January 12

This Day in History

Hollywood

Jan 12, 1981:

Dynasty premieres on ABC

The oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) prepares to marry his former secretary, the beautiful and innocent Krystle (Linda Evans), in the three-hour television movie that kicks off the prime-time ABC soap opera Dynasty on this day in 1981.

Over the next eight years, the Carringtons, a rich Denver oil clan, and another wealthy family, the Colbys, would form the center of the campy, glamorous universe that was Dynasty. Envisioned as bitter rivals, in the style of the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet, the two families intermarried and plotted against each other with equal enthusiasm. At the beginning of the second season, as buzz around the show began to grow, the British actress Joan Collins entered the mix as Blake Carrington’s evil ex-wife, Alexis; her clash with the good girl Krystle became one of the central plotlines of the show. In one of the series’ more memorable moments, Alexis and Krystle had a catfight in a lily pond.

Dynasty’s elaborately melodramatic plot lines resembled those of the daytime soap operas (kidnappings, amnesia, characters returning from the dead, etc.) and its style fit perfectly with the over-the-top excesses of the 1980s. It was no wonder, as the show was produced partially by Aaron Spelling, the man behind such hit shows as The Mod Squad, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. By the end of the 1982-83 season, Dynasty was fifth in the top-rated programs; it climbed to third place in 1983-84 and grabbed the number one spot in 1984-85. Its success spawned a short-lived spin-off, Dynasty II: The Colbys, and an entire line of licensed products such as clothing, bedding and perfume.

The over-the-top cliffhanger ending to the fourth season in May 1985 marked the beginning of the end, as the entire Carrington family gathered for a wedding in the fictional country of Moldavia. The festivities were disrupted by a terrorist attack, and while all of the main characters emerged unscathed, the show’s ratings began to drop precipitously. During its final season, 1988-89, Dynasty fell to a dismal 57th place and was unceremoniously dropped from the ABC lineup. Various plot lines were left unresolved, but disappointed fans got their long-awaited closure two years later, when ABC aired a two-part movie Dynasty: The Reunion in October 1991.

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