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."
Blake Carrington.................................. John Forsythe
Krystle Jennings Carrington..................... Linda Evans
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 Esther Shapiro, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent, Philip Parslow, Elaine Rich, Ed Ledding
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
"The Best Prime-time Soaps." TV Guide (Radnor, Pennsylvania), 17 April 1993.
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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.
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White, Mimi. "Women, Memory and Serial Melodrama." Screen, (Oxford, U.K.), Winter 1994.