Esther and Richard Shapiro first conceived 'Dynasty' in 1979. On January 12 1981, a week before Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the American Broadcasting Company televised the series in which the Shapiros had collaborated with Aaron Spelling and Douglas S. Cramer to produce. In the first season, 'Dynasty' was described as "a marginal show". Linda Evans recounted, "The first year, we were opposite 'M*A*S*H' for 13 weeks and we practically went off the air. It wasn't until the 3rd year (1982-83 season) that we really began building a strong audience." Lewis Erlicht added, "'Dynasty' started at 9:00pm (Mondays) but it didn't become a hit until we moved it to 10:00pm (Wednesdays)."
Esther contributed the success of 'Dynasty' to Reaganomics. "We sort of anticipated the Reagan era, viscerally. We picked up on the glitz and glamor of it, we predicted what would happen with the stock market years before it happened. The pomp and circumstance, the new wealth - all of that was reflected." Richard remarked, "We do tend to be of a liberal persuasion, personally and politically, but our daughter accuses us of being the world's primary disseminators of capitalist propaganda."
Speaking to 'The Los Angeles Times' in 1988 by phone from a mountain hideaway, Esther enthused, "We've used up what would be in the daytime soap operas about 25 years of story. In some ways, I became my own fantasy, heading up a whole empire like this." The empire reportedly "built on licensing the 'Dynasty' name to luxury products" including the Forever Krystle perfume, the Carrington men's cologne, furs, evening wear and lingerie. By the 1987-88 season, the production cost of each episode came to about $1.6 million including "an unheard-of $18,000-per-episode costume budget." Hence "about 25 licensees have kept 'Dynasty' from having to be produced at a deficit cost to the production company."
Robert Pollock observed, "She (Esther) has a very good story instinct; she's not as good at story creation. She knows what is going to turn on audiences, what is going to light up the skies, what is contemporary, what is current - and what is going to be dreary on television." John Forsythe believed, "It ('Dynasty') was a revival of MGM pictures of the '30s and '40s. Anytime you have a fallow time in the country, there are audiences looking for something." Aaron Spelling argued, "People love to laugh at the rich."
In the second season (1981-82) with Joan Collins as Alexis, 'The New York Times' reported, "At least two series that performed poorly or only adequately last year (1980-81 season) became hits this season. NBC's 'Hill Street Blues' and 'Dynasty'. The season's most significant development may be the continued losses the networks are suffering at the hands of independent stations and the growing number of cable networks.
"During an average week in prime time this season, 52.3% of all homes with sets were tuned in to one of the networks, compared to 54.6% last season. A single point in prime time over a year is estimated to be worth nearly $70 million in advertising revenues. All three networks were notably unsuccessful in developing popular series. Among the three dozen series introduced, only CBS's 'Falcon Crest' emerged as a solid hit, and its success is largely because it follows ''Dallas,'' the most popular show on television. Until two years ago (1979-1980 season), a series generally did not survive unless it achieved a 30% or larger share of the audience. But given the networks' diminishing share of the audience, a 26 or 27 share now seems to be the cut-off for a series' survival."
By the 1987-88 TV season, Esther expressed, "We're getting more into reality, without giving up the fantasy. We're doing a football-and-drug-use story, a surrogate mother story. And the future of the Carrington children will reflect the recent disaster on Wall Street." 'The Los Angeles Times' noted, "The Shapiros are also taking advantage of election year to advance Esther's favorite theme of women and power: Alexis is running against Blake Carrington for governor."
By May 11 1989, just after George H W Bush's first hundred days in office, the "trek into fantasy" came to an end for the hour-long drama. Esther was credited as the driving force behind the success of 'Dynasty.' She stated, "Critics dismiss it ('Dynasty') as trash, but we do create women (characters) who are not victims, and it's pure entertainment for women - that's something that has been looked down on.
"It is basically not only a women's power fantasy, but the fantasy of a woman (Krystle) who is married to a man of power and very comfortable with that. We did not want to send out the message that all women have to be the same thing. Sometimes I feel like the Dr. (Michael) DeBakey of television. I have this wonderful team, but somebody has to know what each one's specialty is."
Aaron Spelling and Douglas S. Cramer also produced the weekly TV series, 'The Love Boat' which ran between 1977 and 1986. 'The Love Boat' had been the most watched Saturday programming on television. A.C. Nielsen ratings revealed at least 41 million viewers were staying at home to watch TV on Saturday night. Viewers ranging from teenagers to adults over 50, even women between the ages of 18-49.
"It's on once a week in prime time in the States and wins," Douglas S. Cramer noted in 1980. "It's on 5 times a week during the day in repeats and wins. It is a very popular show." Gavin MacLeod mentioned, "We are being seen in 94 countries around the world. The first year we were limited to short runs between Los Angeles and a few Mexican resort towns. Each year since, we've traveled to more exotic ports: Scandinavia, Paris, London, Russia, Holland, the Caribbean, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Australia, Fiji, Japan, Hong Kong, China, Italy, Turkey, Germany."
Douglas Cramer theorized, "A lot of people at home are unmarried. We also have an enormous teenage audience. Our appeal is pure escapism. Our trips are romantic, glamorous and adventurous. They're everybody's dreams. These fantasies are about people who find happiness in glamorous surroundings." Back in 1978, over 500 passengers paid $1500 each to go on a 10-day cruise of Mexico (Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta) on the ocean liner, Pacific Princess (owned by the British P&O line) and an opportunity to become extras on 4 episodes of 'The Love Boat'.
Guest starring Connie Stevens and Ernest Borgnine. Writer and producer Gordon Farr remembered, "It's military operation just getting ourselves prepared to go to sea." The executive producer Henry Colman recalled, "It costs us $8000 (in those days) to fly Connie in (from Michigan to Acapulco). We do this kind of thing quite often when a star is as popular on television as she is."
Lauren Tewes (pronounce "tweeze") played Julie, the cruise director. Of being on location in different exotic resorts, Lauren clarified, "It's nothing like that at all. I spend between 12 and 14 hours, 5 days a week, inside a TV studio where two enormous sets have been built. The only time we ever see the sea or the liner is twice a year when we go on an 11-day cruise to Mexico (in 1978). And then we work 7 days a week.
"My first acting part was a small role in a 'Charlie's Angels' episode and I also appeared in 'Starsky & Hutch' and a number of pilots for series which never went on the air. Then my agent told me to audition at ABC's main offices which meant it was for an important job. I auditioned in front of several executives (including Aaron Spelling) and at the end of the afternoon I was told I had a part in a new show to be called 'The Love Boat'.
"To say I was panicky has to be the understatement of the year. It was so scary I lost 15 pounds. But I love it. I suppose I am a lot like Julie. She enjoys her work, too, although she has her problems with it. A lot of time and money has been spent on making the show look real. The scenes shot in the studio are mixed in with the stock footage we pick up on the two cruises we make a year, and when it appears on television nobody can tell which parts were real and which were done in the studio. It is all very clever."