It all started on December 27, 1979, when Dallas‘ Bobby Ewing and mom Miss Ellie bought a cute little house in the Southern California town of Knots Landing as a wedding present after brother Gary remarried childhood love Valene. Perhaps a little too late, the couple would come to learn why such neighborhoods were known as “bedroom communities.”
Meet the Neighbors
Quicker than you could say “Here comes trouble,” the Ewings were knee-deep in the local goings-on. We’re not saying that Valene was a bit of a doormat, but you’ll notice that we’re two slides into this photo gallery, and already, Karen Fairgate has pushed her out of the front-and-center spot.
Better Than Thou
The first people the Ewings met? Karen and Sid Fairgate, who would quickly become Gary and Val’s closest friends. Why, we’re not really sure, given that Gary’s dealings with the Mob would get Sid killed in the Season 2 cliffhanger, and Val was the type who always borrowed a cup of sugar but never had one to give in return.
Unhappily Ever After
The most miserable couple on Seaview Circle had to be Richard and Laura Avery. He was an upwardly-mobile jerk whose emotional abuse and ability to turn every positive into a negative eventually (but not nearly soon enough) became more than his wife could take.
Early episodes often revolved around troublemaking outsiders visiting the cul-de-sac in which most of the action took place. For example, fresh from having having [spoiler alert!] shot J.R. Ewing, vixen Kristin Shepard swung by long enough to canoodle with local hottie Kenny Ward. His wife, Ginger, presented the bad girl with a handy list of all the reasons she was not having any of it.
If Karen was weeping, you could pretty much be sure that daughter Diana was lurking nearby. While Sid’s sister Abby Cunningham would become the character viewers loved to hate, that balance tipped heavily in favor of the latter when it came to his and Karen’s eldest child.
The Party’s Over
Three of the women in this picture saw armed gunmen who’d crashed Ginger’s baby shower. Abby, on the other hand, saw a man, period. Thanks to her seduction techniques and the rare occasion when Diana proved useful (by running to get help), everything turned out just fine.
Everyone may be smiling here, but things got rocky when a Season 4 crossover episode found Gary and Abby heading to Dallas for the reading of his his father Jock’s will. J.R. was miffed to learn his black-sheep brother had inherited a small fortune, while Abby immediately began scheming to become Mrs. Gary Moneybags… er, Ewing.
Regrets, He’s Had a Few
Although Gary would find himself attracted to Abby from the moment they met in Season 2, she wouldn’t actually get his ring on her finger until three years later. Had Gary looked closer at their wedding portrait, he might have realized sooner just how seriously his bride had taken his bank account her vows.
On Gary and Abby’s honeymoon, he was stunned to meet Cathy Geary, who happened to look exactly like Ciji Dunne, a singer he’d briefly been involved with and wrongly accused of murdering. Need we even tell you that Gary bedded the doppelganger… or that Abby had actually brought the lookalike into their lives to keep him distracted from her business dealings?
Fun fact: Val and Gary were the parents of Dallas‘ Lucy Ewing. Less fun fact: Val’s mama, Lilimae Clements, was basically responsible for J.R.’s men kidnapping the tot. Despite that, Val eventually let not only Lilimae move in but also her nephew/son Joshua Rush (played by a young Alec Baldwin).
If Looks Could Kill
Following an ill-advised romance with Gary, Cathy fell hard for Joshua. What’s she looking at on her wedding day, you ask? Probably the dark clouds gathering on the horizon. Joshua, it turned out, was a troubled young man who would eventually fall to his death from a building he was attempting to throw his wife off.
Are You Being Served?
A one-night stand with ex-hubby Gary left Val pregnant with twins. Told the children (who were sold on the black market) had died, Valene had a mental breakdown that found her taking on the persona of Verna Ellers (a character from one of her bestselling novels) and working as a waitress in a Tennessee diner. Gary would eventually find Val and bring her home. But not before getting a side of hash browns; they looked amazing!
Good Guys Finish Last
Journalist Ben Gibson helped Val realize she could love someone other than Gary… or at least really, really like someone while continuing to not-so-secretly pine for her ex. Once Val’s stolen children were returned, Ben even pretended to be their biological father. Their marriage was both the best decision Val ever made and, ironically, Ben’s worst.
With This Ring
Sparks flew the moment widow Karen met Patrick “Mack” MacKenzie. After planning a very big, very messy wedding, the pair instead ran off to Vegas and tied the knot at a gloriously tacky chapel. Mack even sprung for the super deluxe package which, they were told, included not only rice but “someone to throw it.”
The New Guy
Sometimes, a character hits a show and changes it forever. Such was the case when would-be senator Greg Sumner was introduced in Season 5. His arrival would see the show’s distinctly middle-class citizens become movers and shakers thanks to businesses with names like Empire Valley, Lotus Point and Murakame.
All in the Family
It’s hard to say which development Karen found more unsettling: the daughter Mack didn’t know he had showing up on their doorstep… or her son Michael falling for too-mature-for-her-age Paige Matheson. (Don’t worry, Karen… Paige will soon develop a taste for older men, and you’ll have a way bigger problem on your hands in her mom, Anne.)
Gary didn’t have much interest in dealing with businessman Paul Galveston, but Abby was all in. Sure, he was a chauvinistic pig, but he also promised her that “five years from now, Gary Ewing is going to make J.R. seem middle-class.” The reason Abby’s not looking into the camera? She’s already got her eye on the next prize.
A Touch of Class
When Paul Galveston died, widow Ruth — played by Hollywood legend Ava Gardner — appeared in a puff of (cigarette) smoke. She convinced son Greg to take over his late dad’s empire, which he renamed The Sumner Group.
May, Meet December
Age difference be damned, there was no denying the chemistry between Paige and Greg. Unfortunately, despite clearly being head over heels for the younger woman (whom ex-lover Anne tried to pass off as his daughter!), Sumner believed she’d be throwing her life away if he agreed to marry her. So while they’d always have those sexy games of strip croquet, he set Paige free and found a more, er, suitable partner…
An Affair to Remember
Abby liked being married to the very rich Gary but liked even more the idea of getting a big divorce settlement from him and exchanging vows with the far wealthier Greg. Hearing of the nuptials, Paige sent the pair a special wedding gift: a croquet set!
Unable to have Greg, Paige settled for sexy (and corrupt) cop Tom Ryan. But on what was to be their wedding day, she found herself standing solo at the altar. What she didn’t know was that Greg, having silently done the whole “if I can’t have you, nobody will” thing, had blackmailed Tom into becoming a runaway groom.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more duplicitous pair than Greg’s sister, Claudia Whittaker, and her Italian lover, Nick Schillace. These two considered everyone they met to be sheep they’d happily fleece.
The Look of Anything *But* Love
At the point where Gary fell for Jill Bennett, someone really should have had a dating intervention for the guy. Perhaps had he been looking her in the eye instead of gazing lovingly at the side of her head, he’d have noticed that she was bat-guano crazy.
Though not a perfect mother by any stretch, when daughter Olivia got hooked on drugs, Abby took decisive action. Demanding the girl’s house keys, Abby snarled, “I”m not going to lock you out. I’m going to lock you in… with me!”
The Perils of Poor Val
Like viewers, Jill realized that a part of Gary would always love Val. Unable to have that part surgically removed, she instead opted to subtract Val from the equation by breaking into her home and making it appear she’d committed suicide. When Val said nobody would believe she killed herself, Jill — fully aware of the heroine’s troubled history — laughed. “Everyone will believe it,” she declared. “Just listen to how trippingly the news rolls off the tongue: ‘Poor Val committed suicide!'”
When Laura left the cul-de-sac, she sold her home to a new family… that was keeping a major secret. It turned out that Frank, Pat and Julie Williams were in fact Jerry, Samantha and Janelle Sollars, who’d gone into witness protection after Samantha/Pat helped bust an illegal drug ring operating out of the Chicago hospital in which she’d once practiced.
Oops, She Did it Again
Despite pretty much everyone on the planet getting a bad vibe from Danny Waleska, Val went ahead and married the guy. Just to keep things interesting, Gary got involved with Danny’s ex-wife, Amanda. After a reign of terror which found Danny beating Val, trying to do away with Gary and actually killing Pat by running her down while drunk, the baddie was found face down in a pool. His killer? Teenager Julie, whom he’d attacked while drunk.
A Glimpse of Happiness
In one of the show’s most heartbreaking storylines, Laura found true love with Greg… only to discover she was dying shortly after giving birth to daughter Meg. When Laura left Knots Landing to shuffle off this mortal coil, Greg shut down emotionally, handing Meg over to Karen and Mack on the condition that they never reveal the child’s true parentage.
Two of a Kind
Sumner got a half brother in Peter Holister, whose mother was Sylvia Lean (movie star Ruth Roman). Except it turned out she wasn’t Peter’s mom and he wasn’t actually related to Greg at all. Following secret trysts with both Paige and Abby, Peter died after falling on a spindle while arging with Mack’s daughter.
Paige’s supposedly-dead mom Anne returned and threw her hat into the ring for Greg’s heart — or at least his bank account. The fact that her daughter and Greg were clearly in love mattered not one bit to the materialistic mom.
Friends Till the End
From the first episode until the last, one thing never changed, and that was the bond between Karen and Val. Sure, they’d hit the occasional rough patch, but at the end of the day, theirs was without doubt the most enduring of all the relationships to unfold during the sudser’s incredible 14-year run.