Dynasty (Netflix 2017) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review



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.

dynasty6Blake 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).

dynasty4Steven 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.


Crossroads (ITV 1964-88) – A What I’ve Been Watching Review



This week saw the announcement of the death of one of the pioneering women of British television.  Hazel Adair, who passed away on November 22nd aged 95 began her script writing career working on the BBC Radio serial “Mrs Dale’s Diary”, moved into commercial television and devised the first five days a week  British soap opera on the recently launched ITV- “Sixpenny Corner” (1956-7).  She also scripted the 1964 episode of Hospital Drama “Emergency Ward 10” which featured an inter-racial kiss (some years before Captain Kirk and Uhura on “Star Trek”).  This lip-locking occurred between Jamaican born actress Joan Hooley and John White.  The episode was screened without a single viewer complaint, but the press got hold of the story and blew it out of proportion.  On a recent Channel 4 documentary “It Was Alright In The 60’s” Hooley said as a result of the press-induced fuss, her character, who was prominent up to that point, was quietly written out.

After scripting a number of films Adair moved back to the BBC where teamed with Peter Ling, they devised Compact (1962-5) a serial based around a magazine.

In 1964 Adair and Ling pitched to ATV an idea they had about a continuing drama based upon a motel set just outside of Birmingham, run by a recently widowed woman.  That idea became “Crossroads” and it is for this that Adair is best known.  This four (sometimes five)  times a week soap ran in a teatime/early evening slot for thirty four years.  (For now, I’m ignoring the two years of the “revived” Crossroads, which did its best, during its run, to destroy every viewer’s happy memories of the original).  Although I am a big “Coronation Street” fan (coming up to its 55th anniversary ), when I was growing up, and this is a real guilty secret being revealed- but hey ho, I’ve been writing this blog for nearly a year now and can trust you with such revelations I was, for quite some years, totally obsessed with Crossroads.  This meant rushing home from school (in the London region it was shown for a number of years at around 4.30 – in later times, probably scheduling in with my move to secondary school it moved to 6.30 where it was an after-tea treat), often “acting it out” afterwards with my same-age next door neighbour and other friends, buying any Crossroads related merchandise (Okay – I still own a few magazines, novels and autobiographies,  a set of knitting patterns(!), a jigsaw and a Cook Book), learning the names of any new characters and who played them from the TV Times cast lists and generally believing Meg Richardson was a distant aunt and Miss Diane would be the woman that I would want to marry!


My Crossroads jigsaw!

With Crossroads I could also see into the future!  The London region at one time stopped showing the programme and a campaign to see it reinstated was launched with Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s wife Mary as one of the spearheads.  It was shown again after six months, at the point where it left off.  This meant that until probably the mid to late 70’s London viewers were six months behind the rest of the country.  The lady across the road who used to babysit me from time to time had a television which could pick up, with poor reception, in fuzzy-vision Southern television, who used to schedule it after the London transmission.  We used to watch it through squinted eyes on her TV, and it was just like seeing into the future, the ghostliness of the whole experience adding to it greatly.  And what do I do for a living now?  I have a guest-house of my own on the Isle Of Wight.  Thanks Meg, Jill, Sandy and the rest for that………….You sowed the seeds.  It may not have a cafeteria (which was never seen), we may not have characters going out to get a spanner and not returning for months (Benny), we may not replace popular characters with others that did not in the slightest resemble the original and who personality-wise were chalk and cheese (Coronation Street’s Sue Nicholls played Marilyn in the early years , a blowsy, blonde Brummie waitress who the nation took to her hearts who married, against type the local vicar and when she returned from her honeymoon was played by Nadine Hanwell, a mousey, quiet brunette who was the stereotypical vicar’s wife which was bizarre even to this pre-teen) and our walls might not wobble but I like to think that in some way Hazel Adair shaped my future career.


The uniqueness of this soap, was that as it was set in a motel, the guests had to be featured (at least occasionally) this meant coming up with short stories as well as continuing plots for the staff and village members, all this for a gruelling 4-5 night a week schedule and a very low budget and hardly any re-takes, which so many of us adored.

To celebrate the life and achievement of Hazel Adair I have this week dug out some old episodes of “Crossroads” to see if the magic was still there.  (There’s quite a few part-episodes on “You Tube” and Network/Granada have issued a number of DVD compilations over the years).  The experience was variable, I watched one from Xmas 1975 which was largely a church-set Carol Service, showing the back of cast members’ heads (not brilliant television) and I watched Rosemary Hunter shoot ex-husband David in a scene so protracted that it features some of the greatest on-screen lip pouting this side of Victoria Beckham (great television), I watched the wonder that was Amy Turtle thinking she’d been poisoned by rat poison, I watched someone coming into the motel kitchen and claiming to plant a bomb without it being mentioned for the rest of the episode and best of all I watched the anarchic Christmas show of 1979 when that fourth wall came tumbling down and Meg and the cast sang direct to camera (and Noele Gordon was perhaps the most showbizzy person ever to appear on television) accompanied by a pianist who just happened to be in Meg’s sitting room.  It’s a scene that manages to be embarrassing, radical and entertaining in equal measures so perhaps best sums up “Crossroads” appeal.

I have selected for your viewing pleasure, a scene from New Year’s Eve 1974, featuring chefs Mr Booth and  Shughie McFee ,  Amy Turtle and Sandy Richardson and Mr Lucas from “Are You Being Served”   I apologise to any vegetarians for the opening scene, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Zombie movie.  The scenes following include Noele Gordon, and the other woman who rivalled Miss Diane in my affections, Zeph Gladstone who played barge-living hairdresser Vera.

Hazel Adair – many thanks for creating the original “Crossroads”.  There will never be television like it again.

fivestars for the memories