Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Returns, But Some Viewers Don’t

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Venomous Creatures

He showed up. Did you?

Mondays are a bitch: “Dallas” opened its second season in its new Monday time slot this week – and a lot of fans didn’t show up.

The two-hour premiere drew 2.98 million viewers on January 28. As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, the numbers were down 58 percent from the series debut last summer and 32 percent from the first-season finale. Ouch.

There could be a couple of explanations for the decline. TNT showed “Dallas’s” first season during the summertime, when the competition on other channels tends to be lighter. This week’s premiere – which actually consisted of two one-hour episodes, “Battle Lines” and “Venomous Creatures,” that were telecast back-to-back – faced fresh episodes of “The Biggest Loser” and “The Bachelor” on the broadcast networks.

Also worth noting: “Dallas” was a hit with DVR users last year. The series averaged 4.2 million viewers on Wednesday nights, but once people who recorded the show and watched later were counted, “Dallas’s” weekly haul surged to 6.1 million viewers. Perhaps ratings for the second-season premiere will get a big boost once DVR users are included?

And don’t forget: “Dallas” has a history of bouncing back from ratings dips. Back in 1978, CBS moved the original “Dallas” to Saturday nights for its second season. ABC’s “Fantasy Island” crushed the show, prompting CBS to restore it to its original Sunday berth before shifting it to Fridays, where it remained for the rest of its run.

Say You Want a Resolution?

It’s no secret “Dallas’s” longtime fans are clamoring for the return of Pam, the classic show’s heroine, immortalized by Victoria Principal. And if fans can’t have Pam, they at least want to know what happened to the character, who fled Southfork in 1987.

We may soon get our wish.

Check out this tantalizing exchange from Jesse Metcalfe’s recent conference call with reporters and bloggers:

Reporter: Will we learn any more this season about what happened with Pam in the last 20 years, where she’s been and what happened with her and Christopher?

Metcalfe: Yes. Yes we will. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that. I’m sorry.

OK, fellow Pam fans. Start salivating.

Dress Like ‘Dallas’

If you love the styles worn by the women of Southfork, you’re in luck: HSN has opened an online Dallas boutique featuring clothing and accessories inspired by Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Ann (Brenda Strong), Elena (Jordana Brewster) and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo). The show’s ace costume designer, Rachel Sage Kunin, selected the products in the collection.

Sorry, fellas. If you want to dress like John Ross or Christopher, you’re on your own.

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


  1. I am a DVR watcher. With kids’ activities and phone calls, I do not want to be interrupted when I watch. I hope the DVR watchers help #s go up significantly. The premiere made me excited for more.

  2. I think alot of people who don’t normally watch TnT didn’t know it was on Mondays. The promotion of the show was less intense and done within days of the premier or after the premier. I wonder how much that affected the ratings. This season is better than last. I hope the ratings grow.

  3. I think the audience needs to grow organically. The people watched because they wanted to watch, not because is the full-court press marketing campaign that went on before season one. I think season 2 is going to be better than season 1.

    I agree 100% with this statement in the interview -“It’s incredibly important. I think the best way to honor Larry would be to make this show a huge success and to keep this show going for at least a few more years to come. Anything less than that I think Larry would see as a failure. This tragedy has really kind of set up another monumental television event. And I think our writers, our producers and obviously us has actors have all come together to try to honor Larry and honor the character of JR Ewing in the best way that we know how. And it’s going to make for some very compelling television. There’s no doubt about that. I mean Episode 8 is really the episode where JR’s death – the mystery of JR’s death begins to unravel. And it’s entitled JR’s Masterpiece. And a lot of very intriguing storylines have set in motion because of his death. And I think they’re really going to fuel the second half of the season and possibly seasons to come. ”

    Thanks for sharing this.

  4. AngelaDALLAS-FAN says:

    I am with you on how imperative it is for Victoria Principal to return…she could possibly save this show despite the loss of Larry Hagman…Bobby and Ann just don’t cut it, sorry Patrick Duffy I know how you’ve said this new relationship compares the same but not in the slightest!!!…I thought the season premiere was awesome…sad that the ratings didn’t reflect the same…could be poor publicity or the crappy timeslot…either way TNT has to find a way to make it work, lol!

    • I’m with you, Angela. I hope TNT will do whatever it takes to ensure the show’s success, whether it means more publicity or a new time slot. I also agree: Victoria Principal’s return could deliver blockbuster ratings and blockbuster storylines. Let’s hope it happens.

      Thanks for your comments. I appreciate it!


  5. Victoria Principle has so much wealth from the business she started after leaving Dallas. My bet is that she will do at least one episode.
    I do not know how credible the following source is. I did find this to be a very interesting read. Time will tell.

    “Victoria Principal, 62, has a successful skincare line, Principal Secret, and she hasn’t appeared on camera in years. However, the ageless beauty isn’t ruling out reprising the iconic role. “The producers have been in talks with Victoria since the new series was given a green light. The producers are begging her to appear on the show. Victoria hasn’t closed the door on returning to the show, even in a limited capacity. The producers have told her they will work around her schedule because they know how busy she is with her beauty empire, and she is a wildly successful businesswoman. It’s the number one question that Patrick Duffy, who was Victoria’s small screen hubby, Bobby Ewing gets asked, where is Pam Ewing, and is Victoria coming back,” a source close to the situation tells us.”

    • I’d love to see it happen, and I bet the “Dallas” actors would too — if for no other reason than to stop having to answer questions about it!

      Thanks for the info, Jump.


  6. Margaret Krebbs says:

    I haven’t watched a television show on the day and time of its original airing date in years. I don’t know anyone who does anymore. I don’t get broadcast or cable television, and I don’t know many people who do anymore either. I stream or iTunes television I want to watch. I haven’t seen TNT Dallas Season 2 yet, and I probably won’t until I can binge-watch the entire season, probably this summer. This is the way I like to watch television now, in big chunks consumed over a small period of time. How do people like me get counted in the ratings?

    • That’s a great question, Margaret. I think the entire industry is struggling with this issue. Nielsen ratings have always been flawed, and now it seems like audience measurement is less accurate than ever. I hope the industry is able to come up with a better system soon. Viewers like you deserve to have your tastes and preferences counted too.

      As always, thanks for commenting.


  7. I am absolutely shocked @ the ratings drop. Even if some fans weren’t happy with the last season, I would have expected them to tune in now just for the last chance to see Larry Hagman. And the two episodes were good! I just don’t know what to think.

    I really really really really have no interest in them trying to bring Pam back. I think too many older fans are still set on the old “Bobby and Pam, Romeo and Juliet” story, but that arc is long finished. Yes, the way they wrote Pam off on the original show was stupid (they should have either just killed her off, although I understand why they were gun-shy about killing major characters after what happened with Patrick Duffy, or simply had her and Bobby divorce, and then she moves way from Dallas, finally fed up with all the Ewings, like they eventually did with Sue Ellen). Realistically (& yes, I know we’re talking about a soap opera), even if Pam returned and they could come up with a reasonable explanation for where she’s been all this time, it’s been over 20 years, so Bobby would be LONG over her, by now. In fact, that’s why they did that storyline with Bobby dating that woman who looked a lot like Pam, so he could have some “closure” and get over her memory, and be ready to move on (which led to his marriage to April). So them trying to bring back Pam and get her back with Bobby would just feel extremely forced, to me.

    Plus, I love Ann! I think she’s the best new addition to the Ewing family since they announced that Ray was Jock’s son! I want to keep her and Bobby together, as the new “Jock and Ellie”.

    • Just to clarify, since looking back on that post, I realize it could be taken as more dismissive than I intended, when is said “older fans” I just meant “people who were fans of the original series”. It’s not like I’m trying to say “all these old people,”, or anything like that. 🙂

      That being said, I stand by my statements regarding Pam. I just don’t see the need for her, beyond nostalgia, which I don’t think should be the driving force of the new show.

      • I understood what you meant, J.R., and I think you make a really good point. This is something I struggle with. I want to see the “Dallas” franchise and the characters move forward, but the sentimentalist in me loves seeing the return of old favorites. So far, I think the show has done a nice job of balancing these two forces.

        Thanks so much for your comments. I appreciate them.


    • I like Ann too, although I prefer the shotgun-toting modern Texas woman we met when the new “Dallas” began as opposed to the weepy woman we’ve seen so far in Season 2. I agree with you that Bobby seems to have had closure and moved on, but I don’t think the audience ever got the closure it needed. Even if Victoria Principal doesn’t return, it would be nice to know what exactly happened to Pam.

      • Well, @ this point, I just assume that Pam died. The last time we saw “her” (with that other actress playing a post-plastic surgery Pam), after Cliff tracked her down, we saw her talking to her doctor saying that she only had a few more months to live, which is why she lied to Cliff and didn’t want to go back to Dallas. Obviously, I think that was a little doorway they were leaving open, since we never actually saw her die, just in case Principle ever wanted to come back while the original show was still running, then they could just say that she thought she was dying, but was cured of whatever it was. And if the show had continued another 5 years or so, & she came back, that might have worked. But I really think that now, after 25 (I think) years since her last appearance, that ship has sailed. I think it would stretch the limits of believability for them to come up with a reason as to why she’s stayed away all this time.

        And I know what you mean about nostalgia. That’s why I mentioned some of those other characters in my next post. There are many characters from the original Dallas, and their now-adult children, who could be brought in much more naturally to both move the story forward, while maintaining a connection to the original series.

      • I see what you mean about Pam. In a way, I like the idea of her storyline mirroring her mother’s. Pam abandoned her family, just like Rebecca did a generation earlier. The problem is that abandonment is so out of character for Pam.

        I’m starting to dig your idea of using characters like Margaret, Lucas and J.R. and Cally’s child to stir up the pot. J.R.’s funeral would be an ideal way to bring interlopers into the fold.

        Thanks for sharing your ideas, J.R. I always love to hear from you!


  8. I was talking with my brother about this very topic last night. He was saying that the only way It would make sense to bring in Pam @ this point is she was revealed to be a major villain, like perhaps Katherine had kidnapped her and managed to poison her mind against Bobby and the Ewings, and they’ve been in secret contact with Cliff behind the scenes all these years, explaining why he renewed his vendetta against the entire Ewing family, including Christopher. And maybe also explain how he became so successful in business,if they backed him with Wentworth money, and helped him build His company.

    I suppose that could work, and would add some more members to the Barnes family, as a counter to the Ewing family, which the original series never did properly (they shouldn’t have killed off Rebecca Wentworth when they did, IMO), making it more of a Hatfields vs. McCoys-type of feud.

    Still, I think there are many more original characters who could be brought back, and would fit the new show better, particularly Gary and Val. They should be made regular characters (especially if the also bring in their now-grown children, Bobby and Betsy). And, of course, the other Ewing heirs out there, Lucas Wade, Margaret Krebbbs, Terrance Harper, and James and Jimmy Beaumont. Lets see John Ross and Christopher forced to unite against all these interlopers who want a piece of the Ewing fortune.

    • I’m not sure how I’d feel if Pam returned as a villainess. It might be kind of fun to see Victoria Principal as a badass. I definitely love the idea of beefing up the Barnes side of the family, and I absolutely agree the old show didn’t do a good job with that. I’ve always thought it would be cool to see more of the Monahans. Digger’s sister Maggie Monahan raised Pam and Cliff and had a son of her own, Jimmy, who was seen in episodes 5 and 6. Where is he now? Does he have children? Are they venomous creatures too? Get on it, “Dallas” writing team!

  9. Anne Hardin says:

    I can’t believe that im the only person who is not surprised that the ratings dropped on Dallas, second season. After all, we suffered a huge loss in the death of Larry Hagman. J R made Dallas from the very beginning(I’m 70 years old so I watched from the start of the original series. Dallas was about JR and all the little people around him, especially after Jock and Miss Ellie were gone).My first thought upon hearing about JR’s death was “”Dallas will have a hard time keeping viewers now” and a lot will depend on how his death is handled on the show. I, for one, will feel odd about his death being used for ratings. He will be sorely missed.

    • I wouldn’t have been surprised if this drop happened with episode 9, the one right after J.R..’s funeral, but I would figure that the biggest fans of the original series, especially those who think it can’t go on without J.R (which I don’t agree with, btw)., would be likely to tune now just to see Hagman for the last time.

      • I agree J.R.! Like you, I think the show can go on without J.R. It won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a lot of life left in “Dallas”!

    • He’ll definitely be missed, Anne. I expected the show to get a big boost in the ratings as viewers tuned in to see Larry Hagman’s final episodes. If there was a dropoff in the ratings, I expected it to come after J.R.’s last few episodes run out. We’ll see what happens.

      Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your thoughts.

      Chris B.

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