Drill Bits: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Wrangles Big Audience

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Reason to celebrate

The June 13 debut of TNT’s “Dallas” drew 6.9 million viewers, becoming the year’s most-watched premiere of a cable drama or comedy. The audience included a healthy 1.9 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” two-hour premiere drew more viewers than any program on the broadcast networks between 9 and 11 p.m. and made TNT the evening’s most-watched basic cable channel.

Also worth noting: “Dallas’s” opening night drew a bigger crowd than the first episodes of other top cable dramas, including “Mad Men” (1.65 million viewers in 2007), “Breaking Bad” (1.35 million, 2008) and “Walking Dead” (5.3 million, 2010).

Yes, “Dallas’s” 6.9 million number is nowhere near the 83 million viewers who saw the old show’s most-watched episode: “Who Done It?”, the 1980 broadcast that revealed the identity of J.R.’s shooter. But c’mon, there were only three networks back then!

Comparing TNT’s two-hour premiere to other episodes from the original “Dallas” series is trickier. In those days, Nielsen usually counted the number of households that watched television, not individual viewers.

For example, the fourth-season episode “No More Mister Nice Guy, Part 2,” the old show’s second highest-rated broadcast, was seen in 31.1 million homes. “Dallas’s” lowest-rated episode, “Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Sons,” which aired during the final season, was seen in 8.9 million homes, ranking 52nd for the week.

And in case you’re wondering, “Digger’s Daughter,” the original “Dallas’s” first episode, was seen in 15.7 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings, while “Conundrum,” its 1991 finale, was seen in 20.5 million homes, ranking 2nd.

Metcalfe’s Favorite Scenes

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe

Jesse speaks

In my “Changing of the Guard,”critique, I praised Jesse Metcalfe’s terrific performance in the scene where Christopher and Elena finally come clean with each other on the day of his wedding to Rebecca.

When I spoke to Metcalfe during a conference call with bloggers last month, he told me he likes that scene, too. So does he have favorite moments from other episodes?

“I probably have a favorite moment from every episode,” Metcalfe said. “It’s really difficult for me to pick just one scene. I mean, the fun thing about this show is that it’s a magnificent ensemble.”

We agree!

‘Dallas,’ Then and Now

How does “Digger’s Daughter,” “Dallas’s” first episode from 1978, compare to “Changing of the Guard,” the first hour of TNT’s “Dallas” series?

• First line of dialogue

1978: “Bobby James Ewing, I don’t believe you!” (Pam)

2012: “John Ross, wake up!” (Elena)

• Saltiest language

1978: “You jackass!” (Jock)

2012: “It’s bullshit!” (John Ross)

• J.R. loves red …

1978: Files

2012: Jell-O

• Bobby’s reason to celebrate

1978: A wedding!

2012: A birthday!

• Words spoken by Sue Ellen

1978: 38

2012: 120 (approximate)

• Get a room! (But not that one!)

1978: Lucy and Ray in the hayloft

2012: Christopher and Rebecca in the locker room

• Last line of dialogue

1978: “Well, I surely won’t do that again.” (J.R.)

2012: “The fun is just beginning.” (John Ross)

Line of the Week

“You are still the prettiest girl at the ball.”

There were a lot of great lines in the back-to-back “Dallas” episodes TNT telecast June 13, but if I had to pick a favorite, it was J.R.’s parting words to Sue Ellen at the end of their long-awaited reunion in “Hedging Your Bets.”

In the first episode of “Dallas Round-Up,” TNT’s post-show webcast, “Dallas’s” executive producer and head writer Cynthia Cidre revealed the line was suggested by another of the show’s writers, Robert Rovner.

When Rovner pitched the line to her and the other writers, “we all got misty-eyed,” Cidre recalled.

Diva Declared

The arrival of TNT’s “Dallas” wasn’t the only big event in the Ewing-verse this week: A few hours before the show debuted, Katherine Wentworth was crowned the winner of the Dallas Divas Derby race.

David W., whom I interviewed last month, created the derby, which pitted 32 of the original show’s heroines and villainesses against each other in a two-month brackets-style competition. The final race came down to Katherine (Morgan Brittany) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray); when all was said and done, Katherine received 2,494 votes, or 424 more than Sue Ellen.

Be sure to also check out David’s insightful review of the TNT series, as well as his sentimental introductory post, in which he recalls his childhood love of “Dallas.”

Get Your Drink On

A reminder: This week, my husband Andrew and I began offering “Dallas Drinks,” a series of cocktails inspired by the characters on the TNT show. First up: The John Ross; we’ll post another recipe next week.

Be sure to visit Andrew’s blog, Cook In/Dine Out, too. As you’ll see, he’s an amazing cook. Heck, he could probably teach Carmen Ramos (Marlene Forte) a thing or two!

“Drill Bits,” a roundup of news about TNT’s “Dallas,” will be published regularly. Share your comments below.

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