Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure, premiering at 9 tonight on ABC, is not a quality film. It s schlocky and looks cheap, with mostly failed attempts to hire actors who resemble the real-life people they play.
That said, for anyone who enjoys a TV industry behind-the-scenes story, this little film is itself a guilty pleasure as it highlights network stupidity, the hubris of actors, and the compromises writers make for the sake of satisfying network executives and spiking the ratings.
The movie begins in 1980 as ABC executives see the success of Dallas and propose a clone called, I kid you not, Fort Worth.
Actually, it s a bigger city than Dallas, says one ABC exec. More oil.
The second stab at a title: Oil.
Husband and wife producers Esther (Pamela Reed) and Richard (Ritchie Singer) Shapiro have their own ideas about making a show about wealthy families in the Reagan 80s. They re paired with executive producer Aaron Spelling (Nicholas Hammond), and Richard comes up with the title Dynasty, which gets Spelling s blessing.
Of the producing team, Richard is the writer and Esther the deal maker. Initially, the pair seek to make sure Dynasty isn t some soap with beautiful people in beautiful clothes.
But when the initial ratings are lousy, that vision gets tossed out. ABC orders the creators to make gay Steven Carrington (Rel Hunt playing actor Al Corley) straight. Corley gets angry and his character is injured in an explosion and the role is recast.
Social commentary gives way to cast additions Joan Collins is brought in to be a female J.R. Ewing and cat fights.
The movie s casting is particularly ghastly. The woman who plays Heather Locklear is blond, but that about ends the resemblance to Locklear. The actor who plays Spelling bears absolutely no resemblance to the man. The Dynasty theme song gets a good workout, used as bridge music between far too many scenes.
One semi-clever conceit is to show a stereotypical blue-collar American family s reaction to Dynasty, which mirrors the show s rise and fall in popularity. The red-neck husband disapproves of the gay storyline but loves the cat fights between Alexis (Alice Krige as Joan Collins) and Krystle, Melora Hardin as perpetually cheerful Linda Evans.
After it gets going, Making of a Guilty Pleasure turns into a check list chronicle of highlights from Dynasty s nine-year run, including Rock Hudson as a guest star and Collins holding out for more money.
Making of a Guilty Pleasure is a throwaway, but a fun one that ought to entertain both avid Dynasty fans and anyone who enjoys seeing the petty, shallow process that is series television production.
The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Rob Owens is a TV writer at the Post-Gazette.