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Dallas has to be one of the greatest ever TV shows, because it had all
of the attributes for entertainment. It had great characters, good
writers and story lines that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Oh how easy it was to run an an oil company! Watching Dallas was pure
fantasy, it's simply what makes TV fun and relaxing, take out an hour
from the real world and enjoy, for people who saw the show they know
what I mean!
So there we were introduced to the Ewing's who were in a bitter feud with the Barnes. However it was the biggest mismatch since George Foreman pounded Joe Frazier into the canvas 6 times in two rounds in the 1973 heavyweight title fight. The Ewing's led by JR body-slammed Cliff Barnes around for the first two seasons. In reality it was not a fair contest, a multimillion dollar family with connections up against a small town lawyer were always going to come out on top! However, that was to change as the series progressed. Of course the show quickly centered on JR (played by Larry Hagman) and the writers created a character that people would really hate; he had no problem playing fast and lose with other peoples lives.
So what did JR do that upset so many people! Swindled and cheated the cartel on more than one occasion, blackmailed politician's and government officials into helping him with his crooked deals, had the police set people up on phony charges as he had much of Braddock and Dallas police dept in his payroll. However JR wasn't satisfied with just tormenting the powerful, his family were not spared either, he was instrumental in trying to break up both Bobby, Garry and his mothers marriage's on numerous occasions. Cheated on his wife so many times that he turned her into an alcoholic and had her committed to a sanitarium. Government regulations were also no obstacle to his ambitions. He defied a State department embargo and illegally sold oil to Cuba, instigated a military coup in some oil rich country in Asia and risked a middle east war by hiring mercenaries to blow up Saudi Arabian oil fields to jack up the price of oil, and finally had a run in with the CIA and the Justice Department.
It was not just Cliff Barnes he wreaked havoc on, other people were fair game too. He betrayed, conned and left many of his subordinates, business associates and former lovers twisting in the wind, either in jail, broke or on the run from the police. As a consequence of his meddling, reputations were ruined family relationships were left in tatters and ambitions shattered as he turned his back or double crossed some of his closest confidants. It doesn't get any better than this! Not surprisingly the phrase "I'll get you JR if it's the last thing I'll do" or "you'll pay for this JR" both became fairly regular clichés as they all vowed revenge! As I write this I can count at least 5 attempts on JR's life as they tried to get even.
Many would say that the golden years of Dallas were the 1978-82 seasons. That's probably true, all the characters were developed through those seasons and I think Dallas had it's highest ratings. However my personal favorites were the 1987-1990 (the last series was poor)! In 1986 with the series tottering on the edge, the writers took a chance and despite ridicule brought back the character Bobby by making the previous season all a dream. It was a risk but they resuscitated a series by binning the most boring and tired looking season in 1985/86 (and that's according to Larry Hagman too) as never happening and therefore having a fresh start to the series.
To start with not everything went JRs way he lost Ewing oil, Sue Ellen started to get her act together and fight back on equal terms, Pam left the series and Bobby became a more aggressive character without her. It was a brave attempt by the creators to revive the series and they certainly pulled it off, Dallas never would have lasted as long if they had not done it! They filmed in locations such as Austria, France , Russia and gave a higher profile to the skin crawling Jeremy Wendell head of Weststar and after his exit he was followed by the lager than life Carter Mackay, who kept up the pressure on JR and the Ewing's far more than the cartel.
Some of the story lines introduced scenarios from movies such as COOL HAND Luke when JR was sentenced to hard time on a chain gang , or ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOOS NEST when JR in bizarre scheme bribed a judge to commit him into a puzzle house to find out information from Clayton's mentally ill sister. Even Bobby was not spared, on his trip to Paris his wife April was kidnapped very much a story similar to the 1987 movie FRANTIC.
With the proliferation of satellite and cable TV the major networks sensitive to their advertising revenue delved into trash TV and the half hour sitcoms which are cheap to make. Just over the horizon audience participation shows i.e. Opra, Rikki Lake and Springer and dopey half hour sit-come's were awaiting and if you were to fast forward looming ahead were the so called reality TV shows of the late 1990's.
Dallas was the first of the glam soaps and the second last to be canceled (1991). Was it all more entertaining than what's on today, well you be the judge!
When Dallas was aired for the first times in the 80s I was a child and
I couldn't appreciate it yet. Since last September, when a satellite
channel proposed again this Soap Opera, I had a small crush of it. I
became fond of J.R.'s intrigues, his rivalry with Bobby and Cliff
Barnes, the beautiful Pamela and nice Miss Ellie.
Dallas' strength is the plot. Not completely concerned about love and betrayals (typical but annoying), the Ewing Oil battles can move even the male audience transforming the Soap in a TV-series. Jim Davis' death (the mythical Jock, R.I.P.) put a lot of fuel in the "engines" with the legacy questions and relations getting worse. J.R.'s Machiavellian plans filled the script of amusing and caustic irony, always enjoyable.
The recitative level wasn't so great; all the actors, actually, had their height in this series, but the general quality is decent. Except for Ken Kercheval and Steve Kanaly, which proved to be good actors giving a great shape to their characters, challenging J.R. at any cost. Special mention to Charlene Tilton, which is really beautiful and should have had greater relief in the story.
Ending too late, in 1991 (2-3 years too many), the story was slowly plagued by script tricks and poorly credible deaths or departures, compromising its heritage made of several Emmys and 1 Golden Globe won.
6,5 / 10
Dallas is a once in a lifetime show and experience. From 1978 to 1991 the series ran on CBS. Larry Hagman was by far the standout actor. His portrayal of J.R. Ewing is without comparison. Hagman takes the role and chews it up. This series was so much better than any other prime time soap. Dynasty jumped the shark with its alien arc, Dallas never went that route. All of its plot lines were very feasible and probable. The death of Jim Davis (Jock Ewing) drove storyline for many, many more years. I am saddened at the recent death of Barbara Bel Geddes, (Miss Ellie). For anyone looking for a good, drama driven, emotion filled TV series this is the show for you. I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the DVD release of the remaining seasons. I have worn out Seasons 1 and 2, and just received Season 3. Once In A Lifetime and Classic. Enjoy!!
I can't believe that Dallas is being made into a film starring John Travolta as J.R. Ewing. There will only be one J.R. Ewing and that's Larry Hagman. I don't care if he is too ill to play him but I can't imagine another J.R. Ewing. I remember watching Dallas on Friday nights after another southern show, Dukes of Hazzard. I always thought Dallas was great show always entertaining with a stellar cast besides Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Victoria Principal, Barbara Bel Geddes, George Kennedy, Ken Kercheval, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Presley, Charlene Tilton, etc. This was one show that was quite entertaining to watch on Friday nights. Sure, it was silly sometimes but you can't beat Dallas not with the original cast. It was quite a show of the 1980s.
Dallas garners its own chapter in the history of television for several
reasons. In its heyday this show was very popular! (The Who Shot JR
remains one of the most watched programs of all time.) Dallas defined the
80's as the 'ME' generation, big hair and Republican values! JR Ewing
his place as one of fictions most notorious villains. And the show itself
conquered new territory. It was trashy television ... with
The story centers around the Ewing family. Their lives center around oil and power (two things that mixed well in the 1980's). Their nemisis is the family Barnes, bitter rivals continuously looking for their fair share of an empire that they claim they helped to build.
The series opens up as Bobby Ewing brings home his new wife Pamela, first daughter to the Barnes family. The soap opera takes off and the sparks fly.
Over a 13 year run the show deals with all sorts of issues. Alcoholism (Sue Ellen is fabulous when she is sloppy!), infidelity, (JR sleeps with just about anyone with a skirt), drugs, impotence, politics, down syndrome, sibling rivalry, neurofibromatosis, breast cancer, divorce, child custody, homosexuality and physical abuse. And what's so great is that it deals with none of these topics well.
Dallas is not a show to be taken seriously, at least not on a cerebral level. If you want serious drama, watch Hill Street Blues. If you want something preachy, watch Facts of Life. Dallas is best watched with brain waves turned down to their lowest level, with a grain of salt and with an ear for catty drama!
Best storyline: Sue Ellen's drinking causes her to have the baby prematurely. No one knows for sure who the baby's real father is (Cliff or JR) - but Pam had better find out soon as she has just learned that she and Cliff are carrying a gene that could kill any children they intend to have. Complicated? Yes. But you gotta love it!
This show literally changed prime-time television for the better. The
show centers around the lives, loves and scandals of the Ewings, a
family of oil-rich barons who reside in-where else?-Dallas. When the
show started on CBS in the spring of 1978, the show centered around the "Romeo & Juliet" love story of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and Pamela Barnes Ewing (Victoria Principal), the daughter of the Ewings' arch enemy Digger Barnes. Story lines, and ratings. changed for the better when DALLAS refocused on the devilish dealings of Bobby's oldest brother John Ross "JR" Ewing, Jr. (Larry Hagman. DALLAS reached the peak of its' popularity when JR was shot in the spring of 1980. For years, the show would remain at the top of the ratings until it started getting competition first from ABC's "Dynasty" and then NBC's "The Cosby Show". DALLAS' ratings was never the same after 1986 when Pam dreamed the entire 1985-1986 season. The show ran until 1991, when low ratings virtually killed it. It also spun off the longest-running prime-time soap ever, KNOTS LANDING.
"Dallas" created some HUGE TV moments ... J.R. Ewing's shooting, the
"Dream Season" and Bobby returning in the shower ...
Beyond that, though, I especially loved the writing of "Dallas," particularly in the working of J.R.'s various schemes, both at the Ewing Oil offices and offsite. He was just-plain the master manipulator, and while I don't encourage anyone to aspire to this kind of mastery(!), it sure was FUN to watch him in action! Yikes! The way he executed those deals seemed to set the show apart from rivals like "Dynasty."
I enjoyed the way the show evolved in the later seasons. In the last two seasons, in particular, there seemed to be this sophisticated edge that avoided insulting the viewer (as sometimes the campiness of "Dynasty" could). While "Dynasty" was busy being flashy (and hey, I liked that, too -- I was a teen when it originally aired, after all), "Dallas" was playing the game just a bit cooler, calmer, a touch more complicated. Plus, Jeannie aside, Larry Hagman was BORN to do that role. Meow!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you think influential television shows, DALLAS should be near or
at the top of your list. It is on mine! DALLAS was the first really
great nighttime soap opera. In reality, it started the genre. There
were later shows that followed and were even at times more popular (the
spin off KNOTS LANDING, the stylish and classy DYNASTY, the forgotten
stepchild FALCON CREST), but DALLAS was the first.
DALLAS is the tale of the rich, powerful oil family the Ewings, who reside in Braddock County, Texas, right outside of Big D. The patriarch is John Ross "Jock" Ewing, an old school oil baron who did it the hard way, wildcatting and working in the oil fields. The matriarch is Eleanor Southworth, "Miss Ellie" Ewing, the heart and soul of the family. The land that contains the Ewing's ranch and home is from her side of the family, but she and Jock own it jointly b/c Jock saved the family land when they were about to lose it back in the day. So at first, it was a marriage of convenience, but they quickly fell in love and had 3 sons: Gary, Bobby, and the eldest John Ross Ewing Jr., or as we all know him: JR!
For me, JR Ewing is one of the top 2 or 3 characters in all of TV history. Played by the great Larry Hagman, there has never been or ever will be another character like JR. Hagman imbibed JR with a no-nonsense, larger-than-life, unapologetic style that can never be copied. The best TV villain ever! Hagman had a great supporting cast that complimented him: Patrick Duffy (the saintly younger brother Bobby), Linda Gray (JR's alcoholic, self-destructive, but SEXY wife Sue Ellen), Victoria Principal (Bobby's wife Pamela Barnes Ewing, the daughter of Jock's old rival Digger Barnes), Ken Kercheval (Pam's brother and JR's biggest rival Cliff Barnes), Steve Kanaly (Jock's illegitimate son and ranch foreman Ray Krebbs), Susan Howard (Ray's wife and political activist Donna Culver Krebbs), Lucy Ewing (prodigal son Gary's daughter and a spitfire of a young lady) and the aforementioned legends Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie) and Jim Davis (Jock).
The style and set design, in addition to the great characters, of DALLAS is what really draws you in: the beautiful Dallas spots, the expansive Texas scenery, the restaurants, offices, etc. Also, the fashion is great: chic, classy for the females and cowboy boots and suits for the males! And of course, DALLAS had the ultimate cliffhanger: Who shot JR! Perhaps the most memorable cliffhanger (and maybe the real first one) in all of TV history. I remember it as a kid and it still resonates with me today. But let's face it: the greatness of DALLAS can be summed up with two letters: J and R!
Dallas was and still is a TV phenomenon. It took the model of the tired
old American soap and turned it into something fresh, fascinating and
compelling watched by millions of people around the world. It used for
the first time the device of the cliffhanger at the end of the season
to keep people coming back for more. Personally I believe the 1981-1984
central seasons were its high point with the titanic struggle between
JR and Bobby for control of Ewing Oil plus other strong story lines.
What was the secret of its success and longevity? I believe this is down to 3 factors.
1. The story lines cleverly combined subjects that would appeal to a mass audience - love and sex, glamour, money and power, family problems, and controversial subjects for the time e.g. Sue Ellen's alcoholism that attracted interest and raised awareness.
2. Excellent writing with top notch scripts.
3. Superb acting from the key cast team. I have to single out Larry Hagman's performance as JR, I have never seen any performance to match it in any TV drama. He completely got under JR's skin and while he showed us what a monster the man was, he also made us aware of his redeeming features (particularly his strong sense of family) so that we never quite lost empathy for him. Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Ken Kercheval also gave remarkable performances as Bobby the good brother who was never boring, Sue Ellen the wronged wife who eventually found a life of her own and Cliff, JR's neurotic, bungling rival who rarely managed to best him.
Dallas is the greatest TV series of all time - sure it's a guilty
pleasure, escapist fantasy but extremely well done - compare this with
utter drivel like Dynasty ( as Terry Wogan more accurately called it
There's something - and someone - in it for everyone:- big business wheeling and dealing, bar-room brawls, love affairs, all the other Soap Opera staples - but with an unlimited expense account.
Strong male characters - Bobby, Ray, Jock, Clayton;
Strong female characters - Miss Ellie, Pam, Donna;
The most lovable villain ever created - JR Ewing, superbly played by Larry Hagman and then there's Sue Ellen, the equally superb Linda Gray, who is in a category all of her own.
At its mid-80s peak the most gorgeous women on the planet - and they're not made of plastic either.
Up until the infamous dream season - and thats 8 years into the show's run - even the slightly silly elements are kept within bounds and is part of its charm ( ie. the poison dwarf, only having one phone and one servant in the early series etc).
And of course, there's THAT theme music/opening credits!
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