DYNASTY

U.S. Serial Melodrama

Premiering as a three hour movie on 12 January 1981, the prime time soap opera Dynasty aired on ABC until 1989. Dynasty quickly worked its way into the top 5 rated programs, finishing 5th for the 1982-83 season and 3rd for the 1983-84 season. It was the number one ranked program for the 1984-85 season, but rapidly began losing viewers. By its final season (1988-89), Dynasty finished tied for 57th place, and was unceremoniously dumped from ABC's roster leaving numerous dangling plotlines. These plotlines were tied up in a two-part, four-hour movie, Dynasty: The Reunion, which aired on ABC on 20 and 22 October 1991, some two years after the series' cancellation.

The soap opera focused primarily on the lives and loves of Blake Carrington (John Forsythe), a wealthy Denver oil tycoon, his wife Krystle (Linda Evans), ex-wife, Alexis (Joan Collins), daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Samms), sons Steven (Al Corley, Jack Coleman) and Adam (Gordon Thomson), as well as numerous extended family members and associates including Fallon's husband/ex-husband Jeff Colby (John James) and Krystle's niece and Steven's wife/ex-wife, Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear).

The program relied on both camp and excess for its appeal. Its characters and plotlines were sometimes absurd and broadly drawn, but it was the trappings of wealth, glamour, and fashion which drew viewers in some 70 countries to the program. With a weekly budget of $1.2 million ($10,000 of which went for clothing alone, including at least ten Nolan Miller creations per episode), Dynasty placed more emphasis on style than on plot.

The plotlines of this prime time soap opera often resembled those of its daytime counterparts--kidnapped babies, amnesia, pregnancy, infidelity, and treachery. In fact, Dynasty made extensive use of one soap opera staple--the return to life of characters presumed dead. Both Fallon and Steven Carrington were killed off only to return in later seasons played by different actors.

Just as often, however, Dynasty's plots leaned toward the campy and absurd. One of the most talked about and ridiculed plots was the 1985 season-ending cliffhanger which saw the Carringtons gathered for a wedding in the country of Moldavia. Terrorists stormed the ceremony in a hail of machine gun fire, but when the smoke cleared (at the start of the next season, of course), all of the primary characters were alive and basically unscathed.

While often criticized for its weak and at times absurd plots, Dynasty did provide juicy roles for women, notably Joan Collins' characterization of Alexis. Her character--scheming, conniving, and ruthless--was often referred to as a "superbitch," and was the quintessential "character you love to hate." Alexis was set in opposition to Krystle who was more of a "good girl"--sweet, loyal, and loving. One of the best known scenes in Dynasty history was the 1983 "cat fight" between Alexis and Krystle in which they literally fought it out in a lily pond. Alexis met her match in the character of wealthy singer and nightclub owner, Dominique Devereaux (Diahann Carroll)--the first prominently-featured African-American character on a prime time soap opera.

During its nearly nine year run, Dynasty spawned the short-lived spin-off Dynasty II: The Colbys (1985-87) and gave rise to numerous licensed luxury products, including perfume, clothing, and bedding. Never before had television product licensing been so targeted to upscale adults. W

hen Dynasty left the air in 1989, it also marked the demise of the prime time soap opera which had been a staple of television programming throughout the 1980s. Produced in part by Aaron Spelling, whose programs (e.g., Charlie's Angels, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place) have emphasized beauty, wealth, and glamour, Dynasty had proved the perfect metaphor for 1980s greed and excess. In declaring Dynasty the best prime time soap of the decade, TV Guide asserted its "campy opulence gave it a superb, ironic quality--in other words, it was great trash."

-SHARON MAZZARELLA

 


Dynasty

CAST

Blake Carrington.................................. John Forsythe Krystle Jennings Carrington..................... Linda Evans Alexis Carrington Colby ...........................Joan Collins Fallon Carrington Colby (1981-1984)........................................... Pamela Sue Martin Fallon Carrington Colby (1985, 1987-1989)................................................. Emma Samms Steven Carrington (1981-1982)...................... Al Corley Steven Carrington (1982-1988).............. Jack Coleman Adam Carrington/Michael Torrance(1982-1989).............................................. Gordon Thomson Cecil Colby (1981-1982)....................... Lloyd Bochner Jeff Colby (1981-1985, 1987-1989)............ John James Claudia Blaisdel (1981-1986)............ Pamela Bellwood Matthew Blaisdel (1981)........................... Bo Hopkins Lindsay Blaisdel (1981)....................... Katy Kurtzman Walter Lankershim (1981)................... Dale Robertson Jeannette ........................................Virginia Hawkins Joseph Anders (1981-1983)..................... Lee Bergere Kirby (1982-1984)............................... Kathleen Beller Andrew Laird (1981-1984)............ Peter Mark Richman Sammy Jo Dean ..............................Heather Locklear Michael Culhane (1981, 1986-1987).... Wayne Northrop Dr. Nick Toscanni (1981-1982).......... James Farentino Mark Jennings (1982-1984)................... Geoffrey Scott Congressman Neal McEane (1982-1984, 1987)....................................................... Paul Burke Chris Deegan (1983)........................... Grant Goodeve Tracy Kendall (1983-1984).................... Deborah Adair Farnsworth "Dex" Dexter (1983-1989)..... Michael Nader Peter de Vilbis (1983-1984).................. Helmut Berger Amanda Carrington (1984-1986).... Catherine Oxenberg Amanda Carrington (1986-1987)............... Karen Cellini Dominique Deveraux (1984-1987)......... Diahann Carroll Gerard (1984-1989)........................... William Beckley Gordon Wales (1984-1988)................. James Sutorius Luke Fuller (1984-1985)................... William Campbell Nicole Simpson (1984-1985)............... Susan Scannell Charles (1984-1985).......................... George DiCenzo Daniel Reece (1984-1985)...................... Rock Hudson Lady Ashley Mitchell (1985)..................... Ali MacGraw Danny Carrington (1985-1988)......... Jameson Sampley Joel Abrigore (1985-1986)................. George Hamilton Garrett Boydston (1985-1986)................... Ken Howard

PRODUCERS Richard and Ethel Shapiro, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Philip Parslow, Elaine Rich, Ed Ledding

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

ABC

January 1981-April 1981                 Monday 9:00-10:00 July 1981-September 1983      Wednesday 10:00-11:00 September 1983-May 1984       Wednesday 9:00-10:00 August 1984-May 1986            Wednesday 9:00-10:00 September 1986-May 1987       Wednesday 9:00-10:00 September 1987-March 1988   Wednesday 10:00-11:00 November 1988-May 1989       Wednesday 10:00-11:00

FURTHER READING

"The Best Prime-time Soaps." TV Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania), 17 April 1993.

Dynasty: The Authorized Biography of the Carringtons. Introduction by Esther Shapiro. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984.

Feuer, Jane. "Reading Dynasty: Television and Reception Theory." South Atlantic Quarterly (Durham, North Carolina), Spring 1989.

Geraghty, Christine. Women and Soap Opera: A Study of Prime Time Soaps. Cambridge, U.K.: Polity, 1991.

Gripsrud, Jostein. "The Dynasty-Event in Norway: The Role of Print Media." Edda: Nordisk Tidsskrift for Litteraturforskning/Scandinavian Journal of Literary Research (Dragvoll, Norway), 1989.

_______________. The Dynasty Years: Hollywood Television and Critical Media Studies. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

_______________. "Toward a Flexible Methodology in Studying Media Meaning: Dynasty in Norway. Critical studies in Mass Communication (Annandale, Virginia), 1990.

Schroder, Kim Christian. "The Playful Audience: The Continuity of the Popular Cultural Tradition in America." The Dolphin: Publications of the English Department, University of Aarhus (Aarhus, Denmark), 1989.

White, Mimi. "Women, Memory and Serial Melodrama." Screen, (Oxford, U.K.), Winter 1994.

 

See also Dallas; Forsyth, John; Melodrama