The 1980s saw the rise of the prime time soap on television. There were a number of them, two of the most prominent being Dynasty, and Knots Landing. But nobody owned the genre like CBS, who had the Friday night one-two punch of Dallas, followed by Falcon Crest.
Dallas had the exquisitely evil J.R. Ewing to entice viewers, but Falcon Crest had his female doppelgänger in the character of Angela Channing (Jane Wyman). The name "Falcon Crest" refers to a winery in the fictitious California Tuscan Valley, which is modeled on Napa Valley. Angela Channing is the matriarch of this prosperous vineyard, and is constantly scheming to expand her empire.
Her machinations are interrupted by the death of her brother Jason, with whom she had shared the inheritance of the family business. Jason’s son Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth) decides to take over his father’s role in the winery, and moves his family to Falcon Crest. There is little Angela can do about this turn of events. But she tries to drive the Giobertis away, enlisting her playboy grandson, Lance Cumson (Lorenzo Lamas) to help.
Falcon Crest: The Complete First Season chronicles the beginnings of the series, including the incident which leads to Jason Gioberti’s death. The circumstances surrounding his murder, and the subsequent cover-up of them provide a large part of the intrigue in these episodes. This being a prime time soap though, there is also much more going on.
Angela’s ex-husband, and Lance’s grandfather Douglas Channing publishes the San Francisco Globe newspaper, and is intent on winning Angela back. Chase’s seventeen year-old daughter Victoria Gioberti takes up with one of the Hispanic pickers, and is described in court at one point as “sexually promiscuous.” Meanwhile Chase’s twenty year-old son may or may not be the father of the unborn child of Melissa Agretti, daughter of rival vineyard owner Carlo Agretti.
As Lance Cumson, Lorenzo Lamas chews up the scenery with delight. Although his character became a little more polished toward the end of the first season, the earlier shows see him reveling in bad behavior. Whether he is picking fights, smashing up the local roadhouse with his cousin’s truck, or blackmailing his own grandmother, Lance is a bad boy of the highest order.
The eighteen episodes that comprise the first season of Falcon Crest are divided among four DVDs. There are no extras included in the set. It is interesting to note that Angela Channing was in reality Jane Wyman, ex-wife of Ronald Reagan. Falcon Crest ran throughout his presidency, outlasting it in fact, airing from 1981 to 1990. I wonder if he watched it.
I guess we will never know, but I do know that Falcon Crest: The Complete First Season is vintage eighties suds. Love it or hate it, Falcon Crest was a big part of those bygone days.