Sunday Mishmash

I’ve been under the weather the past couple of days. How poorly? Well, poorly enough that all I was keen on reading was a Lee Child thriller and all I could face watching was the second series of Dynasty. Hands up who remembers Dynasty from the first time around? The mid-eighties were my TV era, when I actually watched TV and really enjoyed it. I was glued to Fame, and Dallas and, less often, Dynasty. I can remember watching the episode in which J. R. was shot (that revolver, peeping

Whose contract was renegotiated?

around the half-opened office door). And who remembers the Moldavian massacre from Dynasty? It was when the lifeless Catherine Oxenburg was married off to Michael Praed, who suffered dreadfully from excessive hairdressing in this series, and then masked men broke into the church and gunned down the wedding guests. It was apparently the most-watched episode of anything on television, garnering a huge 60 million viewers. I was certainly one of them.

It’s all the fault of my manager in the bookstore that I’m watching it now, over twenty years later. She is working her way through the series and keeps telling me details of the plots. Eventually I decided I was curious enough to watch it again and found a cheap set of discs for series two. When I started to play them the colour looked all wrong and washed out, like they’d been filming it in an aquarium. I thought, goodness me, these programs have not stood the test of time. Then when Mister Litlove arrived home, he said ‘Why are you watching it like that?’ and fiddled around with the cables at the back of the DVD player, until, lo and behold, the proper colour came back. I suppose that a certain blue-green haze must have represented the veil of nostalgia for me.  Anyway, series two is a long way away from any massacre, although you can see already how the minds of the writers could have got them there. It has crossed my mind to wonder why I watched it so avidly as a teenager, or why anybody would watch it, to be absolutely honest. The acting is

Remember the cat fights? Ah, happy days!

dreadful, the plot hilarious and only Joan Collins holds the entire thing together by being her old scheming self. But you really never know what’s going to happen next – although you are assured it will be dramatic to a ridiculous degree. I am still being entertained, although not for entirely the right reasons.

It may be a while before I manage another book review, as I’m currently reading George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda. This could not be further from Dynasty in terms of crazy plot and cardboard character, although its underlying social concerns are not all that different. There’s a fair amount of scheming going on, and marriage, wealth, race and rank are all of huge importance. The main difference is that people can’t pick up a tea cup or get on the back of a horse without Eliot describing and analysing them for a couple of pages. I do like Eliot and I think she is a fine and insightful writer; I just occasionally wish she’d get on with it. The story revolves around two very different women: the spoilt Gwendolen Harleth, who is narcissistic and manipulative, but also strong and tenacious, and the Jewish refugee, Mirah Lapidoth, whom the eponymous Deronda saves from drowning. Both of these women are in trouble, Gwendolen because her family has lost all its money and an ignominious future awaits them unless she can find a way out, and Mirah because she has travelled to England to find her long lost relatives but cannot track them down. Of these two characters, I confess a distinct preference for Gwendolen, because she is interestingly flawed. She annoys me, but I really want to know what she does next. Mirah is too saintly to be real. But it’s early days yet, and anything could happen. What I really must stop doing is seeing pernicious analogies to the feisty Alexis Colby in Gwendolen and the wet Krystal Carrington in Mirah. That is so not going to help!

And I am still behind on responding to comments. But I will catch up.


27 thoughts on “Sunday Mishmash

  1. I’ve already read “Daniel Deronda,” but you’ve made me curious about “Dynasty.” Sometimes the mind craves that kind of ludicrous entertainment, sort of the intellectual equivalent of a grocery-store candy bar.

    • Oh now ain’t that the truth! I’ve always felt that art and culture are resources, and that it isn’t a good move to cut ourselves off from any kind of resource. Who knows when we might need it? I’d love to know what you think of Daniel Deronda, though. That’s a conversation I’d be very intrigued to have one of these fine days.

  2. I used to love Dynasty — and Dallas, probably even more. I wouldn’t mind a re-watch myself. I agree about Mirah, though I do honour Eliot for having a go at admirable Jewish characters.

    • Yay! I know what you mean about Eliot and the Jewish character. It IS good of her to take on a prejudice with such open-hearted gusto. Can’t have been easy in the 19th century.

  3. I hardly remember anything about Dallas or Dynasty — I was a college student without much access to a television at the time — but there were things about the shows that one could just not forget. Even though I didn’t watch it, I was very much aware of the Who shot JR? I remember taking a trip to my sister’s home, about an hour away from where I lived, to attend a JR Shooting party. And jokes about the dream season persisted for years. But, what I remember mostly, is the semester I spent in England in 1980. It seemed as if every Brit I talked to in pubs wanted to talk about Dallas. Many even asked if I lived near there and whether or not my family had a ranch. Some were disappointed when I told them that I lived in a city surrounded by corn and soybean fields rather than cattle and oil wells.

    • Cam – oh too funny! It probably did seem to British viewers as if everyone who lived outside the boundaries of New York had, by necessity, to have a ranch, or some vast tract of land…. And I love the thought of a JR shooting party. I also remember a bit of the dream season, although by then I wasn’t watching it so much (probably heading off to university myself). It made the papers, though, for the sheer gall of the plotline!

  4. I remember both Dallas and Dynasty. I had a phase when each one was my favorite. And I actually went to Southfork ranch once when visiting family in Texas! It was a bit of a let-down, since not much of the show was filmed there, but I do remember standing on the balcony in back and seeing the view of the pool where the body of the woman who shot J.R. was found.

    • Oh it would be rather cool to view Southfork Ranch. I think I read somewhere that the house shown in the opening credits and establishing shots in Dynasty isn’t the same place as the interior shots (can they really be stage sets? They are such huge rooms). I often wonder what Texas is really like. I am sure we get a slightly warped view of it in Britain. I didn’t realise until recently (I read the Lee Child thriller, Echo Burning set in Texas) just how vast it is as a state.

      • That’s how it was for Dallas. The house in the credits and some outdoor shots were Southfork; the rest were a set. The rooms in the actual mansion were so small it would have been hard to film!

        I only went to Texas the one time and just for one night, so I didn’t get a strong sense of what it’s like as a place to live, but it is an enormous state! I imagine it’s hard to conceptualize how huge the U.S. is unless you’ve traveled here a lot. It takes a good six hours just to drive across Virginia, and I think Virginia is about average in size for U.S. states. It’s a big country in general.

    • I never saw I Dream of Jeannie, but I did see clips of it when Larry Hagman was on an interview show over here, or some such thing. It’s always odd to see an actor who has become iconic in one role do something different! And thank you, I am feeling much better. 🙂

  5. I think the shooting of JR is one of the few soap episodes I’ve ever seen. It had so much publicity it was compulsory viewing for everyone in the UK even if they weren’t soap fans.

    My booklist tells me I’ve read Daniel Deronda (and I do love Eliot – it’s only about seven years since I read a lot of hers again) and yet I can’t recall a thing about the plot, even with your prompt. Time to read it again or get a new memory.

    • Wasn’t it just! I remember Terry Wogan talking about Dallas on his radio show all the time. I was getting ready to go to school then – so long ago!! I did laugh at your comment about memory. Mine gets worse all the time – I have to write about books I’ve read if I’ve a hope of remembering them. But it really does help to review them on the blog!

    • Oh my! I remember that too! My first encounter with Pierce Brosnan, who is a beautiful man (no matter what anyone else, including my husband, says). I wonder what it would be like to watch it again now….. hmmm, that’s a thought!

  6. Sorry to hear you’ve been ill, it’s sweeping through Britain right now I think. Hope you’re perking up a little bit now. Maybe one day I’ll go back to Deronda and actually appreciate it, but right now I think it should have been all about Gwendoline, who ends the book by defeating her evil husband in a swashbuckling fight and rides off into the sunset for adventures. Team Gwendoline! Boo to Deronda.

    • Lol!! I am so on Team Gwendoline! Lol! I laugh every time I read your comment. Thank you, Jodie, now I have fresh impetus to make it to the end, because I really want to see her do that. And thank you also, I am feeling much better. And sort of soothed to know it’s not just me but an evil mass attack virus. Why does that make me feel better? I don’t know, but it does.

  7. I was never much of a Dallas or Dynasty watcher but I had friends who were and I’d hear all about the shows at school the day after they aired. I did have a stopover on a family trip in the Dallas-Fortworth airport the summer after the J.R. cliffhanger and the whole airport was covered in “Who Shot J.R.?” t-shirts and other tourist swag. I have decided to reread Silas Marner as my Eliot selection this year and following it up with Wharton’s Summer after reading an interesting essay comparing the two books in Reading Women. Daniel Deronda will have to wait until some other year for me I guess.

    • Isn’t it funny when a television programme or a film or even still, from time to time, a book, takes over the world? I sort of love it, and find it really curious at the same time. Why should it have such an impact? I am really interested in that Eliot/Wharton comparison, and you remind me that I have the very lovely Reading Women sitting awaiting my pleasure in the other room. I will look forward very much to hearing your thoughts on Silas Marner!

  8. I was a Dallas fiend, never liked Dynasty and never missed an episode of the goings on at Southfork. Totally ludicrous. I still have my Who shot JR? mug.

    I recently watched the DVD of Deronda which is beautifully done a pre-Downton Abbey Hugh Bonneville as Gwendolene horrid husband and excellent he is too. I find this the least accessible of Eliot’s books and, like you, do wish sometimes she would get on with it and not morlalise so much. I found Mirah a bit of a pain and also preferred Gwendolene who I believe has more insight into her own failings that Mirah who is too good to be true

    I understand you will be at Bloomsbury on Thursday – so am I and it will be great to meet you!

    • It would be cool to have a Who Shot JR mug! I remember watching the BBC adaptation, but it was so long ago that I can’t recall what happens. I only have a vivid memory of Romola Garai in her fantastic archery outfit, which must have been right near the start. I would love to watch it again. That’s exactly how I feel about Mirah at the moment – I don’t do well with the too-good-to-be-true characters! And I’m really looking forward to meeting you on Thursday. So pleased to know there will be one friendly face I recognise when I arrive!

  9. Oh, I do hope you feel better soon. It seems this winter has taken a toll on almost everyone. Sending you warm recovery vibes -and enjoy that Lee Child novel. He is one of my father’s favorite authors.

    • That is so sweet of you, Courtney, thank you! I was so sorry to hear that you’d been poorly, too. Ach winter. What can you do with it? And Lee Child is actually fab when you need relaxation. Tell your dad I’m right with him!

  10. Pingback: Midnight Inspiration and a book link round-up « Vulpes Libris

  11. Oh my: I used to live for Friday nights, with Dallas @9 and Dynasty @10. (In Canada, at least.) With the perfect snacks arranged, just so: heaven. I’ve picked up the sets at the rental shop, but have never taken the plunge, so it’s interesting to hear how you have found revisiting them. Isn’t it funny, how much not only your own personal taste changes, but how dramatically differently “can’t-miss-it-television” is/was defined!

  12. I watched Dallas and Dynasty “back in the day” as well. I wonder what my almost 49 year old self would think of these shows now. I’m inclined to check and see if my local library has them on DVD for me to watch. I might enjoy taking a walk down memory lane.

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