The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 5 Most Shocking Shootings

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Who Shot J.R.?

The one heard round the world

TNT’s “Dallas” delivered a shocker at the end of “Sins of the Father,” this week’s episode: Ann (Brenda Strong) shot her ex-husband Harris (Mitch Pileggi) and left him bleeding on his den floor. It was the latest example of “Dallas’s” long tradition of using gunplay to throw viewers for a loop. Here’s my list of the five most shocking shootings seen during the original series.

Dallas, Fat Lady Singeth, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

She bangs

5. J.R. Ewing (1988). “Dallas’s” 12th season ended with Sue Ellen and boyfriend Nick Pearce (Linda Gray, Jack Scalia) bursting into a high-rise hotel room to confront J.R. (Larry Hagman) over his latest misdeeds. J.R. pulled a gun, Nick lunged at him and before you knew it, studly Mr. Pearce went tumbling over the balcony. That’s when Sue Ellen picked up J.R.’s gun, fired three shots at him and dialed the police to report “a double murder.” Even though this was the fourth (!) time J.R. was shot on the show – and even though there was no doubt he’d survive – you have to admit: Seeing Sue Ellen plug him was pretty surprising.

Dallas, Don Starr, Jordan Lee, Terminus

For whom the booth tolls

4. Jordan Lee. This longtime Ewing frenemy had a penchant for hooking up with shady women – we’re looking at you, Kristin – but when Jordan (Don Starr) got involved with mysterious Sheila Foley (Susan Lucci), he paid the ultimate price. Jordan helped Sheila with her convoluted scheme to masquerade as Bobby’s wife because he believed Sheila merely wanted to make a big speech criticizing OPEC at a Parisian oil conference. When he realized she had deadlier aims, he ducked into a phone booth to call J.R. for help – but before Jordan started dialing, one of Sheila’s goons shot him, ending his 12-year run on the show.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, End Game, Patrick Duffy

Twist of fake

3. Bobby Ewing. The last episode of “Dallas’s” eighth season felt awfully familiar: The whole world was mad at J.R., and one by one, his enemies were vowing revenge. (Peter Richards: “I swear I’ll kill you!”) As the hour drew to a close, we were given a first-person perspective as someone entered the darkened Ewing Oil suite, walked into J.R.’s office and fired three shots into the back of his chair. A body slumped to the floor, but it wasn’t J.R. – it was Bobby (Patrick Duffy)! Was this a shameless rip-off of the “Who Shot J.R.?” cliffhanger from four years earlier? Absolutely. Was it also one of the show’s best-ever fake-outs? You bet it was.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, No More Mr. Nice Guy Part 1, Who Shot J.R.?

Big shot

2. J.R. Ewing (1980). Hold your fire, fellow fans. I know what you’re thinking: How can this one not be ranked first on a list of shocking “Dallas” shootings? Because CBS spoiled the surprise. Before the network broadcast “A House Divided,” the serial’s most famous cliffhanger, it aired promos that showed J.R. getting shot. As if that wasn’t bad enough, CBS also ran a half-page ad in TV Guide with a screaming headline (“It Had to Happen – J.R. is Shot!”). So yes, even though J.R.’s shooting was a stroke of storytelling genius – and even though it cemented “Dallas’s” spot in the TV Hall of Fame – it wasn’t much of a shock.

April Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Sheree J. Wilson, Terminus

French twist

1. April Ewing. Did you see this one coming? I sure didn’t. Like Jordan’s death, this shooting was part of the storyline about Sheila masquerading as Bobby’s kidnapped wife April (Sheree J. Wilson) during their Parisian honeymoon. April was supposed to be released to Bobby’s custody at the OPEC conference – but when gunfire broke out, she got caught in the crossfire. The scene ended with Bobby weeping as he cradled his dead bride’s body. Wilson had become “Dallas’s” leading lady at this point, making this the first time the show had killed off one of its main characters (not counting Jock, of course). Her death remains one of the show’s boldest – and most heartbreaking – plot twists.

Which “Dallas” shootings shocked you most? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Comments

  1. I couldnt agree more with number 1and 2! Oh I was waiting for you to mention April. I think her death may have been the saddest moment in the entire series. ( for me anyway, again I was more invested in the later seasons). I kept thinking ” this can’t be happening!?” I almost didn’t want to watch anymore. She was my favourite character. I had kind of forgot about Jordan Lee being involved in that too.
    And of course “who shot J. R.” was huge, and it’s too bad about the previews. I didn’t know about that before.
    I really remember Sue Ellen and Nick Pearce , and knowing J. R. wouldn’t die, but just thinking “Wow, he’s going to be mad”.
    Great review!

    • Thanks Morgan! I always appreciate hearing from folks who enjoyed the later years. I think they tend to get judged too harshly. There was good, dramatic stuff during those seasons. April’s death is still shocking, all these years later.

      Chris

  2. I love April and though it wasn’t a surprise for me because I’m watching it decades after the fact, this still reduced me to tears. I adored how the relationship between her and Bobby blossomed, but also just her character. 😦 I think your #1 had me the most ‘shocked’. Particularly when Nice Pierce went flying!! Wow. I was not expecting that.

  3. Thank you for including Jordan Lee. I remember that I was completely taken by surprise when that happened. Jordan had been such an integral part of the DALLAS fabric for so many years that I had somehow taken him for granted. For him to get such a violent, yet almost casual send-off was a real shock to me.

    • I agree. I almost wish I had ranked Jordan’s death a little higher. Something I forgot to point out when I wrote this list: Jordan’s shooting occurred in the same episode as April’s. What a memorable episode of “Dallas”!

  4. I resent you describing Jordan Lee, played by the great Don Starr, as a Ewing family “Frenemy”. As Ellie Ewing herself said to Jordan Lee in season 4 (also known as season 5 on d.v.d.), Jordan was supposed to be Jock’s FRIEND. Furthermore, the guy was on the series from season 1 and was always considered by Jock, J.R. and Bobby as one of the Ewing family’s most valuable and sought-after BUSINESS PARTNER. All three Ewing men repeatedly, season after season, as well as Cliff Barnes, sought out Jordan Lee as an important business partner, investor, confidant and friend. Also, if Sheree J. Wilson, who I really liked and thought was great for the series (she was not auditioned, but brought on the series personally hand-picked by Leonard Katzman upon his return to the series in 1986), was considered DALLAS “leading lady” by it’s final season in 1990, it was only because by that point, obviously, Linda,Victoria, Barbara, Charlene and Susan Howard were all GONE! Losing all of DALLAS’ s main female characters, one by one, I think, effectively destroyed the show.

    • It seems to me Jordan was whatever the writers needed him to be at the time. Don Starr was always a welcome presence on the show, but sometimes his character was depicted as a Ewing ally and sometimes he was seen as a competitor. Jordan never seemed to care much for J.R. As far as “Dallas’s” leading ladies, I agree: The show never fully recovered from the loss of the five actresses you cite.

  5. Well I’m watching the original Dallas series from start to finish & I’m up to Season 14 and I just started it and now I’m devastated can’t believe they kill off April….so sad but I agree with all of the top 5

  6. Morganne says:

    As someone who saw Dallas long after its original run, the J.R shooting was a complete shock! But April’s was worse, I agree. I also felt it took the life or if the show for me. I never was a fan of Bobby’s seemingly endless post-Pam dating parade, so having him finally settled was great. Then, just like that, April was gone and Bobby was back playing the field. (Apart from that whole what life would have been like had April lived episode, which did nothing for me but make me realize what a mistake they made in getting rid of Sheree at all.)
    I also loved Jordan Lee, even if his character was one the writer’s used whenever they wanted to their a familiar face at us, and make it seem like a real city… I was always smiled when Jordan made an appearance and I was sad when he died!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] travesty of justice! The only way she’d ever shoot J.R. would be if he – oh, I don’t know – tossed one of her lovers off a high-rise balcony. But what are the odds of something like that […]

  2. […] trivia buffs, take note: The original “Dallas” had an “End Game” (Bobby gets shot!) and a “Dead Reckoning” (Miss Ellie boots Clayton off Southfork!), while “The Sopranos” […]

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