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Dynasty - Season 1

Fox // Unrated // April 19, 2005
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted April 24, 2005 | E-mail the Author
The movie


If you were old enough to watch
television in the 1980s, you knew about Dallas and Dynasty
even if you never watched a single episode. The two warring nighttime
soap operas, each featuring a cast of wealthy and highly
dysfunctional characters, may have been rather over-the-top at times,
but they kept viewers coming back week after week to see how things
turned out. Dynasty, though shorter-lived than the series it
emulated, nevertheless had its appeal, as the wealthy Carrington
family could generate any number of scandalous storylines, whether in
the boardroom or the bedroom.


The title of the pilot episode sums
up the source of the Carrington fortune: "Oil." It's in
this episode that we meet all the major players in Dynasty.
There's Blake Carrington (John Forsythe), the patriarch of the
family, who can be both extremely charming and completely ruthless,
as it suits him. His two children offer countless problems of their
own: Steven (Al Corley) has to deal with his confusion about what he
wants to do with his life, not to mention the fact that his father
doesn't exactly accept the fact that he's gay, and Fallon (Pamela Sue
Martin) is a sarcastic "little rich girl" who has a keen
mind and ruthlessness to match her father. Into this nest of vipers
comes innocent Krystal (Linda Evans), Blake's former secretary, who
is abruptly thrust into the world of the super-rich when she marries
Blake. As a contrast to the tortured lives of the wealthy, we get the
tortured lives of the middle-class (at least in this first season)
depicted in geologist Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins) and his wife
Claudia (Pamela Bellwood), struggling to "make it" on their
own.


So.. that's the cast. What are the
plots like? Dynasty: Season 1 runs as one continuous
storyline; individual episodes focus more on one or another plot
point, whether it's a crucial dinner party or birthday celebration,
or a particular plot twist, as in "The Beating" or "The
Testimony," but the story as a whole runs smoothly through the
whole season. That has its merits, as it keeps the viewer interested
in following the loose ends of one episode right into the next, and
the next, and the next.


In terms of pacing, though, the
writers don't handle things as well as they could. If there's one
common thread tying all these Dynasty episodes together, it's
that they're paced with glacial slowness. The events of any two (or
three) episodes could easily be edited down into a single,
crisply-paced episode, instead of being drawn out (or puffed out,
depending on your metaphor). Slow pacing in itself isn't necessarily
a bad thing, but in the case of Dynasty, it's due to rather
unnecessary causes. Scenes are lingered on far longer than necessary,
considering that the acting isn't so superb that it's worth watching
for its own sake, for instance. The writers also seem terrified of
letting the viewer forget anything that happened earlier, so in each
episode there are plenty of references to what was said or done in
previous episodes. Nothing seems to ever happen off-stage, and so
there's little need for the viewer to pay attention; it'll all be
laid out in black and white (and referred back to) no matter what.


When all's said and done, Dynasty
may have its faults, but it remains a moderately fun, if undeniably
fluffy, series to watch. It's soapy, to be sure; the plots tend to
revolve around who slept with whom and who knows the dirt on who
slept with whom, and/or threatens to reveal said knowledge. But it's
entertaining if soap is what you're looking for. Certainly viewers
who were fond of the show when it originally aired will find it fun
to revisit Dynasty once more now that it's on DVD.


The DVD


Dynasty: Season 1 is very
nicely packaged. The thirteen episodes (fifteen if you count the
pilot as three separate episodes) are spread across four DVDs, in two
ultra-slim cases that hold two discs each. It's nice to see the
studios wising up to good packaging methods, and reducing the size of
season-set packaging to modest (and manageable) proportions. The two
cases fit into a glossy paperboard slipcase, which in turn has a
slipcover. Appropriately, it's all rather sparkly.


The only quibble I have is that the
discs are double-sided but only single-layer. If I'm going to have a
flipper, I want it to be for a good reason (fitting twice as much
content on a single disc), which isn't the case with a single-layer
disc.


Video


Dynasty fans will be very
pleased by the evident care that has been given to the DVD transfer
of Dynasty: Season 1. The image overall is crisp and sharp, with a
level of clarity and detail that I really wasn't expecting for a 1981
television show. Colors are handled very well, always looking natural
and rich, and contrast is also nicely done as well. The image isn't
perfect, but any wear-and-tear is fairly limited: shots that include
fade-outs or that have credits overlaid tend to look a bit grainy and
worn, but the majority of the footage looks impressively clean and
attractive. All the episodes are presented in their original aspect
ratio of 1.33:1.


Audio


The Dolby mono soundtrack is clean
and free of any background noise or other problems. It does tend to
sound a bit flat (no surprise there) to a listener who's used to
stereo sound, but it's a clear and presentable track that balances
dialogue and music well. Dubbed Spanish and French mono soundtracks
are also provided, as are Spanish and French subtitles and English
closed captions.


Extras


Fans have been treated reasonably
well in this release of Dynasty: Season 1. The three-part
"Oil" episode has an audio commentary track by co-creator
Esther Shapiro; Shapiro also provides a commentary, along with actor
Al Corley, for "The Separation." The commentaries aren't
bad, offering some interesting insights into the episodes, though
there are many silent spots.


Disc 4 has the rest of the special
features. "Family, Furs, and Fun: Creating Dynasty"
takes a look at the making of the series. It's a moderate-length
documentary, and includes interviews with creators Richard and Esther
Shapiro and actors Al Corley and Pamela Sue Martin. The piece has a
slightly fluffy feel to it, as it's laden with too many long clips
from the series, but the interview segments are fairly interesting,
and fans will find it worth watching.


The section titled "Character
Profiles" actually consists of two fairly substantial interview
featurettes. The first is on Pamela Sue Martin (Fallon) and the
second on Al Corley (Steven); each is fairly heavily interspersed
with clips from the show, but still manages to include a fair amount
of interesting material.


Final thoughts


If light-weight entertainment with a
generous dash of glamor and glitz is what you're looking for, Dynasty
has plenty of that to offer. If you've never seen any Dynasty
episodes before, it's probably best to rent rather than buy. If
you're a fan, though, this is a set you'll want to grab right away:
the transfer is excellent, and the special features are solid as
well. Recommended.

Buy from Amazon.com

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