TV… The Colbys (1985-87)

#1980s #AllPosts


Just when you thought it was safe to put away those shoulder pads…


A swan song for Barbara Stanwyck in her soap sassy, sisterly role to the actor she called Moses.


The Colbys first ever intro credits & show intro (amazing), joanCollins2009 and photos © ABC


Dallas (1978-01) of course had got there first. This with the spin-off soap Knots Landing (1979-93) long before Dynasty even started. In the late 1980s, prime-time soap rival Dynasty (1981-89) inevitably followed suit, with Dynasty II: The Colbys (1985-87).

Did I watch it? Damned right I did. Admittedly, my teenage self was like big brother JR Ewing in Dallas. I didn’t give a damn about that Ewing middle brother, black sheep Gary and his annoyingly virtuous wife, Valene Ewing so Knots Landing wasn’t as avidly watched as this soap spin-off.

The members of the Colby clan were introduced to us in three Dynasty episodes in the wake of the Moldavian Wedding Massacre.. but that’s another story (see HERE if you don’t know what I’m blabbing about). This show was promoted as having a more glamorous setting (Bel-Air in California), a bigger headlining cast and a substantially bigger budget of a million dollars an episode.

It seemed the perfect rating winner. Sadly, it folded after just two seasons with such a ridiculous, out of this world ending that made Bobby’s return to Dallas seem plausible. The show’s headlining stars included Charlton Heston (aka the man who played Moses), Katharine Ross, Richardo Montalban, Stephanie Beacham and Barbara Stanwyck.

Stanwyck appeared in what would be her final role. She was said to have beaten other Hollywood legends up for her role including Katharine Hepburn and Doris Day. Other talents considered for this soap included everyone from Burt Lancaster to Gregory Peck and Faye Dunaway to Angie Dickinson.

Guest stars from the original soap included Gordon Thomson (Adam Carrington), Jack Coleman (Steven Carrington) and Diahann Carroll (Dominique Deveraux). Other guest stars included Michael Parks, David Hedison and Kevin McCarthy.

The Colbys were headed by multi-billionaire and head of Colby Enterprises and family patriarch, Jason Colby. He was brother to the ill-fated Cecil Colby ( a one-time Alexis husband in Dynasty until she “accidentally” killed him in the throes of passion) and presumed dead, Philip. Jason was also husband to Alexis’ English cousin (Stephanie Beacham), Sable and brother to Constance.

Sable had three grown-up kids with Jason. These were playboy Miles, who at the beginning of the series happily ensconced with Fallon (here initially Randall, as she had amnesia) Carrington, sensible level-headed businesswoman, Monica (Tracy Scoggins) and the one that everyone forgets, Bliss (Claire Yarlett).

Miles was played by Grease 2s Michael Carrington, aka English heart-throb, Maxwell Caulfield… leading to a few tears (in our household) in his on-off love triangle with Jeff over was Randall now Fallon, when this hunky Englishman always lost out.

Also in the cast, as a kind of matriarchal figure to Jeff was Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck played Aunt Constance (Colby Patterson). Stanwyck appeared in three episodes of Dynasty and the first season of The Colbys.

Later, Frankie (Katharine Ross) joined the cast as Sable’s sister and Jeff’s estranged mother.. who had more than a soft spot for her sister’s husband, both in her younger days and later in the series. She was married to Jason’s brother Philip… (still with me?).

The villain of the soap was the wonderfully named Zach Powers with a voice as smooth as Corinthian leather was Khannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn! from Star Trek, Ricardo Montalban. This was also a complete departure from Mr Roarke in Fantasy Island.

This series concentrated on Jeff Colby (John James) as he left Denver for California to his family at his Aunt Constance’s request. As a nice wee incentive, he gets 50% of the family company too. This upsetting Sable, who has three kids with the man with the other 50%, Jason.

Constance gives Jeff this gift as Jason believes he is dying (which in trope soap style turns out to be untrue). Jeff meanwhile has also found his presumed dead but actually amnesiac wife Fallon (Emma Samms) now calling herself Randall. She’s newly married to his cousin, Miles in a what are the odds moment.

Constance was a gutsy, well-meaning and passionate woman who stood up to Sable’s obvious bitterness and bitchiness. The first series had an ongoing feud between the women. These episodes usually led to a confrontation that involved catty verbal comments from Sable with Constance defending herself or her motives. Sable protects her “children’s” interests. Constance is also constant support to her brother Jason and Jeff.

Constance’s other storylines included a court case – instrumented by Sable –  to prove Connie was of unsound mind when giving her part of the company to Jeff. This was after Sable maliciously convinced Connie and the family Connie was getting more forgetful and having a “mental breakdown”.

This backfired on her with Jason feeling she had gone too far. Sable does this in the “support” of her family. This storyline indirectly led to questions about Jeff’s true father. When Connie confronts Sable about this issue, she is accidentally (yes, really) hit by her sister-in-law’s car.

Heston reports he took on this role after learning Stanwyck would play his sister. The cast both praised and reported learning from this wonderful and experienced much older actress. Stanwyck plays her character’s strengths in a natural credible way with an obvious and strong warm on-screen rapport with Heston and James. She gives her all to show this character as having more well-meaning motives than her scheming sister-in-law.

Her scenes with Beacham however were a delight to watch with these attributes shown in their verbal spats. These usually end with a cutting comment delivered impeccably by Beacham. Connie even found time for a cowboy love interest. This was Hutch Corrigan (Joseph Campanella), with Sable “concerned” this “rodeo bum” was an extortionist.

Connie told nothing of her family’s wealth to him, and he respected her in this. After her identity was discovered (through Sable’s machinations) the pair broke up, only to reunite. In Series 2 (off-screen), they met up with Philip Colby, Jeff’s father in India (as you do). Then the pair boarded a plane and then killed in a plane crash in mysterious circumstances…

After series one, Stanwyck was reportedly deeply unhappy with her role development. She left before the second series calling the show a “turkey” and “the biggest pile of garbage I ever did”. Leaving after plots including rape, divorce, extramarital affairs, a shooting, murder, two love triangles, weddings and paternity suits.

Stanwyck missing in series 2, long-lost “fathers”, more weddings, defecting Russian ballet dancers, long-lost kids, more paternity suits and deceptions.  This not forgetting possibly the craziest ending to a soap ever. Just in case you need a wee reminder to quote the meme, “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it was aliens”.


Weeper Rating: 😦  😦  😦 😦  😦 😦  😦  /10

Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 /10

Hulk Ratingmrgreen‎  mrgreen‎   mrgreen‎   mrgreen‎   mrgreen‎ /10


2nd Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon 2019 No 2

This post was added to the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Maddy Loves Her Classic Films 2nd Remembering Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Charlton Heston in Skyjacked, Airport 75 and Earthquake. Stephanie Beacham in Dracula AD 1972. Katharine Ross in Voyage of the Dammed, The Swarm and The Graduate. Maxwell Caulfield in Beverly Hills 90210, Grease 2 and Tributing Tab Hunter.  Ricardo Montalban in Fantasy Island. Michael Parks and David Hedison both starred in North Sea Hijack aka ffolkes. Barbara Stanwyck appeared in Charlie’s Angels. The Lady and the Highwayman starred Emma Samms.



16 thoughts on “TV… The Colbys (1985-87)

  1. You have sparked my nostalgic passion for the 80s—I was a huge fan of both Dynasty and The Colbys. John James as Jeff? And Maxwell Caulfield? Be still my heart! Plus the wonderful Stephanie Beacham, the legendary Heston and Stanwyck, my beloved Stepford wife Katharine Ross…and though I did like Emma Samms ( who I originally watched on the US soap opera General Hospital) I must admit I preferred Pamela Sue Martin as Fallon. But The Colbys was such a guilty pleasure, I never missed it growing up!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, such an insane ending. Not the only show to just really go for it once the cancellation became obvious, but certainly one of the cases I most admire. I wish Stanwyck had stayed, but THE COLBYS came along a little too late in the soap cycle; by 1985 COSBY had made sitcoms the rage again. I watched this one mainly for my fellow Texan Tracy Scoggins, who could have had me watching anything back in the day. 🙂 Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great choice for the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon! We forget that Stanwyck’s career lasted a long long time and that she was so versatile and she did excellent, professional work until the end of her life. I was a child of the 80’s and a HUGE fan of Dallas and Dynasty and Falcon Crest. My mom and I used to watch all of those every single week. We never really got into The Colby’s, though. I guess it just came too late in the game when those kinds of family melodramas were beginning to fall out of popularity.

    Tam May
    The Dream Book Blog

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barbara Stanwyck in a soap opera? Sign me up to watch this! I have never seen this and really want to now. I do love me some 80’s soaps. While she may not have enjoyed working on this, I’ve no doubt that she gave the role her all, just as she always did. Thanks for joining our blogathon, Gill.

    Liked by 1 person

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