You’ll probably laugh when I say that American TV shows were a big part of my childhood. Don’t get me wrong- I read a lot, I swallowed books whole as a child and my mom made sure I had varied interests and knew a thing or two about the world. I’m talking about a cultural phenomenon that took Poland-a nation coming out of communism- by storm. No TV show was bigger than Dynasty. It’s hard to explain what it was really. Entire generations would watch it together, kids, parents, younger people and seniors. My grandmother who lived on a farm and my family in the city. Yes, we knew it was ridiculous and over the top but it was incredibly fun to watch. It was a different time then. We only had two TV channels as opposed to a gazillion repetitive stations we have today with nothing interesting ever on. Families actually watched things together and talk about it afterwards. It was a bonding experience. Today it’s embarrassing to admit you even own a TV set not to mention you watch something on it. My mom would make us some tea or a fruit homemade shake or a snack before it was something to look forward to. Dynasty in all its silliness appealed to all classes and all ages. There was a ‘Dynasty’ bubble gum that was sold in Poland because children watched the show too and one of the commercials for the coffee creamer Completa famously claims that a beverage without it was like Dynasty without Alexis.
But the early 1990’s was a different time in Poland. We didn’t have much and the world outside was still ugly and grey, but there was a sense of optimism I couldn’t really explain and that I never got again. We felt like the sky was the limit.In 1991 I was twelve. A lot of people took lives in their own hands and opened businesses. Everybody wanted to run something and own something. My father opened a local bar with a poolhall and a gym with whatever money we had left. Not because we’ve had a lot but we were shaping our own reality. An American Dream in the heart of Europe. We owned something, something that we’ve built, something that was ours. How could we fail? For a lot of people cruel reality and hard market conditions tested and shattered their dreams and goals but for that short period, a window in time we were entrepreneurs. And I guess it makes sense. In early 1980’s Dynasty’s popularity coincided in America with the Reagan era of consumptionism . People felt it was all right to be excited about material possessions, to want to have things. And I guess this is how the Poles felt in that initial window of freedom. Much less bureaucracy, papers and permits. But kids loved it too. The Sunday morning children’s show Teleranek would often include a Dynasty corner or bits from the set.
I remember how my classmates would reenact certain bits of the show,we would slam the door, storm out and some of my friends would practice their German class conversations on a fight that Joan Collins’ Alexis had with another character she was out to destroy that week. My friend, a boy no less- used to do a spot on impression of her in the sixth grade.I never really related to my grandmother- she lived in the country side and had her own little world there. But it was fun to think that this is something we all shared. Last week I decided to have a Dynasty party- a lot of my friends got excited about it, because the name reminded them of a different time. Of course it’s different for Americans, but over here people were watching the show with friends, getting together for drinks often in character. Americans loved it for pushing the envelope- it was a show of ‘firsts’. A first strong ,business savvy female antagonist and a first openly gay character on a TV drama. We liked it because of the theme, the sophistication, taste, the over the top elegance of the characters even when they were being vicious. It’s an 80’s thing. You had to had been there.
For me oddly, I think about the closeness with my family. It’s similar to how westernesque Bonanza brought families together in the 60’s. When I was in rehabilitation institution in Poland after all day of exercising I needed something to look forward to. I needed that escapism. And I was curious how I’d react to it today. The idea came to me when talking to a good friend of mine who has never seen it. Given how much older she was I thought to myself how can this be? We better remedy that.I ’ve had people over and I was surprised watching the pilot episode how well acted it was and how much fun we had watching it. Of course with the missing son, the long lost daughter, the made up country of Moldavia it all lost its flair. But not everything on the tube needs to be believable to be enjoyable, it’s fantasy. Lynda Evans, Joan Collins, Catherine Oxemberg were part of my childhood in a very interesting time. The time of transition. There were of course other TV show, probably not with such incredibly wide appeal (and it’s funny how the show exploded in world wide popularity after it was cancelled in America) and other cultural aspects of that time that I remember (perhaps one day I will write about the first CD player my mom brought from Germany), but it’s interesting how the Carringtons and Colbys hypnotized the entire nation at one time.