I’ve been watching the new “Dallas” on TNT, and I’ve seen how or favorite Southfork family has been brilliantly and successfully resurrected as a prime time soap. The new Dallas combines the best of the past with engaging new stories for the next generation of Ewing’s, Barnes’ and their associates. As I’ve watched how easy it was to become reengaged with the Ewing’s of Dallas one thought keeps coming into my mind: We need Alexis Carrington Colby back!
Yes, it is time for the powers that be to realize that Americans are eager to catch up with their favorite night time soap families from the 1980’s and it is time for them to bring Dynasty back! Dynasty was a unique soap because the writers were not afraid to tackle the most controversial issues of the day. At least they did at first, until circumstances of the day caused the producers and writers to pull back and be more cautious. With society at a much different place now, imagine the ground breaking and dramatic storylines a new generation of Carrington’s and Colby’s cold bring to life on the television screen.
Dynasty premiered in 1981, and it was far ahead of its time. Think back to that year. 1981 was the year that Ronald Reagan moved into the White House ushering in an age of business, riches, greed, opulence and entrepreneurship. It was the perfect time for a show like Dynasty. Americans loved to watch the Carrington’s live large and they came to represent the 1980’s in the most perfect way.
Still, 1981 ushered in a conservative era when women still had subordinate roles in the workplace, for the most part, and 1981 was the year that AIDS burst onto the scene, setting back the gay rights movement for another two decades. Dynasty’s writers and creators pushed the envelope with topics like women in positions of corporate power and a gay character in a relationship with another man. Americans had not seen anything like it, even on the powerhouse Dallas, which had more traditional storylines. The Dynasty writers had to constantly calibrate just how far they could go to tell the stories the wanted to tell.
Two characters were central to these ground breaking stories. There was Steven Carrington, the family son and heir to the empire. Steven was handsome and smart, and he was rebellious and independent. Steven was also gay, and in a relationship with another man. The very first season was crafted around the trial of Steven’s father and family patriarch Blake Carrington for killing Steven’s gay lover when he found them in a compromising position. Americans were riveted to their televisions when Steven testified in great detail about his relationship with another man and when Blake was cross examined and angrily revealed his feelings towards gay men. Topics like this simply were not discussed on American TV in 1981, not until Dynasty came along, that is. Sadly, when the AIDS epidemic burst onto the scene, the topic became taboo and the Dynasty writers had to scale back their provocative story, even making Steven straight and pairing him with Heather Locklear’s Sami Jo.
The second character to break through with amazing stories was the one and only Alexis Carrington Colby, played to perfection by Joan Collins. I have to say that one of the television moments that I will never forget was the last few minutes of that first season when the prosecution in Blake’s trial called their surprise witness, his ex-wife Alexis! It immediately became television history. The producers had not yet cast Alexis, so they had to have the actress wear a hat with a black veil to cover her face. When the show returned in the fall of 1981, Joan Collins was under the veil, but in that episode in the spring, it was just a woman and a veil, and the audience immediately knew that this woman meant business!
Alexis is what set Dynasty apart from its main rival Dallas. That show of course had its ruthless corporate villain, JR, but Americans were used to men playing the role of greedy vicious businessmen. 1981 was only one year after the movie “9 to 5” which shined the spotlight on the plight of American women in the work place. In 1981, most women who worked outside the home worked in the hospitality industry, were teacher or nurses or worked retail. Those who were in the corporate world were most likely part of the secretarial pool. No one had seen an ambitious woman charge the corporate board room and do whatever it took to reach the top. Not until Alexis did it!
Alexis was ambitious and determined to get what she felt was rightfully hers. When she didn’t get it from her ex-husband Blake, she chose to get it by any means necessary. She would use her children, her knowledge of people’s past for blackmail purposes, and most of all she would use her sexuality. Who can ever forget how she went after Cecil Colby, convinced him to marry him and then watched as he had a heart attack during their passionate night of sex? For 1982 this was shocking, but Americans loved it! Unlike the storyline of a gay man dealing with his sexuality in a time of AIDS, America was ready for a strong woman to enter the corporate arena with a men and beat them at their own game, so the writers made Alexis bigger than life and were not even afraid to have her roll around in the mud fighting with her arch nemesis, and Blake’s wife Krystal.
Dynasty ended in 1989, and like all series, sputtered to an end, suffering from storylines that were no longer fresh and cutting edge. There was a two part mini-series a few years later to wrap up loose ends and it seemed like the end of Dynasty for good. Today, however, we have seen the rebirth of Dallas, and it works! The new Dallas is riveting and most important it is fresh, focusing on modern and contemporary issues like alternative energies and the tension in Texas between the law enforcement authorities and the Mexican drug cartels. The characters are familiar, but they are modern. The older Ewings have one foot in the past and the other in the present and the younger generation is fully engaged in the issues that contemporary 20-somethings face every day. There was even a three-way sex scene!
Imagine what Dynasty could be today if it was reborn. Its not 1981 anymore and there are no boundaries. Americans have come to accept the most controversial subjects and there would be no limit to what the writers could do. Steven could be out and would probably be married to his lover. Younger Carringtons could be involved in any number of situations and there would really be no limit.
Best of all, Alexis could be unleased and watching Joan Collins reprieve her iconic role would be incredibly entertaining. With the children of the ‘80’s now the adult and parents of the new millennium, there is a craving for the icons of that incredible decade; Dallas has proved that.
So now, with one voice, the fans of Dynasty are proclaiming – BRING BACK DYNASTY AND BRING BACK ALEXIS CARRINGTON COLBY!
Written by David Arwood.
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