Now & Then: The Dynasty Factor

By: Couch Tater

When ABC’s DIRTY SEXY MONEY debuted last season, nobody wanted to love it more than I did. After all, some of my favorite shows of the past few decades have been the grand, glorious primetime sudsers of yore: DYNASTY, DALLAS and of course, my all-time favorite, KNOTS LANDING. The kind of wonderful, layered after-dark soaps we just don’t get any more.

To say MONEY was a disappointment would be akin to saying John McCain is middle-aged.

Now comes word that ABC is basically re-inventing MONEY, so with that in mind, I’d ask the new execs (as well as anyone in the industry looking to reinvigorate the practically dead genre of primetime soaps) to do what I did today: Go back and watch the first episode of DYNASTY.

Because it’s all right there.

In the first ten minutes, we meet Krystal, the secretary who is about to marry a gajillionaire and become our guide into his world. The gorgeous music plays as the camera lovingly shows us the estate we mere mortals could only dream of ever living upon. The entire premise of the first few episodes is summed up when Krystal tells the gals gathered in her tiny apartment for a bachelorette party, “I won’t change”… only to receive a set of gorgeous diamond rings as the gals all silently mutter “Yeah, right you won’t.”

One of the secretary’s opens her mouth to insert a foot by saying, “That other one would never have given her diamonds!” just before we cut to the “other one”, Krystal’s ex-lover, Matthew, being tossed out of a country where people carry signs saying “It’s Our Oil, America! Go Home!” (Sound familiar?) as his dream literally goes up in smoke following an oil rig explosion.

Did I mention we’re still in the first 10 minutes?

We haven’t even met Blake’s bisexual son or trampy daughter. And the entrance of Joan Collins’ Alexis (who did for DYNASTY what Heather Locklear’s Amanda would later do for MELROSE PLACE) is still a full season away.

From that point until the show would lose its focus in later years, DYNASTY always remembered that we were viewing the world of the mega-rich through the eyes of our lone representitive, Krystal. Should we ever forget that Krystal was one of us, Alexis would be there to trash talk her nemesis by reminding her that she’d risen from — and could always return to — the secretarial pool.

Sadly, too many modern attempts at primetime soaps (including MONEY) give us unrelatable characters and forget that the appeal for most viewers is being granted access to a world they could only dream of. In MONEY, viewers were granted access to the world of the Darling clan via an attorney who wasn’t exactly hurtin’ for cash. Instead, the show should have introduced us to the Darling’s via someone far more down to earth. Maybe the family’s limo driver (another of the “have-nots” who populated DYNASTY) or wry, all-seeing maid.

MONEY would also be well-advised to make the characters people we can actually like or relate to on some level. Yes, Blake Carrington had more money than God, but he also had a weakness: His undying love for family, which in itself provided endless story when Blake would do what he believed to be in their best interest… whether they saw things his way or not. The Darling patriarch (as played by the delightful but woefully underused Donald Sutherland) does little more than sit back and shake his head as his family behaves in ways that are unrealistic, unrelatable and, perhaps worst of all, not very entertaining.

This fall, ABC is giving MONEY something it probably wouldn’t have gotten were it not for the writers strike: a second chance. If done right, the show could help to bring back a genre that once dominated the primetime landscape. (Let’s not forget that DALLAS was a show so popular with viewers that millions of them stayed home on Sunday night, which is now widely considered a dead zone by broadcasters!)

If you write it, they will come. Or at least I will.

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  • Chitown Mimi

    I don’t know T.A., I see alot in Dirty Sexy Money and I’m hoping the writers don’t tweak it to the point where it’s a completely different show. I agree with you on the whole “looking at this amazing world through the eyes of a commoner”, but I felt like they were doing that with Nick and Lisa George. The Georges weren’t wealthy, and Lisa was completely enamored by the Darlings’ lifestyle in the beginning. It was interesting looking at this mondo rich family that was so completely screwed up. Plus the humor in the show was very good. But somewhere along the way, the show became “shocker happy”. Blair Underwood’s character was unbelievable and undeveloped and nobody cared about what he was going to do at the end of the day. The Darling Twins were a hoot, but so cartoonish, that I couldn’t buy it. The show kept trying to bring in flashbacks on Nick’s dad and why? We didn’t care and it didn’t help the show.

    So here it is…I agree with you on the need for a revamp, but don’t cut the humor and expand the Georges’ understanding on the Darling’s lives. Oh, and definitely keep Donald Sutherland. His portrayal is almost Emmy worthy. You don’t feel like you should trust him, but the look on his face when he questioned his wife on the paternity of the kids, broke my heart. He’s pretty awesome.

  • Sam

    Is that the same staircase from the Beverly Hillbillies entranceway? Sure looks like it. Oh, and I won’t ever watch this show.

  • ct

    Sam: You can’t drop a comment like that and not elaborate! Why? Not a fan of the genre? Donald Sutherland once took your grandma’s name in vain? Natalie Zea refuses to return your phone calls?

  • Alyssa

    “The show kept trying to bring in flashbacks on Nick’s dad and why? We didn’t care and it didn’t help the show.” You mean in that one episode with flashbacks? The same episode that is most fans favorite? DSM was the best new show. I actually came into the show not wanting to like it because of the terrible title, but its opening was the best, most thorough opening in tv history.

  • Chitown Mimi

    Alyssa: Actually they showed flashbacks of Dutch twice and only one episode really exploring his character, but in my opinion, it was not even close to being the best episode. How is that episode the fan favorite? I don’t get that at all. And I love the show, I just think it needs changes.