Unfortunately, season 8 was a change for the worse. While seasons 6 and 7 were awarded Outstanding Prime Time Serial by Soap Opera Digest, the magazine named "Falcon Crest's" season 8 "Most Ruined Show". Here are some of the reasons for the dramatic deterioration the show underwent during that season:
Good plotlines, a fast pace of storytelling, intrigue, young and fresh ideas, brilliant directing work and a full-circle concept as well as beautifully written dialog with very much attention to detail were just some of the hallmarks of "Falcon Crest" in its entertaining and thrilling years between 1981 and 1988. This tremendous success is the result of the brilliant work of the core of the crew during those years — EARL HAMNER, ERNIE F. WALLENGREN (1981 – 87), ROBERT L. McCULLOUGH (1981 – 84), JOHN F. PERRY (1983 – 88), ROD & CLAIRE PETERSON (1984 – 86), JEFF FREILICH and HOWARD LAKIN (1986 – 88) and a few others. Although "Falcon Crest" was always known as a show with revolving doors for producers, the core members of the crew created thrilling storylines and paid attention to continuity.
The start of season 8, however, is characterized by a complete change in LORIMAR staff members. A writers' strike, staff members demanding increases in their salaries, a series of bad investments and some stars' civil suits vs. the production company led to trouble. Also the new executives of the company concentrated on getting an even bigger market share although LORIMAR already was the biggest supplier of prime time productions for U.S. TV stations. Purchasing 15 % of the stock of WARNER COMMUNICATIONS and trying to prepare a hostile takeover of that corporation is just one example of how the company philosophy on the executive side changed from once being a young, fresh and creative studio to becoming a merely high finance and investment oriented business. Making old LORIMAR buddies redundant gave the once successful company the rest. These changes on the executive side also filtered down to any of the three big LORIMAR prime time soap operas — "Dallas", "Knots Landing" and "Falcon Crest". But especially "Falcon Crest" began to suffer from a lack of creativity of the new writers, which may have been caused partly also by the short time that remained until production had to begin after the writers' strike.
The head writers being replaced led to a loss of continuity in many aspects of the plot; one of the most striking examples is the truce between Angela and Richard that was most wanted and so beautifully developed over the two previous years.
Another reason for season 8 turning out to be a disaster is the unbalanced change in the cast:
During season 6, ABBY DALTON had left the show. ROBERT FOXWORTH, who had been the moral counter-part to Angela for many years, was also written off at the end of that season. Finally, WILLIAM R. MOSES had his last appearance in season 7. The enormous success of year 7 (Soap Opera Digest Award), however, proved that "Falcon Crest" had a good and stable position among the prime time dramas, which was caused by the new core storylines of season 7 — the development of a mother-son relationship between Angela and Richard and the romance of Maggie and Richard. The policy of rotating special guest stars — with a new celebrity every month — was also helpful although there were mixed feelings about that strategy in the beginning.
The première of season 8, however, shocked the audience with changing times — literally: BRETT CULLEN and JOHN CALLAHAN had been written off with inappropriate and short explanations. Whereas most viewers were able to deal with their disappearance, ANA-ALICIA being fired rocked the Tuscany Valley. What a shame to believe Melissa could be replaced by some other girl, for example KRISTIAN ALFONSO! Undoubtedly, KRISTIAN is a real sexy beauty and most likely also a competitor to ANA-ALICIA. Her character, Pilar, however, was never able to get even near the status that intelligent and scheming Melissa had in the plot. Rumor has it other cast and crew members felt very much bewildered about KRISTIAN being cast hastily by executive producer MICHAEL FILERMAN even without an audition. His desperate endeavors to fill the gap left by ANA-ALICIA by luring her back into a look alike named Samantha Ross were not successful; this strategy could not compensate the loss of Melissa Agretti, who had become one of the core characters alongside Angela, Richard, Maggie and Lance. Soap Opera Digest cynically awarded "Falcon Crest" "Biggest Waste of Talent" because of firing ANA-ALICIA.
Another negative development was the drastic reduction of scenes with JANE WYMAN. Her bad state of health forced producers to reduce her on-screen appearance, which even led to Angela not being in a single scene in # 187, for example.
Introducing new characters:
Season 8 failed to focus on the core characters and laid too much emphasis on new cast members. Just a few examples for that overload with new faces are DAVID BEECROFT and BRANDON DOUGLAS (Nick and Ben Agretti) and especially the Ortegas — KRISTIAN ALFONSO, CÁSTULO GUERRA, DAN FERRO and DANNY NUCCI.
Vineyard drama without wine:
Beginning with season 8, "Falcon Crest" was also no longer true to its title because the wine business got out of focus. Whereas the rivalry between Angela and Melissa as "Queens of Tuscany" was a center piece of the season 7 plotlines, the first half of season 8 mentioned wine as the basis for the success and pride of "Falcon Crest" only occasionally; wine related deals were reduced to mere side effects. If the wine topic got back into focus, it was almost exclusively related to the Ortegas, a family of laborers, who did not fit into the show's concept of wealth and glamor and who failed to attract the viewers' interest.
Budget constraints — caused by some actors of other LORIMAR productions fighting for an increase of their salaries — led to the fact that LORIMAR no longer filmed on location in Northern California's Wine Country. Beginning with season 8, hardly any real location filming took place. The episodes were almost entirely shot at the studios. The only reason for burning down the Falcon Crest Victorian Mansion was that the company did not have to return to the Napa Valley for exterior shots.
Whereas brilliant location filming was one of the hallmarks of the previous years, season 8 rarely featured the stately mansions and fine vineyards. The crew made a half-hearted effort to compensate that lack of location filming in the second half of season 8 after the show had already lost a good portion of its market share. The scripts had the Falcon Crest Victorian Mansion rebuilt as an exact replica of the original house. New exterior footage, however, was not taken; only old clips of the Mansion were reused — the show continued to film almost entirely on the sound stage. In order to go back to more wine related business, the writers came up with the Glenbraddoch storyline, Richard's idea to fold the valley's wineries into a corporate entity.
Deteriorations in dramatic art:
The new writers were apparently suffering from a lack of creativity. From season 8 on, many storylines seemed to be more and more a replica of what went before. The characters were sort of carved in stone and had to go through nearly the same problems over and over again — with only a few slight alterations.
New characters were written into past events in an unbelievable way just to force them to be related to the Channings, Giobertis or Agrettis in any way, such as Pilar Ortega, who was said to have had a one night stand with Lance in the late 1970's and to have been in contact with Richard during the 1980's, or Anna Cellini, whose grandfather was said to have been visited by Angela in Italy once (what a coincidence!), etc.
New characters, including Nick and Ben as well as the Ortegas, were in a real rush to become successful and be defeated, to go through love and hate and to be lucky and unlucky all within one season. They seemed to come from nowhere at the beginning of the season and to disappear to nowhere at the end of the year.
All these poor developments led to a disastrous plot in season 8 from a dramatic standpoint.
Deteriorations in the production technique:
The sharp photography of the previous seasons was replaced with a flat look.
The thrilling score of seasons 6 and 7 was replaced with boring background music that failed to create emotions.
The person to be held to account for the negative developments in the show is MICHAEL FILERMAN. In 1981, he was involved in the process of developing "Falcon Crest" after EARL HAMNER's original draft (entitled "The Vintage Years") had to be revamped. FILERMAN was one of the people who laid the groundwork for "Falcon Crest" and its success. However, he left the show during season 1 and went to produce other LORIMAR shows, including "Knots Landing". He continued to be part of the "Falcon Crest" production process, however, through his own company, MF PRODUCTIONS. In 1988, he finally returned to the set in person. Although most of the negative developments in season 8 were not directly caused by FILERMAN, he must be held to account for them all because he was the executive in charge of producing this year. He is especially responsible for firing ANA-ALICIA — a poor decision that made the actress, her fellow cast members and the audience equally angry.
For the first time, in an exclusive 2007 DFCF interview, he expressed his apologies to the fans for the negative developments in season 8.