1986: primetime soaps, instinctive timelines, listening to nature, etc...

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Snarky's Ghost, Mar 29, 2018.

  1. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Nature tells us that everything has an organic pattern and perhaps even pre-determined lifespan.

    I've given some thought over the years to the wealth-based primetime soap genre which, at least then, seemed to define the '80s decade in some way. It was a hard genre to do, because nighttime producers weren't used to the continuing narrative structure it required, and so, despite their global appeal, there were really only four successful ones: DYNASTY, DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING and FALCON CREST.

    And even those went creatively belly-up during the last half of the 1980s, except for KNOTS LANDING, easily the most intelligent of the lot, and even it ran two years too long, but at least waited until it got into the '90s before slipping into the mess the other shows had a half-dozen years earlier.

    Here's my weird point (and bear with me)...

    When the nighttime soaps had their Spring 1985 cliffhangers, there was a strong vibe awash over all of them; they struck a strange and sad note which almost felt as if the programs all could've ended right there (and some folks have argued that maybe they've should've -- although I'd hated to have missed DALLAS' Season 10 per DVD count, or DYNASTY's Season 9, or the remainder of KNOTS' years in the '80s).

    But because these shows were still way too popular in 1985 to be cancelled (or to cancel themselves, as British shows sometimes wisely did), it wound up feeling like the half-way mark for the wealth-based soaps, and indeed that's roughly what happened... Unfortunately, as we all know, they began losing their ways almost immediately beginning with the 1985/86 TV season.

    Now, we can argue that they sometimes got into a bit of trouble before that: I've always asserted that DYNASTY became too rigid and scattered beginning in the fall of '82 at the outset of Season 3; that DALLAS recasting Miss Ellie was the first real crack in its veneer during the '84/'85 season; and that due to studio and network politics, FALCON CREST fired their most-talent show runner at the end of its highest-rated year, Season 3 in 1984, and then were told to drop S4's main storyline (with the nazis) 10 episodes before the end of the season, leaving them rushing to cobble together a bunch of extraneous plots in order to finish out the season in early-'85.

    Well, okay, all of that falls under the category of "nothing's ever perfect," and all those points have been discussed before.

    But then there's instinct about how long these shows should have run (probably about as long as they actually did, if less creaky than they became)... Does anybody know anything about The Golden Fraction (the Fibonacci numbers, etc...)? It's the oft-repeated point in Nature where each cycle comes to a kind of head -- if you multiple either 0.62 or 1.62, approximately, to the previous number.

    Okay, so if you accept the idea (which certainly fit the mood at the time) that the Spring 1985 cliffhangers were the mid-point, albeit a dooming mid-point, of these series (DALLAS' death of Bobby; DYNASTY's Moldavia massacre; KNOTS' return of Val's babies and the only episode to ever hit #1 for the week; and FALCON CREST -- which I've heard was the original time planned for the earthquake cliffhanger, and it certainly felt like the right time for it, but was delayed a year for some reason) then DALLAS would have run until 1992 (one year longer than it did, and I've always felt that it was missing a year at the end, even though the series had deteriorated badly well before '92), KNOTS would have ended in Spring '91 at the end of S12(instead of '93), FALCON CREST would have ended in 1989 at the end of Season 8 (some people liked S9, but most felt it had become a completely different series) and DYNASTY would have gotten a S10 (which it really cried out for). All of that seems right, at least pour moi.

    So, if you apply the Golden Fraction to all that, you wind up with somewhere in 1986 being the key, fateful point in these shows' identities (and in fact I started a thread on the old soapchat to that effect: that 1986 saw the '80s nighttime soaps turning a more significant corner than usual -- although it's sometimes hard to say just why): Alexis taking over the mansion for the first time in 22 years, the introduction of the it-wants-to-be-so-lavish Carlton Hotel, even what worked about S1 of THE COLBYS; the possible Ghost of Jock returning to haunt the family on DALLAS; FC's Season 6 being the last season with any real potential, the year feeling like a possible gothic renaissance for the program had it not stumbled again so quickly; and KNOTS which, quality still firmly in place, did some of its most interesting, intimate work in '86 and '87.

    I want to call it The Dusk Hour of these shows (if only the nocturnal chapters had not been so subsequently disastrous) where the phantoms are out all dancing in the twilight. A slight exaggeration, of course, but then the blurry Lorimar look of 1986 onward, and the absurdly grainy and washed-out look of DYNASTY from '86 to '88, almost fits that description, albeit in a regrettable way: suddenly, these shows looked they were about holograms, apparitions existing on a different frequency.

    As if they'd all died at about the same point, left earthly life, yet were still quite active somewhere in a zone we could barely see and not fully access but we were still aware of. (It's certainly when the mainstream audience started to tune out).

    Over-analyzed? Not analyzed enough?

    But for some reason I want to see them all walking through gardens just after sunset surrounded by fireflies.
    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
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  2. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I think the '86-'87 season of Dallas was the strongest of the bunch.
     
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  3. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Does the zeitgeist symbolizes the events, or vice versa. I find that concept so hard to grasp, maybe it really is that Golden Fraction. Maybe it works like seasons (spring, summer etc).
    Could it be that the soaps had lost their vintage appeal, were they catching up with modern times?
    But it worked for Peyton Place. And PP had 514 20 minutes episodes, that would have been 240 45 minutes episodes, or something like that? 9 or 10 seasons?
    If Knots Landing had ended earlier then I think season 11 should have been the last season, not season 12.
     
  4. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I recall JfL once observing that these shows seem to reach a kind of peak by their sixth years, take a dive for their seventh (for DALLAS, that would be S8 per DVD count), and creatively rebound for their ninth (for DALLAS, that would be S10 per DVD count). Or something like that. Anyway, it seemed to be right.

    I dunno.

    Well, that's the usual analysis.

    Well, if I go strictly by the starting date of December 1979 for KNOTS, with its midpoint in May 1985, then that gives a Golden Fraction date of ~August 1986 and, yes, an ending time of ~September 1990, about eleven seasons. So you're onto something.
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  5. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Although The Colbys seemed to want to recreate that vintage feel, and it often succeeded in doing so. Except that it wasn't that early 80s vintage.

    Late 1980s and early 1990s was so brown-orange, so ugly, it was a miracle that Dynasty's last season was so good.
     
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  6. Richard Channing

    Richard Channing Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    Right, and I often think the soaps could have been better for longer with just a little more forward planning. Dallas, in it's glory years, did at least seem to think ahead well into the next season, whereas Dynasty on the other hand often didn't seem to know how their end of season cliffhanger would be resolved when writing it. It sometimes seemed to be a case of, well, we'll figure that out when we start the scripts for next season.

    However, taking Dallas as an example, I think they we're often short sighted when it came to giving it's characters family members. Why just give Sue Ellen one sister? Why just give Rebecca Wentworth one daughter from her new husband? Because that's what the script demanded at the time. But it would seem to make sense to me to have other siblings mentioned, they didn't need to be an on screen presence, but just be 'out there' somewhere, living in another country, in prison, whatever. But they would have existed and could have been brought in at a later date when needed, instead of the inevitable obscure cousins the soaps eventually had to bring in. Perhaps if the soaps had expected to be around as long as they were they might have been more forward thinking in this regard and been able to bring in characters with more relevance to the existing characters.
     
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  7. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I'm not sure about "early 80s vintage" or quite what that entails, but I do find it interesting that THE COLBYS existed essentially on this Golden Fraction point I'm claiming might exist, even though it didn't really survive as a hit.

    Other unsuccessful '80s nighttime soaps like FLAMINGO ROAD or PAPER DOLLS or BERRINGERS were too early (among their other problems) in the cycle. But THE COLBYS was right on it, straddling that line which I always want to place from early '86 to Spring '87, give or take.

    The studios were getting into such lousy post-production work to save their pennies around then that it's amazing anything worked.
     
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  8. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Particularly when Paulsen was on board.

    And then they still couldn't figure it out! :lol:
    Although I don't really mind that DALLAS did it that way, because DALLAS didn't seem to be terribly dynastic in tone, even if the Ewings were indeed a dynasty. Their keeping it fairly simple, at least comparatively, worked for the show.

    Just like we didn't really like it when the Ewings left Texas for a few episodes, the show avoiding too many babies and too many siblings -- except for the occasional pathological sister-in-law -- worked for DALLAS.

    Just as jetsetting to Europe would have better fit the Carrington saga, DYNASTY wanted to be more dynastic, even though the writers were too disengaged to really pull that off.

    And that was the exquisite irony of DYNASTY: it needed and wanted to be the show that was most outward looking, and yet it was the least. It was the one that offered, and needed, to give a glimpse of the rarified world of high society, and yet it was the one that most felt like they never left the Hollywood studio (even when they did). Suffocated, as @Alexis described it.
     
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  9. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Although it's hard to mention a main character's sibling or ex-spouse without attracting some attention. And then they also have to make it look perfectly normal why those characters aren't there.
    Why did Katherine Wentworth show up but not her "brothers"?
    Well of course they all have parents there's nothing particular about that.

    I think the trick is to be as vague as possible. Alexis never said that she didn't have a sister, and Alexis and Caress never said that they didn't have a brother, so that was still a possibility too.
    Adam Carrington could not have been mentioned without overshadowing season 1 and 2. It was too big. But they should have retroactively made it seem as if Steven and Fallon knew about it, they just hadn't mention it before (and why should they, there was enough going in those first seasons).
     
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  10. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I think it's safe to say that the '87-'88 seasons of all shows was the end....
     
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  11. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    No, we needed DYNASTY's Season 9 -- once you'll see it, you'll understand.

    And we also needed KNOTS Season 10.
     
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  12. TJames03

    TJames03 Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I did see it, and I don't understand (barring some great Alexis/Sable interactions). KL died for me when Sheridan joined the show and McCashin was axed, so I guess I'm not the best judge RE: that show. However, Dallas and FC took a permanent sh#t in '87-'88.
     
  13. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I dunno
    I agree and I've said this is an issue of Family Soaps vs Location Soaps - the later, such as Knots Landing, can just bring characters in without much hassle since people just move into the neighbourhood, just like real life. Meanwhile, Fallon leaves and all of a sudden Alexis had a daughter stashed away in Europe. Amanda leaves, enter cousin Leslie. Bobby leaves, enter Dack Rambo in impossibly tight jeans etc. It's much harder to sustain continuing to create new family members because inevitably it becomes more and more of a stretch that the third cousin's dog would move into the mansion.

    It's not that they have to be overly specific, just vague enough about it.
     
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  14. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

    ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989 Soap Chat Addict

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    I see it this way: The 1985-86 year was the year of 'all or nothing bat shit craziness' and the 1987-88 year was the year of 'tired, grainy pictured, boredness'.

    Both years are mirror images of one another, especially for Dynasty, I've said before that the 1987-88 year was a bargain binned, do over of season 6, what with them hashing out the original planned season 6 storylines but with major revisions ie: Alexis becoming queen of Moldavia was revised into Alexis wanting to become governor for Colorado, Sammy Jo having an affair with Prince Michael was delayed and later changed into another one of her cousin in law: Jeff
    Amanda having an affair with Dex was redone with Leslie and Sean.

    As for when the soaps should've ended, DALLAS in truth should've ended in 1987, when it had come more or less full circle on itself, and 1987 seemed like the right time to end it, not least for the fact that reverse the last two numbers of 1987 you get 1978, numerically this seems to fit in a funny way.

    Falcons Crest should've ended in 1988, Knots Landing in 1989 and Dynasty, under Paulsen and a major revamp over the summer of 1989 could easily have ran to 1991, Dynasty by season 9 was ready for the 1990s, in a way that DALLAS and FC weren't.
     
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  15. Laurie Marr

    Laurie Marr Soap Chat Member

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    I agree that the soaps took on a weirdly posthumous look and feel post 86-87. I felt it very keenly with Dallas even at the time. Pam’s demise in particular brought with it an uncanny sense that the show was simultaneously familiar AND strange. The same with the look of Dynasty, as Snarky suggests: it had a spectral quality that chimed with the same uncanny atmosphere that was permeating Dallas. A lot of this is very intangible, of course, as though a weird kind of self haunting was the fate of both shows: stalked by the ghost of what they once were (Dallas) and what they could never quite become (Dynasty).
     
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  16. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Theoretically, the twentieth century is often said to have begun with Queen Victoria's death in January 1901 and ended with the 9/11 attacks of September 2001.

    Which would place the Golden Fraction at: 1963. About halfway between the Cuban Missile Crisis and...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2018
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  17. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yes, a nice 11 season run for DYNASTY -- the sunspot cycle.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I have a different view of these shows. I see DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING as true prime time equivalent of daytime soaps, with structures that with careful planning would have allowed them to last a decade or more, never ending with a series of characters coming and going and families replacing one another. FALCON CREST, though I liked in its early seasons, I never got too much into so I am afraid I can't analyze as well. It looked fractured and schizoid after the first two-three seasons. DYNASTY , I see as not a true prime-time soap--that is, not suitable for a never-ending format. I think both based on its novel-like tight structure in season 1 and the narrative progression Alexis' story provided in seasons 2-3 and mid-season 4, together with the companion Adam family romance theme, it should have been a designed show with beginning, middle, end end--like maybe 5 seasons, perhaps with even some leap forwards (or backwards) in time. Season 9 of the show feels like such a leap forward season, for instance. I was wishing (but knew it would not happen) that is what a reboot would do. Alas...
     
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  19. AndyLaird

    AndyLaird Soap Chat Active Member

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    I like to see Dynasty as the love-child of a daytime soap opera and a telenovela, but shot in the style of a classic Hollywood movie.

    The novel structure comes from the fact that it opens with a fractured family with Blake, his estranged wife and two troubled children. As it progresses, a new wife is successfully integrated into the family, the ex returns and has to be dealt with, and by the end of the Reuniom, the Blake-Alexis children are settled in happy relationships (except perhaps Amanda), most have children of their own, as do Blake and Krystle. The dynasty is thus in a much more stable place with a more secure future by the show's end.

    The soap opera element comes from the many self-contained stories and character arcs along the way.
     
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  20. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    And then continue with DYNASTY II (5 seasons of The Colbys), and after that DYNASTY III.
    Could that work, Dynasty as a franchise-soap?
     
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