Spinoff Stories -- Dynasty (Article IX)

The rich behaving badly, all the while always dressed with glamour?  Who would have thought Dynasty would have become one of ABC's early decade sensations?  Initially crafted as a direct copycat of CBS' burgeoning Dallas franchise, Dynasty eventually distinguished itself by not only big-ticket item fashion product placements, but also by instigating the guilty pleasure of catfights between principles Linda Evans and Joan Collins.  The series peaked in 1st Place during its 5th season in 1984-85.  Inspired by this achievement, ABC decided to give Dynasty a spinoff of its own, The Colby's, centered on principle characters Jeff Colby (John James) and Fallon Carrington (now-recast with Emma Samms).  The results were underwhelming, and the foray faded fast.  However, the series lived long past the 80's when it was rebooted on CW in October 2017. 

The Original Hit Machine
Dynasty (1981-89) 

Inspired by CBS' success with oil-based soap Dallas, ABC decided to cash in on the trend of copycat proportions, even simply titling their soap "Oil."  The first season delivered an uneven, ho-hum delivery with showrunners opting to retool the premise to viewer demands.  The action shifted to the mansion from the oil field and added British icon Joan Collins as Alexis Carrington, Blake's first wife.  Described as "the female verson of JR Ewing," Collins' successful delivery as shrewd, scheming Alexis also ignited a juicy dynamic in lieu of her rival with sweet heroine Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans).  Ratings skyrocketed, and toyed with the idea of duplicating the success. 

The First Spinoff 
The Colbys (1985-87) 

ABC (and the parent series) heavily promoted this spinoff, which followed Jeff Colby (James) to California as he dealt with his own family's similar turmoil.  More intriguing, his presumed-dead wife, Fallon (Samms) was alive and well, now in love with his brother Miles (Maxwell Caulfield).  His parents, Jason (Charlton Heston) and Sable (Stephanie Beecham) were in a loveless marriage and dealing with the turmoil at Colby Enterprises.  The series also featured silver screen legend Barbara Stanwick as Constance Colby for the first season before killing the character off.  As Dynasty experienced a drop its first season, The Colby's meagerly managed to place 34th for the season.  It dropped to 64th, with 1987 experiencing continual declines.  After two seasons of poor Thursday night ratings against NBC's powerhouse Must-See-TV lineup, The Colbys folded, ending with Fallon being abducted by a UFO.  Jeff, Fallon (and eventually Sable) were tied back into the original series. 

The Second Spinoff/Reboot
Dynasty (2017-Present) 

Although technically a not a spinoff of the original, CW crafted a reboot of the original in 2017.  Much of the premise remained the same -- powerful tycoon Blake marries an employee Cristal, much to the ire and disdain of his daughter Fallon.  Gay son Steven takes up with Sammy Jo (now a gay male vs. Heather Locklear's buxom blonde delivery).  The setting moved from Denver to Atlanta, and the business backdrop is updated. The Blaisdels remained tied to the oil fields, servant Joseph makes the new Mrs. Carrington's life a living hell, and the series is also mid-run introducing the first Mrs. Carrington to spice up the rivalry.  In soapy twists similar to the original, the leading ladies were recast with preposterous explanations.  After Nathalie Kelley left the series after the first season, she was revealed not to by Cristal, but an imposter named Celia.  Ana Brenda Contreras stepped into the role as the real Cristal the following season, and was succeeded by Ana Brenda Contreras (and later Daniela Alonso).  An immigration switcheroo is explained for this convoluted story, while Alexis' burnt and crackled, literally.  

Nicollette Sheridan stepped into the role and decided to leave after a season.  In a soapy twist, Alexis's son Adam (Sam Underwood) pushes her face into a fire, aiding a plastic surgery explanation to explain why Elaine Hendrix looked so different.  Though viewers still wonder why the ruthless fire was so considerate and spared her beautiful blonde hair and eyebrows.  The 2017 revival's ratings are a grain of sand in contrast with the original's (as its commercials likely had higher ratings than the reboot).  But CW committed to a lengthy season order and seems committed to making this trashy spawn work. 


The Colbys received heavy promotion from the network and parent series, instigating many crossovers early in the series' run.  After The Colbys folded, the cast remains integrated into Dynasty.  No crossovers or tie-ins from the original and reboot are likely. 

Why These Spinoffs Never Achieved the Original's Success 

It is evident why the 2017 reboot will never launch to the success of the original.  It airs on America's 5th network, which equates to fractional ratings.  It is impossible to compare anything in today's television world to the monstrous ratings of the 80's.  The best CW can hope for is a lengthy run to coincide with its deal with Netflix. 

As for The Colby's, the greatest fallacy was not in its content but rather timing and scheduling.  ABC placed this heavily-marketed product on Thursdays, stacking the deck against it as NBC was on fire with its sitcom block.  Had ABC positioned it adjacent to the original, it may have stood a stronger chance at a longer run.  Like so many nighttime soaps, Dynasty experienced a decline in ratings mid-decade.  The series hit its creative and Nielsen peak in 1984, and launched the Colby's the following season.  Had the network planned this spinoff earlier in its run in say, 1983, The Colby's could have worked.  It also harmed the series when Pamela Sue Martin exited the series in 1984, and reception to a recast Emma Samms was tepid.  Soap fans remain divided in which performers they see suitable for a character, so several could not accept Samms' Fallon. 

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