If you’re a person who gets a special thrill watching rich, gaudy ladies fight with each other, all you have to do is turn on the Real Housewives to have your needs satisfied. Conflicts arise surrounding business, husbands (ex and current), and Munchausen syndrome. Items—ranging from glasses of wine to artificial legs—get thrown. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, a shoving match ensues while everyone is dressed in formalwear.
Of course, TV viewers have always been fascinated with the rich, powerful, and deeply shitty. In the 1980s, before the reality TV boom, people turned to shows like Dynasty—the ABC primetime soap about an exceedingly wealthy family called the Carringtons that never met a pool or fountain too nice for someone to be shoved in—to witness the rich in their basest and most conniving form. In fact by 1985, Dynasty was the number one show in the United States.
Hoping that lightning will strike twice, The CW is rebooting Dynasty with a new cast for 2017 as a way of luring female viewers back to the network.
“We’re losing Vampire Diaries, we’re losing Reign,” said CW president Mark Pedowitz during a press tour for the Television Critics Association. “We want to keep more women watching us. Dynasty and Riverdale does that.”
It’s true that the new Dynasty—premiering in October—has a few good things going for it: The cast is young and sexy, the series already has name recognition (though maybe not among the young adult demographic), and it’s created by hitmakers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (both of Gossip Girl and The O.C.), as well as Sallie Patrick (Limitless and Revenge). But at the same time, it is also taking a spot in an already-saturated market of calculating, temperamental wealthy people—a market that, in recent years, has been completely dominated by reality TV.
It feels highly unlikely that “Fallon” Carrington (Elizabeth Gilles), Dynasty’s new HBIC, will display anything close to the frightening confidence of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Lisa Vanderpump (let alone that of Joan Collins’s Alexis Carrington, Dynasty OG). I’d also be reluctant to place bets on the Dynasty reboot’s Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley) being more ruthless and ambitious than Real Housewives of New York’s Bethenny Frankel or Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Phaedra Parks.
Despite Pedowitz’s public optimism, Dynasty is at a disadvantage similar to the reboots of Melrose Place (canceled by the CW after one season) and Dallas (given a surprising three seasons before being cancelled by TNT). If you want to watch a group of sexy singles living in the same apartment building, you can tune into the addicting and mind-numbing Vanderpump Rules. Prefer a soap about wealthy Southern Republicans in complicated family feuds? Then allow me to introduce you to Southern Charm, which features real-life disgraced South Carolina congressman Thomas Ravenel.
Perhaps Dynasty will surprise us. No one expected Riverdale to garner its current cult following, and CW’s 90210 reboot ran for an impressive five seasons before going off the air. But if it’s adult women the network wants, they’re facing an entirely uphill battle because, for the moment anyway, heavily edited and manipulated truth is stranger and more opulent than fiction could ever hope to be.