The rich and the ruthless

The Hindu, October 20

Back in the 80s when I lived in America, it was only by watching the original Dynasty — carefully observing and internalising every outfit worn by Linda Evans (Krystle Carrington) and Joan Collins (Alexis Carrington) — was I able to strut the streets of NYC boldly, with my very big hair, light-weight sweater blouses with leather, lace and sequinned trim featuring heavily padded shoulders.

I’ve learned most of what’s to be learned in life by watching TV so the more shows there are, the better informed and wiser I am. I shudder to think how I might have languished forever, uncelebrated and unattractive, in torn blue jeans if it hadn’t been for Dynasty.

Reality break

Yes, the twists and turns of the original show were unbelievable at times, calling upon one’s deepest abilities to suspend reality. Like when the character Amanda Bedford, played by Catherine Oxenberg (an actress of European royal descent, who grew up in London and spoke with a British accent) was mysteriously replaced by a brand-new actress, Karen Cellini from Philadelphia (who spoke regular American). The show’s creators offered no explanation and I asked for none.

It was an hour away from real life. An hour into the world of the rich and the sequinned. They were elegant and classy one moment and clawing at each other viciously the next, revealing that everyone likes a good soap opera.

Blown away

I remember one famous scene when Heather Locklear (who plays a recurring and popular character, Sammy Jo) and the above-mentioned Miss Oxenberg, go at it no-holds-barred in a swimming pool. I hated that scene because my boyfriend at the time would summon its memory once too often for comfort.

And there’s no way I can forget ‘Moldavian Massacre.’ My friends and I were shell-shocked all through the summer right until the fall TV season began, after the mindless massacre at the end of Season 5. We were expecting Amanda to wed Prince Michael of Moldavia in a lovely chapel. But instead of being blown away by beautiful gowns and jewellery, the guests, bride and groom and everyone in front of the camera were pumped full of bullets on account of an inopportune palace coup, and left bleeding and dying as the credits rudely rolled on by. All of America (and maybe other parts of the world) were left breathless and tortured wondering who had survived and whose contract had run out.

30 years later

In the 80s, soaps like Dynasty and Dallas were all the rage both with men and women. And there have always been soaps — from Falcon’s Crest and Knots Landing to Desperate Housewive and many more even for me to remember.

So it’s no surprise that in the era of the sequel, the prequel, the rehash and the revival, Dynasty is making a comeback after more than 30 years. The plot is timeless and with a rainbow-coloured, multi-sexual casting pool of actors to choose from, the reboot promises to be diverse and inclusive… if nothing else. But whether force-fitting the new and obligatory stereotype will detract from the story line, whether it will come crashing down after a season, or if it will become a new classic, is something I can’t rightly predict.

Teen territory

I watched the trailer and I wasn’t moved. It seemed too slick and superficial… even for Dynasty. I got the sense that it is geared to a tween / teen audience and it could very well be that I’m 30 years older and too jaded to be impressed by sweeping staircases, Lear jets and Champagne flutes.

Anyhow, I decided to give the first episode a try because I’m a sucker for a good soap. Though it’s even more far-fetched than the original (courtesy Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the team behind OC and Gossip Girl), I guess it’s that hour away from reality, that I still seem to need. Ask me again in a few weeks, and if I’m still watching, I’ll say the show is worth it. As of now, I’d say I’m ambivalent.

Season 1 of Dynasty is now available on Netflix India

The writer is a novelist, jazz singer and former Executive Director of Explocity. She lives in Bengaluru where she watches TV endlessly.

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