On November 21, 1980, Dallas: Who Done It? (1980) was watched by 83 million people in the US and over 300 million worldwide. It was the highest rating for a single episode of a television series in American history until the M*A*S*H (1972) series finale M*A*S*H: Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen (1983) on February 28, 1983.
Originally, the show was intended as a starring vehicle for Victoria Principal, due to the fact that Pam would act as a buffer between the Ewings and the Barneses. J.R. would have been more of a supporting character. However, the producers were so impressed by Larry Hagman's portrayal of the immoral J.R., that he immediately was bumped up to be the show's main character.
In the mid 1980s, Linda Gray was briefly fired from this show after asking for a pay raise, and requesting that she be given a chance to direct episodes like Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy. However, Hagman threatened to leave the show because he didn't feel they could have J.R. without Sue Ellen.
The house used as the "Southfork Ranch" house was a real Texas residence called "Duncan Acres", owned by Joe R. Duncan (or J.R. Duncan). When the show became popular, tourists from all over the world visited the house day and night. The Duncan family was forced to sell the house, and it is now a museum devoted to the show.
When Steve Kanaly was talking about leaving the show due to his character's lack of development, it was Larry Hagman who came up with the idea to make Ray Krebs the illegitimate son of Jock Ewing in order to get Kanaly to stay.
The spin-off Knots Landing (1979) was created first, but the producers were unable to sell it. They developed this show instead, and when that became a success, and the network asked for a spin-off, they were able to dust off the Knots Landing (1979) idea.
When Patrick Duffy was asked to return to the show in 1986, his wife told him that the only way it could happen is if his character had actually died in a dream. This led the producers to decide that Bobby Ewing's death (in addition to the entire 1985 to 1986 season) was just a dream that Pam Ewing had.
In several of the early episodes of the series, Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and Ray (Steve Kanaly) were often portrayed as lovers. However, when it was revealed that Ray was Jock's illegitimate son, and therefore Lucy's uncle, his affair with Lucy was never mentioned again.
Originally, Linda Gray's Sue Ellen really didn't have a part, so it was up to her and Larry Hagman to improvise their scenes in the background. Fortunately, Leonard Katzman and others saw their work in the dailies of the episodes and Sue Ellen's character was fleshed out.
Several actors and actresses including Charlene Tilton and Jim Davis were filmed firing the gun that shot J.R before it was decided who would be the shooter. The gun is on display at the real Southfork Ranch site in Dallas, Texas.
Jenilee Harrison has the distinction of playing the only character to be killed off twice. Jamie Ewing Barnes was killed off the first time in season nine, episode thirty-one, "Blast From the Past" (the "Dream Season") when she was blown up in her brother's car. The second time came midway through the tenth season, when she was killed while rock climbing in Mexico. Though the second death didn't occur on-camera.
Producers originally planned to bring back the character of Jock Ewing but fans were against having anyone play Jock Ewing except Jim Davis. Steve Forrest appeared on the show as Wes Parmalee, claiming to be Jock Ewing, but it was revealed that he was not.
The series was a huge success in the UK where it was shown by the BBC for its entire run. However, the BBC ran into contractual problems with the show's international distributor, Worldvision, on more than one occasion. In 1981, Worldvision attempted to renege on an agreement with the BBC and raised the price tag per episode, assured in the knowledge that the BBC's main rival ITV was planning to buy the series. Litigation ensued, but the matter was settled out of court, and the series remained at the BBC. Then, in early 1985, the problem resurfaced when the ITV company Thames Television "poached" the series by entering into a contract with Worldvision behind the BBC's back. A protracted legal battle ensued, made worse by the fact that not all stations in the ITV Network were prepared to show the series. As a countermeasure, the BBC temporarily halted transmission of the current (1984 to 1985) season midway, as a way of sabotaging ITV's planned screening of the next season (1985 to 1986) later that year. Although the BBC finished screening the 1984 to 1985 season in July 1985, it took until early 1986 for the matter to be resolved. The series ultimately stayed with the BBC, who began screening the next season in March 1986.
Morgan Fairchild played Jenna Wade, Bobby's (Patrick Duffy's) childhood sweetheart, in a 1978 episode. When Jenna was seen again for two episodes in 1980, she was played by Francine Tacker, as Fairchild was busy working on her own series, Flamingo Road (1980). In 1983, with Flamingo Road (1980) now cancelled, the producers approached Fairchild to reprise the role, but she declined feeling that she did not want to return to a small role. However, the producers decided to re-cast the role with Priscilla Presley, and the character became a series regular for five years. Fairchild later claimed that her mother never forgave her for turning down a role on her favorite soap.
In season ten, J.R. attempts to weaken O.P.E.C.'s influence over the price of oil by hiring a group of mercenaries to blow up several oil fields in the Middle East. This storyline is loosely based on Texas businessman Ross Perot's mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1979.
Barbara Bel Geddes was only nine years older than Larry Hagman, though they played mother and son. Hagman was eighteen years older than Patrick Duffy, who played his younger brother, though we assume them to be only a few years apart in age.
Barbara Bel Geddes left the show in 1984 due to the producers not agreeing to her demands for a pay raise, and Donna Reed took her place the following season. When Bel Geddes decided to return in 1985, Reed was fired. Reed sued the producers of the show for breach of contract, who settled with her for an undisclosed sum of money. Ironically, Reed died (of cancer) in January 1986, just a few months after she left the show, which meant she would not have been able to continue for the duration of her contract anyway.
Barbara Bel Geddes was living in New York City when cast for the series. Throughout the series, Bel Geddes flew home to New York City and back every weekend, and on other breaks, to be with her family.
Barbara Bel Geddes appeared on three hundred episodes of the series. She missed the first eleven episodes of the 1983 to 1984 season after having quadruple bypass heart surgery in March 1983. However, in 1984, she decided to leave the show altogether after producers declined her request for a pay raise. She was replaced in 1984 by Donna Reed. However, following Patrick Duffy's exit in 1985, producers offered Bel Geddes a salary increase if she would return to the role. She accepted and Reed was fired, for which she promptly sued the production company. Bel Geddes returned as Miss Ellie for the 1985 to 1986 season and stayed until the end of the 1989 to 1990 season.
Patrick Duffy had wanted the lead role in Heart of the City (1986). When Robert Desiderio was given the part (with a young Christina Applegate playing his daughter), Duffy decided to return to this show. Heart of the City (1986) lasted only thirteen episodes, while this show remained on the air for several more seasons. Desiderio later appeared in a recurring role in the Dallas spin-off, Knots Landing (1979).
Larry Hagman admitted that his alcoholism and boredom with the routine of playing the same role for so long inclined him to drink heavily at work, consuming as much as five bottles of champagne a day. Hagman claimed that despite this his tolerance was such that he never missed a day's work or spoiled a take for being drunk.
Long before the show started, Larry Hagman knew Charlene Tilton's real-life family, when her divorced mother was mentally ill, and wasn't raised without her father, therefore, Hagman replaced her real-life father.
The producers of Knots Landing (1979) were so mad that this show's producers didn't consult with them before their big "Dream Season" reveal that they did not honor it. While this show basically "un-did" Bobby's death from the 1984 to 1985 season, and basically ret-conned out that whole year; Knots Landing did not. So in the Knots Landing (1979) universe, Bobby died, never to be resurrected.
The producers of Dallas (2012) reached out to Victoria Principal too see if she would reprise her role as Pamela Barnes Ewing from the original series. Ms. Principal rejected their offer to come back, saying that she did not want to do one "last desperate attempt to rekindle the magic of Dallas by appearing as Pam again."
Victoria Principal claimed in interviews that she left Dallas in 1987 because she was unhappy with the show's writing, and that she felt she had played the role for too long, and wanted to move on. Other sources claimed that she had asked for a substantial salary increase after seeing Patrick Duffy return to the series with a huge pay raise, but that she had asked for more money than the show's budget could afford to pay her.
Cathy Podewell was picked for the role of Cally Harper Ewing, J.R.'s young "trophy wife" in the last three seasons, who also read for the casting director, who was already impressed with it. Her character was only supposed to be a guest-star, for 7 episodes, however, the producers, especially [Larry Hagman] really liked her the best, and came back to play her role, for the last 3 seasons, replacing veteran actress, [Linda Gray].
Over the first eight years, internal, creative conflicts between Executive Producer Philip Capice on one hand, and Larry Hagman and the writers, most notably Leonard Katzman, on the other, had increased, finally resulting in Katzman leaving his position as Producer of the show at the end of season eight. Although Katzman continued writing for the show during season nine, albeit to a limited degree, as "Creative Consultant", the fact that neither Lewis nor Paulsen returned for season nine, meant that this show was faced with not only a new production team (joining Executive Producer Philip Capice and Associate Producer Cliff Fenneman, were James H. Brown as Producer and Peter Dunne as Supervising Producer), but also an all new team of writers (headed by Dunne, Executive Story Consultant Joel J. Feigenbaum, and Story Editors Hollace White and Stephanie Garman).
Morgan Fairchild originated the role of Jenna Wade. The producers approached her about playing the role permanently, but she turned them down, saying the role was too small. Later, when Jenna became Bobby's girlfriend, and a regular cast member, Fairchild said she regretted this decision.
Everybody except Larry Hagman came back, at the beginning of the show's fourth season, when the "Who Shot J.R.?" media was building around, because Hagman was involved in contract negotiations, holding back his return. Holding out for a higher salary, Hagman did not appear in the first episode of the season until the final few minutes. Producers were faced with a dilemma whether to pay the greatly increased salary, or to write J.R. out of the show. Lorimar Productions, the makers of the series, began shooting different scenes of this show which did not include Hagman. In the midst of negotiations, Hagman also took his real-life family to London, England for their July vacation. He continued to fight for his demands, and network executives conceded that they wanted his character to stay on the show.
Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) and Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes) are the only actors to appear in all fourteen seasons. In second place are Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) and Don Starr (Jordan Lee), who each appeared in thirteen seasons: Gray and Kanaly did not appear in Season Thirteen while Starr did not appear in Season One.
Larry Hagman's former I Dream of Jeannie (1965) co-star Barbara Eden played Lee Ann De La Vega, a millionaire hellbent on revenge against J.R., in a five episode story arc in the final season. At the end of the story arc, she revealed that her surname was actually Nelson, a reference to Hagman's character Tony Nelson on I Dream of Jeannie (1965).
This show was essentially an elaborate set-up for the Knots Landing (1979) spin-off. The producers approached CBS with the show idea for Knots Landing (1979), they said no. They would rather have something sent in Texas with dueling oil barrons. So this show was born. All as an elaborate springboard for the spin-off Knots Landing (1979) which was launched through the character of Gary Ewing. (Gary was mentioned in the pilot because this show's producers knew they would be launching a sequel show later.)
In almost the same situation as its spin-off Knots Landing (1979), the year before, and at the end of the series' tenth season, David Jacobs and Leonard Katzman had decided to go into a different direction on this show, consequently, Susan Howard and Victoria Principal were let go, due to corporate downsizing, before Steve Kanaly, who was prefaced with that same situation, at the end of the following year, as well.
Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) are the only actors to appear in 300 or more episodes: Hagman appeared in all 357, Kercheval appeared in 327, Duffy appeared in 326 and Gray appeared in 308.
When Linda Gray (Sue Ellen) quit during the final season, she said in interviews that this show was a show that was "written for men and about men", and the women on that show were all second fiddles and supporting characters.
The only cast member to win a Best Acting Emmy was Barbara Bel Geddes, who won Best Female Performance in a Drama, in 1980. Jane Wyman also won an acting Emmy for playing Angela Channing on Falcon Crest (1981). These are the only two acting Emmys won by any nighttime soap operas. Dynasty (1981) and Knots Landing (1979) won none.
Of the series' twenty regular characters, only three were not members of the Barnes or Ewing families by blood or marriage: Carter McKay (George Kennedy), Stephanie Rogers (Lesley-Anne Down) and Liz Adams (Barbara Stock). However, Liz Adams was briefly engaged to Cliff Barnes in Season Fourteen.
The series became the longest running American primetime series then on the air after The Love Boat (1977) ended on May 24, 1986 and retained that status until its final episode on May 3, 1991. It was succeeded by its own spin-off Knots Landing (1979).