By WALLACE McBRIDE
Warner Archive Instant really thinks I should watch FALCON CREST.
Promotional ads for the '80s prime time soap have been hitting my Facebook feed pretty hard in recent weeks. It's easy to figure out why: thanks to this website, I have cause to mentioned David Selby every few days. The show's antihero "Richard Channing" was Selby's second great TV badguy, following (of course) "Quentin Collins."
Weirdly, I've never seen an episode of FALCON CREST. It’s not like I lacked the opportunity, which presented itself weekly on CBS from 1981 until 1990. I had exceedingly bad taste in television in those years, though, and snubbed many good programs in favor of THE A-TEAM, KNIGHT RIDER, RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THE MASTER, MANIMAL and even (ugh) AUTOMAN. These are the viewing habits of an asshole.
Not coincidentally, these are also the viewing habits of a child. I graduated from high school the year FALCON CREST ended its run, and there weren’t many boys in my age group that were into prime time soaps. DYNASTY might have had the occasional slap fight or murder attempt, but THE A-TEAM had Mr. T firing Uzis at hillbillies on a weekly basis. It's just hard to compete with that.
Since launching this website in 2012, The Collinsport Historical Society has led me down some strange rabbit holes. And it has changed me as a person. I never used to see the appeal of live theater until delving into the careers of the many actors to appear on DARK SHADOWS. Stage shows were “culture,” the kind of thing schools used to make children do on field trips — frequently a lame production that was guaranteed to make them hate theater. These days I walk around with the regret of not having seen Jonathan Frid in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” Mitchell Ryan and James Earl Jones in “Othello,” and David Selby and Tom “Thrill Me” Atkins in “Henry IV.” That last one especially haunts me, even though I was only two years old when the production premiered in Chicago. I have unreasonable expectations of life.
Panic” a few years back. Besides sharing the occasional photo from the series, though, I tend to steer clear of conversations about FALCON CREST. I already have ample opportunities to put my ignorance on public display, so why go looking for trouble? But, thanks to the availability of media in the 21st century, it’s not that difficult to fill in gaps in your viewing history … which has led me to a few reasons that I might give FALCON CREST an overdue spin.
1: My non-sexual man crush on David Selby
I was diagnosed with this condition sometime during the early ‘90s, roughly the time that "Quentin Collins" made his first speaking appearance on DARK SHADOWS during its run on The Sci-Fi Channel. Along with folks like Ian Holm, Walton Goggins, Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, Selby’s presence is usually enough to convince me to watch it. From what I know about FALCON CREST, Selby’s character was essentially the show’s answer to Barnabas Collins, an anti-hero introduced during the second year that radically changed its narrative. Without having seen the series, I'm guessing Channing was not a vampire, though.
2: That cast!
Jane Wyman! Sarah Douglas! Robert Foxworth! Susan Sullivan! Simon “I should have been James Bond” MacCorkindale! Bryan Cranston! William Devane! Cesar Romero! John Saxon! Jonathan Banks! Rod Taylor! Roy Thinnes! Kim Novak! Paul Freeman! Carla Gugino! Taylor Negron! Jonathan Frakes! Lana Turner! Michael Dorn! E.G. Marshall! Geoffrey Lewis! Mitch Pileggi! Dana Elcar! Austin Stoker! And ... Apollonia!? Yes! Apollonia!
How is this not already my favorite show?
3: The DVD’s are pretty damn cheap
The Selby-less first season is just $7.29 on Amazon at the moment. Even at that price, the utter lack of Selby in the first season has kept me from jumping into this series with both feet. I’ve spent too much time pooh poohing people who skip the first Barnabas-free year of DARK SHADOWS to do the same with FALCON CREST.
The downside to the low price point, though, is that only the first four years of the show are available on DVD; Warner Archive Instant offers just the first three seasons.
4: It was created by Earl Hamner
Earl Hamner is a stone-cold TV legend, which is no small feat to accomplish when, as a writer, your face is never attached to your work. The guy wrote a whopping eight episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (which isn’t shabby for someone not named Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont or Richard Matheson), the screenplay for CHARLOTTE'S WEB and created THE WALTONS. Why would anyone ever argue with a resume like that?
5: I feel less pressure now to be “cool”
The development arc since those days has been interesting. I went from reserved to defensive to hostile within a couple of years. These days, I'm more likely to take these kinds of challenges as an opportunity to convert you. "You think the ANNIE musical sucks? Well, let me tell you all the reasons why it doesn't."
So, the idea of someone finding a stack of FALCON CREST DVDs on my living room table is not the embarrassment it once might have been. In fact, why don't you sit down and watch it with me? The NEON DEMONs and LA LA LANDs of the world will still be there when we get back.