The New 'Dynasty' Pulls Hair, But It Needs To Yank Wigs : Monkey See The CW reboot of the ABC nighttime soap isn't quite silly enough in the early going to make it worth watching. But it might get there eventually.
NPR logo The New 'Dynasty' Pulls Hair, But It Needs To Yank Wigs

The New 'Dynasty' Pulls Hair, But It Needs To Yank Wigs

Elizabeth Gillies (back to camera) plays Fallon and Nathalie Kelley plays Cristal in the CW remake of the nighttime soap that put Joan Collins in a pool: Dynasty. Mark Hill/The CW hide caption

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Mark Hill/The CW

Elizabeth Gillies (back to camera) plays Fallon and Nathalie Kelley plays Cristal in the CW remake of the nighttime soap that put Joan Collins in a pool: Dynasty.

Mark Hill/The CW

Whether you will enjoy a rebooted Dynasty depends on just how much of a gold-dusted plate of cheese curds you're ready for it to be — and need it to be.

Back in 1981, ABC created the original Dynasty, and it evolved into a huge hit, rotating around Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) and the two women in his life: his noble wife Krystle (Linda Evans) and his ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins). Along with Dallas and some others — and not a few miniseries, some based on books by Joan Collins' sister Jackie — Dynasty was part of a boom in soapy prime-time material full of diamonds, sex and board meetings. In those days, the age cohort for soaps was ancient by the standards of what is now the CW: Forsythe was over 60 when Dynasty premiered, Evans was nearly 40, and Collins was nearly 50.

The CW is not making a show like that, and you can take that to the bank.

Blake is still the patriarch, and in a clever casting decision that marches Generation X onward toward the grave (we're going, we're going), he is played by Grant Show, who was a young hottie on Melrose Place during a differently shaped nighttime-soap boom in the 1990s. Blake's daughter, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), still feels overlooked in the family business, just as she did back in the 1980s, but Krystle's role in the story is now occupied by Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley), a 30ish woman working at his company to whom Blake is engaged.

If you're wondering how long it takes for Fallon and Cristal to pull each other's hair, the answer is "less than 30 minutes of screen time."

There are other updates: It's not that big a deal that Steven Carrington is gay now, and the Colbys, who act as foils to the Carringtons, are now a black family headed by Jeff (Sam Adegoke), a tech guru. In the pilot, Fallon is messing around with the chauffeur, Steven is dillydallying with someone he meets who will obviously turn out to be related to someone he knows, Blake and Cristal are getting busy on Blake's desk, and — as mentioned — Cristal and Fallon are pulling each other's hair.

The CW makes a very particular kind of soap — for its young(er) audience. If a lot of the new Dynasty feels like the old Gossip Girl, that makes some sense, because Gossip Girl creators Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage created it, along with Sallie Patrick, who worked on ABC's Revenge. So this doesn't quite feel like the broad, luscious Dynasty of the past; it feels a little more like it's supposed to be cool. What it could use, to be frank, is a little more of the Revenge DNA. Much of the time, that was a show that was joyfully wackadoo in a way that Dynasty, despite that obligatory hair-pulling scene, isn't quite yet. It could be — Gillies, in particular, has the corny verve to pull off something a little broader. But Kelley still seems a bit overmatched by the idea of Cristal really throwing down with Fallon, and it always takes a while for anyone to care about the boardroom shenanigans that are already underway by the end of the pilot.

When it comes to escapism, you could do worse than a trashy grown-up soap that will eventually have to introduce Alexis (the original show didn't until the second season), who will make things even more trashy in a harmless, drape-the-world-in-diamonds kind of way. Like a lot of shows about the very rich, Dynasty is less a salute to their excesses and more an imagining of their misery and emptiness.

But what every nighttime soap needs is something that we learned from something that happened on Melrose Place. It must contain at least the potential for a character (like Marcia Cross' Kimberly on Melrose) to return from apparent death, make it through an entire episode seeming relatively normal, and then, in the bathroom, yank a wig off to reveal that she's bald and she has a huge scar and she probably isn't OK at all — OH NOOOOO! Seriously: That is the nighttime soap business. It's not supposed to be moving; it's supposed to be big. And while it is fun, to really land, Dynasty needs to be a little bigger. A little broader. A little more off the wall. We must believe you will yank some wigs off some scalps when people come back from the dead.

Come to think of it, it needs Alexis.