Falcon Crest: Season 1
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Uncork the complete first season of Falcon Crest, the popular, long-running series centered on the rich vineyards and richer people of Northern California’s wine country. Academy Award® winner Jane Wyman stars as winery matriarch Angela Channing, who will let nothing – family, honor, the law – stand between her and power. Co-stars include Robert Foxworth as Chase Gioberti, Angela’s upstanding nephew and rival, and Lorenzo Lamas as Lance Cumson, Angela’s scheming, playboy grandson. Meet the characters… indulge in the lifestyle…savor the first of nine seasons of vintage television melodrama.
Nineteen eighty-two was a very good year for prime-time soaps. Dallas, in its fourth season, revealed who shot J.R., Dynasty heated up in its second season with the addition of Joan Collins, and Falcon Crest made its auspicious debut. Neither as wickedly fun nor campily over the top as its predecessors in its inaugural season, Falcon Crest added a touch of class to this genre of infinite guilty pleasures. The venerable Jane Wyman, a casting coup, stars as Angela Channing, the iron-willed matriarch who will stop at nothing to maintain her power as head of Falcon Crest Winery and the surrounding Tuscany Valley. Robert Foxworthy, not the snappiest grape on the vine, costars as Charles Gioberti, Angela's nephew, who inherits a share of the winery in the wake of his father Jason's death. He moves west to make a new life for his troubled family, including wife Maggie (Susan Sullivan), a freelance writer; hotheaded son Cole (William R. Moses), an aspiring archaeologist; and angsty teenaged daughter Vickie (Jamie Rose), especially unhappy in her new surroundings. "I can't breathe in that house," she complains to Cole in the episode "Dark Journey," just before running away to San Francisco, where she unwittingly becomes enthralled to a pornographer. Falcon Crest was referred to as "Dallas with grapes," but there is one key difference. Larry Hagman's J.R. took great and gleeful pleasure in plotting his rivals' downfalls. Angela is a tough old bird, but whether she's hiring Charles's disreputable former war buddy to sabotage his crop or undermining his campaign for the County Board, she seems to get no particular kick out of her machinations to drive Charles and family out of the valley. What she and Falcon Crest needed was a more formidable and equally cunning opponent. Enter David Selby as Richard Channing in season 2. Until then, we have Lorenzo Lamas as Angela's spoiled nephew and dangerously eager coconspirator and plenty of dark secrets and uncovered family skeletons to propel the season forward, principally Charles's growing suspicions that Angela isn't telling the truth about his father's death (well founded, as the audience knows from the pilot episode). One Very Special Episode features Lana Turner in her first screen role in more than a decade as Chase's mother. Anyone hoping for a Dynasty-esque catfight between Turner and Wyman will be disappointed, but the two screen legends are great verbal sparring partners. A special shout-out, too, to Chao-Li Chi as Chao-Li, Angela's very faithful butler and chauffeur, as well as Ana Alicia as Melissa, who livens things up as a scheming wine heiress who loves Cole but submits to an arranged marriage with Lance. Though it serves up some cheese with its wine, Falcon Crest has aged well, and its first season can be savored in episode sips or in one intoxicating gulp. --Donald Liebenson
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My wife and I are wine members at the winery in which this show was first filmed, a winery to remain unnamed, although if you do a few web searches, you should quickly find it. That's how we first found out about this show, 30 some-odd years after the fact. I did find out recently, though, after reading a page or two on the TV show's web site that the winery only let them film there for the first season; it had something to do with the crew scratching the beautiful wood floors which led to some kind of a fallout between the owner of the winery and the producers of this show. But we watched Season Two first, but only because, at that time, Season One wasn't available for streaming. But then we purchased Season One, watched every episode, and now it appears that it's no longer available for streaming again! This is nearly as confusing as "Falcon Crest" the series, and all of it's characters, relatives, and relationships!
While I only gave Season Two a 3-star rating, I decided to go 4 with Season One. Why? Was Season One really any better than Season Two? Well, probably not, but now that I've learned the characters a bit, I've warmed up to it a bit. I still laugh at the ridiculous characters and the more-ridiculous dialog, but hey, I laughed while watching "Melrose Place" (MP) (the original, not the reboot) too, and I liked that show. It was very funny. Only real issue: MP didn't take itself seriously, while I believe that this show perhaps did.
Well, going back and catching this season after watching the second, I started to understand some of the relationships, nonetheless. I pretty much know who is who now, who is sleeping with whom, etc. etc., and that helps, since even most of these characters don't seem to know who anybody is either. But now, I'm actually looking forward to buying Season Three, as I need to see what happens next. Or rather, what happened after I watched Season Two, which was a while ago. Maybe I'll have to go back and watch a couple of episodes from that season again, as a refresher?
Why not pour yourself a glass of Cab, buy a season or two of "Falcon Crest," and drink and laugh yourself silly? It's all in good fun. Not that it should be taken too seriously, though. After all, after you hear some of the dialog, you'll realize that the writers maybe didn't take it all that seriously either.
With "Waltons" creator Earl Hamner at the reigns, the series maintains a dignified ambiance that elevates it from its contemporaries. Later seasons would become more sudsy, but this one plays more like straight drama with soap opera elements thrown in. The picture quality could be better, but that just adds to the vintage flavor, like the fine wine that flows at Falcon Crest itself. A lot of the episodes have the original yellow closing Lorimar logo which really takes me back to the early '80s.
The cast of this show is tremendous - Jane Wyman is one of the most talented classic film stars to make the transition to prime time television, and she holds the audience of Falcon Crest spellbound as in season one, we only begin to realize the lengths to which Angela Channing will go to control the vineyards of Falcon Crest. This tough-as-nails character has some of the greatest lines ever uttered on a prime-time soap, and these (plus Wyman's brilliant portrayal) serve to set her up perfectly as 'The Queen of Mean'.
In season one Chase (Robert Foxworth), and to a lesser extent, Maggie (Susan Sullivan) are the chief 'good guy' thorns in Angela's side, but in season 2 the action really revs up with the arrival of Richard Channing (David Selby), who at least in his earlier seasons is in no way a 'good guy'... a fact which makes him a perfect adversary for Angela. Angela's partner in crime during the early part of the show is her spoiled nephew Lance (Lorenzo Lamas), but Lance has some problems of his own, in the form of his ongoing love/hate relationship with Melissa (Ana Alicia).
This is not Falcon Crest's best season - in my opinion season 2 through 6 or 7 are Falcon Crest's best. But season 1 is a great intro to the characters, and well worth watching.
I hope the rest of the seasons will be quickly on the way. My old VHS tapes recorded from TV in the 1980's are well past their expiry date!