Half the cast members of The CW’s Dynasty reboot are too young to recall Linda Evans and Joan Collins catfighting across the Reagan years. So am I, for that matter. So after I finished the new Dynasty pilot, I decided to relieve my boredom by googling “Dynasty Catfight.” This is what came up:
Nothing in the pilot of neo-Dynasty is nearly as fun as that. You imagine that scene (the first of many Evans-Collins brawls) played even wilder in the context of 1982, deep in season 2 of a Dallas-biting primetime soap. If you loved the original Dynasty and you want a new version of the show that is more sexually explicit yet more subdued, you may be the target audience for the new series. But you suspect that the network is banking more on nostalgia for their own buzzy-sexy Gossip Girl, which debuted 10 years and 57 zeitgeists ago. (For it is written in the laws of TV Land: A network cannot live on Berlanti alone.)
As heiress Fallon Carrington, Elizabeth Gillies channels Collins’ carnivorous ambition and Leighton Meester’s imperial pout. The pilot breezily sets up her family’s decadent problems: Daddy Blake Carrington (Grant Show) is an old-school tycoon with a new, young fiancée (Nathalie Kelley.) Brother Steven is a progressive idealist who hates fracking. Now should be the time for a live-action cartoon about a billionaire family, but nothing in the pilot is half as campy nor as trashy as anything that happens any week to America’s actual First Family. The show pretends toward vague topicality, ups the sexuality from TV-G to TV-14. There’s some brief time spent with Jeff Colby, a new-rich tech disruptor played with grinning charisma by Sam Adegoke.
But there’s something fuddy-duddy in the execution here. (Like, are tech tycoons still “new rich”?) The new Dynasty comes from Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who worked together on The O.C. and Gossip Girl. Those shows enriched rich-do-play soap operatics with the flavor and style of their times, suburban nerd-rock ennui and paparazzi-glam high fashion. This new show feels dangerously bland by comparison, unwilling to embrace its campiest instincts. You want poison-pen love song for the Mar-a-Lago set. Instead, the Carringtons come and go, talking about fracking and COOs. Though, minor spoiler: There is an actual explosion. That’s the right instinct, Dynasty! Subtlety will get you nowhere.