Sort of in keeping with Snarky's 70s-ness description, is it possible that DALLAS and DYNASTY were both originally cut, at least from a TV grammar standpoint, from the same cloth as the US mini-series (or, as my mother nostalgically refers to them, "Best Sellers") that immediately preceded them; ROOTS and RICH MAN, POOR MAN? The first five eps of DALLAS and thirteen of DYNASTY could easily have been adaptations of novels -- there's something instantly saga-ish about them. And had they not been renewed, they could have (kinda, sorta) worked as one off dramas. With both shows, you don't feel like you're watching the beginning of a franchise, but a work that is complete in itself. And there's a confidence which goes along with that kind of story-telling. There's a strong sense of place and every character that's introduced is utilised to the full; there's not a wimp or a Bliss Colby amongst them.
I watched the first episode of REVENGE last week and that has a similar sort of vibe, albeit in a more 80s LACE kind of way. There's a large cast of characters, most of them young and pretty, but somehow they don't feel faceless and generic. You just know they're each there to serve a specific purpose.
"Anyone who reacts critically to a show in a written-down form, whether it's professionally or in a blog, is responding to the programme in a perfectly valid way, but in an utterly atypical way. That's just not how people watch television." - Steven Moffat
I totally agree about the saga element, but I feel that element went on to a degree, especially when Bobby died. That 'end' almost felt like how the story was to be told, everything was leading up to his demise so the mini series Pamela was now holding a major share of Ewing Oil. Maybe that was just me.
I'm not sure what it was about those shows in the 70's. There was something a bit more relaxed, even bad acting seemed to at times assist with the general feel of it. Fallon in Dynasty and Jeff just seemed to be enjoying it. Not sure if that was the style of acting or they were just told to have fun.
An another example is Bionic Woman. Lindsay Wagner just seemed natural, having fun, whereas its contemporary version was all serious and polished.