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
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
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.