In the 1980s, 'Dallas' and 'Dynasty' were the most popular programs on television. "'Dynasty' touches a nerve at a time when people wanted to be glamorous, when people wanted to be powerful. And when people wanted to see people like that suffer," Pamela Bellwood believed. "I've heard it said that 'Dallas' was about Reagan's first term in office and 'Dynasty' the second term." David Jacobs reminded.
"When I took this oath 4 years ago," Ronald Reagan told Americans in 1985, "I did so in a time of economic stress. Voices were raised saying we had to look to our past for the greatness and glory. But we, the present-day Americans, are not given to looking backward. In this blessed land, there is always a better tomorrow." Michele Lee observed, "As America changed, so did 'Knots (Landing)'. When they watched us, they were watching what was happening to them in America with all their dreams, their hopes and their problems." Pamela added, "It ('Dynasty') really became known for the kind of superficial excesses that the '80s represented and 'Dynasty' was the harbinger of that."
Between 1981 and 1985, 'Dallas' was either No. 1 or the second highest rated show on television. "In television terms," Leonard Katzman described the 'Who Shot J.R?' cliffhanger, "the equivalent of Columbus discovering America. Except he didn't have to go out again the next year and find another country." Some 76% of all viewers watching TV on that Friday November 21 in 1980 were watching the 'Who Shot J.R.?' episode of 'Dallas'. It was TV's most "heavily publicized series episodes" in history. Lorimar confessed, "Deep in our hearts, we'd like to be the No. 1 ratings champ of series television." In all, 83 million viewers in 41.4 million homes with TV sets (about 53% of the total households) were counted watching. At its peak, 40 million viewers were watching 'Dallas' each week. Some 250 million viewers around the world watched the 'Who Shot J.R?' episode, making 'Dallas' one of the most watched shows in TV history. In its first run, 'Dallas' was regarded a phenomenon throughout the Western world.
As 'Dynasty' ended its 4th season in May 1984, Diahann Carroll joined the cast, "I’m proud to be a black bitch on 'Dynasty.'" As Diahann saw it, "President Nixon brought everybody together . . . The blacks don't feel they have to get whitey anymore – he's already been gotten and so has greeny and purpley and everybody." Martha Howell, a professor of socioeconomic history, reiterated, "Some people imagine an ideal society is one in which there is no hierarchy of wealth. But a very good argument can be made that hierarchies of wealth are not in themselves bad. The question is, how much mobility is there in society, and how is wealth used?" Historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto concurred, "You can't achieve a distribution of wealth unless you have wealth in the first place, which means that some people have to accumulate it." Esther Shapiro insisted, "A TV show has to reflect, even in a fantasy way, the times. And this ('Dynasty') was a show of the feel-good generation, the Reagan years." John Forsythe maintained, "The trick to doing 'Dynasty' was to present a realistic world with a fairy tale icing."
Eric Utne, a 40-something, launched 'Utne Reader' in 1984 as an "alternative press aims to chronicle the intellectual voice of the Baby Boom generation." Thirty-something editor Jay Walljasper told Associated Press in 1988, "It's my hope and suspicion that the '90s are going to be far different from the '80s and that people are going to start thinking about social and political issues in a different way. I think we'll be right there helping to define and propel that thinking. It's my hope we'll have our finger on the pulse the way Rolling Stone did in the 1960s and '70s."
Eric expressed, "I want to change the world. That’s why I started it ('Utne Reader'). That's the motivation. I want to find out in the process how the world should be. I don't have a clear agenda. I think there are a lot of voices to be heard." It was reported Eric had participated "in the 1960s counterculture during his time at the University of Minnesota." To get started, Eric found 8 investors who had contributed $150,000 each. The first issue had only 12 pages (called "a newsletter"). By 1988, 'Utne Reader' was a 128-page magazine with "secure, positive cash flow." Eric enthused, "and they're selling 18 million an issue . . . In this day and age (back in 1988) of media overload, something that does the selecting and integrating job for (readers) is really a useful service."
Back in 1984, Pamela told fans, "I've always loved to write and I started writing much earlier than my getting involved in photography . . . It (photography) just evolved because throughout my travels, I would see a lot of things that I would want to capture." Also "I've directed some theater pieces, which is something that I really enjoyed doing, and I think that I'm good with actors." Of photography, "I like the fact that you are making a statement, similar to acting, only you use your point of view instead of your body. It's not just your choice of subject that makes the statement, but the way you make that choice and the way you care to photograph it. That becomes your statement."
On 'Dynasty', Pamela played Claudia, "I never considered Claudia a basket case. I think that anyone going through some emotional stress, no matter how ill-defined it is, doesn’t see themselves that way. I felt playing her that everything she did was justified and logical: it all made sense to her – and to me in playing her. In terms of the fantasy that this show has, she was probably the most identifiable character. She wasn’t someone who was so rich and had a sense of values that no one could relate to. The tenor of the mail I was getting was very supportive."
However "she (Claudia) won’t live happily ever after though. No one ever does in 'Dynasty'. The real strength of the show is that people like watching another family suffer, especially when times are bad. And the fact they suffer on a grander scale, makes it even more acceptable. The whole of 'Dynasty' revolves around sexual relationships and money. I would rather my children had a curiosity about life than about death which is what all the violence on most TV shows brings."
In 1978, Pamela starred in "that 3-letter word" show, 'W.E.B'. "In the trade, web means network," it was mentioned. It was the height of the Women's Liberation Movement. Pamela played an ambitious 29-year-old TV executive at the make-believe TV network Trans-Atlantic Broadcasting Company. Pamela made known, "I can't answer for how the women of America are going to react to this ('W.E.B'). I'm not hyping the women's cause, though. This show ('W.E.B') just portrays one woman dealing realistically with situations."
Lin Bolen was in charge of daytime programming at NBC until 1976 because "there were certain power struggles which I sort of became involved in." Lin created 'W.E.B'. She told the Pittsburgh Press television and radio editor Barbara Holsopple, "This series is true to the inside workings of the networks. After all, I lived it and I know the inner workings. Most of the stories are taken directly from my experiences. Of course they've been changed and dramatized, but the essentials are true.
"I had to learn on the job. I spent the first year feeling as if I was hanging on a cliff by my fingernails. I rose in that corporation because I worked my tail off. I went to work for them because I wanted to make myself a credible program packager. When it became too political for me, I moved on. But it was my decision to take a walk. The network actually offered me an enormous empire as well as a lot of money to stay. Yes, I'm an outrageous person. I stand on chairs and scream. I'm not afraid to say what I think to anyone. I care about my projects and I'm not going to let anyone walk away with them."
Of 'W.E.B', Pamela remembered, ". . . I was in every scene, every frame, day in day out. It was too much responsibility. 'Dynasty', on the other hand, is a delight. It's the best of both worlds for me: I'm working on a show that's giving me tremendous exposure, and I only have to work a few days a week. The level of what you're able to do on TV in terms of acting is pretty restricted anyway, so to be able to do it a few days a week and still have a life is all right."
Of those decades between the 1950s and 1980s, Diahann noted, "Those 30 years have seen tremendous changes in the workforce. In the old days, the only women I saw in this business were in the make-up, hairdressing and wardrobe departments. Now I'm surrounded by women executives, writers, directors, producers and even women stagehands."