TV on DVD Review: Falcon Crest: The Complete First Season

Now Available to Own

There's nothing like an accidental death and a funeral to tick off vineyard matriarch Angela Channing (Jane Wyman) and her grandson Lance Cumson (Lorenzo Lamas). For, in addition to Angela's part in covering up the death of her brother Jason to protect her walking Bronte novel daughter Emma and make sure Jason's son Chase Gioberti (Robert Foxworth) won't inherit his rightful half of the vineyard, there's always the messy aftermath of a crime to contend with, especially when Chase moves his entire family from New York to northern California's Tuscany Valley to try his hand at winemaking.

Together with Lance, the male heir she's decided will take over the Falcon Crest vineyard after it's her turn to die and tick off another Channing, Angela tries her best to make life as difficult as possible for her brother's son and family to ensure that her status in the community and value as a winemaker won't be diminished by the arrival of some brash upstarts... even if they are family.

Dubbed “Dallas with grapes,” when the series first aired in a prime spot right after CBS and Lorimar's other Warner Brothers hit Dallas on the network's successfully sudsy Friday night schedule, Falcon Crest proved so successful for its Waltons creator Earl Hamner that the more sophisticated soap ranked high into the Neilsen Top 20 shows for nearly its entire nine season run.

While the series appears slightly dated by today's standards given the costuming and decoration, there's still something grandly compelling about Falcon Crest that makes it far easier to lose yourself in than Dallas, which feels like a series that only worked in the 1980s.

Yet there's no doubt that Falcon would've been even more successful on DVD if Warner Brothers had synchronized the release to match up with the Pinot Noir Sideways craze that occurred in cinema a few years back thanks to Alexander Payne's smash Fox hit.

However, if viewers – like this reviewer-- unfamiliar with the show opt to give it a chance, it might surprise you to discover just how fun it can be even if the storyline surrounding what really happened the night of Jason's death is dragged out far too long across season one's eighteen episodes.

While the '81 vintage series doesn't look as good on disc as Warner Brother's recent release of Scarecrow and Mrs. King, which visually held up very well, Crest makes up for it in its highly complicated storylines and cast of characters as richly promising as the winery's soil, so much that it made me eager to find out when the second season will be released as – despite not ending on a cliffhanger – it hints at some major developments to come.

Speaking of foreshadowing, one puzzling decision made for the series release on disc was via the inclusion of in-depth mini-previews that air right before each and every episode. Although I can't speak for whether or not this practice existed back when the shows initially aired, on DVD, I have to recommend fast-forwarding through each and every one.

Since instead of the traditional practice of “previously on Falcon's Crest,” the spoiler-heavy previews serve as veritable TV CliffsNotes, darn near replacing the need to even watch the episode in question which makes their existence that much more irritating, as if we were reading the final chapter in a novel before we even began reading Chapter One.

While the extended previews may serve beneficial if you're brushing up on your fake psychic abilities a la Psych or The Mentalist, luckily it's just one detractor in an otherwise highly satisfying, if slightly predictable series from the golden age of primetime television soaps, unrelated to the fields of police or medicine.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.