Goodbye, Dynasty

Josh Schwartz, we need to talk.

I’m sorry, Josh. I tried. You should know I’m one of your biggest fans–I watched the very first episode of The OC when it first aired when I was in high school, and did the same when the preview of the Gossip Girl pilot hit iTunes when I was in college. I still make jokes about “being stealth,” and I still have my collection of Waldorf-inspired headbands. I fangirled over Seth and Ryan and their obvious need to make out right now; I wept for the great romance that Dan and Blair could’ve been (hashtag dare to Dair!!!11!). [OMG yes. That is my single biggest TV heartbreak. – Janes] I was super excited about Dynasty.

But I can’t do this anymore. Not only did I not finish my recap of the last episode before the holiday, I keep falling asleep just trying to watch it. There’s not enough fun in the soapiness and not enough feeling beneath said soapiness to sustain the show on any of the multiple levels it might have existed on. The characters, unlike Seth Cohen or Blair Waldorf who were given fully-rounded, complex yet knowable souls, fall flat too. Fallon alone approaches some complexity; the rest, charming though some of the actors were, move like little wind-up toys along the twisty tracks of their foreordained plots. Weirdly, even the humor–always a strong point of The OC and Gossip Girl, which remained clever and literate even when the world scorned them as “girl shows”–is often based on weak puns or odd stretches of logic.

Maybe it’s annoying to quote myself, but as I wrote about an earlier episode of Dynasty:

“The outfits are fun, the champagne-spraying is definitely fun, but there’s something awfully hollow and almost desperate about the fun we’re having with this show. Maybe part of it is just an accident of time. Gossip Girl started before the crash of ’08. This show has to entice audiences into the same aspirational consumerist excess that Gossip Girl did, while exhibiting much more self-awareness, and completely ignoring any anti-capitalist implications of its own satire (this is the CW, after all). That is a pretty weird balancing act, if not just an oxymoron.”

That balancing act only became less balanced as the show sank into an incoherent mire of romances and revenge plots and secrets that were quickly revealed and then dropped, never quite connecting to a larger theme. The reboot is supposedly “feminist,” but only in the thinnest Ivanka Trump sense where women have catfights over business conflicts instead of outright over men; it is racially diverse, yet often seems unwilling or unable to probe the dark side of Fallon Carrington using her father’s black chauffeur for sex. The larger themes that are possible at this time and with this family (for example, showing that white women have been co-opted into supporting the very structures that oppress women in order to gain the most possible power for themselves; that Americans have spent too many years worshipping people who are “successful” in this strange system and have been seduced into worshipping the very economy that oppresses us) seem to have been impossible to place into a soap opera and thus have become vague concepts that were sometimes self-consciously gestured at and then immediately studiously ignored.

So: I’m going to give up on writing about Dynasty, and also, I think, on watching it. Good-bye, Carringtons. May you all learn to make better puns.


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