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‘Knots Landing’ Premiered 40 Years Ago Today: Remembering The Greatest Primetime Soap Of Them All

Photo: JPI

It wasn’t Dallas that was proved to be the longest running primetime soap opera, but it’s spin-off Knots Landing, and forty years ago on this date, back on December 27th, 1979, the characters we loved from the Southern California cul-de-sac of Seaview Circle, began to capture our hearts and strike our fancy.

Originally, when the show made its debut on CBS, the series episodes were self-contained, but shortly thereafter, following the sudsy cliffhangers of Dallas, ‘Knots’ changed into the serialized storytelling format, especially with the arrival of bad girl seductress Abby Cunningham (Donna Mills), and when all was said and done, it gave viewers some of the juiciest cliffhangers ever, serving them up on a weekly basis, better than anyone else.  ‘Knots’ lasted 14 seasons and would end its run on May 13th, 1993.

‘Knots’ creator, David Jacobs said part of his inspiration for the series came from the classic 1977 film by Ingmar Bergman’s”Scenes from a Marriage”.  And as ‘Knots’ fans know, the show revolved around several couples in its humble beginnings; the Ewings (Val and Gary), the Fairgates (Karen and Sid), the Averys (Laura and Richard) and the Wards (Ginger and Kenny).  After Don Murray exited the series as Sid, it opened up the canvas for ‘Knots’ heroin, Karen played by Michele Lee.  In fact, Michele received the series only acting Emmy nomination for her performances in Sid’s death episodes.

Even though the other primtime soaps were glitzier,(Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest), and in the public conscience (Who Shot J.R? – Dallas), ‘Knots’ continued to be the little engine that could, bringing more realistic stories and issues of the day to the forefront.

Photo: Lorimar

The series finally cracked the top ten, just once, back in 1985.  Over the years the cast included: Ted Shackleford, Joan Van Ark, Michele Lee, Kevin Dobson, Donna Mills, William Devane, Costance McCashin, Nicollette Sheridan, Julie Harris, Alec Baldwin, Lisa Hartman, and so many more.  In addition, well-known daytime soap stars came to ‘Knots’ including: Jane Elliot, Peter Reckell and Kathleen Noone.

In its 344 episodes during its 14-year run, who can ever forget when … Val’s twins were taken for her, and the cliffhanger when she is almost reunited with them! Karen’s drug addiction, Abby’s daughter, Olivia’s (Tonya Crowe) drug addiction, Laura’s videotape that she leaves for her friends and her beloved Greg Sumner when she succumbs to cancer, an unhinged Jill Bennett forcing pills down Val’s throat at gunpoint to make it look like she committed suicide, and all the other familial storylines, affairs, revenge plots, murder, corporate intrigue and takeovers.

In this primetime soap, it was the women who were the key and central figures of the story and they were played to perfection each in their own right by longtime series stars: Michele Lee, Joan Van Ark and Donna Mills.  (And Constance McCashin up to when she was killed-off the show).  One thing is for sure … Thursday nights at 10pm have never been the same since its departure.

So, today on its 40th anniversary, check out the videos below which include: the original pilot opening of ‘Knots”, the opening title sequences over the 14 years, the gut-wrenching cliffhanger where Val sees her twins, the emotional moment when Sumner sits alone and weeps as he watches Laura’s goodbye message, Abby dealing with her daughter;’s drug addiction, and the now classic Karen “polyanna” speech.

Then, share your remembrances and favorite moments as we celebrate Knots’ 40th anniversary via the comment section below.

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KeithJenniferMattAuroraBoop Recent comment authors
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Jeff
Guest
Jeff

I sure miss this show! The storyline with Jill Bennett forcing Val to take pills just tore our hearts out. This show emphasized relationships as well a storylines (in contrast to today’s shows that emphasize storylines only). First class show all the way.

DMRR
Guest
DMRR

YES. & didn’t Jill kill herself, in order to blame Val or Gary?

TVJeff
Guest
TVJeff

Yes she did. Took pills, stuck her finger in a little hole in the trunk to shut it. Oh the random things we remember!

DMRR
Guest
DMRR

YES! I miss that show

Jimh
Guest
Jimh

This was the best of the prime time soaps…since Peyton Place but i liked them all..Alec Baldwin should had been included as a daytime star as he played Billy on The Docotrs!!!

Jimh
Guest
Jimh

Donna Mills, Ted Shackleford, Joan Van Ark and and kevin Dobson all did daytime too

DENIS ADAM POMPA
Guest
DENIS ADAM POMPA

Awesome show, simply the best, they don’t make this way anymore!

TVJeff
Guest
TVJeff

When will this be on a streaming service!!!

Kay
Guest
Kay

The best soap ever the baby storyline was done so well Joan Van Ark deserved a Emmy just a great soap

Soaphound
Guest
Soaphound

Oh Kay, the memories that storyline brings back! I remember rewatching that “Val sees her twins” scene over and over….so powerful. With all the dreck available on DVD, WHERE IS KNOT’S?

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Oh, I did the exact same thing. I kept rewinding our Beta vcr over and over. The score music from that scene has been in my head ever since. I still get chills and tears watching it-so glad I’m not alone.

Keith
Guest
Keith

I agree 100%. After she gets the twins back and she lets the Fishers say goodbye to them – there has never been a more moving scene in television.

Kevin C
Guest
Kevin C

Knots IMO was by far the BEST nighttime drama on television and like you said Michael, Thursday nights have never been the same…of course TV hasn’t been the same in years but that’s a whole other subject…I didn’t start watching Knots until the second year when they decided to make it into a serial…By the way, Jaime Lyn Bauer actually guest star on Knots for an episode.

DMRR
Guest
DMRR

OMG! I remember watching on Thursday nights. I remember when Sid died & how sad that episode was-
I LOVED Abby and her affair with Gary; WOW. I remember Olivia’s escalating drug addiction. Remember when Paige slept with Karen’s son? OMG. #fire

Violet Lemm
Guest
Violet Lemm

Oh God,those were the days! I so loved that show, also Dallas, Falcon Crest, starting with Peyton Place and many others. There were so many of those night time soaps, as I called them. Never missed one!

rose
Guest
rose

Violet and all…Add Dynasty to list. What a cast. Also on my list, and while not a traditional soap, was The Thornbirds.

Violet Lemm2
Guest
Violet Lemm2

rose, I replied days ago, but maybe everyone’s on vacation as none of my replies have been posted, to you and others as well.Anyway, I just wanted to say I also loved Dynasty and do you remember Flamingo Road and the night time spin-off of Lisa with Eileen Fulton, from ATWT? Don’t remember the name.

Soaphound
Guest
Soaphound

Violet, wasn’t it called OUR PRIVATE WORLD? The great Eileen Fulton will never be forgotten in DAYTIME history. My mom started watching ATWT in 1968 (ish) just for Lisa.

Boop
Guest
Boop

Was it Our Private World or Our Private Lives?

Soaphound
Guest
Soaphound

Rose, thanks for mentioning my all-time favorite, THE THORN BIRDS. We watch the DVDs twice a year and reread the novel every other year. Talk about appointment TV!

Soaphound
Guest
Soaphound

You and me both, Violet. All the great actors and good writing that made those shows a part of our lives even today. Looking forward to them got me through many a dull work day!

Denise A Daniel
Guest
Denise A Daniel

You just had to go & rebreak my heart with that Grey & Laura clip. Sobs……

Channing Capwell
Guest
Channing Capwell

Thanks for sharing those clips. I started watching at 10 years old with my grandmother the very first night (yep, she let me stay up until 11). Knots has endured as my favorite television show of all time. The saga of Val’s twins, which culminated from multiple seasons worth of stories involving Lotus Point, The Wolfbridge Group, Dr. Ackerman and every character on the canvas, was the greatest soap umbrella story I have ever seen. To me it was Shakespeare. And that frustratingly fantastic season finale sent my teenage self into a tailspin for the entire summer. Happy 40th!

Jennifer
Guest
Jennifer

Yes! I agree with all of this! I was 11 when I started watching, the very first night (it was Christmas break, and we were all at my grandparents’ house)… and I watched every week till the finale in May 1993. Season 6… oh, Val’s babies. It was just… phenomenal stuff… like you said, Shakespeare. Joan Van Ark was just incredible. Goodness, I love and miss this show. So glad I’m not alone.

clb
Guest
clb

Knots Landing lasted 14 years and is one of the best. Great cast, great stories and great cul-de-sac! Can we go back for a re-union on CBS?

Susan
Guest
Susan

Great acting by the entire cast! One standout among many was when Val finally saw her twins. Riveting!

Michael (not Fairman)
Guest
Michael (not Fairman)

I thought that story arc with Olivia’s drug problem was phenomenal. If Val had been Olivia’s mother, she would have just utterly collapsed; if it had been Karen, she’d have spent her time wringing her hands and agonizing over what she’d done wrong and trying to be “supportive” and what not. But not Abby! No indeed; she handled it in true Abby fashion, got right down to work and starting taking care of business–and from that moment, the drugs did not have a chance! It was totally different from the way I had seen kid-is-taking-drugs storylines handled on any other… Read more »

Caleb
Guest
Caleb

Is the series available on any of the streaming services?

Aurora
Guest
Aurora

I have searched everywhere and can only find clips on YouTube whereas the others like Dallas are available in full episodes. Anyone have any info on streaming this show?

Matt
Guest
Matt

Knots Landing was much more satisfying than any other nighttime soap because it took itself seriously in the right places. Noteworthy were the use of music, lighting and editing. A lot of classic scenes have already been discussed but I remember one in which Paige went to a hospital to visit her mother. The scene opens with Paige walking towards the camera down a long hallway all alone carrying a flower. Then there’s drama in the hospital room. Then it closes with Paige walking away from the camera down that long hallway and pausing to drop the flower either onto… Read more »

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A post shared by KELLY KRUGER BROOKS (@kellylkruger)

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