It’s not that the entire thing fails to work: Here and there, certain performances contain echoes of the flashy original. But other aspects of this “Dynasty” reboot are lacking, and it’s not quite clear that the drama will be able to overcome some of the problems that hobble its pilot. All in all, this “Dynasty” generally lacks both verve and style. Another recent CW soap, “Riverdale,” lost its way for a bit early in its first season, but rallied to finish in a generally strong fashion. But this pallid “Dynasty” barely gets out of the gate before it begins to lose steam.
Grant Show is personable and charismatic as Blake Carrington, who is once again a titan of American industry (this time around, he’s based in Atlanta). But a few corporate moves that are meant to make Blake seem deviously brilliant make him look anything but. If you’re going to base a show around the machinations of a brilliant and ruthless mastermind, his strokes of genius should seem whipsmart and diabolically genius, not predictable or even puzzling.
Elizabeth Gillies plays Blake’s ambitious daughter, Fallon, and the actress understands exactly how to pitch her performance; it’s full of hair tosses, cutting asides and dirty looks. Unfortunately, as Cristal, Blake’s love interest, Nathalie Kelley isn’t given much to work with. There’s not enough depth or textured drama in any of her scenes; everything about the character seems a bit wan and whiny. Nothing about this Cristal makes her seem like a worthy love interest for Blake or an intimidating adversary for the headstrong and disapproving Fallon, despite the attempts to give her a mysterious backstory.
As Blake’s son, Steven, James Mackay is suitably droll and engaging, and, like Fallon, he gets a few chances to express his exasperation with their father’s manipulative ways. And this time around, in contrast to the original version of the character, Steven is openly gay, and no one has any problem with that. Steven is less ambitious than his sister, but like her, he is pulled back into Blake’s orbit when the older Carrington gets serious with Cristal.
The best aspect of the new version of “Dynasty” is the tart, snippy drama supplied by the reliably excellent character actor Alan Dale. Usually Dale plays sketchy rich guys, but here he takes on the role of Anders, Blake’s judgmental butler. With a perfectly raised eyebrow or a disapproving smirk, Dale improves every scene he’s in.
Much less impressive are the show’s production values. The CW’s non-lavish budgets mean that the interiors on this edition of “Dynasty” often look downright dowdy. That’s no small thing: If a nighttime soap can’t provide at least a little aspirational eye candy, what’s the point? And with the exception of the wardrobe sported by Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke), most of the clothes on this edition are barely noteworthy. A nod or two to the show’s puffy-shouldered past certainly isn’t going to make anyone forget the ultra-glitzy ensembles of the original.
What’s strange about this update of the ‘80s classic is how earnest it is. Of course, sincerity doesn’t have to be a fatal flaw for a nighttime soap (in fact, the CW’s “Jane the Virgin” overflows with it). There must be some rooted, semi-realistic elements in even a lavish drama for the characters’ struggles, betrayals and double-crosses to have any impact. But this “Dynasty’s” seriousness of intent is not balanced by enough wit and canny character development, nor is it offset by consistent injections of flair or fabulousness.
The whole enterprise reeks of mere adequacy — and darling, the Carringtons deserve more.
Drama; 13 episodes (pilot reviewed); CW, Weds. Oct. 11, 9 p.m. 60 min.
Executive producers, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage, Sallie Patrick, Esther Shapiro, Richard Shapiro, Brad Silberling.
Cast, Grant Show, Elizabeth Gillies, Nathalie Kelley, James Mackay, Alan Dale, Sam Adegoke, Robert Christopher Riley, Rafael de la Fuente.