What went wrong with DYNASTY?

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Snarky's Ghost, Nov 24, 2016.

  1. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Season 1:


    The ongoing saga of Denver oil tycoon Blake Carrington and his family (a show the ABC network hopes will compete with CBS's DALLAS, easily the biggest program on earth in 1980).

    A somber drama at first, the torments of Krystle, Steven, and Claudia are center stage. The acting is good, and so is the writing. Bill Conti's score and theme add poignant grandeur to the pilot. The pacing is a bit slower than may be required to become a smash hit, but the groundwork for the series is being nicely laid (or is it "lain"?). No, the glitz and glamour aren't anywhere near as flashy as they would later become, but in some ways they're deeper; someone once described Season 1 of DYNASTY as being "all cabernet and dark chocolates and mahogany" and while that might be a slight exaggeration, it's easy to understand the sentiment: the middleclass Blaisdel family may be getting more screen time than some viewers may appreciate, but the Carringtons would never feel more legitimately "rich": the interiors of the mansion are brooding and believable, life on the estate has a certain rarefied flavor, the cultural observations and literary references are convincing of a family bred if not necessarily well.

    All the plots nicely coalesce to bring the season to a natural, tragic and fated climax as Blake goes on trial for killing his son's gay lover, resulting in, in the final frame, the arrival of his ex-wife, Alexis, to testify as a hostile witness for the prosecution.[​IMG]


    Season 2:

    The decision (at first wisely) is made to speed up the pacing and add some glamour to DYNASTY to turn the series, which barely survived the cancellation axe after Season 1, into a bona fide hit. (To be fair, it was against M*A*S*H that brief first year).

    Joan Collins seems perfectly cast as Blake's gorgeous and morally challenged ex-wife, with Blake's and Alexis' bitching about why they divorced so intriguing because the viewer suspects they're both largely telling the truth about the other.

    Collins captures exactly the Mysterious Slut elements the role requires, and, as an added bonus, it turns out that she and Linda Evans' Krystle seem to display a pitch-perfect adversarial chemistry on-screen. While you can't write that sort of chemistry, you can write to it, which the series initially does masterfully.

    And having the nasty ex-wife living three feet from the mansion in her petit trianon was inspired, giving her essentially the run of the new wife's house, much to the latter's frustration.

    There's a little bit of the late-'70s TV mini-series odor to Season 2 of DYNASTY. I think of it every time I see the wonderful cobweb-strewn night scene between Alexis and butler Joseph in her darkened art studio, or Alexis' foreboding "reading" from her Rome clairvoyant, or Alexis' references to brawling with an unnamed Oscar-winning actress, or Blake's European villa-hopping to save his oil business and harassment by the faceless Logan Rhinewood ... The past seems real, palpable, if not necessarily present: the secrets, the shadows, the series' National Enquirer tone...

    The casting helps immeasurably somehow. Even the ones who may not be the most brilliant of thespians seem nonetheless perfect for their roles.

    Because of the increasingly frenetic feeling over Season 2, enhanced by Ben Lazarone's campily operatic score in the latter part of the year, one could easily overlook how this seemingly pell mell lack of structure in fact obscures brilliant structure... Whether this is the accomplishment of new writers/consultants Bob & Eillen Pollock, or line producer Ed Ledding (Ledding was the only Season 2 staffer not with the show in Season 3) is an open question, but Ed de Blasio's equally operatic dialogue is every bit as effective as it still gives legitimate character drive to the bitchy barbs.

    Even the poorly edited art studio catfight (then a shock to see the two leading ladies of a television series duke it out) worked, more-or-less, because it seemed like a kitschy anomaly, and grew naturally out of the conflict (and it was the last time the show's soon-to-be-infamous physical slapdowns ever would). And the trendsetting wardrobe was still not so outrageous as to seem excessive or silly.

    The finale to Season 2 would, in retrospect, become something of the entire series' spiritual peak, the ride on horseback that Blake and Krystle would take up Scorpio Peak at Sky Crest with Blake left dangling on the precipice somehow metaphorical. It was a key cliffhanger in many more ways than one.

    It looked like DYNASTY was going to become the best TV show ever made... and even Warren Beatty quite-improbably called up executive producer, Aaron Spelling, after the Season 2 finale aired and said, "You have the best show on television!"

    It's been said (perhaps by me) that if melodrama aims dead-center for the cliche, then you may actually come up with something wonderful, because you find that the cliche (contrary to its reputation) is actually rarely tapped into or perfected. If true, DYNASTY achieved this balance beautifully in Season 2.

    If one looks today at the old Nielsen ratings charts, one might not realize how big DYNASTY had already become. Because the ratings from early in the season (before most people had discovered the show) are averaged in to those from the latter part of the year, the final rating for the 1981/82 season only places DYNASTY at 19th place... Not bad, certainly (especially for an era when the three American networks dominated, with little competition from cable or home video, and none from the Internet) yet still not reflective of how huge the series had already become by the end of Season 2, when it had jumped up near the top of the weekly charts and had, for all intents and purposes, become the most talked about show on the air.

    Without question, it's the year that put DYNASTY on the map, and the year the show was always trying, however incompetently, to get back to.



    Season 3:

    Despite Beatty's congratulatory call the previous Spring, Aaron Spelling phoned series creators Richard & Esther Shapiro (who'd only been peripherally involved with Season 2, leaving their pals, Bob & Eileen Pollock to guide the plots) and asked the Shapiros to come back, claiming that DYNASTY was "spiraling out of control." Never a producer seemingly concerned much with quality, "out of control" likely meant money to Spelling. Once the Shapiros had returned, line producer Ed Ledding was gone. And whatever his contribution may have been, with Ledding now absent, the polish and freshness and cohesive cleverness of the previous season is gone as well. Almost completely.

    The remaining producers apparently decided if their amping it up a little for season 2 had benefitted the series, then throwing all legitimate storytelling to the wind would be even better. So they further changed the tone of their burgeoning hit show, DYNASTY now taking on a kind of nervous, bourgeois smallness instead.

    Immediately, the writing starts to go awry: things don't make sense, non-sequiturs abound, the plotting becomes an afterthought, events are random, narrative cohesion is minimal... Also, the misguided new Static Acting Directive from the producers damages the performances, unnecessarily ruining the feel of many scenes; this new directive seems designed to make the already-poised actors seem even more poised (yet did the opposite) while any narrative logic in the scripts is tossed out the window, with too much dialogue given over to hyperbolic love/hate repartee (and the characters telling each other how fabulous they are) substituting for any kind of focus or flow to the stories... At once, all the characters become equidistant from one another, appear to know each other equally well as if they're all watching DYNASTY every Wednesday evening; they now mostly speak in interchangeable dialogue with individual perspective minimized.

    For whatever reason, one scene which for me epitomizes the series' new disorientation is the foolish exchange in the new conservatory set between Blake and Krystle about why they can't go on a second honeymoon because Krystle needs more than 90 days to apologize to her ex, Mark Jennings, for her unfriendliness after Alexis and Fallon tricked him into leaving New York for Denver... Or Krystle's accusation that Blake had hired Jennings as a tennis pro for the dreary-beyond-words La Mirage Hotel in order to punish her in some way, even though, given the place Krystle and Blake are in their relationship at this point, such an accusation seems strangely "retro" at best, the writers grasping at straws.

    Gone is any warranted cynicism about wealth and the wealthy, replaced with a dreadful, fawningly '80s "rich-people-are-good/poor-people-are-horrible" mindset. And every corner of the show is now infected, condoning the Carringtons' snobbery.

    There is also no longer any sense of location. Any attempts to recreate Colorado, even thru the use of stock footage, are essentially non-existent. The show could now occur anywhere.

    Yes, the introduction of snarling, long-lost son Adam (well-cast with Gordon Thomson) and his vaguely incestuous relationship with mother Alexis was a good thing, and the defining storyline of the season. But even that is lessened by the fact that Alexis has been transformed overnight from the grasping and manipulative socialite she was the previous season to brilliant Empress of Industry, with no transition period shown at all. Now that she is the just-add-water Queen of the Planet, she no longer has to purr and scheme and deceive; she simply openly insults and bitches everybody out in every scene, removing the sense of intelligence and mystery she once displayed and, likewise, any sense of her enigmatic back story. She's just a spoiled cow now. Only a cow dressed in fur.

    Other new characters are added, but the worst may be the re-casting of troubled occasionally-gay Steven. Al Corley, frustrated by the network's suppression of Steven's sexuality, left the show at the close of Season 2, and the role is re-cast mid-way thru Season 3 with the pinched, tight-jawed presence of Jack Coleman who delivers all his lines through his teeth. It renders Steven's tortured journey irrelevant, as does the writing for him, as his ventures into homoeroticism for the next several years will consist of the rare long, blank glance at the odd nerdy male (that's how you know who's gay) and marrying a succession of women with whom he will remain involved in some capacity long after divorcing them. (And, for those too young to remember: no, this wasn't a step forward even in the '80s).

    And Fallon, once a spoiled, sassbox wonder, is de-ovaried and takes on domestic and hotelier duties with resigned placidity. She also decides spontaneously that her dreaded stepmother is wonderful after all.

    But the biggest loss is what happens to Krystle, the golden heroine once so soulfully played by Linda Evans. Krystle had at one time provided the moral voice for this show now so contemptuous of such perspective. With the downturn in the writing in season 3, the actors' simultaneous restraint into excessive physical rigidity, and the loss of the producers' interest in anything not reflective of Reagan's smugly mercenary value system, Krystle quickly becomes a vapid and saccharine Stepford wife and exactly the goody-goody Alexis had always (and once unjustly) accused her of. And Evans' performance suffers pointedly: her clear-eyed countenance now increasingly replaced with a cross-eyed squealing of her lines... Just as Vivien Leigh was born to play Scarlett O'Hara, Linda Evans and Joan Collins seemed born to play Krystle and Alexis (as Season 2 gives most vivid evidence). They were perfect casting. Yet as the Good Queen is neglected and trivialized in Season 3 and beyond, the Bad Queen also suffers: Alexis no longer has a valid, statured, female partner with whom to spar.

    The balance of the show is now badly off.

    By Season 3, it seems clear that the show-runners have developed several strange and misguided ideas about what it is about DYNASTY that makes it work or will make it "better." Regardless, thanks to the clothes, a cast with incredible Q-ratings, and a Spelling/ABC publicity machine keeping the show in the press on a daily basis, the Nielsen numbers will remain mile high for another couple of years.


    Season 4:

    The 1983/84 year is sometimes cited as the peak season for the wealth-based nighttime soaps of the '80s. And DYNASTY, mentioned even by the Reagans and Princess Diana as a fashion influence, has already changed the cultural vernacular, the word "bitch" taking on a semi-complimentary connotation for the first time (thanks to Alexis, although balancing her villainy with her newly-acquired role model status as a powerful boardroom fixture won't be easy) and even the term "dynasty" -- previously invoked mostly in the context of ancient empires -- is now being used with much greater frequency to describe contemporary families of power. But the electrifying media coverage of DYNASTY is becoming more gripping than the show itself. The goofy, stilted problems from the previous season continue, the characters increasingly lobotomized.

    The very first episode of the year is really quite taut and focused (it really is!), but it's all downhill from there: Joseph commits suicide after trying to kill Alexis, but the show never fully explains why he set fire to Steven's cabin with her inside it. We know it has something to do with Alexis holding secrets about Kirby's mother --- but what? She was crazy, we already know that... No matter. After Kirby makes a lame attempt at strangling Alexis, the butler's orphaned daughter agrees to marry her rapist, Adam... Then the show initiates a promising plotline about someone stalking Alexis and ransacking her penthouse suite, yet that plot is dropped and forgotten without explanation... Who was doing it??... Claudia weds Steven so Blake can't take away his child in court, then the couple promptly forgets it was a marriage of convenience... Fallon gets taken in by a slimy slice of Eurotrash, Peter DeVilbis, inexplicably cast with the corpse-like Helmut Berger whose lines appear to be dubbed or shoulda been. When she realizes she's been had by this nasally mumbling opportunist, she runs into traffic and gets one of those Carrington Family Headaches the show seems so fond of; in fact, the headaches get so bad, she suddenly realizes she's loved Jeff Colby all along and wants to remarry him for no convincing reason... Blake's public-relations girl, Tracy Kendall, decides the way to get back at Krystle for taking the promotion she's hoped for is to seduce Krystle's husband in the most lazily-staged, pathetically transparent attempts imaginable... Alexis gets a new boyfriend, the effetely macho Dex Dexter, who just waltzes into her office, lays a kiss on her, and they're together forever! Only their relationship will never make any sense... The cast actually goes to film in Denver for the only time in the series' history, but it remains inside the entire time, ignoring the opportunity to obtain any exterior location footage whatsoever... Diahann Carroll shows up at the end of the year to make a now-obligatory Mysterious Entrance, and she never gets anything else to do for the next three years except hand her brother, Blake, the occasional check to "save my company, dammit!" as she's apparently now his banker.

    Nothing goes anywhere. The writers no longer seem to have a story they feel compelled to tell.

    At least Alexis briefly takes on a sultry, smoky-voiced sense of her own statured coolness for Season 4, causing her to seem like the only person in the Rocky Mountains who might have even a clue as to what she's actually doing --- although her spontaneous Dietrich solo routine in a cowboy bar to seal some nonsensical oil deal doesn't go far in proving it.

    Oh, how good this show seemed to be a just couple of years earlier! For it is unrecognizable now. Only the diamonds and cashmere are of acceptable quality.

    Reportedly, the actors have started to complain behind the scenes about all these problems, but the producers tell them "just look at the ratings" to shut them up.

    Pamela Sue Martin sized up the problem very succinctly by saying that DYNASTY started out as a witty satire of the rich and famous, but quickly deteriorated into a lame celebration of same. So she left.

    Despite the problems, DYNASTY continues to get near-universal praise in the American press, paralleling the Emperor's New Clothes (in this case, literally, but in reverse) "teflon" immunity enjoyed by the Reagan presidency. The show is not just coming to reflect (and be reflected by) the values of the 1980's, it's also reflecting the Denial.

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    Last edited: Jul 30, 2018
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  2. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Season 5:

    The season starts out with a difficult-to-define sense of innate confidence: you know it's going to take the Number One spot on the Nielsen charts come spring. Dramatically, it's as inert as ever.

    Fallon has supposedly died in a road --- no, air --- accident. And we don't care at all. New Daughter Amanda comes out of the woodwork pronto, correctly cast with purring Catherine Oxenberg, and she can think of nothing to do to create conflict but to sleep with Mummie's hubby as soon as she steps off the jet.

    Alexis is charged with murdering Krystle's ex, Mark, at the end of the previous season. And while Alexis' legal issues seem intended to ironically parallel Blake's murder trial three years earlier, it instead serves as a metaphor for how far the show has fallen. It's all handled so foolishly.

    Billy Dee Williams briefly joins the show as Diahann Carroll's husband, and they display the best volatile chemistry that any two characters have in ages. So what does the show do? They divorce them, Billy Dee's Brady Lloyd is quickly gone, and replaced by two stiffs: Ali MacGraw and the obviously terminal Rock Hudson.

    The show re-writes Krystle's back story (once afraid of horses, she becomes a skilled equestrian from childhood) and we learn Rock Hudson is Sammy Jo's biological daddy.

    The show ventures into plots about literal royalty, as Alexis tries to sell off her daughter to the titled leaders of a tiny European principality called Moldavia, coercing her to marry Prince Michael, correctly cast with Michael Praed. Not a bad idea for a show like DYNASTY, but it's as listless and hollow as ever... TV GUIDE wrote an article in the mid-80s which, among other things, detailed the events surrounding the filming of the infamous Moldavian Massacre episode which closed Season 5, pointing out how tense and bored the actors all seemed.

    It shows. With the characters all cut from cardboard now, written without nuance, and the Static Acting Directive fully in place, the natural qualities the actors were originally hired for have been siphoned out of them. Every scene is preposterously stiff and unconvincing. And if you're not permitted to believe the actors, you're not going to believe the plotlines, no matter how wild or pedestrian (or, in DYNASTY's case, miraculously both) those plotlines may be.

    This series was once described (by JfL) as "overwritten" referring, I believe, to the operatic verbosity of the scripting. That's quite true, of course. Yet DYNASTY simultaneously manages to be under-written as well, with endless exchanges between characters in which the dialogue stops suddenly and nonsensically, reminiscent of old low-budget B and C-movies. It's symptomatic of how the show's writers are putting so much effort into repartee which conveys the characters' feelings for one another (e.g., "I love you because you're marvelous/I hate you because you're a slut") without much thought to plot or more subtle character motivations.

    ...All dressed up and nowhere to go.

    I remember being somewhat infuriated when The Moldavian Massacre first aired in May 1985. Not by the "violence" per se, but by how utterly competent the physical execution of the scene was, as if it was produced by an entirely different team than the one who normally oversaw the series' daily production... It instantly reminded me of how degrading the scripts, the Static Acting Directive, the show's psychology had seemed towards the actors --- not the characters, but the actors themselves --- for a couple of years. As if the brass secretly resented the cast they'd so carefully selected for exactly the qualities for which they'd been selected, resented the fact that they technically needed those actors --- with their faces endlessly splashed over the cover of every magazine printed around the globe --- in order to churn out the product which had already made that brass a fortune... It's as if they were "killing" the actors, objectifying them, as evidenced by the sudden and inexplicable attention and enthusiasm with which the scene was done.

    Almost was like an ultimate re-cast fantasy.

    DYNASTY surpasses DALLAS as the Number One show on television by a well-coiffed hair. But the fact that Bobby Ewing's death pulled an even higher viewership than the massacre in Moldavia (reportedly DYNASTY's highest rating in its history) within the same week said a lot about how much audiences really value substantive character-development, something the Carrington Saga had eschewed three years prior: the viewers really felt Bobby's death (despite it being revoked in a year's time) while the overdressed clan in Moldavia were now flimsier than the facial tissue not needed to wipe away non-existent tears over their prospective demises. (Atrocious metaphor, but I can write as badly as they do).

    In the press, DALLAS and KNOTS LANDING creator David Jacobs hints that if DYNASTY doesn't start concentrating more on story, then its downfall could be near.

    [​IMG]

    Season 6:

    It was nearly a perfect storm: '50s movie king Rock Hudson's diagnosis with AIDS --- the new scourge of the planet --- was announced in the summer of 1985. And the photo frame of Rock kissing Linda Evans a few months earlier on DYNASTY --- the hottest show on the planet --- appeared on the cover of national and international news magazines. And it's a frenzy.

    The producers are also hot to get a new spin-off, THE COLBYS, on the air for ABC, a network in the cellar and so desperate for competitive programming that they schedule their biggest show's spinoff for the worst spot in television at that time: Thursday night, where a bevy of NBC comedies regularly wipes everything else off the charts.

    It would be claimed by the actors that THE COLBYS was the beginning of the end for DYNASTY, with the producers' attentions distracted away from the parent series. Perhaps. But the problems I witnessed as DYNASTY's Season 6 commenced in the Fall of 1985 were just more of the same: despite the fact that the Moldavian Massacre had become the most talked about episode of any TV series during the calendar year of 1985, the producers' ability to ignore it -- to not pay off on this, what they knew will be their biggest cliffhanger of the entire series -- remained unaffected... How they could develop such a selectively tin ear to public anticipation, response, their own show (or even Nielsen ratings) is a mystery, but when the entire cast of DYNASTY got up off the floor unwounded within the first five minutes of the first installment of Season 6, it wasn't a very good sign about where things were headed. (Admittedly, two minor characters died in the next room, but that didn't suffice or eradicate the fact that the fans had been cheated).

    And when the episodic director requested a little more money to help make the massacre aftermath a bit more cinematic (with helicopter shots, etc.), Aaron Spelling dictated that no extra expense was necessary because the show "is already a hit." So the biggest moment in the biggest series from television's biggest producer ever didn't warrant any additional attention, care or budget whatsoever... (What kind of a business model is that, one wonders??)

    Over the next four months or so, DYNASTY's ratings dropped from #1 to, at times, out of the Top 15. The introduction to the spin-off was clunky and barely coherent, but the worst part was the DYNASTY stories themselves, epitomized by the Two Krystles plotline which had the show's heroine locked in an attic while her evil twin, Rita (also played by Linda Evans) was impersonating her at the mansion. Amazingly, this theme was originally scheduled to run for six or seven months, twenty-five episodes, until the end of the season. The writers (who seemed to covertly express their self-defeating opinion of the character of Krystle thru Alexis' commentary that she's "boring" and "is only beautiful when she smiles") contrived the doppelganger plotline in order to get Linda Evans to do things as Rita that she correctly refused to do as Krystle. The excruciatingly protracted plot didn't work. Nor did the rest of the show around it.

    Yet audience revolt, disappearing numbers, and an increasing barrage of bad press didn't faze the creators. (Show-biz pundit Rona Barrett observed that "DYNASTY used to be a good, trashy show" and "that with the old, good episodes currently being rerun in syndication this fall, the contrast is all too clear.")

    Finally, the network, horrified by the ratings plummet of which the writer/producers seemed oblivious (as they blithely vacationed overseas), took the rare step of demanding the production be shut down mid-season and re-tooled... Out was Krystle in the attic (after "only" 10 episodes) following a fun but stupid Krystle-on-Krystle catfight; also out was Alexis' acquisition of the Moldavian throne (perhaps the only loss here was that her coronation scene, already shot, was scrapped).

    But, typical of the bosses' penchant for blame-casting, finger-pointing, and "spin", in the press the responsibility for the need for this highly-hyped makeover was placed roundly on the well-padded shoulders of the series' two biggest draws: Linda Evans and Joan Collins... Blame for the instantly infamous Two Krystles plot was dumped on Evans, with assertions that she not only loved the story but that she'd arrived at it herself and recommended it to producers (in fact, she hated it). The entire season's meltdown was blamed on Joan Collins' disappearance in the first episode of the year throwing off all the season's plots insurmountably (Collins was briefly AWOL during a salary dispute) despite the suggestion that DYNASTY's scripting supposedly being this tight was laughable. And when Evans had to miss an emergency meeting with the key actors due to an already contracted hair color commercial shoot in France, one of the Pollocks (responsible for the crash) sniffed about Evans in the media, "Some people think of DYNASTY as a part-time job."

    Yeah, some did.

    John Forsythe offered a more honest analogy at the time: "The bosses weren't minding the store."

    With the cast pared down and the more ridiculous plots out the door and the focus back on the family, the original team showed that they could, in fact, spin a yarn when a gun was held to their heads. The remainder of Season 6 was considerably better than what preceded it and the ratings even went up a bit, but somehow, as was observed in the press, there was just a resigned finality to it all. It didn't seem like a renaissance for DYNASTY so much as a half-hearted death rattle.

    Alexis throwing out Blake "and your blonde tramp" when she took over the mansion in the Season 6 cliffhanger was a nice idea, and would seem as if it should be the series' natural peak as the vengeful ex-wife finally achieved her decades-old goal of revenge.

    Yet this show, so ripe with potential, had lost its way too long ago.

    [​IMG]

    Season 7:

    As the ratings slide continues alarmingly, more "come-back, we've-fixed-it!" public relations campaigns were mounted. The producers again promise they are getting away from the more outrageous elements of Season 6, and re-focusing on the family. Yet most of the effort still seems to be directed at the publicity rather than fixing the show itself...

    The fact is, "realism" and the lack of it isn't necessarily defined by how unlikely or bizarre the plots may appear to be on paper. The issue is execution. And the Powers That Be on DYNASTY still seem almost totally disengaged from their own program. As long as the clothes and hair are right, and the Static Acting Directive isn't violated, the makers remain unconcerned with anything else, or so the show airing every Wednesday night in the States would suggest.

    Sure, the plots were more earthbound in Season 7. But drabness isn't much better than idiocy and, in this case, the former was just another manifestation of the latter.

    Alexis' control of the mansion could have been quite dramatic indeed. It wasn't. Blake taking it back over a few months later could have been quite a turn of events. It wasn't. Krystle's migraines after she and Blake are run off the road could have been interesting. They weren't. As usual, all the plot twists were telegraphed and unconvincing. "Dumbness" ruled the day. Plus, late Season 6 and Season 7 were determined to deliberately -- and inadequately -- revisit old story devices (a la a re-cast Amanda's affair with chauffeur, Michael) as if, superstitiously, this would somehow put the show back where it was five years earlier when everything was new, when everything was exciting, and when everything seemed possible.

    Long gone are the all-important moments of artful subtlety once displayed in the "I think I'll read" exchange in the living room between Krystle and Fallon during Season 2. Back then, DYNASTY established its uniqueness by being something akin to a carnival, balancing absurdity with reality. By now, however, everything has been reduced to a kind of deranged puppet show that doesn't come off.

    It's now like a daytime soap. A really bad one.

    Blake getting amnesia after an oil rig explosion and shacking up with Alexis in Singapore was a good idea, but the show no longer seems capable of pulling anything off anymore. Krystle arrives from the far side of the globe and shows up just to whimper and ring her hands beside her limousine's flat tire. Dreary plots, like Krystina's heart transplant and the suicidal mother of the the heart donor, drag on forever without reason. The depressive Fallmont family is about as equally engrossing.

    It's routine by this point in the series that the plots either last too long (usually the bad ones) or the plots don't last longer than the time it takes merely suggesting them (usually the good ones). The furiously wrong-headed scripts have long-showed little reverence for family history or any propensity for short-term memory, sometimes unintentionally contradicting stated plot elements even within a single episode.

    Then, at some point mid-way thru the season, the writers somehow decide that the continued Nielsen crash is due to the characters being "too mean", and so Alexis and the other villainous denizens of Denver become -- spontaneously and without explanation -- insipidly humanized, even apologetic (to prove they're all really decent people deep down) until those writers eventually forget about this turn of events as well.

    There simply seems to be no creative clarity to be accessed here almost at all. The bosses no longer have any grasp about what "works", regardless of whether the ostensible plotlines are silly or serious.

    It's bad enough when a show is totally plot driven instead of character driven, and DYNASTY had not been character driven in years. But it's even worse when it's totally plot driven --- and yet there's no plot!

    Brief Amanda replacement, Karen Cellini, observes in an exit interview that "the producers have no idea what they want" for the show (a sentiment echoed by John Forsythe), and revealed her awareness that the audience "really only wants to see Linda and Joan." Yet DALLAS'/KNOTS' creative father, David Jacobs, laments that Joan and Linda "no longer seem like the stars of the show anymore." Years later, Kate O'Mara would quote one of the producers as privately confessing that they made the plots up as they went along (a huge error for a serial). And Joan Collins would describe a "great cynicism" which overtook the executives, an attitude of "Oh, [the audience] is watching, so who cares what we throw them...?"

    Sometimes something with great potential, when that potential is squandered or abused, can often become far worse, far more incorrigible, than something which had very little potential to begin with... I recall one reviewer in 1987 comparing --- for some reason or another --- certain TV shows to cuddly animals, stating that DYNASTY was like the neighbor's mongrel dog which keeps dragging decapitated cat heads into the family living room (or words to that effect). Yep, that worked for me. The perverse incompetence bordered on the gruesome.

    But as long as nobody gestures too freely, what's the difference? About this time, TV GUIDE ran a piece about "They're Stars but can they Act?" in which celebrated producer, Steven Bochco, said of Linda Evans: "She can't act her way out of a paper bag!" and little disagreement was heard... No one would laugh at Evans' Golden Globe win, tying with the great Barbara Bel Geddes, in 1982, but that seemed a long, long time ago.

    To add insult to injury, for some reason the original broadcast prints shown from late Season 6 thru early Season 8 had a blurry, splotchy, absurdly washed-out visual quality which wreaked havoc with the one element of the show still worth watching it for: the "look" of DYNASTY, which was completely compromised as a result. This problem (which appears to have since been fixed for these episodes, at least in some venues) undoubtedly had the effect of pushing the ratings down even further and faster than was already occurring.

    Compounding the other problems is an increasingly claustrophobic flavor to S7 and S8 as the maxed-out budget reduces exterior shooting significantly.

    And speaking of earthbound plots, over on the collapsing COLBYS spin-off, Fallon #2, incorrectly re-cast with the curvy Brit, Emma Samms, is kidnapped by a flying saucer and whisked away to Mars --- or, where all platinum foil-draped aliens and their decapitated cats reside, Denver.

    [​IMG]
     
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  3. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    [​IMG]

    Season 8:

    By fall 1987, there is now the distinct sense that DYNASTY is no longer a hot item. At all. Such a fast fall for a show cited then and now as the series most reflective of its era, which became the most influential show in the medium's history for affecting street fashion, and was #1 in the ratings only two years earlier. In fact, DYNASTY has undergone one of the fastest two-year slides on record for a former Number One show.

    Co-creator Esther Shapiro states in the press that, "That was then, this is now," contrasting DYNASTY with a new TV project she's involved in. It seems obvious that the show is on the back burner. Strangely, in some ways it helps: the Static Acting Directive, though still in place and enough to run off actress Leann Hunley by year's end, is allowed to lessen, and the swelling, incongruous music scores which the composers were asked to paint wall-to-wall over every episode in a manner that mirrored the old 1930's/'40s golden age movies, are also markedly pulled back.

    As a result, the series relaxes. Unfortunately, despite those continuing public relations campaigns that still insist the show has been "fixed" (or perhaps they meant spayed or neutered?) nothing can be done about the writing. It's as dumb as ever. But somehow it hurts less. Matthew Blaisdel is temporarily cured of death and returns with a battalion of guerilla soldiers to reclaim Krystle. Fallon returns from Mars/Los Angeles, and the show has the atypical self-awareness to make gentle fun of her intergalactic holiday. Blake and Alexis run for governor without a mention of his manslaughter conviction, and without any actual politics entering into the conversation. Alexis' new husband, Sean, is out to kill her. The standard musical beds dynamic continues as the time killer of choice.

    It all just feels so juvenile. Even the British press has taken to calling the show "Dysentery."

    When Blake utters the season-ending line, "My God, Krystle, I thought we had more time...!" he could be offering up a review of DYNASTY as a whole. As it is, there's little doubt he's right: this sucker is dead as a doornail.

    [​IMG]

    Season 9:

    Upon hearing that "a DALLAS head honcho" was being brought in to take over DYNASTY in 1988, I wondered two things: Why bother at this point?, and, given the company's fondness for blame-casting, Are they bringing in somebody new just to take the fall for the obviously imminent cancellation?

    News was that, wisely, the new producer was returning Stephanie Beacham, the brightest light of THE COLBYS, to the parent series as well.

    At this point, it was genuinely difficult for me to even imagine DYNASTY being fixed, so long had it been off-track and so late in its run it was... I had fantasized numerous, alternative plots which made sense, rewrote in my head many of the stories they had in fact done. But to no avail. I was unable to will the show into good creative health from a distance. So I had long given up. I literally watched it now like a highway accident, mesmerized by how grisly it could get and remain. Like a carcass rotting in the sun (that decapitated cat analogy again).

    It's difficult to delineate my emotional reaction when the first episode of Season 9 aired in November 1988, in its new, dreadful timeslot on Thursday night which killed THE COLBYS and was now intended to kill DYNASTY:

    Almost for the first time in six years, there was air in the show. Suddenly there was a focused storyline and a sense of dramatic tension. Instantly the show no longer seemed to be actively fighting against nature. "Little" things, like people conversing logically or at least plausibly were occurring. And even Krystle's increasingly shrill, squeaky demeanor (and Evans' performance) over the last half-decade was all forgiven just by having the maid, Jeanette, simply acknowledge it, a years-old brain gizmo soon to be offered up as the specific explanation.

    I can't explain how poignant I found it all, this ghostly opening episode of Season 9. The next day or so, USA TODAY pointed out that it was the "most exciting installment of the show in years."

    Dark secrets, buried treasure, mysterious deaths from the past, all tied wonderfully to the series' original back story.

    No, the ratings wouldn't be salvaged; it was too late for that. And with Linda Evans leaving just a few weeks into the season, and Joan doing only about 60% of the episodes, the end seemed inevitable. But what a relief it was, for those few of us still watching the thing, that David Paulsen was able to give DYNASTY such as dignified and inspired final season... despite an effective-but-cliffhanging final episode which was shot before the cancellation had been made official.

    But it left one to forever wonder -- almost hauntingly -- what could have been had the end of Season 2 and the beginning of Season 9 been linked together by half-a-dozen years of material equal to them.

    The mind reels. But still I'm grateful for the cherished, ornate bookends that Seasons 1 & 2 and 9 provided for the otherwise empty novel in between.

    Oh, and I was right... Whether this had been the original intention of bringing in Paulsen or not, Shapiro would, over the next few years, cite "the new producer" and the show "getting into melodrama" in Season 9 (although it was clearly the least melodramatic year since Season 1) as the cause for the program's cancellation. She also would claim, in her eternally disingenuous way, that the network was trying to "get the original team back" to take over the show.

    Yeah, right. Just before they cancelled it.

    [​IMG]

    1991 'Reunion' :

    In Spring of 1991, press reports were leaked that the impending DYNASTY reunion was being stalled because Linda Evans wanted too much money. More dirty spin. Her representative then released a counter-statement calling that "a bald-faced lie".

    The real problem was that neither Linda Evans nor John Forsythe wanted to do The Reunion because they knew the script (by the original team Shapiro insists that the network was so desperate to get back) was lousy, despite two and a half years to write it... Eventually, Spelling pressured John and Linda to acquiesce and do the show anyway, the duo apparently not willing to go up against their pal and fight too long and hard for another, better script.

    It aired in October 1991.

    Of course, it was bad, The Reunion. In terms of continuity, as flawed as it was, it certainly was no worse than most years of the weekly series. And at least the Static Acting Directive and the disoriented music score weren't reinstated now that Paulsen was gone.

    But what was the impetus to do this Reunion when there was evidently no real interest from the writers in it? Money, one supposes. And likely from some kind of misguided sense of pride which nevertheless didn't seem to propel them into doing a better show back in the '80s.

    The first night made the Top 10 in the ratings, despite being against the World Series. But the second part, two nights later bombed big: the audience realized the Reunion wasn't any good, and tuned out.

    The brass, it would seem, were unrepentant.

    * * * *

    When DYNASTY fell apart, it did so by deliberately ignoring nature, the brass seemingly wanting their show and their stars and their characters so preserved and controlled that they could no longer breathe or even live, thus killing meticulously what unique elements the series had to offer... There was simply too much potential here -- it had to die, to Die Nasty; it had to be placed into the hands of jealous saboteurs who then used the pretense of "camp" as a catch-all rationalization for their own malevolent incompetence...


    great seasons: 1, 2 and 9

    increasingly problematic seasons: 3 thru 8

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Zara

    Zara Soap Chat Active Member

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    Season 6 destroyed it for me. Pure fantasy with Krystle's double. The other drama was maybe not realistic but it wasn't pure fantasy either. I wish I could delete season 6 from my brain. It was embarrassing for the name Dynasty.
     
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  5. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Rita was more fun than the Moldavia aftermath. But I remember that, when I watched it the first time, it was more a "Sammy Jo" storyline. The very idea that she would do something so horrible was thrilling, imo. The second time I really enjoyed the fake Krystle living with the Carringtons.

    As soon as it was clear that "no-one" had died in Moldavia, I wanted that story to end immediately but then they installed King Galen in Alexis' flat and Prince Michael in La Mirage and I thought it would never end.
    A dream explanation would have been better!
     
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  6. Zara

    Zara Soap Chat Active Member

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    Galen at Alexi's was time consuming, because nothing really came of it (well, Dex in bed with Amanda). All the good storylines they killed off too fast and the bad they dragged on longer than necessary.
     
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  7. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    Though it certainly isn't DYNASTY at it's best I at least like the attempt at creativity ham-fisted as it may have been. Especially after the terminally boring seasons 4 and 5.
     
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  8. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    I agree with this, but that's not unique to season 6. That seemed to be DYNASTY's motif.
     
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  9. Zara

    Zara Soap Chat Active Member

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    Hehe, yes. Dynasty is a bit schizophrenic that way. It's funny, when I started to post here, I hadn't even realized how many things about the show I dislike. I must begin to point out the good stuff.
     
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  10. E-JULIAN

    E-JULIAN Soap Chat Member

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    Well well well, I think we should welcome back Ol'Snarky to the "new" forum. Am I wrong UnPrincipaled??? :rolleyes:
     
  11. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    First up. Brilliant synopsis on all seasons of Dynasty. And if this is Ol'Snarky welcome back to soapchat. I sorely missed your wonderful play on words and well constructed critiques.

    My referencing your quote on Alexis is exactly why I switched off viewing Dynasty. The characters introduction in my view was a stroke of genius. Who was the this ex-wife of Blake's? There was an air of mystery surrounding her. Joan and Linda's first scene at the Carrington mansion was beautifully played out. From the kitchen to the living room the writers had every inch of this scene meticulously crafted. There is the sweet blonde/ butter wouldn't melt in her mouth Krystal being stalked by that panther like Alexis as they made there way to the sitting room.

    At this stage Krystal was Queen of Denver and the Carrington household. Opposite her was former Mrs. Carrington and artist model. The balance between dark and light was spot on in this scene.

    However, in my mind it appeared the writers needed to speed up Alexis Carrington's wealth so she could compete with Blake in a man's world.
     
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  12. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    On another thread (can't remember if it was before or after the site crash) somebody pointed out that Alexis didn't need to be Blake's rival, she needed to be KRYSTLE'S rival. Blake already had a good rival: Cecil Colby. Having Alexis marry Cecil would have kept Alexis on the same playing field as Krystle so that the two ladies could still compete with each other. Season 3 could have been all about Cecil/Alexis vs. Blake/Krystle.

    Of course, I still see Cecil being a necessary death, so he still could have been disposed of towards the end of S3, with Alexis assuming the reigns of ColbyCo. There were some seasons that did call for Blake and Alexis to be each other's main rival (seasons 4, 6b, 7a, and 9), so her becoming Empress of Denver was necessary, but the other seasons should have been all about Alexis vs Krystle.
     
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  13. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

    ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989 Soap Chat Addict

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    I agree with you to a point, I think while Alexis could be a formidable foe - especially to Krystle and to some extent Fallon, I do think Cecil dying was a mistake, think about Dallas, KL and FC, they all had
    JR, Abby and Angela as the big bads of their respective series, but there were also other big and minor bads too, Jeremey Wendell, Anne Matheson, Claudia Sumner, Lance Cumson, Melissa Agretti and Richard Channing, in other words there was always someone equally as bad to keep the big bads on their toes
    Dynasty failed in this area, with all other potential enemies for Blake removed (Matthew Blaisdel and Cecil Colby) and accelerating Alexis from the slithering slut to empress of Colorado and thus big bad where no one challenged her, it made Alexis less real than her counterparts, sure there was
    Sammy Jo, Adam, Ben, Caress, and Dominique but after half a season they would worship Blake and never really did anything to challenge Alexis or keep her on her toes, only Sammy Jo kept this up and was more successful at it as Sammy Jo never really changed as a character (one of the few if not the only Dynasty character who remained consistent) she grew and developed however.

    So in short there was plenty of room for Cecil in season 3, my alternate Dynasty would have him move over to the would be 1983 Spin Off series and become a main character on that show as Lloyd Bochner was a really good actor and was dumped way too soon.

    Dynasty needed more villianous and grey area characters from season 3 onwards not less and certainly not an invincible empress of Denver type of villain either.
     
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  14. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I think Alexis was more interesting when she was being outsmarted, because then the question would be, "How does she get out of THIS jam?" Season 9 used this effect to the fullest with Sable: she came in with both barrels loaded and plenty of backup. She cornered Alexis way more times than any other antagonist in the past, which made Alexis all the more impressive during all the times she managed to outsmart (or simply out-luck) Sable.
     
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  15. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Yes, unfortunately there were only two camps: Alexis and Blake (+ everyone else).
    Sammy Jo was the only consistent "third party" who did things her own way, and who didn't feel like she had to choose between Blake or Alexis.

    As for Alexis becoming Blake's adversary: I think the story was ready for the next stage since there was a build-up for the Big Battle, and Alexis needed the financial/corporate ammunition. I also think that it rendered Cecil obsolete, so I'm fine with that.
    But this should have been a challenge to Alexis and I would have liked to see some doubt and despair every now and then. Actually, when her merger plot failed, she did show genuine disappointment, but I think that was also the last time.
    And then in season 6 Blake decides to take over Colbyco, just like that, while Ben and Alexis control everyone and everything that is involved with this storyline. They didn't even have to.

    I don't think anyone cared about Moldavia and its revolution, not before and certainly not after the wedding. But Rita & Sammy Jo, that was something else. It really felt like there was something going on, and all the characters were shown from an outsider's point of view which I thought was refreshing.
     
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  16. lbf522

    lbf522 Soap Chat Active Member

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    Alexis being able to best Blake in business did not sit well with me and of course the aftermath of the Moldavia massacre did not not help matter.

    The final season where Fallon sides with a police detective against her father I hated that. Fallon was orginally a daddy's girl and would never turn on him.

    Blake should have disowned her permanently.
     
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  17. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yes, Alexis suddenly knowing how to run Planet Earth on-the-spot was something less than convincing.

    The thing about the Zorelli plot from S9, though, was that Fallon didn't think she was turning on her father. And her compulsion to help the cop was because she was not only sleeping with him, but she also had subconscious memories of Roger Grimes she couldn't quell.
     
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  18. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

    ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989 Soap Chat Addict

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    Fallon and Blake fighting was great viewing, Blake after all had fought with all his other children, it showed that Fallon was rediscovering herself as a person and Blake couldn't handle it, the one person other than Krystle, who was out of the picture at this point, that Blake could count on was Fallon.

    I think a lot of can agree on here that Alexis becoming queen of Colorado overnight was a rushed job.
     
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  19. ClassyCo

    ClassyCo Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    I recall there being a forum or two with similar topics to this one on the first site, and I always enjoyed reading them. Dynasty was the show that got me into the soaps from the eighties. I started watching it because I had discovered Joan Collins in some of her earlier films, and I just had to see the role she was best known for playing---Alexis Colby. Now, I thoroughly enjoyed the show (despite its misgivings) well into Season 5. The whole Moldavia story, which started a good bit before that well-remembered cliffhanger, wasn't interesting at all. By that time, Amanda was on my nerves, and I couldn't stand Michael or Galen. Season 6 was pretty rough at the start, but the second half was better. I haven't watched a whole lot of the show following the finale of Season 6, so I couldn't give any critique/thoughts on those seasons. However, I recollect saying this on one of the old site's forums, and I will repeat it here: Of course, Dynasty wasn't TV's best written show during its pinnacle of popularity, but I always enjoyed it (pretty much, anyhow). I guess it's because I never expected anything un-Dynasty out of Dynasty. That's the only way I know how to explain it.
     
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  20. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    But LB could have bested Blake in business in his sleep. Blake re-mortgaged his house any time he was in the slightest of business trouble. He seemed to be an awful business man. Needing loans from shady gangsters long before Alexis set her sights on destroying him. Throughout DYNASTY he was always begging cap in hand to be bailed out. He had poor Dominique tapped out and the only reason he acknowledged she was his sister was so he could rob her purse.
     
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