Top TV Moments: Linda Evans

Top TV Moments: Linda Evans


Linda Evans starred in two successful television series, but she wasn’t the focal point of either one.



“Believe me, I know why I’m on the show,” she once told an interviewer about playing Audra in The Big Valley. The job consisted primarily of keeping male viewers engaged with her radiant beauty, and a few one-episode romances that always ended badly.


And on Dynasty she was the (mostly) good girl whose only character flaw was not being born rich. When Joan Collins joined the cast she got all the juicier dialogue and storylines, elevating Evans’ Krystle only when the two were tussling in the Carrington lilypond. 



Thankfully, she also found other memorable roles to fill out an impressive classic TV resume.


Bachelor Father (1960)

After Evans was cast in Dynasty, much was made of an otherwise forgotten sitcom episode entitled “A Crush on Bentley,” which is the first credit listed on her IMDB page. At the age of 15, she played the daughter of one of Bentley’s clients, who develops a crush on him. Bentley, of course, was played by John Forsythe, who played her husband on Dynasty.   


Classic TV viewing is filled with amusing happenstances like this, which always make the journey through these old shows more enjoyable. I don’t recall many viewers remarking on the age difference between Blake and Krystle, but that generational gap is more obvious here.


The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet (1960)

Still billed as Linda Evanstad, Evans appeared in five episodes of this classic sitcom, always as a girl that catches Ricky’s eye. They’re all good but I’d start with “The Girl Who Loses Things,” in which she plays the careless teenager of the episode’s title. She also keeps bumping into Ricky, who helps her find the stuff she lost, raising the frustration of Rick’s steady girlfriend, played by the equally adorable Roberta Shore. 



The Big Valley (1965)

This popular western might not have been Linda Evans’ first series, had a pilot she filmed in 1962 been picked up. It was called Buttons and Her Beaus, and Linda played Buttons. We’ll never know how the television landscape might have been irrevocably changed by this miscarriage of justice.


Instead, she became known to audiences on the western that featured Lee Majors before he was bionic and Richard Long before he met Nanny. But the show’s best casting coup was Hollywood legend Barbara Stanwyck, who specialized in tough dames and created a memorable one in matriarch Victoria Barkley. Many of Evans’ most memorable scenes were opposite Stanwyck, where their obvious mutual affection infused the tender moments shared by their characters. 



Harry O (1974)

This is my favorite Linda Evans performance. In the first-season episode “Guardian at the Gates,” she plays the much put-upon daughter of a brilliant architect and visionary, who has no regard for people but loves his German Shepherd. Harry is hired (begrudgingly) to find out who poisoned the dog (who survives the attack, thank heavens).


As Marian, Evans is protective of her father despite his constant belittling of her. She admirably creates a nuanced portrait of a woman who is bold and vulnerable, sexy and insecure, all in a limited amount of screen time.


Banacek (1974)

In “Rocket to Oblivion” Evans plays Cherry, the daughter of a former Banacek associate whose crush on the investigator can be acted upon now that she’s all grown up. Is there an ulterior motive to her affection? That’s what Banacek has to discover after a revolutionary new engine worth millions disappears from a trade show run by Cherry. As always with this series the theft is baffling and the solution is inventive.


Hunter (1976)

No, this is not the show with Fred Dryer as the cop who plays by his own rules. This one starred Evans and James Franciscus as government agents who are called in to tackle only the toughest and most sensitive espionage cases. William Blinn, who wrote, produced or dreamed up several successful Comfort TV era shows from Fame to Starsky & Hutchto Eight is Enough, created this short-lived series. I can see why it didn’t work, but it’s still fun to see Evans trying out a female James Bond character. 



Nowhere to Run (1978)

This is another of those great made-for-TV movies that is smarter and features more charismatic stars than what’s playing now at your local multiplex. David Janssen plays a fed-up executive who embarks on a 15-year long scheme to escape a lousy job and loveless marriage, by faking his suicide and starting a new life with enough cash to see him through to his final days.  But just as everything falls into place, he falls in love with Amy, played by Linda Evans. As in Harry O the two share a believable chemistry, to the point where you’d believe a guy who plotted his future so carefully would consider an unplanned detour, which of course threatens to jeopardize the entire plot. It’s a great film if you can find it somewhere online.


The Fall Guy (1981)

As with her Bachelor Father appearance, this brief guest spot is made special because Evans once again appears on screen opposite a costar from another series. She plays herself in “Colt’s Angels,” and warmly greets Lee Major as Colt. The moment serves no purpose other than to make Big Valley fans smile – and that’s enough.


Dynasty (1981)

It was ABC’s answer to Dallas, with settings that were more opulent, and stories that were often sillier. But it lasted nine years, and Linda Evans was there for more than 200 of its episodes. As previously mentioned it was Joan Collins who kicked the ratings up in the second season and locked down that Wednesday timeslot for years to come. But to most TV fans, this is also how Evans will always be remembered, suffering gracefully in Nolan Miller gowns. 



Kenny Rogers as The Gambler: The Adventure Continues (1983)

Kenny Rogers rode the Gambler gravy train longer than anyone could have predicted, but this series of films based on his classic song still go down easy if you’re in the right mood. And for Big Valley fans this installment was like having Audra back, even faster with a gun than she was before.



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