I’ve always had a soft spot for television crossovers. When I was a kid, I loved seeing Mary Richards visit Rhoda Morgenstern in New York and watching Steve Austin and Jamie Somers fight Bigfoot together. Somehow, crossovers made television seem more real: If Mork could show up on the Cunninghams’ doorstep, why couldn’t he show up on mine?
All these years later, I still think it’s cool when Kristin Shepard pops in on Gary and Valene Ewing, even if “Kristin,” the “Knots Landing” episode that brings her to town, is a little lackluster. (Trivia: “Kristin” also features Tom Fuccello, “Dallas’s” Senator Dave Culver, although he’s somewhat confusingly cast as a different politico here.)
This episode aired about a month after Kristin was fingered as J.R.’s shooter on “Dallas,” and I’m sure that’s no coincidence. If CBS’s goal was to send Kristin to Southern California so “Knots Landing” could soak up some “Who Shot J.R.?” Nielsen afterglow, the ploy worked: On the night it debuted, “Kristin” was seen in 15.6 million homes, or about 2 million more than watched “Knots Landing” the previous week.
Too bad the show didn’t come up with something more interesting for Kristin to do. Her fling with Kenny Ward feels like more of the same. On “Dallas,” Kristin slept with J.R. and tried to seduce Bobby. Is she only capable of chasing married men?
The change of scenery does reveal another side to the character, albeit fleetingly. When Kristin confesses her pregnancy to Val, she seems genuinely frightened about her future. This might be the character’s first sincere moment since Colleen Camp played the role during “Dallas’s” second season.
Interestingly, something similar happened when Lucy visited Gary and Val in “Home is For Healing.” In that first-season “Knots Landing” episode, Lucy suddenly became a more interesting, believable character. What is it about Knots Landing that brings out the best in the women of “Dallas”?
Of course, as soon as we catch this glimpse into Kristin’s humanity, she decides she’s overstayed her welcome and departs Gary and Val’s. I understand why the show sends her packing: Kristin arrived in town on the heels of Abby Cunningham, and the cul-de-sac only had so much room for man-stealing hussies.
Still, I wish Mary Crosby had hung around a few episodes longer. With more time, “Knots Landing” might have turned Kristin into a three-dimensional character, something “Dallas” never really achieved.
“Knots Landing” Season 2, Episode 5
Airdate: December 18, 1980
Audience: 15.6 million homes, ranking 29th in the weekly ratings
Writer: Diana Gould
Director: Nicholas Sgarro
Synopsis: When Kristin is arrested at a Hollywood party, she turns to Val, who invites Kristin to stay with her and Gary. Kristin has a fling with neighbor Kenny Ward, whose wife Ginger walks in on them, prompting Ginger to sue for divorce. Kristin confesses her pregnancy to Val and decides to leave, much to Gary’s relief.
Cast: Eric Coplin (Mark Russelman), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Peter Elbling (Al Tuna), Tom Fuccello (Ed Kroft), Danny Gellis (Jason Avery), David Haskell (Dr. Karl Russelman), James Houghton (Kenny Ward), Kim Lankford (Ginger Ward), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Constance McCashin (Laura Avery), Donna Mills (Abby Cunningham), Don Murray (Sid Fairgate), John Pleshette (Richard Avery), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Louise Vallance (Sylvie), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)
“Kristin” is available on DVD. Watch the episode and share your comments below.