Aaron Spelling's addictive primetime soap opera, Dynasty, ran for nine seasons on ABC, a saga of the rich and super-rich, family feuds and betrayals, class conflicts, revenge, corruption, and power. The 13 episodes included in this first-season boxed set introduce a wide range of characters (quite a few dispensed by season 2) in the orbit of oil empire Denver Carrington and its acquisitive, stop-at-nothing CEO, Blake Carrington (John Forsythe, who was simultaneously providing the off-screen voice of Charlie in Spelling's Charlie's Angels). Of particular interest is the way Blake and Denver Carrington's business problems--a groundswell of anti-American sentiment in oil-rich Arab nations, the recent energy shortage in the U.S., disagreement about developing alternative fuel sources with tax dollars--are a window onto real-world events when Dynasty debuted in 1981. But drama ripped from yesterday's headlines is not what the show is about, and it isn't long before Blake's conflicts with, well, just about everyone move to center stage. Above all is his pending marriage to former secretary Krystle Grant Jennings (Linda Evans), who loves Blake but worries that he sees her as a possession to be charmed or bullied into compliance with his tyrannical worldview. Complicating matters is Krsytle's old romance with a Denver Carrington geologist, Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins, leaning hard on his soulful, James Dean impression), who is struggling to make his marriage to the mentally ill Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) work out. Meanwhile, two of Blake's grownup kids, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) and Steven (Al Corley), are home for the wedding but at serious odds with dear old dad. (Blake wants Fallon to marry a competitor's son in the interest of preserving Denver Carrington. He also refuses to speak with Steven after discovering the latter has been in a gay relationship.) On the horizon is Blake's troublesome former wife, Alexis, who wasn't cast yet (she's eventually portrayed by Joan Collins in season 2), but who makes a veiled appearance (played by another actress) at a particularly inauspicious moment for poor Blake in the season finale. There's more: industrial sabotage, Fallon's affair with a chauffeur, an unexpected bond between Steven and Claudia. Dynasty wouldn't be as much fun without its endless cascade of broken hearts and dire circumstances, and it reminds us that wealth can sometimes be a peculiar kind of hell.
Epitomising the glamour and decadence of 1980s Reagan-era America, Dynasty was essentially a prime-time soap opera, and was characterised by campy, melodramatic plotlines, as well as Joan Collins' magnetic performance as the conniving Alexis Colby. She is divorced from Blake Carrington, a fabulously wealthy oil magnate who marries his secretary, Krystle Jennings, at the show's inception; the jealous Alexis, head of her own oil corporation, does everything she can to destroy their union. The rest of the cast is comprised of Blake and Alexis' four children: the promiscuous amnesiac Fallon; Adam, who was kidnapped at birth; the sexually ambivalent Steven; and Amanda, who has run off to Europe. During the first season, Krystle adapts to her new role as an aristocrat, and Blake tries to work through his problems with his gay son, though he is eventually put on trial for the murder of his son's lover.
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