A direct spin-off of ABC’s huge Nielsen hit, Dynasty, The Colbys (originally titled Dynasty II: The Colbys), seemed like a surefire hit with a huge budget for the era, and a cast that included a handful of well-known movie stars including Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban. However, the series never really caught on with fans, and had a mediocre run on ABC from 1985-87 before being cancelled after its second season. Shout! Factory and CBS DVD have recently released The Colbys: The Complete Series, a Two Volume, 12-disc, 49-episode collection that will fit nicely on fan shelves next to CBS Paramount’s releases of Dynasty.
At the palatial Belvedere mansion in Bel Air, California, something is always happening. Daily life is a soap opera for the Colby family that call the place home. Domestic issues are par for the course, political intrigue a must. Colby patriarch Jason (Charlton Heston) has the stress of leading the multibillion dollar multinational Colby Enterprises, and its real estate, oil, and shipping concerns. If that’s not enough. Jason believes he’s dying of an inoperable brain tumor (though this turns out to be false, as his test results were mixed up with another unfortunate soul. Nonetheless, he’s got huge problems at home, as he must keep his scheming wife Sable (Stephanie Beacham) from killing her sister, Francesca Scott Colby Hamilton Langdon (Katherine Ross), who was once married to his dead brother Philip, and for whom he now lusts! If Jason listens to anyone for advice, it’s his strong-willed sister Constance (Barbara Stanwyck).
Jason has two daughters who couldn’t be any more different if they tried, and viewing the series all these years later, weren’t particularly interesting. Attorney Monica Colby (Tracy Scoggins) is Colby Enterprises‘ chief counsel and a real go-getter, but her father’s resistance to letting women participate in certain aspects of the business often has her chomping at the bit. On the other end of the spectrum, twenty-year old Bliss (Claire Yarlett) is rather naïve, with political beliefs that often put her at odds with her daddy.
Ricardo Montalban turns up as Zachary Powers, a business rival for Jason who eyes for Sable Montalban makes every scene he’s in better; the guy was awesome. Joseph Campanella is Hutch Corrigan, Constance’s cowboy lover; and Ken Howard plays Colby Enterprises lawyer Garrett Boydston.
The spin-off comes from Fallon Carrington Colby (Emma Samms), daughter of Dynasty’s Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) (who does appear on The Colbys a couple of times. Fallon, stricken with amnesia at the start of the series, and calling herself “Randall,” marries Miles Colby (Grease II‘s Maxwell Caulfield). In a particularly torrid twist, her new husband is her ex-husband Jeff Colby’s (John James) cousin. Despite “Randall”/Fallon’s marriage to his cousin Jeff vowed to help his love get her memory back, and inevitably they would once again be the happy family they were meant to be.
Despite the all-star cast, ratings were a disappointment. The series certainly didn’t benefit from the departure of Barbara Stanwyck after the first season. She reportedly 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.”
Canceled in 1987, several of the characters from The Colbys simply returned to Dynasty, even Fallon who had been abducted by aliens in the second season finale. You gotta love Aaron Spelling productions!
The fullscreen, 1.37:1 color transfers for The Colbys: The Complete Series are perfectly acceptable, with decent (if slightly faded) color, a fairly sharp image, and slight edge enhancement.
The Dolby Digital English mono audio track is more than adequate. Dialogue is clear.
Disc Five of Volume Two of The Colbys: The Complete Series, has a 25-minute featurette, Dynasty II: The Californians, which includes new interviews with stars John James, Maxwell Caulfield, and Stephanie Beacham. James and Caulfield return again on disc six, with Sibling Rivalry, which features 28 more minutes of their individual interviews.