Picks and Pans Review: Viewer's Choice

updated 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/17/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

>DISSOLVING KNOTS

BACK WHEN IT PREMIERED, TWO days after Christmas in 1979, Knots Landing didn't seem a likely candidate for a long run. This spin-off of Dallas took the most bland male in the Ewing clan, Gary (Ted Shackelford), and plunked him down in a cookie-cutter cul-de-sac in California.

Yet, with its swan song this week, Knots will have churned out 344 episodes, more than any prime-time drama except Gun-smoke, Bonanza and Dallas. The longevity has been due in large part to good writing and acting. But the show's plow-horse ordinariness has also worked in its favor. While Dynasty and Dallas were glitzy escapist fantasies, Knots was truly a prime-lime soap opera.

Though the serial had a procession of wonderfully malevolent villains (most notably Donna Mills and William Devane), the program's heart resided in its steady middle-class married couples: Gary and Val (Shackelford and Joan Van Ark) and Karen and Mack (Michele Lee and Kevin Dobson). On Thursday, May 13, CBS presents the Knots Landing Block Party (8 p.m. ET), a clip job reprising memorable plot twists such as the strip-croquet match between Sumner (Devane) and Paige (Nicollette Sheridan). That's followed by the two-hour finale (9 p.m. ET). Before it's over, there will be a separation, an engagement, a death, a reunion and some new neighbors on the old cul-de-sac.

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