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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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‘Dallas’ comes back after two decades, this time on TNT

What did you think of the first episode of "Dallas"?

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UPDATE at 10 a.m., June 14, 2012: So “Dallas” was unveiled, Larry Hagman’s eyebrows even crazier looking than ever. The old-timers made it seem easy, the newbies still trying to find their way. Can Josh Henderson’s John Ross hold a candle to his daddy? We’ll find out. Please tell us below what you thought!

UPDATE at 12:34 p.m., June 14: “Dallas” ratings are in: 6.9 million viewers. That’s really good though I expected more. It skewed a bit old with 1.9 million in the 18-49 demo with a majority of viewers 50 and up.

Southfork. J.R. Oil.

That was the gusher of a formula for “Dallas,” the seminal prime-time soap of the 1980s on CBS.

Atlanta-based TNT is bringing the Ewing family back to TV Wednesday night, June 13,  for 10 episodes, blending key original characters with a new generation.

“It’s just like coming home,” says 81-year-old Larry Hagman. Having played the goofy but lovable astronaut in “I Dream of Jeannie” in the late ’60s, “Dallas” turned Hagman into J.R. Ewing, one of the most indelible villains in TV history, with his signature Stetson, scene-chewing insults and nefarious double-crosses.

Indeed, “Dallas” (1978-1991) returns as if the cameras were simply turned off for more than 20 years, save for a couple of reunion movies in the 1990s.

The show captures much of the backstabbing, greed and power plays of the original program — just sped up, 2012 style.

“In the old days,” Hagman says, “it was pretty staid. They would linger on shots, pull in, pull back. Those kinds of things. Now they just cut from one subject to another. It’s daunting for me to keep up with everything!”

The new version makes frequent references to the show’s original legacy, including Jock Ewing and Miss Ellie, J.R. and Bobby’s parents.

And the famous “Who Shot J.R.” episode is not forgotten. When Bobby’s current wife Ann Ewing (Brenda Strong) hears a noise in a room, she enters, rifle drawn.

J.R. is there. He looks at her, bemused. “Bullets,” he drawls, “don’t seem to have much effect on me.”

On the surface, TNT appears to be playing it safe by bringing back a known commodity, a brand name deeply ingrained in TV lore. The network even chose to ape the opening credits of the original show, with the same iconic theme song and updated shots of the city of Dallas.

But like risking a dry hole in what was once an oil-rich land, TNT is actually taking a big gamble. Remakes, reboots and recalibrations of old TV series mostly fail.

Tim Brooks, a TV historian and author of “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows,” can identify only two truly successful returns of TV shows during 60 years of television: NBC’s “Dragnet” in 1967 and CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O” in 2010.

The odds of a revamped “Dallas” working are “a long shot, to say the least,” Brooks says. “Even if they get fans into the room, it’s difficult to live up to the expectations.”

But TNT isn’t scared. “Go big, or go home,” says Tricia Melton, the network’s senior vice president for entertainment marketing.

Producers have been pitching “Dallas” revivals for years, Hagman says. This script finally worked. After conveying its confidence in the series, TNT released its first trailer last July, nearly a year in advance.

Since then, TNT has been plastering cities with billboards, including one where the cast is cheekily wearing towels in a shower, referencing Bobby’s infamous return in 1986 after a year off that became a “dream season.” Actors are criss-crossing the country to talk up the show: the younger cast members to MTV, the older ones to “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno.” Ads are saturating cable channels and entertainment magazines. On social media, J.R. has been updating an extensive 34-year Facebook timeline that has built up nearly 700,000 real-life fans.

Turner even had its sister station TCM get in the act by airing three old films featuring Hagman this past Monday night.

TNT also hopes to grab some fans of “Desperate Housewives,” which just ended its eight-year run. It’s coincidental that three of the new characters are played by actors who had been on that popular ABC drama.

Jesse Metcalfe, who plays Bobby’s adopted son, was the young gardener that hooked up with Eva Longoria’s sultry Gabrielle season one. Josh Henderson, who plays J.R.’s son John Ross, was Edie’s brooding nephew from season three . And Strong played the narrator for the show and as Mary Alice, served as the catalyst for the show after committing suicide in the first episode.

TV preview

“Dallas”

9 p.m. Wednesdays, TNT.

Catching up with the Ewings

J.R. starts this updated series deeply depressed, broke and semi-comatose in an old-age home. “Funked out,” is how Larry Hagman describes his character.

J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson) is now a grown-up, trying to make his own mark in the oil business. For better or worse, he was never schooled by J.R. Instead, his mom Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) kept him in boarding school in Europe as a child.

“I’m not going to fail like you did,” John Ross growls at his dad at one point. J.R.’s response? A vintage slap in the face.

J.R.’s perpetual nemesis and younger brother Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) remains the good son, running Southfork Ranch with dignity. But when J.R. smells an opportunity to get the ranch back, his mental funk quickly dissipates.

This, of course, frustrates Bobby, who yelps at one point: “I’m sick of this family devouring itself over money!”

“The frustration for Bobby,” Duffy says, “is how can he respect J.R. as a family member yet have complete lack of respect for him as a person? They do love each other but they’ll try to outdo each other until their dying breath.”

Bobby’s adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) is an insecure businessman developing an alternative energy company. (”He’s very ethical like his dad,” Metcalfe says.) But like Bobby and J.R., John Ross and Christopher have a long-simmering rivalry, fueled by a common romantic interest.

Gray’s long-suffering Sue Ellen is now fully estranged from former husband J.R. but gaining political power, weighing a bid for governor of Texas. “She tackled her alcoholism and demons and is now finding herself again,” Gray says. “She has more money than J.R.!”

Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) and Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing) visit Atlanta to promote "Dallas" at the Four Seasons Hotel June 6, 2012. CREDIT: Helen Ho/SPECIAL

Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) and Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing) visit Atlanta to promote "Dallas" at the Four Seasons Hotel June 6, 2012. CREDIT: Helen Ho/SPECIAL

How well do you recall ‘Dallas’?

dallas who shot jr1. Who actually shot J.R.?

A. His brother Bobby Ewing B. His banker Vaughn Leland C. His mistress Kristin Shepard D. his wife Sue Ellen

2. Larry Hagman refused to work after the “Who shot J.R.?” episode but the producers upped his salary to what was then an unprecedented amount. How much did he get paid after he got his raise?

A. $10,000 per episode B. $50,000 per episode C. $100,000 per episode D. $250,000 per episode.

3. How many Americans viewed the “Who Shot J.R.” episode in October, 1980, according to Nielsen ratings?

A. 62 million B. 83 million C. 105 million E. 118 million

4. How did Bobby Ewing die at the end of the 1984-85 season when actor Patrick Duffy expressed a desire to leave the show?

A. Strangled B. Run over by a car C. Shot D. Thrown down an elevator shaft

5. Hagman convinced Duffy to return for the 1986-87 season so how did the writers deal with Bobby Ewing?

A. He was never dead. He had been hiding out in Morocco. B. He died but came back as a ghost. C. He was in a coma but was revived by J.R. D. He was never dead. The entire 1985-86 season was deemed a dream sequence and Bobby shows up again… in the shower.

6. Besides Hagman’s J.R., which other character appeared in all 14 seasons of the original run?

A. Cliff Barnes B. Sue Ellen C. Ray Krebbs D. Pamela Barnes

7. By 1988, a “Dallas” spinoff actually beat “Dallas” in the ratings. What was the name of that show?

A. Knots Landing B. Dynasty C. Falcon Crest D. The Colbys

8. Barbara Bel Geddes played Miss Ellie Ewing, the matriarch of the Ewing family for most of the series. Who took over her character for one season in 1985-86?

A. Donna Reed B. Eva Marie Saint C. Barbara Billingsley D. Debbie Reynolds

9. What does J.R. stand for?

A. James Robert B. John Ross C. John Richards D. James Ross

10. “Dallas” was big with season-ending cliffhangers. Which of the following was not an actual cliffhanger?

A. Sue Ellen crashes her car after escaping a sanitarium B. Cliff finds a dead body in the pool at Southfork C. The Southfork mansion burns! D. A bomb explodes that may or may not have killed Pamela

ANSWERS 1. C 2. C 3. B 4. B 5. D 6. A 7. A 8. A 9. B 10. D

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

86 comments Add your comment

I hate UGA

June 13th, 2012
7:15 am

2 misspellings? decaddes? astonaut? Lord……quick go tell your bosses Richt has a tummy ache and Herschel refused to donate $ b/c of Trump….breaking news!! Breaking news, now!

Deirdre

June 13th, 2012
7:54 am

Rodney, great article…also center stage in what Mercedes calls the paper paper. You must’ve been pretty young when the first Dallas was on tv….which makes me wonder how much of their audience will even remember much and how many people below the age of 50 will even care. They may have waited too long. Was Dallas ever in syndication?

benita michelle wheeler

June 13th, 2012
8:12 am

what…it is back..the 80s is back…let me go my jeans, crop top, and my cowboy boots.benitamichellewheeler

Sam-A

June 13th, 2012
9:19 am

Deirdre: Back over Christmas holidays one of the stations (TNT perhaps?) ran a one day marathon of “Dallas” – lordy the shoulder pads! It was kind of funny – which was hard to believe because I always enjoyed “Dallas” in it’s day. I don’t remember if it was syndicated (must have been), but do remember “Knots Landing” in syndication, used to tape it every day and watch when I got home.

Lone Star

June 13th, 2012
9:21 am

Might be a good time to pop a cold JR beer!

The Economist

June 13th, 2012
9:33 am

After all “The Kenyan JiveTalker” and the Pelosi types have down to carry on Dubya’s ruinization of this nation’s economy and bloated expansion of the federal government, in addition to the EPA putting a halt to oil drilling to save the Striped Owl or the Spotted Democrat-Pedophile, I am surprised the Ewing Family has any money left.

Producer

June 13th, 2012
9:45 am

Back in the 90’s CMT (Country Music Television) ran the entire series.

Producer

June 13th, 2012
9:47 am

The best night time soap of all time!!! Loved it!! Even in college my roommates and I watched it every Friday night! JR rules!

Really?

June 13th, 2012
9:49 am

Rodney?…….When’s the last time you blogged about a show with substance? Ever blog about Frontline? Oh yeah….it’s not about substance….It’s about page hits.

Do you really feel good about your job? Do you honestly feel you contribute to the human race?

Eric

June 13th, 2012
10:24 am

Dallas was a very good night time soap opera. Can’t wait to see the new Dallas

Mercedes S.

June 13th, 2012
10:27 am

Great story, Rodney, thanks. I’m ashamed to admit how many answers I got right. BUT, we were young and really did not have a life back then.

Mercedes S.

June 13th, 2012
10:28 am

Really?, go play with a duck.

Eric

June 13th, 2012
10:28 am

@ Really?

June 13th, 2012
9:49 am

Rodney’s blog is very similar to a TV show. When you don’t like what’s on a particular channel you can turn the channel. Same thing with this blog. If you don’t like the content then don’t read the blog.

Vast Wastrel

June 13th, 2012
10:38 am

Really?…….It’s a “Radio & TV Talk” blog. If you are looking for meaningful input to the condition of the human race [sic] then perhaps you should go somewhere else than a blog dedicated to a segment of the entertainment industry. A segment that has been mostly devoid of meaningful input to the state of the human condition or the betterment of the species, hence the “vast wasteland” tag applied so many decades ago.

I personally never liked the night time soaps and would prefer Frontline any day but these days I welcome any overtly scripted show a network is willing to fund over the so-called reality shows. I’m not going to act all pretentious and claim that I only watch PBS or listen to NPR and I think very few would but even my penchant for mindless entertainment is insulted by the majority of the reality dreck.

Speaking of majorities, any medium including this one with advertising dollars at stake has to cater to them. With tv and radio you have the option of changing the channels. Here the option might be to skip blogs whose very title would clue you in that they are not to your liking and then not try to insult someone doing their job by exposing your own ignorance.

Dallas fan

June 13th, 2012
11:04 am

As long as it doesnt have anything to do with Hip Hop culture I will be watching!

Kay

June 13th, 2012
11:05 am

Great article Rodney, I got Number 10 wrong, Showing my age, Can’t wait to see the new version. CMT is running the original episode. I’m playing catch up til tonight.

Deirdre

June 13th, 2012
11:56 am

@Really? azz! (sorry blogsters but the rule doesn’t apply on this segment of the blog!)

richard whiskey

June 13th, 2012
1:47 pm

remember when bobby died and then was brought back to life,was so stupid never watched dallas again

stone cold

June 13th, 2012
10:21 pm

this new Dallas is a disgrace to the original show…JR like a zombie at first and now John Ross comes to see him and he is all well and back to his nasty self? I hope your station drops off the page for viewing this garbage……do the creators think viewers are going to fall for this BS?

Carola Von H.

June 13th, 2012
11:10 pm

Way better than I thought it would be. And Larry Hagman wiped the floor with sappy Bobby and the new batch of Ewing boys.

I hate UGA

June 14th, 2012
12:07 am

Whiskey River take my mind……

Producer

June 14th, 2012
8:34 am

Pleasantly surprised, too! The withering look J.R. gave to end the show is exactly like I remembered. John Ross ought to have known never to cross ‘ol J.R.!!!! Brought back a flood of fun memories!! My DVR is set…Do I think it will last? No, but I will enjoy it while I can.

G

June 14th, 2012
9:19 am

It was good to see DALLAS back on. It will be interesting to see if this generation of viewers will like as much as the previous. What I liked about it so far:

1. They kept the original theme song
2. A good handful of familiar characters are back
3. Plenty of eye-candy from the new cast of characters (Ewing family, etc.)
4. They worked in current songs (Adele) during key scenes
5. There is no time wasted in stirring up the pot
6. Major difference is the PG13 rating; strong language
7. The show has plenty of technology updates: Has an interactive website to choose your favorite character or something; Click “Like” on the Dallas group page on Facebook to catch up on the timeline.
8. . JR……….is still JR

Seems like it picked up where it left off. Good show!

C Jae of EAV

June 14th, 2012
9:37 am

I agree with @G, by the time I got 30 mins into the 1st episode, I felt like it was at the foot of mom’s bed on a early 80’s Friday nite.

I think they have done a clever job of bringing the characters and the story line forward.

I was personally shocked at how aged Charlene Tilton (aka Lucy Ewing) looked during her cameo appearance. All I can say is they have to figure a way to get old Cliff Barnes back in the mix.

J. J.

June 14th, 2012
9:37 am

Loved the new Dallas….As much intrigue and mayham as ever. I love this show…everyone on the show is corrupt, except Bobby, Anne and Christopher. This is a money series and the public will want MORE…

Rodney Ho

June 14th, 2012
9:38 am

SPOILER ALERT @C Jae of EAV, Cliff Barnes WILL be back!

G

June 14th, 2012
9:42 am

SPOILER ALERT (POSSIBLY). Maybe I missed something. What happened to Pam?

Pitchy

June 14th, 2012
9:44 am

I taped it last night. Was it any good????

Rodney Ho

June 14th, 2012
9:44 am

@G I think Pamela Barnes died so they’d have to pull a “Bobby shower dream scene” to bring her back. And I don’t think they could risk doing that again!

Erica

June 14th, 2012
9:56 am

I was very pleasantly surprised at how good the show was last night. JR (even on a walker) is still one of the best villains EVER! Loved seeing him still doing dirt, even from the assisted living suite! LOLOLOLOL Very realistic character development, except for Sue Ellen, who has now risen to these lofty power ranks (oooookaaaayyy). Like the young Ewings as well….John Ross , as bitter and venomess as his daddy. Can’t wait to see what’s up with Christopher’s new wife and her family…..

I’m officially hooked….again!

Pitchy

June 14th, 2012
9:59 am

Tha Bobby shower scene was absolutely atrocious. The writers must have all done some LSD to think that would go well with the viewers.

Thanks for the review, Erica.

Don

June 14th, 2012
10:20 am

Ann came in on the intruder with a SHOTGUN, not a rifle !!!

Dee

June 14th, 2012
10:24 am

I too was pleasantly surprised. It was great seeing some of the old characters – JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen (by the way Sue Ellen looks great to be 71) and to boot, the new young men on the show are yummy. JR is as awesome as ever and to echo Rodney, I read Cliff is coming back for 3 or 4 episodes. I wonder if they will try to bring back Victoria Principal?

Don

June 14th, 2012
10:27 am

On Victoria Principal, Patrick Duffy said the other day that she said she wasn’t interested when they first talked….

Tiberius

June 14th, 2012
10:28 am

Loved the show last night!

Kudos to the producers for keeping that epic theme and retro beginning.

There was more back-stabbing and double-crossing in the first 2 hours than in an entire year of the original. Fantastic!

Wonder how the overnight ratings were . . .

Pitchy

June 14th, 2012
10:29 am

If Victoria Principal’s money is good, she won’t come back…if not, we shall see. Heck what has she been doing? I’ve always liked her.

Rodney Ho

June 14th, 2012
10:29 am

@Tiberius. I should start seeing “Dallas” overnights around lunch hour. I am predicting 8 to 10 million viewers.

REBA

June 14th, 2012
10:55 am

Awesome show—–just like in the old days! love it!!

hlp123

June 14th, 2012
10:58 am

Loved it!!! When the theme song played, I was super excited!

Steve

June 14th, 2012
11:11 am

I never watched this show when i was a kid but wasnt an entire season of this show a dream or am i thinking of another show?

Dee

June 14th, 2012
11:20 am

Victoria Principal is doing very well on the business scene. She made millions from a skin care line and I also believe she has her own jewelry line. Maybe she will come back to get more exposure to her businesses. Either which way, Sue Ellen was awesome! Bobby’s new wife didn’t move me too much but I’m sure the writers will get her more engaged.

Will

June 14th, 2012
11:26 am

Damn good show right there! TNT has something going for sure. Now if they can get Victoria to come back all will be well.

Pandora

June 14th, 2012
11:31 am

I watched Dallas as a child and I just LOVE it still! I watched it last night! It is really good! I was so excited that they kept the original cast members (that are still alive). All of them did not show up last night, but I do believe over time they will. Sue Ellen looks great! J.R. Ewing is still the same old evil b*!@@#$ he was years ago! I love it all. I can’t wait to tune in next week! :)

Real Foodie

June 14th, 2012
11:34 am

PEOPLE – you do NOT have to read this blog. If you didn’t watch, don’t want to watch, or otherwise just don’t care – you don’t have to comment. Find something else to do with your sad self.

Chatty

June 14th, 2012
11:35 am

Really looked forward to the show, so maybe my letdown is natural. I thought the older characters were fabulous. They haven’t lost a thing. But in comparison – the younger charcters were just not in the same league. They were obviously “acting”. Young Christopher is better than the other three, but that’s not saying much. I hope they improve. I wasn’t really impressed with the plot lines either. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because the original was such a classic.

Courtney

June 14th, 2012
11:36 am

I LOVED IT!!! I thought the flow of the show was on point and not confusing at all. And watching JR come alive was great!!! I will be tuned in every week!!!! I also heard that Val and Gary will be coming back as well. Again, I love it!!

Dallas Lover

June 14th, 2012
11:45 am

Pam was in an expolsion and was hospitalized. In a cliff hanger her bed was empty when someone came to visit her. She is assumed dead. Which means she can some walking back in at any time! I loved it. It brought back alot of memories for me as I was trying to explain the history of things to my 20’s daughters as we watched together. It was GREAT!

Anna

June 14th, 2012
11:50 am

I really enjoyed the show last night too. Good plot, good cast and big gamble that I hope will pay off. JRs eyebrows were tripping me out! The best ones I have ever seen haha.

Victoria Principal

June 14th, 2012
11:59 am

If you Don’t like it then use the on/off switch. i wanted to come back but they wouldn’t give me a million an episode. Loved the walker scene with J.R. LOL

"RadioLady"

June 14th, 2012
12:06 pm

Thoroughly enjoyed it.