For a teenager on television in the 1970s, Lucy manages to find herself in an awful lot of sexual situations. “Dallas” is surprisingly cavalier about this.
In “Lessons,” Pam is the only Ewing who knows Lucy is sexually active, but when she takes it upon herself to straighten out her rebellious niece, Pam’s priority is addressing Lucy’s truancy, not interfering in her sex life. We never see Pam ask Lucy why she is having sex or whether she is protecting herself against the risk of pregnancy and disease.
“Lessons” is also pretty indifferent about Lucy and Ray’s age gap. She’s a high school student and he’s a silver-haired cowboy, but the only acknowledgment their relationship is immoral – if not illegal – comes when Ray tells Pam the Ewings would “kill” him if they discovered he is Lucy’s lover.
In retrospect, all this is pretty shocking.
“Dallas” debuted in an era when television shows routinely dropped moral messages into scripts involving sensitive subjects. Two months before “Lessons” was broadcast, the drama “James at 15” aired an episode in which its lead character, a 15-year-old boy, lost his virginity to a Swedish exchange student. Network censors insisted the boy and girl exhibit remorse after having sex, prompting the show’s head writer to quit in protest.
With “Lessons,” “Dallas” bucks the trend toward “responsible” television. The show renders no judgment on Lucy’s sexuality, trusting viewers to make their own decisions about her choices.
Not dwelling on the script’s provocative aspects allows the producers to concentrate on fleshing out their characters. For example, “Lessons” includes a conversation between J.R. and Bobby that establishes J.R.’s envy over his youngest brother, as well as a nice scene where Miss Ellie and Pam bond over coffee in the Southfork dining room.
But “Lessons’” most enlightening moment is the climactic sequence in the Braddock disco, where Bobby and Pam dance to an electronic version of Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music.
This is where we learn the biggest lesson of all: Not only is Victoria Principal a terrific actress when “Dallas” begins – she can dance, too!
Season 1, Episode 2
Airdate: April 9, 1978
Audience: 11.1 million homes, ranking 50th in the weekly ratings
Writer: Virginia Aldridge
Director: Irving J. Moore
Synopsis: Pam learns Lucy is skipping class to be with Ray and makes her attend school. Lucy retaliates by making it look like her math teacher attacked her, but a classmate knows Lucy faked the attack and tries to blackmail her into sleeping with him. Bobby tells Ray to stay away from Lucy and persuades his niece to give Pam a chance.
Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Donna Bullock (Connie), Jeffrey Byron (Roger Hurley), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Tina Louise (Julie Grey), Jo McDonnell (Maureen), Ryand Merkey (Mr. Daley), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Larry Tanner (Hal), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Paul Tulley (Mr. Miller)