The Dallas Decoder Guide to Gary Ewing

Black sheep

Black sheep

Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) returns to Southfork in “The Furious and the Fast,” tonight’s episode of TNT’s “Dallas.” Gary appeared occasionally on the original “Dallas” and was a main character on its “Knots Landing” spinoff, but how much do you remember about him? Here’s a refresher.

Mama’s boy

Mama’s boy

Mom liked Gary best. Jock and Miss Ellie had three sons: J.R., Gary and Bobby. Gary was Mama’s favorite and Bobby was Daddy’s, which explains why J.R. turned out the way he did – but that’s a story for another day. Gary never got along with his macho father and older brother and left Southfork, which upset his parents royally. I always thought Jock and Ellie should have looked on the bright side: Gary is the only one of their adult children who moved out of the house. You can’t say the same thing for those freeloaders J.R. and Bobby.

Scene from a marriage

Scene from a marriage

Valene: Gary’s true love. Young Gary fell for teenage waitress Valene Clements (Joan Van Ark). They got married and had baby Lucy – not in that order – and lived at Southfork, where J.R. tormented Gary until he ran away. Val tried to escape with Lucy, but J.R. sent some “old boys” to retrieve the child and bring her back to Southfork, where Jock and Ellie raised her. Eventually, Gary and Val reunited and moved to Knots Landing, where they spent 14 seasons dealing with affairs, divorces and television’s nosiest neighbors.

Blues brothers

Blues brothers

Bobby: Gary’s best bro. Aside from Mama, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is the only Ewing who seemed to understand Gary. This makes sense; the brothers have a lot in common. Both are moralistic, both love Southfork and both look great in swim trunks. Bobby has been known to give Gary a verbal kick in the rear when he needs it, but when Bobby “died,” Gary went to pieces. Thank goodness that was just a bad dream! Wait, Gary does know Pam woke up, right? If not, he’s in for a hell of a surprise when he arrives at Southfork tonight.

Brotherly hate

Brotherly hate

J.R.: Worst. Brother. Ever. J.R. (Larry Hagman) meddled in Gary’s life and tried to sleep with his second wife Abby, but his worst attacks were verbal. Over the years, J.R. called Gary a “wimp,” a “no-account,” a “loser” and “Daddy’s big mistake.” (Whoops, that last one was J.R.’s term for Ray.) If Gary was such a screw-up, why did J.R. feel so threatened by him? He explained it this way: “That man is full of anger and frustration. Maybe even hatred, I don’t know. If he ever channeled all that energy, well, it could make my life miserable.” Now you know.

Takes one to know one

Takes one to know one

Gary and Sue Ellen: Not each other’s biggest fans. Gary and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) didn’t interact much, but when they did, it tended not to go well. Before Sue Ellen admitted she had a drinking problem, Gary tried to talk to her about his own struggles with booze. The conversation ended with Sue Ellen exclaiming, “Stop preaching at me! I am not an alcoholic!” Later, when Kristin Shepard visited Knots Landing, Gary told Val how much Kristin reminded him of her big sister Sue Ellen. He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Daddy’s girl

Daddy’s girl

All his children. In addition to rivaling J.R. and Bobby in the number of beautiful women he attracted, Gary has more children than either brother. Gary and Val are parents to Lucy (Charlene Tilton), as well as twins Betsy and Bobby, who was named in honor of his “dead” uncle. When Gary believed Val was dead, he took up with Kate Whittaker, who later gave birth to his daughter Molly. However, Kate ended up raising Molly with Brian Cunningham, Gary’s stepson during his marriage to Abby. See? Gary really is all Ewing!



All his faces. Gary has been played by more actors than almost any other Ewing. David Ackroyd created the role in 1978 during the original “Dallas’s” second season, Joel Allen played him as a child in “Dallas: The Early Years” and Andrew Fielder played him as a young man in a “Knots Landing” flashback. Of course, there’s only one real Gary: the great Shackelford, who joins Hagman, Duffy and Tilton as the only actors who’ve portrayed their characters on “Knots Landing” and both versions of “Dallas.” He’ll be joined soon by Van Ark. Welcome to the club!

What do you remember about Gary Ewing? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Decoder Guides.”


  1. Lady G. says:

    Thank you for that glimpse into Gary! If weren’t for Knot’s Landing he might have went what I call the Chuck Cunningham/Judy Winslow route and been written entirely off as if he never existed. That’s sad when that happens on shows. It’s fun how Gary, the ‘invisible’ brother is Mama Ellie’s favorite too. Great list! I especially like that J.R. quote. He knows his brother’s weaknesses and exploits them, but he stays on his toes.

  2. Lloyd Ferrigon says:

    I liked Gary. He was different from this brothers but still fun to watch. Jock and Ellie were awful parents to have played favorites with their sons. That said, I liked Gary”s interactions with his brothers and his parents. His scene with Sue Ellen was facinating as well. And of course with daughter Lucy as well.

    Many fans think that she should have moved to Knots Landing or gone back and forth since the writers on Dallas gave up on her too soon.

    I liked Gary with Abby and hated that the writers had ended them. I get that they wanted Gary and Valene to be the endgame.

    I have often wondered what if Gary had remained on Dallas. The “Chuck Cunningham” route probably could have happened.

    It will be great to see Gary again and on Dallas. I hope he stays awhile since Ted Shackelford is wasted on YR.

    The mineral rights thing on Dallas is silly though.

    • I think “Home is For Healing,” the “Knots Landing” episode where Lucy visits, is one of Charlene Tilton’s best performances. Similarly, I always thought Mary Crosby’s visit to “Knots Landing” was one of Kristin’s best storylines. The “Knots” writers had a good feel for writing for the women of “Dallas.”

      I’d love to see Ted Shackelford on “Dallas” too.

      Thanks for commenting Lloyd!


  3. I always felt everyone was hard on Gary. One thing that I find odd about Dallas is all of the drinking just about everyone does on the show. To be considered a “problem drinker” in that family, you must have some extraordinary drinking ability. I remember Lucy telling a story of her mom taking her to Virginia and her grand daddy hiring private detectives to bring her back to South Fork. I have to admit, I never watched a single episode of Knots Landing. I did watch a clip on youtube from Knots Landing of Bobby yelling at Gary about something. J.R. wasvery mean to Gary. J.R. is not only mean to Gary, he is also mean to Gary’s family.

    • Jump, this made me laugh: “To be considered a “problem drinker” in that family, you must have some extraordinary drinking ability.”

      “Knots Landing” is a good show, although I think the first few seasons don’t seem to hold up as well as I had remembered. The middle years are the best. Also, as much as I love J.R., when he shows up on “Knots Landing,” it often feels “off.” He’s so larger than life; to see him in a suburban setting somehow diminishes him.

  4. Dan in WI says:

    Here’s what I never understood. JR didn’t care at all for Gary and really didn’t like Val. What did he care that Val ran off with Lucy? Why send those “old boys” to abduct Lucy? Why have another Ewing heir around in compition? It just never made sense to me.

    • Dan, I always have wondered the exact same thing. Why on earth would JR go get another heir to compete with around the ranch? They NEVER explained why JR would do this.

      I have a crazy theory. LOL…my theory is that JR and Valene had an affair and that JR perhaps thought he was he father..LOL.. Yes, I know…out of this world theory. LOL

      BTW…I think Miss Ellie loved Bobby way more than she ever did JR as well. JR was her third string child. I think that since Gary and JR are a lot closer in age that the effects of Miss Ellie favoring Gary was more problematic than they were with Bobby. JR was old enough when Bobby was born that he doted on him as well. (he didn’t like having to share Ewing Oil with him after he spent years making it a big company while Bobby played…but that is another story..LOL). It is one thing when you are 10 or 12 years old and your parents favor a younger child….and you dote on the baby as well. But an entirely different circumstance when your favored sibling is 4 years younger. A 4 year old is not going to handle it well at all. What you get is a JR and Gary relationship….one that is strife with overwhelming jealousy and anger.

      I love Miss Ellie and Jock…but they were not very good parents.

      • BTW…I look forward to seeing a Gary and Sue Ellen scene. Both have beat their alcoholic demons and are honest about it. I like these two characters a lot and think they would be interesting on screen together. I think they will have good chemistry.

      • Yes, I think so too Hel! I love Gary and Val, but a Gary/Sue Ellen pairing could be fascinating.

      • Sad but kind of true regarding Jock and Miss Ellie.

    • Dan, I couldn’t agree more. The novelization of “Dallas’s” first five episodes reveals J.R. is Lucy’s biological father, but I can’t fathom that happening on the TV show.

    • Lloyd Ferrigon says:

      I have always wondered that myself. With Lucy there, it would give Gary a reason to come back so why take her from Valene? If Lucy was JR’s biological daughter that might have made sense.

      In response to another poster, Lucy being a girl was never going to be inline to one day run Ewing Oil so the another heir theory is not there. Plus the writers did not do much with Lucy with the exception of a few storylines.

      Regarding Lucy and JR, I got the impression that during the mini series, they were closer.

      • The mini series seems to suggest the J.R. and Sue Ellen, like Jock and Miss Ellie, are kind of like secondary parental figures to Lucy. Would’ve been interesting to see the show explore that a little more.

  5. I have a cousin who is gay & married to her great wife. I always suspected Brother Gary of at least being “bi-curious” b/c of his extra sensitive nature.


  1. […] Shackelford, who’ll reprise his role from the original “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” as Gary Ewing, J.R. and Bobby’s middle brother. Each man controls one-third of the Southfork mineral rights, […]

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