28 December 2010 | Jimmy-128
When it was good, it was very good--and when it was bad, it was painful
Dynasty was in its heyday when I was in high school, so it was inevitable that we'd grow up together. Originally conceived to take on the CBS juggernaut Dallas, the show originally focused on the ultra-rich Carringtons, the middle-class Blaisdels, and the link between them, secretary-turned-socialite Krystle. After half a season, however (it was a mid-season replacement), the creative team decided to take the show in a different direction. They also brought in Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington. Originally intended only to appear in a few episodes, Alexis became such a hit with the viewers that the character quickly became central to the action.
The show, early in its run, was at its best when it nodded to classic Hollywood. The Steven-Claudia storyline, for example, was Dynasty's riff on the film Tea and Sympathy, and the sheer opulence of the show (and some of Claudia's crazier moments) were straight out of Sunset Boulevard. The writing was sharp, incisive, and not afraid to be funny. A brief implosion late in the second season got rid of half the cast, but one role (Steven) was recast, and another (Sammy Jo) would return sporadically for a couple of seasons before finally returning full-time. By the time the show had four seasons under its belt, it was a solid top ten hit that actually showed a lot of quality as the writers tackled then-borderline taboo topics such as abortion and homosexuality.
Then it started to go wrong.
The first blow was the departure of Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon, and the subsequent miscasting of Emma Samms in the role. Worse, the writing took a significant turn for the worse, and Samms had the double handicap of trying to compete against the memory of Martin and having distinctly inferior scripts to work with. Next, whereas previous cliffhangers had involved danger to one or two characters apiece, starting with the infamous fifth season cliffhanger, the producers decided that the majority of the cast had to be endangered in every cliffhanger - the Moldavian massacre, the fire at La Mirage, the siege of the Carrington mansion - which strained credulity to the breaking point. Once-promising characters, like Dominique and Leslie, were marginalized to the point of invisibility and eventually jettisoned with little fanfare.
Worst of all, the writers began to ape ratings bonanzas from previous seasons without seeming to understand why they worked in the first place. Krystle and Alexis' first catfight, for example, came at the end of slowly-increasing tension between the two over the course of the second season. Towards the end of Dynasty's run, the catfights had become almost ubiquitous, as if the writers felt that they weren't doing their job if they didn't include one every season, regardless of whether the scenes made sense from a storytelling standpoint.
The show enjoyed a brief renaissance in its final season, largely due to the addition of Stephanie Beacham to the cast, but with Linda Evans leaving the show in the middle of the season, it was more or less doomed at that point - the triumvirate of Blake-Krystle-Alexis, once broken, could not be repaired or replaced.
All in all, though, Dynasty was a pleasant way to spend an hour every Wednesday (later Thursday), and I'm glad I got to know the Carringtons.