That's why I love Dynasty, that quintessential '80s indulgence that was nothing if not entertaining. While it was outlasted by the other three heavyweight soaps of the decade (Dallas, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest), Dynasty was always the most outlandish. It was the least realistic, the loudest and the most fun.
After the shorter Season 1 finally got a release in 2005, it took more than two years--a delay caused in part by the rights moving to a different studio--for Season 2 to get released last year. Thankfully, we had a much shorter wait for Season 3, although in an odd movie, Paramount decided to release it in two volumes: this installment has the first 12 episodes of the season on three discs. The rest of the episodes will be released in Volume 2 on October 21, 2008. Season 3 had 24 episodes, two more than Season 2--but Season 4 clocks in at a whopping 27, so if we (hopefully) get another release, I'm imagining we'll see a similar pattern.
With Season 3, Dynasty was still laying the groundwork for what was yet to come, setting the stage for its meatiest years in Seasons 4-6. The plots were still ridiculous, but not quite as wacky as what would follow. The cliffhangers are soon resolved--Toscani (James Farentino) is gone, and Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) makes only a few appearances in this volume as both become prime suspects in the Carrington kidnapping case. But one of her scenes is a doozy, a beautifully tasteless sequence on a rooftop that epitomizes the essence of the show: jaw-dropping, high-class trash.
Meanwhile, Cecil lies near death's door in the hospital as an anxious Alexis tries to marry him--and take over ColbyCo--before it's too late ("I've heard of shotgun weddings, but deathbed weddings?!" says Blake), leading to another unforgettable display of hammed-up acting.
A few overriding story arcs take shape, the biggest being the introduction of Adam (Gordon Thomson), the long-lost child of Blake and Alexis. Or is he? During the media circus of Little Blake's kidnapping, Alexis reveals that her firstborn child with Blake was kidnapped as an infant and never found. In Billings, Montana, an old woman sees the newscast and tells her grandson Michael that she was the culprit--and that he is Adam Carrington.
The lawyer hops on a plane and works his way into the family--but not without quickly alienating Blake. Thomson would stay with the series through the rest of its run, and immediately asserts himself as one of the show's smoothest villains. An intelligent and ambitious ladies' man, Adam also has a violent temper--a frightening side that frequently surfaces, cutting through his suave veneer. He makes an enemy out of almost everyone, but his biggest targets become Blake and brother-in-law Jeff Colby (John James), who leaves Denver Carrington and takes a job at ColbyCo to keep an eye on Adam. That comes after a new revelation about a stockholder in Denver Carrington puts the company's future in jeopardy.
The new son also makes a play for Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin), who asserts her independent womanhood this season by transforming daddy's La Mirada dump of a hotel into La Mirage (her costume-laden Roaring '20s party provides the most opulent moment of this set) Unaware that she is his sister, Adam pours on his womanizing, resulting in one of the show's more cringe-inducing kisses.
Two more cast members make their debut this season. Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott) is brought to Denver by the scheming Alexis--the handsome tennis pro was Krystle's first husband, and an apparent divorce snafu may mean they're still married. Scott flirts his way through the cast, setting his sights on getting Krystle back. One episode later, the daughter of Carrington butler Joseph (Lee Bergere) arrives from Europe: Kirby (Kathleen Beller) immediately reveals her crush on Jeff, and sees some hope as his marriage to Fallon is on shaky ground.
But Jeff has bigger problems--namely the poisonous paint fumes that are slowly destroying him, a gift from the jealous Adam. His dementia starts to trouble his loved ones, and sends the meek, emotionally fragile Kirby into the arms of Adam for a night that will come back to haunt her.
As the first half of the season progresses, another subplot begins to take shape. Having left Denver at the end of Season 2, Steven Carrington is M.I.A.--until the family learns that he's working on an oil rig in Indonesia. But word of an explosion sends shockwaves through the clan. Unable to accept that his son is dead, Blake heads overseas (and even hires a psychic!) to track down Steven (at which point I laugh, the perfectly approprite--and funniest--line from Heathers dancing through my head: "I love my dead gay son!").
Fans of the show know that actor Al Corley left over a character dispute (the studio apparently wanted Steven to be "cured" of his homosexuality), and was replaced by Jack Coleman (now of NBC's Heroes). Despite being pictured on the back of the box, Coleman actually doesn't appear--save for one brief scene where you can't see his face--in these 12 episodes. (Another box snafu is the picture of the pond fight between Alexis and Krystal, which also happens in the latter half of the season).
And making one appearance is Heather Locklear, who always added a great spark to the show as trampy gold-digger Sammy Jo, the white trash princess. Not yet a regular (she was pulling double duty with her nicer role on T.J. Hooker), she shows up in episode 12 with a surprise for the family (Locklear appears more in the second half of the season). I also laughed (actually, I cried) when she fills up her gas tank for $14.85. If that wasn't enough to make you yearn for the "Me!" decade, Blake is worried about the health of Denver Carrington because of the oil glut that the country is in. Sigh...those were the days.
I'm a little miffed that we don't get the whole season in one package, but as long as they keep coming, I'll be a happy man. Each episode runs about 47 minutes. As my esteemed colleague Paul Mavis notes in his review of Season 2, the DVD sleeve notes that "some episodes may be edited from their original network versions." I'm not sure what content that may be (if at all), but most of the goods seem intact--although there are no "Last time, on Dynasty..." recaps preceding each one (I seem to remember those from the original broadcasts, and it would have been nice to have them here). I'd advise against reading the episode summaries on the inner sleeve, as they reveal a little to much and spoil some of the surprises.
It's impossible not to get caught up in the fun of this series--it knew what it was doing, and it didn't care. Glitz, glamour, sex, scandal...it was melodramatic escapism at its most luridly entertaining.
1. The Plea (aired 10/27/1982) Krystle finds Blake in the mountains. Cecil is brought to the hospital. A police investigation is started to find the baby. Blake goes on TV with the family to offer a reward for Little Blake. Alexis talks about their son Adam, who was kidnapped when he was a baby. In Montana, Michael Torrance is told by his dying grandmother that he really is Adam Carrington.
5. The Siblings (aired 11/24/1982) Alexis gives her newfound long-lost son Adam a job at ColbyCo. Blake starts to believe that Adam may actually be his real son. Fallon and Adam keep flirting with each other, not knowing they are siblings. Adam has dinner with Krystle and Blake. Alexis finally meets Krystle's first husband, Mark.
9. Acapulco (aired 12/22/1982) Jeff starts to become dizzy and affected by the toxic paint. Joseph tells Kirby to stay away from Jeff. Krystle goes to Acapulco to find out what really happened with her divorce from Mark, and Blake comes after her. The oil rig Steven works on explodes.