After the apocalypse: "Dynasty."
Like a fun-loving phoenix arising from the ashes, the Carrington family of the television serial "Dynasty" takes off every Wednesday, after surviving the continual tragedies (presumed deaths, hurricanes, log cabin infernos) that seem to greet each commercial, as well as withstanding yearly entrances from grown-up offspring whose births had apparently slipped the minds of their parents. So overwhelmingly indestructible is the dynasty (even the gay ones produce children) that "Dynasty" -- the book -- has apparently inherited the show's invulnerability to criticism, its aversion to reality.
Esther Shapiro, cocreator of the soap, muses in the introduction, will the public "watch week after week this mythic American enclave of super-rich, outrageous, controversial, and sometimes unsympathetic characters?" You bet your champagne and caviar they will, to the tune of 100 million regular viewers in 70 countries. But part of "Dynasty's" appeal is its unabashed vulgarity, its veneer of Beautiful People chic that bulldozes over all that narrative clutter. When Alexis calls Krystle an "ex-stenographer," or tells her hunk bodyguard, "You have delusions of adequacy" or fends off Dex's romantic advances (after he's pulled a fast one in business) saying, "No one takes me to the cleaners and to bed in the same night," the viewer has entered a world of high-on-the-hog expressionism.
Unfortunately, these quotes, as well as the show's low-down, irreverent spirit, are missing from "Dynasty: The Authorized Biography of the Carringtons." Copyrighted by Twentieth Century-Fox Licensing and Merchandising Corporation and ghostwritten, the book takes on the air of a fitfully amusing state visit -- a package instead of a lark. But I daresay one doesn't exactly bring high expectations to such a portfolio, and those predisposed to buy the book will do so -- in droves.
After the ponderous Esther Shapiro introduction ("We gave Blake two grown children who might have caused King Solomon to wish he had
The reviewer is the author of "The Soap Opera Encyclopedia," to be published next year. paid more attention at a family planning seminar"), the reader is treated to a series of family character sketches interrupted regularly by 240 black-and-white photos and 24 pages of color photos. (The photo gallery is less of a romp than a series of attitude adjustments and mannequin poses -- a tour of "The Petrified Forest.") We learn that self-made millionaire Blake was once a soda jerk at Annie's Eats and that he kicked Alexis from his "Garden of Eden" in 1965 when he caught her "in flagrante delicto with his estate manager, Roger Grimes." His second wife, Krystle ("a truly beautiful human being"), is described as "basically a shut-up-and-keep-swimming kind of lady," which may finally explain Linda Evans' ever-expanding shoulder blades.
As background for the Carrington kids, we are informed that gay Steven's childhood was "fraught with Freudian implications" and that he attended Choate, "the Kennedys' prep school." Fallon ("her indolent youth was misspent on the nude beaches of the Co te d'Azur") grew up with a notion of hardship being "the sight of an American Express office closed till Monday." The book continues in the same vein, alternating the haughty name-dropping with the witty, and sometimes in the same sentence: Fallon "treated her $80,000 Clenet like a pickup, picked up lovers like dry cleaning and brushed off her husband like lint on the hem of a Givenchy gown."
There are even chapters on the Carrington life style, which peek inside the 48-room Georgian mansion where the family lives and sins. Lunch is served in the solarium ("making eating almost an alfresco experience"), and, after "optional" cocktails, dinner is served on a "three-pedestal Duncan Phyfe table" with "Wedgwood bone china in the Charnwood pattern. (Formal occasions call for the cobalt blue and gold Legacy pattern by Valhalla.)" And the Carringtons work off that patrician flesh in their exercise room or on the tennis courts. ("All except Alexis, who refuses to perspire in public.")
Amid all this preciousness, some readers, to paraphrase George Gobel, may feel a bit like a pair of brown shoes in a world of tuxedos. But the book is so awed by the snazzy trappings of wealth and so carefully, commercially constructed that it borders on a kind of wish-fulfillment pornography. It's good for a giggle or two and, as coffeetable books go, one won't feel guilty when those wine and dip stains start appearing. In fact, those blemishes may be strangely appropriate -- punctuation marks completing the artifice.