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Network recycles its trash

Dynasty was trashy, campy and almost contemptuously disrespectful of its audience's intelligence. Dynasty: The Making of a Guilty Pleasure recaptures these traits with brain-numbing efficiency.

ABC's revisit of one of its greatest successes is billed as satire, but how can you tell? Dynasty was a parody of itself. The re-creation of the network's answer to Dallas is also an attempt to pre-empt rivals from usurping vintage ABC series for contemporary Nielsen points, as NBC has done with Charlie's Angels and Three's Company telemovies.

The Making of a Guilty Pleasure is an extremely loose history, as acknowledged by a disclaimer revealing time line compression as well as fictional characters and incidents. In other words, this is not a movie to be taken seriously _ not that any rational person would do that.

As the movie opens, ABC is jonesing for its own Dallas after the Ewing clan becomes black gold for CBS. Early pitches are clumsy, with barely an attempt to hide their being unabashed knockoffs. In various incarnations, the Dallas wanna-be is dubbed Fort Worth and Oil.

Not until husband-wife producers Richard and Esther Shapiro forge an alliance with the prodigious Aaron Spelling does Dynasty begin to take shape.

The casting process is a hoot. The Shapiros settle on Linda Evans as Krystle Carrington, whom they envision as the moral compass of the series, sweet and wholesome. Then it dawns on them that Evans has been married to John Derek. "There goes wholesome," they lament. Nevertheless, they trust their initial instincts, and Evans delivers.

In the twilight of his career, John Forsythe is merely a voice, although it is the most famous voice on TV, Charlie to a trio of Angels. Forsythe jumps at the chance to be seen again, in Dynasty as Blake Carrington. However, as the years go on, the actor becomes the unofficial ombudsman for viewers, recoiling at inane plot twists such as the Moldavian massacre. He's eventually vindicated when even ABC suggests to the Shapiros that they owe the audience an apology for some of the nonsense they have rolled out.

Another Forsythe objection leads to celebrated real contretemps. The Shapiros want Blake to have an affair. Forsythe insists that his upstanding character would never do that. The Shapiros give in, sort of. They have Krystle cheat instead. They stunt-cast her partner with Rock Hudson, only to be horrified when the tabloids reveal that he is dying from AIDS. All hold their breath until Evans' tests come back negative.

Dynasty doesn't become a Nielsen gusher, however, until Alexis Carrington _ the "female J.R." Ewing _ is introduced to stir the pot. The character is created before the producers decide who will play her. Liz Taylor is the first choice, but the actor who around the same time took a role on daytime soap General Hospital and who later proudly cavorted with Michael Jackson deems Dynasty to be beneath her dignity. As desperation sets in, Spelling's wife, Candy, suggests the notoriously difficult Joan Collins.

The original and the revisit part company in one significant way. The Dynasty budget for salaries escalated faster than the cost of a barrel of crude, eventually becoming a factor in the series' demise. The movie is done on the cheap. It would be difficult to identify the biggest name. Pamela Reed, as shrewish Esther Shapiro, has some strong credentials and shines in this ensemble, but she no longer commands top dollar. Alice Krige is a passable Joan Collins.

Otherwise, it's strictly B-list or lower, and the producers got what they paid for. Ritchie Singer plays Richard Shapiro, who is relentlessly harangued by his domineering wife. Bart John requires a suspension of disbelief to be credible as John Forsythe, as does Melora Hardin as Linda Evans. Heather Locklear is barely acknowledged, so Holly Brisley's anonymous performance is insignificant. Aaron Spelling, one of the best-known behind-the-scenes people in the business, has been portrayed numerous times but never as unconvincingly as he is by Nicholas Hammond. Rel Hunt has a moment or two as Al Corley, and Rachel Taylor is sufficiently beautiful as Catherine Oxenberg.

However, the film does deserve points for delivering to Dynasty fans what it promises: guilty pleasure.

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