Wait? Could it be? An ‘80s primetime soap opera that wasn’t produced by Aaron Spelling and that didn’t feature Patrick Duffy? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Falcon Crest — that other iconic television drama from the Reagan Era — has returned to either soothe or haunt those of you who remember the series from when it was first broadcast on CBS from 1981 to 1990 (and maybe even recruit a few new viewers in the process). Created by Earl Hamner — the man who also brought us The Waltons, a series that had just ended its nine-year run shortly before this one spread its wings — Falcon Crest took its viewers into the crooked, backstabbing world of winemakers in the fictitious land of Tuscany Valley, California.
Now, one might wonder “How crooked and backstabbing can California winemakers possibly be?” Well, as anyone that’s ever witnessed a debate between political candidates can attest to, Golden State residents can be pretty fierce — especially the rich ones. And, after only a couple of viewings of Falcon Crest, you’ll start to see just how cruel and controlling the wealthy and powerful grape-growers of Tuscany Valley can truly be. Take Angela Channing (portrayed by Ronald Reagan’s first wife, Jane Wyman) for example. The main character of the series, Angela is the cold and calculating cork that bottles in all of the friction and rivalry of the bloody Falcon Crest Winery merlot.
In the beginning of the first season, we witnessed the untimely demise of Angela’s brother via a fatal fall in the winery — to wit, Jason’s son, the earnest and honest Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth) became part owner of the Falcon Crest vineyards. This, of course, created a long-standing rivalry between both Angela and Chase — a rivalry that continues here. Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season begins with Chase attempting to justly control his side of the business, while Angela pulls every rotten legal (and maybe not-so-legal) trick from of her designer sleeves in order to prevent him from doing so. Assisting Angela in her quest to weed out the lesser (read: noble) family members from the family franchise is her loyal (but just as shady) lawyer, Phillip Erikson (the late great Mel Ferrer, fresh from starring in several European-made horror flicks that have since granted him immortality amongst cult movie aficionados).
But Angela and Phillip’s scheming is forced to take a backseat when a new character emerges: Richard Channing (David Selby), the supposedly illegitimate son of Angela’s ex-husband. Following the death of his father, Richard comes into play to take over the family’s newspaper business (yes, they have one of those, too!), The San Francisco Globe — and promptly proceeds to make enemies with just about everyone. Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season also sets the stage for the required “murder mystery” subplot (which is necessary for any soap opera to thrive), wherein the patriarch of a rival winery (a minor character) is murdered by an unknown assailant.
In short, Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season is full of drama, whether it be business or personal. It’s a season full of bad business, torrid romance, faltering relationships, a lot of “Who is the father of your baby?,” and even murder. It’s the stuff that ‘80s primetime soaps were made of — and it’s all set in wine country to boot, prompting one to quip something along the lines of “Wine, wine, wine; it seems all anyone ever does is wine!”
OK, so that was a stupid joke. But I can throw those out just as easily as the writers of Falcon Crest could introduce a new story arc, so it’s justified.
Whereas the first season of Falcon Crest finally made its way to home video earlier this year in a standard DVD version, Warner’s release of Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season gets the “made-to-order” treatment here. The set (available only via www.wbshop.com) presents all 22 episodes of the famous primetime soap on six DVD-Rs, and have been mastered from the best existing vault materials Warner could dig up. Like most of Warner’s “manufactured-on-demand” releases, there are no special features or subtitles to be found here — and neither the audio or video aspects of this season have been remastered or restored. Such is evident in a couple of episodes, where some minor video imperfections are quite noticeable.
The set presents Falcon Crest: The Complete Second Season in its original 1.37:1 aspect ratio, and boasts a mono English soundtrack for each episode — although, interestingly enough, the pilot episode appeared to be mono stereo, whereas most of the other episodes were just plain ol’ mono.
Did anyone else notice that, or did I just drink too much of that fine Falcon Crest wine?