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Expertly Blending Old With New: A Modern "Dallas" Succeeds As A Sequel, Not A Reboot
on October 17, 2012
When I initially heard that the TNT network was planning to revisit Southfork ranch, I was more worried than I care to admit. How many shows have we seen lately that tried to reboot a previous success to somewhat disastrous results? A lot! And "Dallas" is such an iconic show that all but defined prime time soaps in the eighties (even if it began in the seventies and ended in the nineties). At its height, "Dallas" was a true cultural phenomenon and J.R. Ewing was TV's grandest villain. In the 2012 interpretation of "Dallas," the makers opted for something completely inspired. Instead of another insipid reboot, they conceived an actual sequel--a continuation of ongoing storylines as envisioned twenty years later. And the results may just surprise you. While not perfect, this new "Dallas" is deliciously entertaining and one of the year's great guilty pleasures. Bringing back Larry Hagman (J.R.), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen), and Patrick Duffy (Bobby) for leading roles really works, Ken Kercheval (Cliff) shows true promise for future storylines, and Charlene Tilton (Lucy) is amusing if somewhat underused. Of the original cast members, only poor Steve Kanaly (Ray) looks quite lost at the occasional family function where he gets one line at most. And I credit the writers for not losing track of family and heritage, there is plenty of respect paid to former patriarchs and matriarchs Miss Ellie, Jock, and even good ole Digger Barnes.
Before I convince you that this incarnation of "Dallas" is populated strictly by senior citizens, let me assure you that there is actually a sexy new cast to carry much of the plot forward. At the center of the story is J.R.'s hotheaded son John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Bobby's adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) who feels he has to earn his place in the family. Like their fathers before them, the two have a long running feud. They have a genuine difference of opinions about the future of the Ewing family, and their antagonism is further inflamed by the woman between them (Jordana Brewster). To further complicated matters, Chrisopher is married to another (Julie Gonzalo). Beyond this quartet, the classic battle about drilling Southfork is prominent but updated for a new generation. In these ten episodes, there are plenty of double-crosses, a murder or two, steamy sexcapades, and lots more fun.
1) Hagman has lost none of his conniving brilliance!
2) The production values are glossy, the editing brisk, and the cliffhanger structure of the plotting keeps you hanging on to see what will happen next.
3) The show's most magical pair has got to be Henderson and Hagman. This father/son duo has the best dramatic moments, the most intrigue, and the show's most sizzling chemistry.
1) Brewster is appealing, but see-saws back and forth so often between the guys, it's hard to really get behind her as a strong character.
2) Metcalfe's clean energy plot line feels too vague, scripted, and convenient.
3) A number of primary characters (including Bobby's new wife Brenda Strong) still have to be defined with more screen time.
The not-so good:
1) During the show, something happens that would absolutely end Sue Ellen's gubernatorial run but it doesn't seem to faze her campaign.
2) I won't name names! But with the dazzling resurgence of Hagman, other performances feel a bit flat by comparison.
Bonus features on this 3 DVD set with all ten episodes:
(1) Southfork Legacy: Making Dallas Season 1, (2) Oil and Water: A Family Tradition featurette, (3) Back in Production behind-the-scenes feature, (4) Dressing Dallas Costume feature, (5) Who Shot JR? featurette, (6) Ewing Family Love Oak behind-the-scenes feature, (7) Pilot Commentary and (8) Deleted Scenes.
Is "Dallas" a perfect new show? Absolutely not, but it has some incredibly strong elements and lots of room to grow and expand in Season Two. Beyond that, though, it's just plain fun. So why not visit? KGHarris, 10/12.