The Dynasty Reboot is Silly Fluff, but Probably Not as Much as it Should Be

Posted on October 12, 2017

And now, Lorenzo’s thoughts on the first 35 minutes of The CW’s Dynasty reboot:
“Hmmph.” “Whatever.” “This is lame.” “What the hell is she wearing?”

Lorenzo’s thoughts when Fallon and Cristal started pulling each other’s hair and slapping each other on the latter’s wedding day: “OHMIGOD I’M IN LOVE WITH THIS SHOW!”

And there you have it. Every reason to watch or not watch this show, helpfully laid out for you. If you’re looking for prestige drama, you probably should keep on moving. But if you’re looking for an hour-long RuPaul’s Drag Race sketch played (you’ll pardon the term) straight, this might be the show for you.

You might think, in the age of Donald Trump, that a show celebrating extreme wealth and all the insane privilege that comes from being born (or marrying) into it would be a hard sell to audiences in 2017. But that kind of thinking tends to gloss over the reasons why the original show became such a hit in the age of Reagan.

Sure, there was always an aspirational component to Dynasty, although it was always presented in an over-the-top “If I won the PowerBall” sort of way, rather than the upper-middle class aspirations presented in most other soap operas. But the real reason the show became popular was not because the viewers wanted to bathe in someone else’s wealth, but because they wanted confirmation of that old, musty truism that the 99 percent have told themselves for centuries now: Money can’t buy happiness. In other words, it’s not fun to watch wealthy people all secure and content with themselves; just as it’s no fun to watch, say… a couple of working class women engage in a fist fight over a man. But when you put both women in designer couture, plop them down in a ridiculous mansion, and have them bitch-slap each other while staying aloft in 6-inch stilettos? You’ve got TV gold. Or the potential for it, anyway.

Which is not to say that this reboot is necessarily worth your time. To be honest, we’d be very surprised if it lasted more than a season. Then again, we couldn’t have predicted that a dark take on Archie comics would be the big CW hit of last season, so take our predictions regarding Dynasty’s future with a grain of salt. Our point is that this is not, at least at the outset, coming across as high-quality television. Then again, why would it want to? That’s not what Dynasty ever was or wanted to be.

What we can tell you is that the premiere episode was loaded to the rafters with plot and rapid-fire dialogue. We can also tell you that some of the principals are fun (Fallon and Steven, so far) and some of them are total dullards (Blake and Cristal, but wasn’t it ever thus with those two?). We can tell you that the show is working overtime to depict a more diverse and progressive take on the uber-wealthy that is both to its benefit (in the sense that Steven gets to actually be gay at the jump, instead of dancing around it for years, like the OG did), but also a little … off.

 

It’s great that Krystle was turned into Cristal Flores, or that the Colby family are now African-Americans, or that Sammy Jo has been turned into Sammy Joe, Cristal’s gay nephew (although that name is hilariously awful), but some of these takes came with trumpet blares and flashing neon signs. Steven tends to be sassy and plays with his sister’s hair and Sammy Joe steals money from a trick’s wallet, neither of which represent the most nuanced takes on gay male characters. There are also some slightly odd racial dynamics between Fallon, Jeff Colby and Michael, the chauffeur she treats like a sex slave. And we don’t have much faith in the show to explore the nuances of the Colby/Carrington war when one half of it represents old, white money and the other half represents new, black money. If Blake Carrington’s whole reason for living is to destroy the self-made African-American family, how exactly is that going to play out for modern audiences? And let’s not think too hard about how the Latinx family moving into the mansion is filled with dark secrets and possible criminal behavior. There’s very much an undercurrent of white privilege being threatened by diverse forces from all sides. That could be a fairly amazing take on an old soap opera, but first, we doubt the show would be able to depict it in anything but a reductive way and second, we’re not sure we’d expect otherwise from it.

We suppose our take is this: It’s great to see a diverse take on all these old standards, but the show has set up an unsolvable quandary. It won’t be able to explore these themes without sacrificing what Dynasty is “supposed” to be: a light, fluffy take on extreme wealth and all the elaborate problems that we want to believe come with it. In order to succeed, Dynasty will probably have to lean much harder into its silliness while pulling back a little on any sort of nuance in depicting the racial, ethnic and sexual minorities it has admirably placed at the center of the story.

 

 

In other words, it could be fun, so long as it doesn’t try to make you think too much. That’s pretty much Dynasty in a nutshell.

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