A Farewell to Barnes: Remembering Ken Kercheval

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

Lone star

Cliff Barnes was a loser, but Ken Kercheval was anything but. By portraying Cliff as an endearing jackass, Kercheval won the hearts of “Dallas” fans and created a character who, in some ways, was as essential to the show’s success as Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing. Cliff could be petty, foolish and hopelessly oblivious, but Kercheval brought so much humanity to the role, you couldn’t help but like the schmuck. Deep down, I bet some of us even rooted for him.

Kercheval’s death this week has unleashed a torrent of Cliff clips on social media, reminding everyone how good he was in his career-defining role. Talk about an actor with range! Cliff was the bumbling nemesis who prompted many of J.R.’s most memorable quips (“Oh Barnes, you just get dumber and dumber every day”) and the unlikely lothario who treated so many of the show’s leading ladies like Texas dirt, but he also was the wounded soul who sweetly reconciled with his runaway mama over a bowl of licorice; the protective big brother who knowingly winced when he heard the radio bulletin announcing that Pam’s true love Bobby had been mowed down in her driveway; the humbled avenger who sat on a park bench with Miss Ellie and sought forgiveness for waging war on her family. In the hands of a lesser actor, Cliff would have been just another soap opera character whose motivations changed with the wind. Kercheval made him real.

The true secret to Cliff’s appeal, though, lay in his rivalry with J.R. With the exception of Patrick Duffy and perhaps Hayden Rourke, did Larry Hagman ever have a better on-screen foil than Ken Kercheval? I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite scene between J.R. and Cliff, but their schoolyard showdown-style exchange of insults in the 1984 episode “And the Winner Is …” stands out. Kercheval and Hagman are fire and ice here: While Cliff rages (“You can’t stand the fact that Barnes-Wentworth is going to be bigger than Ewing ever dreamed of being!”), J.R. stands his ground, calmly burrowing ever deeper under Cliff’s skin (“You’re going to bankrupt your mama’s company and wind up just like your daddy: a drunk and a bum”). Despite all the bluster, Kercheval always injected a hint of envy into his performance, letting the audience see that Cliff didn’t want to beat J.R.; he wanted to be J.R. Once you realize that’s where Cliff is coming from, how can you not feel for the poor slob? After all, who among us doesn’t want to be J.R.?

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman

Mutual admiration society

Truth be told, I think J.R. secretly admired Cliff’s tenacity, although like his character, Kercheval never got the respect he deserved. Despite being the show’s most delightfully unpredictable performer — you didn’t watch Ken Kercheval, you experienced him — he never scored an Emmy. (Neither did Hagman, but at least he got nominated.) Just as puzzlingly, Kercheval was in “Dallas” from the beginning and did as much as anyone to transform the show into a hit, yet he wasn’t promoted to the opening credits until the third season. Of course, once he finally showed up, the close-ups chosen for his three-way split screen captured the character in all his multi-faceted glory: Confused Cliff, Chipper Cliff, Crabby Cliff. Perfect.

Regardless, Kercheval ended up getting the last laugh. Besides Hagman, he was the only member of the cast to appear in all 14 seasons of the original series before going on to appear in the first reunion movie and all three seasons of TNT’s sequel series. Altogether, Kercheval logged 360 hours of “Dallas” across its various incarnations, second only to Hagman, who clocked more than 380 hours. And while Cliff never became an icon like J.R., Kercheval’s character made his mark in popular culture nonetheless. A Washington Post editorial once derided then-Vice President George H.W. Bush as “the Cliff Barnes of American politics — blustering, opportunistic, craven and hopelessly ineffective all at once” (ouch). Kercheval also deserves credit for making pocket squares seem so stylish in the 1980s — and is it possible his cheapskate character did more to popularize Chinese food in the American diet than Panda Express?

It’s been touching to see so many of Kercheval’s former cast mates honor him online this week, especially Audrey Landers, whose Afton Cooper did so much to humanize Cliff, and Julie Gonzalo, who holds the distinction of being the last “Dallas” actor to share a scene with Kercheval during the final season of the TNT series. Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton and both of Kercheval’s on-screen sisters, Victoria Principal and Morgan Brittany, also wrote nice things about him, along with Leigh McCloskey. As far as I can remember, McCloskey’s character, pretty-boy plastic surgeon Dr. Mitch Cooper, never shared a meaningful moment with Cliff, yet McCloskey penned a lovely tribute to Kercheval on Facebook, remembering how kind the actor was to him when he joined the cast. Everyone, it seems, had affection for “Kenny.”

Tributes like these are a reminder that while the rest of us have lost a favorite TV star, the cast members are mourning the death of an old friend. Kercheval somewhat famously used to say he never watched “Dallas” when it was on the air. As he explained when I interviewed him in 2012, once he played a scene in front of the cameras, he felt no compulsion to tune in on Friday night and watch it. But Kercheval also talked about how much he enjoyed working with actors like Gray, Landers and his close pal Barbara Bel Geddes, and he expressed amazement that people still recognized him as Cliff, even when he traveled abroad. I didn’t include this in the published interview, but I asked him if he thought it was strange that fans like me still obsess over “Dallas” after all these years. His matter-of-fact answer: “Yeah.” He added that he appreciated the fans and was thankful for their support, but in the end, the show was just a show. “I mean, you know, to me, it was just a job,” he said.

Fair enough. To him, maybe “Dallas” was just a job. But didn’t he do it well?

What are your favorite memories of Ken Kercheval on “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

Shop Like a Ewing: Your ‘Dallas’ Holiday Gift Guide

Ready, set, shop

“Dallas” buyers club

The holidays are here and it’s time to consume conspicuously. Here are some gift ideas for the special “Dallas” fan in your life. Better yet, use this list to treat yourself. It’s what a Ewing would do, right?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing action figure, Larry Hagman

Ready for action

J.R. Ewing action figures. When your Dallas Decoder was a kid, he used his G.I. Joe action figures to play “Dallas.” (Lady Jaye made a good Sue Ellen, while Scarlett always stood in for Pam.) Now Figures Toy Company has come along with the real deal: two J.R. Ewing figures. Each stands 12 inches tall, meaning ol’ J.R. is the right size for a romance with Barbie. Watch out, darlin’!

Dallas, Ford F-Series, GreenLight Collectibles, J.R. Ewing, Ray Krebbs

Truck dynasty

“Dallas” toy vehicles. GreenLight Collectibles produces a line of Hot Wheels-style vehicles from TV shows and movies, including Ray Krebbs’ 1970 Chevrolet and 1979 pickup trucks and the 1978 black Corvette that Bobby bought Pam during “Dallas’s” second season. You can find the vehicles for varying prices on Amazon and eBay (search for “GreenLight Dallas”).

Audrey Landers, Dallas, Dallas Feels Like Home

‘Steal’ magnolia

“Dallas Feels Like Home.” I bought this album the moment it arrived in 2013 and it has pretty much played on an endless loop in my house ever since. The collection is comprised of songs Audrey Landers wrote and performed during her run as Afton Cooper on the original “Dallas” and comes with a digital booklet that includes lots of pictures and the original lyric sheet from Afton’s signature tune, “Steal Me Away.”

Dallas, Julie Jean White, Songs of Southfork, Trent Jeffcoat, What Would J.R. Do

Stay tuned

“Songs of Southfork Ranch.” Here’s a neat find: a CD featuring five songs inspired by “Dallas.” Trent Jeffcoat’s “What Would J.R. Do?” offers fun lyrics like, “Bribery, blackmail, lies and extortion / Whatever it takes to make you a fortune,” while Julie Jean White’s “Hat Makes the Man” is something Sue Ellen probably would’ve enjoyed. You can purchase a digital version from iTunes or get a physical CD from White’s site or Southfork’s online gift shop.

Home plate

Home plate

Southfork collectibles. Speaking of Southfork: The online gift shop also offers collectors plates, ornaments, magnets, key rings and much more.

Rewatch values

Tis the seasons

“Dallas” DVDs. Need to complete your “Dallas” DVD collection? You’ll find every season from the original show — along with the various TV movies and specials and all three seasons from the TNT sequel series — at WBShop.com, the retail arm of Warner Bros., the studio that produced “Dallas.”

Dressed to thrill

Dressed to thrill

Official “Dallas” apparel. Show your love for the Ewings by wearing them. Amazon offers men’s and women’s t-shirts, along with tank tops, long-sleeved tees, sweatshirts, hoodies and more. There are no Ray Krebbs-branded cutoff jeans, but maybe one day!

Big "D" decor

“D” is for decor

Official “Dallas” housewares. Did you know there was a line of officially licensed “Dallas” housewares? I didn’t either, but while researching this article I discovered Amazon offers Trevco-produced throw pillows, blankets, beach towelsottomans and much more. There are even duvet covers and shower curtains, which means you can dream like Pam and shower like Bobby.

Your best shot

Your best shot

J.R. Ewing Bourbon. This 80-proof bourbon is distilled in Kentucky and offers a slightly fruity nose with hints of vanilla, oak and orange. You can enter your zip code on the site’s “Where to Buy” page to find liquor stores in your area that carry the bourbon, or you can order online from merchants such as Binny’s, Crown Wine and Spirits and Liquor Barn.



“The Road to Happiness is Always Under Construction.” By now, you’ve probably read Linda Gray’s inspiring and insightful memoir. Why not share the wisdom by giving the book as a gift? Regan Arts, the publisher, is offering $8 off when you purchase the book from its site and enter code DALLAS DECODER at checkout. That’s a deal even J.R. would love!

Which “Dallas” gifts would you like to receive this holiday season? Share your comments below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 188 — ‘The Ewing Connection’

Clayton Farlow, Dallas, Donna Reed, Ewing Connection, Howard Keel, John Ross Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing Farlow, Omri Katz, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Emergency, plus four

No matter how many times I see the “Dallas” characters come together during a medical crisis, it never seems to lose its dramatic punch. In “The Ewing Connection,” John Ross’s appendicitis produces one chills-inducing scene after another: Miss Ellie rushing upstairs after hearing the little boy screaming in pain, Ray bursting through the emergency room doors carrying the child’s limp body, J.R. dropping everything at the office when he receives the call informing him his son is sick. These moments underscore the ties that bind this family, reminding us that despite all their bickering, the Ewings genuinely care about each other.

John Ross’s illness also provides “Dallas” with an opportunity send Sue Ellen on what will become one of her final benders. Linda Gray’s character demonstrates surprising strength throughout the eighth season, continually resisting the urge to drink as her marriage unravels for the umpteenth time. “The Ewing Connection” even takes a few moments to celebrate Sue Ellen’s success in the scene where she attends group therapy and tearfully describes how she stayed on the wagon despite another nasty spat with J.R. Gray’s performance during the therapy scene is beautiful and moving, allowing us to feel proud of Sue Ellen not only for staying sober, but also for having the courage to share the experience with a roomful of strangers. This is what makes the episode’s ending so heartbreaking. After J.R. lashes out at her because she wasn’t with John Ross when he got sick, Sue Ellen picks up a glass of bourbon, tentatively brings it to her lips and finally gulps it down.

Sue Ellen’s downfall raises a few questions that aren’t easily answered. First, is J.R. right when he says she should have stayed home with John Ross? The script has the child’s illness play out gradually. He begins complaining about having a stomachache at breakfast, so Sue Ellen says he should stay home from school. Later, John Ross tells her he’s feeling better, so she decides to not take him to the doctor, saying he can spend the rest of the day in bed. She also points out that Miss Ellie will be around if he needs anything. Sue Ellen then goes to her group and returns home that evening toting a couple of shopping bags, explaining that she decided to buy herself a few things after her therapy session. This is when J.R. tells her John Ross’s appendix almost ruptured, calls her an unfit mother and storms off, leaving her alone to drink. Is J.R. unnecessarily cruel? Yes, but does he have a point about her parental judgment? Or is it unfair to blame Sue Ellen for something she couldn’t control?

This brings us to another point that’s open to interpretation. When Sue Ellen arrives home, J.R. is fixing a drink in the living room. He breaks the news about John Ross as only he can (“While you were out seeking help for your psyche and boosting the economy of the more fashionable boutiques of Dallas, your son was being rushed into surgery”) and she tries to defend herself, saying John Ross seemed fine when she left. The spouses move from the living room to the foyer, and as he calls her “a totally unfit mother,” he sets down the drink and marches upstairs. The question is: Why doesn’t J.R. take his drink with him? Does he leave it behind because he’s too angry to think straight? Or does he set down the glass, hoping Sue Ellen will drink it? Did he pour it for her in the first place? Is J.R. hoping she’ll relapse so he can divorce her, gain custody of John Ross and be free to pursue Mandy Winger?

Besides Sue Ellen’s relapse, “The Ewing Connection” includes two other moments of consequence: Donna learns she’s pregnant (Susan Howard does a nice job conveying her character’s mixed emotions in this scene), and J.R. and Bobby sign over 10 percent of Ewing Oil to their newly discovered cousin Jack in exchange for his promise to prove Cliff and Jamie have no ownership claim on the company. This is another example of one of my least favorite “Dallas” tropes from the later years, when the characters exchange stakes in this multi-billion-dollar company the way kids once traded baseball cards in schoolyards. Mercifully, Bobby persuades J.R. that the two of them should each give up 5 percent instead of asking the other shareholders (Miss Ellie, Gary and Ray) to sacrifice a portion of their shares. It doesn’t make much sense, but at least the math is easy to follow.

Finally, “The Ewing Connection” gives us two reunions, beginning with Lucy and Mitch’s appropriately awkward dinner in Atlanta. The characters make meaningless small talk, although one line of dialogue feels weightier now than it did when this episode debuted three decades ago. Lucy asks Mitch about his mother and sister; Mitch responds both are doing fine, which doesn’t tell the whole story, at least where Afton is concerned. Given what we now know about Audrey Landers’ character’s timeline, she was probably getting ready to give birth to her secret daughter Pamela Rebecca Cooper around this time. Maybe Mitch decides not to tell Lucy because he’s afraid she’ll go home and blab the news to everyone, which actually seems pretty likely when you stop and think about it.

The more meaningful reunion comes when Bobby and Pam spend an evening reminiscing about their marriage, sealing the conversation with a brief kiss. The producers wisely keep Priscilla Beaulieu Presley out of this episode, giving Bobby and Pam the room they need to begin finding their way back to each other. The kiss also foreshadows the characters’ reconciliation in the eighth-season finale, “Swan Song.” In fact, there’s a lot about “The Ewing Connection” that reminds me of that episode. The scene where J.R. rushes out of the room after receiving the call about John Ross is similar to the “Swan Song” moment in which J.R. gets the call that Bobby’s been hurt, and Howard Keel seems to sport the same shirt and jacket in both episodes. Likewise, when Sue Ellen comes home with her shopping bags, it’s not unlike the ninth-season scene in which she strolls into the living room, blissfully unaware that Bobby has died.

I know, I know. I’m getting ahead of myself again. What can I say? If “The Ewing Connection” is a trial run for “Swan Song,” then I’m more ready than ever to see the real thing.

Grade: B


Dallas, Ewing Connection, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Last hurrah


Season 8, Episode 27

Airdate: April 19, 1985

Audience: 17.9 million homes, ranking 5th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Nick Havinga

Synopsis: J.R. and Bobby reluctantly agree to give Jack 10 percent of Ewing Oil in exchange for information to squash Cliff’s lawsuit. Sue Ellen falls off the wagon after John Ross is rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Bobby and Pam kiss. Donna learns she’s pregnant. Lucy meets Mitch in Atlanta. The police track down Andre Schumann, the assassin who likely murdered Naldo.

Cast: Roseanna Christensen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Paul Gleason (Lieutenant Lee Spaulding), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Jenilee Harrison (Jamie Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), Leigh McCloskey (Dr. Mitch Cooper), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Nicholas Pryor (Nathan Billings), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Dack Rambo (Jack Ewing), Donna Reed (Miss Ellie Farlow), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Barry Sattels (Greg Rupp), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), John Zaremba (Dr. Harlan Danvers)

“The Ewing Connection” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You Make J.R. Look Like a Saint’

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas, Killer at Large

Unhappily ever Afton

In “Killer at Large,” “Dallas’s” eighth-season opener, a cheerful Cliff (Ken Kercheval) comes home and begins opening a bottle of champagne when Afton (Audrey Landers) enters carrying a suitcase.

CLIFF: We gotta celebrate.

AFTON: I’ve gotten permission from the police to visit my mother in Biloxi.

CLIFF: You’ve gotten permission from the police? What are you talking about?

AFTON: I need permission from them to leave the state.


AFTON: [Sets down the suitcase] Cliff, where have you been? Didn’t you hear that Bobby was shot?

CLIFF: Yeah, I heard that he was shot but I don’t know what that’s got to do with us. Why do you have to have permission from the police?

AFTON: I found him just after he was shot. You don’t seem to understand, do you? Bobby was shot in J.R.’s office.


AFTON: Doesn’t that mean something to you?

CLIFF: No. No, why should it? [A beat] Oh, now wait a minute. Unless you think I had something to do with Bobby being shot.

AFTON: Yes. I think you went to the Ewing offices to kill J.R. and you shot Bobby by mistake.

CLIFF: Well, that’s ridiculous. That is absolutely ridiculous. Is that why you went there — to stop me?


CLIFF: Well, I hope you didn’t tell the police that crazy story. I could be in a lot of trouble!

AFTON: Cliff, where were you last night?

CLIFF: [Chuckles] I got drunk. I slept it off in my car.

AFTON: But where were you drinking?

CLIFF: Uh, I don’t know. I don’t know. Two or three places.

AFTON: You don’t know. You’ve blacked out before so I guess you blacked out again last night.

CLIFF: So I blacked out.

AFTON: Then you could have done the shooting.

CLIFF: Look, if that’s what you want to think, that’s fine. But I got a rich oil strike to celebrate. [Pops the cork]

AFTON: Doesn’t it even bother you that Bobby was shot?

CLIFF: No, not really. No. He’s not married to Pam anymore. He’s a Ewing. [Pours a glass, raises it] Want a drink?

AFTON: I’m not drinking with you. You are the coldest man I have ever met. You make J.R. Ewing look like a saint. [Turns, grabs her suitcase, heads toward the door]

CLIFF: [Laughs] Well, say hello to your mama in her new house. When you coming back? [Grabs the bottle, follows her to the door]

AFTON: [Stops, turns to face him] I’m not.

CLIFF: [Scoffs] Now that’s ridiculous.

AFTON: No. No, Cliff, our relationship is ridiculous. It’s over. I just wish I could say it’s been terrific. I’ll send for the rest of my things. [Turns away]

CLIFF: Just when everything is going great.

AFTON: [Turns back] Great? Great for whom? For you. The only one you’ve ever cared about: Cliff Barnes. [Exits, leaving Cliff standing alone]

CLIFF: [Walks back into the room, takes a sip] Who needs her?

Watch this scene in “Killer at Large,” available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes, and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 162 — ‘Killer a Large’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Reflected glory

“Dallas’s” seventh season winds down with half the cast once again gunning for J.R. In the final scene, an unseen assailant enters the darkened Ewing Oil offices and fires three shots into the back of J.R.’s chair, except he isn’t sitting there — good-guy brother Bobby tumbles to the floor. It’s one of “Dallas’s” greatest fake-outs, establishing the template that TNT’s sequel series would later use to keep viewers on their toes.

The problem is “Who Shot Bobby?” mimics “Who Shot J.R.?” too closely. What begins as a wink to “Dallas’s” most famous moment quickly becomes an imitation, and not a particularly good one. “Killer at Large,” the eighth-season opener, begins with Afton discovering Bobby moments after he’s shot. It’s not unlike the cleaning lady finding J.R. in 1980, although Afton’s reaction isn’t quite as campy. (No high-pitched shrieks and dropped feather dusters here.) We also see the Ewings assemble at Dallas Memorial Hospital to keep vigil for Bobby, just like they did with J.R., and both victims ultimately survive their shootings, but not without complications: J.R. is paralyzed while Bobby is blinded.

I’m sure fans appreciated the homage when “Killer at Large” debuted. It had been years since the “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes aired, so it was probably a kick to relive the mystery, this time with Bobby as the victim. Thirty years later, though, the remake comes off as uninspired. The producers don’t even bother to film Bobby being rushed out of the Ewing Oil lobby and into the waiting ambulance; they merely recycle the four-year-old footage of J.R. on the stretcher. Not helping matters: Most of the actors in “Killer at Large” look bored, and the mystery surrounding the shooter’s identity isn’t all that mysterious. Two characters — Peter and Edgar — are cleared by the end of the episode, leaving Sue Ellen, Cliff and Katherine as the remaining suspects. Was there any doubt in 1984 how that would turn out?

The episode isn’t a total wash. I like director Leonard Katzman’s shot of Ray and Donna spotting the TV news report about Bobby’s shooting while standing near a downtown department store window. Just think: Most of us probably watched this episode in 1984 on that kind of bulky TV set. It’s also fun to see Dennis Haysbert — the future President Palmer on “24” — cast in one of his first TV roles as Bobby’s doctor, although I’m more intrigued when Karen Radcliffe pops up as a nurse. Radcliffe will return to “Dallas” three years later as the nightingale who helps Pam run away after her car accident; should we assume she’s playing the same character in both appearances? I also like when Pam runs into Katherine in the hospital parking lot and refuses to allow her inside to see Bobby. It’s always nice to see Pam use her backbone to stand up for the people she cares about, not nag them.

“Killer at Large” also is notable as the first “Dallas” episode that doesn’t feature Barbara Bel Geddes in the opening credits. She departed the series at the end of the previous season, although Donna Reed won’t show up as her replacement for a few more episodes. Meanwhile, Howard Keel and Priscilla Beaulieu Presley get promoted to the title sequence in this episode, while Travilla begins his two-year run as the show’s costume designer. He makes his mark almost immediately: The actresses look a little more stylish than usual, especially Fern Fitzgerald, who sports slit sleeves when Marilee confronts J.R., and Audrey Landers, who wears a striking red hat and suit during Afton’s farewell to Cliff.

Afton’s poignant departure, by the way, is this episode’s other saving grace. It’s the rare example of a “Dallas” character receiving a decent sendoff, and even though Landers’ character isn’t as iconic as any of the Ewings or Barneses, her goodbye nonetheless signals the end of an era. “Killer at Large” is an eighth-season premiere, and it feels like it. “Dallas” is beginning to lose steam after almost a decade on the air, and so as Afton gives Cliff the kiss-off and heads for the door, I can’t help but think: This lady is getting out while the getting’s good.

Grade: C


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Killer at Large, Patrick Duffy

Lazy eye


Season 8, Episode 1

Airdate: September 28, 1984

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: The shooting blinds Bobby, who is hospitalized while the police search for the assailant. J.R., believing he was the target, names Edgar as a prime suspect and is surprised when police tell him Edgar has an alibi. Sue Ellen reluctantly returns to J.R.’s bedroom, where she hides a gun. Afton leaves Cliff, who can’t recall his whereabouts during the shooting. Pam and Jenna rush to Bobby’s side while Katherine makes plans to move to Houston.

Cast: Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Martin E. Brooks (Edgar Randolph), Cora Cordona (Pearl), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Jenny Gago (Nurse), Gerald Gordon (Dr. Carter), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Dennis Haysbert (Dr. Forbes), Rose Ann Holloway (Irene), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Shalane McCall (Charlie Wade), J.T. O’Connor (Patterson), Priscilla Beaulieu Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Karen Radcliffe (Jane), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Jill Scroggin (Sally), Sherril Lynn Rettino (Jackie Dugan), Mitchell Ryan (Captain Merwin Fogerty), Randy Tallman (Dr. Halperson), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Killer at Large” is available on DVD and at Amazon and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

The Dal-List: 37 Reasons to Love ‘Dallas’

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

Love to love them

“Dallas” debuted 37 years ago today. Here’s why we still love the Ewings.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal

Drive us crazy

37. “Digger’s Daughter.” Bobby marries Pam, Lucy and Ray take a roll in the hay and Jock calls J.R. a jackass. Could this show have gotten off to a better start?

Dallas, Southfork

Big house on the prairie

36. Southfork. To a lot of us, the white house on Braddock Road is more revered than the one on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Is blood thicker than liquor?

35. Bourbon and branch. Forget oil. This is what really fueled the Ewing empire.

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Can’t touch this

34. Every time Jock asks for “a touch” of bourbon. Spoiler: It was always more than a touch.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Stop or mom will shoot

33. “Ray, get me the shotgun out of the hall closet.” The quintessential Miss Ellie moment.

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Long walk

32. Pam’s middle screen during the opening credits. It never changed! For almost a decade, she never stopped crossing the Southfork lawn.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman


31. J.R.’s first visit to “Knots Landing.” J.R.: Hey, that is good. What do you call this? Valene: Tuna fish.

Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby


30. Kristin Shepard. So much more than the answer to a trivia question.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

About face

29. Sue Ellen’s 180s. No one does the slow, dramatic turn better.

Dallas, Who Shot J.R.

Clean scream

28. The cleaning lady who found J.R. Her reaction alone made it worth waiting eight months to find out who shot him.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Moment of truth

27. “It was you, Kristin, who shot J.R.” The most famous line in “Dallas” history.

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Daddy’s decree

26. “Real power is something you take.” Or maybe this is the show’s most famous line. Six words that encapsulate the Ewing creed.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

He sizzles

25. Breakfast on the patio. Would you like some insults with your bacon?

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Them pipes!

24. The musical stylings of Miss Afton Cooper. She can steal us away anytime she wants.

Dallas, Dallas Press

Bleeds it leads

23. Headlines like these. The editors of The Dallas Press: The only people more obsessed with the Ewings than we are.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Snake in the grass

22. “Hey, Ray. … You getting good mileage on Donna’s car?” So nice of him to be concerned, isn’t it?

Dallas, Donna Culver Krebbs, Susan Howard

Wind ’em up

21. Donna vs. Bonnie. “Dallas’s” best barroom brawl.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing

Will power

20. Daddy’s will. Pitting your hyper-competitive sons against each other in a yearlong battle for control of the family empire? Sounds like a plan!

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

Watch out, wallpaper

19. “I’m going to drink myself into oblivion.” And she damn near did.


Paging KITT

18. The synthesized seventh-season theme music. We half expect Knight Rider to come roaring into the credits.

Bobby Ewing, Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Eric Farlow, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Oh, that lighting!

17. Bradford May’s cinematography. The Ewings never looked as gorgeous as they did from 1983 to 1984.

Dallas, Larry Hagman, J.R. Ewing

J.R. Ewing here

16. The phone at the Oil Baron’s Club. Be careful with that thing or you’ll poke out Dora Mae’s eye!

Charlene Tilton, Christopher Atkins, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Peter Richards

Yes, sparklers

15. Lucy’s modeling career. There’s nothing about this picture I don’t love.

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany

Hat attack

14. Katherine Wentworth. How can you blame a gal for going a little nuts over Bobby Ewing? Also: the hats!

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Turban renewal

13. When Sue Ellen changed into this outfit to go to the movies. What, you mean you didn’t wear something similar when you saw “Porky’s II” in 1984?

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

The best loser

12. Cliff Barnes. As essential to the “Dallas” mythology as any Ewing. Ken Kercheval is brilliant.

Dallas, Fern Fitzgerald, Marilee Stone

Drip drop

11. “Marilee, you all right, honey? Did it go up your nose?” Best pool dunking ever.

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Buzz kill

10. When Bobby flat lines, jolting Pam. Gets us every time.

Dallas, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Who says cowboys don’t cry?

9. … And then when Ray loses it. Few things move me more than this moment.

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

What a dream

8. The dream season. Look, we love Bobby as much as anyone, but this is one of “Dallas’s” best years — especially where the leading ladies are concerned.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy

Mr. Clean

7. Bobby’s return. Was the dream explanation a cop-out? Sure, but who’s going to complain about seeing Patrick Duffy in the shower?

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

The long goodbye

6. Pam. Give the lady her due: Fans spent twice as long clamoring for her return as she spent on the show.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Omri Katz


5. “John Ross, this is Ewing Oil.” Chills.

Brad Pitt, Dallas, Randy

A star is born

4. Brad Pitt’s hair. Also: “Randy”!

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Woman of the hour

3. “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” Linda Gray’s tour de force. If you can watch this episode without bawling like a baby, you’re stronger than me.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

Another star is born

2. “I am not my father!” Chills again!

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Forever our hero

1. Larry Hagman. How we loved this man. What an actor! What a guy! We’ll never stop missing him, and we’ll always be grateful he shared his gift with the world.

Why do you love “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more “Dal-Lists.” 

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.

3 Days, 33 Episodes: Here’s How to Catch Up on TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Look back

Did you promise yourself you’d spend the summer getting acquainted — or reacquainted — with TNT’s “Dallas”? Did you fail to keep this promise? Relax: You still have time. Grab your DVDs and downloads and have a marathon of your own this weekend. Here’s how to watch all 33 hours of the show before the third season resumes on Monday, August 18.


Friday, August 15

9 to 11 p.m. Kick off your marathon on Friday night at 9 o’clock — the holiest hour of the week for “Dallas” fans — with a double feature of the TNT’s show’s first two episodes: “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets.”

Can you watch the former without getting chills when J.R. (Larry Hagman) doffs his cowboy hat, flashes his grin and declares, “Bobby may not be stupid, but I’m a hell of a lot smarter”? Can you watch the latter without getting choked up when our hero tells Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) she’s “still the prettiest girl at the ball”? Me either.


Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, TNT

First time for everything

Saturday, August 16

7 a.m. Rise and shine, darlins! With so much “Dallas” to watch today, there’ll be no sleeping in. Resume your marathon with “The Price You Pay,” in which Julie Gonzalo’s character receives a smartphone pic of her husband kissing another woman. Get used to it, honey.

8 a.m. Have breakfast with “The Last Hurrah,” in which John Ross (Josh Henderson) squirts Elena (Jordana Brewster) with his hose. Insert your own joke here.

9 a.m. Have you done your workout yet? Download “Truth and Consequences” to your mobile device and head to the gym. Mitch Pileggi’s debut as Harris Ryland is bound to get your heart racing.

10 a.m. Got errands to run? Chores to complete? You’ve got one hour. Make the most of it.

11 a.m. We learn jewelry makes Ann (Brenda Strong) cry in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” Then again, doesn’t everything?

Noon. Grab lunch while watching “Collateral Damage,” in which Vicente Cano (Carlos Bernard) wonders if John Ross: 1) is a good dancer, and 2) has any oil in his pipeline. OMG, Vicente was such a flirt!

1 p.m. Tommy (Callard Harris) plants a kiss on Rebecca in “No Good Deed” — which is almost as creepy as when Nicolas starts smooching Elena in Season 3.

2 p.m. Bloody monkeys, Johnny Cash and the redemption of J.R. Ewing. It’s “Family Business” — one of my favorite episodes of this show.

3 p.m. Carmen (Marlene Forte) gets one of the crummiest chores in “Dallas” history — returning Elena’s engagement ring to John Ross — in “Revelations.” Also: More Johnny Cash!

4 p.m. Have you taken a bathroom break yet? If not, take care of that now, and then hurry back to your TV or tablet to watch the second-season opener, “Battle Lines,” in which Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) learns his wife is really his cousin. Ick.

5 p.m. In “Venomous Creatures,” J.R. saves Sue Ellen from going to jail and Judith Light discovers a taste for “Dallas” scenery.

6 p.m. Drew (Kuno Becker) arrives in “Sins of the Father” — his hair won’t show up for several more episodes — and calls John Ross “J-Ro.” Thank heavens that didn’t catch on. Also: Ann shoots Harris!

7 p.m. Has your family seen you at all today? Why not take a break from the Ewings and go have dinner with them.

8 p.m. to midnight: The next four episodes are a murder-a-thon, so brace yourself. Frank (Faran Tahir) offs himself in “False Confessions,” Brenda Strong kills it during Ann’s testimony scene in “Trial and Error,” Vicente bites the dust in “Blame Game,” and then the saddest shot of all: the death of J.R. Ewing in “The Furious and the Fast.”

Midnight. The nice thing about a late-night viewing of “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is that no one else in your house is awake to see you bawling. Once you’ve dried your tears, catch some shut-eye. Tomorrow is going to be another big day.


Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Leg up

Sunday, August 17

8 a.m. You did a hell of a job yesterday, “Dallas” fan. Your reward: You get to start your Sunday with the wonderfully wacky hodgepodge that is “Ewings Unite!” Miss Ellie disinherits Bobby from beyond the grave, Valene (Joan Van Ark) reveals she’s as loony as ever and Cliff becomes the most hated man in the history of “Dallas” fandom.

9 a.m. Audrey Landers shows she can slink around a corner better than anyone in “Guilt and Innocence.”

10 a.m. In “Let Me In,” Harris reveals his fondness for: 1) TV nature documentaries, 2) Almonds, and 3) Hunting Ramoses.

11 a.m. John Ross and Pamela get wet in “A Call to Arms.”

Noon. You know what goes good with a nice, leisurely Sunday brunch? Watching Bobby take that badass, slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of “Love and Family.”

1 p.m. Christopher discovers the mystery lady under the big hat is not his mama in “Guilt by Association.” It’s not Aunt Katherine either, sadly.

2 p.m. Kevin Page joins Mary Crosby as an answer to “Dallas’s” most famous trivia question in “Legacies.”

3 p.m. You might think this would be a good time to take a break, but you’d be wrong. The die is cast and there’s no turning back, so keep plugging away with the third-season episodes, beginning with “The Return,” in which J.R.’s belt buckle begins wearing John Ross. Also: Hello, Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace)!

4 p.m. Time for “Trust Me” a.k.a. “Judith’s Snow Day.”

5 p.m. In “Playing Chicken,” Professor Bobby Ewing teaches us about endangered wildlife.

6 p.m. “Lifting the Veil” is the episode that should’ve included Sue Ellen’s comparison of Emma (Emma Bell) to Kristin, but instead it’s the episode that gives us scenes of hookers in canine costumes.

7 p.m. Dinnertime! Enjoy a glass of J.R. Ewing Bourbon (surely you have some, right?) while watching “D.T.R.” After the episode, check your bottle and make sure Sue Ellen didn’t bug it.

8 p.m. Despite the title “Like Father, Like Son,” John Ross wants you to know that he is not his father! Also: Carter McKay has grandchildren!

9 p.m. Pamela rocks Stella McCartney in “Like a Bad Penny.”

10 p.m. It’s finally time for “Where There’s Smoke.” Southfork goes up in flames and you get to go down for a well-deserved rest. Don’t forget to watch “Dallas’s” midseason premiere Monday night!

What are your favorite “Dallas” episodes? Share your choices below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

#DallasChat Daily: What’s Your Favorite ‘Dallas’ Ball?

Audrey Landers, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jenilee Harrison, Ken Kercheval, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Morgan Brittany, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Steve Forrest, Steve Kanaly, Victoria Principal

Few traditions on the original “Dallas” could match the grandeur of the annual Oil Baron’s Ball. Do you have a favorite?

Was it Miss Ellie’s moving tribute to Jock at the 1982 ball? How about the 1983 affair, when the Ewing and Barnes women faced off in the powder room and Cliff won the Oilman of the Year Award and insulted Jock, triggering a knock-down, drag-out fight with J.R, Bobby and Ray? There’s also the 1985 ball, when Jamie threw a pie in Cliff’s face and Pam announced she was going to take Bobby’s place as J.R.’s partner in Ewing Oil? And who could forget the 1986 shindig, when Wes Parmalee told the world he was Jock Ewing?

Your #DallasChat Daily question: What’s your favorite “Dallas” ball?

Share your comments below and join other #DallasChat Daily discussions.

The Dallas Decoder Interview: Julie Gonzalo

Julie Gonzalo (Courtesy Regard Magazine)

Julie Gonzalo (Courtesy Regard Magazine)

It’s no secret your Dallas Decoder is a big fan of Julie Gonzalo — a.k.a. Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing Ewing on TNT’s “Dallas” — so I was hugely excited to speak to her recently. Gonzalo was gracious, insightful, down-to-earth and generally awesome. She discussed Pamela’s many ups and downs — and offered a hint of what we’ll see when “Dallas” resumes its third season on Monday, August 18.

Pamela has probably evolved more than any other “Dallas” character during the past two-and-a-half seasons. Do you agree?

Yeah, I think so. It’s definitely one of those roles where every season, we see a different side of her. It’s very exciting as an actor to be able to rediscover her every year and to find something new to play around with.

That’s what’s so impressive about you: You do it all so well! You can be really sweet, but you can also be a bitch on wheels.

Well, thank you! [Laughs]

I mean that as a compliment, I hope you know.

I’m taking it as a huge compliment! [Laughs] That’s the idea, especially on a show like this, where you need to sell vengeance and you need to sell sweetness, sometimes in the same scene.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Good girl gone bad

So which side do you like to play best?

Oh, the naughty side. There’s something so fun about doing things you don’t do in your normal life. And on “Dallas,” the villains are usually the most memorable characters — everybody wants to see what they’ll be doing next. When we were working on Season 2 [when Pamela was out for revenge], I was having a blast. I really loved being conniving and backstabbing.

What’s really striking to me is just how popular Pamela is. I hear it all the time from my fellow fans. They love her.

To hear that makes me so, so happy.

Oh, my goodness. I hope you’re aware of how devoted people are to Pamela. It doesn’t matter what she does, the fans root for her.

That’s amazing, because sometimes I feel like, “Which Pamela are they talking about?” The fans love the original Pamela [Victoria Principal’s character], so sometimes I’m not sure if they’re talking about my character or hers.

Well, she has a loyal and passionate following, but you do too.

That’s just incredible. I have so much fun playing Pamela and I hope that translates [on screen]. I think there are so many beautiful, fully formed characters on the show, so I’m very flattered to hear fans like her.

I think a real turning point in the character’s evolution came last season, when Pamela lost her babies.

Yeah, absolutely. I think everything changed for her in that moment. That probably was one of my most challenging episodes. The grieving period was so difficult. I’m not a parent — and I never want to know what it feels like to lose a child — so it’s hard to go into an emotion like that. And it was really tough to maintain yourself in a really sad moment. You go home and you’re asking yourself, “Why am I so sad?” You never want to bring your work home, but there are points where it overtakes your life a little bit, and that was one of those times.

It was a courageous performance for a lot reasons, and one of them is that Pamela didn’t look her best in that episode — and you’re very beautiful.

Well, thank you. But no, I loved that. I sometimes have problems when we’re doing a morning scene and everyone’s hair and makeup are perfect. I think, “No, this isn’t how it happens in real life!” [Laughs] Even if you have all the money in the world, you don’t wake up looking amazing. You just don’t. But in that episode, I wanted her to look bad because it was a bad moment.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Pushing the envelope

Let’s shift gears and talk about another one of Pamela’s memorable moments: the threesome scene from the midseason cliffhanger. What can you tell me about that?

Well, what do you want to know? [Laughs]

I want to know it all!

I’m sure you do! The funny part is how I found out about it. Cynthia [Cidre, the co-executive producer] said it so nonchalantly: “Yeah, you’re going to come into the room, and you’re going to catch [John Ross and Emma] together, and then you’re going to join them.” She said it like it was no big deal. So I thought, “Oh, OK. It’s no big deal.” But I also thought, “Why not? Let’s push the envelope a little.” I mean, “Dallas” is known for that.


I didn’t realize people were going to see it and say, “What the. … ” [Laughs] But I still don’t see it as a big deal. There are things out there that are much more explicit.

Still, it’s got to be weird to have the crew around while you’re making out with two other people.

Totally, but it’s also a very respectful atmosphere and a very respectful crew. And we’re all so comfortable with each other. By that point, Josh [Henderson] and I had become really good friends and Emma [Bell] and I had been hanging out a lot, so it was one of those things that was like, “OK, it’s another day at work.” [Laughs]

So what do you think was going through Pamela’s mind when she walked into that hotel room and saw John Ross and Emma?

At that moment, she had already downed a bottle of pills. [Joining them] wasn’t the approach that people expected from her, being the strong woman that she is. But I also like the fact that nobody could predict that. I like the idea that even strong characters have weak moments, especially when they’re being hurt. She really believed John Ross was made for her. They’re very similar creatures. So once she realized he wasn’t the man she thought he was, she went a little crazy. Anybody would, I think.

And tell me about the famous green corsets you and Emma wore this season. How did you feel about having to spend so much time in that thing?

It’s one of those things that you can’t really take deep breaths in. [Laughs] As any actress will tell you, when you’ve got to wear a costume like that, you’re thinking, “Oh, God. I can’t eat this or I can’t eat that. I have to drink a lot of water and I have to go to the gym.” Because you’re not just putting it on for the people in front of you — you’re putting it on for a TV show that will be watched over and over again for years to come. But to me, it was a beautiful costume. I thought both characters looked great.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Dressed to thrill

I agree, although my favorite outfit of the season was Pamela’s black-and-white dress.

Wasn’t it beautiful? The moment I put it on with Rachel [Sage Kunin, the costume designer], I said, “Yep, this is it.” And the tag said it was a Stella McCartney and I said, “Of course, it’s a Stella McCartney.” I’m a huge fan of hers. Huge fan of her dad too.

Is it fun to have an episode like that, where you get to kick it up a notch?

Yeah, you look forward to those episodes. Rachel’s so great at picking out beautiful clothing. I always say, “Ooh, I want to wear this!” And Rachel will say, “No, it’s not appropriate for this scene,” and I’m like, “Dammit!” So when your character gets to go to Vegas and do the hair and wardrobe differently, that’s always very exciting.

I think that outfit is going to be remembered as one of the iconic “Dallas” looks.


Oh, absolutely. It was kind of a tribute to Sue Ellen, who had so many memorable black-and-white costumes.

Yeah, and I think we played up a lot of similarities between Pamela and Sue Ellen — and I love that. During the second half of the season, there are a lot of moments between our characters. I really enjoy working with [Linda Gray]. I’m always telling her, “You know, it would be my honor to be half the woman you are.”

She’s so cool, and I’m thrilled to hear you two are going to have more scenes together. Pamela was pretty mean to her in the midseason cliffhanger.

Well, she had her reasons. [Laughs]

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT


Overall, it seems like the cast is a pretty tight-knit group.

Totally. Josh has become one of my closest buddies at work. He’s the one I work with most, and we really have a great time working together. And I was just on the phone with Jordana [Brewster] the other day. We’re trying to see each other [during the hiatus]. I really appreciate these people, and I really like these people. I mean, if the show were to end tomorrow, I know I’ll still have a friendship with most of them.

That’s not unlike what happened on the original show.

Right. You look at Linda and Larry and Patrick [Duffy]. You see the love they have for one another and how beautiful their friendship is, and it’s all because of the show. I hope that can be us one day.

You touched on this a few moments ago, but how do you prepare for your scenes? How do you “become” Pamela? Linda told me she doesn’t feel like her character unless she has Sue Ellen’s heels on.

It definitely helps me to be in costume. I don’t think I look anything like Pamela unless I’m in her wardrobe. Energy-wise, I don’t feel like her. When I’m working with my coach, I’m Pamela, but I don’t fully become her until my hair is done and my makeup is done. I look in the mirror and I say, “Oh, there she is.”

Working with a coach — that’s a part of the process I think a lot of fans aren’t aware of or tend to overlook.

A lot of us have coaches. I always work with a coach because I never want to feel like I know everything. As an actor, I never want to stop learning. The more I work, the more I want to learn. If I ever start to think, “No, it’s cool, I got this, I can wing it,” then I don’t want to be an actor anymore. I just did an acting workshop last weekend that focused on voice and movement and all these different things. You just never want to stop learning.

I have such admiration for people like you, who can get up and perform in front of an audience or a camera.

I was just in New York and I was lucky enough to see “All the Way” with Bryan Cranston and my mouth was on the floor. He’s phenomenal. And I bet he doesn’t feel like he knows everything, although to me he’s perfect. It’s like, “You’re cooked. You’re done. You’re good.” [Laughs] But again, you just want to keep advancing yourself and surrounding yourself with people you know you can learn from.

Well, speaking of great actors, tell me about working with Mr. Hagman.

Ah, what a class act. He was divine. He really was such a beautiful energy to be around, as he would say. He said we’re all energies. I did one scene with him, and it’s funny because I don’t really keep any of my scripts, but I did save those pages. It’s the scene where Pamela is talking to Frank in her office, and J.R. walks in. And Larry was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. He was such a flirt too. [Imitating him] “You should keep those pants. Those pants belong to you.” And I’m like, “Well, thank you. I can only wonder what you’re checking out.” I was very lucky to have that scene with him.

It’s one of my favorite scenes from the new series.


Oh, absolutely. It’s another scene that honors the past. It evokes all the great confrontations he had with Victoria Principal. And it’s great because you really held your own against him.

I tried, I tried! You know, when we were rehearsing the scene, I just wanted to do it with a smile. I thought, she’s so giddy because J.R. Ewing is in her office. He’s here to talk to her. I remember the director saying, “I didn’t see it with a smile, but it works.”

And how do you enjoy working with your TV parents, Ken Kercheval and Audrey Landers?

Oh, Daddy and Mommy. He’s such a trip. He’s great, and she’s so sweet. Pamela and Afton don’t really get along, so it’s hard to roll your eyes at your mother. I tell her, “Oh, you’re so nice.” It was really lovely to have her at the wedding.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT

Always a bride

The wedding! That was a fun episode too.

It was! I’m just so bummed they had to cut a lot of it out.

My mom was furious we never got to see the vows.

The vows were really cute. They were really meaningful. There was so much subtext. And then there was a scene of them dancing, and John Ross is singing to her.


I know. I really hope they put it on DVD because it’s really beautiful. And Josh sings really well. I was laying my head on his shoulder and he’s singing a Blake Shelton song. There’s a cute little interaction between them, and then you kind of start to see a little doubt in her. It was a tiny little hint in there. When they cut it, I was like, “Dammit, no!” [Laughs]

So what can you tell us about the second half of Season 3?

The second half, in my opinion, is even better than the first, at least for my character. There’s a lot more Pamela that we’ll get to discover. There’s so much that, I think, is going to take people by surprise. There’s definitely a stronger Pamela coming.

That makes us fans happy. We love the strong Pamela best.

Me too. She’s so much fun. I love when she has the upper hand. She walks into a room and owns it. It’s funny because playing someone so confident — so comfortable with who they are — has made me more confident. So I definitely owe that to her.

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