The Colbys (originally titled Dynasty II: The Colbys) is an American prime time television soap opera which originally aired on ABC from November 20, 1985 to March 26, 1987. Produced by Aaron Spelling, it was a spin-off of Dynasty, which had been the highest rated series for the 1984–1985 U.S. television season. The Colbys revolves around another wealthy, upper-class family, who are relatives by marriage of the Carringtons of Dynasty and who own a large multi-national corporation. 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 movie stars among its leads, including Charlton Heston, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Ross and Ricardo Montalban. However, The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment, and was canceled after two seasons.
On Dynasty, presumed-dead heiress Fallon Carrington Colby (Emma Samms) reappears alive, suffering from amnesia and using the name Randall Adams. Drawn to California after recognizing the name "Colby," she meets playboy Miles Colby (Maxwell Caulfield), not realizing that he is the cousin of her ex-husband, Jeff (John James). A mutual business venture brings the Colbys of California to the Denver mansion of Fallon's father Blake Carrington (John Forsythe).
Set in Los Angeles, The Colbys focuses on the extended Colby family as Jeff relocates to California to start his life anew – and comes face to face with Fallon, now married to his cousin Miles. A fierce rivalry is sparked between Jeff and Miles, and the love triangle spans the series. Miles' father, billionaire Jason Colby (Heston), has a rocky marriage to the icy Sable (Stephanie Beacham), in part due to his longtime attraction to Sable's sister Francesca (Ross) – Jeff's estranged mother, and the former wife of Jason's deceased brother. Other characters include Jason's powerful sister Constance (Stanwyck), Miles' twin sister Monica (Tracy Scoggins) and their third sibling Bliss (Claire Yarlett).
In addition to Forsythe's Blake, Dynasty characters Adam Carrington (Gordon Thomson), Steven Carrington (Jack Coleman) and Dominique Deveraux (Diahann Carroll) also made guest appearances on the show between 1985 and 1986.
Although much hyped in 1985, garnering high ratings for its premiere episode, and also the winner of a 1986 People's Choice Award for New Dramatic TV Program, The Colbys was ultimately a ratings disappointment. The first season finished in 35th place, in part due to competition with NBC's Cheers and Night Court on Thursday nights (by comparison, Dynasty finished in 7th place the same season). The series was renewed for a second season but fared much worse. Now not only being scheduled opposite NBC's Cheers and Night Court, but also rival soap Knots Landing on CBS (for a few weeks), The Colbys finished a dismal 76th for the year prompting the network to cancel the show.
The series did not fare well among critics either, with one of its main criticisms being that it was simply a copy of Dynasty. The "L.A. Times" stated "It's not a spinoff, it's a clone—as close a replica as ABC and the Dynasty producers could concoct, right down to the credits." "The Pittsburgh Press" compared the scripts to Dick and Jane books for children. In their "Directory To Primetime TV Shows," television historians Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh stated that the series likely failed because it was "too close a copy" of Dynasty.
Even some castmembers were vocal about their dissatisfaction with the series. In 1986, Barbara Stanwyck opted to end her contract and leave the series after its first season, reportedly calling it "a turkey" and telling 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." On the contrary, Charlton Heston always had supported the show and stated its cancellation "was premature" as "we were coming closer to being a creative production team that could make the kind of show we'd planned on from the beginning."
Dynasty star Joan Collins categorically refused to make any appearances in it herself, believing it would have caused "massive confusion between the two shows", and urged her fellow Dynasty castmates not to involve themselves with it either.