Paramount // 1981 // 1058 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // August 15th, 2007
Alexis: [to Krystle]: I just can't wait for the day when I see you walking out of this house carrying the same two cheap plastic suitcases that you walked in here with.
At long last Dynasty: The Second Season sees the light of day on DVD after going through a bit of drama before hitting store shelves. Back in April of 2005 Fox DVD released the first set of 13 episodes, but this second chapter comes from Paramount. What gives? Rumor has it sales of the first season were not as brisk as Fox expected, and decided they would forego releasing the subsequent years. Was that a wise move? Season One was only 13 episodes long, and did not have Joan Collins as Alexis. For many hardcore fans of Dynasty, the show didn't truly start until 1981's fall return with the conclusion to Blake's trial and the surprise testimony of Alexis Carrington. Truly these fans would be absolutely correct associating the actress' appearance creating the spirit of what Dynasty was in its glory days. The tone shifted, and Dynasty morphed into something different than what it had started off as.
Originally the show was created by husband and wife team Richard and Esther Shapiro as ABC's response to the CBS success of Dallas. The first season debuted late in the 1980-81 television season, and ran for 13 episodes. The show was more of an Upstairs, Downstairs update, with the wealth of the Carringtons contrasted with the middle-class struggles of the Blaisdales. The show was grounded in reality, and didn't have the signature soap events that would later come to define the eight years of Dynasty. That initial run was not highly rated, and the network asked the creative team to make changes. The Shapiros promised much would be made of a surprise witness that would appear in Blake Carrington's trial for the "murder" of his son's lover. Sure enough, in the final chapter of the first season, in walked a mysterious woman in a veiled hat who was identified as Blake's first wife as well as the mother of Fallon and Stephen. She wasn't revealed completely, but all the jaws in the courtroom went slack as she strode right up to the witness stand. Originally the part had not been cast, and it was simply a model named Maggie Wickman in sunglasses and a hat that showed up for the Season One finale. Casting possibilities abounded as the role was to be filled officially between the production of the first and second season. The possibilities were staggering as Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Raquel Welch, and Jessica Walter were all considered for the role of Blake's scheming ex-wife.
In the end the coveted role of Alexis Carrington went to British actress Joan Collins, and television history was about to be made. Collins represented a shift in the entire concept of Dynasty. She was known for campy movies such as Empire of the Ants, The Stud, and The Bitch. Decades before, Joan had a memorable appearance on the original Star Trek series and was a classically trained theatrical actress. During casting for Season One, the network worried about casting Linda Evans as Krystle since she was in her mid-thirties and considered old for television, yet here was a woman in her late forties about to become TV's best-known villain and foremost fashion plate, and a sex symbol. Joan was adamant about the direction of her character from the start. Originally Alexis was conceived as a passive-aggressive woman who would seek revenge behind the scenes with a soft approach. The producers wanted to avoid making Alexis too obviously a carbon copy of Dallas heavy J.R. Ewing. Collins suggested that should be exactly what they do, and she got the backing of ABC executives to force the writing team to make the character an all-out obvious bitch out for cold, sweet revenge. Joan Collins was a fan of Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing, and she set out to mold Alexis in his image -- with feminine touches.
Other changes were wrought on the show, and the original social satire vision of the Shapiros was beefed up by another husband and wife writing team named Eileen and Robert Mason Pollock who helped reshape the narrative into a rollicking high-stakes melodrama. They eliminated the middle-class plot, leaving only Claudia Blaisdale on the show, but having her move out of her suburban home into the mansion with the Carrington clan. Rather than continue the thinly veiled references to the Reagans and jabs at the politics of the oil business, sudsy soap opera elements were introduced to make the show more over the top. Emphasis was placed on sex and relationships, and the characters were put into outlandish confrontations that had wild verbal sparring as a centerpiece. The all-out physical cat fights don't show up regularly in Dynasty: The Second Season, but the foundations were laid. The anti-chemistry of Krystle and Alexis squaring off can be seen from the very start of the second year, even in the first few minutes of the courtroom scenes which served as the debut of their iconic rivalry. During Season Two there is a great fight between Alexis and Krystle in the art studio. Buzz and ratings quickly followed, and the show began to climb in popularity. Dynasty was about to one up Dallas with an excess of glitz and unbridled lust for everything that indicated the "good life."
Spelling's influence as executive producer was felt with the debut of his "good luck" charm, Heather Locklear. She came into the story in Season Two playing Sammy Jo, a removed relative of Krystle's from a previous marriage. She immediately locked on to Stephen Carrington, and a plot was concocted for her to manipulate her way into a wedding with Blake's gay son. Locklear would only be a series regular this one season, leaving to join the cast of TJ Hooker. This would also be original Stephen Al Corley's last season as well, because he found the changes to his character troubling. He truly took the role as a political statement about gay men, and he was upset with the constant tinkering with his sexuality. In real life, Al is happily married and the father of three children, but he felt the producers were not being true to the character.
The DVD set presented by Paramount is a mixed bag, but fans will be glad to have these episodes easily accessible. The plots found on Dynasty -- The Second Season move quickly. Miss one episode, and you'd be lost. That's the true beauty of watching a DVD collection, rather than relying on syndicated airings. Paramount has packaged all 22 episodes of Season Two on six discs, and crammed them into a case that takes up the same space as a single theatrical feature. Transfers are solid enough, but they look like a TV show from the early '80s. There is plenty of grain, soft images, and dirt on the prints. Colors vary from scene to scene, and some sequences begin to vary in the middle. The entire season is presented without extras, save for a disappointing text family tree. It's a standard release with no bells or whistles.
Dynasty: The Second Season has long been delayed, and fans of the show have been waiting for it over two years. Paramount gets the honors of releasing it this time, and they provide a simple extras-free six-disc set with passable transfers. The allure of this collection is that the second season of Dynasty defined the show, and began to make it a hit. The biggest single event has to be the arrival of Joan Collins, and it's a joy to see her spark up the role that earned her "television's greatest villain," according to many polls. Let's hope this set encourages a quick release of the rest of the show. Dynasty helped define the '80s with its over-the-top production and by forgetting the "Downstairs" part of Upstairs, Downstairs. It's a great portrait of the struggles of America in the '80s, in which money and sex became the defining factors of the era. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (Spanish)
Running Time: 1058 Minutes
Release Year: 1981
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interactive Season Two Family Tree
* DVD Verdict Review of Dynasty: The Complete First Season