“I’d take him even if he didn’t have $200 million” 

— Friend at Krystal’s bridal shower about Blake Carrington in Episode 1, “Oil”

Dynasty lasted just nine seasons, but it made an indelible impression on millions of us. It was the Reagan era and, like Dallas and its other rivals, the hit nighttime soap reflected our love for glitz, glamour and greed. I was a teenage Carrington addict, putting the theme song on my answering machine, writing about it for my high school paper and even racing to the news stand on Wednesdays to check the Nielsen ratings in USA Today. (Between this and the French Club, it’s surprising no one knew I was gay.) As the 30th anniversary of the first episode’s airing passes this month, we can see 10 lessons still true today for us — not to mention our new Congress:

1. There is no problem that can’t be solved. Forget Congressional gridlock, there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a slap to the face, a catfight in a lily pond, the reappearance of a mysterious child, a surprise engagement — or if stuck in a ninth season, an alien abduction. Watch for it on the House floor.

2. Cosmetic surgery really is amazing. Soap operas like Dynasty pioneered characters returning in entirely different bodies. Steven started as hunky, moody Al Corley and then came back after a rig explosion as vanilla Jack Coleman. Fallon started as abrasive Pamela Sue Martin and returned as sugary Emma Samms, even picking up an English accent. Perhaps Pelosi would find a second life if she went further?

3. The help can help. Fallon was sleeping with the chauffeur, Alexis with her bodyguard, Jeff married the majordomo’s daughter. Only Steven had the problem, taking on an impolite butler because he was rude to Krystal over her wedding arrangements. New representatives should pay close attention to those who help them get settled in D.C. They might enjoy what they get in return.

4. New money beats old. The Carringtons were utterly self-made — both their fortune and their tragedies. Secretary Krystle marries the boss and suddenly became classy. Alexis married Cecil on his deathbed and nabbed the Colby fortune. No wonder everyone is moving from New York to Nevada. The Carrington mansion had 48 bedrooms with grounds the size of Prospect Park. Try getting that in Manhattan when you’re only worth $200 million.

5. Star wattage works. Ratings flagged throughout the first season. Not until Joan Collins appeared in the second season opener to testify against Blake did Dynasty break the top 10 — sometimes even beating Dallas for number one. Dynasty also enjoyed a rare Presidential appearance with Gerald Ford guest starring as himself, real royalty with Princess Catherine Oxenberg and Hollywood royalty Rock Hudson. Republican royalty Charleton Heston even led The Colbys spin-off. Maybe George Clooney should run.

6. Everyone is a brand. Before Martha did it, Dynasty did. The show not only begat licensed perfumes (Who didn’t buy “Forever Krystal” for Mother’s Day?), but fashion designer Nolan Miller created a haute couture line based on the costumes. There were plenty to choose among, especially since Alexis had a different outfit for every single scene. The brand also had more practically-minded sheets, towels — and panty hose. Perhaps the government could raise revenue licensing USA sweatbands? The Air Force? The City of Los Angeles?

7. Revenge is a bitch. Congress could learn from the wasted time Alexis, Blake, Adam and Claudia spent going after each other. While it was sexist to always attribute the ‘b’ word to Alexis, it’s also true the women were far more successful at it.

8. Deals get done in person. The personal touch has a better track record than a filibuster on the Senate floor. Unthinkable deals can be brokered over dinner, on the slopes, in the hospital, naked in bed — and always when one party has amnesia.

9. Pay more attention to the adopted. If Adam Carrington’s experience taught us anything, it was that if you don’t treat all the kids equally, you can drive him into the arms of the other parent. This can only become more important as gay adoptions in our country blossom.

10. People don’t change. Just when she was acting sweet, Alexis would be a bitch. Just when she was getting her life together, Fallon would revert to slut. Jeff Colby was  reliably a bore through all nine seasons and his spin-off. Steven tried marrying Sammy Jo but went back to Bart. Congress only needs to glance at past voting records to know where allies are.

Happy 30th Anniversary, Carringtons and Colbys! Pearls are way too subtle.

TAGS: , , , ,

MAT ZUCKER is chief creative officer of a big ad agency in New York City, but more importantly is a small time writer of memoirs, essays and fiction on the side. He has published in The New York Press, Our Town, The West Side Spirit and nthWord and is currently the advertising correspondent for The Faster Times. Cornell graduated Mat with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. One vaguely interesting thing about Mat is his Oral Allergy Syndrome, which prevents him from eating apples, pears, peaches, plums, berries, carrots, cucumbers, celery, nuts, snow peas, tomatoes and red wine — though gratefully not white. He lives in Manhattan with his partner Bryan and their dog Ezra Pound and tweets regularly. He is from Springfield, New Jersey, but you're sure to hear plenty about that.

2 responses to “Letter (and Lessons) from Denver: Dynasty at 30”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    I now have the theme song running through my head!
    Ah, Dynasty! Ah, Dallas! What brilliant shows they were. The names of the characters were often as silly as the clothes. But what escapism! Thanks for the reminder of my youth!

  2. Pro Plan Coupon…

    […]Mat Zucker | Letter (and Lessons) from Denver: Dynasty at 30 | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *