Concerned by a 20% audience decline in less than two months, the producers of "Dynasty" said Monday that they plan a series of dramatic changes aimed at luring viewers back to the ABC soap opera.
"It will become more emotional, more realistic--without losing the glamour," Esther Shapiro, co-creator and co-executive producer of the series, told a news conference.
And, in what the producers described as a demonstration of their resolve to keep the show alive, they said they have signed "Dynasty" stars John Forsythe, Linda Evans and Joan Collins to continue with the show through the 1987-88 season.
A company spokeswoman conceded, however, that ABC has not yet given them a commitment to renew the series beyond the current season.
That would have been taken for granted just a few weeks ago. But the ratings for "Dynasty," once the most popular series on TV, have declined every time it's been on this season, and in the last two weeks it has been beaten in its time period by CBS' "Magnum, P.I."
According to A.C. Nielsen Co. figures, about 13.7 million homes were tuned to the exploits of the Carrington clan last Wednesday, compared to about 17 million for the season premiere Sept. 24.
"Though our ratings have wavered during the past few weeks, our confidence in the show has not," said Aaron Spelling, another of the show's executive producers.
Spelling and Shapiro, who created the series with her husband Richard six years ago, cited several reasons for the audience decline and said they have addressed the problems in episodes that will begin airing in the next few weeks.
They attributed the slumping viewership to a repetition of storylines, dislike of seeing Blake Carrington suffering at Alexis Colby's hand week after week and changing public tastes .
They said they plan to introduce new stories in the weeks ahead that will give the soap a more realistic tone and more emotional depth.
"It was not that long ago that the industry was ready to write off 'Magnum, P.I.,' and now it's back as a formidable contender," Spelling said. "We feel strongly that our new story lines are better than anything we've ever done and will create some fierce competition."
Among the story lines that are in the works, the producers said, are a life-threatening crisis for Blake and Krystle's infant daughter and a look back at the origins of Blake and Alexis' passionate romance.