Original airdate: January 12th, 1981 to April 20th, 1981
Running time: 675 minutes
Creators: Richard Shapiro, Esther Shapiro
Cast: John Forsythe, Linda Evans, John James, Pamela Bellwood, Pamela Sue Martin, Al Corley
If you could be a character in a soap opera, who would you be? Maybe you’ve never thought about it before, but I certainly have. I’d be rich, not someone who had to work for money because I’d spend a lot of time plotting and scheming my way through life. I’d always make an entrance when I arrived, and having a flair for the over-dramatic, I’d always make an equally memorable exit. Clothes, cars, servants and lovers would all be at my disposal. Without a doubt, I’d be someone from Dynasty.
As one of the shows that defined a decade and permeated every corner of popular culture, Dynasty, created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and based on I, Claudius, a fictionalized depiction of the Julio-Claudian dynasty of Roman emperors, would go on to feature an array of colourful and oh-so-over-the-top characters, both male and female. They would, for season after season, plot, scheme, fight, steal and sometimes even kill to get what they wanted, but my God, they looked amazing while doing it! Why wouldn’t I want to be one of them?
Like Knots Landing, this was another show I came to later on during the mid-80s. Because it was a raunchier than Knots and Dallas put together, I didn’t get to see that much of it unless I was peeking through the crack in my bedroom door across from the living room. I was only about 5 at the time, but back then there wasn’t anyone who didn’t know the name Alexis Carrington. Surprisingly, after revisiting the show some 30 years later I now learn she doesn’t arrive until the final moments in season one. This build-up however doesn’t stop the rest of the season from being utterly riveting. From its opening cues inviting us into the lifestyles of the rich and sometimes psychotic, Dynasty was a show I’ve now come to think of as having its finger on the button for some of the themes it explored with its daring storylines.
The show starts with Krystal (Linda Evans), a beautiful and almost angelic looking woman, preparing for her wedding to the mega-rich and somewhat older Blake Carrington (John Forsythe). Despite still having feelings for (Bo Hopkins) who’s married to Claudia (Pamela Bellwood), a woman who’s been suffering from a mental breakdown, Krystal goes ahead with the wedding but struggles to integrate herself into the Carrington household. The servants don’t listen to her and Blake’s daughter, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin), is a bit of a spoiled daddy’s girl, yet an ambitious one who’s aware that her father would rather have his son follow in his footstep than her.
Krystal starts to see a different side to Blake very early one. He’s ruthless in his dealings, both business and personal. He does everything he can to hurt Matthew’s business and when he learns his son, Steven (Al Corley), is working for a rival company he even has the boy framed for sabotage. Yet that’s nothing compared to how he reacts when Steven tells him he’s gay. That’s right – gay. Although gay characters pop up all the time now in television, this was something quite rare back then and Steven’s sexuality on Dynasty probably explains why it was the show my mother tried to shield me the most from.
The gay storyline features very prominently and even culminates in the season finale that sees Blake on trial for murder. Back in the 80s I had no knowledge of this, so my family did a really good job in keeping it from me. Post-Stonewall and pre-AIDS, the show took some risks in presenting us with one of the first major gay characters in television, and while the first season is commendable for this, subsequent seasons would see Steven switching back and forth with his sexuality. Needless to say, this caused outcry from the gay community who saw it as back-pedalling in light of the public panic over the AIDS outbreak.
Other storylines in the show’s first season revolve around the problems in Matthew and Claudia’s marriage, her blossoming friendship with Steven and Fallon’s promiscuous behaviour and carefree attitude towards everything and everyone around her. As tension mounts between Blake and Steven over their inability to ever see eye to eye, there are enough hints dropped as to what the yet-uncast Alexis Carrington would be like when she’s introduced in the following season, giving viewers like me the world over enough curiosity to keep watching as the show develops.
Neddles to say, it was a real kick to go back and rediscover a show like Dynasty with a much older pair of eyes, and being now somewhat wiser to the show’s many complex themes. The cinematography and lush colour schemes give every scene an exuberance that’s sadly missing from so many television shows of late, including the reboot of Dallas. If my beloved Dynasty is to make a return sometime in the future, I hope it arrives in style, with an air of decadence and pretty much in the same this season introduces us to that infamous alpha Bitch, Alexis.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .