One thing that matters in business is timing. If nothing else, the CW’s reboot of Dynasty knows it has that, and it lets you know quick.
“Like it or not, we live in an age of dynasties,” says the voice-over opening the pilot, over footage of the Trumps, the Murdochs, the Kardashians.
Unfortunately, the first episode — all that the network provided for review — suggests that this Dynasty hasn’t done much to rethink the 1981-89 nighttime soap other than to offer a different set of real-life analogues than you would have had in the ‘80s. (In the case of the Trumps, not even that.)
Unlike the three-season TNT version of Dallas, which continued the Ewing family saga with a new generation, this Dynasty is a remake, starting from scratch. Beyond some updates and nods to the times — the cast is more diverse, the setting is Atlanta rather than Denver, the word “mansplainer” is used — the story line stays very close to the outlines of the Aaron Spelling original.
The Carrington family is still in the energy business, though now fracking and green power are in the mix. The patriarch, Blake (Grant Show, his casting a callback to the ‘90s soap Melrose Place), is getting remarried to his employee Cristal (Nathalie Kelley). (Linda Evans’ new-bride character in the original, Blake’s former secretary, was Krystle; now it’s spelled like the Champagne.)
This doesn’t sit well with Blake’s daughter, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), who had expected to inherit the company. (She’s particularly busy, serving as the narrator and in her spare time, sleeping with the chauffeur.) The ensuing machinations also pull in Blake’s estranged, gay, environmentalist son, Steven (James Mackay), and the family’s adversaries, the Colbys.
For nostalgic fans of the original, this might seem like an unnecessary homage. For the CW’s target fan base, born largely after the original went off the air, it’s a retread of themes from more exciting soaps. For everyone, it’s so far forgettable.
This Dynasty is created by Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Sallie Patrick, a pedigree that raised higher hopes. In The O.C., Schwartz infused the teen-soap genre with pop-culture-conscious humour; in Gossip Girl, he and Savage created a luscious, silver-tongued exploration of private-school debauchery and intrigue.
Dynasty, on the other hand, is obvious in plot and dialogue. It’s the kind of show where you know you’ve met the black sheep of the family because he says, “I’m the black sheep,” and Fallon’s secret lover welcomes her back to sultry Atlanta by saying, “It wasn’t as hot without you here.”
The casting is at least promising. Gillies (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) seizes the screen as the lusty, ambitious Fallon, and Alan Dale is imperious as the snooty Carrington butler (another holdover figure from the original). And the show’s depiction of luxury is even more over the top, maybe reflecting a world in which the 0.001 per cent are richer and more powerful than in the 1980s.
But it all feels superfluous. Then again, the original Dynasty didn’t really have its zing until the second season, when villainess Alexis (Joan Collins) put the “nasty” into its title. The same character is referred to in the new pilot, but I’m not sure this Dynasty can wait a full year for its Alexis to arrive. Someone charter her a jet.
Don’t miss it!
Dynasty streams on Netflix in the UAE from October 12.