The original Dynasty was a huge hit back in the 1980s, running for 9 seasons and delivering a delicious cocktail of scheming, shoulder-pads and sassy one-liners in every episode, with the occasional cat-fight thrown in for good measure. The CW’s Dynasty reboot (available exclusively on Netflix UK) is remarkably faithful to the original show, while still successfully updating it for modern audiences. On the strength of the first five episodes, the network could well have another hit on its hands.
The new-look Dynasty is produced by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (Gossip Girl, The O.C.), as well as Sallie Patrick (Revenge), which is a pretty solid pedigree when it comes to glossy TV trash of the first order. It also has the seal of approval from original Dynasty producers Esther and Richard Shapiro, who are on board as executive producers.
The main change to the show is that it’s now set in Atlanta, Georgia, rather than Denver, Colorado. However, everything else is more or less exactly the same, with perhaps a slight shift of focus, so that Fallon Carrington (Elizabeth Gillies) is positioned as the main character – at least, judging by her billing and the fact that she gets the opening voiceover on the pilot episode. She’s the ambitious daughter of energy magnate Blake Carrington (Melrose Place’s Grant Show), who has her nose put out of joint when her father announces his engagement to Carrington Atlantic employee Cristal Flores (The Vampire Diaries’ Nathalie Kelley). And when Blake promotes Cristal to COO of Carrington Atlantic over his daughter, Fallon strikes out on her own, setting up a rival clean energy company with her father’s former protégé-turned-rival, tech guru Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke).
Meanwhile, the engagement announcement ensures the return of Blake’s gay son, Steven Carrington (James Mackay), although in the new series, Steven’s sexuality isn’t an issue and the father-son conflict instead comes from his outspoken liberalism (e.g. organising a protest that stopped his father from fracking). Steven immediately becomes involved with Cristal’s gay hustler nephew, Samuel Josiah Jones (Rafael de la Fuente), a smartly gender-swapped version of Heather Locklear’s scheming Sammy Jo from the original show.
Other plotlines in the first five episodes include Fallon’s sexual relationship with her chauffeur, Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley), the death of Cristal’s former lover – and Blake’s Field Engineer – Matthew Blaisdel (Revenge’s Nick Wechsler) in a suspicious explosion, Matthew’s mentally unstable wife, Claudia (Brianna Brown), accusing Blake of murder (all of these happen before the end of the pilot episode), Steven being in the frame for Matthew’s death, Fallon engineering the release of a sex-tape featuring Cristal and Matthew, and Blake’s loyal majordomo, Anders (Alan Dale), investigating the shady backgrounds of both Cristal and Sam.
It’s surprising to see just how closely the Dynasty reboot is sticking to the plot of the original show – Fallon’s affair with Michael, the Blake / Steven conflict, the introduction of Sammy Jo and the Cristal / Matthew relationship are all direct lifts, although it took the Shapiros an entire season to write out Matthew (apparently viewers weren’t interested in blue collar, oil field-types) and here they get rid of him in the first 45 minutes.
The shifting of the main location to Atlanta also allows for significant improvement in terms of diversity. Aside from gender-swapping Sammy Jo, Sam and Cristal are both Hispanic, while both Michael Culhane and Jeff Colby are African-American. (By contrast, the original took nearly five seasons to introduce a prominent black character, in the form of Diahann Carroll’s Dominique Devereaux.) The characters are also arguably more complex this time round, with Cristal in particular shown to be much more scheming and under-handed than Linda Evans’ goody-two-shoes interpretation of the character in the original. Indeed, so far, only Steven could comfortably claim to be Dynasty’s moral centre.
Of course, one Dynasty legend is conspicuous by her absence and that’s Alexis Carrington (Blake’s first wife and Fallon and Steven’s mother), the iconic character so wonderfully portrayed by Joan Collins in the show’s original run. So far, she has been mentioned by name in every episode, so it’s safe to say we’ll be meeting her eventually, but there’s no official word on whether the role has been cast yet. It’s worth noting that Collins didn’t actually appear in Dynasty until the second season (the character appeared under a veil in the season one finale), so perhaps the show-runners are looking to pull off a similar trick. The appearance of Steven’s ex-boyfriend, Ted Dinard (Michael Patrick Lane), in Episode 5, certainly suggests a similar trajectory for her introduction. However, the producers are in a slightly sticky situation, since so much of Alexis’ DNA (at least in terms of caustic comments, manipulative behaviour and outré wardrobe choices) has obviously been borrowed for the new versions of Fallon and Cristal.
Aside from its commitment to soapy shenanigans, the reboot also retains the sense of fun that made the original show so enjoyable. Highlights include Fallon biting the heads off the bride and groom cake decorations, once she discovers the engagement party has become a surprise wedding instead; Cristal shoving Fallon into an open grave (you’d swear she’d taken lessons from the Hulk in Avengers); and Cristal soaking Fallon with champagne – Cristal, perhaps – after the pair go head-to-head over a Woman of the Year magazine cover. Someone on the show clearly knows the value of an eminently gif-friendly moment.
Pleasingly for audience members who grew up watching the 80s version, there are plenty of creative nods to classic Dynasty, from the use of the show’s opening ident to a sweet flashback moment that has young Steven playing the original theme tune on the piano (a version of its middle section becomes the new show’s theme from Episode 3 onwards). In another nice touch, all the episodes are named after lines of dialogue from the original, such as “I Hardly Recognised You” and “Private as a Circus”. On top of that, Dynasty 2.0 finds plenty of excuses to reference the iconic wardrobe choices of the old series, whether it’s Fallon rifling through some outrageous outfits or just going all in with a 1980s-themed fundraising ball.
With the show already receiving a full 22-episode first season order, it’s safe to say that the Carrington clan are just getting started in the boardroom-and-bedroom back-stabbing department and that we’re in for lots of soapy goodness as the series progresses. Personally, we just hope they find room for the Poison Paint Plot. Now, is it too much to ask that Netflix do the decent thing and start streaming the original series too?
Dynasty Season 1 and are available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription. New episodes arrive every Saturday, within 24 hours of their US broadcast.