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"Falcon Crest" House of Cards (1982)

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Melissa Agretti Heats Things Up

Author: Jason Daniel Baker from Toronto, Canada
13 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With Chase (Robert Foxworth) firmly entrenched on the Tuscany County Board of Supervisors his tyrannical Aunt Angela (Jane Wyman) seeks to gain more power for Falcon Crest by pushing Lance (Lorenzo Lamas), her henchman and chosen heir to pair up with Melissa Agretti (Ana Alicia), heir to the Agretti wine fortune. Marital union between the two would intertwine two of the biggest wine-makers in the country.

Lance doesn't like Melissa and she doesn't like him. She appears to like his good-boy/bad-boy cousin Cole (William Moses) which in and of itself is enough to give Lance pause. The rivalry between the two young men which was fostered by Angela hoping to make one if not both of them worthy heirs of Falcon Crest is set to heat up again if Lance decides to return from working for his grandfather's newspaper in San Francisco.

If you happen to be in a family business with a long, rich history what Angela did pitting Cole against Lance and watching where it went might very well seem like common sense and I wouldn't disagree. Cole offers mostly an upside or as much of one as there can be for a hot-head charged with assault & battery in both New York and California in the space of a few episodes. Angela's interest in him as a potential heir has cooled with that knowledge.

Cole is usually the All-American boy and a Ken-doll interpretation of the ideal grown son that any parents are supposed to want. The actor playing him - Billy Moses, is effective in giving us that but balancing it out with Cole's dark side. His strident sense of right and wrong, anger management problem and capacity for violence make this a good boy who sometimes does bad things.

When Cole gets angry or feels threatened there is this intense look in his eye revealing a well of emotion boiling beneath the surface that suggests he is capable of violence which his problems with the police attest to. More than once his cousin Lance (Lorenzo Lamas) has caused him to get that look. It is a crazy look that his Aunt Angela and his father Chase sometimes get too. It is the look Jason Gioberti had in his eyes before he died when he struggled with Turner Bates in the winery. I call it the "Gioberti Death-Glare".

Meanwhile Angela's crazy daughter Emma (Margaret Ladd in a tour-de-force role much of the rest of the cast of the show envied her for) keeps hinting that she knows more about the death of Chase's father, Angela's brother Jason Gioberti. Chase is dissatisfied with Angela's stone-walling and uses his position on the Board of Supervisors to dig deeper and find out what really happened.

The casting in this episode is noteworthy. Ana Alicia would assume the part of Melissa Agretti, a pivotal supporting character in the series. The role had been originated by Dolores Cantu, a completely different kind of actress. Melissa Agretti suddenly got a lot prettier, a lot hornier and mysteriously developed a Texas drawl.

Falcon Crest began to get sexier as the end of the first season approached. Earl Hamner Jr. who also created such TV series as The Waltons and Apple's Way saw his more wholesome take on the genre of night-time soap evolve into a racier, more extravagant show. The character development and pacing made for much superior TV to that seen on competing series like Dallas, Dynasty and especially Flamingo Road.

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