Knots Landing co creator, Executive Producer Michael Filerman answers your questions in our exclusive interview.


February 23rd, 2006. At 5pm, London based KNOTS LANDING fans Jason Yates and James Holmes called Michael Filerman, the show’s executive producer, at his home in California. He spoke generously and at length about his fourteen
years on KNOTS, as well as his experiences on three other prime time soaps

Michael Filerman: Hello?

Jason Yates: Hello, is that Michael?

Michael: Yes.

Jason: Michael, good morning to you. It’s Jason here in London with James.

Michael: Hi, hi.

Jason: Hi. How you doing?

Michael: I’m fine. You said you were gonna call at 9.30.

Jason: Is it not 9.30 now?

Michael: It’s 9 o’clock.

Jason: Oh Michael, we’re really, really sorry. Shall we call you in half an

Michael: No, no, no, no. I’m fine right now. I mean, it’s fine. I’m here, so
why don’t we just do it now?

James Holmes: That’d be great.

Jason: Oh great, great. How are you for sound level because – ?

Michael: I’m fine. Can I just change phones, though?

Jason: Sure, no problem at all.

Michael: OK. Hold on.

(Michael disappears briefly and then returns.)

Jason: Michael, before we start, thank you so very much for this. We really
appreciate it.

Michael: Don’t be silly. It’s my pleasure.

Jason: Oh good, good. Now, of course we’re doubly excited because you
haven’t done many interviews with – regarding KNOTS and your work, so we
feel especially honoured. There’s tons of questions come in from all over
the world.

Michael: Good.

Jason: OK. I’m wondering if you can talk a bit about your relationship with
David Jacobs. We’ve spoken to David and he’s said that you guys had a really
interesting relationship, and that he wanted to do art while you said you
wanted to do trash. (Chuckles) Is there any truth in that?

Michael: Well, we call it trash, but it was – I wanted to be more

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And he was a little more arty, cos when he brought in the idea, it
was to do, like, Ingmar Bergman’s, you know, SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE.

Jason: Uh huh.

Michael: A television version of that. And I was looking more for an old Fox
movie – I don’t know if you remember, you’re probably too young – called NO

James: Oh, we’ve heard of that, yeah, yeah. We’ve looked for that, but it
hasn’t come out on DVD yet.

Michael: No, it’s too old and black and white and I don’t think they’ll ever
release it, but it was with Joanne Woodward and Barbara Rush and Jeffrey
Hunter and Cameron Mitchell and Pat Hingle.

Jason: Wow.

Michael: So it was with a lot of young – hello? – contract players. This was
in the, you know, the late fifties. They were guys who, you know, just got
out of the army and this was a housing project on a cul-de-sac.

Jason: Oh, I see.

Michael: And I said, “Why don’t you look at that and write something more
like that?” So art became trash.

Jason (chuckling): And did -?

Michael: David was the good cop and I revelled in my role as the bad cop.

Jason: Oh really, and do you think that sort of defines your working

Michael: Uh huh.

Jason: Wow. And he speaks so fondly of you.

Michael: He’s as close to a brother as I’ll ever have.

James: Oh, that’s nice.

Jason: That’s fantastic. And did you – obviously, you met when you were a
development executive, I think – were you? – at Lorimar.

Michael: Yes. Yeah.

Jason: And when it came to KNOTS LANDING, David told us the story that the
network originally said no, that they wanted something a little more
glitzier. Did you ever think KNOTS would make the light of day?

Michael: To be very honest with you, I didn’t really think about it. I
thought – well, you know, I was a development executive. The boss who, you
know, pushed very hard. So my feeling was, “Well, if they didn’t take this,
they took something else.” I was just so happy that they took the other

Jason: Yeah!

Michael: It didn’t strike me that they would take, you know, KNOTS LANDING.
I was just happy they were gonna take the other show.

James: Was that – was the other show DALLAS?

Michael: The other show was DALLAS.

James: Were you involved in DALLAS at all?

Michael: I was involved in the development of DALLAS and, with David,
through the first, I think, thirteen episodes.

James: Right.

Jason: That’s really interesting. In retrospect, when you look back on those
episodes, was it everything that you thought or did it turn out better than
you imagined?

Michael: You mean DALLAS?

Jason: Yes, DALLAS. When you look back on it.

Michael: No. I mean, you always want it to be – I didn’t like the casting
that much.

Jason: You didn’t?

Michael: No. I thought the casting was OK. I didn’t like – I thought Larry
was great. I liked Larry very, very, very much. And I liked Victoria, I
thought she was good.

James: Did you have any specific – where did you see the casting – if it was
left to you, where would you have gone with it?

Michael: Well, I wouldn’t have cast Linda Gray for one.

James: Really?

Michael: Really.

Jason: Mary Frann was up for that role, wasn’t she?

Michael: Yes, we wanted her really badly. Cos she could act, you know.

Jason: And was the role more heavily written because Sue Ellen, if I
remember, in the first –

Michael: – was not.

Jason: – was not.

Michael: It was, (mimicking Sue Ellen) “Yes, JR. No, JR.”

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Wow. And Linda Gray tells a story of how she was doing a scene with
Larry Hagman and she just gave him a look, and that you guys all sat up and
went, “Oh my God, this woman can really act,” and then it all changed. Is
there any truth to that?

Michael: I certainly wasn’t in the room.

(Jason and James laugh)

James: Well, my –

Michael: I never saw any indication that she could act.

Jason: You didn’t. Right.

James: Well, my confusion with the Mary Frann story – wasn’t Mary Frann
already well known before DALLAS?

Michael: I think this came, if I’m not mistaken, before THE BOB NEWHART

Jason: Oh, really?

James: Right, right. Oh, so that explains why she would be cast in what was
originally quite a small role.

Michael: Yeah.

James: Right.

Michael: And, you know, Linda Gray got the part because her husband and she
were friends with Merv Adelson and his wife.

James: And who was Merv Adelson?

Michael: One of the Elders of Lorimar.

James: Oh right, right.

Jason: Oh, I see. I see, I see, I see. And yet it’s incredible, isn’t it,
because the role went on to be phenomenal in it’s – I mean, it’s quite
ironic, isn’t it, that it, you know – sometimes the best laid plans …

Michael: I guess.

Jason: Yeah. And when – [refers to a question from Joshua Slow in LA] with
regard to your relationship with David Jacobs, Val’s babies being stolen is,
of course, one of KNOTS LANDING’s most successful story lines, and David
said originally he really didn’t want it. He thought it was in really bad taste and you really pushed for that.

Michael: I did.

Jason: How did you convince him that that was a story that needed to be

Michael: I don’t remember, really. I don’t think – you know, I’m a

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: I don’t think anything “needs to be told.”

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: I’m looking for numbers. I’m looking to beat the competition. I’m
very competitive. David is competitive and, you know, wants the story to
remain true to the characters.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: There’s something – he’s a very moral man. I’m not saying that I’m
immoral or unethical or anything, (Jason chuckles) but I just felt it was
very commercial. I felt that it really grabs people where they really, you
know, feel, and that’s their children. I mean, what’s more important to you
than your children? But it was a very tough negotiation. I don’t – you know,
I don’t remember the negotiation? I do remember that when we brought the
kids – that when we were gonna get the twins back, I said in the meeting,
and I don’t think that I really meant this, but I just threw it out there,
you know?

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: I said, “What happens if she only gets one back?”

(James gasps. He and Jason laugh uproariously.)

Jason: Wow!

James: We’d’ve never recovered from that!

Michael: David went white.

Jason: Wow!

Michael: White. And got up and walked over to my – I don’t remember how – he
walked out of the office or something.

(James chuckles)

Michael: I mean, he was just like – and then he came back into my office – I
was alone – and he said, “You know, I don’t wanna say – you know, I don’t
mean this in any kind of, you know, negative manner, you know, but you’re
not a father, and you don’t know what that means – that you’d have a child
and you’d lose a child. I didn’t wanna do this story in the first place, and
now you’re gonna do it -” “It just might carry it on a little longer! We
could get a little more mileage!”

(Jason and James giggle helplessly)

Michael: He said, “I didn’t wanna do it in the first place and I don’t wanna
do it now. I don’t wanna do that.” I said, “David, it’s OK! Hey, you know,
don’t get so excited!”


James: Was that kind of typical of the dynamic between the two of you?

Michael: Yeah. I mean, but there were more yesses than nos.

James: Yeah.

Michael: I mean, we always built on each other’s ideas, but – and there were
times when I would, you know, give him a “What if?” and he wouldn’t like it,
but I also knew that he would go home and he would think about it.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And the next day it would either be done, or he would have, you
know, built on it something else, or gone another way or, you know, found
another road. I think I was very good for him that way.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: We were very good for each other.

Jason: Yes, yes. That’s fascinating. Could I take you back to the first
season with the episode “The Lie”, which revolved around the Constance
McCashin character of Laura?

Michael: Yes.

Jason: What a fantastic episode and – to me – I sense your hand in all that.
Was it? Because that was the first story line that really seemed to be
commercial in the sense of what drama was doing at the time. It was less
laid back, less domestic, if you see what I mean.

Michael: I don’t know. I can’t answer the question. I mean, there were so
many hands involved.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: I mean, everybody had something to do with everything. I must say
that, you know, there may have been a piece I added.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: But David, certainly in that first season, was such a driving force
on that show.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And he wrote and practically rewrote every episode.

Jason: Wow.

Michael: I mean, he was just up till four or five o’clock in the morning,
and then he would come in and, you know, he was just – I don’t know how he
had, you know, the energy for that. I always felt – myself, I was lucky. I
could always tell the writer, make the suggestion, then go out to dinner.

(Jason and James laugh.)

Michael: While they’re at their computers, you know?

Jason: Yes.

Michael: And being Jewish, I felt guilty about that – up to a point.

(More laughter.)

Jason: Well, exactly. Up to a point.

Michael: I really can’t say that I – you know, that I was a – I mean –

Jason: It’s just that, in that point in the show, it could have gone either
way with the character of Laura, in terms of exploring that element of her
being –

Michael: You know, she was such a victim, you know, and, I felt, very
uninteresting in her own way, that it was important to try to find some
interest for her, and there was a scene that they made us cut out – I think
David told you about it – in the pilot?

Jason: Yes. Yes.

Michael: She got a phone call?

Jason: Yes, the scene that got laughs.

Michael: And everybody started to laugh.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And I was really pissed off, because it was, of course, my idea.

(Jason and James laugh.)

Michael: And it was something done to give her some texture because she was
so boring, and the – and she started with not really, you know, a dynamite
personality on screen, and when it came to Ginger and Michele and Joan, you
know, and she was the fourth one and she just kind of became – kind of faded
into the wallpaper – and it was – I felt it was important to try to – John
was such a forceful personality –

James: Yeah.

Michael: – that we had to do something with her to give her some chutzpah.
And I don’t know if that’s how it came out or –

Jason: Well, it did. I mean, ironically, Laura – the character of Laura
Avery became – certainly I think amongst the fans, there’s a general feeling
that she became one of the strongest characters. I mean, you know, after
Season 1, after that event. And Constance McCashin was wonderful, wasn’t

Michael: Yes, she did a very nice job.

Jason: Yes. I’m wondering, actually, could I throw some names at you, could
you – of the original couples – I’m wondering if you could just give us some
thoughts or, you know, some –

James: – sort of lasting impressions.

Jason: Yes. Starting with Don Murray.

Michael: Uh huh. He was great. I mean, I love Don Murray. He was wonderful
for the show. He gave it a great stability. He kept Michele in line (Jason
chuckles) so that she would – you know, he would just look at her and it was
– I wish I could have had the Don Murray look for the next thirteen years.

(Jason and James chuckle)

Jason: Yes. And David said that Julie Harris helped in that respect.

Michael: Yes, Julie was a major help, because if you said, “Well, Julie
didn’t – Julie likes it”, you know, it kind of just shut everybody up.

James: And what was that? Was that because they were the most – had had so
much experience before, Don Murray and Julie Harris, that they brought a
kind of credibility?

Michael: They brought such class and such a dynamic to the show. I mean,
this is the First Lady of the American Theatre, our Judi Dench.

James: Yeah.

Michael: You know, and they were so respectful of her and in awe of her that
they really behaved themselves in front of her. They would never even think
of, you know – and it was wonderful. We wanted to keep her around just for
that, but we had to let her go. It was not our decision. And it wasn’t our
decision to let Constance go.

Jason/James: Yeah, yeah.

Jason: No, absolutely, absolutely.

Michael: Don was a very, very good influence on the show for two years. It
gave us a very level ground to take off from.

Jason: A moral centre, didn’t it? It gave the show a real moral –

Michael: It gave it a very moral and a very ethical centre. But he was a
very nice and a very kind man also, just off stage.

Jason: Joan, Joan van Ark.

Michael: Joan van Ark I love. She’s a very, very neurotic lady.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: And that’s part of her charm.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: I learned how to watch dailies by watching Joan van Ark.

Jason: Could you expand upon that? What do you – how do you mean?

Michael: You could see her on a screen and she didn’t need lines. Joan was
the only actor I’ve ever worked with who came into an office and said, “I
don’t need to say all this. I don’t need to say this.” And you would just
put the camera on her and she said it with her eyes and with her reaction.
And then I walked – I was walking out of dailies once – that’s before we had
them on tape or, you know, they post them up to your office – I was walking
back to the office with David and I said, “Now I know what dailies are for!”

(Jason and James laugh.)

James: I know it’s asking a lot, but can you remember any specific examples
of that – where she would say, “I wouldn’t need to say that, I can just …”?

Michael: No, I really don’t.

James: No, of course not.

Michael: But I do remember she used to sneak into the projection booth and
watch dailies.

Jason: Wow.

Michael: We had a rule that no actors could see dailies because then, you
know, it’s like my boss used to say, “It’s like turning the asylum over to
the inmates!”

(Jason and James laugh)

Michael: That was just his favourite, you know, his favourite comment.

Jason: Yes. And you inherited Joan van Ark from DALLAS, didn’t you?

James: Were you involved in her casting for DALLAS?

Michael: Yes.

James: Right.

Michael: Yes.

Jason: Good.

James: And so, of course, David Ackroyd as well, you’d’ve – ?

Michael: Yes.

Jason: And how did that work out, with Ted Shackelford versus David Ackroyd?

Michael: I think it worked out better. You know, everything works out for –
there is something that – it always works out for the best. You know,
because – with Don leaving –

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: – we thought that was going to be the end of us. We thought the
world was gonna end, you know. And then, when you make that change, you make
the turn and you find other things, you find other values, you find other
roads to go down, and it was the same thing. Ted brought a totally different
dynamic to the character that I thought was really – probably more important
than David, and I’m not here to knock David Ackroyd –

Jason: Sure.

Michael: – because I think he’s an incredibly wonderful actor. And I
understood his decision to, you know, not come, to not continue. You know,
he had a series to make.

James: Could you define the difference that Ted Shackelford brought? What
would you say that was?

Michael: Well, a sexuality to the role.

Jason: Yes.

James: Right. Yeah, yeah.

Michael: And an intensity, you know. I don’t think David Ackroyd could have
– I think he could have done – but what Ted brought to the whole alcoholism
– “The Bottom of the Bottle”, I think, is one of the best episodes we did,
if not the best episode – two episodes – of that season.

Jason/James: Yes, yes.

Michael: Just incredible.

Jason: Isn’t it wonderful television?

Michael: Yeah, it was, it was wonderful television, and I always resented
the fact that our actors never really got recognised by the TV Academy. You

Jason: Yes.

Michael: Or something like that.

Jason: That must have been really frustrating for you.

Michael: Very frustrating.

Jason: And in terms of how that changed with Don Murray leaving the show,
the third season, with the recovery – you know, the aftermath of that – is
one of the most interesting KNOTS LANDING seasons. It’s very dark, and I
think that works really, really well.

Michael: Well, it wasn’t on purpose!

(All laugh)

Jason: Oh, really? What happened?

Michael: We were trying to find our way, you know.

Jason/James: Yeah.

Michael: We felt in some way rudderless and on the other hand, “Hello? We’re
missing a man here?”

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: “Let’s just play to our female audiences and we’ve got HILL STREET
over there and let the men go over there.” It wasn’t really helping us.

Jason: Oh right, right.

Michael: But you know, “You really need to get another man here. You gotta
get her married.”

Jason: Yeah. And how did Kevin Dobson work in the mix?

Michael: Well, I think he worked great because he was One Of Them.

Jason: And Kevin Dobson was –

Michael: He wasn’t the confidante, he wasn’t – you know, he was more part of
the ensemble than above the ensemble.

Jason/James: Yes.

Michael: And it was like Don – you know, Sid – was Daddy Sid, Big Brother
Sid, “Sid will take care of everything” … You know, Kevin was more

James: Yeah.

Michael: He had his problems too. Not that Sid didn’t.

James: Because Sid was that bit older, wasn’t he?

Michael: Yes.

James: And it sort of made Karen by default sort of the mother figure.

Michael: Uh huh.

James: And once Don Murray left, it’s almost like she went from being Val’s
mother figure to Val’s sister figure.

Michael: And she herself became more sexy and more girlish and more flirty.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Jason: There are interesting parallels, of course, because Michele Lee in
her personal life was divorced and – interesting parallels with the
Sid/Karen arc.

Michael: Yes, because Michele and Jimmy split at the end of the second year.

Jason: It gave for a great performance from her in the third season. She
really, really rose to that, I think.

Michael: I think she did consistently wonderful work. Then again, never got
recognised for it.

Jason: Yes, yes. And then when the fourth season came about, the whole Ciji
arc, you penned a really brilliant episode and a crucial episode, “Loss of
Innocence”, after she’s murdered. And that’s when it seems as though KNOTS
LANDING really springs to life in terms of long story arcs and in terms of a
soap opera genre. You must have been really, really pleased.

Michael: I was. I was ecstatic. (Jason chuckles) I just – I knew that we had
it with that show. Not just Ciji, but I think we had it with Chip.

Jason/James: Yes.

Michael: It started with Chip because he was a great character –

Jason: Yes.

Michael: – and just developed and developed and developed. And I had the
best time with him cos I like the villains. My favourite characters are
always the villains.

Jason: You wrote – Michael Sabatino – I mean, the character of Chip was so –
I mean, he was almost sexual with everybody. It was very daring television
as well because he had a relationship with Lilimae – not physical, but there
was a mental relationship going on – his relationship with Diana – and it
was all very tempestuous, wasn’t it?

Michael: It was great. He was my alter ego.

(Jason and James laugh)

James: And that sort of started a theme, didn’t it, of sort of young,
dangerous men. Cos you had him, you had Alec Baldwin, you had Hunt Block.

Michael: Right, right.

James: And they all ended up dead, didn’t they?

Michael: I loved when they’d come in and we could kill ’em off in some kind
of really weird …


James: They all had horrible deaths.

Jason: You speared them all. They’re all gruesomely – Peter Hollister, the
Hunt Block character, was speared, wasn’t he, and Chip –

Michael: My psychiatrist had a lot to say about that.

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: But you decided not to spear Laura Avery when of course Constance
left the show.

Michael: Well, she wasn’t a villain. I mean, she was part of the original
ensemble and it was really – it was so hard to let her go, I can tell you.
And she blames us to this day, you know. She won’t talk to us.

Jason: It’s such a shame, because there was – she was – there was – there’s
such love for the character, you know, around the world, and –

Michael: She brought another dimension to it, you know. She really did.

James: Yeah.

Michael: She was that character for ten years, or however long she was on
the show. And you write for the personality, you know?

James: Yeah.

Michael: You begin to write for who they really are. Not that Donna Mills
was ever Abby, but she was – Constance was – as close to Laura as anybody –
as Michele was to Karen, you know?

James: Right.

Michael: I mean they were really, really very, very, very close. Could you
wait two seconds?

Jason: Sure.

Michael: I’ll be right back.

Jason: No problem.

(Michael disappears for a minute or so. Jason and James whisper about what a
good interviewee he is.)

Michael: I’m back.

James: Hi.

Jason: Hi, Michael. Michael, we’re loving this information you’re giving.
It’s absolutely amazing. Are we OK for time?

Michael: You’re fine. I’m fine. I’ve nothing to do till Sunday.

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Well, we’ll order you pizza and send it round. We can talk for three
days. OK, talking about Constance McCashin – of course, the brilliant
pairing of her and William Devane. Could you comment on Bill Devane?

Michael: Bill Devane is just fabulous. I love Bill Devane.

Jason: Was Sumner your creation?

Michael: He’s one of the most talented actors I’ve ever had the good fortune
to work with. I like him so much. I find – it was very difficult at the
beginning. It was really hard to work with him.

Jason: Oh, really? Why?

Michael: Because I don’t think he wanted to be on the show. You know, he
thought maybe it was a little beneath him. I don’t wanna put words in his
mouth. That was the feeling we got. We really felt we had to have a meeting
with him and see if he wanted to – us to let him go.

James: Cos originally he was only booked for – was it eight episodes? And
then it was extended. Is that right?

Michael: I don’t remember that. I don’t think so, because we were bringing
somebody in, I don’t know if it was for eight, but it was certainly for the
season and maybe even for a longer term. We really wanted to bring a male
figure in that we could watch – again, you know, that’s me and David – that
we could corrupt.

Jason: Yes, yes.

James: Right, right.

Michael: Because what’s the fun of doing these things if you can’t corrupt

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Fantastic!

James: But the impression I get – the really great thing that William Devane
brings to KNOTS LANDING is that he – it’s almost like he refuses to
acknowledge that he’s in a soap opera. He’s doing – you know, he’s doing
something – he just sort of undercuts, if there was a danger of KNOTS
falling into a soap cliché.

Michael: Yes, absolutely, and I think that’s the way he looked at it.

Jason: Yeah.

James: Right.

Michael: I think he was, like, doing it first “for the money” supposedly,
and I said to him, you know, “We’re all doing it for the money.” (Jason
laughs) “If we wanna do theatre, we’ll go do rep up in Seattle.”

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: Something like that. “I mean, this is what we do. And if you wanna
do it, we want you here, because you have – ” Again, he added stature. When
you had Bill Devane and Julie Harris on your show, you know, you’re not THE

Jason (chuckling): Yes.

Michael: Or DYNASTY. Or even DALLAS, for that matter.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: They never had the acting talent there that we did. We had a
wonderful group of people. Not that I don’t respect DALLAS for what they
accomplished, and all those shows, but I mean I think KNOTS had the best
acting troupe, you know, of the group.

Jason: And you dared to cast –

Michael: Bill brought that stature to it, you know, and I think he had fun
with it, as much as he – (chuckles) maybe he wouldn’t wanna admit it. He
liked the character.

Jason: Yes, yes.

James: He did an interview with the site, I think, maybe the year before
last, and he was surprisingly – because I expected him to be quite acerbic –
and he was so, you know, so enthusiastic. I think he said it was the best
job he’d ever had. He spoke really positively about the whole thing.

Michael: Yeah, I think he really enjoyed himself. If he didn’t, I don’t
think he would have come back for THE REUNION and he did.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: You know. I mean, his – he saw his role – as a person on the show,
not in the role – as being kind of an acerbic, grumpy old man.

James (chuckling): Right.

Michael: And we treated him as such. “Oh, here comes Uncle Bill again”, you
know, “let’s be nice to him.”

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: And he must have – he played very well on screen with Constance,
didn’t he? There was a real chemistry there.

Michael: Yeah, they really liked each other, and they were really pals and
friends. I think he played very well with everybody, but them especially. I
mean, that scene when she was saying good bye and he was watching her on
television, you know, on the tape. I think those are wonderful moments.

Jason: That scene, that episode, it’s as great as any – you know, KRAMER
VERSUS KRAMER moment, or – it’s right up there, isn’t it?

Michael: I think so!

(All laugh)

Jason: And how about Doug Sheehan, another really great actor?

Michael: I thought Doug was really good, you know. I mean, he did a really
nice job for us, and I don’t even remember, to be very honest with you, how
the story let him go, but nobody could find him. I mean, I think he lives
some place down near San Diego or something, I’m not sure, but he was gone
and we never really – we were gonna try to bring the character back. We
talked about doing something. But I thought he worked very well. He brought
a solidity again to the show that was good for us, you know. It added to the
Valene character.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: I think it helped her become less victimised. Joan kept saying, “It
always Poor Val! It’s always Poor Val!”

Jason: Yeah. Were you happy with the way the Val and Gary arc went, in terms
of them separating? Because it really gave the show a fantastic excitement –
the fact that these two people couldn’t get it together and were always

Michael: Well, we kind of fell into that, too. You know, we were lucky and
then we finally realised that the major arc of the entire series is keeping
them apart because the audience wants to see them together, so if the
audience is gonna see them together and happy – you know, well, people don’t
wanna watch other people happy!

(Michael and Jason laugh)

Jason: No.

James: When you say you fell into it, was that with the whole Abby thing?

Michael: Yeah, I mean, we knew we were gonna split them up, but it never was
our intention – well, we didn’t think that far in advance – but it was never
our intention to keep it going and going and going and having multiple
partners – you know, from Gary to Abby to Gary – I mean, it was like, you
know, but it worked out for us very well. And then we realised that the
whole arc of the series is to keep them apart.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: The longer they’re apart, the better it is for us.

Jason (chuckling): Yes, yes.

Michael: And it really became then a matter of how we keep them apart.

Jason: Yeah. And perhaps later on in the series when the Lechowicks took
over day to day operations, and Gary and Val sort of got back together
towards the end of the show, it did lose something, didn’t it?

Michael: Yeah.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: When Rhoda got married, nobody cared anymore!

(James chuckles)

Jason: No, they didn’t, did they? And can you talk a bit about HILL STREET
BLUES? That must have been really tough for you guys to hold your own
against those kinds of numbers.

Michael: It was, but we ultimately beat ’em, and that was very – that felt
very good to us. You know, we just kept pumping along, and we had a very,
very loyal audience. And I must say, you know, that when we brought Kevin
and Bill in, that really helped us because it gave us a male audience.

Jason: I see.

Michael: We started to find the male audience, and that’s when the show
really started to move up, you know. I’m not saying the Ciji story didn’t
help. Of course it helped. I mean, it was a major story for us, and it was a
great story, and she was wonderful.

Jason: She was, wasn’t she? Lisa Hartman. What a find.

Michael: Yeah, it was just – again, it was one of those lucky breaks.

James: And were you sort of visually influenced by HILL STREET BLUES at all?
Because I think the camera work – visually, the camera work was much more
interesting than on, say, like the other soaps, which was very kind of
traditional. KNOTS had a kind of a much more sort of a fluid – there’d be
much more going on in the frame in KNOTS than there was on, say, DALLAS or –

Jason: Yes.

Michael: Well, I think that’s something the various directors brought to it.
I think that they had more more leniency in how they wanted to shoot it. We
had a wonderful director, Larry Elikkan, and I think – and we had a
wonderful D.P. named Hugh Gagnier, and they really kind of set a style for
the show. I was so green, you know, that I was just glad that we got to see
the film the next day.

(James and Jason chuckle)

James: So that sort of set the tone – cos you had that fantastic sort of
overlapping dialogue, and, like you mentioned Constance, there’s a wonderful
thing when her baby would cry, it’s not even that she would just acknowledge
it, she would somehow incorporate it into the scene, and there’s a sense of
freedom and flexibility, of sort of spontaneity, on screen.

Michael: That overlapping was something that Larry did definitely bring into
it, you know, kind of a – and then there was a style of cutting into the
middle of the scene that the Lechowicks brought.

James: Yeah.

Michael: I felt that we overdid it.

Jason: Right.

Michael: And I made them start cutting it back on it. It was becoming a
little too stylistic or too predictable.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: And if you get it and you know what we’re doing, then it’s not
working anymore.

James: Uh huh.

Jason: And of course the Lechowicks oversaw the introduction of a lot of new
characters like the Williams and Linda Fairgate and the later characters,
Anne Matheson. Did you – how did you feel about the characters that came
later? Did you feel they weren’t as successful?

Michael: I think that some of them – I mean, they really weren’t brought in
as core characters, they were brought in as story characters?

Jason: Right.

Michael: So I never really – I thought they were OK. I thought Jill was OK.
I never felt that she really took off as a character. And in that way, for
me, she was a utilitarian. You know, she was a utility. She was there to
help tell the story and then, you know, we could move on.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: The characters affected the other people around them. If they
didn’t work, they didn’t stay on long. If they worked, like Cathy and Ciji
and Alec – it was hard to let Alec go, but after a while, you know, there’s
just no story to tell. He becomes another character that you have to

Jason: Yes.

Michael: We had too many characters to service. We wanted – we needed to
service our own characters.

James: How far was his story planned from the beginning? Was he always meant
to go mad?

Michael: No, he was never meant go that way. I don’t know. He was meant to
come in as a bad character and ultimately be a bad guy, but we didn’t know
how. I kind of wanted him to be, you know, the televangalist. That I kinda
liked. That was – I think that was my idea, but I don’t remember. But I
remember liking it. I know that it was my idea for his death, to throw him
over the roof.

Jason: That was fantastic.

James (chuckling): Well done.

Jason: Yes, well done. That was one of the best scenes. It was absolutely
brilliant stuff.

Michael: I always wanted a character to fall of a building.

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: And he has a long way to go, didn’t he? It wasn’t exactly a short
building. It was a very tall building!

Michael: And it was a gift, you know. I mean, I really didn’t – you know, I
thought, “Oh my God, do we have to do this? Do we have to?” You know, death
is the kind of thing that we do, you know. It’s like …

(A London police siren momentarily drowns out Michael’s voice.)

Michael: .. . on the air a year longer than they should be? Once you start
losing a character, like you just bring them in just to have them. You know,
it’s like Joan, again, would say that. “You don’t need me in this scene. Do
I have to be in this scene?” “Well, I think she should be there.” And then
she’d say, “Well, I don’t wanna say anything.” I’d say, “Don’t say

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: “Your presence is enough!”

Michael: “So, Joan – well, you can be in it and you don’t say one word!”


Jason: Fantastic.

James: There could have been A Very Special Episode, where Joan van Ark’s in
every scene, but never speaks.

Michael: And holds a plant!

(All laugh)

Jason: That’s great. Now, Season 7. We’re very curious about Season 7
because that’s the year that David Paulsen came over from DALLAS, I believe.

Michael: Uh huh.

Jason: It’s a very interesting season. David Paulsen’s quoted as saying he
wanted to masculinise KNOTS LANDING. Are you a fan of that season? Do you
remember it? Do you have any thoughts?

Michael: What did we do?

James: That’s when Alec went off the building, and it’s the year Gary blew
up Empire Valley, and he and Abby split up.

Jason: Yes, it’s the whole Empire Valley saga.

James: And you’ve got Ben married to Val as well, with the twins.

Michael: Well, I thought it was a, you know, I thought it was a serviceable
season. I never agreed with David Paulsen. I mean, he wanted to make it
DALLAS and it’s not DALLAS. And I resented that, to be very honest with you.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: Because DALLAS was a male oriented show. The women were all weak
and the men were strong. (Mimicking Sue Ellen again) “Oh no, JR! Oh yes,
JR!” They kept driving into telephone poles.

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Yes! Well, at least he didn’t write out one of the female characters
like the Victoria Principal character was written out in the end.

Michael: Well, she wanted to leave.

Jason: But it was done in such a strange way, wasn’t it? Because they didn’t
put a full stop to it, it lingered and it was – they even brought in another
actress at one point. It was all very odd.

Michael: Well, I don’t think they really knew how to do it, to be honest
with you. I don’t think they’re the story tellers that David Jacobs is. And
again they had always – there was not one strong woman on the show. Maybe
Miss Ellie, but she wasn’t a central character. She was a side character,
you know. And KNOTS LANDING had strong women and strong men and weak women
and weak men. I don’t think David Paulsen was the – had the facility to
write complicated characters like that.

Jason: Yes, and talking of strong women, one of my personal favourites was
the Claudia Lonow character, Diana Fairgate. What a wonderful performance, I

Michael: She was wonderful as a performer and a kid and turned into being a
very successful writer in her own right.

Jason: And of course you gave her some really high octane story lines,
didn’t you, with Chip and that whole saga with Ciji? I mean, she was right
in there and it really, really worked.

Michael: It did. I think that one of things that we successfully achieved,
and I don’t know how we did it, because every year I would lose sleep over
it, because I was so – I just – I said, “Oh my God, we’re never gonna be
able to do it this year, we’ll never be able to do it”, is tying all our
people into a story.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And that’s what the Ciji story did and that’s what the Chip story –
I mean, it really tied everybody in. And that’s when we were the most

Jason: Yes.

Michael: It was always really, really hard to do, because we were not a
family saga the way DALLAS was, you know, where things could happen under
one roof, and when you’re jumping around like that, it’s really very, very
difficult, and I must take my hat off to David and all the writers on the
show. I mean, Ann Marcus was the one who came up with the Ciji character and
the Ciji story.

Jason: Oh really? Wow.

Michael: She was just – she was terrific for us. You know, she really – when
the show was really having a lot of problems towards the very end, toward
our last couple of years, when we had to shut down and let a lot of people
go, we brought her back in and she really helped us get that last two years
back on track. And that’s when David and I realised that it was over.

Jason: Yeah. Because I guess with a show like KNOTS LANDING, it’s not as
simple as saying, “Well, let’s introduce ten new regular characters”, is it?

Michael: No, you can’t, you can’t. I mean, look at Paige. She came in – we
tried, you know, to have another Donna, you know, or another Abby. That’s
how she was introduced. As she evolved, she became a heroine!

Jason: Yes.

Michael: You know, she became a good girl. We didn’t have a bad girl. We
kept floundering for a bad girl and, you know, Kathy Noone, though she was,
you know, bad in her own way, didn’t really fit that role and I just didn’t
– David and I think we were tired – and, you know, everybody was gettin’ a
little older, so it was like, “Who are you gonna bring in to be a femme

Jason: Yes, it’s true, isn’t it? And can we just talk about your own career
a little bit more, and perhaps just some of the other things – work – you’ve
done, and talk to you a bit about FLAMINGO ROAD?

Michael: Oh, I loved that show.

James: It’s great, isn’t it?

Jason: What a fantastic show.

Michael: Pardon?

Jason: We think it’s fantastic. It has no – it’s almost like CAT ON A HOT
TIN ROOF, isn’t it?

Michael: I think if that show had’ve been on ABC or CBS, it would have had a
long run, but I think NBC just thought it was beneath them. It was just –
you know, this was the network that brought you HILL STREET BLUES and CHEERS
and, you know, all this high class stuff, and then here was FLAMINGO ROAD
with people jumping in bed. It was not up to the standards, I think, of Mr
Tinker and Mr Tartikoff. It was cancelled with a 28 share. (Laughs)

Jason: Good Lord. What do you do when something like that happens and you’re
doing a successful show and they just can it? Do you feel totally deflated?
Do you go out and, you know –

Michael: You go out and get drunk. There’s not much you can do about it, you
know. And it was borderline successful. In those days, a 28 share was below
a 30. If we had a 30 share, they would have had to pick it up, but a 28,
they said they could get away with it and they did, you know. They didn’t
like the show. I don’t think the network ever really liked the show.

Jason: Interesting that when you created the show, a lot of the characters
seem almost anti DALLAS characters, don’t they? Almost sort of – you know,
with the matriarch and patriarch [Eudora and Claude Weldon] who were quite
sort of – unstable isn’t perhaps the right word –

James: Yeah, they’re kind of – they’re less Jock and Miss Ellie, they’re
kind of more like Big Daddy and Big Mamma from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

Michael: A little more decadent, but I mean, if you look at DALLAS, DALLAS
is Big Mama and Big Daddy and Brick and Maggie, Hoover and Mae. I mean,
that’s who – that’s what DALLAS was.

James: But there was something a bit more –

Michael: It was a little more decadent cos it had that Southern kind of feel
to it.

Jason: Yes, yes.

Michael: Which I liked. I said, “I just want everybody on this show to

(Jason and James chuckle)

Jason: And Morgan Fairchild, of course, was phenomenal, wasn’t she?

Michael: Oh, she was terrific. Kevin McCarthy was terrific. Mark [Harmon]
was terrific. Howard Duff was, like, magnificent.

James: And yeah, it’s kind of a similar role to Paul Galveston, isn’t it?

Michael: I’m sorry?

James: It’s kind of a similar role to – he played in KNOTS.

Michael: Yes, absolutely. That’s why we asked him to come in and do it.

Jason: With FLAMINGO ROAD, do you remember sort of any -your thoughts on the
show in terms of where it was set? Because I think the only thing with
FLAMINGO ROAD is that sometimes I wasn’t sure what Flamingo Road was, or –
do you know what I mean? – in terms of the town itself.

Michael: Well, I mean – I think that’s a very valid comment. You know,
supposedly it was supposed to have been some place in the Pan Handle of
Florida. We never did it. We never really geographically set it up proper.
My feeling was at first not to, you know, to keep it very – to not be
specific, but I think ultimately that hurt us and if we had been near a
city, we could have used it more instead of just being stuck in that town,
and I think that hurt us. We weren’t really able to let the show grow.

Jason: Were you ever tempted to have a Flamingo Road, a sort of a permanent
– you know, in the same way that you have a cul-de-sac? Were you ever
tempted to go and really base it around specific houses, or was that just a
sort of symbol of the show?

Michael: I think it was really a symbol. You know, my own theory was that
that was where they lived, that’s where everybody aspired to live.

James: Yeah.

Michael: On Flamingo Road. You were either on the other side of the tracks,
where Lute Mae’s was.

Jason: Yes!

Michael: Or you were, you know, up livin’ there on Flamingo Road in the – in
Truro, I think it was called –

Jason: That’s right.

Michael: – with the sheriff. I don’t even remember his name now.

Jason: Sheriff … Semple.

James: Titus Semple.

Jason: Titus Semple.

Michael: Yeah, he was the one who, you know, and he ran the town.

Jason: And of course the second season was very, very dark. You guys did
voodoo –

Michael: Yes, we wanted to get into some of that. We thought that was – and
it was just starting to work, with David Selby coming in, you know, and we
were gonna really try – I really wanted to try to bring in voodoo and maybe
even get some zombies in there.

(Jason and James laugh)

James: Do you think a possible reason why it didn’t last longer is – cos I
re-watched it recently for the first time since I was – well, whenever it
was, twenty years ago – and I always remembered Constance as being a
villainess and, watching the first season again, she’s not really. She’s
actually the wronged wife. And Field, who I kind of had in my mind as a kind
of Bobby Ewing character, is an adulterer. He’s a drunk. And it’s like,
there isn’t a fixed – which I think makes it more interesting – but there
isn’t maybe a fixed moral centre that audiences –

Michael: I think so. We tried to do that with the John Beck character.

James: Yeah.

Michael: Unfortunately, he wasn’t part of the family.

James: Yeah.

Michael: If we did it with Field, then we would lose all those levels.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: And we couldn’t do that, so we never really found a strong moral
centre. I think you’re absolutely right.

James: And it’s interesting. He went on to play almost the same character on
DALLAS as Mark Graison.

(While James changes the tape over, the conversation turns to the character
of Bobby Ewing on DALLAS)

Michael: He was created to be the lead, because he was supposed to be more
like Brick (from CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF), you know, and he had feet of clay.
And Larry was, you know, a supporting character. Larry just went in and
filled the vacuum that Patrick [Duffy] gave him.

Jason: Yeah. Why do those things happen? Do you – is it the writing? Is it
the actors’ demands? Is it both? How do you – ?

Michael: A point of view on the show, too, I think. When Leonard Katzman
came in and other people, they agreed. They wanted – you know, they were
doing a different show than David and I created.

Jason: Right.

Michael: And then they took the show over and pushed us out, and they made
the show what they wanted to.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And by then it was successful so they could pretty much do what
they wanted to do.

Jason: Yeah. And also can we talk a bit about FALCON CREST?

Michael: Sure.

Jason: Do you have any – in retrospect, do you have an overall – any
feelings about that show? Did you like it? Did you not? Was it successful?
Was it what you’d originally intended?

Michael: No, it wasn’t really what I’d originally intended. No, I think the
unfortunate part of FALCON CREST was that – it still was a successful show,
you can’t knock that – but I think the problems with FALCON CREST was it was
not a kind of show that Earl Hamner [the series creator] felt comfortable
doing, and it was not the kind of show he wanted.

Jason: Right.

Michael: Could you hold on one second?

Jason: Sure. No problem.

Michael: A call coming. Hold on.

(Michael disappears briefly again)

Michael: Hello?

James: Hello.

Jason: Hi, hi. Yes, FALCON CREST. Earl wasn’t comfortable, you said, doing –

Michael: Earl – you know, when FALCON CREST was first created, it was
created for a man who was moving – who was an airline pilot. He was moving
his family to the valley, to have a better life with his family, and, you
know, there was his aunt or his step-mother – I don’t even remember what
Angela was –

James (laughing): She was his aunt.

Michael: – who didn’t want him there, and it was gonna be that kind of a
family show. It was gonna be more – you know – a little soapy and a little –
you know –

Jason: Relationship type.

Michael: More relationship orientated, and he felt comfortable. After the
network saw the pilot, they said they didn’t want it that way. They said
they wanted to do a very, very kind of gothic, you know, serial. And Earl –
well, you could just see him, you know, sitting there. He was just livid.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: Because he had no choice. So he was never very comfortable doing
the show, and we were never very comfortable working together, because we
didn’t see eye to eye on how the show should be done. So we were really at
odds with each other and it was best that, I felt, that I step back, and was
not very active in the show until the last couple of years.

James: So you – that was after the first year, was it?

Michael: That was after the first year.

James: Right.

Michael: And then I came back for the last – the year before the last year.

James: So that would be Season 8, wouldn’t it? Yeah.

Michael: Yeah, and then in 9, I think that’s when Joel Surnow came in, who
is now doing 24.

James: Of course. Yes. That’s right.

Michael: You know, he took the show in a totally other direction, which if
I’d have known he was gonna do that, I would have stayed and saw it through,
but –

Jason: It was a great, great season, wasn’t it? Season 9. The way the show
just revived itself completely. I man, now I’m watching that season again.
It’s absolutely stunning.

Michael: Yes, yes. And they had good actors. I think that Susan [Sullivan]
brought in a real, you know, a real solid frame there. But I wasn’t – I must
say that I was not – once I left the show after the first year and was not
really active in the show, I’m really not very aware of the stories they
were telling. They were telling one melodramatic story rather than
relationship stories.

James: It was far more DALLAS than KNOTS LANDING.

Michael: Yeah, yeah. And I guess it was good because it was – they were
compatible to each other.

James: Yeah.

Michael: You know?

Jason: And your – one thing I was interested in that you did do was when
Ana-Alicia [pronounces the name “Ahh-na-A-liss-see-ay”, thus rendering it
unrecognisable] left the show at the beginning of that season, you brought
the character back as someone else, and that really worked. She was much
better – I think she gave a better performance – as the other character.

James: Samantha Ross.

Michael: I don’t think I was involved in that episode – in that year.

James: That’s Season 8, when Melissa dies at the beginning.

Michael: Well, then, I don’t remember, but maybe I was –

Jason: Maybe you were the last year! You were the good year!

Michael: No, no. I was not the last year.

Jason: Oh.

James: It’s –

Michael: I thought I was the year before the last year. I was the year that
they brought in – we brought in that young – the Hispanic family.

James: Yeah, the Ortegas.

Michael: Pardon?

James: The Ortegas. Pilar Ortega.

Michael: That was the season that I was on. I wanted to bring more of a
sense of an UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS element to the show.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: Especially with Hispanics because those are the people who work
there, you know?

James: Yeah.

Michael: And there was no sense of that, and I wanted to try to get a more
middle class – and start to plumb some of the Hispanic audiences that are
out there. And it just didn’t seem to catch on. It just never really caught

James: For the first time, really, you got a sense of the valley, the
environment in which Falcon Crest was.

Michael: That you did, but it just didn’t seem the audience cared, you know.

James: Yeah.

Jason: Perhaps it was that you were a bit ahead of your time, in terms of
now that would really work. Perhaps at the time, you were too sort of
radical in that sense in terms of television audiences.

Michael: Possibly, possibly, but David and I tried it in our last endeavour,
which was FOUR CORNERS –

James: Ah, the thing with Ann Margaret?

Michael: And Sonia Braga. It got cancelled after two episodes.

Jason: Good Lord.

Michael: Well.

Jason: Did you have problems bringing in – generally, on the shows you
worked on, did you have problems casting non-white actors?

Michael: Never. Never. We were encouraged, as a matter of fact. We brought
in the African American family, Larry Riley.

James: Uh huh.

Jason: And Lynne Moody, fantastic actress.

Michael: And that worked for us a while. You know, we did very nicely there.
Again, it just never – they never – and I don’t know what it was – they just
never seemed to blend into the show, you know?

James: Well, I noticed a trend, and I think it’s about the time the
Lechowicks took over, is that a lot of the newer characters coming in, they
always seemed to come in shrouded in mystery. Like Paige, the Williamses and
Jill Bennett. Everybody never turned out to be who they seemed in the

Michael: Well, that’s always fun. That makes it fun. David had a wonderful
axiom and I – it was a great learning thing for me was watching him, you
know, I mean, and working with him I learned so very much. He said, “If
audiences expect a character to make a right turn, we make a left turn.”
That’s what keeps them coming back. It’s always the surprise. And I would
say, “You mean like only getting one twin back?”

(Jason and James laugh heartily)

Jason: I love that! Do you – how long do you think you would have milked
that, do you think? The one twin?

Michael: As long as I could.

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Oh, now let me ask you about your –

Michael: Outside of the office.

(Jason laughs)

Michael: There was a lynching mob outside of the office.

(James laughs)

Jason: Was Joan van Ark in the front or the back of the line?

(Michael laughs)

Jason: Can I ask you about when Laura left, just when it comes to babies,
was that your idea to explore what you would be left with in terms of Meg?
Because that was a very – that again was a very, you know, commercial – it
was a very sort of heartstrings arc.

Michael: That was David and the Lechowicks.

Jason: Ah, OK.

James: When you talked earlier about letting actors into dailies is a bit
like the lunatics taking over the asylum –

Michael (chuckles): Yeah.

James: Was there – is there – I mean, what I think’s very interesting about
KNOTS – and I think the actors seem to have more – when we’ve spoken to
KNOTS actors, they seem to have a lot more insight into their show than,
say, the DALLAS actors do into theirs, because they – you know, some of them
wrote episodes, some of them directed, David talked about how Michele Lee
and Joan van Ark would come to his house to discuss scripts – there seemed
to be a lot more, you know, input from the actors. Now, how did that work?
And how did you feel about that?

Michael: I didn’t like it.

James: Right.

Michael: I never liked it, but David opened the door and that was his,
because I didn’t have to do the – and I didn’t have to meet with them.

James: Uh huh.

(Jason chuckles)

Michael: I didn’t have to write the episode.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: I think David liked that. I think David liked being, you know, the
father that they would come to and talk to. You know, I think he enjoyed
that whole process.

James: Yeah.

Michael: I didn’t like it. I didn’t have the – Number one, I wasn’t writing
it. Number two, I didn’t have the patience. My feeling was, it’s like, I’m a
non-writing producer and – listen, I’m not saying that you don’t meet with
actors at certain points – but not every week to discuss a scene.

James: Yeah, yeah.

Michael: You know. And some of them, you know, like Michele, whom I adore
and who’s a very close friend of mine, I mean, she can drive you to

(Jason and James laugh)

Michael: And she probably did it, but he’s got more patience than me. I have
no patience. You know, it’s like the actor who said, “What’s my motivation
for this line?” My answer is, “Your paycheque.” And I’m not – but were
scenes better? Maybe. Was it worth it? I can’t answer that question. David
can and he will say yes. So if it’s worth it and he feels they got better
out of it, then that’s fine.

Jason: And in terms of your, picking you up on that, your role as a, you
know, a producer, could you just explain a little bit about your – in terms
of your daily – your day to day – you’re running, you know, two different
shows, three different shows, how – cos I’m not sure a lot of people really
understand what an Executive Producer does.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, what you’re – Executive Producers, which, right now,
the – I think the title is used – it’s become a euphemism because, you know,
anybody who gets off the bus can be an executive producer. I mean, plenty
writers now are executive producers just because it gives them control.

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: And one thing television does for writers that film does not, it
gives them much more control of their material, and that’s why – and it
gives them a lot of money. And so when they’re in a series, then they’ll
automatically be executive producers. That means they’re the show runner.
Any executive producer is in charge of the overall creative look and feel of
the show – you know, expected to keep within the boundaries of the budget,
which is why you have what we call a line producer to take care all the
“below the line” things. An executive producer is in charge of hiring all
the actors, hiring costume and stuff and whatever it may be, you know,
production design, but it’s the line producer who keeps that “in line”, to
make sure that they’re spending properly.

Jason: Yes.

Michael: And our job is to keep the show moving creatively. You’re in
casting sessions, you’re in story sessions or in story meetings, you’re
watching dailies, you’re watching rough cuts – though a lot of that stuff
you end up taking home now, depending on how busy the day is.

James: And how did the story meetings work on KNOTS? How far in advance
would you sort of – would you plan an entire season?

Michael: No. We tried to. We thought we would do that, but we would do it in
thirteen week cycles and we would, you know, try to see where we were going
in the next eight to thirteen weeks, and we would just kind of lay that out
sketchily, and then give ourselves enough flexibility that we knew that we
would be able to change course if something hit that was working well. Then
we could pull back and really begin to investigate it.

Jason: Yeah.

James: Can you give any – can you remember any examples of something like
that happening?

Michael: I’m sorry?

James: Can you remember any specific examples of things changing course and
thinking, “Oh, let’s go with that.”?

Michael: Ciji.

Jason: Wow. The Ciji arc.

Michael: She was so good. It was like, “How do we bring her back?”

James: Oh right, right.

Jason: Oh yes, yes.

Michael: Or in the middle of the Ciji story when you’re – you know, when we
thought, “Oh my God, maybe she’ll have a love affair with Kenny or something
like that.” And then it became, “Ooh, my God, we could do it with Gary, you
know, we could do it with this or that.”

(James chuckles)

Jason: Yes.

Michael: It started to slip around, you know, and as you see the actors and
what their chemistry is, then you begin to see how you can play it, because
the actors and their own personalities begin to lead how you’re telling the
story and, you know, if you can attenuate the story – the story’s not
working, you wanna cut bait and get out of there and get another character
in, move something up. It means you gotta come back and, you know, fill that
void, when you thought, “Oh my God, we can keep this thing going until
sweeps in February!”

(Jason and James chuckle)

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: “Hold on – this is never gonna hold up. We’ve gotta get out of
this, and we’ve gotta find out how we can get out of this, and when it will
serve us to get out of it quickly and get something, so when we get into the
February sweeps, we’ll have some good stories to tell.”

James: And what stories did you feel you had to get out of? Do you remember

Michael: Yeah, I think Empire Valley.

James: Yeah, cos that was very abrupt. Suddenly Empire Valley –

Jason: – disappeared overnight –

James: – and no one ever mentioned it for years.

Michael: Well, we still don’t like to talk about it.

(Jason and James laugh)

Michael: Something else we were doing with some water? They were –

James: Oh, Tidal Energy, yeah.

Michael: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that was bullshit.

Jason: Yeah.

James: So that was the year – that was the Season 13. Because I think
there’s – I think I read an interview with David where he –

Michael: Yeah, everything came to a grinding halt.

James: Yeah.

Jason: Yeah. And had you sort of taken your eye of the ball, in terms of you
were doing other things, and suddenly – or did you realise from the
beginning of the season that it wasn’t working?

Michael: Well, you know, I knew it wasn’t working, but my eye was off the
ball. I thought, “Well, you know, David likes this guy [John Romano,
co-executive producer of Season 13], he is a good writer.” Then I said – you
know, and I just – I didn’t say anything – and then Nicollette and Devane
called and said, “We just can’t do this stuff anymore. This is ridiculous.
You guys have gotta do something.”

Jason: Yeah. And of course Linda Fairgate was killed off at the beginning of
that, which was a very bizarre thing, because of all the characters, it
appeared to me anyway, she was really working.

Michael: Yes, she was, she was. And he did kill her. The guy killed her and
it was like, “Duh. What are you gonna do now? You know, I don’t wanna her
waking up in the shower.”

(James and Jason chuckle)

Jason: Yes, yes!

Michael: So, you know, we really had to come in and we shut down and we
really had to really totally reorganise.

James: And how did that work? What did you do? You shut down the – and then
exactly what kind of – how do you go about retooling a show?

Michael: Well, we brought Ann Marcus back and we sat down and said, “This is
where we are now. How do we get ourselves out of it?” And she and David, or
she sat down and she wrote us out of it.

Jason: Wow.

Michael: And we were able to get through another season and a half, and
that’s when we said – at the end of that season, we said, “This is it. We
wanna – we’re finished.” Cos they wanted to cut a couple of other characters
and we said, “Let’s just do one more year and that’ll be the end”, and we
wanted to plan for that year, you know. I said, “I don’t wanna wait until,
you know, we’re at the next till the last episode and then find out we’re
not coming back. I don’t want you to cancel us.”

James: It is a great final episode. It must be one of the great final
episodes of a series.

Michael: I thought David did a great job.

James: Yeah, because the great thing is Abby comes back and you think, “Oh
my God, it’s all gonna start again. Abby moves back into the cul-de-sac,
Gary and Val are there – ”

Michael: Right.

James: ” The whole thing could – we could have another fourteen years of the
same -”

(Michael laughs)

James: It’s a great – it’s like it’s come full circle. It’s great.

Michael: Yes.

Jason: Yeah, it’s great stuff. Oh, what did you think of DYNASTY because
that – obviously, that was the only big show that you weren’t involved in?

James: Of the prime time soaps.

Michael: I liked DYNASTY. I thought DYNASTY was more DALLAS than it was
anything we did. And I had friends, very good friends, who were doing it –
you know, Dick and Esther Shapiro. I had worked with them in daytime, so we
were very friendly. In fact, I did a show with them.


Michael: EMERALD POINT. We did that navy show for about a year at CBS, and
it didn’t work. We found out that people don’t care about the people that
run the ship, they care about the people who build them.

(James and Jason chuckle)

Jason: Indeed, indeed.

Michael: DYNASTY was – I mean, I never watched it.

Jason: Did you see – the first year was very different to the rest of it. It
was very good, the first year.

Michael: Uh huh.

James: It reminds me a little bit of your Season 8 of FALCON CREST. With the
Ortegas, you’ve got the kind of the worker family, and the first year of
DYNASTY is very similar because you’ve got the Blaisdel family, who are oil
workers who work for the Carringtons, and you see those two families

Michael: Right. See, that would have been – and even DALLAS, we had set
DALLAS up that way with Digger’s family.

James: Yeah.

Michael: And we could have done that too with the Ken Kercheval character. I
mean, there could have been the two families. It’s just – they just kind of
whisk away that, you know, the downstairs family. They all wanted to do
those – I guess it was the 80s, it was the Reagan years – to do those glitzy
shows, you know, and that’s what Aaron [Spelling] and Doug Cramer wanted to
do with DYNASTY and it proved to be very successful. So everybody rode the
wave of that kind of show. I think we were the only one that was about
people who were more upper middle class than people who were, you know, were
– I mean, you know, it wasn’t CORONATION STREET but -(Jason and James
chuckle) there were people who you could more identify with.

Jason: And do you think people who buy – obviously, the KNOTS LANDING DVD is
out in three weeks or so, the first season –

Michael: Yeah, I heard.

Jason: – really soon – do you – what do you think – how do you think that’s
going to go, in terms of people appreciating the show all over again?

Michael: I don’t know. I really can’t tell you. I have no idea. I thought
THE REUNION would do better and it didn’t.

Jason: That was on a Friday – you guys were scheduled on a Friday, though,
in America, weren’t you?

Michael: Yeah, and I don’t think that helped us.

Jason: No.

Michael: You know, I mean, they don’t look at that. They look at what the
number is, and the number wasn’t great and, you know … I mean, they didn’t
wanna put it against DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES on Sunday. I understand that. But
they did put DALLAS there and DALLAS did very well against them.

Jason: And also KNOTS LANDING is – DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES is considered to be,
you know, a homage, if you like, to KNOTS LANDING. In the press, everyone
always mentions those two shows together. You know, “KNOTS LANDING was the
original DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES.” So I think that the DVD may get a get a
whole new audience of younger people. Certainly, on the KNOTS LANDING
website, it’s lots and lots of new – younger people coming to the show.

Michael: Well, that would be wonderful. The thing is, it’s not gonna help
me. It doesn’t put a nickel in my pocket.

Jason: Does it not?

Michael: No.

Jason: Oh, that’s terrible. It should do. It’s your show!

Michael: I know. Well, no, it’s Warner Brothers’ show. They didn’t even
offer us money to do the commentary. So David and I and Michele, we didn’t
do the commentary.

Jason: Oh, I see.

James: Oh, that’s a shame.

Jason: Who’s doing the commentaries?

Michael: I think – I know Ted and Joan did –

Jason: OK.

Michael: – but I don’t know if Don did, but I mean, I said, “Well, why would
we do this if it’s – ? You’re getting money for this.”

Jason: Yeah.

Michael: “You’re getting all the profits and we get – and we’re supposed to
take time out of our day and do this for you, and you’re not even gonna pay
us anything?”

Jason: That’s outrageous.

Michael: “At least make a donation to a charity in our name.”

James: Yeah.

Michael: Something.

Jason: Absolutely.

Michael: I said, “I’m not doin’ it.” And I think David would have liked to
have done it, but as a – in respect to me – he didn’t do it.

Jason: Yes. Well, it’s – you know – it’s your profession and it’s your
livelihood and, at the end of the day, anybody in any job has to – you don’t
turn up to work unless you’re getting paid.

Michael: Yeah, I mean, and you know, it’s not like I said, “I want a million
dollars”, you know, I said, “I just wanna be paid for my time.” I said, “I
don’t think it’s fair that you should be putting something out commercially,
and have me donate my time and not pay anything to me for it.”

Jason: Absolutely.

James: Yeah, I’d have loved to have – we’d have loved to have – but I
completely understand your reasons – but we’d have loved to have heard your
commentaries. Maybe on the later seasons, they’ll –

Michael: I don’t think so.

James: No, doesn’t sound like they will.

Michael: I would doubt it. I would tend to doubt it.

Jason: Yeah. Oh well, you guys can just talk to us instead. We’ll

James: We’ll play it over the episode. What I felt I should pass on from the
FALCON CREST fans is that – I don’t know if you have any influence – if that
show ever comes out on DVD, they would – it would just – they would just be
ecstatic if there was any chance of the pilot, THE VINTAGE YEARS, being

Michael: You know what? I have no idea if they would do that or not.

Jason: I guess it would involve paying a load more people, right?

Michael: Because, well, it’s not just that. It’s just that, you know, it’s a
totally different cast practically. I think Jane and Lorenzo are the only
ones. Maybe Emma –

Jason: Oh, really?

James: And Chao Li, I think.

Michael: No, they changed – they had, you know, Samantha Eggar and Clu

Jason: Ah.

Michael: He’s in the pilot and they recast them, you know, with Foxworth and
Susan Sullivan.

Jason: Yeah.

James: And how did you feel about those casting changes? Were you for those?

Michael: Well, it was a different show, you know. I felt real bad because I
liked Clu and I liked Samantha Eggar. They brought a whole different level
to what the show was, and Susan and Foxworth were more in keeping with what
they wanted in the show.

Jason: Right, right.

Michael: It became a totally different show.

James: Well, I don’t know if you pass any of these – if you talk to any of
these DVD people, (chuckling) just tell them the fans would – they would be
so happy if that was included. It would be fascinating to compare the two, I

Michael: Well, I don’t know that I’ll have anything to do about it.

James: No.

Michael: I know that they do – they are including the revival – THE REUNION
– in that first season.

Jason: Oh, of KNOTS LANDING?


James: Right.

Michael: I know that it’s in there.

Jason: And not the brilliant New York Museum of TV tribute that went on.
That was great.

Michael: No, I didn’t even know about that. Oh, I wasn’t there for that. I
was on location for a film, and I wasn’t able to attend.

Jason: Yeah, your absence was notable. You were much missed, I think, but it
was a really, really special – and of course Constance was there, which
everyone was really happy about.

Michael: Oh well, that was nice. That’s unusual!

(Jason and James laugh)

Jason: Well, listen, Michael, thank you so very much for your time.
Actually, before you –

Michael: My pleasure. I really appreciate you guys’ enthusiasm and your
loyalty to the show.

James: Oh, it’s –

Michael: If there’s anything you need or want that we can help you with –

Jason: Oh –

Michael: – please, don’t hesitate to call.

Jason: Oh, really?

James: That is wonderful. That is –

Michael: You know where we are –

James: Yeah.

Michael: – and, again, I just – I thank you for your interest and your love
of the show, because it was very important to us. Very, very important.

James: And it still holds up today, on so many levels. As a piece of drama,
it’s fascinating, and as a time capsule piece, there isn’t anything, I don’t
think – for those early years – there’s no show, I think, especially from
our, sort of, British perspective, that shows, sort of, American suburbia of
the time.

Michael: Well, I appreciate it again, and again I wish you all the best, and
if there’s anything we can get for you, let me know.

James: Thank you so much.

Jason: Cheers, Michael. Thank you.

Michael: Bye.