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HTF DVD REVIEW: Dynasty: The Fourth Season, Volume Two

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#1 of 4 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 25 2010 - 02:06 PM

Dynasty: The Fourth Season, Volume Two

Directed by Georg Stanford Brown et al

Studio: Paramount
Year: 1984
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Running Time: 609 minutes
Rating: NR
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0 mono English, Spanish
Subtitles: CC, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99

Release Date: February 2, 2010
Review Date: January 25, 2010
The Series
By its fourth season, the Dynasty express was nearing the peak of its popularity ranking at season’s end as the third most popular show on television. and the plethora of Machiavellian plots against as many Carringtons and Colbys as could be squeezed into a season of episodes continued unabated. Much of the high drama of the show as seen in retrospect is actually funny rather than dramatic (no catfight between Alexis and Krystle this time, but Krystle has some fun with mud), but there are themes of familial love and the ever-boiling passions that can still involve the viewer, and the show is also a glamorous guilty pleasure treat to watch just for the Nolan Miller fashions (which won the program’s only Emmy this year) and the opulent lifestyle that is always on display. Everyone looks fabulous in whatever they’ve been given to wear (even those in the hospital, the women always decked out in full make-up and glamorous hair even when they’re in a coma), that is, when they choose to leave their clothes on. Even more than in previous seasons, the show features quite a bit of bedroom, shower, hot tub, and gym action.
In the second half of season four which this three-disc set encompasses, we enter in the midst of the second heterosexual marriage of the gay Steven Carrington (Jack Coleman). Now married to the psychologically fragile Claudia Blaisdale (Pamela Bellwood), Steven has made amends with his father and is back living in the Denver mansion. Elsewhere, Blake’s vengeful ex-wife Alexis (Joan Collins) is once again trying to control the lives of all around her including children, ex-husband Blake (John Forsythe), and a new pair of lovers, bodyguard Mark Jennings (Geoffrey Scott) and the younger but volatile oil tycoon Dex Dexter (Michael Nader) who enters not only Alexis’ bed but also becomes business partners with her. Further complications arise with Blake’s daughter Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin) who becomes involved with an international playboy/hustler Peter de Vilbis (Helmut Berger) who manages to steal a million dollars from Blake as well as promising to marry Fallon and then attempting to flee the country with his ill-gotten gains. Fallon’s former husband Jeff (John James) still loves her and is seeking a divorce from butler’s daughter Kirby (Kathleen Bellar) who’s just as quickly snapped up by black sheep Carrington son Adam (Gordon Thomson). Yes, on a show like Dynasty, it seems every one will have slept with everyone else at some point during its multi-season run. The many characters in this glossy prime time soap certainly fall into revolving beds continually.
Joan Collins’ moribund career was revived gloriously with her over-the-top vixen in Dynasty and more than ever, the show revolves around her machinations. Knowledgeable of her profound effect on the show’s success (it literally didn’t catch fire until she joined the show in season two), Collins plays the role with a juicy exuberance (she’s in a new outfit and hairstyle in practically every scene, and every male apart from her sons and Blake seems to find her irresistible) that makes these episodes well worth seeing again. John Forsythe is the same solid, dependable actor he’s always been (even if his Blake is a pompous control freak who’s hard to like and who spouts “damn it” once or twice in every episode). Both Collins and Forsythe were nominated for Emmys for their work during the fourth season (though after Collins sing/talks “See What the Boys in the Backroom Will Have,” I might have been tempted to take her nomination away from her). Linda Evans plays wife Krystle with an easy grace and simplicity. Gordon Thomson’s Adam tries for a more saintly demeanor for some of the second half of the season, but it’s obvious his smoldering anger will erupt again as soon as things go against him; he’s always plotting something sinister. New additions this season include Deborah Adair as an Eve Harrington-like PR director who’s out to become the next Mrs. Blake Carrington, and the premiere appearance of Diahann Carroll as mystery woman Dominique Deveraux who’ll play a larger part in the show in season five (they do allow the Tony-winning musical actress a chance to warble a tune, “I’m Through with Love” in the season finale). Back in view as well near the end of the season is Heather Locklear as Steven’s first wife Sammie Jo. Her modeling career not turning out as she planned, she’s back in Denver to live the high life and stir the waters as only she can.
There is the lack of "Previously on . . . ." recaps at the beginning of each episode in the box set, something that seems routine with the serialized dramas we have today. With these Dynasty episodes in this box set, information from previous episodes necessary to the viewer’s understanding of the plot seems built into the dialog of the various characters as the plot continues making those recaps we find so familiar today rather unnecessary. It’s actually refreshing to jump right into the story in every episode without those tiresome recaps. Perhaps producers today don’t give viewers enough credit for connecting the dots without using those visual recaps of previous scenes at the start of every episode.
Here are the thirteen episodes from the second half of season four contained on these three discs:
1 – Seizure
2 – A Little Girl
3 – The Accident
4 – The Vigil
5 – Steps
6 – The Voice, Part 1
7 – The Voice, Part 2
8 – The Voice, Part 3
9 – The Birthday
10 – The Check
11 – The Engagement
12 – New Lady in Town
13 – The Nightmare
The liner notes carry the usual caveat about the episodes possibly being edited from their broadcast editions, but no background music changes seemed that stands out. Perhaps those more attuned to the show’s minutiae can give details about possible edits.
Video Quality
The episodes are framed at their broadcast 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and for the most part, the transfers are sharp with deep color saturation, all the better to admire the stunning array of fashions that parades across the screen in every episode. (Occasionally reds to tend to bloom just a bit in certain episodes but not always.) There are bits of dust and some occasional debris that crop up occasionally, and you’ll see some moiré from time to time as well. A few scenes across the thirteen episodes also seem not to have been remastered and convey a lack of sharpness, additional grain, and some skin tones that aren’t as accurate as in other scenes in the same episode. Each show has been divided into 6 chapters.
Audio Quality
The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track is decoded by Prologic into the center channel. For a show that’s heavy on dialogue, the recordings are solid and always intelligible. Music blended into the same track also never overpowers the dialogue being spoken. Occasionally one will catch some light hiss or slight distortion but these artifacts are the exception and not the rule.
Special Features
Apart from the trailers for 90210, Melrose Place, and the CBS/Paramount procedurals, there are no bonus features of any kind with the discs.
In Conclusion
3/5 (not an average)
Fans of Dynasty can happily add another volume of episodes to continue their collections (though at this rate, that’s going to be a lot of boxes on the shelf), the second half of season four boasting episodes with solid audio and video but completely lacking in any bonus material.
Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 4 OFFLINE   Ethan Riley

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Posted January 25 2010 - 09:48 PM

Quote:  Originally Posted by MattH. 

"The liner notes carry the usual caveat about the episodes possibly being edited from their broadcast editions, but no background music changes seemed that stands out. Perhaps those more attuned to the show’s minutiae can give details about possible edits."

All of Paramount's tv dvds seem to have that caveat these days, whether they changed something or not. I think they do it in order to cover their hides in the case that they may unintentionally wind up with episode prints that were altered for some reason or other. This caveat protects them in the case of class action lawsuits, similar to the one MGM DVD endured during that aspect ratio fiasco. The note is more definite in shows like Family Ties and Melrose Place, in which cases Paramount had every intention of changing the music and isn't trying to lie about it. But I believe they also have had (so far) every intention of preserving Dynasty in its entirety. (At least I haven't noticed any changes so far; has anyone else?)

As for music replacement, you already answered the two major questions of this season: whether they would cut the songs actually sung on camera by the cast. However, their background music need never be replaced since each of Dynasty's 217 episodes boasted its own original score, beginning with Bill Conti's early compositions. Paramount should own the rights to all that music (and there was a lot of it).

Occasionally Dynasty would have musical jokes, or cover renditions of oldies, such as in the Roaring 20s episode, but all that music was scored especially for the series. The main exceptions for this particular release were the two songs mentioned above. In other instances, Diahann Carroll sang "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows," and of course Blake (more than once) sang a few bars of "Embraceable You" to Krystle.

In other episodes Sammy Jo was seen dancing around the Carrington mansion with a big old honkin' 80s boombox; in one episode she was playing "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" while in another she was listening to "Thriller," (however, both of these songs were covers and did not include the original vocals by Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson). Fortunately, for those who worry about music replacements, rest assured that Dynasty was no "Wonder Years," or "Ally McBeal." And it's not like "Happy Days" either, in which case the popular music used in the series became more dense as time went on. As little licensed music as Dynasty used, they seemed to use even less in the later seasons.

There are more instances of popular songs used in the background score for Dynasty--most of which are incidental--but so far Paramount seems to have left Dynasty as they found it. Let's hope their attitude doesn't change if (when) more seasons are released.



#3 of 4 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted January 26 2010 - 02:42 AM

Thanks, Ethan, for the additional information. I noticed at the Fallon/Jeff engagement party sequence, the orchestra was playing standards like "The Way We Were" and all were seemingly untampered with. Yes, I did note "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" on the boombox.

#4 of 4 OFFLINE   WaveCrest



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Posted January 26 2010 - 05:04 AM

There's always the observation of dust and debris, but surely you're bound to get that with older programmes, even when they have or haven't been digitally remastered?

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