On the Anniversary of Its Debut a Shocking 41 (!) Years Ago, We Look Back at the Much-Missed Primetime Soap Knots Landing — Plus, Photos From the Dallas Spinoff’s Entire Run
CBS/Courtesy of the Everett Collection
Ready to feel old? Knots Landing first aired on December 27, 1979.
Sure, Dallas‘ Bobby Ewing was there to hand brother Gary and his wife Valene the keys to their new home, but that first episode of Knots Landing had precious little else to do with the wildly successful series from which it was spun off. Other Ewings — including both J.R. and the woman who shot him — would visit, but they’d play very small roles in the 14-year history of Seaview Circle and its residents.
Viewers who tuned in looking for the glitz and glamour of Dallas would instead find a world which looked far more like the one in which they lived. There were no larger-than-life villains or big shoulder pads (although both would eventually make regular appearances). Even Abby, who’d come to be the show’s hiss-worthy she-devil, was introduced in Season 2 as a harried single mom of two pre-teens, doing her best to get by.
Instead, we would meet Val and Gary’s new neighbors and find out what mini-dramas were unfolding behind closed doors. Sid and Karen Fairgate appeared to have the perfect lives, yet the arrival of his wild-child daughter — a product of his first marriage — would expose cracks in their foundation. Up-and-coming music mogul Kenny Ward was as incapable of fidelity as he was handsome.
But it was Richard and Laura Avery whose marriage almost immediately struck us as the most fragile. He was an eternally grasping wannabe for whom a family was little more than an accessory, while Laura clearly wanted so much more than life had given her, but seemed to be wasting away in Richard’s shadow.
And, of course, Gary and Val had issues of their own. He was a recovering alcoholic, and she lived in constant fear that the problems which had torn them apart years earlier would resurface.
From these simple roots would spring some of the most dynamic and compelling storytelling to ever unfold on a primetime soap. While shows like Falcon Crest and Dynasty were focused on wealthy people living over-the-top lives, Knots Landing‘s tales were far more intimate. We watched as Laura blossomed into a career woman and, after Richard slunk off into the night, found new love in the arms of Greg Sumner. Gary’s affair with Abby would push Valene to leave her unfaithful husband and carve out a new life for herself. Yet always, Gary was there — in both her heart and head — lurking like the bad habit she just couldn’t shake.
Gary and Val would spend more of the show’s run apart than together, yet whenever one entered the room, the look of longing which flashed across the face of the other told you that somehow, some way, they would wind up together when this epic journey was done. As co-creator Michael Filerman said during an interview with Knotslanding.net, “We finally realized that the major arc of the entire series [involved] keeping them apart because the audience wanted to see them together.
“People don’t wanna watch other people happy,” he added with a laugh.
That first season’s episodes were largely self-contained, although that would change by the following year. Perhaps the biggest twist in those early days was Season 2’s literal cliffhanger, which saw the car driven by Sid plow through a barrier and plunge into the ocean below. Entering Season 3, we knew Sid would survive the dangerous operation required to save his life. After all, he and Karen were the stable pair who grounded the drama swirling all around them.
But no. Sid never awoke from that operation, leaving a heartbroken Karen to pick up the pieces and move on. Eventually, she would find new love with brash attorney Patrick “Mack” MacKenzie, but Sid’s death taught viewers that this was a show on which anything could — and often did — happen.
Elsewhere, Abby’s pursuit of Gary would turn the neighborhood on its ear. (To this day, fans can easily recite Abby’s response when confronted by Val: “I’m not saying we’re having an affair, and I’m not saying we’re not,” teased the vixen. “What I am saying is that I can have him anytime I want!”) As with Val, Gary would develop a long-lasting, complicated relationship with Abby, who herself seemed unable to decide if what she loved was the man or the Ewing money he would eventually inherit.
Although forever connected by the name Ewing, Knots Landing would eventually sever itself from the mothership after Dallas explained away Bobby’s death — and an entire year’s worth of episodes — as a dream. Because Valene had named one of her twins Bobby in honor of the tot’s supposedly late uncle, it was decided that from that point on, Knots Landing would exist in an essentially parallel universe… one in which Bobby remained six feet under.
After an incredible run of 344 episodes, Knots Landing would be axed by CBS, airing for the final time on May 13, 1993. The cast would reunite in 1997 for a two-part mini-series called Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac, and while rumors have periodically cropped up regarding the possibility of a reboot, none have come to fruition.
Unfortunately for fans, reruns of the show — which ran on SOAPnet from its launch in 2000 — have not aired since that network quit showing them in 2005, and only the first two seasons have been released on DVD.
But fear not, Knots Landing fans, because we’ve put together the ultimate flashback featuring all of our favorite storylines, couples and photos from the iconic soap’s run. Click the gallery below to relive the awesomeness that was this incredible show, then visit the comments to share with us your all-time favorite memory of life on Seaview Circle.