Courtesy of Mark Hill/CW.
“They’re everywhere—from the Murdochs, to the Kardashians, obviously our current president, who is willing to go to great lengths to protect his family even if it gets him into criminal hot water,” Dynasty creator Josh Schwartz says of powerful families. “Everywhere you look, it seems like this concept of a family dynasty is back and stronger than ever.”
That’s precisely why Schwartz and his co-creators, Stephanie Savage and showrunner__Sallie Patrick,__ think 2017 is the perfect time to bring back this 80s drama sensation. After all, rich families and the disproportionate power they wield has become an increasingly central part of the American conversation—but at a time when inequality runs so publicly rampant, will Dynasty strike too close to reality?
For those who missed Dynasty’s original run, the series was a prime-time soap that aired on ABC for nine seasons before it wrapped up in 1989. It centered on the Carrington family, whose patriarch Blake struck it big in the oil industry. A spin-off titled The Colbys also aired for two seasons, although it never caught on the way ABC hoped. The reboot’s pilot finds Blake Carrington’s daughter Fallon bent on taking over as C.O.O. of her family’s company. Instead, what she gets is a new soon-to-be stepmom, Cristal—who happens to be vying for the same position. Meanwhile, Fallon’s brother Steven hooks up with a man viewers soon find out is actually Cristal’s nephew, Sammy Joe.
Schwartz and Savage, both seasoned writers and producers who worked together on teen dramas including The O.C. and Gossip Girl, are betting people will tune in even if Dynasty’s extravagance seems a little too real for comfort. Savage recalls watching the original series as a kid with her mother, who was such a big fan that she owned a Dynasty Collection necklace and matching earrings. (“We actually brought them to the set,” Savage says. “One of the background extras is wearing them in the wedding scene.”) Schwartz tuned in once he’d started working in the industry; as he put it, “You cannot work on a nighttime serial drama without feeling like you have . . . a pretty large debt to pay to the original Dynasty.”
That said, the new show has been updated with nods to how the country and television have changed since the 80s. It’s far more diverse, for instance, as evidenced by the fact that Krystle—the woman who’s angling to be the new Carrington matriarch and C.E.O. of Carrington Atlantic—is now Venezuelan, and her name is spelled “Cristal.” Meanwhile, Heather Locklear’s character Sammy Jo has been replaced with a gay man named Sammy Joe. (As another nod to the times, the series will also do away with the original series’ homophobia.) Another big change is the setting: the CW drama takes place in Atlanta, while the original was set in Denver. Schwartz jokes that the changes Atlanta has faced in recent years are indicative of the struggle Carrington patriarch Blake will also face: “Either get with the times, or get left behind.”
Still, the franchise’s soapy DNA is still intact—and it fits in well alongside Schwartz and Savage’s previous output, especially Gossip Girl. Like the original CW sensation, Dynasty will center on its female rivals as well as the importance of family, and how a seemingly perfect world can actually be very rotten at its core. “Obviously this is the Atlanta, Georgia, version versus the New York version, so it might have bigger hats,” Schwartz said.
Gossip Girl, for all its designers and glamour, also exposed—in occasionally devastating relief—just how transactional relationships can become when they take place in a circle that’s obsessed with money and power. Dynasty will need to maintain similar perspective about its setting in order to avoid simply mirroring the reality most viewers see in the news every day. And of course, comic relief—and a few cat fights—will never hurt.
True to form, there is one great cat fight in the pilot, which led us to wonder what exactly goes into staging such an outrageous scene. According to Schwartz, the most important ingredient is “committed actors. Two women who are ready to blow off a little steam at work.”
And, Savage adds, “a dress that’s been rigged to lose its shoulder over and over again.”
Keep an eye out for that tonight. Dynasty premieres on CW at 9 P.M.
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