All hail the massive wigs, the shoulder pads, the gold lame and the cat fights: “Dynasty” — that decadent, power-dressing apotheosis of in-your-face 1980s excess — is back with a 2017 twist.
Nearly three decades after it went off the air, a sexier, younger-skewing and more diverse version is returning, as TV’s penchant for mining former hits for new shows continues apace.
The primetime US soap opera starring Joan Collins, Linda Evans and John Forsythe, which was shown around the world, became the most widely watched series in television history over eight glorious years.
The CW’s update, still focused on the trials and tribulations of the oil-rich Carrington clan, features Grant Show (“Melrose Place”) in the role of Forsythe’s suave, silk-tongued Blake Carrington.
The late US actor won two Golden Globes for his portrayal of the Carrington patriarch, ensuring that any future impersonator would have a daunting task fitting into those slip-on penny loafers.
“I always compare it to Roger Moore taking over from Sean Connery. Huge shoes to fill, but they are different actors completely,” Show, 55, told AFP.
“He did his own thing and that’s what I’m doing. I can’t do what John Forsythe did so there are no ghosts there.”
Blake was cast as the put-upon moral center of the 1981-1989 original series, hostage to the machinations of his malign ex-wife Alexis, played by Joan Collins.
However — and this is a bit awkward — he was also an incorrigible homophobe who told his son Steven his opinions weren’t important because he was a “man who puts his hands on another man.”
Times and mores have changed, of course, and Blake is no longer revolted, in the open at least, by his son’s homosexuality while Steven (James Mackay) is very much out of the closet.
– Real life dynasties –
“I feel like my Blake is more vulnerable. He’s more concerned with how he fits in with his family, more concerned about Steven loving him back,” said Show.
“John Forsythe’s Blake wanted to dominate the family and mine cares more about it being a family unit. He doesn’t want his son to hate him.”
In an era of unprecedented interest in the private lives of real-life dynastic families such as the Trumps, the Clintons, the Murdochs and the Kardashians, the soap opera could hardly be more relevant.
The past, though, is another country and the creative team behind the show felt that several updates were necessary for the modern audience.
Linda Evans’s blushing small-town bride Krystle is now a powerful, single-minded Venezuelan businesswoman named Cristal, played by Peruvian-Australian actress Nathalie Kelley (“UnReal”).
The series has moved from Denver to multi-cultural Atlanta, where the rival Colby clan is now African American.
In the original series, Steven married scheming Sammy Jo despite being gay. Now, the character made famous by Heather Locklear is his male lover, a Latino played by Rafael de la Fuente.
“Atlanta is this incredibly diverse, modern city,” said Josh Schwartz, the co-creator along with and Stephanie Savage, his producing partner on one of The CW’s biggest soaps, “Gossip Girl.”
“There are still pockets of that blue-blood, old money like Buckhead, where the Carringtons live, but we wanted the city to be reflecting the world and the company that Blake is trying to hold on to.”
– ‘Incestuous tree’ –
The series is among a long list of 80s and 90s properties being given millennial makeovers that includes “Gilmore Girls,” “Full House,” “MacGyver,” “Miami Vice,” “Lethal Weapon,” “Twin Peaks” “The X Files,” “Starksy and Hutch” and “Hawaii Five-O.”
“The 80s was the greatest decade ever and respect needs to be paid. We’re just in that moment right now,” Schwartz told AFP.
“And obviously there’s a lot of choice for viewers, a lot of opportunities to watch things. I think having a title that people recognize… that’s just something that helps cut through the noise.”
Richard and Esther Shapiro, creators of the original show, were joined recently by the creative team and cast of the new “Dynasty” at a screening in the appropriately glam California city of Beverly Hills.
In one of the more surreal moments of the panel discussion, Esther, 89, revealed that her husband used to describe the show as “a family wrapped around an incestuous tree.”
The opening episode delighted the PaleyFest Fall TV Previews audience, ending with a trademark over-the-top cat fight, featuring hair-pulling, cake-ruining and a couple of well-aimed slaps.
But there was no Alexis, prompting public and press alike to ponder if the iconic character was going to be consigned forever to the 1980s.
“You will see her. There are plans for that. But you’re going to have to wait,” Schwartz told AFP.
“Dynasty” premieres October 11 on The CW.