TV Critics Had Little Love for the Ewings at First

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bobby Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Lucy Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

What’s not to love?

Television critics never loved “Dallas” – especially in April 1978, when CBS introduced the series as a late-season replacement for “The Carol Burnett Show.”

The New York Times’ John J. O’Connor dismissed “Dallas” as a “daytime soap opera gussied up with on-location Texas settings.” He called the show “enervating” and made the curious observation it offered “innumerable scenes of people getting into, driving or getting out of cars.”

O’Connor also lamented how “the fine stage actress” Barbara Bel Geddes was relegated to “wandering around among the players with about three lines of dialogue,” and he described Charlene Tilton as “sulking sexily through was appears to be an audition for a remake of ‘Baby Doll.’”

According to Barbara A. Curran’s 2005 book “Dallas: The Complete Story of the World’s Favorite Prime-Time Soap,” the Hollywood trade publication Variety assailed “Dallas” as “dull and contrived,” “the TV equivalent of women’s-magazine fiction” and “a limited series with a limited future.”

The Associated Press was a bit kinder, praising CBS for filming “Dallas” in Texas. “[T]he look it gives the show was worth the effort,” wrote the wire service’s critic, who wasn’t given a byline.

This critic also pointed out how “Dallas” was conceived as a star vehicle for “a certain glamorous actress” – Linda Evans, although the review doesn’t name her – and suggested Larry Hagman stole the spotlight from Victoria Principal, who was cast as Pam after Evans was dropped from consideration.

“By far, the meatiest role, at least in the opener, goes to Hagman,” the AP’s critic wrote. “He is deliciously wicked as he attempts to reject Miss Principal from the family bosom by any foul means.”

In the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, Blaik Kirby declared Hagman “curls a lip better than anyone,” while the Los Angeles Times’ Cecil Smith asserted the actor’s “smiling villainy is the role you remember.”

Smith also praised Jim Davis’s “flinty ferocity,” but the critic bemoaned how “Dallas’s” first episode spent so much time introducing the characters and their backstories “that there isn’t much room for plot.”

Still, Smith saw some promise in the new series.

“[T]he scene is set,” he wrote, “for some very steamy drama to come on the arid Texas plains.”

What did you think of “Dallas” the first time you watched it? Share your comments below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.


  1. I liked the first few episodes a lot. They have a different tone that then rest of the series, which I like too, but it’s nice to see the contrast. I should probably watch it again.

  2. I think after seeing it in full I would have said, “innumerable scenes of people getting into, or getting out of affairs.” And most definitely, ” “innumerable scenes of people eating salads at restaurants and drinking alcohol.” LOL.

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