The good, the bad and the wildly bitchy

Awash with champagne and catfights, Dynasty, the ultimate 1980s soap, is set to become a film

Fiona Sturges
Monday 24 January 2011 01:00 GMT
(BBC )

In the early 1980s, if you were a soap addict, you either watched Dynasty or Dallas.

For me, it was Dynasty every time. I was eight when it began, and so a little too young to appreciate the extent of its fabulousness, though by the time it was cancelled in 1989 I was a marginally more cultured 16-year-old who had come to believe that success was when your house looked like the set of a Ferrero Rocher advert, and that disputes were best solved by throwing champagne in the face of one's antagonist.

Now, 22 years later, comes the joyful news that Dynasty is finally to be turned into a film by its original creators, Esther and Richard Shapiro. Yes, I know, it could be ghastly, particularly if films of other Eighties TV shows are anything to go by. But, done properly, Dynasty the movie could be terrific. Why? Because, in an era of economic unease and general doom and gloom, what better way to pass the time than watching disgustingly rich people slurping caviar for breakfast, sleeping with each other's spouses and exchanging such pleasantries as: "Take your blonde tramp and get out of my house!"

Should you have missed it the first time around, Dynasty revolved around the family life of a Denver oil tycoon, Blake Carrington, in particular the ongoing war between his drippy wife, the holier-than-thou, forever-in-soft-focus Krystle , and his dastardly ex, Alexis. Brought to life by Joan Collins, Alexis was the star of the show, a scheming ball-breaker whose ability to sweep, rather than simply walk, into a room has never been matched. She may have been inherently evil, but she was one of the best female role-models that Eighties television had to offer; a middle-aged woman who was ravishingly sexy, ran several businesses and didn't depend on a man for a roof over her head.

In fact, Dynasty was quite progressive in its own way. It was the first mainstream show to have a gay man, Steven, struggling for acceptance from a homophobic father who had bumped off his lover with an ashtray. It also had a black woman playing not the hired help but the beautiful and very powerful Dominique Deveraux.

Improbable as it sounds, Esther Shapiro has said that the series was partly inspired by Robert Graves's I, Claudius, with Alexis's character based on the scheming Livia. At its peak it was the No 1 show both here and in the US, and even had cameos from Henry Kissinger, and Gerald and Betty Ford. The acting could be dodgy, but the drama was thrilling and the cliffhangers the best in the business. The most memorable moments? Krystle in a bitch-fight with Alexis in the lily pond; Krystle being abducted and replaced with an evil doppelganger; the Moldavian wedding massacre in which the whole cast appeared to be mown down by machine gun-wielding terrorists; Alexis in one of her satin turbans. The word on the new film is that it is to be a prequel, with Blake discovering that he's heir to the family oil company, and will therefore be set in the Sixties.

It's certainly one way of preventing the shoulders pads from hogging the limelight, as they so often did the TV series, though auditions are probably already underway for Alexis's beehive. Joan Collins has tipped Gemma Arterton to assume her old role, and Chris Pine to play Blake, but it remains to be seen who will be the chosen ones. To those who never saw it, or saw it and hated it, Dynasty may seem like a relic of a ferociously money-obsessed and politically bankrupt decade (the only poor people who ever appeared were vengeful butlers or put-upon chauffeurs), but at the time it was as popular and powerful a piece of escapism as Downton Abbey is today.

Of course, times have changed and so have our values. Do we really want to see spoilt rich people behaving atrociously on film when we're feeling the financial pinch? Of course we do. When the chips are down, escapism is the best medicine, particularly when it comes dripping with champagne and diamonds. I, for one, can't wait.

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