Falcon Crest was a CBS network soap opera, created by Earl Hamner, Jr. that first premiered on December 4, 1981 and ended on May 17, 1990 after 9 seasons & 227 episodes.
It was a top ten series from 1982 to 1985 (peaking at #7 in the 1983–84 season), airing after "Dallas" on Friday nights at 10:00pm.
Set in the fictitious Tuscany Valley northeast of San Francisco, California, the show revolved around the feuding factions of the wealthy Gioberti/Channing family in the wine industry.
Despite its reputation as merely being "Dallas with grapes", the show soon found its own niche among the prime-time dramas of the 1980s, occupying the middle ground between the two extremes of the genre, being more glamorous than Dallas, yet not quite as outrageous as Dynasty.
The distinctive location filming in the Napa Valley and the dry, wryly humorous tone of the scripts gave the series a personality of its own.
The rivalry between Angela, Chase and Richard stayed at the core of the show for several years as more romantic entanglements spun around them. Lance and Cole found themselves not only caught up in their family battles for control of Falcon Crest, but were also competing for Melissa's affections.
Like "Dallas" and "Dynasty", "Falcon Crest" employed memorable end-of-season cliffhangers in order to boost ratings.
The 1982–83 season ended with the resolution of a murder mystery "whodunit" plot (surrounding the death of Melissa's father, Carlo Agretti) that had spanned most of the season.
The killer was revealed in front of the entire cast, only to produce a handgun. Shots were fired (and heard from outside as the camera panned away from the mansion), which then faded into the final scene of a coffin being lowered into the ground, leaving the audience to wonder who had been killed.
The third-season cliffhanger in 1984 involved a plane crash carrying most of the major characters, resulting in the deaths of three of them. A bomb explosion which ended the fourth season left Richard and Maggie in peril, and an earthquake that rippled through the valley ended the fifth season.
The cliffhanger of the sixth season put Chase, Melissa, Richard, newcomer Dan Fixx (Brett Cullen), and Maggie's baby in danger of drowning in the San Francisco Bay area.
At the end of the seventh season, Melissa had finally wrested complete control of Falcon Crest away from Angela while Richard was apparently murdered by "The Thirteen", a powerful group of shady businessmen whom he had turned against.
The series also frequently cast former Hollywood royalty in guest roles; Lana Turner, Gina Lollobrigida, Cesar Romero, Robert Stack, Cliff Robertson, Celeste Holm, and Kim Novak all appeared on Falcon Crest. This aspect to the series seemed to be well-embraced by the producers, who at one stage instituted a rotating guest-star policy.
Leslie Caron, Lauren Hutton, Eddie Albert, Eve Arden, Roscoe Lee Browne, and Ursula Andress all made appearances during the 1987–1988 season, as did Rod Taylor, who would remain with the series until its cancellation in 1990.
After producer Jeff Freilich left the series at the end of the 1988 season, fewer special guest stars appeared to boost ratings, one of them being Susan Blakely in the final year.
With the departures of many of the core cast, coupled with the shifting tastes of the public in the mid-1980s, ratings began to drop (as had ratings for all of the primetime soaps of that era).
By the late 1980s, U.S. ratings were dominated by sitcoms and more realistic legal/crime dramas such as "LA Law" and "In The Heat of the Night".
During its eighth season, Soap Opera Digest gave Falcon Crest the title of "Most Ruined Show" (that season finished 52nd in the annual ratings).
The series attempted to revitalize itself, much in the way that rival soap Knots Landing had successfully done, but by the beginning of the ninth (and final) season in 1989, Angela, Lance, and Emma were the only three characters from the original first-season cast remaining on the series.
During the 1989–90 season, Jane Wyman was absent for most of that season due to her health problems (storylines had Angela in a coma). The final season then revolved around a battle between Richard and newcomer Michael Sharpe (Gregory Harrison) for control of Falcon Crest.
CBS executives made the decision to end "Falcon Crest" when ratings during the ninth season dropped to 81st place.
Defying her doctors' orders, Jane Wyman returned to the series for the last three episodes. After the many traumatic events during the nine seasons of the wine country saga, Falcon Crest ended happily with a family wedding taking place on the grounds of the mansion.
Taking a walk outside, Angela delivered a monologue (written by Wyman herself) that brought the series to a conclusion, mentioning past characters and events, but looking forward to the future. The final scene of the series shows her raising her glass to the land, "A toast to you, Falcon Crest, and long may you live."
- Jane Wyman as Angela Gioberti/Channing/Erikson/Stavros/Agretti
- Lorenzo Lamas as Lance Cumson
- Chao-Li Chi as Chao-Li
- Susan Sullivan as Maggie Donovan/Hartford/Gioberti/Channing [seasons 1-8, eps 206-207 ]
- William R. Moses as Cole Gioberti [seasons 1-6, recurring season 7]
- Robert Foxworth as Chase Gioberti [seasons 1-6]
- Abby Dalton as Julia Channing/Cumson [seasons 1-4, recurring seasons 5-6]
- Jamie Rose as Victoria Gioberti/Hogan #1 [seasons 1-2, recurring season 3]
- David Selby as Richard Channing [seasons 2-9]
- Ana-Alicia as Melissa Agretti/Cumson/Gioberti [seasons 2-8, recurring season 1 ]/Samantha Ross [Recurring season 8]
- Margaret Ladd as Emma Channing [seasons 3-9, recurring seasons 1-2 ]
- Mel Ferrer as Phillip Erikson [season 3, recurring seasons 1-2 ]
- Laura Johnson as Laura Hartford/Ranson [seasons 4-5, recurring season 3 ]
- Simon MacCorkindale as Greg Reardon [seasons 4-5]
- Sarah Douglas as Pamela Lynch [season 4, recurring season 3 ]
- Paul Freeman as Gustav Riebmann [season 4]
- Ken Olin as Father Christopher [season 5]
- Dana Sparks as Victoria Gioberti/Hogan/Stavros #2 [seasons 6-8], John Callahan [seasons 6-7, recurring season 5]
- Brett Cullen as Dan Fixx [seasons 6-7]
- Cesar Romero as Peter Stavros [season 6, recurring seasons 5 and 8 ]
- Kristian Alfonso as Pilar Ortega/Cumson [seasons 8-9]
- David Beecroft as Nick Agretti [season 8]
- Rod Taylor as Frank Agretti [season 9, recurring seasons 7-8]
- Wendy Phillips as Lauren Sharpe/Daniels/Channing [season 9]
- Gregory Harrison as Michael Sharpe [season 9]
- Andrea Thompson as Genele Erikson [season 9]
- Bob Curtis as Father Bob
- John Saxon as Tony Cumson #1 [season 1; seasons 6-7]
- Joe Lamibe as Sherriff Dan Robbins [seasons 2-4]
- Mary-Kate McGeehan as Linda Carponi/Gioberti [seasons 2-4]
- Roy Thinnes as Nick Hogan [seasons 2-3]
- Robert Loggia as Tony Cumson #2 [season 2]
- Shannon Tweed as Diana Hunter [season 2]
- Jason Goldeberg as Joseph Gioberti [seasons 3-7]
- Ken Letner as Spheeris [seasons 3-4]
- Cliff Robertson as Dr. Michael Ranson [season 3]
- Barbara Howard as Robin Agretti [seasons 4-5]
- Kate Vernon as Lorraine Prescott [season 4]
- Edward Albert as Jeff Wainwright [seasons 5-6]
- Jill Jacobson as Erin Jones [seasons 5-6]
- John Bennett Perry as Sherriff Gilmore [seasons 5-6]
- Cindy Riegel as Cindy [season 5]
- Anne Archer as Cassandra Wilder [season 5]
- Morgan Fairchild as Jordan Roberts [season 5]
- Daniel Greene as Dwayne Cooley [season 5]
- Carl Held as Garth [seasons 6-8]
- Jane Badler as Meredith Braxton [season 6]
- Marjoe Gortner as Vince Karlotti [season 6]
- Kim Novak as Kit Marlowe [season 6]
- Robin Greer as Dina Wells [season 6]
- Brandon Kasper as Kevin Channing #1 [seasons 7-8]
- Alexander Ross DeAngelis as Michael Channing #1 [season 7]
- Taylor Brigode as Michael Channing #2 [season 7]
- Robert Hy Gorman as Michael Channing #3 [season 8-9]
- Brandon Douglas as Ben Agretti [season 8]
- Dan Ferro as Tommy Ortega [season 8]
- Jesse Stock as Kevin Channing #2 [season 9]