Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 15 – ‘Act of Love’

Act of Love, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Bad romance

“Act of Love” is the first “Dallas” script penned by Leonard Katzman, who becomes the show’s auteur, writing and directing more episodes than anyone else. It proves to be an inauspicious debut.

My main gripe: When the episode begins, Sue Ellen and Cliff have been sleeping with each other for six weeks, so we never see the first time they consummate their relationship – a big letdown given how much time “Dallas” spends laying the groundwork for their affair.

To make matters worse, Katzman’s plotting is a bit sitcommy.

It seems Bobby is wooing a client for his construction business and needs Pam to help him charm the man, whom Bobby’s business associate describes as an old-money conservative who “places just as much importance on a man’s personal life as he does on his professional.”

But Pam has a dilemma: Her boss Liz Craig has invited her on a business trip to Paris, which would prevent Pam from helping hubby entertain his client. What’s a wife to do?

There’s even a “Three’s Company”-style misunderstanding. Pam asks Sue Ellen to lunch but is vague about the reason for the invitation, saying only “it’s important that we talk.” Sue Ellen, suspecting Pam has found out about her affair with Cliff, accepts the invitation and is perturbed to discover Pam only wants advice on entertaining Bobby’s client. “You don’t mean to tell me that you have brought me in to lunch with you to talk about having a party?” Sue Ellen fumes.

(An aside: What’s with Victoria Principal’s Texas accent in this scene? It hasn’t been this thick since the first season!)

Of course, “Act of Love” isn’t altogether bad. The final scene, when J.R. questions Sue Ellen about her pregnancy, is nicely written and performed, although I cringe when J.R. slaps her. In 1978, this may have been an acceptable way to demonstrate J.R.’s anger. Not today.

I also like director Corey Allen’s handheld camerawork in the opening breakfast scene, when the younger Ewings rush off to work and school, leaving Jock and Miss Ellie alone, as well as the fisheye lens Allen uses when Pam and Liz ride the elevator at The Store.

Allen’s willingness to experiment isn’t enough to save Katzman’s script, but it makes me wish the show had used the director’s talents more frequently.

Grade: C

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Act of Love, Barbara Babcock, Dallas, Liz Craig, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Fisheye!

‘ACT OF LOVE’

Season 2, Episode 10

Airdate: November 12, 1978

Audience: 12.1 million homes, ranking 41st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Leonard Katzman

Director: Corey Allen

Synopsis: The Ewings are overjoyed when they learn Sue Ellen is pregnant. Privately, Sue Ellen isn’t sure if the father is J.R. or Cliff, with whom she is having an affair. When J.R. questions her, she tells him he probably is the father.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Nancy Bleier (Connie), Nicolas Coster (Joe Morris), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

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

Comments

  1. I always felt like the tension between Pam and Sue Ellen seemed really forced. Pam isn’t a threat to Sue Ellen, other than perhaps that she might have a baby first (which goes out the window).

    • The baby thing makes Pam a major threat to Sue Ellen! I really like how their relationship evolves. It’s nice to see them become friends in later seasons, although a slight hint of tension remains.

  2. Watch the classic STAR TREK with Barbara Babcock as I believe a person of Roman origin who couldn’t die. Her sparring with Bill Shatner is amazing.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Act of Love,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) pours champagne for him and Sue Ellen […]

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