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Why has Grey's Anatomy succeeded where 80s soaps failed?

Discussion in 'Dynasty' started by Michael Torrance, Jul 21, 2017.

  1. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Yes, and that's probably why The Dream Season of DALLAS didn't work very well, despite its new producer/show-runner, Peter Dunne, having come fresh from KNOTS where he had done several seasons of spectacular work (under the watchful eye of David Jacobs).

    KNOTS was chock full or subtlety and nuance, and, not being about a nuclear (okay, oil) family, the narrative tended to wander and wander. And it was fabulous. It took a couple of quirky, not-fully-serialized seasons to really click (and of course the last two or three seasons were tricky, and started to look like a youth-obsessed daytime soap because all the originals had either quit or were being cut over budget issues) but KNOTS strength was its lyrical lack of structure... Sometimes the plot was very focused and intense, and other times it was very leisurely and casual. But it was all so clever and character-based that nearly any and every phase of the show worked, and often worked brilliantly.

    One of the weakness of it parent series was that DALLAS, because it indeed focused on a family living in one house, had to be always "on point" plotwise, or the thing fell apart or, at the very least became pedestrian and overtly repetitive. Which is why there wasn't one season post-"WhoShotJR?" of DALLAS which really worked without David Paulsen and his inspired sense of ironic plotting. (Katzman alone sure couldn't do it. Neither could Art Lewis or god knows Howard Lakin).

    So when Dunne left KNOTS and took over DALLAS a year when Bobby was dead, he seemed to bring his KNOTSian sensibility to DALLAS. But what had seemed so brilliant on KNOTS felt politically correct and neck-clawing on DALLAS -- the "strengthened" Ewing women were a joke, the stories rambled ineffectually, people did and said things totally out of character, and, worse, it was boring! (But then David Jacobs wasn't supervising DALLAS as he was KNOTS). So when Katzman returned a year later with Paulsen in tow, despite that ghastly and perfunctory dream explanation, DALLAS came screeching back to what it should be, not stumbling too badly again until Paulsen left in 1988.

    DYNASTY, as I often assert, started out with the most potential of any of them, a show cast and molded to become a classic. But as another show about a rich family living in the same house, the needed to stay focused on plot and character was the same as DALLAS'. And as we know, DYNASTY soon veered off onto becoming a smuggy, posing show that was a half-hearted celebration of the rich-and-famous, and any consideration of anything else just wasn't there... Diahann Carroll said years later that DYNASTY "really was just about wearing pretty clothes and being on a Number One show," and then asked the interviewer, "What do you remember about DYNASTY -- I mean the plot of DYNASTY?"

    Well, yeah, that's pretty much sizes it up.

    PEYTON PLACE benefited from an infamous book and hit movie to draw from, an established group of characters whom the writers could use and re-imagine (as long as the show's writers were paying attention to what they were doing, as they seemed to). Also, for the same reason the '60s has often been cited as the best decade for movie horror, there was a vibe that just seemed to be in the water during the '60s where you could do shock, torment, mystery and noir -- there was this fundamental sense of paranoid focus and atmosphere to be easily tapped into just so long as the producers weren't dolts... Sure, PEYTON PLACE "only" ran five years but the show was airing twice, and then thrice, per week, so it burned out quickly. But less is sometimes more. (For similar reasons, that's why I'd like to have seen how DARK SHADOWS might have fared had it been shot on film and broadcast in prime time).

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I never saw the original, but when I saw the 90s prime time show I loved it.
     
  3. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    I have the whole series on DVD but haven't watched any of it in months. Something about it, in it's 1960s black and white gothic glory just seems wrong to be watching in Spring/Summer. It feels very much like something I will only watch on long cold dark Autumn/Winter nights.
    I tried to watch a few times and I just cant when the weather is nice and it's bright outside. It just screams to be watched when it's cold and miserable.
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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  4. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Heh. Not me.

    The 1991 primetime redo of DARK SHADOWS was just that: a 1991 primetime redo.

    Aside from the names and ostensible family dynamic (and a higher budget, obviously) it had none of the appeal or mood of the '60s daytime soap --- because it wasn't the '60s.

    Everybody in the 1991 nighttime version too pretty, too bland, etc., the atmosphere lacking the B&W or saturated color and that neo-Victorian shtick of the late-'60s (as lousy as the '60s show and its shoe-string effects often were).
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2017
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  5. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    I mean it's basically this....
    [​IMG]

    versus this....
    [​IMG]

    For all the superior visuals and production values of the 1991 remake, it's just tough to compete with that '60s zeitgeist (flickering videotape and cardboard sets notwithstanding).
     
  6. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Falcon Crest wasn't. But that show had other issues, more painful than Dynasty imho.
     
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  7. Alexis

    Alexis Soap Chat Champion

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    Falcon Crest is the only one of the big '80s soaps I haven't seen much of. I think I only saw the first three seasons, and only once.
     
  8. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    There's some good stuff in the later seasons too (mostly the actors) but if you think the Fallmonts were boring...meet the Agretti family!
     
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  9. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    Both shows rose and fell so similarly. But I find DYNASTY more painful because it had the most potential. FC got too campy later on, while DYNASTY's camp seemed somehow unintentional -- even if it wasn't!

    And that's as good as it gets. As you may have heard, a writer-producer named Robert McCullough guided the first three seasons of FC and turned the show into a hit -- and then some Lorimar executive fired him for some reason. To me, the show never recovered.

    People say FC had the least identity of the four shows, but I don't agree that that was true during the first three seasons. Afterwards, it indeed lacked an kind of center, just throwing "crazy" things out there which mostly didn't work.

    I've said before that FALCON CREST was the show I cared least about, but felt strangely closest to. Something about the comparatively organic, harvest-y flavor it had in the early years, and those elaborate man caves set back against the mountains. I dunno. I wish they hadn't ruined it.

    It's just like these shows started trying to "fake it" midway through. (Except for KNOTS, naturally).

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I never saw the original, so I had nothing to measure it against. It must be (gasp) how many of the CW's NuDynasty will experience the show. On its own it stood quite well.

    I remember in Europe turning on the TV at some point on a network whose schedule I did not know. I watched for at least 20 minutes before realizing it was FC in its final season. And until I saw the house I had no clue. I think I only watched the first few years of it, maybe the first three that @Alexis and @Snarky's Ghost allude to as the good ones, and I enjoyed them but then the show derailed quickly.

    It is possible for a soap opera to change and keep its identity--daytime soaps did it for decades. I am not suggesting that Dynasty should have gone on for 9 more years--if anything a well-designed arc of a certain number of years can yield a better show. But when we look at the talent they had, the basic story and dynamics, and the many good plots they botched, it is obvious to me that they could have had maybe 10 years of a solid show in quality and ratings as opposed to 9 years of the roller coaster they had, and go out as at least a top 40 show rather than at the bottom of the ratings. Of course in addition to bad choices by producers and writers, Dynasty also had something else Dallas and Knots did not have: a network head determined to kill the show in order to establish his own flavor of the month.
     
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  11. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I think the dream season had the potential to stir Dallas into a new direction for some years, but the very dynamic that seemed so promising (JR vs Pam) they quickly undermined by bringing in Angelica Nero and putting the business spotlight on her.

    Well, her plot was not much to write about. But that was not true of many other plots--if anything, some arcs had a lot more meat to them than, say, Dallas. Alexis' entrance and rise to the top was one, much as it was handled clumsily on the business side. Adam's introduction, villain period, and Kirby redemption was another. The Steven plot in the first season was very good, as was the eventual acceptance of him and Luke Fuller by Blake in season five. The problem with Dynasty is that after an arc was over, the characters would act as if the whole arc had not happened. Adam would change personality annually (and sometimes semi-annually). Steven somehow had to rediscover in season 7 that he cannot play the straight husband even for companionship alone. And Alexis would go from hating Blake and wanting to destroy him to making attempts to seduce him at the flip of a switch. I think Dallas, despite its own story flaws and a visual style I found abhorrent, tried to incorporate the idea of character growth and consequences of actions. Dynasty acted as if it were incompatible to its DNA.
     
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  12. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    Off-topic: is that signature image from "Once And Again"?
     
  13. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Yes
     
  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson drilling for soap

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    I loved that show. Unfortunately I've never seen the last season.
     
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  15. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    I dunno
    Grey's is by far the most stable show in the TGIT block. Both Scandal and HTGAWM have suffered huge falls, while Grey's has remained somewhat stable.

    Add that Shonda isn't shy of killing off long-term characters on Greys - that helps bring the cost down considerably. One of the big reasons why tv shows get cancelled despite decent-ish ratings is because they can't figure out a way to continue the shows without main actors, so they just opt to end them. Desperate Housewives is a good example of this - it had okay ratings in the final season, but despite contracting the cast for another season they opted to end it early because they couldn't make the financials work.
     
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  16. Ked

    Ked Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    Yeah, especially since I heard the four leads were all contracted to make a lot more money per episode for the 8th season.
     
  17. Gatsbyesque

    Gatsbyesque Soap Chat Active Member

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    Alternative Facts. What major drops has HTGAWM had? Scandal did lose creative steam for a while but was able to refortify and repair itself due to the success of HTGAWM as the new anchor show, much the same way that Greys has been afforded additional time because of Scandal and then Greys, respectively. The most recent season of Scandal was phenomenal, by the way.
     
  18. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Enthusiast

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    "Alternative facts"?

    [​IMG]

    Also, I enjoyed Scandal's last season somewhat, though there were issues. But there's a reason they're ending it. And HWTGAWM have been declining in each of it's three seasons. Grey's is just holding up better. I'm not talking about creative energy here, I'm talking about ratings. I think both Dynasty and Melrose had good last seasons, but there's no denying that they declined in ratingswise.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
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  19. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts, as the saying goes. HTGAWM was ranked #30 in season 1 with 11.4 million viewers average, then dropped a little to #32 in season 2 with 10.26 million (although rankings matter more than numbers as the viewing public shrinks) and had a dramatic drop to #44 and 7.91 million viewers in season 3. Scandal dropped even more precipitously. Its high was season 4 with 12.66 million (ranked at # 8) and it ended season 6 with 8.16 million at #39.

    By comparison, Grey's finished season 13 at #19 and 10.88 million. It was #21 before, and #31 before that. Season 11 was when Cristina Yang left and Derek was killed off. Some viewers left, but the show used the losses as forward momentum in storytelling and the result is quite amazing--what show picks up speed again and goes up the ratings in years 12 and 13? And it ranks even higher in the coveted 18-49 group advertisers love. Grey's anchors the night for the other two shows as it is the lead in, not the other way around.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that Grey's is the best show out there, but again, there are lessons to be learned from its longevity and especially its ability to rejuvenate itself creatively through the losses while staying true to the core of what it is.
     
  20. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Except, the decision to move Dynasty to the new time-slot happened exactly so it would die ratings-wise. Instead of Robert Iger cancelling it as soon as he became head of ABC entertainment, he announced the move to Thursdays. At that point (though too late) Dynasty execs had hired Paulsen to breathe some new life into the show, which to most people it did, even though I know many purists say it wasn't Dynasty in that season. The two events are not unrelated in my mind: Iger was concerned that Dynasty in the old time-slot would improve somewhat on the ratings (it would never recover to hit levels because too much viewer good will had been lost but maybe go back to be a top 40 show) and he did not want to deal with two more seasons of it. He really wanted to be done with this brand of shows and bring his own--Twin Peaks being his signature one. Ironically, if one looks at the scene where Paulsen has Fallon dreaming about having sex with a dead man in the morgue, Dynasty itself was already moving in that direction.
     
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