1 9 8 1 – 1 9 8 2 (USA)
39 x 60 minute episodes
Flamingo Road showed that you can’t make a successful soap out of any old bunch of sexy scandals.
Based on a novel by Robert Wilder set in the American deep south (and a 1949 movie adaptation starring Joan Crawford), it ran for two seasons only in America (on NBC) and was bought by the BBC for screening in the UK in 1982 and 1983.
Produced by the same company responsible for CBS’ Dallas, it was colourful, melodramatic and seemed at first like Dallas with politics, a brothel and mango groves, with a similar mix of corruption, sex, financial manipulation and political jockeying – albeit on a smaller scale.
British and American audiences both soon tired of going down its pink-feathered paths though and found none of the characters likeable or even strong enough to tolerate.
Also their names – Lute-Mae, Eudora and Lane Ballou – just made us giggle.
Morgan Fairchild as Constance Weldon was a spectacular bitch, it must be said. Probably the most beautiful aristocratic bitch in the soap firmament.
Spoiled by her rich adoptive parents, her marriage to the politically ambitious Fielding Carlyle (who loved another, naturally) began the action.
While Constance proceeded to rip the clothes off every man in the steamy little town (only Skipper, her young brother, escaped), Field dithered and dallied with Lane, a poor carnival queen with a heart of gold.
Even though played by budding heartthrob Mark Harmon, Field Carlyle was so puny – especially in scenes with Howard Duff as scheming wheeler-dealer Sheriff Titus Semple who controlled the town.
The first series ended with Constance falling off a staircase.
By the second series, David Selby had joined as the evil tycoon Michael Tyrone, to have an affair with Lute-Mae, the brothel-owner, and so discovering that Constance was really her child.
Then he bedded Constance, shattering her with the truth, and sending the now deranged Lute-Mae into a sanatorium, threatening Lane and her new husband and practising voodoo against Titus (like you do).
In the last episode, he faked his own murder, hid in a monastery and had Titus blamed.
Field had contemplated suicide at one point, but was so boring no-one can remember if he did it or not . . .
Constance Weldon Carlyle
Sheriff Titus Semple
Sandy Tyrone, Swanson