My earliest memory of “Dallas” isn’t watching it – it’s wearing it.
In the summer of 1980, when I was 6, I was one of the millions of people swept up in the hysteria over J.R. Ewing’s shooting. I begged my mom to get me one of the “I Shot J.R.” t-shirts everyone seemed to be sporting – a tough request for her to fulfill since finding the shirts in kids’ sizes wasn’t easy.
Of course, she somehow got the job done – moms always do, don’t they? – and I proudly wore my shirt during our family’s outing that summer to the local amusement park, where I remember getting my share of strange looks.
I now understand why. I mean, what 6-year-old wears a shirt declaring he shot someone? For that matter, what kind of parent allows their kid to watch a show like “Dallas?” Most baffling of all: Why did I want to watch it?
I’m guessing I became a “Dallas” fan out of inertia. In its early years, the show followed two of my other childhood favorites – “The Incredible Hulk” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” – in CBS’s Friday night lineup, so the first time I encountered the Ewings, my eyes were probably so glazed over, I didn’t notice the absence of green monsters and car chases at Southfork.
I must have started paying attention to “Dallas” around the time J.R. was shot. Once I did, the show captured my imagination and never let go.
At that young age, I was too young to understand everything I saw on “Dallas,” and I suppose that’s why my parents didn’t mind me watching it. Besides, “Dallas” was one show everyone in our house could agree on. Appropriate or not, we watched together. (And as I’ve since discovered, lots of people watched the show when they were kids.)
Today, “Dallas” is like an alternate set of home movies from my childhood.
The show debuted a year before I started kindergarten and ended a year before my high school graduation, so whenever I recall moments from that 13-year span, I can’t help but associate them with what was happening to the Ewings at the time.
My older sister got married and left home a month before J.R.’s shooter was revealed. I started middle school three weeks before Bobby’s “funeral.” Bobby married his second wife April on the night my grandmother suffered a heart attack.
As I got older, I drifted away from “Dallas” – until last year, when TNT announced plans to revive the series with all-new episodes. My DVDs came off the shelf and I rekindled my love affair with the Ewings.
Now, I’m starting Dallas Decoder to relive my “Dallas” memories and maybe figure out, once and for all, why I love the show as much as I do.
This project is proving more fun than I could have dreamed. I’m discovering things about “Dallas” I never noticed before, and my husband Andrew recently began watching the show for the first time, so now I get to see it through his eyes.
Andrew recently watched the “Who Shot J.R.?” storyline play out without already knowing the shooter’s identity. Can you imagine?
Come to think of it, Andrew’s birthday is tomorrow. (He was born 365 days before “Dallas” debuted, which I’ve always considered a sign we were destined to be together.)
An “I Shot J.R.” t-shirt would make a nice birthday gift, but where could I get one on such short notice?
Why do you love “Dallas?” Share your story in the comments section below.