If OWN’s The Kings of Napa were a wine, it would be a full-bodied blend of Falcon Crest and Empire, the primetime-soap equivalent of a red whose acidity sneaks up on you — gradually. Before we taste its afternotes of intrigue, though, Tuesday’s premiere introduces us in short order to the King family: doctor Reginald (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and former-TV-reporter wife Vanessa (Karen LeBlanc), and their squabbling offspring, firstborn Dana (Rance Nix), the mercenary CFO of their winery, middle child August (Ebonee Noel), its head of marketing, and baby boy Christian (Ashlee Brian), who’s more interested in making bourbon than vino.
At first, it appears that all we’re going to get is disagreements over side hustles, strong feelings about dessert wines and some particularly intoxicating real-estate porn. But then Reginald drops dead during a dinnertime dustup, and the grapes begin to sour. No one objects to the deceased naming his wig-tycoon sister Yvette (Heather Simms) VP of sales in his will, or cousin Bridgette (Yaani King Mondschein) getting a raise as vineyard manager. However, tempers rise along with eyebrows when Reginald undermines Dana by making August the president of the company. And that’s before Aunt Melanie (Devika Parikh) shows up.
Though Bridgette’s mom asks to speak privately with Vanessa, she’s like, “No, just pop that cork in front of everybody.” So finally, Melanie does, revealing not only that she loaned Reginald $10M — she needs it back, by the way — but that Bridgette is his daughter.
In the aftermath, the Kings’ perfect veneer is stripped away like the enamel of your teeth after a glass of wine that’s too tannic. When Vanessa’s not lamenting that she gave up her career for her husband — “I could’ve been Joy Reid by now!” — she’s blaming Dana for August’s promotion. (If the family’s money man had noticed that they were in financial trouble to begin with, she reasons, his father never would’ve had to borrow a fortune from his lover!)
As for poor Bridgette, not only is she left reeling by the fact that her mother lied her entire life about her father being dead, she’s fired by Vanessa, which is of course petty and nuts in equal measure. “None of you know how to make wine!” Bridgette points out. Even when August’s high-school sweetheart, attorney Kelvin Johnson (Curtis Hamilton), helps hammer out a financial settlement, Vanessa blows it by refusing to let Bridgette keep her job.
Finally, August, who loves Bridgette like the sister it turns out she’s actually always been, comes up with a way to make her mother see reason — by staging an intervention at a posh restaurant. For a moment, it looks like it might work. But then, Vanessa has to go and ask Melanie if the only time she slept with Reginald was when Bridgette was conceived. Er… um…
So much for that idea. As the family storms out of the restaurant, Melanie warns August that her father wasn’t exactly the man she thought he was. “There’s a lot more to this,” she says, “than you know.” Right on cue, August receives a call from someone with their voice disguised. “Must be painful to clean up the skeletons your father left behind,” he/she says. “I expect you’ll keep up with your father’s payments.”
“Payments?” says August’s expression. “What payments?!?” Color us hooked. What did you think of The Kings of Napa, though? Grade the premiere in the poll below, then hit the comments with your reviews.