The Best & Worst of TNT’s Dallas: Season 3

“Dallas’s” third and final season was a thrill ride, even if our beloved Larry Hagman wasn’t around to take the trip with us. Here’s a look back at the highs and lows.



Rising son

Josh Henderson was a revelation this year. As John Ross struggled to follow J.R.’s boot steps, he kept getting sidetracked by his own demons — and Henderson was outstanding at every turn. His performances were sometimes sly, sometimes sensitive and always superb. I was less enthralled with the other “J.R.”: Judith Ryland, a.k.a. Judith Light, who was moving during the hostage crisis but cartoonish most of the rest of the time (“Let’s go make us a drug deal.”).


Ewing Global’s rocky road to its initial public offering was a modern take on classic “Dallas” wheeling and dealing. It included the dramatic boardroom showdown where Sue Ellen voted against John Ross’s plan; John Ross and Pamela’s trip to Las Vegas, where he gambled away J.R.’s wristwatch to prove his mettle to the sheik; and finally the frenzied day of the IPO, when Hunter McKay swooped in and turned the tables on John Ross — much like Hunter’s granddaddy Carter once did to J.R. Even Wolf Blitzer showed up to report on the Ewings’ doings. The worst storyline? Nope, not the drug cartel, which ended up being better than expected, but all the silliness involving the brothel, including the eye-rolling revelation that Judith is a madam.



Direct hit

The achingly poignant “Hurt,” written by Aaron Allen and directed by Patrick Duffy, dared to challenge the audience to stop sentimentalizing J.R. This was an actors’ episode, beginning with the theatrical scene where Elena exposed Bobby’s scheme to frame Cliff. No whiplash-inducing plot twists here; just solid Ewing family drama. There was also a lot to like about the “Lifting the Veil” wedding episode. Unfortunately, much of it was cut to make room for those bonkers brothel scenes.


John Ross and Sue Ellen’s kitchen confrontation was the season’s emotional high point. It began with her standing at the counter, sloshing a drink, no longer denying her fall from the wagon. Into the room stormed John Ross, furious over his mother’s boardroom betrayal and still very much in denial about his addiction to power. The chills-inducing climax: He slams down his hand and screams, “I am not my father!” Maybe not, but this scene showed Henderson could light up our screens just like Hagman. Best scene runner-up: The unbearably tense moment when Ann, Harris and Judith hear Luis fire a shot after holding a gun to Emma’s head. The worst scene involved a corrupt politician, a hooker and a dog costume. Need I say more?



Bug off

Sue Ellen gives a bottle of J.R. Ewing Bourbon to Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber, who was always a welcome guest on this show), but the smug jerk refuses to help her stop John Ross’s Southfork drilling scheme. Later, the guv pours from the bottle while plotting with a corrupt crony to cover up a scandal — unaware that Sue Ellen and Bobby are in a van outside, recording their conversation. How? Because Sue Ellen bugged the bottle! Oh, how I wish Linda Gray had been given more scenes like this.


Worst first: Christopher’s death. Jesse Metcalfe’s alter ego went out like a chump by protecting Elena, an increasingly exasperating character who brought Nicolas and the drug cartel into the Ewings’ lives and threatened to send Bobby to prison. (Jordana Brewster, however, was fantastic when Elena saw the car blow up.) I have no doubt Christopher’s murder would’ve opened dramatic new storylines for the show, but since we’ve been denied a fourth season, I can’t help but feel like a “Dallas” legacy character was killed off for no good reason. The best cliffhanger: The doomed three-way between John Ross, Pamela and Emma was sexy and provocative, although the resolution — learning Pamela overdosed to teach her cheating husband and his mistress a lesson — was bananas.


Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, TNT

Guess who?

Mitch Pileggi has always been one of “Dallas’s” best actors, but his performances this year were more complex than ever. Was Harris really working for the CIA, or was he merely out to get Judith? Did he mean it when he told Ann he loved her, or was he just messing with her head? Pileggi kept us guessing all season long — just like a certain Machiavellian character from an earlier era of “Dallas.” Runner-up: Emma Bell’s Emma, who had me throwing things at my TV one moment and reaching for the Kleenex the next.

Supporting Players

Here we have an embarrassment of riches. I loved Antonio Jaramillo, who was frightening and fascinating as cartel general Luis; Kevin Page, who turned sweet-natured Bum into John Ross’s unlikely conscience; and Donny Boaz, who made down-on-his-luck ranch hand Bo McCabe the closest thing this show had to a modern version of Ray Krebbs. But no performance touched me like Marlene Forte, who was heartbreaking in “Dead Reckoning,” the haunting episode in which Carmen learned Drew was dead. Honorable mention: Cynthia Jackson, who played Nurse Harlan, the no-nonsense nightingale who tangled with John Ross in the hospital (“Plant your ass over there in those seats before I plant it for you”).


Smiling cobra

Killer smile

Juan Pablo Di Pace was sinister and seductive as Nicolas Treviño, who changed the Ewings’ lives forever the day he waltzed into their boardroom and declared himself Cliff’s proxy. Now that he has Christopher’s blood on his hands, Nicolas will be remembered as the Ewings’ most dangerous foe since Katherine ran over Bobby. Honorable mention: AnnaLynne McCord, whose Heather McCabe — a working-class single mom who wanted to do right by her son — was refreshingly free of secret identities and hidden agendas.

Returning Favorites

Two “Dallas” vets earn a spot in the “best” column: Audrey Landers, who was a hoot when Afton showed up at John Ross and Pamela’s wedding, smacked the groom upside his head and sparred with Sue Ellen; and Ken Kercheval, who was downright tragic in the scene where Pamela refused to get Cliff out of jail. You could always count on Landers and Kercheval to make the most of their “Dallas” guest spots; what a shame they never had a scene together. My other old favorite: the return of “Dallas’s” retro-style split-screen opening credits. What took so long?




Highlighting just one of costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin’s creations is tough, but if forced to choose, I’ll go with Pamela’s black-and-white dress, which looked striking on Julie Gonazalo. The dress also highlighted the link between Pamela and Sue Ellen, who wore a lot of black and white on the original show. No costume deserves a spot in the “worst” column, although now that I know how much effort went into choosing the jewelry for J.R.’s daughter’s debut, I sure wish that scene hadn’t been left on the cutting room floor.


Johnny Cash returned to “Dallas” for the first time since Season 1 with his cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” which played during the powerful sequence where Bobby destroys his den after J.R.’s masterpiece unravels. Can you watch this scene without getting chills? Other highlights: Ed Sheeran’s “Kiss Me,” which was heard when John Ross and Pamela were making love on their honeymoon while lonely Emma was crying herself to sleep; The Doors’ “Break On Through,” an ideal choice for the diaphragm puncturing/threeway/Southfork fire montage; and Eric Church’s “Devil, Devil,” the song that played when Nicolas’s henchman killed Luis and El Pozolero. And who didn’t love Henderson’s “I See You” during John Ross’s breakdown in the elevator during the season finale?


Best & Worst of TNT's Dallas - Season 3 7 copy

Good to the last drop

Best: The J.R. Ewing Bourbon bottles, which popped up throughout the season, including the last scene, when John Ross toasts his dearly departed daddy in the back of the limousine. I also got a kick out of seeing Henderson sport replicas of some of Hagman’s signature accessories, even if it looked like that J.R. belt buckle was wearing John Ross instead of the other way around. My least favorite prop: Candace’s severed hands. Good grief. Were those things purchased in the Halloween aisle at Kmart?


It’s always tough to choose a favorite in this category, and this year is no exception. Contenders include Judith’s J.R.-like analogy (“Money and morality are like two cars on a one-lane road. When they meet, morality’s going to end up in the ditch.”), John Ross’s apt description of his family (“We’re slow, but we do figure things out.”), and Sue Ellen’s memorable put-down of a longtime rival (“Just so you know, Afton, the most despicable thing J.R. ever did was you.”). But nothing tops Miss Texas’s memorable schooling of Emma at the wedding: “Has anyone ever told you about my sister Kristin? She was a lot like you. She ended up face down in the pool.” It’s a shame this line was cut from the episode, but at least TNT had the good sense to turn it into a promo.




If you didn’t watch “Dallas” while simultaneously tweeting about it, you missed half the fun. The year in hashtags: #Aftershave #BeachBoys #BeMyProxyNicolas #CafeConLechePorFavor #DefineTheRelationship #GoFrackYourself #GoodBlackmailNeverSours #GraspingSuccubus #IceBreakingShips #JusticeNotRevenge #LesserPrairieChicken #MamaLike #MillerLight #MobyDick #Mole #Pozole #SeismicSuperstar #Sprinkles #StupidPills #Supermajority #SurfaceRights #WhoWoreItBetter #WhichEwingDies #YouSmellLikeMyWife #RenewDallasTNT #SaveDallas #DallasForever

What do you love and loathe about the third season of TNT’s “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more “Best & Worst” reviews.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 36 — ‘Hurt’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hurt, Patrick Duffy, TNT

His kingdom of dirt

Bobby Ewing is the steward of Southfork, but Patrick Duffy is the steward of Bobby Ewing. In “Hurt,” Duffy steps behind the camera and directs his first “Dallas” episode in more than two decades, demonstrating how well he knows both his character and the mythology that defines this franchise. This is an hour rooted in “Dallas” history, with references to Jock, Miss Ellie, the Barnes/Ewing feud and of course J.R., whose presence here is as strong as it was in last year’s funeral episode. Just as importantly, “Hurt” reveals Duffy’s knack for the conventions of modern “Dallas” storytelling, including cinematic, made-for-HD shots of Southfork and a musical montage that’s destined to be remembered as one of this show’s most moving.

Between the two of them, Duffy and scriptwriter Aaron Allen transform “Hurt” into a showcase for the “Dallas” ensemble, beginning with the riveting post-credits showdown, when Elena gathers the Ewings together and exposes the plot to frame Cliff. The staging evokes memories of the original cast standing around the living room, knocking back drinks and trading quips, although it also plays like a parlor scene out of a Miss Marple mystery. (One difference: On “Dallas,” everyone is guilty of something.) Next, Josh Henderson and Julie Gonzalo’s estranged spouses, John Ross and Pamela, have a nicely measured confrontation on the Southfork lawn, followed by a long-awaited moment of catharsis for Brenda Strong’s Ann, who finally gets to say what every fan’s been thinking lately: Isn’t Bobby being a hypocrite when he accuses his wife of keeping secrets from him?

Duffy also elicits a strong performance from Jordana Brewster, who brings the right mix of determination and doubt to Elena’s scenes, as well as another moving turn from Marlene Forte and a fun-but-too-brief appearance by Ken Kercheval, who gives us a glimpse of old-school Cliff Barnes giddiness when the character learns he’ll be getting out of jail. Of course, no one delivers for Duffy quite like his longtime friend and co-star, Linda Gray. In one of “Hurt’s” most powerful scenes, she confronts Bobby about not telling her the truth about J.R.’s death, allowing Gray to go from anger to disbelief to bitter disappointment. Her parting shot — “Miss Ellie would be ashamed of you” — is one for the ages. I can’t imagine any words that would hurt Bobby more, can you? (Also: Shades of Barbara Bel Geddes’ memorable “You both sicken me!” line to Jim Davis and Larry Hagman in “The New Mrs. Ewing,” the first of 29 episodes Duffy helmed during the original show’s run.)

Bobby and Sue Ellen’s scene also allows “Dallas” to address a mystery that has puzzled fans since her eulogy in “J.R.’s Masterpiece”: Why did J.R. invite his ex-wife to dinner if he knew he was never going to make it back to Dallas in the first place? I’ve always thought of J.R.’s invitation as a metaphor — he wasn’t asking Sue Ellen on a date, he was asking her to forgive him — which seems to be the subtext of Gray’s next great scene, when Sue Ellen visits Bum’s humble home in her quest for answers. The conversation ends with Bum asking Sue Ellen to forgive him. Her haunting response: “You’re not the one I need to forgive.” (In a lovely nod to Kevin Page, the wonderful actor and artist who makes Bum so sweetly charming, we also learn the character is the painter behind the J.R. portrait hanging at Ewing Global.)

Of course, Duffy is smart enough to give himself several good scenes too. If Bobby has gotten a little off course this season — always yelling at Ann and John Ross — “Hurt” might be remembered as the episode that puts him back on track, or at least the segment that makes him sympathetic again. In “Hurt’s” most poignant moment, Bobby enters Southfork, which stands empty after the rest of the Ewings have walked out on him. For an instant, he’s become J.R. at the end of the original series, wandering around that big house after he’s driven away everyone else. Then, with Johnny Cash’s “Hurt” playing in the background, Bobby demolishes his study in a flash of rage. The song might have been written about the horrors of drug addiction, but with its references to a “crown of thorns” and an “empire of dirt,” is it not also the perfect song for our favorite martyr-like rancher?

I also have to appreciate how expertly this sequence is edited, especially when Cash sings “my sweetest friend” and J.R.’s face, smiling from behind the framed glass, fills the screen. Indeed, “Hurt” can be seen as a kind of companion piece to the elegiac “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” It’s fitting that our hero’s final scheme falls apart here, given how many of his schemes backfired during the original series. Allen’s script seems to acknowledge this when Elena delivers her comments about how the Ewings “rushed to sentimentalize” J.R. after his death. She might as well be talking about the “Dallas” audience — although for the record, I believe J.R. did change in old age. Of course, I’m also the first to admit that I’ve always worshipped at the altar of J.R. Ewing, even before he was redeemed.

Elena’s comments are an example of how Allen’s “Dallas” scripts always contain dialogue that sticks with you. Another example is Henderson and Gonzalo’s conversation on the lawn in “Hurt.” John Ross: “If you give me the chance, Pamela, I’ll fix everything.” Pamela: “I don’t want you to fix things. I want you to stop breaking them.” I also love this episode’s sharper exchanges, beginning with John Ross’s farewell to Elena and Nicolas, which Henderson delivers with perfect acidity (“Y’all can both go to hell”), as well as Bobby’s description of his family’s longest-running conflict and Elena’s non-role in it: “The Barnes/Ewing feud is a whole other beast. And it doesn’t involve you. You want to take that dog for a walk? Fine. But if it bites somebody, it’s because you let it.” This sounds like the sort of thing a Texan would say, does it not?

I also like how “Hurt” gives the “Dallas” women the upper hand in several scenes. It’s good to see Sue Ellen figure out Bum shot J.R., and I appreciate how Elena puts the power to pardon Cliff in Pamela’s hands, although I’m not sure what to make of Elena giving Pamela land that Jock “stole” from Digger. Then again, the origins of the Barnes/Ewing war have always been kind of murky. In that spirit, I even like Ann’s common-sense prescription to resolving the conflict — “You end a blood feud by walking away from it” — although I sure as hell hope no one on this show ever follows that advice.

I even like “Hurt” because of what it doesn’t contain: Duffy and Allen give us no whiplash-inducing plot twists, choosing instead to offer character-driven surprises like the revelation about Bum’s artistic skills. Yes, this episode’s drug cartel sequences get in the way of the real drama involving the Ewings, but at least one of those scenes features Emma Bell’s Emma Ryland, who is always a kick. Her conversation with Luis about the Beach Boys is kind of kooky, but it’s also an example of another Allen signature: Recall Carlos Bernard’s monologue about dancing in “Collateral Damage” and Mitch Pileggi’s speech about Komodo dragons in “Let Me In.” Sometimes it’s clearer than others what the characters are really saying in these scenes, but for me at least, figuring it out is part of the fun.

Ultimately, any complaints about the cartel scenes are quibbles, because no matter how you slice it, this is a terrific hour of “Dallas.” It’s an achievement for everyone involved, but most of all Duffy, whose turn in the director’s chair marks the first time someone who had a hand in shaping the storytelling on the original series does something similar for the sequel. We’ve known for a while that Duffy is still capable of dazzling us when he steps in front of the “Dallas” cameras, and now we know the same is also true when he works behind the scenes.

Grade: A


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Hurt, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Hurts so good


Season 3, Episode 11

Telecast: September 1, 2014

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Elena tells the Ewings how J.R. swindled her father and also exposes Bobby, John Ross and Christopher’s conspiracy to frame Cliff for J.R.’s “murder.” Bobby is chastised by Ann, Pamela and Sue Ellen, who later confronts Bum. Bobby agrees to give Elena restitution and land and arranges for Cliff to be pardoned, but Elena gives both the parcel and the clemency paperwork to Pamela, telling her she should decide if her father gets out of prison. John Ross learns Nicolas sent the video to Pamela and retaliates by telling Nicolas that Elena slept with him to get her hands on J.R.’s letter. Nicolas forgives Elena and leaves town with her, but not before consulting the mysterious Victor Des Lauriers about Ewing Global’s looming initial public offering. Christopher realizes Nicolas is Elena’s childhood friend, Joaquin. Harris tells Emma about his work with the CIA after he learns she’s been meeting with the cartel.

Cast: Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Antonio Jaramillo (Luis), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Max Ryan (Victor Des Lauriers), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing)

“Hurt” is available at, Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 30 — ‘D.T.R.’

Dallas, D.T.R., Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Woman of the hour

Let’s get this out of the way first: “D.T.R.” stands for “define the relationship,” as Christopher’s new girlfriend Heather helpfully explains in the scene where they get to know each other better in the bar. I wasn’t familiar with the expression until recently and neither were a lot of “Dallas” fans, judging by the reactions I’m seeing on Twitter. But no matter. This episode is really about the “Dallas” characters trying to dominate their relationships. Everyone is vying for control of everyone else, demonstrating once again that the real commodity on this show is power, not oil.

At the center of it all is Sue Ellen, a woman who spent years struggling to take charge of her own life. Now she’s trying to reign in John Ross, not just because he’s beginning to remind her of J.R., but also because he’s beginning to remind her of herself. Sue Ellen sees her son becoming addicted to feeding his own ego, just like she’s hooked on the booze inside her flask. This point is underscored in the scene where she tells John Ross that he’s being “reckless” by cheating on Pamela. Sue Ellen might as well be describing the person she used to be, during her own self-destructive phase, before she became the much more functional alcoholic we see today.

John Ross ends this scene by accusing his mother of taking out on him her lingering anger toward J.R. “Guess what, Mama? I’m not J.R.,” he says. These are surprising words coming from a young man who struts around wearing Daddy’s wristwatch and belt buckle, but they show how John Ross has picked up another one of Sue Ellen’s old habits: her penchant for denying the truth. Indeed, what fascinates me most about John Ross and Sue Ellen’s relationship this season is how they’re both borrowing different pages from J.R.’s playbook in their quest for the upper hand in their relationship. In the previous episode, John Ross showed he could treat Sue Ellen as cruelly as J.R. once did; in “D.T.R.,” Sue Ellen blackmails McConaughey in a bid to undermine her son. J.R. Ewing lives on through the people he loved most.

But even without these allusions to our hero, Sue Ellen and John Ross’s storyline is absorbing and effective. Much of this has to do with Linda Gray and Josh Henderson, who do remarkable work in “D.T.R.” Gray enlivens every scene she’s in through the sheer force of her presence; it’s become cliché to say she lights up the screen each time she appears, but I can think of no better way to describe what she brings to this show. Henderson, in the meantime, is nothing less than outstanding: In his hands, John Ross has become dark and dangerous. It doesn’t hurt that both actors receive wonderful material from scriptwriter Aaron Allen, who helps make the characters feel real and knowable. Strip away all the references to “fracking” and the “Arctic play” and it’s easy to see this is the story of a mother trying to save her son from himself.

Allen — who also wrote “Let Me In,” the episode where Harris stifles Emma’s bid for independence — uses “D.T.R.” to return to the power struggles within the Ryland family too. As John Ross points out, Emma is supposed to control Judith, who is supposed to control Harris, although it’s hard to figure out who really runs the show. Here’s what I find most interesting about these characters: As deceptive as they are, they use the truth to emotionally bludgeon each other. In “D.T.R.,” when Ann declares her “role” at Southfork is to care for her loved ones, Emma reminds her mother that she “lied to her husband about my very existence.” It’s harsh, but is it inaccurate? Similarly, in the tense scene where Judith and Emma haggle over Harris’s files, is Judith wrong when she tells Emma that she “degrades” herself by sleeping around?

The Rylands always give us plenty to ponder, but there’s no questioning the quality of the actors’ performances. Judith Light makes it clear Judith loves her rebellious granddaughter, while Emma Bell never lets us forget her character has vulnerabilities, no matter how wicked she behaves. I also love Brenda Strong, who knocks me out in the scene where Ann angrily kicks Emma off Southfork, although she’s equally good when Ann warily welcomes her daughter home. It’s also nice to see Steven Weber take another turn as the slick Governor McConaughey, as well as Todd Terry, who returns as hapless State’s Attorney Peter Bedford, one of the last people to have the honor of being blackmailed by J.R. Ewing. Speaking of J.R.’s victims: The “D.T.R.” scene where Cliff calls Pamela and tries to mend fences with her restores a shred of humanity to the character, but I mostly love the scene because it allows Ken Kercheval to revive his mantra from the second season: “I did not kill J.R.!”

There’s much more to like about “D.T.R.,” especially where Patrick Duffy is concerned. I love how cinematographer Rodney Charters, who doubles as this episode’s director, gives us a shot of solemn, solitary Bobby on horseback watching the smug John Ross inspect the Southfork drill site. It makes Bobby’s end-of-the-episode speech about upholding the Southworth traditions that much more poignant. It’s also a kick to see Bobby and Sue Ellen in the back of the van, eavesdropping on McConaughey, as well as the big reveal at the press conference, when Bobby steps forward as the new railroad commissioner. (Between this scene and the one in “Playing Chicken” where Bobby steps out of Rhonda’s car, Duffy is becoming “Dallas’s” master of the grand entrance.)

“D.T.R.’s” use of the J.R. Ewing Bourbon bottle is also inspired: The revelation that the cork is bugged is the third season’s best twist yet, but I also love how the bottle practically becomes a stand-in for J.R. himself. Gray has a Hagman-esque twinkle in her eye when Sue Ellen gives the bourbon to McConaughey at the top of the hour and reminds him that “good blackmail never sours.” The twinkle is there at the end of the episode too, when Sue Ellen reveals the dirt on McConaughey and he slides the bottles across his desk toward her and says, “This is why politicians should never accept gifts — especially gifts with J.R.’s name on them.”

The only thing missing from this scene is seeing J.R.’s smile, although I must say: Sue Ellen’s sly grin is pretty wonderful too. Of course, that’s always been true, hasn’t it?

Grade: A


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, D.T.R., Patrick Duffy

The steward


Season 3, Episode 5

Telecast: March 24, 2014

Audience: 1.79 million viewers on March 24

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Rodney Charters

Synopsis: Sue Ellen blackmails McConaughey into removing Babcock from the Railroad Commission and replacing him with Bobby. Emma blackmails Judith into giving John Ross access to Ryland Transport’s ships and tells him she wants a piece of the Arctic drilling venture. Harris blackmails the CIA into giving his family extra protection. Cliff urges Elena and Nicolas to turns John Ross against Pamela, and when Nicolas examines photographs of J.R.’s autopsy, he notices an unusual incision on his chest. Christopher learns Heather is divorced from Bo and that they have a young son, Michael.

Cast: Amber Bartlett (Jill), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Candace (Jude Demorest), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), AnnaLynne McCord (Heather McCabe), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Gino Anthony Pesi (George Tatangelo), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Todd Terry (State’s Attorney Peter Bedford), Steven Weber (Governor Sam McConaughey)

“D.T.R.” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Parallels: Women on the Edge

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pam Ewing, Pamela Barnes, Victoria Principal, TNT

Pam Ewing, the original “Dallas’s” heroine, and Pamela Barnes, her namesake niece on TNT’s sequel series, have more than a name in common. Both women marry into the Ewing family, both experience awkward introductions to life at Southfork, and their first encounters with J.R. are equally tense. Most notably, Pam and Pamela also suffer tragic miscarriages that send both of them to the edge — literally.

Pam’s quest to become a mother is a recurring theme of “Dallas’s early years. She and Bobby are overjoyed when they discover she’s pregnant at the end of the first season, but their parental dreams are dashed when Pam falls from the hayloft and suffers a miscarriage. She gets pregnant again at the beginning of Season 3, only to lose that child during another ranching mishap. Pam shifts her focus to her career, but when Sue Ellen leaves Southfork and takes John Ross with her at the beginning of Season 5, Pam’s memories of her miscarriages resurface.

Pam soon slips into a deep depression, alarming Bobby. At one point, he goes to visit his wife at The Store, the luxury retailer where she works, only to find her sitting in the baby department, holding a music box and lost in her thoughts. Then, in “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” Pam goes to the roof of a tall building and contemplates jumping off. Bobby rescues her and brings her home to Southfork, where he urges her to get psychiatric help. “Honey, I’m worried about you,” he says.

Pamela has similar experiences on TNT’s “Dallas,” although the echoes are faint. Not long after she marries Christopher, the son that Bobby and Pam eventually adopted, Pamela becomes pregnant with twins. When Christopher discovers Pamela has been keeping some big secrets from him — namely, that she’s Cliff’s daughter and Christopher’s cousin — he divorces her, leaving her to take up with another one of his cousins, John Ross. Then the unthinkable happens: Cliff engineers the explosion of a Ewing Energies rig with Pamela and the Ewings aboard, causing her to lose her unborn children.

“Let Me In,” one of the new show’s second-season episodes, chronicles the emotional fallout from Pamela’s miscarriage. The hour opens with alternating shots of Christopher tearing down the nursery at Southfork while Pamela decorates the room she had set aside for the babies in her home. The montage ends with her sitting alone in the room, holding a stuffed animal and wearing a blank expression — not unlike Pam’s scene in The Store’s baby department. Later, John Ross comes to Pamela’s penthouse and finds her sitting on the balcony, entranced. She isn’t suicidal, but it nonetheless brings to mind Pam standing atop the tall building. (Indeed, “Let Me In” scriptwriter Aaron Allen has said he took inspiration for this scene not from “Dallas,” but from the 1985 film “St. Elmo’s Fire.”) In the next scene, John Ross brings Pamela inside and expresses his concern for her (“We are all worried about you”), just like Bobby did with Pam after her breakdown.

The question is: Will the parallels end here? On the original show, after Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, she recovers her mojo, although her maternal struggles continue to haunt her. When Bobby briefly reunites with old flame Jenna Wade and impregnates her, Pam must learn to live with the fact that her husband will have a child with another woman.

Now that Pamela is married to the adulterous John Ross, we wonder: Will she soon find herself following in Aunt Pam’s footsteps yet again?


‘Honey, I’m Worried About You’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Sweet Smell of Revenge

Let him help

In “The Sweet Smell of Revenge,” a fifth-season “Dallas” episode, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) sits in his bedroom reading a newspaper while Pam (Victoria Principal) sleeps on the bed.

PAM: [Awakens] Bobby?

BOBBY: Yeah, honey?

PAM: I’m sorry.

BOBBY: Oh, don’t worry. How do you feel?

PAM: [Pause] All right.

BOBBY: [Sets down his paper, moves to the bed and sits near her] Pam, we got to talk.

PAM: I know.

BOBBY: About you, about the future.

PAM: I know.

BOBBY: I spoke to Dr. Conrad. She said she already talked to you about voluntary commitment to Brooktree.

PAM: Yes, she did.

BOBBY: Well, she wanted to know how I felt, and I said I wanted what was best for you. She said that, at the present, she thinks that is the best. And with 24-hour-a-day care, you could overcome your problems a lot sooner.

PAM: Because you think I should be watched in case I try to kill myself again?

BOBBY: Pam, that’s not what I said.

PAM: But that’s what you meant.

BOBBY: Honey, I’m worried about you, and I care about you, and I don’t want what happened before to happen again. Now, if it’s going to be better — or safer — for you to be at Brooktree for a time, time enough to overcome this depression, then that’s what I want … for you. [Silence] Pam?

PAM: [Closes her eyes] I’m tired.

BOBBY: [Sighs] Well, you think about it, all right?

She nods.


‘We Are All Worried About You’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Let Me In, TNT

Let him in

In “Let Me In,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) finds Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) sitting on the balcony of her apartment, brings her back inside and sits with her on the sofa.

JOHN ROSS: Where’s Afton? I thought your mother was taking care of you.

PAMELA: [Looking away] I sent her home … last week.

JOHN ROSS: Why’d you lie to me? [Silence] I think you should not be alone right now, Pamela.

PAMELA: I don’t care.

JOHN ROSS: Where’s your father?

PAMELA: Somewhere, making some deal. He sent me flowers.

JOHN ROSS: When was the last time you ate?

PAMELA: [Looks at him] Why are you here?

JOHN ROSS: I’m here because we are all worried about you. And I ain’t going anywhere until I know that you’re okay.

PAMELA: You’ll be here a long time.

JOHN ROSS: I’m going to go make you some tea. [Rises and exits as she closes her eyes]

How do you feel about Pam and Pamela’s painful losses? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

AnnaLynne McCord to Join ‘Dallas’ Next Season

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Heather, TNT

Will she enjoy the Southfork pool too?

AnnaLynne McCord will guest star on several episodes of “Dallas” next season as Heather, Jesse Metcalfe’s new on-screen love interest. Here’s how TNT, which announced the news today, describes the character:

[A] 20-something ranch hand with a troubled ex-husband and a 5-year-old son. Having grown up in a house with four brothers, Heather is quite capable of handling herself around the Southfork ranch hands, but when her ex-husband returns, bringing turmoil back into her life, Christopher steps in, helping Heather resolve the conflict, and the two become involved in a romantic relationship.

AnnaLynne McCord, Dallas, Josh Henderson, 90210, TNT

Together again?

In a recent tweet, “Dallas” writer Aaron Allen said the character is “tough and plucky and wouldn’t put up with a man who cheats on his wife.” I guess that rules out any involvement with John Ross, huh?

McCord starred as Naomi on the CW’s “90210” revival. Her character shared a few scenes with Josh Henderson when he guest starred on that show in 2008 and 2009.

TNT hasn’t announced other casting decisions, including who will play Nicholas, another new character coming to the show in Season 3.

What do you think of McCord’s addition to “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Season 3 — Spoilers, Speculation and More

Ann Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Brenda Strong, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Ewings Unite, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Back to work, people

Production on “Dallas’s” third season begins today. There isn’t a lot of news to report, although insiders have dropped a few tidbits about what fans can expect when TNT begins televising the episodes next year. If you want to be surprised, stop reading here.

Jenna Wade may return. The show’s writers are toying with bringing back Bobby’s first love, TV Guide reported last month. Said Executive Producer Cynthia Cidre: “It’s on our [planning] wall, and we’re thinking about it seriously.” Priscilla Presley, who played Jenna for five seasons on the original “Dallas,” stoked the speculation a few days later when she tweeted, “What do you think would happen if Jenna Wade returned to Dallas?”

Cliff Barnes and Judith Ryland will return. Dallas Decoder has confirmed Ken Kercheval will be back as Cliff Barnes, but there’s no word on whether Audrey Landers will return as Afton Cooper. Meanwhile, during a recent Twitter exchange with “Dallas” writer Aaron Allen, fans expressed hope Judith Light’s character, Judith Ryland, will return in Season 3. Allen’s response: “Judith is back!”

Good news for Linda Gray and Jordana Brewster. During another Twitter exchange with fans, Allen offered this nugget: “If you’re hoping for more Elena and Sue Ellen driven stories, you’ll LOVE season 3.” He also tweeted: “Bobby and Ann have kind of a slow burning story this year. It gets bigger in the second half.” (Sounds like a good time for Jenna to show up, no?)

More new characters are on their way. Get ready to meet Nicholas, whom Showbiz411 describes as “a powerful billionaire businessman. Self-made. Rough childhood. Raised himself up by his bootstrap. He’s charming, sophisticated, smart, cunning.” Elsewhere, TV Guide’s William Keck tweeted about another newbie: Heather, whom he described as “a pretty tomboy ranch hand … who is attracted to bad boys.”

New loves, old traditions. Christopher will get a new love interest, Jesse Metcalfe told “Access Hollywood” last week. (You don’t suppose it’s Heather, do you?) Meanwhile, Brenda Strong and Julie Gonzalo tweeted pictures of themselves and Emma Bell on horseback this week, leading fans to wonder if they’re preparing for an episode set at the Ewing Rodeo. Giddy up!

So when will fans get to see the Ewings back in action? TNT, which ordered 15 episodes, hasn’t announced a premiere date. One possibility: the show will begin in the winter and continue into the spring, then take a break and resume in the summer.

Let J.R. Speak

During the first two seasons of TNT’s “Dallas,” the show’s regular cast members took turns delivering the “Previously on ‘Dallas’” voiceover that starts each episode. Longtime fan Joe Siegler has an idea: Why not use Larry Hagman’s voiceover exclusively, beginning with the third-season episodes?

As Siegler sees it, this would honor Hagman and ensure his presence remains in each episode. It would almost be like ol’ J.R. is watching over his family and bringing the audience up to speed on their doings each week.

This week, Siegler took to Twitter and ran his suggestion past a few cast members. Brenda Strong retweeted his message and added, “Great idea!” We agree. Make it happen, TNT.

Et Cetera

• Don’t miss Dallas Divas Derby’s interview with Kenneth Larsen, a talented artist and “Dallas” enthusiast who recently tweeted terrific drawings of Hagman and Gray.

• This week, I’m asking fellow fans to choose their all-time favorite “Dallas” cliffhanger. Head over to Dallas Decoder’s Facebook page to weigh in.

• Like to discuss “Dallas”? If so, consider dropping by one of my weekly #DallasChats, held Monday nights at 9 Eastern on Twitter. You’ll have fun, I promise!

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

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 21 – ‘Let Me In’

Dallas, Emma Bell, Emma Ryland, Harris Ryland, Let Me In, Mitch Pileggi, TNT

You’re a mean one, Mr. Ryland

“Let Me In” solves the dilemma of who will fill J.R. Ewing’s boots on “Dallas.” The answer: the audience, at least for now. By shifting the focus to the “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery and its corollaries, “Where’s Pam?” and the Barnes-Ryland conspiracy, this masterfully crafted episode gives us a chance to piece together a puzzle and try to outsmart everyone else, just like our hero used to do. Despite my own attempts to analyze the latest evidence, I still have no idea where “Dallas” is going with all of this, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun trying to figure it out.

Beyond the mysteries, “Let Me In” allows the audience to get inside the heads of several characters, beginning with Harris. His most revealing moment occurs during the scene with Emma in the darkened parking garage. They sit together in his SUV as Harris recalls the first horse Emma fell in love with as a little girl, and how it injured her when she ignored his orders to stay away from it. It doesn’t take long to realize the story parallels Emma’s relationship with Drew, who she is dating against her father’s wishes. This is why it’s so chilling when Harris reminds Emma how he had the horse put down (“that dirty animal”), and then flicks on his truck’s headlights to reveal Drew, lying on the floor of the garage, bloodied and beaten as two of Harris’s thugs hover nearby.

Everything about this scene is superb: scriptwriter Aaron Allen’s taut dialogue, Mitch Pileggi’s pitch-perfect delivery, Emma Bell’s convincing tears, the way director Millicent Shelton pans her camera across the garage and brings the SUV into the center of the shot. I also love how Pileggi and Bell are cast in a green glow, which lends the scene a kind of cinematic quality. The color might also symbolize the envy that motivates Harris. He doesn’t want Emma to stay away from Drew just because he believes the young man isn’t good enough for her; Harris is jealous of Drew, just like he’d be jealous of anyone who receives attention from his daughter.

This scene also resonates because it reflects one of “Dallas’s” central themes, which is how generational patterns are seemingly impossible to break. Cliff inherits Digger’s enmity toward the Ewings. John Ross strives to escape J.R.’s shadow while simultaneously trying to emulate him. Now we see history repeating itself within the family Ryland: Harris’s preoccupation with Emma is awfully reminiscent of his mother’s obsession with him. Yet it also seems as though Harris genuinely loves his daughter, even if he expresses it through control and manipulation. It allows us to feel a twinge of sympathy for him. (I’m not sure this show’s other villainous daddy, Cliff, loves his daughter Pamela, but that’s a debate for another day.)

Regarding Pamela: “Let Me In” does a nice job showing us her struggle to cope with the loss of her unborn children. In the nifty opening scene, we see alternating shots of Christopher tearing down the nursery at Southfork while Pamela assembles the babies’ room in her penthouse. She then sits alone amid the crib and stuffed animals, which tells us everything we need to know about her state of mind. It also offers a subtle nod to Pamela’s namesake aunt, who demonstrated similarly distressing behavior during her obsessive baby phase on the old show.

Rather smartly, “Let Me In” uses Pamela’s tragedy to generate sympathy for her character, who has engaged in some pretty unsavory practices since the new “Dallas” began. (In much the same way, Drew’s savage beating in this episode makes it easier to forgive him for his role the bombing of the Ewing Energies rig.) In this spirit, “Let Me In” also gives us the lovely scene where John Ross finds Pamela alone on her balcony, wraps his coat around her and brings her in from the cold. Allen, the scriptwriter, referred to this on Twitter the other night as an homage to “St. Elmo’s Fire,” but it also works as a metaphor for John Ross and Pamela’s relationship. These two bring out the warmth in each other. The passion they ignited at the beginning of the season has turned into something deeper, which is why the couple seems to have so many supporters among “Dallas” fans. I’m one of them. I started off rooting for John Ross and Pamela because I loved the idea of J.R. and Cliff’s children falling for each other, but now I see their relationship would make sense no matter what their last names are. They’re both driven characters with daddy issues. Of course they’d be drawn to each other.

“Let Me In” also gives us many moments of Ewing togetherness, beginning with the sequence where Bobby, Sue Ellen and the cousins huff out of the meeting with the state official who investigated the rig explosion. I don’t know about you, but I’m also enjoying the reprieve from Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe’s on-screen bickering; the scene where John Ross expresses concern for Christopher after the loss of the twins makes the characters feel like real, mature men. There’s also the terrific sequence where Sue Ellen warns Lee Majors’ character, Ken Richards, about crossing the family, which recalls one of Miss Ellie’s most memorable moments from the old show. I also like when Sue Ellen spots Emma in the bar, and when she tells Ann about it later. A lot of fans have noted the similarities between Lucy and Emma, but I wonder if Sue Ellen recognizes a little of herself in Emma’s self-destructive tendencies?

“Let Me In’s” other highlights include the arrival of Governor McConaughey, played to smirking perfection by Steven Weber, as well as the second appearance from Majors, whose conflicted character gets to become a hero when he alerts Sue Ellen to Harris’s connection to McConaughey. The captivating Emily Kosloski (Patrick Duffy’s daughter-in-law), in the meantime, does a brief-but-memorable turn as Rhonda, the club hostess who may or may not be the last woman to see J.R. alive.

I also love “Let Me In’s” two episode-ending montages. In the first, Bobby lets Sue Ellen in on the secret that J.R. was devising a master plan against the family’s enemies when he died. Duffy delivers his character’s recap over slow-motion scenes of Bobby and Sue Ellen examining the evidence. In the second montage, Harris sits in the governor’s office and gives McConaughey a lesson on the hunting habits of the Komodo dragon, explaining how it injects its prey with venom and waits for its slow death. As Harris speaks, we watch the Ewings make the unsettling discovery that the governor has used his office to stop the flow of oil from Southfork, effectively cutting off the family’s fortune.

This dramatic ending leaves me wondering how the Ewings are going to get out of this latest jam. I wonder something else too. What does Pileggi savor more: the nuts he’s munching in this scene or the delicious dialogue Allen has written for him?

Grade: A


Dallas, Ken Richards, Lee Majors, Let Me In, TNT

Enter the hero


Season 2, Episode 11

Telecast: April 1, 2013

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Millicent Shelton

Audience: 2.6 million viewers on April 1

Synopsis: The state concludes a technical glitch is to blame for the rig explosion and fines Ewing Energies $1 billion. After Governor Sam McConaughey forces him to resign from his post, Ken lets Sue Ellen know the governor is in Harris’s pocket. Later, McConaughey’s administration seizes the Henderson property, cutting off the flow of oil from Southfork. Bobby determines Christopher will inherit Pam’s share of Barnes Global if she’s dead. Harris has Drew beaten when Emma refuses to stop seeing him.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Alex Fernandez (Roy Vickers), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Castulo Guerra (Carlos del Sol), Christian Heep (Travis), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Emily Kosloski (Rhonda), Lee Majors (Ken Richards), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Jack O’Donnell (Emma’s friend), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Natalie Quintanilla (Stacy), Jeffrey Schmidt (Scott Taylor), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Steven Weber (Governor Sam McConaughey)

“Let Me In” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 12 – ‘Venomous Creatures’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Venomous Creatures

Changing course

The boldest thing about the new “Dallas” isn’t the salty language or randy sex scenes – it’s the show’s willingness to let J.R. grow as a character. Larry Hagman’s iconic villain threw audiences for a loop last year when he returned ownership of Southfork to Bobby, and he surprises us again in “Venomous Creatures” when he fights to keep Sue Ellen out of jail. No one expects “Dallas” to turn J.R. into a full-fledged hero before he heads into the sunset later this season, but you must admit: Every time he becomes a better man, this becomes a better show.

Aaron Allen’s “Venomous Creatures” script gives Hagman some of his richest material since the new “Dallas” began, and the actor makes the most of it. J.R.’s most revealing moment in this episode comes near the top of the hour, when he tries to buck up Sue Ellen after her electoral defeat. “The best decision you ever made was the day you walked away from me,” J.R. tells her before ticking off a list of her achievements since their divorce. When Sue Ellen informs him the state prosecutor wants to indict her in the bribery scandal, he offers to intervene on her behalf, but she refuses. “I broke the law, and I wouldn’t learn my lesson if I tried to squirm out of this,” she says. J.R.’s winking response: “That’s why you have me, darlin’. I never learn my lesson.”

You don’t have to be a fan of the original “Dallas” to appreciate what’s happening here, but it helps. J.R. Ewing, the scoundrel who once tossed his wife into a sanitarium, has become the savior who’s eager to fight for her freedom. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen him use his power to help someone else, nor is it the first demonstration of the love J.R. feels for Sue Ellen (who has experienced her own share of changes over the years). J.R. had moments like these on the old show too, but they occur more frequently now. This makes J.R. more sympathetic, but it also makes him more believable. It’s as if time and circumstance have humbled him, the way they would any man who has lived a life like his. No matter what J.R. says, he has learned a lesson or two.

By embracing J.R.’s softer side, “Dallas” is taking a creative risk. For almost 35 years, this has been the villain audiences love to hate. Do fans want to see him acting heroically? I hope so. If nothing else, J.R. and Sue Ellen’s “Venomous Creatures” scenes – including the infinitely sweet moment when he shows up on her doorstep and receives that peck on the cheek – allow the new show to capitalize on the radiant warmth between Hagman and Linda Gray. And does it really matter if J.R. is using his power for good or evil? Isn’t seeing him triumph the thing we enjoy most?

Besides, it’s not like all the devilry has been exorcised from this character. J.R. keeps Sue Ellen out of jail not by hiring an army of lawyers to defend her, but by blackmailing the prosecutor into letting her off the hook. “Venomous Creatures” also shows him urging John Ross to embrace his dark side, including that delicious scene before the opening credits when J.R. finds his embittered son watching Christopher and Elena canoodling in the Southfork driveway. “Love. Hate. Jealousy. Mix ’em up and they make a mean martini,” J.R. says.

Later, in my favorite scene from “Venomous Creatures,” J.R. reminds Julie Gonzalo’s character of his track record when it comes to ridding his family of women named Pamela Barnes. This is a wonderful homage to one of the all-time great “Dallas” rivalries, but it also offers another hint of how J.R. has changed. When he tells Pamela to stay away from Ewing Energies and she points out he isn’t “part of that company,” he responds: “No, but I’m part of that family.” Usually when J.R. claims he’s protecting the Ewings, he doesn’t mean it. This time, I believe he does.

Hagman supplies “Venomous Creatures” with most of its great moments, but not all of them. The sequence where John Ross storms off the elevator to get to Pamela is electric, evoking the famous “Body Heat” scene where William Hurt smashes the window to get to Kathleen Turner. Pairing J.R.’s son and Cliff’s daughter is inspired, and it doesn’t hurt that Josh Henderson and Julie Gonzalo have undeniable chemistry. I also love how director Steve Robin stages the beginning of the scene, with the two characters circling the room – never taking their eyes off each other – as they dicker over the terms of their alliance. Also: How great is it that Pamela is the one who summons John Ross back to the penthouse to, um, seal their deal?

More highlights: The crosscutting in the scenes between Sue Ellen and Ann at Southfork and J.R. and the prosecutor on the golf course is beautifully executed. I especially love when Sue Ellen compares being tempted by the glass of wine to the temptation to allow J.R. rescue her (“For the first time in his damn life, J.R. was the lesser of two evils”). Meanwhile, Jesse Metcalfe and Jordana Brewster continue to charm as super-couple-in-the-making Christopher and Elena, even if the outcome of his annulment hearing defies logic.

The other fun moment in “Venomous Creatures” is the introduction of Judith Light’s character, Judith Brown Ryland. In my interview last week with Allen, the “Venomous Creatures” scriptwriter, he predicted “Dallas” fans will love watching Light “swing for the fences” with this role. I don’t doubt it. Light is irresistibly watchable in her “Dallas” debut, but she’s not the only reason this scene works. Pay attention to Patrick Duffy, who keeps Bobby’s confrontation with Judith rooted in reality. Our hero’s indignation is righteous, but it’s also nicely measured.

It takes a great actor to hold his own against a scene-stealer like Light, but if anyone is up to the task, it’s Duffy. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Grade: A


Dallas, Judith Brown Ryland, Judith Light, TNT, Venomous Creatures



Season 2, Episode 2

Telecast: January 28, 2013

Writer: Aaron Allen

Director: Steve Robin

Audience: 2.9 million viewers on January 28

Synopsis: Following Sue Ellen’s defeat in the gubernatorial race, the state prosecutor threatens to indict her, but J.R. blackmails him into letting her off the hook. After the Ewings agree to make Elena a full partner in Ewing Energies, Pamela and John Ross become lovers and form a secret alliance to snag a piece of Christopher’s share during the divorce. Christopher discovers Becky was part of Pamela and Tommy’s con. Bobby learns Emma was kidnapped by Harris and raised by his mother, Judith Brown Ryland.

Cast: Amber Bartlett (Jill), Devin Bonnée (courier), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Akai Draco (Sheriff Derrick), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jason Kravitz (Pamela’s lawyer), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Alex McKenna (Becky Sutter), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Liz Mikel (Judge Rhonda Mason), Natalie Quintanilla (John Ross’s secretary), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank Ashkani), Todd Terry (State’s Attorney Peter Bedford)

“Venomous Creatures” is available at, and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Aaron Allen

Aaron Allen

Aaron Allen

Aaron Allen wrote “Collateral Damage,” one of the standout episodes from the new “Dallas’s” first season, as well as “Venomous Creatures,” the second half of the two-hour season premiere, airing Monday, January 28 on TNT. I spoke to him last week about what we can expect from the Ewings this year.

“Dallas’s” second season is almost here. How is this year going to compare to Season 1?

In broad terms, the first season was about the battle for Southfork. The second season is going to be more about the battle for Ewing Energies. Thematically, the first season was about the characters finding out who they were. Like Christopher, because he’s adopted, felt like he had to prove himself to be a Ewing. And John Ross was kind of conflicted: “Should I be the person my father expects me to be? Or should I be my own person?” And then by the end of the first season, both characters were kind of crystallized into what they were going to be. John Ross had his heart broken by Elena and embraced his bad side, while Christopher felt like he had proven himself. So in the second season, now that these people know who they are, we’re going to see they’ve embraced their destinies and they’re using that to their advantage.

When you look back on Season 1, what do you think worked well? What, if anything, are the writers doing differently?

Some of the later episodes in the first season really worked because you saw all the Ewings banding together to fight one foe. There’s just something energizing about that. So we’ve taken that into consideration, and I think we’ve got a lot more scenes where it’s the family kind of working together toward something. But once they’ve fought off the bad guys, they’re just going to be cannibalizing each other once again.

Dallas Decoder Interview - Aaron Allen 2

J.R. in “Venomous Creatures” (Skip Bolen/TNT)

What about Larry Hagman’s death? I know you can’t give away plot details, but generally speaking, how is the show dealing with this loss?

Larry was an incredible guy and we’ll all miss him very much. Not only was he an incredible human being, but he was an incredible character to write for. When he passed, we knew we had a responsibility to the fans to pay tribute to him and to respect his character, and I believe we have. But even though he’s gone, he’s still very much part of the story. We have some really fun, delicious storylines that are going to come out of this.

Something tells me Hagman would appreciate that. Did you get to work with him very closely?

I didn’t have a ton of direct contact with him. He wasn’t in my first episode from Season 1 very much because he was going through a lot of his treatment at that time. But my first episode in Season 2 is actually a very heavy Larry episode, so I got to see him work quite a bit. And he was just a joy to work with. Everybody loved him. He joked around with everybody. He was a delight.

Well, J.R. has never been more fascinating. Everyone always refers to him as the villain of “Dallas,” but to me he’s the hero, and I think we see that on the new show.

It’s a balance because J.R. loves his family, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect them. But sometimes that means doing terrible things to other people. That’s my favorite kind of bad guy, the one who has sympathetic qualities. I think J.R. was a very sympathetic character.

Do you have other favorite characters to write for?

Well, speaking of villains, I love writing for Harris Ryland. I mean, he’s a villain, plain and simple. When it comes down to the Ewings versus the world, it’s helpful to have him around. He’s really a devil.

And in “Venomous Creatures,” we’re going to meet his mother, played by Judith Light.

She’s a hoot. Her character chews the scenery. Judith’s a terrific actress to work with. Just watching her swing for the fences with her character was a lot of fun. I think fans will love her.

Her casting raised some eyebrows because she’s only a few years older than Mitch Pileggi. What do you make of that?

[Laughter] I don’t think it really matters in the end. An example would be Harrison Ford and Sean Connery in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” I think there was only a 12-year age difference between those two. People bought that. I think people will definitely buy this too. We wanted there to be something a little strange about Harris and Judith’s relationship, so I think the casting plays in our favor there.

Switching gears for a moment, can you talk a little bit about how the writing process on “Dallas” works?

On our show and most others, you have a staff of writers starting with the executive producers at the top. On our staff we have eight writers. Cynthia Cidre, who developed and runs the show, guides the writing process, along with Robert Rovner, the other writing EP. For the first few weeks of the season, we all sit around a big table and talk about the storylines, the characters and generally where we’re going. And then we start breaking down each episode individually, and that takes a couple of weeks. And then one writer is assigned to write the script for each episode, and as that writer is working on his or her script, the other writers are talking about the next episode.

Once a script is written, how long does it take to produce it?

Well, then you go into pre-production, which takes about a week. You’re meeting with the director, you’re going through the script, you go and scout locations. And then you start production, which lasts about seven or eight days.

It sounds relentless.

It all happens pretty fast. One of the thrilling things about working in TV is that you write something and then a month later it’s filmed, whereas in feature films it can take years to get things done.

Getting back to the show itself, were you a fan of the original “Dallas”?

I’m 31, so when the original show was on, I was too young to be among the target audience. But I’ve always a big fan of the brand of the show – the big family soap opera. I loved “Six Feet Under.” I loved “Big Love.” And I was always conscious of “Dallas.” It was such a phenomenon. I knew it was a huge part of pop culture, like when “The Simpsons” did “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” So I always understood where that came from. But it wasn’t really until I got the job on the new show that I went back and watched a bunch of episodes of the old one. And the whole “Who Shot J.R.?” thing was great. I also liked the storyline when John Ross was kidnapped from the hospital, and when Pam wanted to be a mother to little John Ross and Bobby had to gently remind her it wasn’t her baby. I love the emotional stories.  The business stories can sometimes make my head hurt!

You mentioned “Big Love,” which you wrote for before joining “Dallas.” I’ve always thought there were parallels between those shows. Both are about big western families with lots of secrets.

Yeah, absolutely. I think the Henricksons and the Ewings would definitely respect one another because of the value they place on family. It’s that us-versus-them mentality. When the Henricksons were under attack, they would set aside all their bickering and it was them against the people trying to persecute them. The Ewings are the same way.

And I think J.R. might’ve appreciated having more than one wife at a time.

[Laughter] Yeah, I think he could have flourished in that environment.

Share your comments below and read more interviews from Dallas Decoder.