Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 68 – ‘Start the Revolution with Me’

No truth in advertising

No truth in advertising

“Start the Revolution with Me” feels a bit like a 1980s version of “Mad Men.” Not only does this fourth-season “Dallas” episode feature lots of talk about advertising, it also shows the Ewings wrestling with changing gender roles, just like the “Mad Men” characters do.

In the episode’s first act, Leslie Stewart, J.R.’s new public relations guru, pitches him some proposed advertising slogans (sample: “Ewing Oil: People Before Profits”), which he scoffs at. “Do you think anybody’s gonna buy that?” J.R. asks with a chuckle. Leslie reminds him the ads will be published in newspapers in New York and London, not his hometown. “J.R., you’re not going to need Dallas. Ewing Oil is going to be an international power,” she coos.

I fell for Leslie during her debut in the previous episode, “Making of a President,” and she continues to fascinate me here. Like all the women on “Dallas,” Leslie is beautiful and feminine, but as “Start the Revolution with Me” demonstrates, she also has all the ambition and confidence of the Ewing men.

With Leslie, it’s important to not just pay attention to what she says, but also how actress Susan Flannery moves. In one of my favorite moments in this episode, Leslie sits at her desk with her arms outstretched behind her head. This confident pose brings to mind a real-life ’80s ad slogan (“Never let them see you sweat”), although Leslie probably doesn’t perspire to begin with.

J.R. doesn’t quite know what to make of Leslie – he flirts with her shamelessly, while she ignores him without apology – and the other women in his life seem a bit bewildered by her too. When J.R. sleeps with his secretary Louella and is unable to perform, she seems to blame Leslie, telling him, “J.R., you shouldn’t let Miss Stewart get to you like this.”

Sue Ellen also puts J.R. on the defensive. “You know, darling,” she quips, “I find it very interesting that you hired a woman to tell you how to run your business. It’s always been a Ewing creed that women were seen, not heard.” His response (“Leslie Stewart is a highly qualified professional. She’s doing a brilliant job.”) demonstrates the sheepishness he feels about handing control of his image over to a woman.

With so much emphasis on female empowerment, you have to wonder if the “revolution” cited in this episode’s title refers to J.R.’s cockamamie scheme to overthrow a foreign government or to the sexual revolution, which began in the 1960s and was still lingering when this segment aired in 1981. Indeed, Leslie’s arrival seems to herald a deliberate attempt by the “Dallas” producers to show how women were making progress as the show – and its audience – moved into the new decade.

In another telling scene in “Start the Revolution with Me,” after Dave Culver announces he’s going to accept the governor’s appointment to the U.S. Senate, Dave and his advisers agree Donna should replace him in the state legislature. Talk about revolutionary: This might not seem like a big deal today, but in 1981, just 12 percent of state lawmakers were women. (That number has since doubled.) Donna ultimately demurs, but it’s nice the producers showed her being considered.

Of course, not all the “Dallas” women are role models. This episode also shows Sue Ellen moving closer to an affair with Clint, another example of how the character seems only to find fulfillment in the arms of a man, while Pam continues to contemplate an affair with Alex.

Meanwhile, Lucy tells Mitch she wants to quit school so she can be a full-time wife to him. To Mitch’s credit, he urges Lucy to reconsider. “School’s important,” Mitch says. “You have to have something in your life that makes you feel complete and satisfied.”

Leslie couldn’t have said it better herself.

Grade: A

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Cool heads

Cool heads

‘START THE REVOLUTION WITH ME’

Season 4, Episode 14

Airdate: February 6, 1981

Audience: 24.6 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Rena Down

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: J.R. begins engineering a revolution in the Asian nation where Ewing Oil’s wells were nationalized. Leslie resists J.R.’s advances. On a business trip, Pam almost sleeps with Alex. Sue Ellen suspects someone is following her. Dave accepts an appointment to the U.S. Senate and suggests Donna replace him in Austin, but she declines.

Cast: Barbara Babcock (Liz Craig), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Len Birman (Claude Brown), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Joel Fabiani (Alex Ward), Susan Flannery (Leslie Stewart), Tom Fuccello (Senator Dave Culver), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Ron Hayes (Hank Johnson), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Sherrill Lynn Katzman (Jackie), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Monte Markham (Clint Ogden), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Warren Munson (Paul Winslow), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper), Martin West (Phil McKenna), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

“Start the Revolution with Me” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Comments

  1. Ilike J.R. overthrowing a gov’t with cash. Is shows he is not a physically violent person like Cliff Barnes who on TNT DALLAS enjoys murdering his own unborn grandbabies!

  2. Maryann says:

    JR was such a dog in Season 4, sleeping with Sue Ellen, Afton and Louella and wanting to bed Leslie Stewart. It was funny how JR Dallas’s lothario was unable to get ” it ” up while in bed with Louella maybe Sue Ellen was right he is losing his touch.

Trackbacks

  1. […] “Dallas’s” fourth-season episode “Start the Revolution with Me,” J.R. (Larry Hagman) comes home late to find Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) seated at their bedroom […]

  2. […] “Start the Revolution with Me,” Victoria Principal sports a new hairstyle – a frizzy permanent, one of the fashion fads of the […]

  3. […] “Start the Revolution with Me,” a later fourth-season episode, Lucy suggests she’d like to drop out of school so she can become […]

  4. […] he believes she has his best interests at heart. This is established during the previous episode, “Start the Revolution with Me,” when J.R. tells Leslie she could “run the world.” Her response, delivered perfectly by Susan […]

  5. […] seen when Miss Ellie calls out chauvinistic Jock; Lucy gets a career; and Donna emerges as the top choice for a state senate seat. Who says “Dallas” isn’t […]

  6. […] to warn her that Katherine has set her sights on Bobby. It reminds me of the fourth-season episode “Start the Revolution With Me,” when a tipsy Pam is having a jolly time in her hotel room with Alex Ward — until Bobby calls from […]

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