An argument nearly broke out into a fist fight.
Much like that Sex Pistols gig that every man and his dog has claimed to be at during some point or other, it is likely that every man and his dog claims to have played Final Fantasy VII. The reality being though that they’ve just seen that bit involving Aeris/Aerith and Sephiroth in ‘X Most Shocking Videogame Moments’ and reckon that’s the whole plot right there.
Well, I am here to tell you it isn’t, and if you are basing your opinion or experience of this JRPG classic on that one moment then stop what you are doing right now and pick up this classic. The version on the Xbox One may not be the best but it is easily the most accessible, and probably the cheapest way to play too.
Final Fantasy VII for the Xbox One is the re-release of the 1997 JRPG classic that first released on the original PlayStation. It has a few new features – and the odd frustrating bug – but this is largely the same game, just now available on Xbox for the very first time.
Despite Final Fantasy VII being perhaps the seminal JRPG, its gameplay is rooted in tradition. Random battles occur frequently, and levelling up is fairly standard – done by gaining EXP. Even the battle system is the same run-of-the-mill Active Time Battle (ATB) that has been in the Final Fantasy series since its infancy. But it isn’t just the gameplay that has had players coming back to the game time and time again, even 20+ years since its release.
VII starts with you controlling Cloud – a former Shinra SOLDIER and now helping eco-terrorist organisation AVALANCHE – as he heads towards a Mako reactor to destroy it. Shinra are the overpowering conglomerate who are depleting the world of its very lifestream using these reactors. AVALANCHE see this as a problem, and task themselves with destroying them one by one.
During the destruction of the second reactor, Cloud falls from the top of Midgar and meets Aeris/Aerith – the name is dependant on which location you are playing – who Shinra believe holds the key to unlocking the ‘Promised Land’, where even more lifestream is available to be gathered.
Of course, being a Final Fantasy game there needs to be a story for the 25+ hours it will take to complete the game, and for VII this is no exception. The basic plot outlined above merely covers the first few hours, whereafter there are many twists and turns involving iconic characters such as Barrett, Vincent Valentine and – of course – the legendary antagonist, Sephiroth.
Sephiroth epitomises Final Fantasy baddies. In fact, most fans can’t say his name without thinking of his musical theme – One-Winged Angel – but playing through this again it has perhaps only occurred to me now why he is so well ingrained in Final Fantasy folklore.
Off the top of my head, only perhaps Sephiroth, Kefka from Final Fantasy VI and Sin (without giving away spoilers) from Final Fantasy X are mentioned throughout their respective games. Some Final Fantasy games have a habit of only revealing the game’s primary antagonist in the latter part of proceedings – Senator Dysley from Final Fantasy XIII for example. But with VII we are introduced to Sephiroth almost straight away: we do not know his intentions from the very beginning of the game, only that he too was a SOLDIER and Cloud even fought alongside him years prior to the game itself.
This foreshadowing helps make Sephiroth stand out as one of the greatest antagonists in all of gaming.
In terms of new features included in Final Fantasy VII and the character sprites have been touched up in HD, which really helps them stand out against the pre-rendered backgrounds. These have not had any graphical update to them, but they are a lot clearer than the ones available in the Final Fantasy IX port and as such still look pretty good.
There are also a few cheats accessible by pushing in the thumbsticks. Clicking in the left one speeds the game up three times as fast, whilst the right one enables ‘God mode’ where health and MP are constantly replenished and Limit Gauges – which triggers a character’s special attack – are full at all times. Clicking both in will completely disable random encounters, and it is this which will allow you to enjoy the story of Final Fantasy VII without any distractions. Of course, this is completely optional.
As with any Final Fantasy, the soundtrack is phenomenal. Composer Nobuo Uematsu has created a timeless soundtrack – some of which, including Aerith’s Theme and One-Winged Angel, rightly sit in Classic FM’s Hall of Fame – with some instantly recognisable pieces of music. Many would argue that Final Fantasy VII is the pinnacle of Uematsu-san’s work, and when playing through again it is difficult to argue otherwise.
However, the annoying bug featured in Final Fantasy IX – where the music restarts from the beginning after every encounter – makes an unwelcome return here. It is not so much an issue during the early hours of the game but is a major inconvenience when you first step on the world map: the Main Theme of Final Fantasy VII is a gorgeous 6-minute epic that as a result will only be heard if you don’t move around the map.
Final Fantasy VII comes with 31 achievements to unlock and compared with some of the other recent Final Fantasy releases, this list is a lot easier to obtain. Only four achievements on the list are missable, with the rest all able to be unlocked through playing the game. Some – such as the ones for defeating the Diamond, Emerald and Ruby weapons – will require a lot of grinding as you will need to have a party strong enough to defeat them. But if that isn’t your cup of tea, you will be pleased to know that the cheats do not disable the achievements.
Everyone with even a passing interest in gaming knows that Final Fantasy VII is simply one of the greatest games of all time. And for the most part, this port stands the test of time, perhaps better than that of Final Fantasy IX does, mainly due to the pre-rendered backgrounds looking better here than they did in IX. It still has the annoying musical bug that will frustrate returning players, but for those that have yet to try Final Fantasy VII, you no longer have an excuse.
The Carringtons and the Colbys; ah me…how times and television have changed – arguably, not for the better. For nine seasons, we thrilled to their lavish escapades and marveled at Nolan Miller’s often absurd, though never anything less than dramatic high fashion. In its prime, Aaron Spelling’s Dynasty (1981-89) was not simply ‘event’ TV, but a way of life that indelibly etched its ‘spend/spend’ hysteria as a cornerstone of that fabulously superficial decade. The real thrill for the audience was divided between the lavishness of the pursuit itself, finely wrought as a straight-forward drama (at least in the beginning) by husband and wife writing zeitgeists, Richard and Esther Shapiro; also, the notion that rich people still had their modicum of unhappiness and problems, despite their excessive wealth – or rather, because of it. Dynasty’s style permeated eighties’ pop culture like nothing before it, inspiring perfumes, tuxedos and an entire generation of shoulder-padded, cinched waist designs in ladies’ apparel, not to mention the Chrysler Corporation naming a car after it. And since it officially left the air in 1989, Dynasty has never been without its loyal fans, thanks to cable syndication around the world. The series’ lynchpin is, was and will always be Joan Collin’s uber bitch, Alexis Morrell-Carrington-Colby-Dexter; the woman we all loved to hate. That Collins found her way to the franchise second best, as a Season Two replacement for Sophia Loren after another unknown extra had already debuted at the end of Season One, looking remarkably Joan Collins-esque, while concealing her face from the camera under a large-brimmed white hat, is a tale in and of itself. Aaron Spelling, then a spy fifty-seven, had sought Collins out for the part after talks with Loren’s agents stalled, asking for too much money. “But she’s English!” producers protested. “Yeah,” Spelling admitted, “So’s the Queen…it didn’t seem to hurt her any!” Indeed, Collins’ English-ness was to prove an advantage at the end of Season 4 when Pamela Sue Martin – who originally played daughter, Fallon, wanted off the show and was, after a period of adjustment, replaced by the very British Emma Samms’ at the end of Season 5.
The success of CBS’s Dallas (1978-91) initially necessitated this ambitiously launched competition for the ratings over at ABC, with former network chairman, Ted Harbert endeavoring to have his own titanic primetime soap opera. If Dallas was responsible for putting Texas on the television radar, then Dynasty was squarely aimed to give Denver, Colorado its glam-bam pizzazz, even though the series was virtually shot in its entirety in California. Transparently named ‘Oil’ by its creators, Dynasty was dubbed the Dallas ‘wannabe’ by its critics; even following Dallas’ tried and true formula of premiering first as a three-part mini-series. What set the then new and fledgling franchise apart was Spelling’s golden touch; also, his heavy revisionist undertaking to rid the series of its early middle-class subplots, making the eventually rechristened ‘Dynasty’ a megawatt smash that set fashion and hairstyle trends on fire, the world over. Part of the enduring success of Dynasty is owed designer, Nolan Miller, whose weekly ‘million-dollar’ clothing allowance was enough to produce an entire episode of Dallas. In Miller’s mélange of haute couture these characters became a handsome – occasionally bizarre – fashion parade, emblematic of the 1980’s. Who today can forget the endless permutation of turbans and furs sported by Alexis (Joan Collins) or Krystal’s (Linda Evans) power-brokering shoulder pads that grew exponentially as her character became less demure and more assertive? Dynasty conquered such heights precisely because it struck a chord with the go-go eighties. It dared to be ultra-glamorous and, in retrospect, typified the bawdy/gaudy excesses of that generation, eager to get out from under Jimmy Carter’s cardigan-era penny-pinching and live a little. Ronald Reagan’s presidency did more than suggest an end to these hard times. It represented a more muscular economy that took off like a brush fire in Southern California, fueling a decade-long love affair with Reagan-omics and the all-mighty buck.
Fans tuned in for the turbulent marital roller coaster of Blake Carrington (originally Blake Barkhurst, to have been played by George Peppard – the part eventually recast with John Forsythe), his ever-devoted second wife, secretary Krystle Jennings (Linda Evans) and the complicated lives of their mostly dysfunctional children; the forthright and occasionally scheming, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) and sexually conflicted, Steven (Al Corley). A third son, Adam (to be played with devious aplomb by Gordon Thompson) would later surface, after having been kidnapped from his pram some thirty-years earlier. Dynasty thrived on sin, sex and seduction, albeit in a more or less recklessly playful way than we are used to seeing it on television these days. Audiences were quick to overlook the show’s more glaring absurdities, such as Steven, having survived a devastating off-shore oil rig explosion, only to resurface as the much beefier/bronzed Apollo, played by Jack Coleman, after reconstructive surgery, or Fallon suddenly morphing from the rather mousy Martin into the more sultry and petite Emma Samms. A fragmenting of the original cast to accommodate the spin-off series, The Colbys at the end of Season 5, and the eventual departure of Linda Evans, given an acute case of amnesia – but recovering off screen at a clinic in Switzerland, while Fallon was whisked into the clouds by a ‘Close Encounters’-styled alien abduction, marked an end to the once venerable Carringtons and Colbys – abruptly pulled from ABC’s fall line-up without any closure to the various plot entanglements embroiling the cast in 1990, only to resurface one year later in a 4-hour mini-series: Dynasty – The Reunion, a truly bungled affair that left more questions than answers in its wake.
In hindsight, Dynasty had everything going for it. So, it is easy to see why the show was such a colossal smash on both sides of the Atlantic in 1981. Alas, and also in hindsight, the show’s oversights and misfires become all the more glaringly obvious when binge-watching the series. Viewing Dynasty Season One today, one is immediately dumbstruck by how stilted the whole enterprise seems, both in its storytelling and character development. The series opens with an engagement: Krystle Jennings to Blake Carrington and follows Krystle’s awkward assimilation from working-class secretary to elegant matron of one of Denver’s most affluent and influential families. It seems that everyone, from the Carrington’s Major Domo, Joseph Andres (Lee Bergere) to Blake’s daughter, Fallon treats Krystle as though she were a poor relation rather than the new mistress of the house. Of course, it does not help matters that – at least in these early episodes – Krystle is as placid and malleable as a doormat, allowing everyone to wipe their feet on her goodwill. From the outset, the one accepting heart belongs to Blake’s intelligent and ‘sensitive’ son, Steven (Al Corley); a closeted homosexual, reunited with his former New York lover, Ted Dinard (Mark Withers) much to Blake’s chagrin.
Ironically, Steven’s sexuality will come to dominate much of the plot development in Season One. Clearly concerned with introducing a gay character into prime time television circa 1981, the Shapiros repeatedly tempered and diffused Ted and Steven’s relationship throughout its rocky evolution. As for Blake, he absolutely refused to accept Steven’s lifestyle, creating constant friction that eventually forces Steven to move out on his own. Meanwhile, across town, Blake’s overseer, Matthew Blaisdel (Bo Hopkins) returned home with his wife, Claudia (Pamela Bellwood) after her lengthy stay at a retreat to recover from a nervous breakdown. Although there was little doubt Matthew loved his wife, he deliberately left out the fact that during Claudia’s prolonged absence he had been having an affair with Krystle before her engagement to Blake. The final lover’s triangle that rounded out Season One belonged to Blake’s daughter, Fallon, her new husband, the forthright Republican, Jeff (John James) and his wily uncle, Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner). After dalliances with the family’s chauffeur, Michael Duchane (Wayne Northrop), the rebellious Fallon made a failed play for Cecil, before agreeing to marry his nephew.
In all these relationships, Fallon was the malignant fraud (in retrospect, the Shapiro’s first failed attempt at the crafting of a viper – a role eventually filled to perfection by Joan Collin’s uber-bitch Alexis Morrell Carrington Colby Dexter). Despite her ‘wild child’ attitude, and failings as a human being, there was nothing to match Fallon’s genuine love for her father. Blake repeatedly placates his daughter’s interests in assuming a stake in the family business. As Season One drew to a close, Fallon made it clear to Jeff she did not love him – driving a wedge in their marriage. Matthew tried to seduce Krystle without luck and Fallon quietly – if briefly – fell in love with Matthew. Having renounced Ted, Steven had a brief flagrante delicto with the still emotionally scarred Claudia, whose mental state once more began to deteriorate. Discovering Ted in Steven’s bedroom, Blake assumed the two were on the cusp of a lover’s reconciliation. Blake flew into a rage and pushed Ted, who thereafter stumbled and fatally struck his head on the fireplace grate. At the resulting murder trial, Claudia confessed to her affair with Steven, leaving Matthew jilted at the courthouse. Meanwhile, Claudia’s failed attempt to lure Lindsay – their daughter – away from Matthew turned tragic when Matthew and Lindsay became involved in a near-fatal car wreck. Back in court, a star witness with damning testimony for the prosecution emerged – Blake’s first wife; Alexis.
By today’s megalomaniac standards, Dynasty Season One is a decidedly downplayed affair with little to suggest the heady vitriol that would prove so gosh darn entertaining from Season Two on. The Shapiro’s valiant – if inept – struggle to balance the Carrington wealth alongside the Blaisdel’s middle class propriety by including a back story involving Matthew’s wildcatter/best friend, Walter Lankershim (Dale Robertson) miserably failed to gel. Despite its clumsy start, for the next eight years, prime time Wednesdays were dominated by an infectious blend of intrigue and sinful laisse faire sexuality. Such was the implausible world of television’s night time soap operas in the 1980s; a glittery playground of tangible perversity made somewhat wholesome by the latest fashion. In Season Two, Dynasty really hit its stride to develop staying power as a pop icon. The story lines crafted by the Shapiros became tighter; character development, more linear and engaging. Just as Dallas – another ensemble melodrama – had evolved into Larry Hagman’s gig as the unscrupulous J.R. Ewing, by the end of Season Two, Dynasty had quickly morphed into the Joan Collins’ show. Fallon’s wicked, wicked ways were grafted onto Collins’ Alexis, leaving television’s original Nancy Drew, momentarily at least, without any great purpose. But it was a role Joan Collins – with all her sporting Brit-based class and seasoned training from Hollywood’s golden age – was born to play. And thus, Alexis began her tirade on the house of Carrington, first, by lying on the witness stand at Blake’s murder trial – claiming he had been an abusive spouse, quick to use physical harm if she ever came back to Denver to see her children. This slander was partly responsible for Blake’s conviction; the verdict, distilled into a suspended sentence, affording Blake the opportunity to move on with his professional business dealings.
Unfortunately, for Blake, his refusal to accept Steven’s homosexual lifestyle only served to widen the rift between father and son. Meanwhile, Fallon and Jeff’s marital relations continued to disintegrate, especially after Fallon began to flirt with the family’s personal physician – Nick Toscanni (James Farantino). Nick harbored deep, though as yet hidden resentments toward Blake after discovering that his own brother was murdered while overseeing oil fields in the Middle East for Denver-Carrington. As for Claudia, she attempted suicide before mobilizing her efforts to learn where Matthew has taken Lindsay. Blake gave Claudia a job at Denver-Carrington; a decision that rival, Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner) took advantage of by promising to unearth Matthew and Lindsay’s whereabouts, but only if Claudia spied for him on Blake’s oiling deals. Alexis moved onto the Carrington estate and into the artist’s cottage, a wedding present from her ex-husband for which she had retained the deed. From this inauspicious beginning, Alexis’ presence was to cause constant friction between Krystle and Blake. After learning of Krystle’s pregnancy, Alexis ratcheted up her desire to destroy their happiness by firing a gunshot into the air while Krystle was out riding her horse. The animal became spooked, threw its rider to the ground, and then dragged her for several miles, causing Krystle to lose the baby.
Enter Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear), Krystle ‘s scheming, poor niece who immediately set her sights on becoming a Carrington to inherit her piece of the pie. Sammy Jo seduced and then wed Steven, much to Alexis’ chagrin. However, realizing Steven had no tangible wealth other than what his father provided, the greedy Sammy Jo quickly lost interest in her new husband, running off to Hollywood to seek her own fame and fortune. Meanwhile, Blake began receiving taunting messages from an omnipotent oil tsar named Logan Rhinewood (actually Cecil Colby) who threatened to take over Denver-Carrington by buying up its stock. After a car bomb set by Rhinewood’s henchmen temporarily blinded Blake, he shunned Krystle and the rest of his family – relying almost exclusively on Joseph to guide him. Discovering she was pregnant with Jeff’s baby, Fallon gave birth to their son. After spying for Cecil and even sleeping with Jeff in order to steal his keys to Denver-Carrington’s secret files, Claudia learned Cecil had been lying to her about Matthew and Lindsay all along. Already mentally unhinged, Claudia plotted to kill Cecil. Only Krystle discovered the gun first. The two women struggled and Claudia was accidentally wounded in the head. On the eve Alexis was set to marry Cecil on the Carrington estate, he suffered a massive heart attack and had to be hospitalized. Blake Jr. was kidnapped and Claudia, having once more lost her grip on reality, disappeared into the night without a trace, thus becoming the prime suspect.
Unfortunately, Blake’s time with Nick Toscanni had also run out. In the first of Dynasty’s many memorable season cliff hangers, Nick unsuccessfully tried to seduce Krystle – then, decided to go after Blake on the mountaintop retreat where he and Krystle were vacationing. Nick confronted Blake on horseback; Blake, thrown down a steep ravine and left for dead just as a violent storm approached. In hindsight, it is a genuine pity the character of Nick Toscanni was written out of the series thereafter, because James Farantino managed to convey great menace throughout Season Two. Coming off such a ‘high water’ mark, Dynasty Season Three represented something of a minor step backwards with the complete obliteration of Nick Toscanni, who vanished all too conveniently without a trace and to parts unknown – never to be heard or seen again. Instead, realizing something was desperately wrong, Krystle galloped on horseback through the perilous torrential rains to rescue her husband. Meanwhile, Claudia, suspected of kidnapping Blake Jr., was tracked down by the police, Jeff, Krystle and Fallon to a high-rise roof top, clutching what appeared to be a baby. Tossing the bundle over the side of the skyscraper, it was revealed Claudia actually had a doll in her arms – not Jeff and Fallon’s baby. Suddenly, and far too conveniently, Jeff suddenly recalled that a groundskeeper he casually met while visiting his father’s grave, exhibited a curious fascination toward his son. Together with Blake, they hunted down this man and saved the day.
From here, the plot shifted to Billings, Montana and an old woman dying from heart failure, though not before revealing to her adult son, Michael (Gordon Thomson) she had stolen a baby from its pram in a park in Denver, claiming the boy as her own. That child was Adam Carrington – the youngest heir of Blake and Alexis. The dying woman now confessed to Michael that he was, in fact, Adam Carrington. After the funeral, Adam became insatiably determined to reclaim his birthright. Family friend, Dr. Jonas Edwards (Robert Symonds) made several veiled and feeble attempts to discourage Adam from pursuing his destiny, revealing for the audience how Adam’s recreational use of psychedelic drugs had irrevocably tainted his better judgment. Nevertheless, Adam returned in Denver and after some initial apprehensions from the family, was accepted back into the Carrington/Colby fold by Alexis. After marrying Alexis, Cecil Colby died, leaving her a very rich widow, whose controlling interest in Colby Co. Oil placed Alexis in direct opposition to Blake’s Denver-Carrington empire. At the reading of the will, Jeff also inherited half of his late uncle’s company, forcing him to quit Denver-Carrington and go to work for Alexis. But Adam – also employed by Alexis – had other sinister plans, redecorating Jeff’s office – presumably as a gesture of goodwill – but with paint tainted in mercurochrome oxide. The hallucinogenic properties of this compound eventually weighed heavily on Jeff’s ability to reason or even function properly.
Meanwhile, Joseph’s daughter, Kirby (Kathleen Beller) returned from her schooling in France to renew a childhood infatuation with Jeff. Regrettably, Adam also took an unrequited interest in Kirby, one that would eventually lead to her rape and pregnancy. The ever-scheming Alexis, having learned Krystle ‘s divorce from first husband, tennis pro – Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott) had never been finalized in Mexico (thus rendering her present marriage to Blake null and void) eagerly pursued this latest policy of destruction while Fallon encouraged her father to allow her to become the owner of one of his failing hotels, La Mirage. Inadvertently, Fallon became Alexis’ unwitting accomplice after she hired Mark to be the new tennis pro at La Mirage. Shortly thereafter, Fallon fell in love with her stepmother’s ex-boyfriend, though not before Alexis also seduced Mark with plans to use him to destroy Krystle ‘s love for Blake once and for all. Having departed Denver to work on an off shore oil rig, Steven was later presumed dead after a deadly explosion. Although Krystle and Blake pursue leads in Indonesia, they were quite unable to locate Steven – forcing an extremely reluctant Blake to accept that his son was dead. After an absence of some length, Sammy Jo surfaced at Steven’s memorial service, carrying Danny – Steven’s son; a reunion, met with mixed emotions and more than a modicum of skepticism.
Having become sufficiently disorientated with mercurochrome oxide poisoning, Jeff signed over all of his Colby company shares to Alexis while Adam now redoubled his efforts to implicate Jeff in the Logan Rhinewood scandal. Meanwhile, Alexis learned a scandalous truth about Kirby’s late mother – that she had been a prostitute – and threatened Joseph to expose the details should Kirby’s blossoming romance with Jeff continue. Desperate for some quick cash, Sammy Jo tried to sell Danny to Krystle and Blake, using the money to pursue a career as a New York fashion model. While Blake refused to buy the child, he did agree to file for a possible adoption. Rather insidiously, Alexis began to pursue a devious takeover of Denver-Carrington by forcing the banks to call in Blake’s loans prematurely. She further tried to blackmail Blake’s Washington politico, Congressman Neal McVane (Paul Burke) by threatening to reveal his extramarital affairs to his wife and the press. Next, Alexis forced Blake’s Board of Directors to side with her on a merger, lest they be destroyed by her venomous revenge. Having broken ties with Alexis earlier, Adam now turned to Blake, attempting to frame Alexis for Jeff’s mercurochrome oxide poisoning. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, an unconscious body of the sole survivor from the oil rig explosion was pulled to safety; the mysterious stranger, sent to recuperate inside a hospital in Singapore. Knowingly assuming the identity of his dead co-worker, after having had major reconstructive surgery, Steven (played for the first time by Jack Coleman) was discovered and confronted by Blake in Singapore and told Sammy Jo had given him a son.
Reluctantly, Steven returned to Denver, welcomed by the entire family who briefly rejoiced in his survival. Fallon’s romance with La Mirage’s tennis pro, Mark Jennings was thwarted by Alexis after she deliberately sneaked into Mark’s room just as he had already stepped into the shower – pretending to have slept with him by crawling into his bed moments before Fallon’s arrival. Back at the Carrington mansion, Kirby became jealous of Jeff’s friendly relations with Fallon, whom he had since divorced. In the scorched earth season finale, Alexis lured Krystle to Steven’s remote cabin to confront her with news about her marriage to Mark Jennings never having been annulled – offering Krystle a cool million if she would simply leave Blake for good. Insulted, Krystle tried to leave the cabin, only to discover someone had already locked them in. The mysterious stranger then doused the cabin in kerosene, setting it ablaze. In the ensuing firestorm, a beam dislodged from the ceiling, knocking Alexis unconscious and leaving Krystle surrounded by the inferno. Unfortunately for Richard and Esther Shapiro, Season Four of Dynasty fizzled almost from the moment Krystle and Alexis were rescued by Mark, who just happened to be nearby and able to carry them both to safety. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Joseph inexplicably lost his grip on reality – a plot entanglement even more feeble than Mark’s presence at the cabin. Presumably, because he could not bear to have Kirby learn the truth about her mother from Alexis, Joseph now confessed to having set the blaze that trapped both she and Krystle in the cabin, before taking his own life with a pistol.
Meanwhile, Blake tried to gain custody of Danny, using Steven’s homosexuality as the chief reason for his being unfit to raise the boy himself. Sammy Jo lied on the witness stand to further derail Steven’s chances. But Claudia proposed she and Steven wed in Reno – having once had a brief affair before she had entered the sanatorium. Steven agreed and the judge declares the couple as Danny’s rightful parents. Adam switched the original purchase orders for the mercurochrome oxide with copies he fooled Alexis into signing. Next, Adam confronted Blake with the forged copies and Blake, in turn, uses them to blackmail Alexis into giving Jeff back his shares of Colby Co. stock. He also foiled the merger between Colby Co. and Denver-Carrington. In an attempt to break out of the insular Carrington/Colby world, three new and devious, though largely forgettable faces joined the cast in Season Four; Deborah Adair, as scheming Denver-Carrington P.R. maven, Tracy Kendall; Helmut Berger, an unscrupulous playboy/drug smuggler, Peter De Vilbis, and, Michael Nader as wealthy rival businessman, Farnsworth ‘Dex’ Dexter. Only the latter would survive the season. After Blake appointed Krystle as the head of Denver-Carrington’s public relations, Tracy did everything to wreck Krystle ‘s chances for success while gaining access to Denver-Carrington’s’ top secret’ files. Estranged from her husband, Krystle agreed to marry Blake for the second time. At a horse race, Fallon met the arrogant Peter De Vilbis; the bad girl within, instantly smitten. Peter introduced Fallon to the drug culture and then feebly plotted to blackmail Blake by having one of his own prized race horses stolen from Blake’s stables.
Meanwhile, a mysterious stranger began to taunt Claudia by telephone with recordings of her late husband Matthew – nearly pushing her over the edge. Blake learned Adam had raped Kirby and that the child she was now carrying was his – not Jeff’s. Estranged from Jeff, Kirby compounded the errors of her life by agreeing to wed Adam; shortly thereafter her health taking a turn for the worst. Peter was finally exposed as a fraud after Claudia confided in Fallon, he had been making sexual advances toward her for some time. Blake unearthed it was Peter behind the kidnapping of his horse. Alas, by then Peter had dug his own grave, apprehended at the airport for possession of drugs. Thus, concluded Fallon’s brief infatuation, inconsolably throwing herself in front of a moving truck in a suicide attempt that instead left her briefly paralyzed. Krystle discovered she was pregnant, precluding her from attending a Hong Kong summit as Blake’s PR representative. Instead, Tracy went along and, on their first night, tried to seduce Blake in his hotel room. Tactfully thwarting her advances, Blake had Tracy investigated, only to unearth she was working for the competition. Promptly fired from Denver-Carrington, Tracy went to work at Colby Co. digging up dirt for Alexis. Pushed to the brink of sanity by all those mysterious phone calls, Claudia flew to Peru in search of Matthew and Lindsay with Steven tailing his wife. Together, they discovered what appeared to be the truth – both Matthew and Lindsay had been killed in a horrific wreck in the jungle; their bodies, presumably, carted off and eaten by hungry wild animals.
Back in Denver, Blake brokered a deal with wily Arab millionaire, Rashid Amed (John Saxon) to drill for oil in the South China Seas. Instead, at Alexis’ behest, Amed leaked news to the press that the one hundred-million-dollar payoff from Denver-Carrington was to launch a private war in the Middle East. The revelation rocked Denver-Carrington to its core. Banks responsible for the loan suddenly forced Blake into receivership just as Jeff and Fallon announced their plans to remarry. Discovering it was Alexis who drove her father to suicide, Kirby twice attempted – unsuccessfully – to murder her. Meanwhile, Dex infuriated Blake with threats of his own corporate takeover of Denver-Carrington, before embarking upon a torrid liaison with Alexis. Meanwhile, the uber-elegant Dominique Devereux (Diahann Caroll) arrived in town, flaunting her extreme wealth and tempting Alexis’ vitriol with hints that their paths had crossed long ago in Europe. Despite the very real threat of losing his empire, Blake vowed to give Fallon and Jeff a lavish Carrington wedding. Unfortunately, the headaches Fallon was suffering from ever since her foiled suicide, had, by now, driven her mad. On the eve of her wedding, Fallon suffered a breakdown. While guests gathered in the main foyer for the wedding, police arrived to confront Alexis with the news Mark Jennings had fallen to his death from her penthouse balcony. Arrested and taken to prison under suspicion of murder, Alexis became determined to clear her name. Ditching her wedding dress moments before the ceremony, Fallon slipped out the back and jumped into her car. Derailed in his pursuit of Fallon by road construction and a cement truck, Jeff looked on as a little further up the road, Fallon lost control of her getaway car, driving over a steep precipice, presumably to her death.
In hindsight, Fallon’s wreck is an obvious way to rewrite the character – either off the show or as an entirely different actress (the latter occurring when Emma Samms took over the role late in Season Five). Yet, in general, the fourth season of Dynasty already appeared as a show on the verge of cancellation. A new writer, Camille Marchetta, was brought in to spruce up the contemptible alliances, devious mistresses, borderline psychotic villains and even a palace coup that would re-envision the show’s next season as a global phenomenon. Indeed, Season 5 was the most watched of any prime time soap in 1985; Dynasty overtaking Dallas in the Nielsen ratings. By Season 5 the whole of Dynasty had been swamped by Joan Collins’ Alexis; virtually all of its plots and subplots revolving around this uber-bitch/queen bee. Top marks must be given to Collins – for creating this towering figure. The show did try to create fascinating story lines for its remaining characters. But inevitably, when all else failed, the writers fell back on Collins’ ability to continue being the gal we all absolutely loved to hate. As Collins’ manipulative vixen was incarcerated at the start of Season 5, Jeff Colby began to conduct his own valiant search for Fallon. This led, first, to a youth hostel, then a college campus, and finally, a monastery where Jeff was informed by a monk that the woman he knew as Fallon Carrington was dead. Enter Nicole Simpson (Susan Scannell) the ex-wife of Peter DeVilbis. Nicole seduced Jeff, wed him, then realized he would always love Fallon – even if only her ghost. Next, Nicole attempted to lure Jeff on an expedition in pursuit of a priceless gold artifact in Guatemala. The went, never found the statue or Fallon and returned home as bitter enemies.
Unable to paint themselves out of this narrative corner, the producers next shifted their focus back to Alexis, since charged with the murder of her former bodyguard, Mark Jennings. Steven alleged in court he saw a shadowy figure push Mark from Alexis’ balcony wearing the same dark cape Alexis had donned for Fallon’s wedding. One problem; Alexis arrived at Fallon’s wedding wearing a stunning red dress! Meanwhile, Alexis’ husband Dex began an affair with her daughter, Amanda Bedford (Catherine Oxenberg) whom Alexis had given up to her sister to rear in Britain. Blake discovered Amanda was also his child and welcomed her into the family. At the same time, Steven and Claudia’s marriage began to crumble, thanks to Adam’s chronic meddling and well-timed, if innocuous outings Steven had with his male social secretary, Luke Fuller (Billy Campbell). In hindsight, the ambiguity surrounding Steven’s sexuality increasingly became one of the most regrettable misfires of the entire series. Meanwhile, Krystle began to doubt Blake’s marital fidelity after receiving mysterious photographs of him in the company of Lady Ashley Mitchell (Ali McGraw); a fashion photographer, shooting a spread on Denver’s oil baron and entertaining romantic ideas about Jeff – not Blake.
At this same juncture, Krystle ‘s heart was stirred by old flame, Daniel Reese (Rock Hudson); a horse breeder and sometime mercenary, who indulged his spare time in rescuing political dissidents from obscure prisons in third world countries. Daniel and Krystle ‘s innocent rendezvous was also photographed and sent to Blake to further stir their pot of marital discourse. In another part of Denver, Dominique Devereaux revealed herself to be Blake’s half-sister. She lost her husband, Brady Lloyd (Billy Dee Williams) in the process but gained a powerful ally in Blake. Stricken with a heart ailment that nearly costs her life, Dominique was then rushed to the hospital and gradually restored to health. While on a conference with Alexis and Dex in South America, Amanda was introduced to Prince Michael of Moldavia (Michael Praed) with whom she began a tempestuous affair. Her heart still tethered to Dex, Amanda bitterly agreed to marry the prince, a vow made even more complicated when it was revealed Alexis had once had a passionate affair with Michael’s father, King Galen (Joel Fabiani). Alexis convinced Galen that Michael should break his betrothed engagement to Elena, the Duchess of Branagh (Kerry Armstrong) and marry Amanda with all speed. Alexis sweetened this deal by suggesting to Galen that Colby Co. might invest heavily in his country’s ailing economy after the marriage took place. But the Captain of the Guard (Michael Gregory) had other plans for a bloody palace coup.
With so much going on in Season Five, inevitably, these narrative threads became sloppy, as in suggesting on the fly, Congressman Neil McVane was somehow Mark’s killer, wearing a wig and clothes to look like Alexis (utterly laughable and entirely implausible), or, when inferring Sammy-Jo was responsible for sending Blake and Krystle the fake photographs of each other’s presumed affair, merely to screw with their marriage, or, in recasting Fallon as Emma Samms (who does not even remotely resemble Pamela Sue Martin) and then changing every family portrait of Fallon to look like Samms, Season Five was awash in misfires and missteps. Curiously, none of these was enough to sink Dynasty in the Nielsen ratings. In fact, the show soared to #1. By the end of the next season, it had slipped to #7, clearly indicating the end had begun. The Shapiro’s debut of Dynasty II: The Colbys splintered the cast with cross-over episodes making it exceedingly difficult to follow various plot lines as even more new characters were introduced. While Season One’s rocky start without Joan Collins had left Dynasty foundering at #28 in the Nielsen’s, during the latter half of its prime time run, Dynasty became utterly notorious for introducing, building up and then dropping characters without any sufficient resolution to their story lines. Some, like Deborah Adair’s venomous social climber, Tracy Kendall were, arguably, disposable from the outset. But others like Kate O’Mara’s as yet to be introduced slinky sex kitten, Caress Morrell and James Farentino’s already ditched, Nick Toscanni remain unforgivable.
Barreling into its sixth season on the ether of a dramatic palace coup that had left everyone for dead, Dynasty has a mountain of hurdles to overcome – some visible, others rocking the series from behind the camera. After topping out as the #1 show in America, Season Six had nowhere to go but down…and did! The laughable aftermath of the ‘Moldavian massacre’ illustrated only two minor characters, Lady Ashley and Luke had perished in the violent coup. King Galen (Joel Fabiani) was taken prisoner by Minister Warnick (Theodore Bikel) while Prince Michael was informed his father was dead. After some very minor legal haranguing, Michael, his bride and the rest of the Carringtons and Colbys were put on a plane to America. From Denver, Alexis next plotted to restore the Moldavian monarchy – partly for Amanda’s happiness, but moreover because Galen has promised her absolute control over Moldavia’s leading financial institutions. Alexis encouraged Dex to risk his life and hers in a return to Moldavia. Posing as a nun and her peasant driver, Dex was taken captive and tortured by Warnick’s men while Alexis hid in a nearby convent. Eventually, Dex tricked one of his guards and escaped, slinging Galen over his shoulder and storming out of Moldavia with both the King and Alexis in tow.
Meanwhile, back at the Carrington homestead, Krystle began to suspect she was being stalked by ‘has been’ movie director, Joel Abrigore (George Hamilton). Her suspicions confirmed too late when, upon arriving at the Delta Rho Stables to confront Sammy Jo, Krystle was instead knocked unconscious by Abrigore and locked away inside the stable attic. It seemed Sammy Jo had concocted everything to gain access to her late father’s estate. To further this deception, she and Abrigore taught a dead ringer look-alike, Rita Miller (also played by Linda Evans) to impersonate Krystle until they could convince the real Krystle to hand over her power of attorney. The first half of the entire season exclusively focused on Krystal’s kidnapping, reducing the real (and usually feisty) Krystle to a puddle of tears inside the attic while Rita slowly began to poison Blake so she and Abrigore could inherit the Carrington estate. Apparently, this convoluted and depressing storyline was predicated on the fact that behind the scenes Joan Collins had been bartering with producers for a bigger salary and refused to come to work. The series shot around her absence. Alas, what they shot was pure pulp with more than a tinge of ennui.
Worse, Dynasty had retired two of its most popular ongoing characters, Jeff Colby and Fallon Carrington-Colby to The Colbys, leaving a void that proved impossible to fill. Fallon (now played by Emma Samms) inexplicably re-emerged in California, suffering from amnesia and having rechristened herself, Randall Adams, had promptly fallen in love with wealthy playboy, Miles Colby (Maxwell Caufield) – Jeff’s cousin. As this love was barely glimpsed on Dynasty proper, Jeff’s impromptu decision to quit Denver-Carrington after being offered stock options in Colby Enterprises by his estranged aunt, Constance (Barbara Stanwyck) really did not make a lot of sense, and neither did the brief mid-season re-emergence of Fallon alone (with her memory suddenly restored) to comfort Blake as Alexis plotted to take over his empire. These off-screen machinations aside, Dynasty suffered from a dearth of viable plot lines to sustain the audience’s on-going interests. One of the better story lines involved Fallon’s beloved La Mirage – the ultra-fashionable watering hole of the elite. Previously managed by the indescribably fragile Claudia Blaisdel, its hotel and country club were inexplicably taken away from her by Blake and given to Michael. Adam pursued Claudia – whom he began dating and eventually wed to spite Steven. In one of the hotel’s suites, Blake’s half-sister Dominique Devereaux struggled with a deep secret; her daughter, Jackie (Troy Byer Bailey) was actually the love child of Garrett Boydston (Ken Howard) – an attorney for Jason Colby (Charlton Heston).
A deal between Jason, Blake and the LexDex Corporation had just been signed to build a pipeline to the coast under the strenuous objections of Senator Fallmont’s enterprising son, Bart (Kevin Conroy). Adam learned Bart was gay and ruined his chances for a run at the senate by planting the story in the tabloids. Meanwhile, Galen became ensconced in Alexis’ apartment until the coup to regain his throne could proceed, gradually driving a wedge between her and Dex. Michael was sworn to secrecy by his father and worked in the underground with former lover Elena, the Duchess of Branagh to regain his throne. This put a strain on Michael’s marriage to Amanda. The two became estranged and, in the heat of the moment, Amanda and Dex wound up in bed together. Alexis walked in and vowed to destroy Dex. She also disowned Amanda. Alexis then learned Galen had been siphoning money from her accounts and promptly kicked him out of her apartment. She next made an impassioned move to seduce Blake. Again, this went nowhere fast. Finally, Alexis made the impromptu decision to ruin Blake once and for all by using his estranged brother, Ben (Christopher Cazenove) against him.
All of this would have seemed utterly plausible, except Alexis’ sister, Cassandra ‘Caress’ Morrell (Kate O’Mara) has recently arrived in town after spending five years in a Venezuelan prison – presumably at Alexis’ hand, and was now more determined than ever to expose Alexis’ foibles in a ‘tell all’ biography. Even though the two despised one another, Alexis permitted Caress to live in her penthouse, sip her champagne and indulge in wearing her clothes. However, when Ben learned Caress had the power and the proof to expose them both in their scheming against Blake, he kidnapped and chloroformed Caress in a back alley, promptly shipping her back to prison after paying the Venezuelan authorities to keep her there indefinitely. At a trial to gain control over one quarter of Denver-Carrington’s vast empire, Ben lied on the stand; accusing Blake of having murdered their invalid mother many years ago. Already convicted of the murder of Steven’s gay lover, Ted Dinard, the judge now reasoned there was ample evidence to support this erroneous charge and forced Blake to pay Ben $125 million in damages. Ben was elated. But Alexis remained dissatisfied. She plotted to buy up Denver-Carrington stock and gain a controlling interest in the company. Blake counteracted by launching a takeover bid for Colby Co. Unfortunately, to seal the deal he has to borrow a billion dollars from the banks. After virtually all of his time-honored business associates refused to loan him the money, Blake agrees to an unholy alliance with Arab financier, Faruk Amed (Kabir Bedi) whose brother, Rashid (John Saxon) he had earlier double-crossed.
Unbeknownst to Blake, Faruk was now working for Alexis. After Blake signed away his company for the loan, Faruk called in his markers, forcing Denver-Carrington into receivership. Following a bit of pointless teen angst regarding Jackie’s father, Dominique and her daughter reconciled and Dominique and Garrett decided to marry. Dominique threw a lavish engagement party at La Mirage where Alexis informs her that Garrett had never been married before. This was crucial, since Garrett had always insisted to Dominique, the only reason he had never proposed to her so many years ago was because he had a fictional wife, he called Jessica. Presumably, Dominique was about to call off the wedding. Alas, having retreated to her suite at La Mirage after moving out of Adam’s bedroom, the emotionally unstable Claudia held a silent candlelit vigil for the death of her dreams. Unfortunately for everyone, one of the candles fell from its silver stick, igniting the curtains and everything else. As guests at Dominique’s wedding continued to dance in the grand ballroom a whiff of smoke began to seep from the air ducts above them, foreshadowing catastrophe. Meanwhile, Blake and Krystle, having exited this deluge prematurely, were in for an even ruder awakening back home as Alexis was waiting to confront them with the news: not only had she taken over Denver-Carrington in a shrewd proxy, but she was now in possession of the deed to the Carrington mansion – ordering Blake and Krystle to decamp the premises immediately. Incensed and driven into an uncontrollable rage, Blake charged his ex on the staircase, strangling Alexis as Ben and a helpless Krystle looked on.
In retrospect, Season Six suffered partly from Joan Collins’ absence early on. Yet, the most egregious misfire was the unceremonious dispatch of Kate O’Mara’s Caress Morrell. Clearly, the actress had more to say than her character, because whenever O’Mara is on the screen it is impossible to take our eyes off her. If only the writers had been more proactive in crafting a storyline worthy of her talents, we might have had some real fireworks to appreciate. Instead, Caress entered Alexis’ life with all the promise of a thunderous catfight that never came to pass. She valiantly set up ambitious roadblocks for Alexis and Ben to overcome, but was then quietly written out of the rest of the season – never to return. Season Six also did not do right by Diahann Carroll’s Dominique Devereaux – relegating her to predictable third string hysterics after Jackie’s brief runaway attempt. By the late eighties, the life expectancy of the prime time soap was in very steep decline. Even Dallas was foundering in déjà vu and cliché. Dynasty, more so, and hardly immune to this shift in public tastes. In fact, as it entered its seventh year, the party was decidedly over for the Denver Carringtons and Colbys. While the first season of Dynasty’s spin-off series, The Colbys, had won a primetime Emmy for Best Newcomer, its second season had proven a disaster, particularly after Barbara Stanwyck’s defiant exit and show’s writers could think of no better excuse to explain Fallon’s most recent flight from her husband than to infer she had been kidnapped into outer space by aliens. In retrospect, the exodus of longtime stalwarts, Jeff Colby and Fallon Carrington-Colby had left Dynasty with a narrative void producers struggled to fill for nearly two years, and with an increasing lack of success; the overlapping story lines, forcing viewers to simultaneously invest themselves in both Dynasty and The Colbys to follow the increasingly convoluted narrative. In Season Seven the sacrificial lambs in this awkward trade-off became plentiful. Amanda Bedford Carrington (played by Catherine Oxenberg in Seasons 4 and 5, was recast with the rather tepid and simpering Karen Cellini). Having bedded her mother’s lover, Dex Dexter in Season Three, and divorced her own one-time Prince of a husband, Amanda now moved on to a new love – Blake’s ex-chauffeur; the lazy-eyed bo-hunk and Fallon’s castoff, Michael Culhane.
In escaping the blaze at La Mirage, Michael rescued an unconscious Amanda and soon afterward an affair commenced, vehemently – if rather predictably – opposed by Blake. Meanwhile, Dex was back to his renegade ways, choosing to divide his time between running the multi-million dollar Lex-Dex Corporation, presently involved in a natural gas deal with Blake, and, indulging his private time bedding Alexis in seedy out-of-the-way places; also, a hobby – his own particular brand of third world freedom-fighting, this time with the assistance of Clay Fallmont (Ted McGinley), whose brother, Bart’s (Kevin Conroy) promising political career had been destroyed when Adam revealed to the media Bart was a closeted homosexual. Dex and Clay broke Caress out of her Venezuelan hole Ben had left her in, and, without much of a tussle; the trio returning to Denver, where it seems Caress later decided to forgo her sisterly acrimony toward Alexis – after the latter refused to pay out with some hush/blood money. Instead, Alexis offered Caress a job at her newly acquired newspaper, presently embroiled in a smear campaign to ruin Blake’s reputation. Ousted from their estate, Blake and Krystle and their few pre-packed belongings found their way to the Carlton Hotel where Blake plotted his own sweet revenge. In the meantime, Clay – a randy playboy suddenly decided that Krystle’s niece, Sammy Jo was for him; at least, temporarily. Interestingly, the morally bankrupt Sammy Jo of seasons yore was replaced herein by one who was just too good to be true. This nobler reincarnation of the saucy diva we had all come to know and hate, now reconciled with Steven, had a meaningful relationship with their son, and, was making inroads into a loving relationship with Clay, after a false positive test revealed she was pregnant with his child. Only she wasn’t, leading to all sorts of tension compounded by the fact Clay’s father, Buck (Richard Anderson) was a fall-down drunk whose own wife, Emily (Pat Crowley) had had an affair with Ben Carrington on the eve their mother – an invalid he was supposed to be looking after – burned to death in a house fire later blamed on Blake.
Emily’s indiscretion had been kept from Buck throughout their marriage, but was destined to resurface after Caress – desperate for money – decided to blackmail Emily for some quick cash. Instead, Blake caught wind of Caress’ dire plot. Despite Buck’s hatred for the Carringtons – including Sammy Jo – Blake harbored a soft spot for Emily – the arbitrator of common sense, who also had a good heart. Regrettably, Emily became increasingly unhinged by Caress’ threats. Blake’s assurances aside, Emily’s fear could not be assuaged. So, she confessed her affair to Buck who flew into a drunken rage at the Carlton Hotel. Fleeing, Emily ran into traffic and was subsequently rundown by a taxi. She died, but not before giving Blake a hand-written confession she urged him to use in his defense against Alexis and Ben to regain control of his South China Seas oil leases, wrongfully stolen from him. Not wanting to make the letter public, Blake instead used it to blackmail Alexis into giving him back the mansion and his company, much to Ben’s chagrin. Alexis, however, had already begun anew with Dex, leaving Ben to stew in his own juices and discover he had an estranged daughter, Leslie (Terri Garber) living in Australia. Leslie eventually moved to Denver with the express purpose of wrecking her father’s new life.
In the meantime, Clay – newly estranged from Sammy Jo after having discovered she was not going to have their child – decided to pursue Leslie. But the affair that ought to have become hot and heavy was doused to embers after Buck revealed to Clay he may be Ben’s son – not his – and therefore Leslie’s brother. Ben and Buck both took paternity tests. But Clay then buggered off to parts unknown in the wilds of Canada, leaving Leslie – who had segued from bitter to broken-hearted – merely to pout. Self-serving Adam shifted his alliances back over to Alexis, disillusioning Blake yet again, as well as Blake’s ever-devoted secretary, Dana Warring (Leann Hunley) who had recently become Adam’s lover. Adam could not abide Ben. Rather pointlessly, Ben’s vitriol towards Blake evaporated in Season 7; his psychotic hatred inexplicably turned to gumbo when, during an oil rig explosion in the South China Seas he saved Blake’s life. After being told by a school therapist that their son was drawing ‘unhappy’ pictures, Sammy Jo and Steven came to an understanding about rearing the boy on a united front. Dominique, having sent Jackie away for burn therapy following the blaze at La Mirage, was the latest to depart from Dynasty’s dwindling roster of regulars; briefly, returning to pursue an aimless passion with thorny rigger, Nick Kimball (Richard Lawson), who eventually proposed marriage. Having run out of reasons to destroy Blake, Alexis retreated – almost willingly – into a gushing mid-season pixie. By the end of the season, the viper that was Alexis Dexter became unfathomably reduced to a wailing self-destructive cry baby after being admonished by Dex for being a heartless fool. She inadvertently drove her car off a bridge, her vision impugned by some streaking mascara.
Somewhere in the middle of all this mess, there evolved a subplot involving Krystle and Blake’s pluperfect moppet, Krystina (Jessica Player) who suddenly developed congestive heart failure, necessitating a transplant. The girl from whom a heart was harvested was related to Dex; her mother – Sarah Curtis (Cassie Yates) – later invited by Blake and Krystle to partake in Krystina’s healing process. Regrettably, this act of kindness caused Sarah to suffer a mental breakdown and kidnap Krystina, whom she became unable to distinguish from her own dead child. Introduced too late in the season to acquire its necessary legs before being quickly dispatched, Krystina was eventually rescued by Blake and Krystle from a nearly incoherent Sarah, still cringing inside her squalid little apartment. Conflicted over his own birthright, Adam proposed to Dana. Nick also proposed to Dominque. Ben revealed to Leslie that he could no longer remain in Denver, having suffered an attack of conscience. Inexplicably, the season 7 finale resurrected Matthew Blaisdel from the ashes, now mentally disturbed and out for revenge. While The Colbys crossover died after Fallon was absorbed into the stratosphere by aliens, Dynasty proper endured the indignation of being in business for another two seasons. As a cost-cutting measure, producers hired high-priced alumni, Linda Evans and Joan Collins for only a few episodes, sporadically spreading their talents throughout the rest of the series, merely to suggest, though never entirely regain, the show’s continuity. Secondary characters continued to come and go while stories lines emerged, only to be prematurely discarded.
With The Colbys cancellation, Jeff and Fallon returned to their old stomping grounds for Dynasty’s eighth season, their marriage – again – falling apart. Matthew took the Carringtons hostage, hoping against hope he had convinced Krystle to leave Blake for him. Instead, Steven ended this siege by stabbing his old friend to death. Alexis was dredged from her watery grave by a new stud, Sean Rowan (James Healey) who, predictably, she later married without first realizing he was Joseph’s son and Kirby’s brother, thereupon hellbent on avenging the death of his father and sister. Even more predictably, Steven and Sammy Jo’s reconciliation was short-lived. Ditto for Adam and Dana’s marriage. Embarked on his campaign to wreck the Carringtons from the inside out, Sean and Dex would later do battle while Blake returned from his failed run for the governor’s race, only to find Krystle vanished and their bedroom in tatters. For the ninth and final season, ABC moved Dynasty from Wednesday to Thursday nights and brought in David Paulsen as executive producer. Further trims in budget resulted in Linda Evans leaving the show – her character appearing in only a handful of episodes; her absence, explained away on emergency brain surgery to save her life, performed in Switzerland, but leaving her in a persistent vegetative state thereafter. Similarly, Joan Collins would only appear in 13 of Season 9’s 22 episodes; the dearth created by her absence, filled by bringing in Stephanie Beacham – who had made a success of her own back-stabbing bitch, Sable on The Colbys; also, Tracy Scoggins, as her more loyal and devoted daughter, Monica.
Season 9 is a curiosity indeed, as Dynasty tried in vain to keep up with the changing times. Almost all of the story lines scraped together involved an ‘old family secret’ between the Carrington/Colby and Dexter clans, destined to threaten their legacies. In the background, Alexis and Sable sparred over matters of business, with Sable making a play for Dex, much to Alexis’ chagrin. Endeavoring to streamline the storytelling, Dynasty’s final year put a period to many of its previously developed characters. Sean died in a hailstorm of bullets, leaving Alexis and Dex shell-shocked. Dana left Adam, but Sammy Jo agreed to marry Jeff. Discovering a dead body in his bedroom, Blake telephoned the police, who put an APB out on Krystle, whose car was later found abandoned. Krystle resurfaced in Dayton, Ohio at her cousin, Virginia Metheny (Liza Morrow). Meanwhile, Adam made a valiant stab to regain access to his son after Dana’s departure, but to no avail, and Dex – left to clean up Sean’s mess – was taken out of the running with business matters. Adam used Steven’s old secretary to gain intel. At the morgue, Blake faked not recognizing the body on the slab while the plot continued to curdle as Jeff rejoined Fallon and Adam at Denver-Carrington. A very nosy Sable learned of Krystle’s deteriorating mental condition, and Sammy Jo unearthed that Jeff had since slept with Fallon yet again. Told of her perilous condition, Krystle and Blake flew to Switzerland for her emergency surgery that ended with Krystle in a coma from which she was to never awaken…at least, not within the confines of the show. In her absence, Sable made a play for Blake while Virginia forced Dex to recognize her as his old flame. Meanwhile, Sgt. John Zorelli (Ray Abruzzo) assigned to investigate the case, began to get a little too close to Fallon for Blake’s liking. Meanwhile, Sammy Jo spied a shadowy figure at her stables, engaging the mystery figure in a gun battle that ended with both of them left unconscious on the floor as a fire breaks out all around them.
Up to her old tricks, Alexis hired a terrorist, Creighton Boyd (Ed Marinaro) to get back at Sable whom she suspected is having an affair with Dex. Meanwhile, Adam tried to frame Virginia as a prostitute, a ruse that ended badly for Adam when Dex pummeled him senseless. Fallon fell out of love with Zorelli and Virginia left Denver. In the eleventh hour of Dynasty’s swan song, the backstabbing culminated in a terrible revenge scenario gone hopelessly awry as Sable unearthed enough intel to destroy Colby Co., Alexis and Boyd, and Dex and Sable all became very strange bedfellows. Blake, having learned of Adam’s behavior toward Virginia, threw him out of the mansion once and for all. Fallon eventually unearthed the terrible family secret; that her grandfather had been involved with smuggling Nazi treasures out of Europe to line his own pockets. Believing she had been used by Zorelli, merely to solve his case, Fallon dumped him before he quit the force to prove his loyalties to her instead. Having unearthed several skeletons from the basement of the mansion, Blake astutely reasoned that Zorelli’s superior, Capt. Handler, had been using them both to spy on him. Meanwhile, Alexis publicly revealed Tracy was not Jason Colby’s daughter, but the bastard child from an unwanted pregnancy brought on by a rape. In the convolution of mounting sins, Blake and Alexis, mortal enemies from the outset of the series, inexplicably agreed to settle their differences and form a united front. Even as they reconciled, Krystina and Fallon were placed in peril, having unearthed a tunnel within some abandoned mine shafts near the mansion. A cave-in prevented their further discovery as well as their escape to safety. Meanwhile, at the Carlton, as all the interested parties gathered for a truce, old wounds were reopened, causing a terrible fight and resulting in Dex and Alexis being pushed over the balcony, presumably to their deaths. Back at the mansion, Blake was confronted by the police, resulting in a gun battle that left him and Zorelli’s superior, Capt. William Handler (John Bradon) for dead.
Presumably, assured of yet another season to follow it, the producers of Dynasty chose to place virtually all of its central players in mortal peril at the end of Season 9; the show’s cancellation, leaving a giant question mark, in no way resolved in 1991 with the failed mini-series. Dynasty: The Reunion. This neither reunited all of the principle cast for one last hurrah, nor did it make even the slightest effort to address – much less resolve – most of the story lines left in limbo by Season 9’s cliffhanger. And thus, we come to CBS/Paramount’s incomplete box set of Dynasty – erroneously advertised as ‘the complete series.’ Setting aside the obvious – the omission of ‘The Reunion’; also, The Colbys (without whose episodes, virtually none of Dynasty proper’s Season 5 or 6 makes any sense at all) the studio’s overall neglect of including any of the various ‘made for TV’ documentaries that have covered the Dynasty phenomenon from every conceivable angle, just seems like shoddy oversight at best. In its prime, Dynasty was a major force to be reckoned with in the Nielsen’s and a crowd-pleasing bit of super kitsch besides. While one can definitely argue its timely narrative, ensconced in the whack-tac-u-lar/uber glam-bam of the eighties, has not aged particularly well since, there is little to deny how successful the franchise was in its prime, nor how beloved it remains among its legion of fans even today – and even more iconic – acquiring new devotees who, never having experienced the eighties first-hand, nevertheless continue to find something quite magical – even via its camp – in revisiting this grand ole relic from that bygone era of sex and glamour.
CBS Paramount has released all 9 seasons of Dynasty in one weighty box set. Interestingly, the studio farmed out its sister series, The Colbys to Shout! Factory. Earlier, seasons of Dynasty proper were parceled off via CBS/Paramount in half-season reissues that sold for a premium and for which the studio made fans of the show wait – in some cases, almost an entire year between releases to capitalize on their profit margin. Disgusting marketing ploy! As now, one can own the ‘almost’ complete franchise for a fraction of what it originally cost collectors to buy these half-seasons. Another footnote worth mentioning: the original first season of Dynasty was released on home video via 2oth Century-Fox Home Entertainment in less than admirable quality before Paramount assumed the rights to distribute the remainder of the show. The Fox release was initially on flipper discs. But the discs housed in this box set are all single-sided, although they continue to sport the same flawed masters as before, with grainier than anticipated image quality, wan colors, and artificial sharpening, resulting in a lot of edge effects and halos. The remaining seasons were all mastered by CBS/Paramount and vary in video quality. It’s odd, because while some of the original half seasons were impeccably mastered, others were riddled in edge enhancement. Overall, the quality here is inconsistent. Colors toggle between vibrant and dull. Contrast can lean towards solid to weaker than anticipated. As the entire series was shot on film, age-related artifacts are everywhere and, at times, extremely distracting. The main titles for all 9 seasons, sporting dissolves and opticals, look absolutely awful and far worse than they ever did during analog television broadcasts.
The audio throughout is 1.0 mono and adequate. Extras are limited to two brief interviews on Season One with Pamela Sue martin and Al Corley, plus a vintage ‘Entertainment Tonight’ sound bite, covering the death of Rock Hudson from AIDS. Many will recall that when Hudson died from this fateful disease, he had just finished shooting scenes in which he passionately kissed Linda Evans. In the days before much was known about AIDS, this revelation sent shock waves throughout the set of Dynasty, with some fearing for Evans’ own life. Parting thoughts: given the lavishness afforded its production back in the day, Dynasty is a series that positively screams to be remastered and upgraded to 1080p Blu-ray. Certainly, the original film elements are there to achieve spectacular results. But much work needs to be done on this iconic bit of 80’s super kitsch if a proper Blu-ray release is ever to result. For now, CBS/Paramount’s repackaging of their separate seasons will have to suffice; a genuine shame, since Dynasty on DVD is a rather grand disappointment at best. We need a deluxe edition – one with all the archival footage, culled from Paramount’s own archives, plus the various documentaries produced for E!, the BBC and TV Guide to find their way to home video; not to mention, the inclusion of The Colbys in 1080p, plus the still MIA release of Dynasty: The Reunion. Lots to consider. I sincerely hope the folks on the mountain are giving their TV back catalog at least some consideration. Judge and buy accordingly.
Major League Baseball has banned two models from attending games indefinitely for flashing with the cameras rolling during the World Series.
Julia Rose and Lauren Summer were sitting behind home plate during Game 5 between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals on Sunday night when they lifted up their tops.
The moment was caught by Fox cameras during the seventh inning of the Astros’ win, just as Houston pitcher Gerrit Cole was set to face Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman.
It’s not clear if Cole was bothered by two models exposing themselves in his field of vision.
He did not seem to notice them in the moment, and since Zimmerman called time before he could throw the pitch, it’s impossible to say if Cole was distracted.
Zimmerman ultimately drew a walk on six pitches.
Following the game, MLB sent a letter to the brazen pair on Monday morning saying they had violated the fan code of conduct with the stunt and had been banned.
They shared the letter on Twitter from David L. Thomas, the MLB’s Vice President of Security and Ballpark Operations, which read: ‘During the game, you violated the fan code of conduct by exposing yourself during the 7th inning, in order to promote a business.
‘You are hereby banned from all Major League Baseball stadiums and facilities, indefinitely.’
Kayla Lauren, who attended the game with the models, shared on her Instagram story: ‘Just got kicked out of the World Series. In police HQ bathroom still gotta get that birthday selfie.’
Summer went on to explain on Twitter that she does not regret flashing the cameras because she was promoting Shagmag, which she says donates proceeds to breast cancer charities.
‘To clarify, yes we knew we would get banned, yes the [banishment] letters are real, and yes, I would do it again lol,’ she wrote on Twitter. ‘More importantly, subscribe to @SHAGMAG_ because the proceeds go directly to women with breast cancer to pay for their medical bills.’
In response to one skeptical Twitter follower, Summer explained: ‘Our proceeds from @SHAGMAG_ will be going to women with breast cancer and paying off their medical bills. Meeting with them in person and doing whatever we can to help with the platform we have.’
Julia Rose is the founder of online magazine Shagmag, while Summer is a brand executive.
They are known for posting a slew of topless photos to their platform.
Cole and the Astros did not seem to be distracted by the duo’s antics, as they went on to win the game 7-1.
They lead the series 3-2, and are just one game away from winning their second World Series in three years.
Shagmag is a digital magazine that primarily features pictures of Rose and her model friends.
‘What is SHAGMAG?’ reads a description of the magazine on its website. ‘SHAGMAG is an all you can eat buffet of everything you want to know smushed into a digital magazine. See exclusive and uncensored content of Julia Rose and other up and coming instagram models, find out about the birds and the bees, up and coming masterminds, latest sports stories, and what the actual f*** is going on in the world all in one place.’
The term ‘cliffhanger’ might very well have been invented for David Jacob’s Dallas (1978-1991). Overnight this prime time soap opera became a sensation, then, even more unexpectedly, an American institution. For 13 years, audiences were hooked on the salacious comings and goings of good ole Texas folk, the uber-wealthy ranch and oil barons, the Ewings and the downright dirty and devious business dealings of its unloved heir apparent, John Ross Jr., more affectionately known throughout the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area as J.R. (Larry Hagman in a career-defining role). Originally scripted with a focus on the family’s younger brother, Bobby (Patrick Duffy), and a period of adjustment within the Ewing clan after he wed Pamela (Victoria Principal), the daughter of their arch rival, Digger Barnes (intermittently portrayed by David Wayne for the 1978 mini-series, Keenan Wynn, during Dallas’ 1979–1980 run, and finally, David Marshall Grant after 1986), Dallas’ plots quickly shifted gears to J.R. after Larry Hagman elected to slightly alter the character as originally written. Instead of either entering or exiting a scene with a perpetual, beady-eyed scowl, Hagman chose to infuse the character with a deliciously sinister grin, twinkle in the eye, and, light chuckle (shades of Richard Widmark’s Tommy Udo); thus, typifying the unapologetic and unscrupulous womanizer/wheeler-dealer. J.R. was so transparently corrupt, he quickly became TV’s most fascinating villain we all loved to hate. Indeed, when at the end of Season Two the writers were suddenly perplexed how to paint themselves out of a narrative corner, creator David Jacobs casually suggested, “Why don’t we just shoot the son of a bitch?” – an inspired notion.
Season Two’s cliffhanger, ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ became a cultural phenomenon by accident (more on this later); the press, having a feeding frenzy over the possible list of suspects. Jacobs ordered absolute secrecy on the closed set, to the extent where alternate endings were created to confuse even the cast, featuring every major character presumably to have pulled the trigger. Although officially launched in the Fall of 1979, Dallas would come to typify all that was good, gaudy, and insincerely flawed about the American perspective on life, love and the rather ruthless pursuit of plasticized happiness throughout the spend/spend 1980’s. Dallas may not have invented the soap opera, but it honed and mined its time-honored precepts, centralizing fundamental human frailties to fan the ratings flames, and, with a penchant for raw human desire, lust, greed, deception, steamy sex and violent death, presented as luridly palpable fodder for the masses. From today’s even further jadedness – ultra-raunch having long ago overtaken glamorous sex appeal, Dallas seems downright bucolic to utterly quaint. The iconic world inhabited by J.R., Bobby, Pam, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) and their ilk now plays like an epilogue to another nearly forgotten time, largely removed from our own. The sexual mores, vices, and the corruption in big business in particular, hold up. Only now, they have acquired a patina of acceptability, posing the question; ‘as a society…have we evolved, or simply become far too cynical to recognize the strength of Dallas’ artistic sentiment?’
David Jacobs’ initial inspiration was a TV series based on the art films of Ingmar Bergman – particularly, ‘Scenes from a Marriage’. Pitching the idea to Lorimar executive, Mike Filerman was a no-go. But Filerman had another project for Jacobs to tackle – ‘No Down Payment’. It proved the beginning of a lucrative professional friendship, or, as Jacobs later mused, “I wanted to do art. Mike wanted to do trash, and together, we did television!” So, Filerman and Jacobs wrote a synopsis about four California families living in a cul-de-sac. CBS liked the idea, though not enough to produce it – yet. Eventually, the project would find a home as Knots Landing. But for now, CBS encouraged Filerman and Jacobs to ‘think big’ – along the lines of a made-for-TV saga to star Linda Evans, who was already under contract. The writer/producer team eventually lit on an idea to transform Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet into a modern day western set in Texas; the Capulets and Montagues transformed into mortal enemies – the Barnes and the Ewings.
Jacobs submitted his draft of the, as yet, ‘untitled’ project to Filerman. Recognizing it as more of an ensemble piece, Filerman decided it lacked the potential to interest Linda Evans. But he sent it along to CBS on spec anyway, casually re-titling it, ‘Dallas’ – a decision that initially horrified Jacobs, as he had never been to Dallas and knew nothing of its social climate. Ironically, CBS liked Dallas enough to commission a 5-episode mini-series. So, Fiberman and Jacobs set about casting their project; the entire shoot expected to get underway in just six weeks. First to be contacted was Steve Kanaly who immediately took an interest in the part of the wily ranch hand, Ray Krebbs. In the pilot, the character of Ray was a lusty reprobate, messing around with the Ewing’s underaged granddaughter, Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and scheming with J.R. to break up Bobby’s marriage to Pam as she was formerly his girlfriend. Also, up for the part was actor, Ken Kercheval. Producers would pass on Kercheval for Ray. But the actor was not entirely out of luck. In fact, he was handed yet another plum ‘part in a suit’ as Pam’s sullen brother and attorney at law, Cliff.
Producer, Leonard Katzman hired Camille Marchetta and Arthur Bernard Lewis to iron out the narrative wrinkles in Jacob’s synopsis. Ironically, all three were from Brooklyn and had never been to Texas. Nevertheless, this trio captured the essence of a city and a state as wide-open to the possibilities for a total transformation into pop icons, reinvigorating their tourist trade and putting Texas on the international list of celebrity. Interestingly, the bulk of Dallas’ cast would be culled from largely unknowns or actors whose first, second or even third stab at small screen immortality had miserably failed. Applying a bit of the time-honored Southern Gothic principles to their familial saga, Marchetta, Lewis and Jacob’s went in search of their ‘Romeo’ lead. They eventually agreed on 28-year-old beefcake, Patrick Duffy who had just completed his brief run as TV’s failed underwater superhero, The Man from Atlantis (1977-78). Cast opposite this muscular star was another 28-year-old, Victoria Principal who, like Duffy, had seen her earlier career aspirations quickly fizzle. Unlike Duffy, Principal had achieved notoriety of a different kind, appearing in a spread in Playboy Magazine.
Seventeen-year-old Charlene Tilton, whose acting resume was practically nonexistent, nevertheless landed the part of the sexually charged nymph, Lucy. To anchor the series, as Eleanor Southfork Ewing (affectionately ever-after known to all as Miss Ellie) the ever-loyal but strong-minded matriarch of this feuding clan, producers turned to 55-year-old Barbara Bel Geddes, whose career dated all the way back to the mid-1940’s, with successful runs on Broadway. Although Bel Geddes had originated the feisty role of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in the movies at least, she was oft cast as a rather placid ‘second-string’ and pure-of-heart love interest, sadly, never to get her man. Opposite Bel Geddes was another screen veteran, Jim Davis as head of the family, Jock – at age 67, decidedly, the elder statesman of the group. For the part of Sue-Ellen Shivers/Ewing, a former beauty queen brought low via her marriage to the chronically philandering J.R., Katzman hired 38-year-old Linda Gray, whose only real claim-to-fame then was as a transsexual in the short-lived sitcom, All That Glitters (1977).
Although no one could have guessed it at the time, Dallas’ meteoric success would come to rely almost exclusively on one actor’s fame. Forty-six-year old Larry Hagman’s acting career had begun in 1950: small roles – mostly in theater, and tent show musicals. After serving his country from 1952-56, Hagman redoubled his efforts to break through to popular appeal. But his determination was not immediately rewarded; his off-Broadway bit parts gradually earning him modest notoriety and the inevitable segue to slightly more substantial supporting parts on Broadway. He made his TV debut in 1957; a largely forgettable spate of live appearances that led to a few more in some high-profile movies. Then, in 1965, Hagman solidified his popularity with TV audiences in the effervescent supernatural/comedy series, I Dream of Jeannie. At the end of that series successful run in 1970, Hagman once again found himself unemployed, and seemingly unemployable – producers unable to see beyond the character of Maj. Anthony Nelson. ‘Jeannie’s’ syndication helped to keep Hagman’s name alive during this fallow period until 1978, when he was offered two series simultaneously; the lead on The Waverly Wonders, or the relatively minor part of J.R. Ewing in Dallas.
Weighing his options, Hagman wisely concurred that any show headlined by Bel Geddes and Davis could only turn out to be a winner. Despite what was then perceived to be his diminutive contributions to the series, Hagman had an ‘in’. He was the only actor to have actually hailed from Fort Worth. He was also quite certain from the outset that it was better to appear in support, as part of an ensemble in a hit, than as the headliner of a flop. Virtually all of Dallas’ ‘stars’, with the exception of Larry Hagman, were signed to 7-year contracts at a bargain basement price of $7500.00 per episode; provided Dallas was a hit. Although Hagman’s salary weighed slightly more, it was hardly a king’s ransom – even, for its time. To ingratiate himself to the cast, Hagman turned up at the first rehearsal for the pilot in full Texas regalia; ten-gallon, buckskin and cowboy boots, toting a saddle bag full of champagne to lighten the mood. While the character of J.R. (or lack thereof) would quickly develop a general contempt for his fellow man/woman, Hagman’s behind-the-scenes persona proved the antithesis of his alter ego; a joyous bon vivant, eager to buck up his co-stars and work like mad to ensure the show’s success.
Leonard Katzman assumed a very personal responsibility for overseeing Dallas. Indeed, it has been suggested virtually every character adopted some of Katzman’s own personal traits; several of the writers suggesting a lot of the show was autobiographical, Katzman weaving his life experiences into the overriding narrative arc. For the actors, Katzman was both a man of action and the real authority figure to whom everyone relied upon. He also wisely assessed early on that part of the series’ success would be predicated on its location. Hence, no back-lot facsimile would do. While, in years yet to come, Dallas would increasingly rely on a blend of footage shot in Texas, with interiors mostly lensed back in Hollywood, on soundstages at the old MGM studio facilities (now belonging to Lorimar), for its final seasons, virtually episodes were recorded on indoor recreations of Southfork – both exteriors and interiors – to keep costs down. But for now, cast and crew were shunted off to Dallas in the winter of 1977, enduring frigid temperatures and the discomfort of working in an area unaccustomed to ‘Hollywood folk’. Interestingly, the ranch house that would ultimately become as much a part of TV-land iconography and integral as any character on the show, at least in the pilot, was not the sprawling Duncan Forest Ranch near Plano, but rather, the Southern antebellum-styled Cloyce Box Ranch near Frisco, Texas. A rift with the owner during the shooting of the 5-part mini-series forced Katzman to reconsider alternative locations after production wrapped. Tragically, the ornately styled mansion, once situated on an impressive 70 acres of wide open spaces, would be decimated by fire in 1987.
Although spirits ran high, despite some hellish weather, once shooting of the pilot wrapped in March, cast and crew returned to Hollywood, disbanding to look for other work. The general consensus was that Dallas was so wildly different from the usual programming on television, it would not survive its mid-season run and was likely to quickly fade into obscurity. But nothing could have been further from the truth. Dallas’ debut in prime time was hardly met with excitement. Audiences were not watching. And worse, Texans feared those that did tune in were getting the wrong impression about their fair state; populated by a bunch of gun-toting yahoos, raking in big money and living audacious lives steeped in sin and corruption. Lest we forget, it had been only a scant 15 years since the real city of Dallas played host to one of the most shocking chapters in American political history: the bizarre assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Worse for Dallas – the show – or so it would seem, the critics were watching. Although most eviscerated the first episode in the mini-series as salacious tripe, the buzz generated by their negative publicity ironically helped to invigorate audiences’ interest. By the end of the 5th episode, CBS had committed Lorimar to 13 more episodes of Dallas. Cast and crew were quickly reassembled and sent back to Texas.
Rescheduling the show from Sunday to Saturday, then finally, Friday nights at 9pm, Dallas suddenly took off. Early on, Katzman and Jacobs made the executive decision to write ongoing story lines. Up until Dallas, prime time dramas usually featured an all-inclusive narrative – one per week that did not hinge on either the episode that preceded it or led into the one yet to follow. As eager as the show’s stars were to make Dallas click with fans, some were initially not happy with the way the franchise was shaping up. Linda Gray, in particular, felt as though the women were being under-utilized. To her delight, Katzman agreed, reshaping Sue Ellen’s marriage to J.R. into the confrontational crux of the program. Sue Ellen would strike back at her husband by having an extra-marital affair with his arch nemesis, Cliff Barnes. Season One’s cliffhanger finale proved a real barn-burner as a pregnant Sue Ellen, unsure whether the baby inside her belongs to J.R. or Cliff, is involved in a horrifying car wreck that sends mother and baby to the hospital for an emergency Caesarean; audiences left to contemplate several pivotal plot points over the show’s summer hiatus.
Learning the newly born son is, in fact, his, J.R.’s tender acceptance of the baby at the beginning of Season Two marked a turning point in audiences’ empathy for this otherwise irredeemable mischief maker. Although Leonard Katzman may have been the head honcho on the set, he answered first and exclusively for each executive decision made to advance the series, to Lorimar’s President, Philip Capice. For better or worse, Katzman and Capice rarely saw eye to eye on the daily asset management of their hit show. As Lorimar’s Chief Executive Officer, Capice understood the business solely through the advertising profits to be derived from a show’s popularity in the Nielsen’s. And in the Fall of 1979, no one could argue with Dallas’ runaway success. In hindsight, it is easy to see how and why Dallas became so wildly popular. In 1979, America was a nation on the brink of an economic crisis; the oil embargo, sky-rocketing mortgage rates and abysmal unemployment statistics contributing to an overwhelming sense of ennui and genuine concern that these hard times would never end. And into this very bleak reality came Dallas – an escapist fantasy about millionaires leading their own unhappy lives in uber-moneyed playgrounds; a daydream and honeyed elixir of entertainment for the beleaguered nation.
In an inspired executive decision, Capice urged Katzman to come up with a spinoff series; Katzman refurbishing the premise for Knots Landing, now to prominently feature the Ewing’s cast-off middle brother, Gary (David Ackroyd) and his reconciled wife, Valene (Joan Van Ark). As their love child, Lucy was left in the care of Miss Ellie and Jock on Dallas while Knots Landing continued to exploit its own drama with an entirely different roster of performers. Meanwhile, Dallas fever hit the nation. Dismayed with the lack of direction of his character, actor Steve Kanaly planned to ask for a release from his contract just as Dallas was hitting its stride. Encouraged by Larry Hagman to stick it out, Hagman and Kanaly conspired on a subplot pitched to Katzman. What if Ray Krebb’s was actually Jock’s illegitimate son? Producers loved the idea. But it did put a queer spin on the initial romance between Ray and Lucy who, now, were actually related. As the 1979-80 season neared its end, CBS made an unusual requested. Invigorated by Dallas’ #6 rating in the Nielsen’s, the network wanted to extend the season by 4 additional episodes, leaving Katzman and his writers frantic to come up with a different cliffhanger than the one as originally planned. At some point, the frustrated team conspired on what would ultimately become one of the most infamous finales in television history.
More than 50 million viewers in the U.S. (a number only topped by the audience tuning into the Super Bowl, with 250 million more around the world) watched on the edge of their seats as Larry Hagman’s dastardly alter ego took a pair of bullets to the chest at the end of Season 3. Putting the fictional event into perspective, in 1980, national headlines for the ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ episode, dwarfed reoccurring news coverage about Russians invading Afghanistan, the devastating eruption of Mt. Saint Helens and the American hostage crisis in Iran. But behind the scenes, ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ came with unanticipated consequences for Lorimar. Displeased with his inability to successfully renegotiate his contract, Larry Hagman let it be known in the press he was perfectly willing not to return to Dallas in the Fall – unless, of course, his salary expectations were met. It was blackmail – pure and simple; Hagman adopting J.R.’s penchant for playing fast and loose with the big boys in Hollywood. Hagman’s hardball tactics initially infuriated Katzman. Despite having orchestrated a series of ‘would-be’ plotters, all of whom had motive and opportunity to want J.R. Ewing on a cold slab, Katzman knew that without Larry Hagman’s venomous J.R., Dallas was just another piece of prime time real estate, teetering on the brink of cancellation. So, negotiations ensued. Hagman hit Lorimar hard and they, in turn, threatened to recast his part with another actor. To his credit, Hagman never flinched, even encouraging Lorimar to try and pull off such a stunt, knowing very well they could never succeed.
And thus, Hagman – at the last possible moment, no less – agreed to return for Season Four at a pay scale of $75,000 per episode. This not only made him the envy of the cast but also one of the highest paid actors in all of television history. He also scored a percentage on all Dallas merchandise being sold to promote the show. A Screen Actor’s Guild strike delayed Dallas’ return by several weeks, elevating the mania over ‘Who Shot J.R.?’ to new heights. During the summer hiatus, speculations ran the gamut into the absurd. Even Jarod Martin, who had briefly played Sue Ellen’s second lover, Dusty Farlow, before being unceremoniously deposed in a fiery plane crash, was recalled to the show, despite his seemingly untimely end. His character was miraculously resurrected, rewritten from hunky rodeo star to wheelchair-bound impotent – decidedly, a changed man. Truth be told, J.R. had ticked off a lot of people in Seasons Two and Three. So, there was certainly no shortage of suspects for his murder – at the top of the list; Cliff Barnes. As Katzman had ordered takes of every major co-star doing the deed, none could be assured they were not the failed assassin, and thus, total secrecy of the real would-be killer was maintained until Dallas returned in the Fall of 1980. For the record, Sue Ellen’s sister, Kristin Shepard (played by Mary Crosby), with whose affections J.R. had toyed before dropping her cold, was the guilty culprit.
Nearly 80 million viewers tuned in to Episode #3 to discover this cleverly concealed truth. For many, it was the end of a long wait; the strike, delaying the revelation until mid-November. For all intent and purposes, Dallas was unstoppable. But only mid-way though the shooting schedule, the cast was dealt a terrible blow when 70-year-old Jim Davis revealed he had inoperable brain cancer. To his credit, and despite excruciating chemotherapy sessions that left him physically depleted, Davis missed only one episode during the 1980-81 season. But on April 26, the actor succumbed to his illness. Despite the inevitable, producers had yet to figure out how they were going to write his character out. Electing not to recast the part with another actor, Katzman instead had his writers kill off Jock, while presumably on a routine helicopter flight overseeing potential oil wells in South America. In a subsequent episode, Bobby and J.R. flew to the swampy site of the wreck, diving for clues and reporting back to Miss Ellie that Jock’s locket had, in fact, been recovered. By the end of Season Four, Dallas was the #1 show in America – a top spot it would continue to hold throughout the mid-1980’s, its fan base snowballing to epic proportions. Writers wrote ever-evolving and complex narrative arcs with impressively connective tissue that kept fans coming back for more. The show was irresistible and trendsetting. And its appeal was not only felt from shore to shore but copied around the globe. To say Dallas was an international phenomenon is not an overstatement; its over-the-top story lines and larger-than-life characters seen as the cultural custodians for the Reagan-omic era.
In the city of Dallas, residents who at first had been very apprehensive about the show’s ability to play up to stereotypes, suddenly became aware how Dallas had transformed their beloved city and state into the epicenter of class and culture; Duncan Forest Ranch, a tourist destination rivaled only by the Alamo. While cast members basked in the afterglow of success, co-star, Victoria Principal took her instant fame to even greater heights, publishing several workout and self-help books that became immediate best sellers; contradicting Gore Vidal’s rather pithy claim, the actress had to read at least a thousand books to be considered ‘lowbrow’. At the apex of this worldwide mania, Barbara Bel Geddes announced the 1983-84 season would be her last as the maternal Miss Ellie. For decades, rumors have run rampant over the reasons why Bel Geddes called it quits. Certainly, the bypass operation she had undergone the previous year did much to slow down the 61-year-old actress. So too, was it speculated Bel Geddes had simply tired of being locked into a reoccurring role. Perhaps, she simply wanted more money to play the part – a request that would most certainly have been denied at the time, as Dallas producers kept extremely tight reigns on the show’s weekly budget. Whatever the reason, Bel Geddes departure left room for speculation. Would she be replaced or killed off? At one point, it appeared as though Larry Hagman’s real-life mother, Broadway legend – Mary Martin, would step into Miss Ellie’s shoes. Instead, producers hired Donna Reed.
Entering the role, Reed had distinct ideas about strengthening the character’s appeal, shaping Miss Ellie along the lines of the wives of oil barons she had known while growing up in Oklahoma. These ladies were often perceived as the real ‘power behind the throne’. Initially signed to a one-year contract, producers extended the lease by two more years as Reed came in to replace Geddes for the 1984-85 season. In the previous year, Miss Ellie had wed Clayton Farlow, Dusty’s uncle (played with aplomb by Hollywood veteran, Howard Keel). And while the Dallas cast had accepted Keel almost without question, warming up to a new ‘mama’ took some time. Arguably, they never did. This much is for certain: audiences never did. The casting of Reed proved a misfire; Bel Geddes’ matronly appeal jarringly replaced by an almost stately glamour. Quite simply, it didn’t work and audiences did not respond well to this ‘new’ matron of Southfork. Worse, as shooting progressed, Reed distinctly suspected someone was trying to force her to quit. She was deprived of her ‘key light’ and photographed in the most unflattering way for several episodes, exaggerating a more haggard appearance. Reed often left the set close to tears; a chronic upset that Katzman tried to assure the actress was not worth it.
By the end of the 1984/85 season, Dallas was about to lose yet another cast member when Charlene Tilton was informed her contract would not be renewed. Katzman allayed the actress’ dismay – somewhat – assuring she had done nothing to bring about her dismissal. The character of Lucy had simply run its course. Naturally, this did little to make the situation better. And Dallas was rocked with another casting crisis when Patrick Duffy publicly announced he too would be departing the series. While Dallas could afford to lose a secondary character like Lucy, the show without Bobby – the perfect foil and sparring partner for J.R. – was quite simply inconceivable. Katzman did everything he could to stave off Duffy’s self-imposed retirement; the actor making it quite clear he had had enough of playing second fiddle to Hagman’s J.R. The real problem with this decision was that without the squeaky-clean Bobby Ewing to play off of, Hagman’s lascivious schemer became the de facto heir to the family business – unfettered in his treacheries. Meanwhile, having witnessed Donna Reed in ‘her’ role, Barbara Bel Geddes made it known she wanted to return to Southfork. What to do? The 1985 cliffhanger shook Dallas fans to their core. After a season of marital upheaval, compounded by a liaison between Bobby and the sultry, Jenna Wade (Pricilla Presley) Pam and Bobby had reconciled, only to have Bobby run down outside of Pam’s home in a mysterious hit and run. As the family gathered by his bedside, Bobby’s vitals flatlined, leaving no room for the prospect he had somehow survived his ordeal. At the end of taping this dour cliffhanger, Katzman reflected – it was time for him to leave the show; his creative differences with Lorimar President, Capice having reached an impasse.
But as Dallas moved on without Bobby Ewing, Patrick Duffy quickly discovered his desire to pursue ‘other’ projects were as ‘dead in the water’. Meanwhile, Donna Reed learned, while on a vacation in Paris with her husband, she too had been terminated; an executive decision made in secrecy that some continue to regard as utterly disgraceful. What no one knew at the time was Reed was gravely ill, having been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. As Barbara Bel Geddes marked her triumphant return to Southfork, Reed quietly retreated from the legal haranguing over the remaining two years left in her contract, and then, on Jan. 14, 1986, died from her illness. Having suffering through the anxiety of a whole season without Bobby Ewing, writers quickly inveigled Pam with a new love interest, Mark Graison (John Beck). They also elected to take several of the series alumni in a completely different direction. For starters, it was decided Ray and his wife, Donna Culver (Susan Howard) should adopt a baby with Downs Syndrome. Writers also softened J.R. Perhaps, partly in response to the AIDS crisis, his womanizing was suddenly out. By the end of the 1986 season, J.R. had devoted himself completely to Sue Ellen, the wife he had emotionally tortured into chronic bouts of alcoholism, deprived of any spousal warmth or even moderate caring, by openly indulging with numerous other partners, and finally, had prevented from running off to marry several other men who might have been better for her.
Alas, these ‘new and improved’ story lines were not exactly what Dallas fans were seeking, and their lack of interest was reflected in a sudden dip in the show’s ratings. For the first time, Dallas’ popularity slipped; surpassed by ABC’s smash soap, Dynasty. The success of Dynasty was not lost on producers, who quickly reasoned part of that show’s meteoric rise was due to the fact it appealed more readily to women – the ‘other half’ of the audience Dallas had pretty much ignored with its male-driven story lines. Actress, Barbara Carrera was brought in to play the part of a ruthless Greek shipping magnet, Angelica Nero – a move that infuriated Larry Hagman. Also, to counterbalance the Dynasty effect, veteran Hollywood costumer, Travilla was hired to glam-up the gals on Dallas. Alas, Travilla was no Nolan Miller (Dynasty’s resident couturier) and the results on Dallas were an extraordinarily garish fashion parade, adding grotesquely mannish shoulder pads to virtually every outfit and teasing the hair of co-stars Linda Gray and Victoria Principal in particular to the point where it began to laughingly resemble a lion’s mane. Worse, the entire nation was still in withdrawal after witnessing Bobby’s death. Patrick Duffy would later recall being constantly approached by tearful fans in parking lots, still unable to separate him from his fictional alter ego.
Meanwhile, Larry Hagman took on Phil Capice in a very public rebuke of his executive producing skills, giving several interviews to TV Guide and People Magazine in which he bashed Capice’s changes to the show and even went so far as to infer Capice had absolutely no talent and no business to have forced Leonard Katzman out of the producer’s chair. Hagman’s clout was at its zenith, and he wielded it like an angry child swinging a baseball bat. Lorimar agreed, offering Katzman the title of Executive Producer, quietly ousting Capice from his ceremonial post. Capice would never return to television. Meanwhile, Katzman went to work rectifying the damage that had been done to his brain child during the interim. And Hagman, true to form, invited Patrick Duffy to his Malibu home for a little tête-à-tête in which the riot act was read. At the end, Duffy agreed he would like to return to Dallas. The trick, of course, was how to do it. Everyone had seen Bobby die. Lorimar offered Duffy a cool million signing bonus and $7500 per episode. Out of desperation, Katzman finally resolved the issue of how to bring Bobby Ewing back to Southfork. Not just his death, but virtually the entire season had been nothing more than a dream; Pam, awakening to find Bobby, and not Mark Graison in the couple’s shower. To keep Bobby’s return a secret from the press, Katzman had Duffy shoot a bogus Irish Spring commercial in the shower, leaking tapes to the press as a distraction.
Even as Patrick Duffy’s return to Dallas sparked giddy excitement among his ardent fans, real-life tragedy conspired to deprive the actor of his triumphant comeback. Duffy’s parents, Terrance and Marie had owned a tavern in Boulder, Montana called The Lounge when they were murdered by a pair of drunken teenagers toting shotguns. The thieves made off with $97 and a bottle of whiskey in a stolen Volkswagen, only to be apprehended barely two hours later. By the time Duffy flew to Montana, the press had already arrived – eager for a sound bite. To its credit, the good people of Boulder stood with Duffy in his grief, effectively ordering the media to leave their city and the star alone as he grappled with their thought-numbing loss. After a brief mourning, Duffy returned, ready to work. But by now, Dallas had begun to show its age. It had been nine seasons since the Ewings altered the prime time television-viewing landscape, and, the plot lines were beginning to get stale. Dallas was one of the most-expense shows to produce. With the dip in ratings, cost-cutting measures needed to be applied. Pruning of the cast was just the beginning to offset the ever-increasing salaries of Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy – the three stars without whom the series could not survive…or so it was perceived.
Steve Kanaly was the first casualty at the end of Season 10; his departure, followed by Victoria Principal in Season 11 and then, shockingly, Linda Gray in Season 12; Gray’s one request, to Katzman – she wanted Sue Ellen to depart with grace and dignity. Katzman concurred. Sue Ellen Ewing would exit J.R.’s life, a sadder, but infinitely wiser, and far richer gal – executive of her own company and with a rich new husband on her arm; a very stylish farewell indeed. Inadvertently, Katzman was not nearly as kind to J.R. – affording him a new, and much younger bride, Cally (Cathy Podewell) and infusing the aging cast with ‘fresh blood’ – newcomers who, alas, lacked the staying power to click with fans that, like the fictional characters, had also matured along the way, enough to appreciate the elder statesmen (and women) of the franchise. By the 1990-91 season, Dallas had slipped in the ratings to a point of no return, coming in at #61. As cast and crew assembled to shoot the 2-hour finale for Season 13 – a variation on the ‘never been born’ scenario inspired by It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), Katzman let Patrick Duffy in on a little secret. He already knew the show was not being picked up by CBS in the fall. Predictably, Katzman ended the series with – what else? – a cliffhanger; a despondent J.R., putting a pistol to his temple, and then, off camera, the sound of a gunshot.
When Dallas went off the air it left a huge void in television’s prime time programming. The slick and stylish soap had debuted first and outlived virtually all of the competition that came after it: Dynasty (1981-89), Dynasty II: The Colbys (1987-88), Hotel (1983-88), and, Falcon Crest (1981-90). Only Dallas’ spinoff, Knots Landing would endure, ending its series run in 1993. Patrick Duffy rebounded almost immediately, finding renewed life on television as the doting father on the joyous family sitcom, Step by Step (1991-98), opposite another TV alumni, Three’s Company’s Suzanne Sommers. Now retired, Larry Hagman was quietly enjoying the good life when doctors informed him his decades of high-living had severely compromised his liver. Although Hagman effectively went ‘cold turkey’ on his alcohol consumption, the damage was irreversible. A cancerous tumor was discovered on the diseased organ and Hagman went on the list of patients in desperate need of a new liver. Miraculously, a donor was found in time and Hagman, ever the trooper, underwent surgery, staging a remarkable recovery. In 1996, fueled by a nostalgia for certain beloved TV franchises of the late seventies and early eighties, CBS gambled on a 2-hour Dallas reunion movie to bolster their sagging mid-summer ratings. J.R. resurfaced, wilier and more scheming than ever. The movie was a sizable hit with audiences, prompting CBS to roll the dice again in 1998 on another reunion movie. This time, ratings were not high enough to justify a third visit to the same well. Indeed, in the interim, the world of the primetime soap had been distilled into variations relying on a much younger cast (Beverly Hills 90210 – 1990-2000, and, Melrose Place – 1992-99) with hipper problems and a lot more sex.
For all intent and purposes, Dallas – the original series – had officially hung up its spurs in 1991. Texas, America, and indeed, the world, had seen nothing like it. But with an end to the Reagan era, the momentum for monied happiness that had fueled the series was gone and so were the thrills. The movies that came afterward were but an epitaph to this electrifying moment in television history when cable TV had yet to proliferate and ruin any series’ chances to ever again dominate the Nielsen ratings as Dallas had done for nine out of its thirteen-year run. At its zenith, Dallas commanded nearly sixty percent of TV’s viewing audience on Friday nights; an unheard proliferation that both reflected and helped to shape America’s cultural fabric and social attitudes throughout the late 1970’s and foreshadow virtually all of the 1980’s. There has never been, nor will there ever likely be another Dallas. Much as the ambitious 2012 reboot endeavored to resurrect the glory days of yore, Dallas (2012-14) was a wan ghost flower of its predecessor. The real-life death of Larry Hagman at the end of the first season put a genuine damper on the franchise. Arguably, nothing could overcome this loss. Dallas without J.R. Ewing? Please…and get serious!
Dallas has long been available on DVD from Warner Home Video. Were that I could sing its praises. But Dallas on DVD looks about as ugly and uninspired as anything currently available on home video. It is a real pity no one at Warner recognizes what they have in their possession is more than just another television franchise; but rather, a cultural touchstone. Not only is Dallas the quintessential prime time soap opera, in many ways, its lasting contribution to television ranks very much as small screen art of the highest order. Binge-watching 13 years of Dallas, one can definitely bear witness to its rise to prominence and, sadly, follow its decaying trajectory after Season 9. Today, under similar circumstances, no network would allow any franchise to continue beyond Season 10. And certainly, the last three years of Dallas are hardly up to par for what had once been a programming powerhouse. But Warner’s DVD transfers of virtually all these seasons – and the movies that followed – ranks as some of the spottiest remastering in the business. For starters, Seasons 1-5 exhibit varying issues with color density, color fading and very weak contrast.
Dallas was shot on film – not tape – so overall image fidelity ought to have been much more solid than this, with some instances of remarkable, if intermittent, image clarity. But what’s here frequently suffers from gate weave and wobble during splices and jump cuts. Unfortunately, age-related artifacts are everywhere, and, at times, not only consistent, but consistently heavy and distracting. Clearly, these episodes received a lot of play time over the years. The iconic opening credits fare the absolute worse, looking as though they have been fed through a meat grinder; riddled in a barrage of nicks, chips and scratches, with severe color fading. At times, the image here looks like an old, bleached out 16mm Kodachrome. Certain episodes do not fare much better – the entire palette adopting a green/beige lean with pasty flesh tones. Warner Home Video has added insult to injury by going the quick n’ dirty route, housing these episodes on ‘flipper discs’ that have proven, with time, to come with their own onslaught of technical glitches.
We are not talking about an obscure television franchise unworthy of the necessary care to resurrect it from oblivion. We are speaking of Dallas – the grand-daddy of all night-time soap operas. Quite simply, respect is due and, regrettably, has yet to be paid. In a perfect world, Dallas would have already made the leap to Blu-ray by now. But no, and for shame! The audio herein is 2.0 Dolby Digital mono and mostly adequate for this presentation, with a slightly muffled characteristic from time to time and a few minor instances of hiss and pop. Nothing as egregious as the picture quality and, owing to its source material, largely forgivable, I suppose. I will say this for Warner’s efforts – they have invested a lot of time and energy culling together vintage featurettes, as well as producing a handful of exclusive extras, cumulatively to cover the Dallas phenomenon from every conceivable angle. The extras are comprehensive and very much appreciated. But they do not excuse the horrendous video quality on display here.
There are so many fine performances in Dallas, so many iconic moments and inspired cliffhangers, to simply offer up the whole affair in barely tolerable DVD quality seems more an insult to fans and a series that, despite its absence from public view in syndication on TV, still commands our respect and is able to rekindle fond memories from those old enough to have experienced this iconic chapter in TV history the first time around. What can I tell you? It was the eighties – a fabulously garish and glitzy decade where anything went and everything seemed possible. Dallas fed into the national verve for better times on the horizon and proved, unequivocally, that the wealthy – although living by a decidedly different set of rules – nevertheless, were never entirely content with their lot in life. In preparing this review, I have read far too many postmortem epitaphs on Dallas, unflatteringly describing it as ‘a relic’ best left to rose-colored reflections that, in actuality, veered more closely to ‘trash’ than ‘art’ – as Jacobs had feared at the start of his alliance with Katzman. And yet, those quick to label the franchise as such are quietly forgetting that while trash is quickly expelled from the public consciousness, Dallas has never entirely left ours for a single moment since it went off the air. Mention just the call letters, ‘J.R.’ in mixed company and almost anyone today will instantly know to whom you are referring.
The longevity of the series – particularly as, outside of the 2012 reboot, it has largely remained out of sight since 1991, is impressive to say the least. Dallas lives on, perhaps because it speaks to a broader, more heartily lived decade where optimism reigned supreme. Dallas was larger-than-life, as America in the 1980’s sincerely hoped to be – and for many – was, that shining beacon on the hill, so described by President Ronald Reagan. As the yellow rose of Texas, Dallas has long since proven a perennial blossom in television’s firmament; a moniker for a way of telling grandiose stories on a sprawling canvas, with intelligence, wit, and a little sex thrown in for good measure. Audiences of their day loyally tuned in to find out what came next in this familial saga. With the advent of home video, mercifully, we can rediscover what all the fuss was about for ourselves. But Dallas deserves far better than these tired ole DVD’s. Will it ever receive its due? And what are the consequences to our small screen cultural heritage if it does not? Hmmm. These are questions I sincerely hope future generations never have to address. For now, all that remains of those gala days in Texas are these badly worn transfers. If there is a petition to be signed for the preservation and restoration of Dallas on home video, then let us sign it – today! Permit yours truly to lead this charge! Yee-haw, from Texas! Y’all come back now, y’hear?
Georgia Street is an east–west street in the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. Its section in Downtown Vancouver, designated West Georgia Street, serves as one of the primary streets for the financial and central business districts, and is the major transportation corridor connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore (and eventually Whistler) by way of the Lions Gate Bridge. The remainder of the street, known as East Georgia Street between Main Street and Boundary Road and simply Georgia Street within Burnaby, is more residential in character, and is discontinuous at several points.
West of Seymour Street, the thoroughfare is part of Highway 99. The entire section west of Main Street was previously designated part of Highway 1A, and markers for the ‘1A’ designation can still be seen at certain points.
Starting from its western terminus at Chilco Street by the edge of Stanley Park, Georgia Street runs southeast, separating the West End from the Coal Harbour neighbourhood. It then runs through the Financial District; landmarks and major skyscrapers along the way include Living Shangri-La (the city’s tallest building), Trump International Hotel and Tower, Royal Centre, 666 Burrard tower, Hotel Vancouver and upscale shops, the HSBC Canada Building, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Georgia Hotel, Four Seasons Hotel, Pacific Centre, the Granville Entertainment District, Scotia Tower, and the Canada Post headquarters. The eastern portion of West Georgia features the Theatre District (including Queen Elizabeth Theatre and the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts), Library Square (the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library), Rogers Arena, and BC Place. West Georgia’s centre lane between Pender Street and Stanley Park is used as a counterflow lane.
East of Cambie Street, Georgia Street becomes a one-way street for eastbound traffic, and connects to the Georgia Viaduct for eastbound travellers only; westbound traffic is handled by Dunsmuir Street and the Dunsmuir Viaduct, located one block to the north.
East Georgia Street begins at the intersection with Main Street in Vancouver’s Chinatown, then runs eastwards through Strathcona, Grandview–Woodland and Hastings–Sunrise to Boundary Road. East of the municipal boundary, Georgia Street continues eastwards through Burnaby until its terminus at Grove Avenue in the Lochdale neighbourhood. This portion of Georgia Street is interrupted at several locations, such as Templeton Secondary School, Highway 1 and Kensington Park.
Georgia Street was named in 1886 after the Strait of Georgia, and ran between Chilco and Beatty Streets. After the first Georgia Viaduct opened in 1915, the street’s eastern end was connected to Harris Street, and Harris Street was subsequently renamed East Georgia Street.
The second Georgia Viaduct, opened in 1972, connects to Prior Street at its eastern end instead. As a result, East Georgia Street has been disconnected from West Georgia ever since.
On June 15, 2011 Georgia Street became the focal point of the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup riot.
Final Fantasy Origins is a compilation of the first two games in the highly popular and influential RPG series released by Square in 2002 in Japan, and 2003 in the West. Not only were people drawn to the fact that both FF1 and FF2 had the graphics completely overhauled, it was also the first time that FF2 was seen outside of Japan. While it has been 10 years since this release and both games have been ported and further enhanced multiple times, what still draws people to this compilation is that these are the versions closest to the originals in terms of gameplay. They are also the only version you can play on your TV. What about the PSP enhanced ports you can connect to your TV? The games also feature a retranslated script, and also allows creatures and spells to be fully spelled out, as the text limit is much larger. Also mythological based items and monsters were correctly named as well.
Since this contains two games, both of them will be reviewed separately.
Originally released in 1987 in Japan and in 1990 in the US, it’s one of the earliest console RPG’s, and also one of the most influential in the beginnings of console RPG’s.
You play as the Heroes of Light, a group of 4 warriors, whose name and class you pick yourself, arrives at Castle Cornelia and the king tests your worth as the legendary heroes by rescuing Princess Sara who has just been kidnapped by the evil knight Garland. After saving her, the king repairs the bridge to allow your heroes access to the rest of the continent, and later the rest of the world.
Each warrior carries a darkened crystal, and your goal is to defeat the 4 evil fiends that hinder the power of the crystals, and banish darkness from the world.
While pretty generic and very thin compared to today’s standards, this was considered an epic in storytelling for video games in 1987. So while not as heavily story driven as later games, the adventuring aspects of the game was what gives it the appeal. So while the game won’t impress you much with its outdated nature, it’s fun to experience something that was considered revolutionary for its time.
A very textbook example of a traditional console RPG (well it did help write it) there isn’t really anything to explain that nobody already knows about. Though this does feature updates from the original game. One of the biggest updates that we take for granted today is auto-retargeting. In the original, when one character kills a monster and someone was already targeting it, your character will miss. So with auto-retarget, when the monster is killed before your turn, it will automatically attack different monster.
Also the mechanics were fixed so some of the spells actually work, and weapons and armor with special effects also actually work. They also added in a standard inventory menu instead of having each character hold the items. There’s even two difficulty modes: easy and normal. normal mode is the gameplay of the original, and easy mode gives you more experience, increased stats after level up, and lower prices at the stores. So if you’re looking for a challenge, then normal is for you, but easy is recommended if you want to spend less time grinding, and have a less headache.
One of the biggest downsides to this game is the random encounter rate, which is extremely high, regardless of which difficulty level you chose. On average, it takes about 3-5 steps (usually less) to get attacked, and it gets really irritating after awhile. This slows down trekking through every dungeon very heavily, and at times discouraging to find all the treasure in them when you’re getting attacked every 3 seconds. It feels really silly when you’re in a medium sized room with a bunch of treasure chests and you get attacked about 5 times just to open up 5 treasure chests in the same room. Dashing does not affect the random encounter rate, so if you’re using the dash option, then attacks will happen much more frequently as those 3-5 steps now take less time.
Another silly feature is how the spells don’t have much consistency. The spells give you a number range, and the spells will randomly work within that range, and they do not get stronger when you level up. So Ice 2 says “40-160 damange”, so in your first turn, it will inflict 150 damage, but it’s highly possible that in your next turn, it will cast 45 damage. This gets irritating in battle when you’re attacking a group of enemies and multi-target spells do various damage where one monster gets max damage, and the one next to it gets minimum damage. It can also get aggravating in boss battles as well, especially when you’re casting a level 3 spell and it did less damage than the level 2 spell.
Even though Origins was a very late PS1 game, and released after the PS2 had already been out, they intentionally made the game’s graphics look similar to the SNES. Probably to keep it similar in visuals to the SNES remakes of 4-6. So while not visually as impressive as FF8 or FF9, they’re still not an eyesore, and do look incredible compared to its NES counterpart. Dungeons and towns are much more detailed, and even the character and monster sprites look nicer. Also even the fiends look more terrifying as the NES versions looked kind of derpy.
The music has some very classic tunes, as it’s where the recognizable Final Fantasy Prelude and the victory theme got their starts.
Final Fantasy is a classic game for anyone who is a fan of retro RPG’s, especially with one of the earliest in the genre. Though definitely not groundbreaking for today’s standards, it’s a nice game to play for those who are either interested in playing a piece of history, or are just big Final Fantasy fans and want to play every game. Though while its random encounter rate is unnecessarily high, it’s still a nice experience.
Final Fantasy II
Originally released in 1988, Final Fantasy II features a handful of differences compared to the previous game, and are also the first appearances of Cid and Chocobos, with both appearing in every Final Fantasy game onward.
You play as four youths: Firion, Maria, Guy and Leon, whose town has just been attacked by the empire of Palamecia and the game begins with the four of you being attacked. Three out of the four escape and join a resistance group, and you then embark on a quest to receive new equipment and rescue other members of the resistance to stand up to the empire.
While definitely a step up compared to the previous game, it’s still a bit archaic for modern standards. It does seem more fleshed out than the previous games, and even some of the characters have more prominent roles in the game, unlike in the previous game where you meet them once and that is the end of the story.
It features many standard RPG gameplay and mechanics, but the unique feature of this game is that it ditches the experience points system. So to increase any kind of stat or skill, one must repeatedly use it to more or less “level” up. So if you want stronger magic, keep casting that spell over and over, and to increase your health and defense, let your character take a lot of damage. At times this can be a clusterfuck, and at times can be more time consuming than with the traditional leveling up system. It’s also ridiculously easy to abuse, as you can easily increase your character’s HP by making your own characters attack each other. While your characters can equip any weapon in the game, you have to repeatedly use certain weapons until they can actually inflict damage with it. Your characters do come with default weapons, so sometimes it’s easier to just stick to those.
The random encounter rate is a bit high, but definitely a step up from FF1, and the game does feature a more balanced battle system.
Another unique feature of this game is the “learn” system. Throughout the course of the game, you will learn a secret phrase or password, and using this will progress the game, as using the phrase will allow access to things like an airship, or someone will give you a special item.
Not much else to say that hasn’t been said with FF1 as it features many of the same updates.
Like the previous game, it features a rearranged soundtrack, though the soundtrack isn’t considered a classic like the original, largely due to the original game not being released, but does feature some solid tracks.
While personally my least favorite in the series, and I don’t really like this game that much, that’s not to say it’s a bad game. Like the original game, this is definitely a game for retro RPG fans, and someone who wants to play all the FF games. The appeal of this version is that fans get to play the first release of the game to the West, and a version that one can enjoy on their TV as opposed to a handheld.