Times Staff Writer

In just two hours, with the flick of the dial, TV will take you on a jump from the serene to the opulently ridiculous with two new shows tonight--a “KCET Journal” at 9 p.m. and the premiere of “Dynasty II: The Colbys” at 10 p.m.

The “KCET Journal” is “Vayan Con Dios,” a title dripping with irony. It’s a common Spanish expression of good wishes meaning “Go With God.” But many Latinos, this documentary reports, are now questioning where they should go to find God.

For generations, the Catholic Church has been the overwhelmingly predominant religion of Latinos and a fundamental part of their culture. A growing number, however, are leaving for other churches--particularly fundamentalist sects.


“Vayan Con Dios,” on Channel 28, is unable to specify how great this exodus is, but it’s obviously significant enough to have prompted concern and reaction among local Catholic Church officials. That’s the focus of the program as it explores why Latinos are leaving and what the Catholic Church is doing about it.

Produced for KCET and the Latino Consortium by Jean Victor and Sylvia Morales (who also directed), it’s an intriguing account that works on several levels, incorporating personal stories of the important role that religion plays in people’s lives, a historical overview of the Catholic and fundamentalist movements and an examination of the “business” of religion--how churches must adapt to meet their members’ needs.

More than that, “Vayan Con Dios” demonstrates the qualities that have become hallmarks of the “KCET Journal”: a deep respect for its subjects, a quest for insight into the fascinating ways that people live their lives and an abiding intelligence that dictates against trying to offer pat solutions for life’s big problems.

And then there’s “Dynasty II: The Colbys.” It seems too easy to say that if you like “Dynasty” you’ll like “Dynasty II,” but that’s the most accurate way to describe it. 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.

Like “Dynasty,” “The Colbys” uses fancy wardrobe, big sets and some well-known performers to spice up the standard soap opera ingredients--inter-family rivalries, fatal illnesses, secret romances, amnesia victims and star-crossed lovers.

Tonight’s premiere (on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42) even trots out such vintage lines as, “I think I’ve been searching for you my whole life”; “She’s not as strong as she seems”; “When it comes to men, no two women are ever on the same team,” and that classic soap staple, “From the look on your face, I’d say there was something . . . very wrong. You want to talk about it?”


As “Dynasty’s” legions of loyal viewers have already learned, during a drawn-out period in which the show labored to give birth to its offspring, the Colby clan includes Charlton Heston as billionaire Jason Colby, Barbara Stanwyck as his older sister, Stephanie Beacham as his wife (whose name, would you believe, is Sable) and Maxwell Caulfield, Tracy Scoggins and Claire Yarlett as their grown children. John James makes the transition from “Dynasty” as Jeff Colby, Jason’s nephew and new partner in his international corporation, and Emma Samms is on hand as Fallon, or rather, Randall--well, the “Dynasty” fans will understand.

Also introduced tonight are Katherine Ross as James’ mother (she looks like she must have had him when she was about 10) and Ricardo Montalban (without the white suit) as one of Heston’s business adversaries.

“The Colbys” is fine for what it is, although both “Dynastys” take themselves much too seriously for my taste. Give me “Dallas” anytime, where the characters are more sympathetic and display a welcome sense of humor.

The more important question is whether ABC, in ordering such a blatant imitation of the one big hit on its schedule, is inadvertently billboarding just how desperate its third-place ratings plight is.