Now streaming on Netflix is the much awaited fourth season of the nighttime soap about two wealthy families, Dynasty. Just to refresh your memory, Dynasty is based on that ‘80s popular series about the Colorado-based Carrington family.
Blake Carrington (John Forsythe), who made his fortune in oil, is the patriarch. His second wife is the sweet and saintly Krystle (Linda Evans). His bitter ex-wife is the vixen Alexis (Joan Collins) who marries Blake’s biggest rival in the oil industry, Cecil Colby (played by classical actor Lloyd Bochner).
For nine TV seasons, viewers watched the Carringtons and Colbys feud, toast their champagne glasses, and let the fur fly.
Today’s Dynasty is more or less faithful to the original in terms of plotlines. Easter eggs abound which makes it fun for those who followed the old version. The producers, however, have shifted focus on the lead characters. The show is now run by Blake Carrington’s daughter Fallon (played by Elizabeth Gillies). It’s a smart move since having a younger lead should attract a young audience.
The producers were also smart enough to cast Elizabeth Gillies. She’s got what it takes to rule an epic show. She is part heroine and part mean girl and she continues the Dynasty tradition of having catfights with female rivals. But she’s sympathetic too because her Fallon, as written, always means well. She’s also believable as a young CEO of the largest conglomerate in the state of Georgia (also another shift from the original’s Colorado).
Dynasty makes good use of the considerable talents of Gillies. She’s a marvelous singer so the scripts make room for her to sing in almost every other episode. After all, no Dynasty episode is complete without a lavish party where guests are dressed to kill or be killed. There’s always a surprise in these soirees. It could be a deadly cliffhanger or a musical number with the entire cast performing. Even Blake Carrington (Grant Show) gets to sing a Tears for Fears hit!
These musical interludes make the show so unpredictable and hilarious. They make this iteration of Dynasty less soap and more Bollywood-type farce.
Furthermore, the good guys don’t always project virtue. The villains aren’t completely evil either. It’s not a black-and-white portrayal.
It may be trashy but viewers are guaranteed to be entertained
The cast, however, has a generous mix of black and white actors, as the “D” word plays a prominent role in this reboot. Diversity is the name of the game. The Colbys are played by Afro-American actors and it’s an interesting twist for a show set in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta was also the setting of Gone with the Wind, which is now sort of being “cancelled out” by the woke for its racist depiction of Afro-Americans.
Also, Krystle Carrington is now Latina. Hence she was rechristened Kristal Carrington (astonishingly, Kristal has so far been played by three different actresses in the first three seasons). Krystle’s sex-starved hillbilly niece Sammy Jo (previously played by Heather Locklear) is now Kristal’s gay nephew Sammy Joe Flores. This Sammy Joe is endearing and he has some of the wittiest lines. As Sammy Joe, actor Rafael dela Fuente almost steals the show.
Dynasty may be trashy but viewers are guaranteed to be entertained. It’s not out to win awards, even if the entire cast plays it to the hilt.
And it can never be as celebrated as the original was at the height of its popularity.
The first series defined ’80s excess and certain episodes made news headlines. It had a more sophisticated atmosphere and all that opulence spawned an array of luxury consumer products inspired by Dynasty, from jewelry, clothes, and perfume, to a car named Dodge Dynasty.
At its worst, the writing of the old Dynasty was sometimes so shamelessly lazy. Characters were abruptly written off and succeeding episodes made it seem as if they never existed at all. The acting of the younger actresses also tended to be wooden. In contrast, although Joan Collins was often delightful as the resident bitch, she was too campy and overdressed in certain scenes.
Even President Gerald Ford and wife Betty, and Henry Kissinger made guest appearances
At its best , the original Dynasty was a cause célèbre. Even Washington D.C. luminaries like President Gerald Ford and his wife Betty, and Henry Kissinger made guest appearances.
While the parties in the new Dynasty are lavish spectacles, the old one had something extra that set it above its rival shows at that time (Dallas, Falcon Crest). At Blake and Krystle’s wedding reception, for instance, the newlyweds danced to Gershwin’s songs crooned by the classy Diahann Carroll, accompanied on the piano by no less than society band leader Peter Duchin. Other episodes had John Forsythe, Joan Collins, and Diahann Carroll partying with guest stars Rock Hudson, Ali MacGraw, Charlton Heston, and screen legend Barbara Stanwyck. Those parties really glittered.
Surely, the names of the stars of yesteryear won’t ring a bell with today’s viewers so it won’t stop them from binging on this reboot. But the fact is the new Dynasty will never be as iconic as the original. Purists are thus advised to see this new one with an open mind and slightly lower expectations.
Admittedly, I did lower my own expectations, but that’s because I had just finished binging on Downton Abbey.