursery rhyme for some reason.  However, I also like to hypothesize that this opening is a dream or a vision from a paranoid Abs, who is obsessed with this playground and the crack in the foundation.  I like to think she’s just sorta imagining this scene in her head, that it’s symbolic of her stress.  Opinions? 

We’re gonna spend a lot of time with Abs and Olivia this week, so let’s talk about them first.  Abs is full of paranoia that Peter’s body will be discovered while Olivia is racked with guilt about what’s happened.  One thing worth noting is that at no point do the two ladies sit down and talk about what exactly happened.  Instead, the two are existing together in this strange state of uncertainty, Olivia assuming that her mother killed Peter and Abs assuming that Olivia killed Peter.  The timeline in this ep is very confusing (more on that later), but I would think that at some point since Abs tossed Peter’s body into the pit, the two might have sat down and been like, “So, which one of us actually killed him?”  This is a bit of a silly plot flaw and I recognize it as such, but I’m also willing to just go with it since I enjoy this story as a whole and all the drama that it creates.  Also, plenty of families keep plenty of secrets or go about their lives not speaking about some deep dark secret or other, so I suppose the same could be true of Abs and Olivia.  Perhaps Abs doesn’t even want to ask Olivia if she killed Peter because she can’t handle the possibility of Olivia having to say out loud that she did it. 

I pretty much love all the stuff with Abs and Olivia this week.  I love how they are always sticking close together, how we get the sense that Olivia doesn’t want to leave her mother’s side, and I also love seeing Abs in protective mother bear mode, doing whatever it takes to keep her daughter safe, even if it means fucking up a crime scene and taking a dead body and burying it in cement.  Anyway, yeah, so we get a lot of scenes of them together, shit like Olivia insisting on doing her homework right alongside her mother or asking if she can sleep in Abs bed because she had a scary nightmare.  However, the highlight of the ep for me comes in a fantastically campy sequence set at Lotus Point in which Olivia frantically pulls Sexy Michael aside and asks if he’d like to dance with her, which he agrees to.  Some truly-horrible-yet-also-kinda-wonderful-at-the-same-time Public Domain Music starts blasting through the dance floor while Olivia and Sexy Michael show off their pathetic dance moves.  Saturday Night Fever this ain't, as Olivia’s entire package of moves boils down to her spinning in circles while kinda shrugging her arms up and down over and over again.  Sexy Michael isn’t much better, I hate to admit, and that actually somewhat deflates my boner as far as Sexy Michael is concerned.  Make no mistake, I would still like to take Sexy Michael and show him what a real man can do, but he’s lost some points in my book after acting like a 12 year old girl last season with all his “Paige, I love you” nonsense and now these horrendous dance moves.  If I took Sexy Michael out on a date, obviously dancing would be the last thing on my mind, but I’d still like to know that he would be capable of dancing with me without looking like a complete loser, and now I’m not so sure that would be the case.  Of course, he is dancing with his cousin, so perhaps he doesn’t waste the good moves on her.  If he was dancing with someone he was feeling romantic towards, perhaps he would do a better job. 

Abs spends the whole ep fretting and worried about that crack in the foundation at the playground, but for the majority of the ep, nothing happens in that department.  Abs argues that it’s just a settling crack and they don’t need to rip the entire foundation up, but Karen and Gary do not agree and decide to proceed with bringing in the bulldozers.  This was a small scene that I enjoyed because it had a healthy dose of strong, masculine Gary.  See, Karen and Abs are bickering about the cost of construction, and then finally Gary is like “Hey!” all loud and then he says, “Here’s what’s gonna happen.  I’m gonna hire Carre, he’s gonna fix it, and if I have to, I’ll pay for it.”  Then he walks off.  I love how he just swoops in and stops Karen and Abby’s bickering and is authoritative and tough and I just love it.  Anyway, his decision leads us to our final scene of the ep, in which the construction guys dig down deep and say, “Gee, we think we’ve found the dead body of a not-very-interesting character from the last two seasons” and Abs making her face like she’s about to poop her pants.  As far as Abs and Olivia are concerned this week, I have no complaints (aside from that little plot point which I addressed earlier).

Moving over to some other characters, let’s talk about what Val is up to this week.  Val is responsible for the majority of my confusion over the timeline at this point, and let me tell you why.  By now, we should all be used to the weird way that summers just don’t seem to exist in the land of television, that our cliffhanger can be in a mid-May and then we can pick up in late September continuing right where we left off.  In the case of this premiere, however, rather than picking up a couple of seconds after the concluding events of last season, we are actually told that some time has passed.  How much time, though?  I get confused because at some point, Val tells Lilimae that it’s been “months” of sitting by the phone and waiting in vain for Ben to call.  When I first heard that line, I was like, “Oh, how interesting, they are actually directly addressing that a whole summer has passed and it’s now September,” but then I just get confused because later they say that Peter’s body has been missing for five weeks.  Okay, so which is it?  Has it been five weeks or nearly five months?  How can Ben have been MIA for several months yet Peter’s body has only been missing for five weeks?  The only possible explanation I have is that, since Ben actually blew town two eps before the finale of season eight, perhaps the span of time in those two eps was way longer than it seemed and he really has been missing for several months.  In any case, it confused me a bit but is not really such a big thing.

Anyway, the majority of Val’s material in this ep deals with her coming to terms with the fact that Ben’s not coming back.  She was holding out hope for awhile, but now she’s seen the brand new opening credits sequence and she’s noticed that Douglas Sheehan has been removed from it, effectively signaling that he will never be coming back, barring some unexpected event in the future.  In this ep, Val accepts the loss of Ben after making a trip to the bank, where I find myself questioning another plot point.  See, she comes walking in but then the way too chipper bank lady comes up to her and is like, “Mrs. Gibson, your husband already came in here to pay off the loan on your mortgage payment!”  This information is provided to help underline the fact that Ben is really gone, but I’m gonna call bullshit on it real fast while also asking my fellow readers to call me out if I am somehow mistaken.  Okay, we’re flashing way way back in time now, not to KL but rather to our backdoor pilot of KL, the Dallas ep Return Engagements.  In that ep, Miss Ellie bought Gary and Val that house herself.  She paid it in full, there was no mortgage, it was over and done with and it was her wedding gift.  Where did this mortgage suddenly come from?  The only explanation I can come up with is that, somewhere buried in the previous 190 eps, someone took out a mortgage on the house.  I’m theorizing that it could have possibly been Gary in season three during the abandoned methanol storyline or perhaps it could have been Ben last season as part of the Hackney nonsense that I barely even bothered to pay attention to.  Did either of these things happen?  I honestly can’t remember except I’m having this weird little feeling that something like that happened somewhere in the past.  However, if it didn’t happen, then this is a major plot flaw, a mortgage suddenly coming out of nowhere in the ninth season even though the very foundation of this series’ existence was based in Miss Ellie buying Gary and Val a house in full. 

Honestly, that about does it for Val this ep (aside from a cute little exchange between her and Lilimae in which Lilimae says, “I read there’s a Harry Belafonte special on tonight; I love Harry Belafonte!”), so let’s move over to Paige and the continuing mystery that nobody cares about of, “Who is my real father?”  Well, Sumner is not her father, and if you think that’s a spoiler, it’s not because we have that confirmed this ep when Sumner decides to make out with her.  Oh, what a fabulous scene, a scene that has burned its way into my memory for all time, a scene I was looking forward to seeing again.  See, Paige is hanging around at Sumner’s ranch (which lately seems to be the only place that Sumner spends time; did Devane work something out in his contract dictating that he’d get to hang around one set wearing a Hawaiian shirt all the time?).  Paige is going on and on about how her mother was a whore and she has no idea who her real father is but she thinks it might be Greg, and Greg decides the fastest way to deflate that idea is to hop on top of her and suck face for several seconds.  This is all very amusing, but for me the very best part of the scene is that Laura walks in on them in the middle of their makeout and isn’t upset at all.  After Greg finishes the make-out and gives Paige one last reassurance of, “I’m not your father,” Paige goes running off and Greg and Laura are left alone, at which point Greg says, “I couldn’t think of any other way to convince her,” which makes both Laura and myself laugh.  Ugh, I just love it.  I love how Laura isn’t even slightly upset by this, that it just amuses her, and I again compliment the writers for not turning this into some BIG DRAMATIC STORY when they don’t need to.  I feel other writers would be like, “Let’s have Laura walk in and throw a big hissy fit!”  Instead, we see that Greg and Laura have an understanding of each other, that something like this is no big deal. 

I love this scene for that, but I also love it for the seeds being planted for the future, and I again warn that there be SPOILERS here because I am going to continue discussing Laura’s fate well in advance of it actually unfolding onscreen.  Okay, here it comes: Laura is going to die soon.  This is the first ep of the season and we will be seeing Laura for the very final time in the eleventh ep of the season, so we really don’t have a whole lot more time with her.  Watching this first disk of eps (it spanned Missing Persons through There Are Smiles) with the knowledge that Laura is going to die greatly enhanced my enjoyment and understanding of her scenes and her behavior at this point in the saga.  I think Laura knows right here and right now that she’s going to die.  She doesn’t actually admit this out loud until the fifth ep of the season, but I believe she knows it right now and it’s coloring her behavior.  Perhaps she doesn’t get upset by Greg and Paige’s little impromptu make out session because she knows life is short and she knows her time is running out and she doesn’t want her last days on earth to be marred by petty fights and squabbles with her husband.  At the same time, I know from my first viewing of the series that a Paige/Sumner romance is going to be a major focus of the last six years of the show, and I feel that’s beginning right here.  This makeout is the first time we’ve seen anything romantic or sexual at all between the two, and it’s going to build to bigger and better things as we move further along through the series.  All in all, for one little scene in a great big ep, there’s a whole lot going on here.  Oh yeah, and also Laura and Val make up which was a nice moving sequence and also adds to my theory that Laura is planning for her fate and wants to make amends with friends she's had fights with.

Last on the list for this ep is Mack and a brand new character played by special guest star Red Buttons.  I enjoy Red Buttons but also don’t know very much about him.  In fact, it was only upon doing a smidge of research on him for this essay that I learned he won an Oscar in 1958 for the movie Sayonara.  When I think of Red Buttons, I usually think of him the way he looks right here or maybe even a few years later; the oldest thing I’ve ever seen with him in was The Poseidon Adventure.  My mind usually automatically goes to him in two eps of Roseanne in which he played a boyfriend of Roseanne’s mother as well as several eps of season two ER, in which he had a very compelling storyline with Dr. Carter.  Anyway, Red Buttons, ladies and gentlemen, here he is, and he will be with us until Flight of the Sunbirds, the ninth ep of the season.  Here, he’s playing a man named Al Baker and I confess I was a bit confused about his function when I first watched this with MBG.  However, when I watched these five eps again with Brother (who was not able to join us for our viewing party, so I watched the eps again with him separately), I got a better handle on Al Baker.  I guess he’s the messenger for Mack’s office, meaning he stops by once a day to deliver mail or whatever.  What’s odd is that one would assume delivering a bit of mail should only take a minute or two, but Al appears to be sorta living in Mack’s office, or at least spending an inordinate amount of time there.  He’s kinda always there, drinking the coffee and complaining to Peggy about how it’s too weak.  I have a theory that all coffee was probably shitty until around 1991 or thereabouts, although of course I could be wrong.  I’m gonna go ahead and assume that Peggy’s coffee probably tastes like that atrocious sewage they used to always have brewing at the bank when I was a kid, that sad pot of coffee that’s been sitting there all day with a jug of horrendous non-dairy creamer planted beside it.  Anyway, Al Baker doesn’t do too much in this ep, but he’s here and he’s gonna be pretty important for our first block of eps, so pay attention to him.

You know, that oughta do it for our premiere of season nine.  How was it?  Well, I was certainly very pleased and enjoyed it very much, although I will say it suffers from the same thing pretty much all the premieres suffer from, and that’s the whole business of getting the audience up to speed with what’s been going on.  So much time is spent reminding us what went down in the concluding hours of last season that we don’t have quite as much time for new developments, but that’s just something that tends to happen with premieres.  I enjoyed this ep for the fabulous scene between Sumner and Paige, for Lilimae’s Harry Belafonte comment, for the appearance of Red Buttons, for Gary’s strong masculine moment, and finally for the great camp of Olivia and Sexy Michael on the dance floor.  I’m already feeling myself sinking into KL like a warm bath, ready to move on from all the problems of season eight and see what joys season nine will bring me.  

Coming up next is the cleverly titled The Trouble With Peter.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

A Reflection on Season Eight of KNOTS LANDING (1986-1987)

A Reflection on Season Eight of KNOTS LANDING (1986-1987)

                And so we’ve finally finished season eight, all thirty eps spanning from September of 1986 to May of 1987.  How was it?  Oh jeez, where to even begin?  I guess I’ll say the key word for this season is disappointment; this whole season was just one big disappointment to me and it honestly made me sad to watch a lot of it.  As I said over and over again while writing about these shows, my memory of this season was that it continues the run of brilliance that started with season four, but I was way off.  I think my memories must be based on the fact that I simply consumed so much KL at such a rapid pace back in college; I didn’t really have time to think over the arcs and styles of the seasons because I was just powering through them and then jumping right into the next season as soon as I finished.  Anyway, let’s get started with discussing the season and I’ll try to explain some of its overall problems.

                Let’s start off by saying that I am incredibly nostalgic for the glory run of seasons four through six, when the creative team was consistently able to find some really great, really amazing, really compelling central storyline through which all the other storylines could interact and flow.  Season seven dropped the ball with this run of quality by being sorta all over the place, by seeming to be about one thing and then changing direction as soon as Gary blew up Empire Valley.  With season eight, that problem manifests itself again, only so much worse.  When I think back over how gloriously the creative team were able to fill 30 eps of television for season six, it only makes season eight seem even more inferior.  This is the first time that I’ve found myself thinking a season should be much shorter; I think snipping five or maybe even ten eps out of this season would have gone a long way towards improving the flow of the storytelling.  Instead, we just sorta focus in on a certain story for a certain amount of time, then we quickly dispose of that story and move on to something new before disposing of that in a similar way.  This starts right off the bat with Karen’s kidnapper, which comes out of nowhere and really doesn’t make too much sense.  I’m gonna go ahead and say I am 100% confident that when the writers cooked up the season seven finale, they had absolutely no idea what they were going to wind up doing come fall.  They just had Karen get kidnapped and left us on that cliffhanger.  When we return to the story in the early eps of this season, it’s very clear the writers are having to invent all sorts of past histories and new characters to try and explain this.  Suddenly we find out Karen’s kidnapper was an old buddy of Mack’s from law school, that he used to hang around with both Mack and Sumner.  Okay, I guess, but I’m still not sure I understand why Greg feels the need to keep protecting him in these early eps.  He knows the man has Karen kidnapped and yet he tells nobody about it and I can’t tell you why.  Can anyone tell me why?  What possible instinct could Greg have to find out that an old friend of his kidnapped Karen and do nothing more than advise him to leave town?

                And then, of course, the whole Phil storyline finishes up in about five seconds when he is inauspiciously hit by a car and dies quickly after.  Okay, so, um….what was the point of all of that?  Rather than organically allowing the story of Karen and her kidnapper to then flow into some other, new storyline, the writers just kill Phil as quickly as possible, return Karen home, and pretty much immediately stop talking about it.  In fact, I’m gonna pay some strict attention in the next six years, because I’m willing to bet that we never hear another word about Karen and Phil Harbert ever again after this season is finished.  In my opinion, it would have been much better writing for this multi-ep kidnapping arc to lead to Karen having serious paranoia or trauma.  After all, she was almost burned alive and then she was chased all night through the woods by a maniac; I don’t think you can just return home and immediately get over this kind of an event.  

                Similarly, the writers keep us focused on a burgeoning romantic relationship between Paige and Sexy Michael for a good long stretch of eps.  They build up the tension, they play with the flirtation, and then finally the two characters shag.  After shagging for awhile, they stop shagging, Paige dumps Sexy Michael, Sexy Michael acts like a whiny little bitch for awhile, and then that’s pretty much it.  Again, it doesn’t strike me as a storyline designed to lead to new things or to enhance characters, but just something for the characters to do in order to fill up a certain number of eps until the writers are ready to move on to something new.  Also, I gotta say that all this Paige/Sexy Michael stuff really caused the character of Sexy Michael to plummet in my esteem.  Perhaps it’s because I put his physical appearance up on such a pedestal and think he’s among the most beautiful human beings to ever live and breathe, so when I see him acting like some pathetic 12 year old girl just because Paige rejects him, well, it makes me lose respect for him.  I want to tell him, “You’re Sexy Michael; you could fuck anything you want to and you have no reason to get this bent out of a shape over one blonde girl!”  

                This problem of starting storylines only to let them fizzle out or end abruptly is also exemplified through the characters of J.B. and Peter Hollister and Sylvia Lean.  We start the season with a big senatorial race between Gary and Peter.  I liked this storyline and it was my favorite part of those opening eps, but then what happens with it?  I think it fills up something like seven or eight eps, and then Peter wins the race, and then that’s basically it.  Nothing really changes all that much from him becoming a senator and we focus more on his relationship with Sylvia.  He decides it might be easier to get rid of Sylvia and not have to deal with her anymore, so he starts poisoning her.  This should be exciting but it never really manages to get off the ground.  Peter slips her extra pills awhile, then he has an attack of conscience and stops, but by then Sylvia has found out about it and gone to live with Abs.  Then Sylvia just sorta vanishes from the show for a good chunk of eps, I was starting to assume she’d just never be mentioned again, and then near the end of the season she dies off-screen.  Huh?  Why introduce this character and make her play a big role and be played by a fairly famous actress if you’re just gonna shuffle her off and then give her an offscreen death?  

                Also, my readers should know I love J.B. and she’s one of my favorite characters ever, but I’m realizing that’s based on my memories of the two seasons to come and certainly not on the season eight that we’ve been discussing for so very long.  Boy, is J.B. underutilized this year, with the peak underutilization being, of course, when she falls off the damn cliff and hits her head and goes into a stupid coma for an ep or two only so the writers can tell us she was pregnant but that she lost the baby, and then J.B. has to wear bandages on her head awhile and she hangs out in the hospital for like five eps and then…..she goes home.  Okay, so what was the point of that?  I’m sticking to my theory that the knock she takes on the head is what leads us to the J.B. of seasons nine and ten, but if you remove that theory, the whole cliff/coma thing is just hopelessly lame.  However, I do think J.B. starts to show her promise in the last eight eps or so of this season, when the writers start to focus in on her engagement to Gary and how she’s dealing with jealousy towards Val.  

                The best run of eps in this season spans from Gifts through No Miracle Worker, because this is where the story of Olivia on coke is given to us, this fabulous gift buried in the middle of all these stupid stories.  These eps showcase both Olivia and Abs at their best, showing us a new and more human side to Abs that we’ve never seen before, showing how she is fiercely protective of her children and will do anything to protect them.  The acting from both Tonya and Donna is great and this is the best storyline of the season, but I gotta say, and I hate to say this, it didn’t hit me nearly as hard upon this watch as it did upon first viewing.  I tell you, I was so excited to get to this storyline because I remembered it being one of the best of the whole series, but it just doesn’t work as well as I remembered specifically because it’s one good storyline being mixed in with a bunch of silly, crappy storylines.  If the whole season was going like gangbusters and then we also had this great cocaine storyline, but when it’s just four eps out of 30 placed in the middle of a very spotty season, it loses a lot of the effect.  

                Paige is the big new arrival to the series this year (yeah, she arrived in the last two eps of season seven, but you get my point), and while I remembered loving this character as soon as she arrived and loving her all the way up through 1993, it turns out that I again misremembered things, at least as far as season eight Paige is concerned.  We’ve got six more years with Paige so we’ll see if my memories prove accurate, but for just this season alone, no, this character doesn’t work for me.  I’ve read other people complain about this, but it bears repeating, and that is the fact that Paige comes completely out of nowhere and immediately takes up so much time and attention, to the detriment of veteran characters who have been with us for years such as Laura and Lilimae.  Also, so much of the Paige stuff this year is dependent upon first viewing.  Maybe it worked for me when I first watched it because I didn’t know what was going to happen, so when an ep would end with a Paige Matheson headstone, I would be excited to see where that would go.  However, once you know that Paige Matheson is Paige Matheson, she is who she says she is, she is not an imposter, it’s hard to get excited watching all this shit again.  It’s also annoying how the writers can’t just let the character be.  Rather than just letting us get to know her and decide for ourselves if we like her, they shove her down our throats and keep throwing new “twists” at us.  “Ooooh, she shows up and claims to be Mack’s daughter, but is she lying?  Then she says she faked her death, but is she lying?  Then she says her mother is dead, but is she lying?  Then her mother shows up and declares that Sumner is Paige’s father, but is she lying?”  It just goes on and on and on, and it’s annoying from start to finish.

                And of course, no discussion of season eight would be complete without some vitriol directed towards that abomination of a character known as Hackney.  For years, I’ve read fans shitting on this storyline and saying how awful it is, and I would always kind of shrug and be like, “I didn’t see what was so bad about it.”  Well, now I have seen the light and I recognize Hackney for what she is, the very worst character and the very worst storyline ever on the entire series in all fourteen years.  Mind you, I will pay strict attention to seasons 9-14 to see if anything out-stupids the stupidity of Hackney, but I highly doubt anything will.  This story sucks.  The woman who plays Hackney is awful and I can’t believe she managed to span her career all the way out to 1991 after this dreadful year of acting.  The storyline is stupid and corny and forces our much loved and much cherished characters to behave in very stupid ways (like Hackney randomly showing up at the house and Val and Lilimae being ever so delighted to see her and hear all about the college days with Ben and Hackney).  More, the story isn’t even good camp.  Interestingly, Brother seemed to find a way to enjoy this as camp, and he even told me he did enjoy Hackney because of her corniness.  Perhaps it’s because I take this show much more seriously than I probably should and Brother is just wanting to enjoy the show, but I couldn’t laugh at this storyline as camp because it made me sad to watch it.  I remember watching Nightmare and MBG saying, “This feels way more like a soap opera,” and I know what she meant.  It feels like a crappy daytime soap opera like General Hospital or something, and not the classy and well-crafted nighttime soap opera that David Jacobs invented.  In addition to the stupid Hackney story, you have cheap visuals and a truly wretched score that spans the entire season, all furthering the daytime soap feeling of the proceedings.  

                I will say that I think the season starts to fix itself in the last bundle of eps.  Things bottom out with Nightmare, taking us to a new level of badness we’ve never seen before in a KL ep, making me yearn for such eps as Land of the Free, Kristin, or Man of the Hour.  That ep is total crap and a complete failure from start to finish, but then I think things immediately improve in the next ep (Neighborly Conduct) and continue on that track until the finale, which is a season highlight.  Believe it or not, but it actually reminded me of the dream season of Dallas, which I feel starts out okay, quickly becomes stupid, and then bottoms out to some new level of stupidity around ep 24 of the season, but then starts to improve itself a bit in the last six or seven eps of the season.  Watching this season, I definitely sensed that the last seven eps were trying to right the tracks, to get the focus back on what we care about, and I appreciate that.  We get a little more of the cul-de-sac, we return to focusing on marital relations through the arrival of Anne and Mack’s potential affair with her, and we also have Laura giving birth (offscreen, since the writers disrespect Laura all year), which will lead us to great stories in the seasons to come. 

                Let’s talk season highs and lows.  You should all know my bottom ep for season eight, but I’ll go ahead and repeat it now; it’s Nightmare.  This is the worst ep of season eight and, in my opinion, the very worst ep of the entire series.  The fact that one of my favorite directors, Bill “Cooke” Duke, directed this ep as his swan song just makes me deeply unhappy.  After such a run of brilliance with the previous nine eps he brought us, to go out on such a lame note as Nightmare…..ugh.  I don’t even feel like talking about how shitty it was; if you want to know why I think it’s the worst KL ep ever, just go back and read my essay on it, since I think I covered pretty much all my points there.  As for the best ep, I was having a serious debate between No Miracle Worker and Cement the Relationship.  I think both of these stand out as examples of KL being really strong, and I especially like the dark comedy of Cement the Relationship.  Also, that ep ends on a tremendous cliffhanger that should glide us smoothly into the next season, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.  However, I finally decided to give the edge to No Miracle Worker for one scene, and that of course is the scene of Olivia in the bathroom trying to flush her coke while Abs pulls a Jack Nicholson on the door through use of a hammer, culminating with her pulling the baggie of coke out of the toilet and flinging it at Olivia and then removing the door from its hinges and declaring, “If you wanna get high, you let us watch you get high.”  A most fabulous scene, a scene so fabulous that the first time I watched it, I immediately rushed upstairs to find my friend and force him to come downstairs and watch this most fabulous scene with me.  In addition to that killer scene, you just have overall great acting from the two actresses and I especially love seeing a new, more sympathetic side to Abby’s character.  So yes, I’ll go ahead and say the best ep of season eight is No Miracle Worker. 

                Okay, so where does this season rank in terms of the full package of eight seasons and 190 eps that we have watched?  This whole rewatch has borne rich fruit for me, because it’s shown me drastically reevaluating my opinions on characters, stories, situations, and seasons.  I’ve already found myself loving characters I didn’t think twice about before (Ben) and I’ve found myself appreciating new, smaller details to the series that I didn’t notice beforehand.  I bring this up because I began this blog by declaring that the first three seasons of the show are the worst and that things immediately get better in season four and then stay great all the way until the final ep.  Well, no, that’s not true, and I was completely wrong to say that.  Through the rewatch, I found so much more to appreciate in seasons one through three and I really think that their main problem is the crappy standalone eps.  If you do some judicious pruning of the lackluster standalones, you could really improve those early years.  Also, those early years get a pass from me because they are finding their footing; they’re still figuring out exactly what the series is and what they want it to be, so if things are a little rocky, it’s just going to make things better when we hit the glory years.  Also, there’s nothing, absolutely nothing, in all of season eight that is as good as Karen grieving Sid’s death throughout the run of season three, so that immediately puts season three above eight in my book.  So get ready for it, I’m calling season eight the worst season thus far and here’s the official breakdown of how I would rank the seasons we have currently seen:

·         1) Season Six (1984-1985)

·         2) Season Five (1983-1984)

·         3) Season Four (1982-1983)

·         4) Season Seven (1985-1986)

·         5) Season Two (1980-1981)

·         6) Season One (1979-1980)

·         7) Season Three (1981-1982)

·         8) Season Eight (1986-1987)

                Reflecting back on it now, I realize that perhaps the major, most vital flaw of this season is that I feel we’ve drifted too far away from what KL was created and conceived to be.  Now, I do think a show needs to evolve and change to stay on the air for as long as KL was on the air, but I also don’t think they should betray their core.  For me, seasons four through six hit that magic sweet spot of good, juicy nighttime drama mixed with a realistic feeling and a neighborhood atmosphere.  Season seven started to derail us a little bit off the tracks, and then season eight took it to new levels.  As I watched Sumner slip into some sort of terrible spy sex thriller in Nightmare and lure Hackney up to a hotel room only to pull out a pistol and deliver that truly awful “pistol in my pocket” line, I realized that this is simply not KL, that it had drifted way too far away from what KL is meant to be.  My prediction is that season nine will correct these errors, so let me declare what I think KL is meant to be at its core and we shall see if season nine delivers.  I believe KL is a drama series about the lives of married people in California.  I believe the cul-de-sac setting is very important.  I want to see lots of scenes of cookouts and block parties and cups of coffee in Karen’s kitchen.  I want to see well done, exciting drama, but I never want the drama to betray the characters; I want the characters to stay true to themselves and for the drama to enhance the characters (this is why I’m glad that Mack didn’t sleep with Anne; I think if he had, I would have found that an unforgiveable error on the part of the writers).  I want the shows to be written with wit and a sharp ear for dialogue and occasionally total humor, and I also want to believe in these characters as real people existing in a real California landscape.  Will season nine give me what I desire?  I’m hopeful, but we’ll have to wait and see, starting with the premiere ep, Missing Persons.