After spending part of last season trying to get millennials excited about its Archie reboot, Riverdale, The CW is up for a fresh challenge—trying to pull off the same feat with its reinvention of the ’80s soap Dynasty, which premieres tonight.
Network president Mark Pedowitz recalled that when he talked about Dynasty during ad sales meetings earlier this year, “it was fascinating to watch. Anybody who was over 45: ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ Anyone who was younger than 45 was like, ‘Huh?’ So it’s a brand-new show to them.”
And that’s why he’s entrusting the reboot to executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who have already successfully overseen a pair of hit, younger-skewing soaps: The O.C. and Gossip Girl.
“I’m betting on them delivering a younger audience to sample it,” said Pedowitz of the producing team, which also includes Sallie Patrick. “If they deliver the fun escapism of the show, we’ll win.”
No pressure there. Schwartz and Savage spoke with Adweek about finding a fresh take on Dynasty, reboots vs. revivals and what went wrong the last time they tried to put a new spin on a familiar brand with The Carrie Diaries.
Adweek: With Gossip Girl and The Carrie Diaries, you’ve already tackled brands that had big followings. What did you learn from those experiences that you’re bringing to Dynasty?
Josh Schwartz: When we first started on Gossip Girl, those books had a cult, rabid fandom to them. Maybe beyond cult, where there was, “How could you cast Chace Crawford? His eyes are blue, and everyone knows Nate Archibald’s eyes are brown!”
Stephanie Savage: They were green.
Schwartz: Sorry, green. Pardon me [both laugh]. It’s been a few years! We’re working with Marvel now [on Marvel’s Runaways for Hulu] and taking a property that people are very protective of. I think the biggest takeaway for us with The Carrie Diaries, which is a show we were really proud of, was that what people came to Sex and the City for was a very specific thing, and that wasn’t necessarily going to translate, just because you were telling the story of one of those characters. The show worked really well for young girls who weren’t familiar with Sex and the City. But for the Sex and the City audience, I don’t know that it delivered enough of what they watched Sex and the City for. Different network, different format, half-hour vs. hour … it may have gotten a little too far away from the original DNA.
What we wanted to do here was honor the architecture of the original Dynasty—the storytelling architecture, the character architecture, the family dynamics and the spirit of the original. I felt like if that was intact, it would still feel enough like Dynasty for people who loved the original but also feel like something completely new, because obviously on The CW, a lot of our audience wasn’t born when the original aired. So it was important to us to honor the original while making sure this was something that new fans could watch.
Because this is on The CW, are you making it primarily for that audience, with the hope that fans of the original show will watch too?
Schwartz: We spent a lot of time in the beginning of this process sitting down with [Dynasty creators] Esther and Richard Shapiro and talking to them about what was vitally important to them about Dynasty, the brand, the show and what those characters meant.
Savage: And they really did make the show into a brand, where they were selling jewelry and silverware and home furnishings and had deals with department stores. They understood that that was a lot of what people were coming to the show for was to get a glimpse into that lifestyle. And it was very important to them that in coming up with a consumer product line that it would be accessible to the audience that was actually watching the show.
You were talking about Gossip Girl fans being upset about eye color. You seem to have a little more leeway on this project, given that you’ve changed some of the characters’ gender and ethnicity from the original series. Dynasty fans probably won’t be as precious about that as Gossip Girl fans were.
Schwartz: I think some people will have an initial reaction to some of those changes. But I do think enough time has passed, and even the staunchest Dynasty purist understands that it’s a different era than when the show took place. The show needs to feel as contemporary and current as the original did, and it would be impossible to do that if we had stuck to that demographic.