Critique: Dallas Episode 2 – ‘Lessons’

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lessons, Lucy Ewing, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Driving Miss Lucy

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!

Grade: B

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lessons, Lucy Ewing

No class

‘LESSONS’

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)

“Lessons” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. The thing that strikes me about Lucy in the early years is that the show didn’t seem to know what to do with her. Is she a too-mature teenager or an immature adult? You seem to get both with her. You have this very initial display of sexuality with a much older character, which she seems perfectly fine with. But then when she eventually goes to college the show treats her more like she’s in high school.

  2. Dan in WI says:

    What strikes me most about this episode is the snow. If Chris thinks the first episode was gray this one upped the ante. But even with the snow on the ground we see the top down much of the time on Bobby’s Mercedes and the moon roof open on JR’s car. Just goes to show only though of us in the upper midwest know how to handle a winter.

  3. Pamela Barnes Ewing/Victoria Principal dancing with those beautifully sexual curves on a disco floor, yes that was a treat. It shows Pam while helping Lucy stay on track on a more even keel in school, that she still enjoyed her new marriage & shaking herself about b/c it gave Bobby James raw sexual pleasure & desire. Which in a way is good b/c you can always use Ewing heirs!

Trackbacks

  1. [...] fans consider “Lessons” the season’s lowlight. I don’t. Yes, the episode’s main plot – Lucy is skipping school! – [...]

  2. [...] what I mean? This is the Pam I fell in love with during early “Dallas” episodes like “Lessons,” when she rescues Lucy from her high school blackmailer, and “Black Market Baby,” when she [...]

  3. […] “Lessons,” a first-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) sits on his office sofa and chats with […]

  4. […] decide who they want Lucy to be. Sometimes, she is a troublemaking teenager who blackmails Pam (“Lessons”) and runs away from home (“Runaway”). At other times, she is a sweet young woman who deals […]

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