The Colbys (originally titled
Dynasty II: The Colbys) is an American prime time soap opera which aired on ABC from November 20, 1985 to March 26, 1987. The Aaron Spelling-produced series was a spin-off of Dynasty, which had been ranked #1 for the 1984-1985 U.S. television season. Intended to surpass its predecessor in opulence, the series' producers were handed an immensely high budget for the era, and cast a handful of well-known stars among its leads, including Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban.
Although much hyped in 1985 and the winner of a 1986 People's Choice Award for New TV Dramatic Program, The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment. The first season finished in 35th place, in part due to competition with NBC's Cheers on Thursday nights (by comparison, Dynasty finished in 7th place the same season). Now not only being scheduled opposite NBC's Cheers, but also rival soap Knots Landing on CBS (for a few weeks), The Colbys finished 64th for the year prompting the network to cancel the show.
Section written by LB Colby.
In december 1984, with Rock Hudson's upcoming Dynasty debut, rumors of a spin-off Dynasty show were being discussed in the press. Early articles suggested Rock Hudson would be the star of the show.
The first article reporting on a Dynasty spin-off was from January 16, 1985. In addition to Rock Hudson, Ali Macgraw and Jack Coleman would star on the show. On January 18, the name of John James replaced the name of Jack Coleman.
On February 23, 1985, the name of Heather Locklear was also mentioned. At this early point, the producers began talking to Pamela Sue Martin to reprise the role of Fallon in the very last episodes of season 5. ABC's original plan was to air the first few episodes of "The Colbys" on Wednesdays after "Dynasty" and then move it to Friday nights at 9, opposite "Dallas" on CBS, in order to weaken "Dallas" without moving "Dynasty" out of its regular timeslot on Wednesdays at 9. The producers were also planning to include Linda Evans and Joan Collins in the first two episodes of "The Colbys", along with Elizabeth Taylor (back in 1982, a rumor said she would join "Dynasty"'s third season for a two-hour special show, playing Alexis' sister).
On Mars 20, 1985, the spin-off was made official. The idea of airing the first few episodes of "The Colbys" on Wednesdays after "Dynasty" was cancelled. The new plan was to delay the debut of the spin-off and to have some of its storylines starting in "Dynasty". As negotiations with Pamela Sue Martin fell through, the producers were in hurry to find another actress who would showed up in the last episode of season 5. Emma Samms, that the producers met for a non-specific role source, was cast shortly before she began shooting her first episode.
On May 6, 1985 ABC unveiled its fall 1985 schedule putting "The Colbys" into the Thursday at 9pm timeslot (preceded by "the fall guy" and followed by 20/20).
At this time, James Darren of the just-canceled "TJ Hooker" was being considered for a role on "The Colbys". When "TJ Hooker" was picked up by CBS, this plan was scrapped.
One of the frontrunners for the role of Jason Colby was Burt Lancaster. Charlton Heston was the producers' second choice after the negotiations with Lancaster failed in June 1985. Meanwhile, they were also talking to Hollywood superstar Katherine Hepburn and Doris Day to play Constance Colby but it failed too.
In addition to Charlton Heston as Jason, were considered Barbara Stanwyck as Constance, Faye Dunnaway as Sable and James Coburn as Ben Carrington as it was told in the press on July 3. The casting of Charlton Heston was officially confirmed on July 9. The same day, it was revelaed that "The Colbys" versions of Krystle and Alexis were going to be called Anthea (later known as Francesca) and Sable.
On July 12, the producers began talking to Angie Dickinson to play his wife Sable.
On July 13, Elizabeth Taylor put an end of to all rumors that she may appear in "The Colbys" (or "Dynasty").
By July 29, it was reported that Angie Dickinson might not join the new series and that Susannah York and Elizabeth Ashley were next in line to take on the role of Sable Colby.
By July 30, the press reported that "sanity prevailed" and Ali MacGraw would not be coming back as Lady Ashley and a part of a love triangle on "The Colbys."
On August 3, it was reported Charlton Heston would be paid $85000 per episode of "The Colbys" and Barbara Stanwyck $75000 per episode.
The casting of Katherine Ross as Francesca was announced on August 5. A few days later it was reported that Stephanie Beacham "a household name in Britain, has beaten out Angie Dickinson for the role of Charlton Heston's wife on ABC's Dynasty II: The Colbys."
On August 19, Diahann Carroll said she was asked to appear on "The Colbys".
On August 19, the papers reported that Ken Howard would join either "Dynasty" or "The Colbys" and that in either case he would first appear in the special 2-hour episode of "Dynasty" in November.
On September 4, the press reported Ricardo Montalban known as Mr.Roarke on 'Fantasy Island' and Chrysler spokesman, was joining the show. He described his character as complex, ambitious and scheming, but with a kind of charm that can allow him to get away with almost anything."
It was also revealed at this time that Rex Smith had declined a role on the show due to his involvement with national tour of "West Side Story."
The casting of Joseph Campanella was announced on September 17.
Meanwhile, it was reported the show would be filmed at Barron Hilton's home in Bel Air.
By early October, ABC confirmed "The Colbys" would premiere in its regular timeslot Thursdays at 9:00pm on November 21, the day after the series premiere which was scheduled in special time, Wednesday November 20 at 10pm, after Dynasty. The much-hyped 2-hour episode of "Dynasty" was scheduled for November 14.
On November 4 it was reported that country singer Gary Morris would begin his guest starring stint on "The Colbys" in the show's 8th or 9th episode.
The following day, Ronald Reagan spoiled ABC's plans to air the show's 2nd episode on November 21, the day after it premieres after "Dynasty". White House announced the President would give a speech the same evening in the same timeslot in which "The Colbys" was supposed to premiere. Several days later, reports suggested Charlton Heston, an old friend of Reagan, tried to use his influence to see if there was anything that could be done to reschedule to speech so it wouldn't clash with the premiere of "The Colbys" (an 8pm timeslot could in fact give it a solid lead-in, providing it finished by 9pm). White House however did not change plans, and ABC was forced to reschedule to timeslot premiere of "The Colbys." Since the storylines would not allow the show to air after the next episode of "Dynasty" (in which Blake Carrington returned from L.A. where he saw his presumed-dead daughter telling Alexis all about it), ABC decided that the next best thing would be to air the 2nd episode on Wednesday, but in the 8pm timeslot, before "Dynasty." The following 3rd episode (a Thanksgiving episode) would then air on schedule, on Thursday, November 28, as the show's timeslot premiere.
The day the show finally premiered (Wed, Nov. 20 at 10pm), Los Angeles Times wrote "it's a clone-as close a replica as ABC and the "Dynasty" producers could concoct, right down to the credits." Some were calling it "a study in confusion" others said it was "more of the same" and "if you didn;t care for 'Dynasty' you wouldn't have any reasons to watch this show."
When the initial good ratings came in ("The Colbys" was 9th for the week, while "Dynasty" was 5th) the reviewers were asking "Will the same large audience stick with Dynasty II: The Colbys next week when it premieres in its regular Thursday time period?"
A ratings report published on Thursday, November 21 read: "Scheduled behind Dynasty, the 10 p.m. Wednesday, the mega-hyped premiere of Dynasty II: The Colbys was a smash as it easily won the 12-city Nielsen ratings. The spinoff, which moves into its regular 9 p.m. Thursday, time slot on Thanksgiving Day, attracted 24.5% of TV homes. NBC's St. Elsewhere had 13.4% and CBS' The Equalizer had 10.1%. Dynasty crushed its competition with 25%"
The same day, The Pittsburgh Press compared the scripts to "Dick and Jane books for children".
The following week, as the show premiered in the regular timeslot the critics were telling the readers not to hold breath for it to become a hit. And they appeared to be right - the show fell to 50th place and ranked last in the timeslot.
A report dated December 4 read: "With one-third of the new season behind us, those high-flying, steamy, prime-time soaps are being buffeted by stormy weather. "Dynasty II," which had been rolling along on the shirttails of "Dynasty," slipped on its first night in its new time period. Of course, it's too early to dismiss the Colbys, and Thursday was Thanksgiving, a night with different viewing habits. Most prime-time soap operas also take months to develop an audience. CBS' "Dallas," for instance, was nearly canceled after the first season.
On December 11, an ironic piece in Philadelphia Inquirer said: "In a move that will no doubt send tremors throughout the industry, ABC has announced that, beginning this week, Dynasty II: The Colbys will be known as The Colbys."
A December 18 ratings reported stated that: "'The Colbys,' ABC's 'Dynasty' spinoff, showed all the signs of an early failure with a 46th-place finish. So far, it's clear that 'The Colbys' is not catching on."
On December 23, it was announced that "although it's not exactly burning up the ratings, ABC's "The Colbys" has received an order for 24 episodes from the network.
Articles published in January focused on the new ABC president saying how mistakes were made in "Dynasty" and the network was working day and night since Thanksgiving on correcting the show. The networks was meanwhile saying although struggling in the ratings "The Colbys" was doing better than its previous season's Thursday night line-up and would give the show time to build an audience.
On January 2, 1986 it was announced that Charlton, Heston extended its stay on "The Colbys" from 17 to 24 episodes.
In early March it was reported that the most recent episode of "The Colbys" had its highest Thursday night ratings finishing 26th for the week. Just a few week earlier it bottomed out at the 54th place.
ABC executives denied rumors that Pamela Sue Martin was going to return to her role of Fallon in "The Colbys" if the spin off is renewed for a 2nd season.
Also in early March "The Colbys" won People's Choice Award as "Favorite New Series".
On March 13, 1986 ABC renewed "The Colbys" for a 2nd season. It was reported the same day Barbara Stanwych might return for 6 or 7 episodes, down from 24 she did in season 1.
Just days later "The Colbys" would again score season-high Thursday night ratings with the wedding episode.
On March 18, "Cheers" scored 22.4/34 rating, "The Colbys" got 19.8/30, while NCAA on CBS got only 10.2/16.
A March 19 report suggested that "after a rocky start "The Colbys" is finally climbing in the ratings, but it appears to be so prohibitively expensive that future payoff in syndication seems very chancy."
On March 29 it was reported that CBS' "Simon & Simon" was now running third in the timeslot after being passed by "The Colbys" and would be gone by the end of the season.
On April 19 some stores pulled the current issue of tabloid "Globe" with John James and Emma Samms on the cover passionately kissing in the shower with a headline "TV's Steamiest Kiss" promoting an upcoming episode of "The Colbys."
On April 27 in an interview, Pamela Sue Martin said she would never return to "Dynasty" and could not give an opinion of Emma Samms who replaced her because she never saw "The Colbys".
On May 13, ABC confirmed that they would retain 6 of the 17 new shows they tried in the 1985-86 season including "The Colbys" and announced the fall schedule. Newsmagazine "Our World" would lead into "The Colbys" which was going to remain in the Thursday at 9pm timeslot (ABC honchos acknowledges that newsmagazine into series was not a perfect lead-in). "Our World" would eventually end the next 1986-87 season as one of the last of about 80 network shows, pulling "The Colbys" further down with it.
In late May it was confirmed that of the 5 prime-time soap operas, which generally don't do very well in repeats, 3 would get summer reruns, including "Dallas" (which was moving to Wednesdays at 8pm for the summer), "Knots Landing" and "The Colbys".
An article published in early June 1986 discussed CBS' decision to move "Knots Landing" from 10pm to 9pm in the 1986-87 season, believing the spin-off of "Dallas" was popular enough to put the spin-off of "Dynasty" out of business. It was also stated that ABC was hoping "The Colbys" would slowly build their audience, but CBS was tossing a roadblock in their path. "Knots Landing" was successfully beating "Hill Street Blues" in the ratings for 2 straight seasons, and CBS execs were confident it would do even better against "The Colbys."
On June 24, the press reported that Barbara Stanwyck demanded her exit from "The Colbys" despite originally agreeing to do at least 7 episodes in the show's 2nd season. According to the report, Stanwyck was sulking over the way her character had been developed and wanted Constance Colby killed off to eliminate pressure to return. It was also said that Stanwyck had been complaining about the development of her character for some time, but finally was at the end of her tether.
Stephanie Beacham however said at the annual television press tour in Los Angeles in late June 1986 that she "believes her show will increase in popularity because it veers a little more to the truth than its competitors."
On July 2, it was reported that unlike its high-profile competitors, "The Colbys" had no problem signing its stars for a 2nd season (except for Stanwyck, of course) because it was a new show, and the show's main concern at the time was improving the ratings.
On July 8, the creators of Dynasty, Richard and Esther Shapiro filed a $40 million suit against Aaron Spelling seeking to block sale of the Spelling stock, under which company owner Spelling would retain 68.7% of the voting shares.
The same day TV Guide named "Knots Landing" the best prime-time soap opera, and "The Colbys" the worst.
On July 21, 1986 it was reported that Kim Morgan Greene joined "The Colbys" as magazine reporter Channing Carter, beginning with the season premiere.
On August 6, Tracy Scoggins said in an interview her character would continue to choose the wrong kind of man.
On August 14 it was announced Ken Howard was leaving "The Colbys" after he signed on as host for a new weekly syndicated beauty pagean "Dream Girls". Instead of perishing in a cliffhanger, his character Garret Boydston would simply move to New York office. The actor would appear in the first 2 episodes of the 2nd season. Howard was also going to teach at Yale Drama School and work at Harvard's Loeb Theater with his mentor, Robert Brustein.
On August 17, Los Angeles published an article on the returning series, including a segment about "The Colbys" reporting from the set: "Jeff and Miles Colby were fighting over Fallon-again-on "The Colbys" (returning to ABC). In all, eight hours were spent Monday staging and shooting a complicated fight sequence, in which furniture, vases and bottles (all of the breakaway variety) were smashed and strewn."
On August 9, it was announced that the newest addition to ABC's The Colbys was Kevin McCarthy, who would play smarmy magazine publisher Lucas Channing.
Ratings reports indicated "The Colbys" was not doing well in reruns. The show generated 5% of the available audience, while lead-out 20/20 was building on that to 13%.
In a September 14 interview, Stephanie Beacham said she believed the producers of "The Colbys" wanted to make Sable more sympathetic.
More forecasts of "The Colbys" upcoming season 2 failure were published prior to the September 24 season opener (following the season 7 premiere of "Dynasty"). The reports emphasized the show's troublesome timeslot and the fact that it was sandwiched between two ABC News shows, "Our World" and "20/20."
On October 1, a ratings report stated the 2nd season premiere of "The Colbys" which aired after Dynasty finished 28th, but the timeslot premiere the following night finished 56th. The show was the last in the timeslot and competing "Cheers" rose to its best ratings ever. ABC was however going to keep the show in the timeslot for the remainder of the season.
The same day, The Victoria Adovcate reported that: "The newest handsome hunk on "The Colbys," model-turned-London-actor Adrian Paul started working on the series as a Soviet ballet dancer with a thick Russian accent. But the producers now have decided he should become Americanized rather fast."
The following week ratings analysts reported CBS' bold move of "Knots Landing" may not have been so wise, as the network was damaging the show's ratings by having it compete against "Cheers." In fact, an article stated that "Thursday night soaps are killing each other off". "The Colbys" plunged to 65th place, while "Knots Landing" was out of the top-20 and down to 43rd place. The author was asking if CBS was damaging "Knots Landing" beyond repair.
On October 21 1986, it was reported that both "The Colbys" and Lucille Ball's new comedy "Life with Lucy," both Aaron Spelling productions were finishing in the bottom 10 in the ratings.
On November 13, 1986, CBS decided to move "Knots Landing" back into the 10pm timeslot and out of the way of "Cheers". Meanwhile, Spelling's The Colbys was in critical condition, ranking 62nd among 69 prime-time series through seven weeks of the regular season. Dynasty, previous season's 7th most-popular series with a 21.8 rating, 33 share, was 18th season thus far, with an 18.1 rating, 28 share.
On December 9 it was announced Michael Parks had been added to the cast of ABC's "The Colbys" as Hoyt Parker, a mysterious man who becomes suspect in the disappearance of Barbara Stanwyck's Constance Colby character.
On December 23 the Shapiros ended their dispute with Aaron Spelling and dropped their lawsuit.
On December 29, Daily News reported that Charlton Heston had sent co-star Maxwell Caulfield a letter blasting his behavior on the set of "The Colbys". Heston said to the paper his feud was only with Caulfield, he thought the rest of the cast was one of the most professional he had worked with in the past 30 years (more details here)
The same paper reported the same day in a separate article Emma Samms was earning over $30,000 per episode of "The Colbys."
The producers began touting the February wedding of Jason and Francesca Colby in the first week of 1987, while Playboy announced it would publish Stephanie Beacham's 1972 nude photos in its February issue.
On January 19, 1987, Daily News reported that Bianca Jagger started work on the ailing "Colbys" the previous Friday. She was making a special appearance in two March episodes as the mysterious and exotic Maya Kumarara, who magically appeared to clear up some shady elements in Hoyt Parker's past.
A February report suggested some local ABC affiliates were preempting the network Thursday night line-up of "Our World" and "The Colbys" with movies and local programming, thus further exacerbating the shows' ratings decline.
On March 4, 1987, ABC scheduled the season finale of "The Colbys" for April 2nd and said repeats of "Jack and Mike" would move into the show's spot the following week. The network said the show would for the time being remain in the limbo between hiatus and cancellation until the final decision was made.
Just a couple of days later, ABC rescheduled the season finale to March 26, adding the penultimate episode which was originally supposed to air that night to the post-Dynasty timeslot on March 25.
Meanwhile, ABC was said to be considering moving the show to a new timeslot, possibly following "Dynasty" on Wednesday nights.
On May 1 Charlton Heston was asked in an interview if he thought there would be another season of "The Colbys" and he said "I think so." The network honchos had remained undecided, more than a month after the season end aired.
ABC cancelled "The Colbys" on May 16, 1987 when it announced its fall 1987 schedule. The same day the network said it was moving its declining 7-year old soap "Dynasty" to a later timeslot at 10pm and cutting the season order to the standard 22. "Jack and Mike" which briefly replaced "The Colbys" on Thursday nights was also discarded. "Thursday Night Movie" was going to replace "The Colbys" and "20/20" in the fall of 1987.
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