The Colbys

The Colbys (originally titled Dynasty II: The Colbys) is an American prime time television soap opera that originally aired on ABC from November 20, 1985, to March 26, 1987. Produced by Aaron Spelling, it was a spin-off of Dynasty, The Colbys revolves around another wealthy, upper-class family, who are relatives by marriage of the Carringtons of Dynasty and who own a large multi-national corporation. Intended to surpass its predecessor in opulence, the series' producers were handed an immensely high budget for the era[1] and cast a handful of well-known movie stars among its leads, including Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalbán. However, The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment, and was canceled after two seasons.

The Colbys
Also known asDynasty II: The Colbys
GenreSoap opera
Created by
Developed by
Starring
Theme music composerBill Conti
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons2
No. of episodes49 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Running time45–48 minutes
Production company(s)Aaron Spelling Productions
Distributor
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseNovember 20, 1985 (1985-11-20) 
March 26, 1987 (1987-03-26)
Chronology
Related shows

Premise

On Dynasty, presumed-dead heiress Fallon Carrington Colby (Emma Samms) reappears alive, suffering from amnesia and using the name Randall Adams. Drawn to California after recognizing the name "Colby", she meets playboy Miles Colby (Maxwell Caulfield), not realizing that he is the cousin of her ex-husband, Jeff (John James). A mutual business venture brings the Colbys of California to the Denver mansion of Fallon's father Blake Carrington (John Forsythe).[2]

Set in Los Angeles, The Colbys focuses on the extended Colby family as Jeff relocates to California to start his life anew—and comes face to face with Fallon, now married to his cousin Miles. A fierce rivalry is sparked between Jeff and Miles, and the love triangle spans the series. Miles's father, billionaire Jason Colby (Heston), has a rocky marriage to the icy Sable (Stephanie Beacham), and a longtime attraction to Sable's sister Francesca (Ross)—Jeff's estranged mother, and the former wife of Jason's deceased brother Philip. Other characters include Jason's powerful sister Constance (Stanwyck), Miles's twin sister Monica (Tracy Scoggins) and their third sibling Bliss (Claire Yarlett).

In addition to Forsythe's Blake, Dynasty characters Adam Carrington (Gordon Thomson), Steven Carrington (Jack Coleman) and Dominique Deveraux (Diahann Carroll) also made guest appearances on the show between 1985 and 1986.[3]

Characters

Contract

Jason Colby (Charlton Heston (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
CEO of Colby Enterprises and brother of Constance, Philip, and Cecil. As the series opens, Philip and Cecil are both deceased – the former in Vietnam, the latter in Denver during the third season of Dynasty. Jason is married to Sable, and their children are twins Miles and Monica, and youngest daughter Bliss. Jason's affair with Francesca Langdon, his wife's sister and his brother Philip's former wife, ends his marriage; he later discovers that he is the father of Francesca's son Jeff. When he first appears in Season 6 of Dynasty, he is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given only one year to live. However, it was later revealed that he was never sick at all and the mistake was due to a computer error.
Constance "Connie" Colby Patterson (Barbara Stanwyck (original cast), 1985–1986)[3][4]
Jason Colby's strong-willed sister, who sets the stage for the series by inviting Jeff Colby to California, hoping to mend the rift between him and the rest of the family. Believing her brother Jason is dying and in need of an heir who can run the Colby empire, Constance gifts to Jeff her 50 percent of the company's voting stock, which incurs Sable's anger, leading into one of the first season's major storylines. Stanwyck left the series after the first season, with the character being killed in a plane crash while traveling in Asia.
Sabella "Sable" Scott Colby (Stephanie Beacham (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
British-born art gallery owner, wife of Jason, sister of Francesca and mother of Miles, Monica, and Bliss. The first cousin of Dynasty's Alexis Carrington Colby (Cecil's widow), Sable is protective of her family but vengeful when Jason casts her aside for Francesca. She is also frequently at odds with Constance over her decision to give her shares of Colby Enterprises to Jeff—even going so far as to making her believe she is going senile and attempting to have her committed. These actions cause irreversible damage to her relationship with Jason as time goes on, leading to the eventual disintegration of their once-happy marriage. Sable and Alexis share a rivalry hinted at on The Colbys but further explored a number of years later on Dynasty.
Jeff Colby (John James (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
The son of Philip and Francesca Colby, raised in Denver by his uncle Cecil Colby on the Colby estate, Nine Oaks, which neighbored the Carrington estate. He is invited to Los Angeles by Constance and soon becomes embroiled in the dynastic intrigue of the Colbys, reuniting with his presumed-dead wife Fallon and estranged mother, and eventually discovering that his uncle Jason Colby is in fact his biological father. At first, he is angry and resentful over the revelation, but with help from Constance and Fallon, Jeff eventually accepts Jason as his father.
Fallon Carrington Colby (Emma Samms (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
Daughter of Dynasty's Blake Carrington, and Jeff's on-again, off-again wife; she also marries his cousin Miles. The role had been originated on Dynasty by Pamela Sue Martin, who had left the series in 1984 and the character presumed dead in a plane crash. Fallon (Samms) reappears briefly on Dynasty in 1985 with amnesia before transitioning to The Colbys, the subsequent love triangle between her, Jeff, and Miles driving much of the drama for the first season. She later returns to Denver and Dynasty for its final seasons.
Miles Colby (Maxwell Caulfield (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
Jason and Sable's playboy son, noted mainly for his bad attitude, his disastrous relationships (first, with the amnesiac Fallon, and second, with the emotionally unstable Channing Carter) and his rivalry with cousin Jeff, who is later revealed to be his half-brother.
Monica Colby (Tracy Scoggins (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
Jason and Sable's daughter, and general counsel for Colby Enterprises until she quits to manage Titania Records for Dominique Deveraux. However, she returns to her old job after Dominique sells the company to help Blake. Monica is protective of her twin brother, Miles, but also holds a high regard for his rival (and their cousin) Jeff Colby. Monica has short-lived romantic involvements with both singer Wayne Masterson and married Titania Records executive Neil Kittredge. It is revealed that Monica's past affair with Cash Cassidy had produced a son, whom Constance had arranged for Cash to raise with his wife Adrienne, ending their relationship to preserve his political career.
Bliss Colby Rostov (Claire Yarlett (original cast), 1985–1987)[3][4]
Jason and Sable's youngest child, a young and idealistic woman who has strong political beliefs which often put her at odds with her father, an oil and industry tycoon. Bliss has ill-fated romances with Sean McCallister and Spiros Koralis, the nephew and former stepson, respectively, of the Colby family's greatest enemy, Zach Powers. She eventually becomes involved with Koyla Rostov, a Russian dancer who defects to America.
Lady Francesca "Frankie" Scott Colby Hamilton Langdon (Katharine Ross (original cast), 1985–1987)[4]
Philip Colby's widow, who returns to Los Angeles after years in "exile" as the wife of diplomat Lord Roger Langdon (David Hedison). She is Jeff's mother, but had abandoned him as an infant, bending to pressure from brother-in-law Cecil. Francesca reappears at the invitation of Constance, who is anxious to make amends. Frankie, as she is known, is also Sable's estranged sister, and Jason's lover.
Zachary "Zach" Powers (Ricardo Montalbán ("guest star"), 1985–1987)[4]
European shipping tycoon who falls in love with Sable. Born into poverty, Powers blames the Colbys for his father's suicide.
Philip Colby (Michael Parks, 1986–1987)
Former husband of Francesca and the black sheep of the Colby family, presumed killed in Saigon in 1957. Initially a mercenary using the name Hoyt Parker, Philip makes his presence known at Jason and Francesca's wedding and proceeds to disrupt the lives of the entire Colby family.
Henry "Hutch" Corrigan (Joseph Campanella (original cast), 1985–1986)[3]
Rugged, aged cowboy and boyfriend of Constance Colby who is also killed in the plane crash in Asia.
Garrett Boydston (Ken Howard (original cast), 1985–1986)[5]
Levelheaded though sensitive lawyer for Colby Enterprises, who loved and pursued Dominique Deveraux.

Other

Henderson Palmer (Ivan Bonar, 1985–1987)
Butler to the Colby family. Married to Enid.
Enid Palmer (Alison Evans, 1985–1987)
Maid to the Colby family. Married to Henderson.
Sean McAllister (Charles Van Eman, 1985–1986)
Environmentalist boyfriend to Bliss Colby and nephew of Zach Powers, who spied on Jason Colby.
Arthur Cates (Peter White, 1985–1986)
Longtime lawyer to Sable Colby.
Neil Kittredge (Philip Brown, 1985–1986)[3]
Married Vice-President of Titania Records, who was involved with Monica Colby. Ended up reconciling with his estranged wife Gail (Lisa Aliff), putting an end to his relationship with Monica. Unable to stand the tension between them, he resigned from Titania and moved to a different record company.
Wayne Masterson (Gary Morris, 1986)
Blind country singer at Titania Records who fell in love with Monica Colby, after being discovered by her in a bar. He undergoes an operation that restores his sight, but he finds out about Monica and Neil not long afterwards. After forcing her to make a decision, Monica chooses Neil, and Wayne leaves California to return to his old life.
Roger Langdon (David Hedison, 1986)
British diplomat and briefly husband to Frankie.
Spiros Koralis (Ray Wise, 1986)[3]
Chief of the New York offices of Powers Shipping and Zach Powers' stepson. He feels animosity towards his stepfather, although doesn't act on it as Zach provided end-of-life care for his late mother. Has a fling with Bliss, which ends once Spiros wins his father's company back from Zach.
John Moretti (Vincent Baggetta, 1986)
California assistant district attorney with a vendetta against Jason Colby who put Jeff Colby and Miles Colby on separate murder charges.
Channing Carter Colby (Kim Morgan Greene, 1986–1987)[3]
Member of the Carter publishing family, a slinky, sneaky woman whom Miles Colby marries on the rebound after losing Fallon to Jeff. She watched her mother die in childbirth with her younger brother, which influenced her decision to avoid having children; she tells Miles that she is barren following a botched abortion, when in reality she is taking birth control pills behind his back. Their marriage is tested by Miles' obsession with Fallon's unborn baby, although Channing stops taking the pills in order to give Miles (and Sable) the child he wants.
Nikolai "Kolya" Rostov (Adrian Paul, 1986–1987)[6]
Russian ballet dancer who arrives with his sister Anna arrive in California as part of their tour. After the KGB try to interfere in his and Bliss' relationship, he opts to defect to the U.S. instead of returning to the Soviet Union. To replace Anna, Sable brings in Gina Sinclair as his new leading lady; however, unbeknownst to them, he and Gina had had a relationship in New York, and she is determined to win him back, which puts a strain on his relationship with Bliss.
Anna Rostov (Anna Levine, 1986–1987)
Pretty blond ballerina from Russia and sister of Kolya, who initially tries to defect with him but ends up returning to the Soviet Union instead, under pressure from the KGB.
Senator Cash Cassidy (James Houghton, 1986–1987)
Powerful senator, and son of one of Jason Colby's deceased adversaries. Also former lover of Monica, who had been his mistress when she attended college; their relationship produced Scott, who was adopted by Cash and his wife Adrienne after intervention from Constance and Arthur Cates. He ended their initial relationship to further his political career, but upon his arrival in California, he tried to win Monica back. Eventually he succeeded, leaving Adrienne for her. Their happiness is short-lived, however, as Cash saves Jason from an assassination attempt at a business conference and is himself shot.
Adrienne Cassidy (Shanna Reed, 1986–1987)
Shrewd, sniping senator's wife who had to fight off Monica Colby's interest in her family. Initially she was going to stay behind in Washington, but after finding out Cash would be working with Monica she accompanied him. Trapped in a loveless marriage with Cash, although she remains more interested in him and takes to drinking in order to cope with her life. Determined to keep Scott away from Monica, she falls apart once Scott leaves her. She ends up telling both Monica and Jason about Scott's birth and adoption in anger.
Scott Cassidy (Coleby Lombardo, 1986–1987)
Monica Colby's biological son, with Cash Cassidy, a bright young boy with an interest in space technology, who was raised by Cash and his wife, Adrienne. He first meets Monica and they bond over an interest in space stations, but he turns against her when Cash leaves Adrienne for her. Monica is unaware that Scott is her son until Adrienne tells her in anger.
Lucas Carter (Kevin McCarthy, 1986–1987)
Uncle of Channing Carter and chief of the Carter publishing empire, which produces an article describing Jason as an American traitor. Guardian of Channing, having taken her in following the deaths of her parents. He initially uses Miles and Channing's relationship to spy on Jason's business dealings, but Channing stands up to him and refuses to co-operate. Lucas, with help from his solicitor Billy Joe Erskine (John Dehner), arranges to have Jason shot at a conference meeting, but instead the gunman accidentally shoots Cash Cassidy.
Georgina "Gina" Sinclair (Nana Visitor, 1987)
Ballet dancer from New York, brought in by Sable to replace Anna as Kolya's partner. Unknown to Bliss, she and Kolya were former lovers, having had a brief relationship when Kolya was on tour; she still harbours feelings for him, and arranges for Bliss to catch her kissing him during a rehearsal. She also breaks into Kolya's apartment just before Bliss arrives for a date, emerging in lingerie when she does. However, despite her attempts to seduce him, Kolya refuses to reignite their relationship.

Storylines

The first season's storylines include the construction of an oil pipeline, Zach Powers' vendetta against the Colbys, the romance between Jason and his sister-in-law Francesca, the subsequent collapse of Jason's marriage to Sable, and eventually the revelation that Jason, not his brother Philip, is in fact Jeff's father. There were initially a number of cross-overs featuring members of the Dynasty cast, most notably Blake Carrington, his sons Adam and Steven, and half-sister Dominique Deveraux. At the end of the season, Fallon learns that Miles could be the father of her unborn child, Monica's plane crashes, and Sable has Jason arrested for assault and battery, claiming that he had inflicted the injuries she actually sustained by falling down a flight of stairs.

In the second season, Jason manages to divorce Sable and plans to marry Francesca, but the presumed-dead Philip reappears alive. Previously romantically linked to both Zach's nephew and former stepson, Bliss falls in love with a Russian dancer watched by the KGB, the son Monica had given up eight years before reenters her life, and Constance and Hutch are killed after a plane crash in India. At the end of the season, Miles's wife Channing phones to say she will abort their unborn baby, Sable kidnaps Monica's son, Francesca seemingly dies after a car crash involving herself and Philip, and Fallon, stranded in the desert, is seemingly abducted by aliens in the finale.[3] The series' most infamous cliffhanger proved to be its last when the series was subsequently cancelled.

Episodes

SeasonEpisodesOriginally airedRankRating
First airedLast aired
124November 20, 1985 (1985-11-20)May 22, 1986 (1986-05-22)3515.50
225September 24, 1986 (1986-09-24)March 26, 1987 (1987-03-26)6411.90

Development and casting

In early 1985, news outlets began reporting that ABC was developing a spin-off of Dynasty, then the #1 rated show in the US.[7][8] Dynasty actors Rock Hudson, Ali Macgraw, Jack Coleman, Heather Locklear, and John James were mentioned as potential stars of the new series, tentatively titled The Colbys,[7][8] and ABC was purportedly wooing Pamela Sue Martin to reprise her role as Fallon Carrington.[8] It was also reported that Dynasty stars John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins, and guest star Elizabeth Taylor would appear in the first two episodes of the spin-off, which would initially air after Dynasty on Wednesdays but would move to a time slot opposite Dallas on Fridays.[8] In March 1985, ABC announced that its rumored Dynasty spin-off had been greenlighted, to debut the following season.[9] The Colbys would star John James as his Dynasty character Jeff Colby, with General Hospital actress Emma Samms as Fallon Carrington.[9][10][11] In May 1985, ABC unveiled its fall 1985 schedule, which placed The Colbys into the Thursday 9 pm time slot, preceded by The Fall Guy and followed by 20/20.[11]

In June 1985, Dynasty co-creator Esther Shapiro approached Charlton Heston about the role of patriarch Jason Colby, the brother of Dynasty's Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner).[12] Doris Day was considered,[13] and both Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn reportedly turned down roles in the series.[12][14] In early July 1985, it was reported that in addition to Heston, ABC was pursuing Barbara Stanwyck and Faye Dunaway for starring roles,[14] as well as James Coburn to play Ben Carrington, the brother of Dynasty's Blake Carrington (John Forsythe).[14][15] On July 9, 1985, it was reported that The Colbys' versions of Dynasty rivals Krystle Carrington (Linda Evans) and Alexis Colby (Joan Collins) were going to be called Anthea (later changed to Francesca) and Sable.[16] Heston's casting was confirmed in July 1985, as producers were negotiating with Angie Dickinson to play his character's wife.[17] Ultimately, Dunaway, Dickinson, Elizabeth Ashley, and Diana Rigg all turned down the role of Jason's wife Sable.[18] In August 1985, producers cast British actress Stephanie Beacham, "a household name" in the UK who had starred in the title role of the ITV drama Connie.[19] Stanwyck and Maxwell Caulfield joined the cast in July 1985 as Jason's sister Constance and son Miles,[20] with Stanwyck having a clause in her contract that she would not be required to do press interviews.[5] That month, Elizabeth Taylor made a statement that she would not be appearing on Dynasty or The Colbys, then or in the future.[21] In August 1985, it was reported Heston would be paid $85,000 per episode and Stanwyck would be paid $75,000.[22] The same month, Katharine Ross was cast as Francesca.[23] In September 1985, it was reported that Ricardo Montalban would appear as a "conniving shipping tycoon" described as "ambitious and scheming, but with a kind of charm that can allow him to get away with almost anything."[24] The final cast included Tracy Scoggins and Claire Yarlett as Jason and Sable's daughters, Monica and Bliss Colby.[25]

The Colbys premiered at 10 pm on Wednesday, November 20, 1985, after Dynasty's eighth episode of the season, and was a ratings success.[26][27] The next episode of The Colbys was scheduled to air the next night, Thursday, November 21, in the show's own new time slot, but was preempted by a televised speech by US President Ronald Reagan.[28] It was later reported that Heston, an old friend of Reagan's, had phoned the President to request the speech be rescheduled, to no avail.[28] Episode two aired on Wednesday, November 27, 1985, before Dynasty, and then The Colbys moved to its new night on Thursday, November 28, 1985.[29] Ratings for The Colbys dropped considerably in the new time slot,[29] though a March 1986 episode featuring Jeff and Fallon's wedding garnered a high rating at a level not seen since the series' first two episodes.[30] In January 1986, it was reported that Heston had extended his stay on The Colbys from 17 to 24 episodes,[31] and Stanwyck ultimately extended from 13 to 24 episodes.[32] ABC renewed The Colbys for a second season in March 1986, with Stanwyck stating she only wanted to appear in 6 or 7 episodes.[32] The same month, Ron Miller of the Evening Independent suggested that The Colbys "appears to be so prohibitively expensive that future payoff in syndication seems very chancy."[33] In June 1986, it was reported that Stanwyck would not be returning for season two.[5] She had purportedly complained for some time about her character's development, and in leaving suggested that Constance be killed off.[5] In July 1986, Kim Morgan Greene was cast as magazine reporter Channing Carter.[34][35] In December 1986, it was reported that Heston had sent co-star Caulfield a letter admonishing him for unprofessional behavior on set, while calling the rest of The Colbys team "the best I've worked with in 30 years."[36] ABC cancelled the The Colbys after its second season.[3]

Ratings and criticism

The fifth season of Dynasty was ranked #1 in the Nielsen ratings in the United States.[37][38] The Colbys debuted during Dynasty's sixth season,[3][39][40] which saw Dynasty drop to 7th in the ratings.[37][41] Although The Colbys garnered high ratings for its premiere episode and won a 1986 People's Choice Award for New Dramatic TV Program,[3][42] the first season finished in 35th place, in part due to competition with NBC's Cheers and Night Court on Thursday nights.[43] The Colbys was renewed for a second season but, scheduled opposite Cheers and Night Court as well as rival soap Knots Landing on CBS for a few weeks, The Colbys finished 64th for the year and was subsequently cancelled.[44] Dynasty fell to #24 for its seventh season.[45][46]

Like Dynasty, the series employed the standard melodrama of soap operas and added well-known performers and elaborate sets and wardrobe.[25] Lee Margulies of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "It's not a spin-off, it's a clone—as close a replica as ABC and the Dynasty producers could concoct, right down to the credits."[25] In their Directory To Primetime TV Shows, television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh stated that the series likely failed because it was "too close a copy" of Dynasty.[47] Barbara Holsopple of The Pittsburgh Press compared the scripts to Dick and Jane books for children, and criticized the acting.[4]

When Stanwyck opted to end her contract and leave the series after its first season in 1986, she reportedly called the show "a turkey",[48] and told co-creator Esther Shapiro "This is the biggest pile of garbage I ever did" and that "It's one thing to know you're making a lot of money off vulgarity, but when you don't know it's vulgar—it's plain stupid."[49] Conversely, Heston always supported the show and stated its cancellation "was premature" as "we were coming closer to being a creative production team that could make the kind of show we'd planned on from the beginning."[50] Dynasty star Joan Collins categorically refused to make any appearances in The Colbys herself, believing it would have caused "massive confusion between the two shows".[51]

Aftermath

Following the cancellation of The Colbys, the characters of Jeff and Fallon were immediately reintroduced into Dynasty during that series' eighth season premiere, "The Siege – Part 1".[3] Sable (now divorced from Jason, who was still involved with Frankie, who survived the car crash) and Monica (who no longer had contact with ex-lover Cash or their son Scott) also later reappeared on Dynasty for the series' ninth (and final) season in 1988–89.[3] During the final season of Dynasty, it is revealed that Monica and her twin Miles might not have been Jason's children, as Sable had been raped around the time they were conceived. Miles (who refers to Jeff as his half-brother, leading to the assumption that Jason was his and Monica's father after all) later appears in the miniseries Dynasty: The Reunion (1991), reunited with Fallon, and participates in Jeff's rescue from the Consortium. The Jeff-Fallon-Miles love triangle is finally resolved, as Fallon leaves Miles for Jeff once again.

DVD release

On May 12, 2015, Shout! Factory released The Colbys: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1 for the very first time.[52] The 12-disc set features all 49 episodes of the series as well as all new cast interviews with Stephanie Beacham, John James and Maxwell Caulfield.

On July 20, 2015, The Colbys was released in Germany (Region 2). The DVD is split in two, the first season and the second season. The DVDs have a German cover (Die Colbys - Das Imperium) but are spoken in English and dubbed in German. The series has also been released on DVD in Spain in four volumes (two per season).

The distribution rights to The Colbys, originally owned by Warner Bros. Pictures Distribution, transferred to CBS Paramount Network Television in 2006 when CBS bought the libraries and properties of Spelling Entertainment Inc. from Paramount Pictures Domestic Television Distribution and Viacom.

References

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