Set in Fresno, California, the story focuses on the once-wealthy Kensington family, whose raisin-growing empire has fallen on hard times. The Kensingtons are led by widowed matriarch Charlotte (Burnett), who is locked in a deadly power struggle with rival raisin magnate Tyler Cane (Coleman).
Parodying elements from other prime time soap operas of the era, Fresno centers on the ruthless battle between the Kensingtons and Tyler Cane for domination of the Fresno raisin industry, and follows the marital conflict between Charlotte's scheming son Cane (Grodin) and his bitchy wife Talon (Garr), the travails of Charlotte's "sensitive" younger son Kevin (Heald), who at one point announces that he is becoming celibate as a protest against whaling, the appearance of a mysterious, perpetually-shirtless ranch hand named Torch (Harrison), and the gradual exposure of Byzantine hidden relationships between the main characters sparked by the quest by Charlotte's supposedly adopted daughter Tiffany to find her real parents. As the story reaches a climax, it is revealed that Tiffany is in fact Charlotte's biological daughter, fathered by her mother's arch-rival Tyler shortly after Charlotte's husband's had died in a tragic raisin dehydrator accident.
Fresno was created and co-written by Barry Kemp, Mark Ganzel, and Michael Petryni, and was produced for CBS Television by Mary Tyler-Moore's MTM Productions. The miniseries was directed by Jeff Bleckner, who previously directed episodes of some of the shows parodied in Fresno, include Dynasty, Knots Landing, and Falcon Crest.
The production shot for two days in the city of Fresno, California in July 1986, completing its remaining 53 days in Los Angeles. The music was composed by John Morris, and the Emmy-nominated gowns worn by the female leads were designed by the legendary Bob Mackie.
Cast: Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Gregory Harrison, Teri Garr, Charles Grodin, Luis Avalos, Pat Corley, Valerie Mahaffey, Anthony Heald, Teresa Ganzel, Bill Paxton, Jerry Van Dyke, Charles Keating, Melanie Chartoff, Michael Richards, Jeffrey Jones, Tom Poston, Louise Latham, Tammy Lauren, Natalie Gregory, James Staley, George Wallace, Nick Toth, Marianne Muellerleile, Peter Scolari