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Home Entertainment Review

'Dynasty' Sparkles in Season One DVD
by Scott Holleran

Like a crisp Rocky Mountain morning, ABC's Dynasty (1981-1989) premieres on DVD in its sparkling first season, featuring the best scripts and cast of the glamorous series' nine-year run. With a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $39.98, the 13-episode season includes the original three-hour movie, Oil, and additional features on four double-sided discs in two plain snap cases. The package, lacking printed material, is a bit chintzy, but fans will welcome the transition of this larger than life television soap opera to DVD.

To many, Dynasty undoubtedly means catfights and actress Joan Collins as Alexis—she didn't star until season two—yet this one-hour drama did not earn ratings for clothes and camp—that, too, came later—and what made it work is laid bare in these first episodes. Dynasty's melodrama is powered by the oil business—through old-fashioned, hardscrabble work. As creator Esther Shapiro, who produced and wrote the show with her husband, Richard, explains in the audio commentary: "oil comes from the earth and all that paper on Wall Street comes from industry."

Dynasty gets down to business after composer Bill Conti's memorable musical score towers over Colorado's Rockies and glassy Denver's glistening skyline. The core is a pragmatic businessman named Blake Carrington (John Forsythe, who supplied the title voice on Dynasty producer Aaron Spelling's Charlie's Angels), who falls for his secretary, Krystle, played by tall, tan and gorgeous Linda Evans. Carrington's plans for his and Krystle's wedding are resisted by daughter Fallon (slim, cavalier Pamela Sue Martin), whose brain for business is masked by her petulant manner.

Carrington also has a son, Steven (Al Corley), though he is gay—well, at least as gay as 1981 TV allowed, which means he'll be making a play for the boss's wife by the fourth episode. Steven has returned for his father's wedding from New York City, where he was living with one Ted Dinard (Mark Withers), whose fate forms the first season's central conflict. Look for Brian Dennehy in a pivotal role.

True to soap form, Dynasty is the saga of two families—the rich Carringtons and the suburban Blaisdels—with Bo Hopkins as geologist Matthew Blaisdel, who becomes Blake Carrington's unwitting nemesis. The lower class stuff is not so much less interesting as merely out of place; Mrs. Blaisdel, Claudia, (Pamela Bellwood) struggles with mental illness and their teenage daughter, Lindsay, (Katy Kurtzman) seems to weep whenever the wind blows. Blaisdel's friend, an old salt named Walter (Dale Robertson), shows up determined to strike pay dirt and he keeps things gritty, even taking Steven Carrington to a whorehouse to cure his homosexuality.

Linda Evans as Krystle
Dynasty crackles with good writing, taking a cue from Hollywood's Golden Age and Western epics like Giant and The Big Country. Mouthy Fallon skinny dips her way into the best lines, but everyone gets their turn, particularly the show's real star, Linda Evans' Krystle, whose buxom physical presence is a throwback to bygone Hollywood glamour. The Carringtons are a lusty, handsome, Western family—not a bunch of soft, inheritance types—who pound tennis balls, fight with fists and ride a horse with the same gusto with which they talk. When sulking Steven questions how his father does business, Blake Carrington fires back: "It's nice to know that you think anything about anything, Steven. I wasn't aware that you did."

Take that, spoiled rich kid, and Dynasty relishes more than once in a sort of "up yours" against the anti-business college-bred crowd. But half the fun with the Carringtons is the plausibility of each character's viewpoint and, while Dallas treated Southfork as a meat market where everyone was willing to be branded for a buck, Dynasty is rather romantic and noble about its intentions. Fallon really wants to be loved—Steven is man enough for the job—the Blaisdels are a family worth rooting for—and, together, Blake and Krystle form that perfectly happy second marriage.

The Shapiros—and a top production team—make it romantic enough to make it pump and gush and realistic enough to keep things drilling. With Conti's lush music, writer Edward De Blasio's sense of operatic subplots and the Shapiros' affection for pioneer women and individualistic men—Esther Shapiro calls Colorado's sweeping grandeur "intrinsically American"—Dynasty's season one culminates in a simple, elegant and orchestral wedding which is—like Blake Carrington's wealth—essentially earned and entertaining.

This is soapdish so, of course, the well runs dry. Carrington practically prostitutes his daughter, Steven's integrity stops where his boss's kindest gestures begin and no one, including benevolent Krystle, is fully consistent. Creator Esther Shapiro's audio commentary doesn't address what's happening on screen, and she assumes too much knowledge about a series that hasn't been on the air since 1989—including her own, with such slips as a reference to Jeff Colby (John James) as Cecil Colby's (Lloyd Bochner) son (Jeff was Cecil's nephew). But Shapiro is generous and frank about her early salad days. Al Corley's commentary is polite for an actor—now Hollywood businessman—who vacated the role he originated, though it sometimes seems like he is holding back. So-called character profiles of Fallon and Steven amount to five-minute episode snippets interspersed with interviews with Pamela Sue Martin and Corley, who both look great.

Dynasty may not be a flawless diamond, but its appeal was certainly not limited to big hair, shoulder pads and a B-movie British actress—and its first season ages better than the series' flamboyant reputation.

Feature: 'Dynasty' Heirs Remember the Beginning

Fox Home Video 'Dynasty' DVD Web site
Al Corley's NeverlandFilms Web Site
Bo Hopkins Official Web site
Buy 'Dynasty - Season One' on DVD