Drill Bits: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Finale Draws a Crowd

Dallas, Linda Gray, Revelations, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Still a crowd pleaser

TNT’s “Dallas” went out with a bang: “Revelations,” the first-season finale, scored 4.3 million viewers on August 8, becoming the evening’s most-watched cable program. The audience included 1.6 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the demographic advertisers covet.

The show soared despite stiff competition from NBC’s Olympics coverage, which drew 29 million viewers, including 12 million 18-to-49-year-olds.

The “Revelations” audience represented “Dallas’s” third biggest Wednesday haul since the first two episodes, “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets,” averaged 6.9 million viewers on June 13. “The Price You Pay” delivered 4.8 million viewers on June 20.

Overall, “Dallas” averaged 4.2 million viewers – and 1.4 million 18-to-49-year-olds – on Wednesdays this summer. When DVR users who record the show and watch it later are counted, the show’s weekly audience climbs to 6.4 million viewers.

Production is slated to begin next month on “Dallas’s” second season, which TNT will begin showing in January. The cable channel has announced plans to produce 15 episodes in Season 2, up from 10 hours this year.

Rebecca Redux

Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Rebecca Sutter Ewing, TNT

Full of surprises

When I wrote my “Revelations” critique this week, I figured we’d have to wait until “Dallas’s” second season to find out who the heck Julie Gonzalo is playing.

Wrong.In a new interview with TV Guide, executive producer Cynthia Cidre reveals Gonzalo is, in fact, portraying Pamela Rebecca, the daughter we learned Cliff fathered toward the end of the original show’s run.

Also in this must-read interview, Cidre reflects on the show’s first season (“a few too hairpin turns,” she says), reveals plans to add Elena’s brother Drew to the cast and drops the tantalizing suggestion that we might see a John Ross/Rebecca coupling.

Meanwhile, Gonzalo tells TV Line she knew her character’s real identity all along – and found it difficult to be coy when meeting fans of the original series. “‘They’d say, ‘Why else would your name be Rebecca?’ and I had to be like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about….’”

Honoring ‘Dallas’ History

In another insightful interview, “Dallas” executive story editor Gail Gilchriest says the TNT show’s writers have a better handle on the original series’ history.

“This year, we’re more familiar with who’s who, and what’s happened in the past, and have tried to remain pretty true to it,” Gilchriest tells the CultureMap Houston site. “We don’t pretend that certain things in the original series didn’t happen if it doesn’t serve our story.”

Katherine Speaks

Speaking of history: Our pal David, the creator of Dallas Divas Derby, recently interviewed Morgan Brittany, who immortalized Katherine Wentworth on the original “Dallas.”

In one of two segments David posted this week, Brittany speculates about what the future might hold for her villainous character. “At some point, she would get back at Cliff Barnes. Some way, somehow, she’s going to get even with Cliff,” Brittany says.

Look for more segments from David’s interview in the coming days – and someone tell Cliff to watch out for Katherine!

Still Standing

In the early 1980s, when the producers of the original show needed a stand-in for Patrick Duffy, they turned to Dallas model Paul Heckmann.

Three decades later, when TNT came to North Texas to shoot the new “Dallas,” who did they tap to stand in once again for Duffy? You guessed it: Heckmann, who was profiled this week in the Dallas Morning News.

Oh Baby!

“Dallas” diehards are intense: Josh Henderson tells the New York Daily News he was recently asked to sign a fan’s baby. “I felt really weird and so I was like, ‘Can I just sign her dress or shirt?’ And they were like, ‘No just sign her arm.’”

Line of the Week

“You know you’ve hit a low when even a lawyer won’t take the time to insult you.”

J.R. (Larry Hagman), after legal eagle Lou (Glenn Morshower) snubs him in “Revelations.” And in case you missed it: We’ve collected many of J.R.’s best quips from TNT’s first season, along with memorable lines from “Dallas’s” other characters.

Along Came a Cider

The final “Dallas Drinks” cocktail recipe from Cook In/Dine Out is Cynthia Cider, which pays tribute, of course, to Cidre, the new show’s creative force.

This is as good a place as any to acknowledge my husband Andrew, who not only created all nine “Dallas”-themed cocktail recipes for Dallas Decoder – he also puts up with my incessant chatter about the show and this website.

Honey, I love you and appreciate your support. Thank you.

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

Drill Bits: This Week, Ratings Rose for TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, Patrick Duffy, TNT, Truth and Consequences

His blood pressure rose too

Ratings for TNT’s “Dallas” rebounded this week after dipping on Independence Day.

Approximately 3.4 million viewers watched “Truth and Consequences,”the show’s fifth episode, on July 4. Although the audience was down about 18 percent from the previous week – no surprise there, TV audiences always shrink on holidays – “Truth and Consequences” still managed to become the evening’s top original cable show and the 16th most-watched cable program of the week.

TNT’s sixth “Dallas” installment, “The Enemy of My Enemy,” did better: It scored 3.6 million viewers on July 11, including 1.3 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach. “Dallas” and USA’s “Royal Pains” tied for second place among the 18-to-49 crowd that evening; the top-rated cable show in that demographic: ESPN’s “ESPY Awards,” which was seen by 1.5 million viewers in that group.

“Dallas” is averaging 4.5 million viewers of all ages on Wednesday nights, although the numbers go up when people who record the show and watch it later are counted.

‘Who Shot J.R.?’ Still Making News

“Who Done It?,” the “Dallas” episode that reveals Kristin as J.R.’s shooter, remains one of the most memorable television moments of the past 50 years, according to a study published this week.

The 1980 broadcast ranked 44th on the memorable moments list, ahead of “events” like Chaz Bono’s participation in “Dancing with the Stars” (No. 59) and Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries (No. 76), but below ABC’s 1977 miniseries “Roots” (No. 36) and the Beatles’ performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (No. 43).

Sony Electronics and the Nielsen television research company conducted the study. The findings are based on a survey in which people were given a list of landmark TV events and asked to rank them.

News stories dominated the list: Coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ranked first, followed by reporting on the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster (No. 2) and the 1995 verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial (No. 3).

Dressing ‘Dallas’

Here at Dallas Decoder, we’re big fans of Rachel Sage Kunin, costume designer for TNT’s “Dallas,” which is why we’re pleased to see her get a little love in the press.

In a new interview with the design site Artinfo, Kunin reveals why Linda Gray is her favorite cast member to dress – and why we’re unlikely to see John Ross sporting a Stetson with his business suits.

ICYMI: Gray Speaks

Ultimate Dallas’s revealing interview with Gray stirred the Ewing-verse this week, prompting us to weigh in with a call for more screen time for Sue Ellen. Of course, we weren’t the only ones. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the Dallas Morning News’s blog post and Dallas Divas Derby’s wish list for the new show’s second season (No. 3: Save Sue Ellen!).

Line of the Week

“What now?”

John Ross’s exasperated response to seeing Bobby and Christopher barge into his room at the end of “The Enemy of My Enemy” made me laugh. Look, I love Bobby and Christopher, but you gotta admit: These two can be a little too Dudley Do-Right for their own good. I see why John Ross finds them a little hard to take sometimes.

Sweet and Strong

A reminder: This week’s “Dallas Drinks” offering is The Bobby, named for Patrick Duffy’s all-American hero. The recipe comes from Dallas Decoder’s favorite spouse at Cook In/Dine Out.

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

Drill Bits: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Wrangles Big Audience

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Reason to celebrate

The June 13 debut of TNT’s “Dallas” drew 6.9 million viewers, becoming the year’s most-watched premiere of a cable drama or comedy. The audience included a healthy 1.9 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” two-hour premiere drew more viewers than any program on the broadcast networks between 9 and 11 p.m. and made TNT the evening’s most-watched basic cable channel.

Also worth noting: “Dallas’s” opening night drew a bigger crowd than the first episodes of other top cable dramas, including “Mad Men” (1.65 million viewers in 2007), “Breaking Bad” (1.35 million, 2008) and “Walking Dead” (5.3 million, 2010).

Yes, “Dallas’s” 6.9 million number is nowhere near the 83 million viewers who saw the old show’s most-watched episode: “Who Done It?”, the 1980 broadcast that revealed the identity of J.R.’s shooter. But c’mon, there were only three networks back then!

Comparing TNT’s two-hour premiere to other episodes from the original “Dallas” series is trickier. In those days, Nielsen usually counted the number of households that watched television, not individual viewers.

For example, the fourth-season episode “No More Mister Nice Guy, Part 2,” the old show’s second highest-rated broadcast, was seen in 31.1 million homes. “Dallas’s” lowest-rated episode, “Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Sons,” which aired during the final season, was seen in 8.9 million homes, ranking 52nd for the week.

And in case you’re wondering, “Digger’s Daughter,” the original “Dallas’s” first episode, was seen in 15.7 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings, while “Conundrum,” its 1991 finale, was seen in 20.5 million homes, ranking 2nd.

Metcalfe’s Favorite Scenes

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe

Jesse speaks

In my “Changing of the Guard,”critique, I praised Jesse Metcalfe’s terrific performance in the scene where Christopher and Elena finally come clean with each other on the day of his wedding to Rebecca.

When I spoke to Metcalfe during a conference call with bloggers last month, he told me he likes that scene, too. So does he have favorite moments from other episodes?

“I probably have a favorite moment from every episode,” Metcalfe said. “It’s really difficult for me to pick just one scene. I mean, the fun thing about this show is that it’s a magnificent ensemble.”

We agree!

‘Dallas,’ Then and Now

How does “Digger’s Daughter,” “Dallas’s” first episode from 1978, compare to “Changing of the Guard,” the first hour of TNT’s “Dallas” series?

• First line of dialogue

1978: “Bobby James Ewing, I don’t believe you!” (Pam)

2012: “John Ross, wake up!” (Elena)

• Saltiest language

1978: “You jackass!” (Jock)

2012: “It’s bullshit!” (John Ross)

• J.R. loves red …

1978: Files

2012: Jell-O

• Bobby’s reason to celebrate

1978: A wedding!

2012: A birthday!

• Words spoken by Sue Ellen

1978: 38

2012: 120 (approximate)

• Get a room! (But not that one!)

1978: Lucy and Ray in the hayloft

2012: Christopher and Rebecca in the locker room

• Last line of dialogue

1978: “Well, I surely won’t do that again.” (J.R.)

2012: “The fun is just beginning.” (John Ross)

Line of the Week

“You are still the prettiest girl at the ball.”

There were a lot of great lines in the back-to-back “Dallas” episodes TNT telecast June 13, but if I had to pick a favorite, it was J.R.’s parting words to Sue Ellen at the end of their long-awaited reunion in “Hedging Your Bets.”

In the first episode of “Dallas Round-Up,” TNT’s post-show webcast, “Dallas’s” executive producer and head writer Cynthia Cidre revealed the line was suggested by another of the show’s writers, Robert Rovner.

When Rovner pitched the line to her and the other writers, “we all got misty-eyed,” Cidre recalled.

Diva Declared

The arrival of TNT’s “Dallas” wasn’t the only big event in the Ewing-verse this week: A few hours before the show debuted, Katherine Wentworth was crowned the winner of the Dallas Divas Derby race.

David W., whom I interviewed last month, created the derby, which pitted 32 of the original show’s heroines and villainesses against each other in a two-month brackets-style competition. The final race came down to Katherine (Morgan Brittany) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray); when all was said and done, Katherine received 2,494 votes, or 424 more than Sue Ellen.

Be sure to also check out David’s insightful review of the TNT series, as well as his sentimental introductory post, in which he recalls his childhood love of “Dallas.”

Get Your Drink On

A reminder: This week, my husband Andrew and I began offering “Dallas Drinks,” a series of cocktails inspired by the characters on the TNT show. First up: The John Ross; we’ll post another recipe next week.

Be sure to visit Andrew’s blog, Cook In/Dine Out, too. As you’ll see, he’s an amazing cook. Heck, he could probably teach Carmen Ramos (Marlene Forte) a thing or two!

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

The Dallas Decoder Interview: David W. of Dallas Divas Derby

The best thing about starting Dallas Decoder has been meeting fellow “Dallas” fans like David W., the genius behind Dallas Divas Derby, a new online brackets game that pits the show’s women characters against each other. David has really interesting ideas about “Dallas” and graciously agreed to share some here. Read what he has to say – and be sure to visit his site to vote for your favorite diva.

Dallas Divas Derby is great! How did you come up with the idea for the site?

Oh, thank you. I’m a lifelong “Dallas” fan and an interactive designer in my previous professional life, and I’d been thinking for years that it would be fun to make an online interactive family tree for the Ewing and Barnes families. Other projects and life prevented me from realizing that, but when TNT’s new show was announced, it struck me that it might be interesting to create some kind of online activity for fans to refresh their memories about “Dallas” history.

I’d always felt pretty strongly that “Dallas’s” best years were seasons 1 through 9, when it focused on a well-rounded ensemble cast and featured strong writing for the men and women alike. If you watch the show in its entirety, you see that the writing for the women begins strong, if a little sexist in some instances, and grows steadily better, peaking during the dream season.

In the years since “Dallas” ended, much of the lore of the show had been framed around the Ewing brothers’ saga. We all know the story. It’s a good one, but it has been told over and over again from the same male perspective. As I watched the show in reruns and on DVD as an adult, I gained a whole new appreciation for the female characters and actresses. I learned about Barbara Bel Geddes, Alexis Smith, Priscilla Pointer and Martha Scott’s stage and film careers, and I appreciated their rich nuanced performances even more. And my admiration for Linda Gray, Victoria Principal and Susan Howard grew deeper watching them evolve over the years. And then you had amazing villains like Kristin and Katherine, which I loved as a boy and appreciated even more as an adult.

For me personally, those actresses made a huge impression when I watched the show as a kid, and I became really interested in looking back at “Dallas” from the perspective of the female characters somehow. When you do, you realize how vital they were to the show’s success. You see huge arcs like Sue Ellen going from repressed alcoholic beauty queen, to strong female executive and mother, and Pam from strong-willed poor country girl from the wrong side of the tracks, to successful, confident independent businesswoman. I think for me personally, I identified closely with those arcs.

Though not a huge sports fan, I’d worked previously on interactive ad campaigns for the March Madness NCAA college basketball games, and I learned about that whole brackets game phenomenon that’s so popular among fans and office pools.

While re-watching “Dallas” this spring, it dawned on me that when you watch over the years, you see some recurring character archetypes common among the women. So I started scribbling down character names and playing around with them on paper, and grouping them based on similarities, and bingo, my earlier ideas about an interactive family tree merged into the brackets game idea!

Talk a little bit about how you came up with your matchups. There seems to be a method to your madness.

I quickly surveyed the entire 14 seasons to see if there’d be enough interesting characters that would work, and there were! Then I researched about how teams are “seeded” in brackets games based on their wins and losses, and it dawned on me, the characters could be similarly “seeded” based on the number of episodes they’d been in. In essence, each episode they were in counted as a “win” for them.

When I did the math, the results were really interesting to me. Similar archetypes often ended up paired against each other, like the case of “Sinister Sisters” Katherine Wentworth and Jessica Montford. When I saw that, I knew I had to make the game, even if only other die-hard “Dallas” geeks would appreciate it. It interested me, so that’s what drove me. And I was unemployed, so that helped too.

Once I did all that math, things happened very quickly to build the site. I knew we’d need a database, so I met with a dear friend who is a Ruby on Rails developer, and he volunteered to help. He made it possible for me to make the site a reality.

You know the characters really well. It sounds like you’ve been a fan of the show for a long time.

I started watching “Dallas” almost at its beginning, even though I was only 8 at the time. My parents, usually very conservative in what they allowed us to watch as kids, were quickly fans of the show, and somehow let us watch along with them.

I remember in the late ’70s being fascinated by the idea of Southfork. I was growing up in suburban Detroit, so the idea of a ranch, with all that land and a big family living together really fascinated me.

I remember often watching the show on Friday nights, and then getting up early the next day to play with my Legos in front of Saturday morning cartoons. I’d sit there for hours building elaborate Lego Southforks and Southern Crosses, and then I’d use Matchbox cars that matched all of the main character’s cars, and I’d re-play “Dallas” all morning. I even built a replica of Sue Ellen’s condo because I thought it was so glamorous and I was so happy to see her on her own, away from evil J.R. Mind you, I was like 10 or something.

I became the go-to guy in the family for episode re-caps. If my grandmother missed an episode, she’d have me re-tell it all to her the next time I saw her. Later in junior high and high school, I’d have “Dallas” finale parties for my entire family, and make cakes with oil derricks on them and things like that. It was ridiculous.

I love it! In general, what do you think of the way “Dallas” depicts women?

I do think the show’s portrayal of women really mirrors the idea of women in our pop culture from the late ’70s through the mid-80s. Not all of that is good, but I think it was pretty spot on.

For example, for my mom and my friends’ moms who were middle-class suburban housewives negotiating the idea of entering the working world, the evolutions of Sue Ellen, Donna, Pam and others was something that resonated. It was the point in time when the option and expectation of being a stay-at-home mom started to evaporate for many American women due to economic needs.

On “Dallas,” much of the early writing for these women focuses on tension between them and their husbands about their roles in the family. Sue Ellen’s meant to be a society wife and crank out Ewing heirs. Her life is booze, ladies’ luncheons and affairs. Pam wants to keep working and hates the society life, but struggles with Bobby’s sexist expectations for her to stay at home, and Ray struggles hugely with the idea that Donna is making more money than him, and what that means for his masculinity. And of course, Ellie is the traditional heart of the show, a true grandmother archetype.

As the Regan era/corporate greed era takes hold in the ’80s, you see Pam, Donna and eventually Sue Ellen staking claim to a desire to be successful professionally in their own right. They each pursue it differently, but they all eventually challenge their partners for respect, and you get to see all these previously traditional men dealing with the idea that their women are becoming fiercely independent. I think again, that mirrored what was happening in society to a degree.

On the “villains” side, you see people like Marilee Stone, Holly Harwood, Kristin and others using their gender and sexuality to gain power, and as weapons. Some of that feels pretty sexist now, but if you look at mainstream films of the era, the meme was everywhere. The mainstream white male was intrigued by – and simultaneously threatened by – strong independent businesswomen.

Of course now, looking back, especially amongst many of the supporting females, you do see lots of stereotypically weak secretaries, hookers, tramps and thieves, and some of that feels dated and uninteresting.

Since voting began on Dallas Divas Derby, what’s been the biggest surprise? Has any diva done better than you expected?

Ha ha, yes! My developer partner and I have kept our hands out of the voting, but based on my personal preferences, I’m not a big Cally Harper fan, no offense to Cathy Podewell. I just thought, in reference to what we were just talking about, that Cally was written as this incredibly one-dimensional country girl caricature, and from a very older white urban male slant. I never really felt like she fit with the rest of the cast.

What we’ve heard from fans online and seen in the voting so far, though, is that she has more fans than haters. She won her Round 1 match against Kimberly Cryder and really never was behind in that vote based on what we saw. She was always the favorite, though the voting was close.

For the purposes of the game though, we’re actually quite happy that the two Mrs. J.R. Ewings will go head-to-head in Round 2 on May 16. It should be a good match for fans of both her and Sue Ellen.

You also had some “Dallas”-worthy drama with a hacker. What happened?

Yes, we did! Well, you know, I’m not a professional programmer, and I wanted to keep the game simple and easy for users. I underestimated the level of security we’d need at first though.

Our Bring Her Back vote was meant to be a straight-up horse race for fans to vote in real-time for any of the “living” characters they wanted to see back on the new series. Unlike the brackets game, where match results are revealed every Wednesday morning – to promote Wednesday as the new day for “Dallas” on TNT – the Bring Her Back vote is always live on the site, so users can see the actual vote numbers.

This bred some fierce rivalry between a few Katherine Wentworth and Lucy Ewing fans earlier this month. We saw first a huge, and rather humanly impossible, spike in BHB votes for Lucy overnight one night. And we started to get complaints from Katherine fans, so we investigated. We found that at least one person, if not a couple, had “hacked” the BHB voting overnight, and within hours we had numbers in the thousands jumping back and forth for Lucy and Katherine. It was headed to the stratosphere, but clear the votes weren’t “real.”

We’d like to think we’re that popular, and though we do allow users to vote more than once, it reached a humanly impossible rate of voting, based on our other stats. So we had to add some more protections to the voting code, to prevent over-the-top gaming of the system, while trying to keep it easy and fun for users.

Since we’d been watching the vote closely, we made the call to remove the hacked BHB votes from the system so our fans could continue to play the game and feel like they had a chance.

Luckily, none of that affected any numbers on the brackets game, so that voting to date hasn’t been compromised. This is just meant to be a fun thing for fans and we hope everyone who wants to participate can and express their preferences in the voting.

OK, I must ask: Do you have a personal favorite “Dallas” diva?

This is a hard one for me. We’re trying to remain agnostic in the vote, and there are so many different types of characters to choose from.

On the heroines’ side, Sue Ellen has been an icon for me since I was a kid. I related to her struggles and her growth towards independence. I still love her and am so happy she’s back.

On a more complicated level, it’s Pam for me. I loved her in the beginning of the show as the tough poor country girl arriving at Southfork, then lost a bit of interest during her obsession to have a baby and the weird writing around some of that, but loved her again in Seasons 7 through 9 as she returned to strength and came into her own. Victoria Principal’s performances leading up to and after Bobby’s death still haunt me today. Those were award worthy in my book. They made a huge impact on my psyche as a teen. In my opinion though, the writers ran Pam into a ditch in Season 10 though, moving her to the periphery and weakening her. The way Pam was written out made many fans dislike her, and I think that was a huge detriment to the show’s legacy. We’re supposed to believe the show’s original leading lady, who desperately fought to have a successful marriage to Bobby and have a child, suddenly decides to leave them to go die alone with a stranger? It was stupid writing and it hurt the character and the show.

On the villains’ side, Katherine was my number one favorite, followed closely by Jessica Montford and Kristin. All could’ve lasted on the show longer in my opinion. Heck, I even enjoyed Angelica Nero as a super-villain. It was fun to see a woman besting J.R. in scheming.

I think you’re wise to praise Angelica. If she doesn’t win her next round against Mandy Winger, she might start blowing stuff up again!

Ha ha, indeed! She was fantastic. I’m keeping my eye out for exploding briefcases. Luckily I don’t own a Ferrari. I will add this though, we’ve learned during the Derby to not underestimate Katherine Wentworth fans. Things could get interesting if Angelica and Katherine face-off later in the Derby. I’m secretly hoping they might.