The latest series to get a revamp is 80’s classic glossy soap “Dynasty” which is currently being added one episode a week in the UK on Netflix. We already have had the 21st Century version of “Dallas” which combined the next generation with the original stars, with some success, if not always gripping storylines, but found it was unable to survive the death of Larry Hagman.
Dynasty’s reboot is a different affair as it has been completely recast, using the original’s names and family relationships. Starting with a clean slate means that Krystle Carrington (now Cristal) can be Hispanic, Jeff Colby is African-American and the role of Sammy-Jo (memorably Heather Locklear in the original) has been re-written as a gay man.
I’ve watched two episodes so far. The first was largely introductory as we had to get to know these characters all over again and the target audience was probably not born when the original series aired (1981-89). The centrepiece (and Dynasty often had a centrepiece )was the wedding between Blake and Cristal, seen by Blake’s children Fallon and Steven as a gold-digger. There was a nice nod to the original when Steven, (still gay), as a child in a flashback was seen playing the original theme tune on the piano.
Blake marries Cristal – again!
There’s the first thing I missed – that glorious sweep of theme music composed by Bill Conti over the opening credits. The rebooted “Dallas” went with the old tune, as has “Hawaii 5-0”. “Dynasty” had a better theme tune than “Dallas” and it’s a shame not to have used it.
If things took a while to get going in the first episode that’s not too far from the original whose initial reception was very muted and it looked like this expensive series may be cancelled. All that changed with the introduction of Joan Collins as the fabulous Alexis Colby and from her arrival onwards it became a huge ratings hit, influenced fashion (shoulder pads, anyone?) and summed up the glossy selfishness of the 80s. On the reboot there have already been several mentions of Fallon’s and Steven’s mother but the role has not yet been cast. I can’t actually think who could fill those shoulder-pads and take on Joan’s pitch-perfect portrayal of the super-bitch, but one name that keeps crossing my mind, and to maintain the British connection is Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Dynasty was always bigger and blowsier than “Dallas” which centred on the machinations of JR and the stories were more outlandish (not counting Bobby’s dream which was used to write off a whole series when it went off in an odd direction). In “Dynasty”, most memorably you had the kidnapping of Krystle by Psycho star Anthony Perkins, replacing her with a Krystle-lookalike in the Carrington home and Fallon got abducted by aliens (although now I’m not sure whether that was in the spin-off “The Colbys.”) It also featured, probably from mid-way through the run, one of the most beautiful women ever to appear on television in Diahann Carroll as Dominique Devereaux (rebooted version, think of casting Rupaul in this role).
Future casting ideas for “Dynasty” producers – no charge.
It’s hard to say in the new version how far they will go in the over-exaggerated melodrama stakes. We have had catfights (have you seen how ropey that famous fight between Alexis and Krystle in the lily pond looks to our modern eyes). There was a fabulous moment in a cemetery at a funeral between Krystle and Fallon, which suggests that these slapstick-as-drama moments may be used freely in the new version.
Fallon herself, played by Elizabeth Gillies seems far more of a bitch than the Emma Samms/Pamela Sue Martin original but that just might keep us watching until Alexis turns up. One of my favourite characters from the original, Sammy-Jo, has a lot of potential in this new incarnation played by the very easy-on-the-eye Rafael de la Fuente. Anders the butler, or major-domo, as his role is explained here has had his role beefed up and is probably the most recognisable face in the cast played by New Zealander Allan Dale, who has turned out great work in at least three continents in major roles in “Young Doctors” “Neighbours”, “The OC”, and in the London West End production of “Spamalot”.
The characters names aside, the show it reminded me most of was not the original “Dynasty” but “Dirty, Sexy Money” (2007-9) which was headed by Donald Sutherland and was always a lot of fun with a scheming rich family, the Darlings. The characters of the two Carrington siblings seem here quite close to Seth Gabel (Jeremy) and Natalie Zea (Karen) (especially with her relationship with father’s business rival Jeff echoing Karen’s obsession with Blair Underwood as Simon Elder).
Steven and Fallon Carrington
Do we need a new version of “Dynasty”? I’m still not convinced. If it was going for a reboot I’d liked to have seen it done like “Dallas” was, moving the Carrington empire into the 21st century with some of the originals (those still with us, that is) taking their old parts. (There were a number of “reunions” after the series ended in 1989).
My enjoyment of this kind of heightened over-the-top drama is fuelled anyway by the splendid “Empire”, the story of a family run R&B/hip-hop label which is, to all intents of purposes “Black Dynasty”. Their outlandish plots are kept bubbling by excellent casting and a battle of the titans in Cookie and Lucious Lyon (played magnificently by Taraji P Henson and Terrence Howard. So, I can’t help feeling that the success, or otherwise, of this new “Dynasty” will depend on, as the original did, the arrival of Alexis Carrington. For the time being I’m going to continue to watch.
Dynasty is currently available on Netflix in the UK. For those of us old enough to remember the original here are the opening credits at their finest.