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By Brandon Wolf
For gay men in the 1980s, Dynasty was a Wednesday night “must-watch,” and Thursday happy hour chatter often centered around the latest outrageous episode.
Local bars had Dynasty viewing parties, and in 1984, Houston’s Diana Awards featured a lavish production number in tribute to the show. Dynasty ran for nine seasons, from 1980 to 1989, and a two-hour “reunion” in 1991 tied up the cliffhangers.
It’s been more than a quarter-century since Dynasty left the airwaves. But beginning on October 11, the show is being rebooted by The CW Channel, with at least eight episodes. In a nod to the original, the show will air at 8 p.m. Central on Wednesdays.
The reboot modernizes the show, with a new cast playing familiar characters. The original character of Krystle is now Latina, with the name Cristal, played by Nathalie Kelley, known for her recent role on The Vampire Diaries. Cristal meets Blake Carrington (Grant Show, a hunky actor with a long resume) at work. But she’s not his secretary; she’s one of his top managers. Daughter Fallon Carrington (played by Elizabeth Gillies) is—like in the original—interested in chauffer Michael Culhane and in Jeff Colby, both of whom are African-American.
Steven Carrington, Blake’s gay son, is played by James Mackay, a former recipient of a Heath Ledger Scholarship. Carrington is an environmentalist, which might lead to some interesting plot developments considering the current administration.
The new Cristal is sweet, but she also knows how to deliver some great one-liners to a condescending Fallon. The signature catfights are back—the first one between Fallon and Cristal (a match-up that never occurred in the original).
The trailer for the pilot is available on YouTube (below) and looks to be over-the-top, lush, campy escapist fare, just like the original. Familiar characters included in the first season are Claudia Blaisdel, Monique Colby, and Anders the butler.
Dynasty was first produced in 1980 as ABC’s competition for the 1978 CBS hit Dallas. In the original version of Dynasty, titled Oil, Blake was played by George Peppard. Peppard didn’t like the role, and John Forsythe was brought in. After the first season, Forsythe convinced the producers not to make his character a scoundrel like J.R. on Dallas.
The first season got tepid ratings, but the addition of Joan Collins as the scheming Alexis saw the second season ratings climb. But gay men had already tuned in, because Steven Carrington was the first recurring openly gay character on TV (other than the comic character Jodie Dallas played by Billy Crystal on Soap).
Carrington was played by Al Corley, a former doorman at Studio 54. When the producers turned Carrington bisexual, Corley fought back. He was fired and replaced by Jack Coleman.
Carrington had four male lovers during the show’s run. The first was Ted Dinard, who was accidentally killed by Blake in a shoving match. Blake went on trial for murder, accused of homophobia. He was convicted, but given a suspended sentence.
Carrington then had an affair with his attorney, Chris Deegan, who was helping him fight for custody of the child he had with Sammy Jo. To prove to the court that he was a “good” father, he dumped Deegan and married Blaisdel.
But the real love of Carrington’s life was Luke Fuller, Alexis’ secretary. Fuller was an unfortunate victim of the “Moldavia wedding massacre.” Carrington then met Bart Falmont, a closeted state senator, who decided his career was more important. Eventually, he reversed his decision and became Steven’s partner.
Two of the gay men in the original cast—Rock Hudson. who played horse breeder Daniel Reese, and Paul Keenan, who played Tony Driscoll, the well-muscled grounds man—died of AIDS. A third, Gordon Thompson, who played Adam Carrington, just came out—at age 72.
In the 1980s, gay love was still taboo, and the most we saw was Carrington and Fuller in a long embrace before the Moldavia wedding. The reboot includes more explicit same-sex scenes. The CW assures prospective viewers Carrington is “confidently gay and fully accepted by his father.” That point is driven home by the casting of Rafael De La Fuente as Sammy Jo, a Hispanic male hustler who is Cristal’s nephew, who has his eyes set on Carrington.
The reboot makes lots of sentimental nods to favorite moments in the original series. Newcomers won’t notice them, but familiar fans will smile. In the trailer, the reboot is described in simple words: “Welcome to the 1% of 1%. They have money. The have power. They have everything. And they want more.”