My friend Donna, the hair stylist, has watched more hours of prime-time television soap opera than any other human being. While this fact has not yet made its way into the Guinnes Book Of World Records, it’s true, and her three favorite shows are CBS’s Dallas, ABC’s Dynasty and CBS’s Knots Landing, all of which she has watched, without missing a single episode, since they first went on the air, which was more years ago than either of us care to think. Early this season, over a cup of soup and a chicken salad between customers, Donna delivered the following breathless report:
“If you ask me, Knots Landing is going to be number one. I predict it. Knots Landing is more down-to-earth. Dallas has gotten boring. Dynasty has gotten too phony. The clothes are too phony. I mean, who wears evening gowns for breakfast? Dynasty is suddenly all about palace revolutions in some phony country. Even the makeup looks phony. Did you see Krystle after the palace revolution? All she got when they shot everybody down was one itty-bitty little blood spot on her cheek! It didn’t even mess up her hair!
“Dallas started to get boring after Jock died. On Knots Landing, Gary is JR’s brother–he’s the middle brother, between JR and Bobby, and Gary came back to Dallas for Bobby’s funeral. JR hates Gary. Bobby was always Jock’s favorite. But Miss Ellie has always had a soft spot in her heart for Gary, even though she usually sticks up for JR. If you ask me, Donna Reed was never Miss Ellie. I’m glad they brought back the real Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) after her quadruple bypass. Anyway, Dallas started going even further downhill when they killed Bobby because he was bored with the show. I read that. What’s Bobby going to do, though, now that he’s dead? What do you think?
“Anyway, to start Knots Landing, Gary left Southfork and moved to California. Gary is a nice guy, but he has problems. He used to be an alcoholic. he was really knocking back the booze, but then he dried out. He used to be married to Val, but now he’s married to Abby. But if you ask me, Val was Gary’s true love, and Gary was Val’s. Gary has always felt rejected. Now Gary doesn’t know about it, but Abby, his wife is a real devil. She’ll kill to keep that Ewing name and that Ewing money, and she’s fooled Gary from the beginning. She’s a compulsive liar. Gary thinks he loves her, but he’ll see through her sooner or later. When that happens–watch out! But if you ask me, Abby is more real than Alexis on Dynasty. Alexis plots like a man. When she wants something done, she picls up the phone and calls the President of the United States and has him do it. But Abby plots the way a woman would. She schemes and schemes. Abby’s double-crossing and triple-crossing everybody, and getting away with it. I love that! Abby is behind all of Val and Gary’s troubles, but they don’t know it.
“You see, the big thing right now is trying to get Val’s twin babies (stolen at birth, and illegally adopted by another couple) back to her. (They were returned in this season’s second episode). Gary is the babies’ father, but he doesn’t know it. Val has let on that the father is her new fiance (now husband), Ben, but it’s Gary. How did Gary get to be the father? After he divorced Val, and the night before he married Abby, he snuck back to Val for a one-night stand. Abby knows that Gary is the father, and so does what’s-his-name, the (former) senator, Greg Sumner. Greg Sumner and Abby are plotting together, and Abby has gotten Gary to put a lot of money into some secret, illegal project (Empire Valley). That senator is a crook. naturally, Abby doesn’t want Gary to find out he’s the babies’ father. Why not? Because then he might go back to Val, of course! Or he could change his will and leave all his money to the babies, and Abby wouldn’t get any!
“Val’s going to have a rough time. Val’s a little flaky, but she’s really a nice girl. She’s really sweet. She’s never done anything bad. her only problem is that she’s always going into a state of shock. So people use her. She’s to honest. She won’t lie. She and Sue Ellen on Dallas have a lot in common. If anybody can save Dallas, it’s Sue Ellen, if you ask me. She’s drying out again after being back on the bottle. But I predict: JR will take Sue Ellen back. He always takes Sue Ellen back.
“But that Abby is so smart! And pretty, too. I read where she’s going to have her own cosmetics line. That’s another thing I like about Knots Landing–their hair styles keep changing. i notice that, because I’m into hair. Everybody should his hair style now and then– that’s natural. And on Knots Landing they dress more like real people do– more natural. Val loves jeans. their houses are more like real people’s houses. On Dynasty, they’re like movie sets, and the clothes are like a fashion show. i wouldn’t be caught dead in one of Alexis’ dresses. I’m actually thinking of giving up watching Dynasty altogether. It’s just more of the same. I watch the daytime reruns of Dallas and Dynasty, too– there’s a TV in my shop– and all I see is those same people getting older. Do you see what I mean about Knots Landing being more down-to-earth?”
In Donna’s opinion, Dynasty is losing ground because it’s trying to copy Dallas. “Dynasty’s been getting ready for a spinoff (Dynasty 2: The Colbys), like Knots Landing was a spinoff of Dallas,” she said between mouthfuls. “That’s what Charlton Heston and Barbara Stanwyck are doing, getting ready to spinoff with Jeff to California–the way Gary did on Dallas. That’s copying, if you ask me.
“But, if you ask me, the main thing that makes Knots Landing better than either of the other two is that the relationships between the people are more, like, real. I mean the relationships between the cvouples, between Gary and Val, between Gary and Abby and between Mack and Karen. They’re more human. mack really cared when Karen was in the hospital (for a drug problem)–you could tell. You can tell how much Val loves Gary. Does what’s-her-name (Amanda) on Dynasty really love that prince? I think she just wanted to be queen. And when they fight on Dallas and Dynasty, it’s like the way they fight in Bugs Bunny cartoons–insulting each other, and cracknig wise, and setting littel traps for each other. In real life, couples don’t fight that way. The relationships on Knots Landing are more, like, subtle. On Knots Landing, when couples fight, they really suffer. I mean, when I fight with a man, I suffer. i don’t make wise-crack. I can never think of a good wisecrack until later. On Dallas and Dynasty, it’s like the writers are writing the story for the characters. On Knots Landing, the writers re letting the characters write their own story, if you know what I mean.” Donna paused, and pondered her salad, as though impressed, and a bit surprised, with her own insight.
“OK, so if you ask me, here’s what I predict: On Knots Landing, Gary’s going to have to find out he’s the father of Val’s babies. but rather than let him do that, Abby could have him killed. That might happen. Or that senator, what’s-his-name, Greg Sumner, could get killed, particularly when they get to the bottom of all this illegal business. And Abby will be behind it all, of course. And watch out for Lilimae! She’s been pretty quiet lately, and she could be up to something. Anyway, that’s what I think. What do you think?”