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