Originally created 12/02/05

Reuniting Knots Landing



LOS ANGELES - Approached to be part of a "Knots Landing" reunion, Michele Lee recoiled at the anticipated horror of another where-are-they-now show.

"I hate reunions," she said, laughing heartily. "Even though the audience wants to see everybody, it's like enough already. I thought, 'How could they do us justice?'"

Producers Henry Winkler and Michael Levitt applied persistent persuasion, eventually convincing Lee to revisit television's most famous cul-de-sac.

"They had such an understanding, a new understanding of the show, and such high regard for it that I felt much better," Lee said.

She joins Donna Mills, Joan Van Ark, William Devane, Kevin Dobson and Ted Shackelford for "Knots Landing Reunion: Together Again" airing Friday at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.

"There's such a fondness between the people who are on," Lee said. "It's with a genuine affection, with genuine laughter and genuine tears. I know it's a little Pollyanna-ish, but you can't buy that. There's an honesty about it."

"Knots Landing" proved the soapiest of nighttime dramas during its 14-season run beginning in 1979. It began as a spin-off from "Dallas," featuring Gary Ewing (Shackelford) as the family black sheep who moved to Southern California to escape the pressures of life with the oil-rich Ewing clan in Texas.

The characters proved to be relatable people living out their suburban angst through nasty gossip, steamy affairs and umpteen marriages. Van Ark's character, Val, married the same man twice; Mills' Abby made it down the aisle four times.

"One of the reasons 'Knots' was so strong and lasted so long is that these were characters that weren't so over the top that they couldn't be revisited once a week," Van Ark said.

Also dropping in on Seaview Circle via taped segments are Nicollette Sheridan, busy these days on Wisteria Lane as one of the "Desperate Housewives," and Alec Baldwin.

Baldwin put in one season in the mid-'80s, while Sheridan appeared for six seasons, during one of which Marcia Cross, another future "Desperate" housewife, was also in "Knots." Ditto a young Halle Berry.

"It's a real testament to Alec and Nicollette that they cared enough," Levitt said. "These people score big points with their fan base for showing up and having a good time."

Lee and Shackelford logged the most time in the cul-de-sac, appearing in all 344 episodes. Dobson was on for 11 seasons, and even did time in a "Knots" miniseries.

"I spent more time on the set than I did at home," he said. "Wherever I go, people are nice enough to remember me."

Winkler and Levitt are reunion show veterans, having produced trips down memory lane with "Dallas" and "Happy Days."

"We like to think we're making not just a documentary, but we're making entertainment for you to get the same feeling you had watching the (original) show," Winkler said.

Van Ark and Shackelford reminisce fondly about their on-screen relationship and get emotional recalling former alcoholic Gary deserting Val, then remarrying her.

"What struck me so profoundly this time was how totally connected I am to all these people," she said. "We haven't seen each other in 10 years and we just jump in."

Like Lee, Van Ark initially put off Winkler and Levitt when they came calling. She was busy doing a play, and had left the cul-de-sac behind years ago.

"I feel like they're just checking in to see if we're on walkers and in wheelchairs," she said jokingly.

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