To: Leslie Moonves, president and chief executive officer, CBS Corporation
From: Dallas Decoder
Mr. Moonves, have I got a deal for you.
You know better than anyone how hard fans are fighting to save “Dallas” after TNT canceled the show last week. There’s an online petition calling on CBS to pick up the series, and Linda Gray tells Dallas Decoder that when she ran into you a few days ago, you told her you’ve been inundated with emails from “Dallas” diehards pleading with you to bring the show home to CBS. (Sorry about clogging your inbox, sir. “Dallas” fans are a passionate bunch.)
Most tantalizing of all, there are unconfirmed reports that CBS is interested in hearing a pitch from the show’s producers. If these stories aren’t true, they should be. After all, nothing would make more sense from a business perspective — and nothing would be more poetic — than having CBS ride to “Dallas’s” rescue.
For starters, “Dallas” comes with a fan base that has stuck with it for more than three decades. We watched the original show on CBS in the 1970s and 1980s, we watched CBS’s reunion movies and specials in the 1990s and early 2000s, and we watched all three seasons of the TNT sequel. We’re nothing if not loyal.
Not all of us are old-timers either. “Dallas” has always bridged the generation gap. I started watching when I was a kid, sitting on the living room floor while Mom and Dad watched from their easy chairs. Now I’m a grown-up and I’m still watching — and so are younger viewers like my niece, a new “Dallas” devotee who thinks Josh Henderson, a.k.a. John Ross Ewing III, is a dreamboat.
This is why “Dallas” is an ideal fit for CBS, the only network that still believes in broadcasting. You and your executive team have a gift for delivering shows that everyone enjoys, from “The Big Bang Theory” to “Big Brother.” Imagine how easily “Dallas” would slide into your Friday lineup, where it would join “Blue Bloods,” another multigenerational family drama, and the “Hawaii Five-0” revival. It would be smart scheduling and a lovely nod to “Dallas’s” glory days, when the original show ruled Friday nights.
Yes, I know television has changed a lot since then. Families don’t gather in the warm glow of a living room TV set the way mine did when I was growing up. But “Dallas” still has the power to bring people together — look at how fans have united since the #SaveDallas campaign began — and viewers will always want to watch great drama, whether it’s on TV, a tablet or a device that fits in your pocket.
Besides, the Ewings never go out of style. I realize “Dallas’s” ratings on TNT haven’t always reflected that, especially toward the end of the show’s run. But you’ve got to wonder: What kind of numbers did TNT expect? When “Dallas” wasn’t airing on holidays, it was forced to compete with the Emmys and “Monday Night Football.” To make matters worse, the network scheduled the season finale on the first night of the new season, when “Dallas” was forced to go head-to-head with multiple premieres — including the debut of CBS’s newest hit, “Scorpion.” (Congrats on another blockbuster, by the way.)
But this isn’t just about numbers, Mr. Moonves. This is about tradition too. When the original “Dallas” came along in the 1970s, CBS was getting clobbered in the ratings by ABC, which was riding high with “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Charlie’s Angels.” Then J.R. got shot and “Dallas” zoomed to the top of the Nielsens, taking the rest of CBS with it. Today, the original “Dallas” is remembered as one of the greatest successes in the network’s history, along with “I Love Lucy,” “All in the Family,” “60 Minutes” and “Survivor.”
There’s a personal connection here too, Mr. Moonves. You made your mark in television as a young executive at Lorimar, the storied studio that produced “Dallas,” along with “Knots Landing” and “Falcon Crest.” You arrived around the time Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower and gave “Dallas” a new lease on life. That’s exactly what we need right now — a fresh start.
Check out the picture I’ve attached to this memo. It shows you and Larry Hagman at a party for TV critics in 1997. I love the expression on his face — I wonder what joke he’s cracking here? — but I also love the expression on yours. You look like you admire Mr. Hagman as much as “Dallas” fans do. Imagine how proud he’d be if you saved “Dallas,” a franchise that meant so much to him.
Look, Mr. Moonves, I don’t mean to get too sentimental here. J.R. Ewing didn’t become a successful oil baron by letting his emotions rule his decision-making, and I suspect you didn’t become the most powerful person in television by doing the same. I also realize the odds of a broadcast network picking up a discarded cable series are pretty long. But this show is special, for all the reasons I just pointed out.
“Dallas” once saved CBS. Here’s your chance to return the favor.
Why do you think CBS should save “Dallas”? Share your ideas below and check out Dallas Decoder’s Save Dallas Page for links to news coverage, petitions, other fan sites and more.