Dynasty: More Than Just Catfights and Shoulder Pads

“Dynasty” is a popular American prime-time television soap opera that premiered in 1981. The show is set in Denver, Colorado, and follows the lives of the wealthy Carrington family as they navigate their personal and professional relationships and deal with various scandals and power struggles.

The show was created by Richard and Esther Shapiro and quickly became a cultural phenomenon, with its over-the-top drama, glamorous fashion, and iconic characters. “Dynasty” was known for its high production values, featuring opulent sets and elaborate costumes, and was one of the most expensive shows of its time.

The show’s popularity led to numerous spin-offs and imitators, and its impact can still be felt in popular culture today. With its complex characters, intricate plotlines, and lavish style, “Dynasty” remains a beloved classic of the television landscape and a testament to the enduring appeal of the prime-time soap opera genre.

Dynasty TV Show: The Background

History of the Show

The show was created by Richard and Esther Shapiro, who were inspired by the 1960s prime-time soap opera, The Colbys. The Shapiros pitched the idea to Aaron Spelling, a well-known producer at the time. Spelling loved the idea and decided to produce the show. The first season of Dynasty premiered on ABC on January 12, 1981.

Over the years, Dynasty had several cast changes, and the storylines became more outrageous. However, the show remained popular until its final episode on May 11, 1989.

Despite the show’s success, it was not without controversy. Critics accused the show of promoting materialism and excess, and some viewers found the show’s storylines to be too unrealistic. Nevertheless, Dynasty remains a beloved show and has influenced many other television shows in the years since its cancellation.

Dynasty’s Unforgettable Characters

Dynasty tv show
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

Main Characters

The show revolves around the Carrington family, a wealthy family living in Denver, Colorado.  The main character is Blake Carrington, the family’s patriarch. Blake is a ruthless businessman who will do anything to protect his family and his company. When the series starts, Blake is about to make Krystle Jennings, his former secretary, his new wife. Krystle is played by the wonderful Linda Evans. The Carrington family, not surprisingly, does not welcome Krystle with open arms.

Blake’s cunning and ambitious daughter, Fallon, is especially not a fan of Krystle. Tired of being treated as merely a trophy, Fallon seeks to move ahead in the family and follow in her father’s footsteps. Pamela Sue Martin plays the role of Fallon and absolutely nails it.

One character who does not want to follow in his father’s footsteps is Steven Carrington, Blake’s son from a previous marriage. Steven, played by Al Corley, differs from his father in every respect, from politics to his lack of interest in carrying on the family empire. Steven is openly gay, and Blake is not quiet about his disapproval. To make things worse, Steven and sister Fallon have a complicated relationship.

And then came Alexis… The incomparable Joan Collins played Alexis Carrington, Blake’s ex-wife, and she ate up the scenery in every episode. The former and current Mrs. Carrington are constantly at odds, and their fractious relationship is at the heart of the series. And don’t forget the catfights! Dynasty was well-known for the large number of catfights, mostly between Alexis and Krystle. 

The Spiderwebbed Plot of Dynasty 

Major Storylines

The show is known for its dramatic and scandalous storylines. One of the major storylines revolves around the rivalry between Blake’s daughter, Fallon, and his new wife Krystle. The two women are constantly at odds, and their feud often leads to explosive confrontations.

The show also delves into the Carrington family’s business dealings. Blake is the owner of a large energy company, and the show often explores the cutthroat world of business and the lengths that people will go to get ahead.


Development of the Show

The idea for the show came about when Richard and Esther Shapiro were on vacation in Europe and saw a wealthy woman arguing with a young man. The scene intrigued them, and they decided to create a show about a wealthy family and their drama-filled lives. They pitched the idea to Aaron Spelling, who loved the concept and agreed to produce the show.

Casting for Dynasty

The show’s cast included many well-known actors, including John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins, and Heather Locklear. John Forsythe played the role of Blake Carrington, the wealthy oil tycoon who was the patriarch of the Carrington family. Linda Evans played the role of Krystle Carrington, Blake’s second wife. Joan Collins joined the show in its second season and played the role of Alexis Carrington, Blake’s ex-wife and Krystle’s rival. Heather Locklear joined the show in its second season and played the role of Sammy Jo Dean, Steven Carrington’s ex-wife.

The show’s cast was known for their glamorous looks and extravagant wardrobes. The show’s costume designer, Nolan Miller, created the iconic looks of the show’s female characters. Miller created many memorable looks, including the famous “shoulder pad” trend that became popular in the 1980s. The number of outfits created by Nolan was in the 3,000 (!) range, as he never wanted to see a cast member in the same outfit twice.

FUN FACT: George Peppard was originally cast as Blake Carrington but couldn’t connect with the unsympathetic role. Enter John Forsythe, who successfully carried the role in every single episode of the series! 

Filming Locations

The show was primarily filmed in Los Angeles, California. The Carrington mansion was actually a mansion located in Pasadena, California. The mansion was used as the Carrington mansion’s exterior and for some interior shots. The interior shots of the Carrington mansion were filmed on a soundstage in Los Angeles.

Dynasty mansion
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

The show was also filmed on location in other parts of the world, including the United Kingdom, France, and Italy. The producers wanted to give the show a more international feel and decided to film some episodes on location in Europe.

The Television Show Dynasty: Its Legacy

The original Dynasty series was a cultural phenomenon that left a lasting impact on pop culture and television. The show’s influence can still be seen in modern-day television shows, movies, and fashion trends.

Impact on Pop Culture

Dynasty was known for its opulence and extravagance, featuring luxurious sets, glamorous costumes, and dramatic storylines. The show’s portrayal of wealth and power captivated audiences and inspired a wave of 1980s excess. The fashion on the show was also a major influence, with characters sporting bold shoulder pads, glittering jewelry, and high-end designer clothing.

The show’s iconic characters, including Blake Carrington, Alexis Colby, and Krystle Carrington, have become cultural touchstones. Their unforgettable catchphrases and larger-than-life personalities have been parodied and referenced in countless TV shows, movies, and pop culture moments.

Influence on Television

Dynasty was a trailblazer in the world of television, setting new standards for drama and storytelling. The show’s use of cliffhangers, plot twists, and over-the-top drama paved the way for future shows like Dallas and Melrose Place.

The show also broke barriers in terms of representation, featuring diverse characters and storylines. The character of Sammy Jo, played by Heather Locklear, was one of the first openly bisexual characters on network television.

Overall, Dynasty’s legacy is glamour, drama, and innovation. The show’s impact on pop culture and television is still felt today, making it a true classic of the medium.