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Falcon Crest

By Wikipedia

Falcon Crest was a primetime soap opera; it aired 227 episodes from 1981 to 1990.

The show was created by Earl Hamner, famous for his work on The Waltons. Hamner wanted to create a family drama involving the wine industry. CBS ordered him to make the show more sensational, along the lines of Dallas (The show was created so CBS could easily win Friday night in the Nielsen ratings. Falcon Crest was scheduled at 10PM, with top-rated Dallas scheduled immediately before it).

Hamner proceeded to deliberately script what he viewed as trashy, turgid melodrama. It starred Oscar winner Jane Wyman as Angela Channing, a despotic woman who ruled with an iron fist over her vineyards in the fictional Tuscany Valley region of California (modeled after the Napa Valley). Robert Foxworth also starred as Chase Gioberti, a man new to the area, having inherited a portion of the Falcon Crest vineyards and winery from his father, Angela's brother Jason who died after a fall in the winery during the premiere episode. The rivalry between the established professional and the newcomer, who both happened to be tied together by blood relations, set the tone for much of the serial.

The Dallas-Falcon Crest one-two punch proved lucrative for the show and Falcon Crest was a Top 20 show in the Nielsens for many years. Despite its success, Falcon Crest usually lost about three to five million viewers from the previous hour and was never as dependable as Dallas had proven itself to be.

Other characters included Angela's grandson, playboy Lance Cumson, played by Lorenzo Lamas, her winemaker daughter Julia (Lance's mother, played by Abby Dalton), and Angela's emotionally troubled daughter Emma (Margaret Ladd). Lance would rather womanize than work an honest day in his life, and Angela liked being able to control him. Susan Sullivan played Maggie Gioberti, Chase's wife. Toward the second half of the series, Maggie fell in love with Richard Channing, played by David Selby. Originally a newspaper editor, Richard got into the business of running the wine fields when he wished to take control from Angela (Richard was the love child of Angela's late husband, and Angela despised him).

The schemer on the program was Melissa Agretti, played by Ana Alicia. She did what she wanted with little regard for others. In 1987, Melissa kidnapped Maggie's newborn baby and rode in a car that flew into San Francisco Bay. Chase jumped in to save the baby, succeeded, and out of the goodness of his heart, went back down for Melissa. Melissa survived but Chase did not (this was in tune with Robert Foxworth's decision to leave the show). In later years, key cast members left, which caused the ratings to drop. In 1988, Melissa perished in a house fire. In 1989, Maggie's wedding ring was caught in a pool drain, and she drowned at the Falcon Crest estate. For most of the final season, Angela, who had been the pivotal character since day one, lay unconscious in a coma. The show would take on a darker tone for its final season. Shifting the show to newer cast members who weren't as popular, coupled with a smaller fanbase for nighttime soaps as a whole, moved CBS executives to end the show with the 1989-90 season.

At times the backstage feuding was more interesting than anything onscreen. Jane Wyman had a running feud with Robert Foxworth, to the point where they measured each other's trailers just to make sure they were equal in size. When Foxworth became a director for the show, Wyman demanded CBS add a clause to her contract making her a director. Although she never directed an episode, Wyman was pleased that she had the same designation as Foxworth. Wyman had a long-running feud with fellow movie star Lana Turner which dated back to their Hollywood years. The two legends quickly refused to speak to each other and the producers had to film their confrontational scenes separately and then splice them together. Turner was written out of the show soon after. Mel Ferrer and Simon MacCorkindale also accused Wyman of running them off the show.

The show had a stirring, heraldic theme composed by Bill Conti, who had also composed the theme to Dynasty and Rocky.

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Falcon Crest? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I watched "Falcon Crest" every week while I was a child. At first, I didn't like it that much. That was until I saw the Season 5 finale, "Cataclysm". The enormous earthquake that shook its way through the Tuscany Valley looked so realistic. That became my instant favourite episode of all-time. Plus, I got to see seasons 8 and 9 on an English satellite TV channel called Sky One 8 years ago. I was really surprised to see that Susan Sullivan and Robert Foxworth had left."

--Paul01

"Watching Angela (Jane Wyman) go toe-to-toe in well-matched rounds with Susan Sullivan, Anna Alicia and David Selby gave Falcon Crest its special bouquet. There were moments of high camp, too, and cheesy ratings-based stunt casting like Lana Turner, Gina Lollabrigida, even Leslie Caron chortling that she owned Falcon Crest, "lock, stock, and vineyard." One of my favorite episodes was when Melissa (Anna Alicia) realizes Angela has been trying to drive her crazy. Relieved that she wasn's losing her mind as she feared, Melissa says to herself (hidden from Angela): "You want crazy, Angela? I'll give you crazy." She then sets out to repay the gaslight treatment."

--Falcon Jeff

"Falcon Crest was a different kind of soap--kind of quirky, dark and very funny. My favorite episode was Stormy Weather. Maggie and Richard had to spend their wedding night with everyone in Tuscany--at ANGELA's house. They were trapped by the elements, and of course, there was a murder. (There were always lots of deaths on FC--they kept Father Bob really busy!)"

--Hank

"Falcon Crest was always my favorite tv show - I never missed an episode in all the years it was on. My favorite episode was when Carlo Aggrettis murderer was revealed and someone was shot and we didn't find out who until the following season. I also was and still am a big Jane Wyman fan."

--Tom Murray

"I can't remember much about the show as I was pretty young at the time. It was shown on Central on sunday tea times in the mid Awesome80s and had an excellent theme tune. I seem to recall that they were forever suffering from earthquakes, which I loved as it meant the sets caved in and everyone did that `being shaken` acting."

--Ad

"Falcon Crest was so exciting for me because I lived in Vallejo California which is just about 20 minutes from Napa California where alot of the filming took palce at the Clarion Hotel. I was an assistant manager for Bruner's Rents furniture and they were one of my furniture rental clients. I got to go to the filming and go to the banquets there where the cast was. Lorenzo waas just one room away from mine. I remember very well the day that I asked Jane Wyman to sign a book for me. She agreed, but only till I pulled it out of the bag I brought it in. Then she said,"No, No, I will not!" and walked off the set. Dave Lawson who was a producer came to me and told me not to be upset, that the book I had bought for Jane to sign was an unauthoorized autobiography. Jane did later apologize to me and explained it too. She is a really neat lady and I have lots of pictures of all of them on the set and off. I would really like to know what has happened to Dave Lawson as I think I have something he would really like. Marjorynewton msn.com if anyone can help me out finding him."

--Marge Newton

"The best show was the season finale when it was revealed that Richard Channing was actually Angela's son. The use of an old Jane Wyman clip where she was in the hospital having a baby was one of the most creative and exciting elements ever used in television. The Angela/Richard rivalry was the best conflict of the entire series and this development revealed it to be ever more so complex in the grandest tribute to the gothic tradition."

--Terry Coleman

"Falcon Crest was indeed one of the best shows of the 80's. Headed by Jane Wyman, the cast went through nine seasons of delicious stories and intrigue. Instead of oil, it was the wine industry that drove the Gioberti's and the Channing's. Like the finest wine, this show continues to age in perfection...finally being shown on SoapNet. My favorite episodes are "Ashes to Ashes"...the plane crash cliffhanger and "Stormy Weather" where the whole cast is trapped at Falcon Crest during a flood and a murder mystery game is crashed by a real killer!"

--DogTag32

"Falcon Crest was so great! I loved it. It had just the right amount of camp to make it fun. Who could resist the show, after watching the opening credits, as Angela's tinted window slowly lowers to reveal Jane Wyman's smiling, yet stern visage?? I had many favorite episodes, but the one's that stand out are when Jaqueline was shot and the follow up season opener, when we found out that Julia shot her and Chase. And, of course, who could forget the night that Richard revealed that Jaqueline was his mother, to which Angela spun around, glared at Jaqueline and trumpeted, "You bitch!" A total 80's classic!"

--Moranimosity

"I love Richard and Maggie!! I think they were made for each other and just wish they had left them alone once they got together. This show has it all - romance, mystery, humor, and drama! Truthfully, David Selby is what keeps me coming back for more!"

--Homebody

"Every episode is MY favorite. It is hard to single out one in particular, because everyone had such great lines, and played EXCELLENT characters. I did have a few favorite plot-lines. The "Who killed Carlo Agretti storyline", airing on SPOAPNET currently, the plane crash finale, The Thirteen, and the Julia Cumson/Nun with the Gun storyline. Some memorable scenes were Angela learning Richard was HER son, Angela being ousted from FALCON CREST by her nephew Chase, and the memorable opening titles. The theme song was probably my favorite element of the series. It gave the show a feeling of majestic royalty. Angela WAS royalty, and she commanded it from everyone. Those who refused, were run out of business, and out of the Tuscany Valley."

--Tom

"Falcon Crest was especially wonderful in the "Freilich seasons," when Jeff Freilich took over in seasons 6 and 7. He broke up Chase and Maggie (yawn), paired her with Richard Channing (yum), and the show was great! Fave episodes were Loose Cannons (Maggie has given up what she thought was [rapist] Wainwright's baby and is purging all her memories. Richard cools her off by tossing her into the cold shower! The Great Karlotti was hilarious (Angela and Richard had awesome, campy lines), and Stormy Weather (season 7) brought the whole group together at Falcon Crest. The show reminds me of my youth--I miss 'em both!"

--sandy

"I love TV shows (all kinds) but since Falcon Crest aired in 1981, it immediately became my all time favorite and still is to this day (Nov 2003). I never missed an episode until it ended in 1990. Most episodes I would watch about 15/20 times before the next week (yeah I did have a life - honest!). For cliffhangers, humour, music and romance(Richard & Maggie had the most electrifying chemistry I have ever seen a couple in a movie have)in my opinion could never be beaten. Jane Wyman, Susan Sullivan and David Selby topped the cast. Now how about a DVD please!!"

--Una

"Because I lived 10 minutes from Spring Mountain Winery, and my father was friends of the owner, Mike Robbins, I was fortunate enough to get involved with the cast and crew of Falcon Crest as a candid photographer and "Extra' each year during the summer filming in the Napa Valley. I got to know each of them pretty well over the years and was the only one allowed on the set with a telephoto lens who wasn't an "official" photographer. It was an experience I'll never be able to duplicate and I am terribly grateful to Jane Wyman for inviting me and my camera to stay on. Falcon Crest ROCKS!"

--Kathy

"My father died several months before Falcon Crest debuted, so in addition to offering blessed diversion from grief, the most underated nitetime soap in tv history traced a vital transition in my life from irresponsible offspring, to patriarch figure and provider for my younger brother and widowed mother. Perhaps not unlike the maturation of Lance, by far my favorite character on "Crest. "

At series outset a sinister spoiled brat, Lance over the course of the Awesome80s evolved (ever so slowly) into a more complex character, giving the show an element of unpredictability, and, in his best-written moments, an antihero of compelling proportions.

My one complaint about "crest" also concerns Lance. Does anybody else out there think it was cliche or even disingenuous of the writers to insist that , despite Lance's obvious meanstreak and well-honed martial arts skills, his constant nemisis Cole emerge victorious everytime he and Lance had a physical confrontation?"

--markwv46

"My father died several months before Falcon Crest debuted, so in addition to offering blessed diversion from grief, the most underated nitetime soap in tv history traced a vital transition in my life from irresponsible offspring, to patriarch figure and provider for my younger brother and widowed mother. Perhaps not unlike the maturation of Lance, by far my favorite character on "Crest. " At series outset a sinister spoiled brat, Lance over the course of the Awesome80s evolved(ever so slowly) into a more complex character, giving the show an element of unpredictability, and, in his best-written moments, an antihero of compelling proportions. My one complaint about "crest" also concerns Lance. Does anybody else out there think it was cliche or even disingenuous of the writers to insist that , despite Lance&'s obvious meanstreak and well-honed martial arts skills, his constant nemisis Cole emerge victorious everytime he and Lance had a physical confrontation???"

--markwv46

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: December 4, 1981 - May 17, 1990

Cast: Jane Wyman, Robert Foxworth, Susan Sullivan, Lana Turner, Cliff Robertson, Morgan Fairchild, Kim Novak, Robert Stack, Parker Stevenson

Network: CBS

Genre: Wealth Drama

Theme song

Image courtesy of CBS


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