Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Tribute to Kevin Dobson (1943-2020)

 

A Tribute to Kevin Dobson (1943-2020)

                I love Mack MacKenzie and I love Kevin Dobson, the man who brought Mack to life on television for eleven years.  Like many Knots fans, I was very upset when my phone buzzed on the evening of September 7th with a news alert that Kevin had passed away the day before at the age of 77.


 

                Kevin Dobson was born on March 18th, 1943, in Jackson Heights, New York.  Before getting into acting, he served in the army during the Vietnam war as an MP and was very proud of his service.  His official death notice states, “In lieu of flowers, as Kevin would always say, if you love America, thank a vet.”  After his military service, he began his acting career, first appearing on One Life to Live in 1968 as Governor Harrison Brooks.  During this time, he also had a small appearance in the movie Klute in 1971 as well as appearances on television with The Mod Squad, Cannon, and Emergency! 



                Kevin’s big break came in 1973 when he was cast as Detective Bobby Crocker on Kojak.  He stayed with that series for its entire run until 1978 and I know that for lots of people, that would be the first thing they think about when they hear his name.  I feel a bit unprepared for this tribute because I’ve also never seen Kojak, although I’m familiar with it as part of pop culture. 



                After Kojak went off the air, Kevin played the lead role in a short lived series called Shannon which aired during the 1981-1982 season.  That series was quickly cancelled, but that only meant Kevin was available for the role I and most people probably associate him with, that of Mack MacKenzie on Knots Landing.  Kevin joined the cast at the start of the fourth season in 1982 and stayed with the series all the way until the final episode in May of 1993.  He ranks #4 when it comes to overall cast member appearances on the series, behind Michele Lee, Ted Shackelford, and Joan Van Ark.  According to IMDb, Kevin appeared in 291 of the series 344 episodes.  You can’t talk Knots Landing without talking about Kevin.

                For me, Kevin’s entrance onto the series marks the beginning of the good times for the show.  As those who have read through my blog will know, I love all of Knots Landing but I believe that perfect trifecta of seasons four, five, and six represent the show at its artistic peak, and Kevin is a huge part of that.  The character of Mack is first introduced to fill a hole in the series, a void that was left by the departure of Don Murray one year earlier.  The show needed a new strong male lead and a new romantic interest for Karen.  I think Mack rather quickly proved himself to be a more interesting character than Saint Sid, no offense intended to Don Murray who was also wonderful in his role.  To me, the character of Mack represents what makes Knots so special, because I really don’t believe a character like him could exist on any of the other big ‘80s primetime super soaps.  He has a realistic quality that is uniquely Knots; he seems like a guy we could all know in real life.  He provided the necessary boost of masculine energy to the series, but he also provided some fabulous humor and moments of levity, particularly when it came to his chemistry with Michele Lee.   Many of my favorite moments on the series are the moments of comedy between these two, and I think you can tell just by watching that both actors loved working with each other.  Indeed, I listened to a recent interview with Michele and when asked what her best memory of the series was, her immediate response was "working with my wonderful husband, Kevin Dobson.” 



                After Knots, Kevin continued to keep busy acting with roles in F/X: The Series from 1996 to 1997 and The Bold and the Beautiful from 2006 to 2007.  He was also the final actor to play the character of Mickey Horton in Days of Our Lives.  Kevin died on Sunday, September 6th, 2020.  He is survived by his wife of over fifty years and their three children. 



                By all accounts, Kevin was a generous man and a beloved actor.  I’ve never heard of anyone saying an unkind word towards him.  I know that I was very sad to hear of his passing and, even though I never met the man, he felt like a large part of my life because of how much I love the series and how much I love his character.  Kevin Dobson will be missed but he will never be forgotten; I believe the best way we can all honor him is by watching his work throughout the decades and appreciating his contribution to the television landscape.  

REST IN PEACE KEVIN DOBSON: 1943-2020


Thursday, September 3, 2020

KNOTS LANDING Episode 208 of 344: THE BLUSHING BRIDE

 

Episode Title: The Blushing Bride 

Season 09, Episode 18

Episode 208 of 344

Written by Lynn Marie Latham

Directed by Nicholas Sgarro

Original Airdate: Thursday, February 11th, 1988

The Plot (Courtesy of TV.Com): Paige continues to be jealous of Greg's interest in other women and sleeps with Johnny. The MacKenzies are suspicious of the Williams family and speculate that Frank and Pat don't have custody of Julie. They see a woman come and pick Pat up in the middle of the night. Karen and Mack tell the truth in their depositions, and convince Val to tell the truth, that Gary wants visitation, not custody. Charles suggests to Abby she expands the marina at Lotus Point. He loans her the money, not telling her he is the front for investors. Charles gives her plans he had drawn up, but Abby finds they were made before he came back into her life. She hires a detective to investigate him. Charles's divorce is final, so Abby wants to get married ASAP.

                Hello all, and welcome back.  Today we shall be discussing The Blushing Bride, which I am very pleased to announce is the penultimate appearance of Basil Exposition.  As has probably become achingly clear at this point, I do not like this storyline and I am ready for it to end and I have been ready for it to end since pretty much the second it started.  And while I say I am very pleased that this is the penultimate ep featuring Basil, I also can’t stress enough how tired I was of all of this by this point.  As we begin the ep, I can’t believe this is still going on and I can’t believe that we still have to suffer through an entire other episode before it ends.  With that said, let’s start exploring the ep, beginning with that storyline because I just wanna get it out of the way. 



                I’ll be honest and say that, were it not for the little TV.com description that I put at the start of my essays, I would probably just skip over this storyline and not even talk about it because I’m not really paying any attention to it.  Fortunately, the TV.com description helps to remind me of that’s going on.  So, in this ep, Abs is wanting to marry Basil or whatever, and then Basil says how she should expand the marina at Lotus Point or something like that, and he’s gonna draw up the papers, and Bob Loblaw.  Basically, he gives her these plans but then later she finds out that the plans were made long before Basil reentered her life, meaning that he’s been plotting some sort of a ruse (a cunning attempt to trick her) for quite some time.  Then Abs hires a detective to investigate him and, well, that’s about it, and it’s boring, so let’s move on.  Actually, wait, I have one more thing to bitch about and then we’ll move on.  At a certain point near the start of the ep, Abs meets with some mysterious dude who says to him, “Everything going according to plan?”  This is just the worst type of writing ever, and I’ve always mocked it whenever I’m watching a show and someone says, “Everything is going according to plan,” but says nothing else to further elaborate on what they might be speaking about.  It’s a terrible writing device and it’s terrible in everything and it’s terrible here. 



                You know two characters who I would much rather talk about?  The answer is Gary and Val, who continue to have sizzling material this week as the drama of the big court battle starts to intensify.  There’s a lot I want to address from this storyline, starting with the way that J.B. is kinda lurking in the background and pulling the strings to keep Gary and Val fighting.  Anyone who has seen the finale of season nine should have it burned permanently into their memory banks and should be able to see all the foreshadowing we are getting right now.  It’s very subtle, but it’s there to the discerning viewer who is paying attention.  J.B. has begun her transformational from the J.B. of seasons seven and eight and is turning into the J.B. we all truly know and love when we think of J.B.  It’s small at this point, because she’s mostly acting the same as ever, but it’s definitely important that she’s helping to get Gary riled up and working to move forward with all this court crap; it shows that J.B. is tired of Val and is ready to start fighting dirty with her.  At the same time, Gary is not exactly being 100% manipulated; he has agency and is a free man making his own decisions.  I think there’s a chance that all this drama would be happening with or without J.B., but J.B. is definitely working to push it further along.



                Gary is such an interesting character and with every passing ep, I appreciate him more and more.  I totally see where he’s coming from in this instance and, if I were forced to pick sides, I would be in his corner.  Ever since his season four bender, he’s really cleaned up and is a very different person now.  I can fully understand why Val would be unwilling to trust him based on past behavior, but the man really has changed and it’s merely cruel to keep him away from the children that everyone knows he fathered.  By the way, this ep is interesting because we get a Lucy shoutout, something exceptionally rare at this point in the KL saga when the show is existing in a separate universe from its parent series.  In this instance, Gary is walking down the street with J.B. and saying, “You think I don’t know how I look in all this?  I don’t want anyone’s support; I don’t expect it,” and then he says, “I had my first daughter taken away from me but I am not gonna give up on these twins.”  Both MBG and I sorta perked up at this line and she said how we never ever hear about Lucy on this show and I agreed.  Back in the early years we would get fairly frequent Lucy shout-outs and she of course crossed over for her one and only time way back in season one’s Home Is for Healing.  Since Bobby came back from the dead and Dallas turned into 100% turd sandwich, the spinoff hasn’t mentioned any characters from over in Texas, and I think this is the first mention since Bobby’s revival in the shower.  Now, if I’m remember correctly, we do actually get one more reference to Lucy in the very final season, but I think that’s it.  If we get any more mentions between now and then, I shall make sure to note them.

Meanwhile, we’ve still got plenty of mystery and drama swirling around the newest arrivals to the cul-de-sac, the Williams family (I try not to say “The Williams’s” because then I would have to add that ugly extra “s” and it would just look weird).  In this ep, we see a side of Karen that, frankly, I don’t care for that much.  See, she keeps being super pushy with Pat Williams, basically forcing her to give this interview to the local newspaper about moving into town.  This scene takes place outside, and I noted with amusement the fact that there’s a very minor amount of rain falling from the sky and yet Karen busts out a gigantic umbrella all so she can go fetch the paper and Pat is wearing a fucking poncho.  Seriously, Pat, a poncho?  It is going to take you all of two seconds to go out to the street corner and grab your newspaper, so is the poncho really necessary?  Or Karen’s stupid umbrella?  While watching this with Brother, he said how this just shows how California people behave, but I’m not sure I agree.  I’ve been to California many times, but I’ve never lived there, and I don’t know how people generally react to rain.  I do know, however, that people in Seattle act like they’ve never seen a raindrop before even though it rains nine months of the fucking year here.  I always feel insanely judgmental of the way people freak out when rain starts falling, as if it’s acid or toxic waste instead of just, you know, rain. 

But enough about my feelings towards Seattle people and their weird reaction to rain, let’s talk about the contents of this scene and why Karen is annoying me right now.  Basically, it should be very clear to anyone in the vicinity that Pat has no interest in giving an interview to the paper or having her picture taken.  She’s trying to be polite about it, starting with, “Gosh, Karen, I just don’t know that we’re that interesting,” but then Karen just keeps going, giving her this laundry list of reasons for why she should do the interview.  Jesus, Karen, the woman isn’t interested, so leave her the fuck alone.  Honestly, at this point, which is right near the start of the ep, I can’t tell if Karen is just being kinda dense and genuinely can’t tell that Pat doesn’t wanna do this, or if she’s being nosy on purpose.  I’m kinda tempted to go with the latter, and her behavior only gets worse as we move along.  See, later on Mack finds Karen crouching in, um, I think…..their bathroom?  I’ll be honest and say that I had a hard time getting a sense of the geography in this scene, because Karen is lurking in the dark by a window and then Mack walks in and heads over to a sink and mirror, so I assume this is the bathroom that connects to their bedroom?  If that’s the case, however, where did this window come from?  Have we ever seen a window in this bathroom?  In fact, how much time have we spent inside this bathroom altogether?  I have the feeling that we haven’t had a whole lot of time in the bathroom, mostly seeing it in the background during scenes taking place in Karen and Mack’s bedroom.  Okay, so anyway, Mack finds Karen lurking and acting like James Stewart or Craig Wasson and he even calls her out on it, saying that she’s acting like a peeping tom. 



By this point in the saga, I have come to understand why some fans find Karen annoying.  The subtle Karen of seasons one through four is long gone and now she’s generally much more hyperventilating and over-the-top, and this business of her being a little snoop and trying to get some dirt on the new neighbors is just….I don’t like it.  I get that Karen has lived in the cul-de-sac for a long time and feels protective of it, but do you really have to stay up late spying on the neighbors through your window?  The whole thing just gives me kinda an icky feeling, and I do wonder if some of that has to do with the Williams family being black.  Some of Karen’s suspicions towards them just feel a little weird, and I find myself thinking of how black people can’t do anything or go anywhere without snooty white people giving them the suspicious eye, something that’s still painfully clear to the present day.  So I find myself imagining how it must feel to be the Williams family and just want to settle quietly into this neighborhood only to have to play twenty questions with Karen or have her busting out a gigantic telescope to spy on them all night long.  Ugh.  However, I would like to point out that my “ugh” is more a reaction to how Karen is behaving and not a reflection on my feelings towards this storyline, which I love.  I love the Williams family and I love how they come to the show with an aura of mystery and I love everything that comes out of their time on the show.  I’m just pointing out that Karen’s behavior is, at this point, starting to annoy me. 

Let’s see, who’s next on the agenda?  Looks like Paige and Sumner, two fabulous characters whom I love.  Right now, it appears Greg is trying to wash away his grief over losing Laura by sleeping with a ton of forgettable women.  There’s some sort of Lotus Point gathering late in the ep (in which Johnny Rourke sings; more on that in a minute) and Paige has obviously got the hots for Sumner because she keeps trying to set up a date with him.  Unfortunately for her, Sumner shows up at Lotus Point along with, um, some forgettable chick.  There wouldn’t be too much for me to say about these developments were it not for the fabulously hilarious charisma of one Mr. William Devane.  See, Paige is sorta glaring over at Greg’s table, being jealous of the forgettable woman, and then Greg spots her and gives this fabulous wink that is so funny it made me laugh three times.  I laughed at the end of our prior ep when we had the “Next on KL” preview, I laughed when we started this ep and once again saw the wink in the thirty second preview, and then I laughed thrice when we finally hit the moment in the ep in question.  I love how Greg is going through something that’s really profoundly sad, the loss of his wife after only one year of marriage, and Devane is showing all those complexities and intricacies, yet he also knows how to make things funny.  As I so often do, I find myself wondering if Devane improvised this wink.  What do you guys think?  It just has that positive ring of authenticity that leads me to think Devane made this up.  Another beautiful thing worth noting in this scene?  Paige’s fabulous outfit.  See, at the Lotus Point party, Paige has chosen to come adorned in a fantastic all white outfit with a gigantic white hat.  

                But do you wanna know the fatal flaw of this scene?  If you guessed Johnny Rourke singing, you are correct, because he sings in this scene and he’s truly awful.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this in the last year or so, but I really do miss Cathy terribly and think she could still be contributing good material if she were still on the show, but alas, she is not.  And while I miss all aspects of Cathy’s character, the one aspect I miss the very most is of course her singing.  Cathy (and, of course, Ciji before her) sang so well and I loved listening to all her songs, and listening to the diarrhea coming out of Johnny’s mouth as he stands up on stage only makes me yearn for Cathy more.  Jesus Christ is he bad, and he’s so bad that it almost seems like it’s intentional, like it’s a joke, like when all the nuns in SisterAct sing for the first time and Whoopi is so horrified to hear how bad they are.  I’m not very good at describing why someone is good or bad at singing, but the most I can say about Johnny is that he seems super flat.  Whenever he hits those high notes, they just fall, well, flat, and even though I think the background instruments are kinda okay, everything is ruined by this terrible singing.  I have to ask: Who’s idea was this?  Who brought Johnny Rourke onto the series and then demanded that he sing?  Was this some sort of weird contractual obligation courtesy of Peter Reckell?  Does he fancy himself a singer and did he show up on set and be like, “I’m gonna sing”?  I sure hope not, but then I must conclude that the powers-that-be ordered this singing to occur for some reason.  Anyway, it’s awful, I miss Cathy desperately, and that’s all I have to say about that.

                In fact, that’s about all I’ve got to say about this ep.  I bitched about Basil and Abs, but aside from that, this ep was solid, and I would like to reiterate that I’m thoroughly enjoying this season even if I’m not loving every single storyline going on.  This is still a huge, huge, huge step up from season eight, and I’m pretty impressed that the same creative team was able to do such a good job of damage control after things got so off the rails last year.  If I’m sounding a little more blasé about the eps or not giving them as much attention as I usually do, part of it is that we’re up to episode 208 and I am tired and another part is that, right now, the eps are sticking out as unique little snowflakes the way they used to.  In the early to middle seasons, I could kinda think back over the season and immediately remember what made this episode special or that episode special or whatever, but right now, they kinda blur.  I’m not seeing as many little directorial flourishes as I used to and they’re just, you know, a little less singular. 

                Alright, we’ve got two more eps left on this disk, so let’s move on to Lawfully Wedded.