Critique: ‘Knots Landing’ Episode 30 – ‘Designs’

Stick it to him

Stick it to him

In “Designs,” J.R. once again visits “Knots Landing” and once again, the results are disappointing. These crossover episodes are almost never as good as they should be.

On paper, occasionally sending “Dallas” characters to Seaview Circle makes perfect sense. “Dallas” was television’s most-watched series in the early 1980s, when “Knots Landing” was still struggling to find an audience. CBS, the network that aired both shows, probably encouraged the “Knots Landing” producers to make room for “Dallas” characters a few times each season to goose the spinoff’s ratings.

Since Bobby and Lucy are on friendly terms with “Knots Landing’s” Gary and Valene, it was plausible to have them show up in the cul-de-sac from time to time. But J.R. despises his Southern California relatives, which meant the “Knots Landing” writers had to keep coming up with excuses to bring him to town.

In “Designs,” J.R. offers to patent the cleaner car engine Sid Fairgate has been developing in his spare time. Yes, J.R. does business with part-time garage inventors. This surprises you?

To be fair, Diana Gould and Robert W. Gilmer’s script has J.R. tell Sid’s wife Karen he’s interested in the engine because “money is money. I don’t care whether it comes from burning oil or saving it.” It seems more likely J.R. wants to seize Sid’s project so he can kill it, but this is never made clear. I don’t mind a little ambiguity now and then, but since car engines are so far outside J.R.’s realm, it would be nice to have a better idea of what he’s up to.

The script also requires J.R. to spend almost all his time with the Fairgates, whom he barely knows and who aren’t exactly his kind of people to begin with. “Designs” also offers several scenes between J.R. and Sid’s scheming sister Abby, and like J.R. and Abby’s scenes in “A Family Matter,” their “Designs” alliance isn’t as much fun as you might expect. Donna Mills and Larry Hagman make a fine couple, but I’d still rather see J.R. fight with Val than fawn over Abby. Unfortunately, Hagman and Joan Van Ark share no scenes in this episode. Talk about your missed opportunities.

Given how much I love Hagman’s “Knots Landing” debut in the first-season episode “Community Spirit,” I’m as surprised as anyone to find his subsequent visits so lacking. For J.R., maybe one trip out west was enough.

Grade: C


Backseat affair

Backseat affair


“Knots Landing” Season 2, Episode 17

Airdate: March 26, 1981

Audience: 16.3 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings

Writers: Diana Gould and Robert W. Gilmer

Director: Nicholas Sgarro

Synopsis: Sid rejects J.R.’s offer to patent his design for a cleaner car engine. Abby sneaks a copy of the design to J.R., but she makes him sign a contract that protects her brother’s interest in the project. J.R. and Abby consummate their deal by having sex.

Cast: Tonya Crowe (Olivia Cunningham), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing) James Houghton (Kenny Ward), Bobby Jacoby (Brian Cunningham), Barry Jenner (Jeff Cunningham), Kim Lankford (Ginger Ward), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Claudia Lonow (Diana Fairgate), Constance McCashin (Laura Avery), Donna Mills (Abby Cunningham), Don Murray (Sid Fairgate), John Pleshette (Richard Avery), Arthur Rosenberg (Dr. Harper), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Steve Shaw (Eric Fairgate), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing), John Volstad (bellhop)

Watch “Designs” on DVD and share your comments below.


  1. J.R. Ewing aka as “Larry Hagman” made his money from oil, gas, & other energy interests in real life. This C.B. cash offer to patent the cleaner engine makes sense b/c Larry appeared both as himself & as the great J.R. Ewing in commercials in later life for both solar & wind power endeavours he had going. Remember, ol’ Larry (ol’ J.R.) made a bucket of cash off of the State of California, & off of Malibu & Ohai City officials selling “Heaven’s” excess solar power from his panels back to them. So C.B., its plausible he really wanted to make money.


  1. […] “Knots Landing’s” second-season episode “Designs,” Abby (Donna Mills) meets with J.R. (Larry Hagman) in his hotel […]

  2. […] Texas oil baron to the suburbs of Southern California. (The biggest eye-roller: J.R. shows up to steal the prototype for the environmentally friendly car engine that Sid Fairgate is building in his garage.) “New […]

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