Remembering Larry Hagman, the Life of the ‘Party’

Dallas, Kristina Heidi Hagman, Larry Hagman

Party people

I’ve always believed famous people are as entitled to their privacy as anyone else, which is why I hesitated to read “The Eternal Party,” the new biography of Larry Hagman written by his daughter Kristina. The pre-publication publicity made it clear the book would contain information that Larry might have preferred to keep private, and so after I received my copy, I struggled with what to do with it. Curiosity eventually got the better of me, and ultimately I’m glad it did. “The Eternal Party” challenges some long-held beliefs about its subject, but Kristina mostly paints a sweet, loving portrait of her father. She also sheds light on how he brought J.R. Ewing to life, which is all I really want from a book about Larry Hagman in the first place.

“The Eternal Party” is framed as a mystery — a nod, perhaps, to the “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon that marked the zenith of Larry’s fame. The book opens with Kristina recalling her father’s final hours as he lay dying in a Dallas hospital in 2012. In his delirium, the notoriously carefree actor begs for forgiveness, prompting Kristina to spend the rest of the book re-examining Larry’s life. She documents his indulgences with his favorite substances — ground that Larry candidly covered in his own 2001 memoir, “Hello Darlin’” — and also shares private details about her parents’ 58-year marriage. The latter passages left me torn. My sense is that Larry and his wife Maj wouldn’t want some of this material to be public knowledge. On the other hand, as a student of “Dallas” history, it’s interesting to ponder the parallels between the Hagmans’ marriage and J.R. and Sue Ellen’s. How much did Larry draw upon his personal experience when shaping this part of his character?

Other passages in “The Eternal Party” show how the J.R. traits that “Dallas” fans know so well were rooted in mundane aspects of Larry’s domestic life. Remember the menacing glare J.R. would offer his enemies when he was about to destroy them? Kristina recalls her father wearing the same scowl when he was trying to housebreak the family’s German shepherd puppy. In another amusing tidbit, she details the years before Larry’s “Dallas” wealth, when the vagabond Hagmans frequently relied on the kindness of others. This includes future “Dallas” co-star David Wayne, who allowed the family to stay at his home whenever they needed a place to crash. Imagine: Digger Barnes offering shelter to a down-on-his-luck J.R. Ewing. The mind reels.

Kristina also has kind words for Larry’s friends and “Dallas” co-stars, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy. She recalls Gray giving him dietary advice after his cancer diagnosis and Duffy standing near her frail father during their public appearances, “always ready to offer a steady hand in case he needed it.” In another poignant memory, Kristina describes accompanying an aging Larry to Pike Place Market in Seattle, where no one recognized him. (In true Hagman style, though, he purchased a giant, stuffed red lizard from a vendor and walked around with it on his shoulder, helping him get the attention he craved.) The book’s most heartbreaking moments include Kristina’s struggle to come to terms with a sexual assault she suffered at the hands of a neighbor, Larry’s efforts to care for Maj after her Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and the final chapter, when the author finally solves the mystery of why her father had forgiveness on his mind at the end of his life.

Mostly, though, “The Eternal Party” is about Larry and Kristina’s relationship. She clearly adores him, even if she doesn’t always understand his choices. Likewise, even though I have reservations about some of the disclosures, that doesn’t mean I don’t value the book. In an especially illuminating scene, Kristina recalls accompanying Larry to a public appearance on a military base, where he met a little boy whose father was away in combat. The child knew Larry as Major Nelson on “I Dream of Jeannie” and had come to think of him as a father figure. Kristina writes:

“The boy was so happy, and the way his sad face brightened had a huge effect on Dad. I think he may have had an epiphany that day about his ability to make a difference in people’s lives, and he helped me understand his responsibility to everyone who supported our family by watching him on television. From that day on, I understood that my father would never be mine alone; he belonged to his public.”

More than anything else in “The Eternal Party,” this story makes me appreciate the author, and her willingness to share her famous father with the rest of the world.

Order your copy of “The Eternal Party” online, share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

#DallasChat Daily: What Were ‘Dallas’s’ Best/Worst Recasts?

Barbara Bel Geddes, Claude Earl Jones, Clifton James, Colleen Camp, Dallas, Dan Ammerman, David Ackroyd, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Donna Reed, Dr. David Gordon, Dr. Harlan Danvers, Duke Carlisle, Gary Ewing, James Canning, Jenna Wade, John Zaremba, Josef Rainer, Keenan Wynn, Kristin Shepard, Margaret Michaels, Mary Crosby, Miss Ellie Ewing, Morgan Fairchild, Pam Ewing, Philip Levien, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Sam Anderson, Ted Shackelford, Victoria Principal

“Dallas” recast several roles over the years. Which ones worked? Which ones failed?

Among the choices: Miss Ellie (played by Barbara Bel Geddes and Donna Reed), Gary (David Ackroyd, Ted Shackelford), Pam (Victoria Principal, Margaret Michaels), Digger (David Wayne, Keenan Wynn) and Kristin (Colleen Camp, Mary Crosby). There were also three Jennas: Morgan Fairchild, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Francine Tacker, who isn’t pictured because I couldn’t squeeze her into the collage.

Additional choices: Dr. Harlan Danvers (Dan Ammerman, John Zaremba), Jimmy Monahan (James Canning, Philip Levien) Duke Carlisle (Claude Earl Jones, Clifton James) and Dr. David Gordon, who was played by Josef Rainer on the original show and Sam Anderson on the TNT series.

Your #DallasChat Daily question: What were “Dallas’s” best and worst recasts?

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

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

Barbara Bel Geddes, Bert Remsen, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Dandy Dandridge, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Fern Fitzgerald, Jamie Ewing, Jenilee Harrison, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Marilee Stone, Miss Ellie Ewing, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Sue Ellen Ewing, Victoria Principal

The Ewing Barbecues were one of the original “Dallas’s” best traditions. Do you have a favorite?

Was it Jock and Digger’s disastrous reunion during the first-season finale, or Pam’s tragic fall from the hayloft at the end of that episode? How about Sue Ellen and Cliff’s flirty dance during the first barbecue of 1982, or the Ewings’ tense showdown with the cartel at that year’s second hoedown? What about Jamie and Marilee’s bitchy confrontation in 1984, or Dandy Dandridge’s drunken shooting spree in 1987?

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

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

#DallasChat Daily: Who’s ‘Dallas’s’ Worst Father?

Amos Krebbs, Cliff Barnes, Dallas, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Harris Ryland, Ken Kercheval, Mitch Pileggi, TNT, William Windom

“Dallas” has given us so many bad dads over the years, it’s hard to know which one is the worst. But let’s try to choose the franchise’s most feckless father anyway, OK?

Candidates include Digger Barnes, who “sold” Pam to Jock; Jeff Farraday, who sold Christopher to Bobby; Amos Krebbs, who tried to extort money from his in-name-only son Ray; Harris Ryland, who kidnapped Emma and sent her to live with his mother in England; Renaldo Marchetta, who kidnapped Charlie Wade and sent her to live with his parents in Rome; and of course Cliff Barnes, who blew up the Ewing Energies rig, even though his pregnant daughter Pamela was aboard.

Your #DallasChat Daily question: Who’s the worst father in “Dallas” history?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below. Have a great discussion!

Here’s Everything That’s Happened on ‘Dallas,’ Ever*

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson

Ain’t over yet

It’s never too late to start watching “Dallas.” If you missed the original show and the first two seasons of TNT’s sequel series, fear not: This post will tell you everything you need to know before Season 3 begins on Monday, February 24. (*OK, this isn’t really everything that’s happened on “Dallas.” For that, you’ll have to keep reading Dallas Decoder every day.)

 

The Original Series (1978 to 1991)

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

In the beginning

Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), the youngest son of a rich oil and cattle clan, marries Pam Barnes (Victoria Principal) and brings her home to Southfork, the Ewing ranch. This upsets everyone, especially Pam’s daddy Digger (David Wayne), who blames Bobby’s daddy Jock (Jim Davis) for stealing his sweetheart, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), and cheating him out of half of Ewing Oil. While Bobby’s devious brother J.R. (Larry Hagman) is building the family empire and catting around, J.R.’s neglected wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) becomes an alcoholic and has an affair with Cliff (Ken Kercheval), Pam’s vengeful brother. Later, J.R. and Sue Ellen have a son, John Ross, while Bobby and Pam adopt Christopher, the orphaned child of Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) and sleazy Jeff Faraday (Art Hindle). Elsewhere, Ray Krebbs, Southfork’s foreman, discovers Jock is his daddy and marries savvy politico Donna Culver (Susan Howard), while Lucy (Charlene Tilton), the daughter of J.R. and Bobby’s middle brother Gary (Ted Shackelford) and his wife Valene (Joan Van Ark), gets engaged to everyone.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

End of an era

More drama: Digger dies and so does Jock, leaving Ellie to hold the family together with help from second hubby Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Southfork burns down, but the Ewings rebuild it. Cliff hooks up with Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers), who gives birth to their daughter Pamela Rebecca, but Afton refuses to let Cliff near the child because of his fixation with destroying the Ewings. Cliff and Pam’s half-sister Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany) arrives, becomes obsessed with Bobby and tries to kill him, then vanishes under a big hat. Sue Ellen beats the bottle and divorces J.R., while Pam has a bad dream, gets burned in a car crash and runs away. Bobby has an on-again, off-again romance with first love Jenna Wade (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley), who gives birth to their son Lucas and then marries newly divorced Ray. James (Sasha Mitchell), J.R.’s illegitimate son, shows up for a while and emulates the old man. Bobby marries April (Sheree J. Wilson), but she dies. J.R. marries Cally (Cathy Podewell), but she leaves. In the end, Cliff finally takes over Ewing Oil, leaving J.R. alone and suicidal.

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Swan Song

Hurts so good

Best Episode: “Swan Song.” The eighth-season finale finds J.R. and Sue Ellen’s marriage on the rocks, unlike the vodka she’s secretly swilling in her bedroom.  Meanwhile, Bobby chooses Pam over Jenna, but crazy Katherine runs him over with her car. The episode ends with the Ewings bidding farewell to Bobby in a deathbed scene that’s so beautifully written and acted, you almost wish it wasn’t part of Pam’s dream. Almost.

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Who Shot J.R.?

Shot in the dark

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who shot J.R.? Sure, taking a couple of slugs to the gut is no fun for our hero, but at least he makes billions of dollars in a risky offshore oil deal before he’s gunned down. Oh, and in case you didn’t hear, J.R.’s assailant turns out to be Kristin, his sister-in-law/ex-secretary/ex-mistress, who’s revealed as the shooter in one of the most-watched broadcasts in television history. (Props to Sue Ellen, who figures it all out.)

 

TNT Season 1 (2012)

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

When cousins clash

J.R. emerges from a nursing home and tricks Bobby into selling him Southfork so he can tap the ocean of oil flowing beneath it. Like their fathers, John Ross and Christopher (Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe) butt heads, except their rivalry has an added twist: John Ross has fallen for Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who was Christopher’s childhood sweetheart. Christopher marries Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo), unaware that she’s the daughter of Cliff, who is now the gazillionaire owner of Barnes Global and still hell-bent on destroying the Ewings. Rebecca kills her lover Tommy Sutter (Callard Harris) in self-defense and has Cliff’s henchman Frank Ashkani (Faran Tahir) dispose of the body. Meanwhile, Sue Ellen runs for governor; Bobby’s new wife Ann (Brenda Strong) feels threatened by ex-husband Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who knows she’s harboring a dark secret; and John Ross, Christopher and Elena form a company, Ewing Energies, but the partnership is threatened when Elena breaks her engagement to John Ross and reunites with Christopher, who dumps the pregnant Rebecca.

Dallas, Family Business, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Bad does good

Best Episode: “Family Business.” In one of Hagman’s most poignant performances, J.R. learns Bobby is secretly battling cancer and returns Southfork to him, ending the season-long war for the ranch. Later, in a chill-inducing musical montage (set to Johnny Cash’s “The Man Comes Around”), poor Bobby suffers a seizure and Rebecca shoots Tommy, splattering blood over her unborn twins’ stuffed animals. Hmmm. Foreshadow, much?

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

Pass the torch

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who loves J.R.? His son John Ross, who ends the season by gazing at the Dallas skyline with dear old dad and asking him to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows so he can push Christopher and Elena out of Ewing Energies. J.R. beams with pride and tells John Ross that he’s his son “from tip to tail.” Hey, J.R. may have given up the fight for Southfork, but he wasn’t giving up his devious ways — thank goodness.

 

TNT Season 2 (2013)

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, TNT

All about evil

Rebecca reveals she’s Pamela Rebecca Barnes and hooks up with John Ross. Ann shoots Harris after learning he kidnapped their daughter Emma when she was a baby and sent her to be raised by his control-freak mother, Judith (Judith Light). Ann gets probation, Harris recovers and Judith falls down the stairs. Frank takes the blame for Tommy’s death and kills himself at the request of Cliff, who causes Pamela’s miscarriage. When J.R. is murdered in Mexico, it appears Cliff is the killer, so Bobby, Christopher and newlyweds John Ross and Pamela plant evidence on Cliff to make sure he’s arrested. Oh, and Christopher also discovers Cliff covered up his mom’s death. Elsewhere, John Ross somehow inherits half of Southfork; Sue Ellen loses the election but continues to tangle with Governor McConaughey (Steven Weber); Emma (Emma Bell) sleeps with Elena’s ne’er-do-well brother Drew (Kuno Becker), becomes John Ross’s mistress and turns Harris in to the cops for drug trafficking; and when Christopher dumps Elena, jailbird Cliff asks her to become his proxy at Barnes Global, which the Ewings now control.

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

Mourning glory

Best Episode: “J.R.’s Masterpiece.” Our hero is laid to rest in an instant-classic hour that brings back several stars from the original series. The highlight: On the night before J.R.’s burial, Sue Ellen takes a heartbreaking tumble off the wagon, then delivers a mesmerizing eulogy for the man she calls “the love of my life.” Can someone please explain how Linda Gray didn’t win an Emmy for this performance?

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

Only you

J.R.’s Greatest Moment: Who killed J.R.? J.R. did, of course. It turns out he was dying of cancer and arranged his own death so Cliff could be framed for the crime, thus ending the Barnes-Ewing feud … for about 2 minutes, at least. Only a handful of people know the truth, including Bobby, J.R.’s loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page), Christopher and John Ross, who gets it right when he says, “The only person who could take down J.R. … was J.R.”

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

The Dal-List: Jock Ewing’s 15 Greatest Moments

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

We still miss you, Daddy

Last month, Dallas Decoder critiqued “The Search,” the episode where “Dallas” bids farewell to the great Jim Davis. Here’s a look at 15 memorable moments featuring the actor and his mighty character, Jock Ewing.

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, John Ewing III Part 2,

Naming rights

15. Naming John Ross. The Ewings are in a waiting room at Dallas Memorial Hospital, where Sue Ellen has gone into labor. A nurse enters and tells J.R. his wife has given birth to a son, prompting a beaming Jock to declare, “John Ross Ewing III!” Did it ever occur to the Ewing patriarch that J.R. and Sue Ellen might want to choose their child’s name themselves? Do you think it would’ve mattered to him if they did? (“John Ewing III, Part 2”)

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Lucy Ewing, Prodigal Mother

Grandaddy knows best

14. Advising Lucy. The Ewings didn’t always want to hear Jock’s opinion, but usually he was right. Example: When Lucy (Charlene Tilton) was brooding after a spat with Mitch, Jock told her, “He’s a nice enough boy [but] you can do a lot better.” Lucy ignored Jock’s advice – she and Mitch got hitched – but she probably should’ve heeded Granddaddy’s wisdom. After all, the marriage lasted just 12 episodes. (“The Prodigal Mother”)

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing,  Julie Grey, Julie's Return

Friends with no benefits

13. Leaving Julie. After Jock suffered a heart attack, the Ewings began treating him like an invalid, causing him to turn to flirty ex-secretary Julie (Tina Louise) for comfort. It looked like their relationship might become a full-fledged affair – but Jock knew his limits. “I appreciate your friendship,” he told Julie, adding that things couldn’t go further because it would “hurt Miss Ellie too much.” Smart man. (“Julie’s Return”)

Barbecue, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Family man

12. Comforting Pam. During her first few weeks as a Ewing, poor Pam (Victoria Principal) was bullied, blackmailed, offered a bribe and held hostage. By the time J.R. caused her miscarriage, Bobby and his bride were ready to get the hell off Southfork – until Jock persuaded them to stay. “I want to keep my family together,” he told Pam as he sat at her bedside. It was our first glimpse of the tough Texan’s tender side. (“Barbecue”)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Pam Ewing, Patrick Duffy, Victoria Principal, Reunion Part 2

Best. Screencap. Ever.

11. “Buying” Pam. Jock was chilling on the Southfork patio when drunk Digger roared into the driveway, demanding $10,000 for Pam. “Ten thousand! There’s a hundred,” Jock huffed as he tossed a C-note at his ex-partner, who eagerly scooped it up and pronounced his daughter “sold.” If Pam felt insulted, she shouldn’t have. When a Ewing is willing to negotiate your purchase price, you know they truly care. (“Reunion, Part 2”)

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Miss Ellie Ewing, No More Mr. Nice Guy Part 1

You were thinking it too, Mama

10. Scolding Sue Ellen. Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) has just arrived at Dallas Memorial, where the Ewings are keeping vigil after J.R.’s shooting. Surely Jock will comfort his frantic daughter-in-law, right? Um, no. He accuses Sue Ellen of “gallivanting” while her husband is dying, prompting Kristin to defend Big Sis. “Sue Ellen was sick,” she says. Snaps Jock: “Sick? You mean drunk!” Harsh, but not untrue. (“No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1”)

Dallas, Dove Hunt, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Stare master

9. Confronting Owens. On a hunting trip, the Ewing men were ambushed by Tom Owens (Richard J. Wilkie), a farmer who claimed Jock ruined him decades earlier. Owens cocked his gun and aimed it at his wounded enemy, who didn’t blink. “If you’re gonna do it, do it!” Jock shouted, moments before the defeated Owens lowered the weapon and declared, “I’m not a killer.” You’re also no match for Jock Ewing, mister. (“The Dove Hunt”)

Dallas, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing

Frenemies forever

8. Destroying Digger. When Bobby and Pam announced her pregnancy at the Ewing Barbecue, Jock and Digger (David Wayne) shook hands and called a truce – which lasted all of three minutes. Digger broke the peace by criticizing Jock’s parenting skills, which prompted the Ewing patriarch to deliver a devastating takedown of his ex-partner (“He’s been a loser every day of his life.”) Yeah, it was cruel, but remember: Digger started it. (“Barbecue”)

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Silent Killer

Guts and glory

7. Joshing J.R. Jock spent a lot of time chewing out J.R. (Larry Hagman), but they had nice moments too. During one cocktail hour, when J.R. joked baby John Ross was becoming a “little fatty,” Jock playfully patted his eldest son’s belly and said, “Just like his daddy.” It was a reminder: Not only was Jock the only Ewing capable of reigning in J.R. – he was also the only one who could get away with razzing him. (“The Silent Killer”)

Daddy Dearest, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Ghost writer

6. Inspiring J.R. Virtually every “Dallas” episode after Jim Davis’s death seems to depict one Ewing or another taking inspiration from Jock’s memory. In one instance, J.R. stands in front of his daddy’s portrait and reads one of his old letters, which offers classic bits of wisdom like, “Never let the bastards get you down.” This is what makes Jock so cool: He doesn’t need to be alive to keep his family in line. (“Daddy Dearest”)

Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Survival

Call waiting

5. Dispatching Ray. Another glimpse of Jock’s softer side: When the Ewing plane went down in Louisiana swampland with J.R. and Bobby aboard, the Ewing patriarch sent ranch foreman Ray (Steve Kanaly) to find his sons. The family kept vigil at Southfork until Ray finally called with good news: J.R. and Bobby were alive. “Bring them home,” Jock said. Davis’s eyes were wet when he delivered the line. So were ours. (“Survival”)

Dallas, Fourth Son, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Ray Krebbs, Steve Kanaly

Daddy issues

4. Accepting Ray. In another beautiful performance from Davis, Jock tells Ray he just found out he’s his daddy. The humble cowboy offers to keep this a secret to spare Jock grief from his family, but instead Jock summons everyone to the living room and proudly announces Ray is his son. This was a hard truth for some to accept (cough, cough J.R.), but it demonstrates how Jock never took the easy way out. (“The Fourth Son”)

Dallas, Gary Ewing, Jock Ewing, Jim Davis, Return Engagements, Ted Shackelford

Hug it out, fellas

3. Celebrating Gary and Val. When Jock learned Gary and Val (Ted Shackelford, Joan Van Ark) were getting remarried, he declined to attend; there was too much bad blood between father and son. But moments before the ceremony began, in walked Jock. “I believe I have a son getting married here today,” he said. “I’d like to attend … if I’m welcome.” Awww. You’re always welcome, big guy. (“Return Engagements”)

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Executive Wife, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Patrick Duffy

Power tip

2. Teaching Bobby. When Bobby (Patrick Duffy) felt Jock was undermining his authority at Ewing Oil, he loudly reminded his daddy that Jock “gave” him the power to run the company. In one of the all-time great “Dallas” scenes, Jock set his “boy” straight: “Nobody gives you power. Real power is something you take!” With those 10 words, Jock established the creed that would define the Ewings for generations to come. (“Executive Wife”)

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Jim Davis, Jock Ewing, Mastectomy Part 2, Miss Ellie Ewing

Jock the rock

1. Loving Ellie. Few things move me more than the way Jock stood by Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) when she had her mastectomy. While Ellie struggled to deal with the loss of her breast, Jock never left her side, offering her the support and comfort she needed. Jock may have been a rich oil baron and a stern father, but above all, he was a devoted husband and Ellie’s best friend. The way he loved her made us love him. Ellie never stopped missing him. Neither have we. (“Mastectomy, Part 2”)

What do you consider Jock Ewing’s greatest moments? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

The Dallas Decoder Guide to Entertaining, Ewing Style

Party on

The holidays are here and that means one thing: It’s party time! Martha Stewart will tell you the secret to successful entertaining is to always make your guests feel comfortable – but to hell with that. If you want to host a really memorable affair, let the Ewings be your guide.

Always on his back

The guest list: Put some thought into it. Do you have a mortal enemy who is obsessed with revenge against your family? By all means, move that person to the top of your invite list. No matter what Cliff (Ken Kercheval) did to the Ewings – he once prosecuted Jock for murder!– Miss Ellie never stopped inviting him to family functions. Why? Because she knew she could count on Cliff to enliven every soiree. Remember the time he incited a mob at a Southfork barbecue? Or the brawl he started at J.R. and Sue Ellen’s wedding reception? Of course you do. Face it: A day or two after your event, no one will remember how pretty your table centerpiece looked. But offer your guests some Cliff-style theatrics and you’ll create memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Off the wagon, in the doghouse

It’s all about tradition. Folks love to get together during the holidays to reminisce – and no one appreciated a stroll down memory lane more than Jock (Jim Davis). When Digger (David Wayne) showed up at one of the Southfork barbecues, Jock waxed nostalgic, recalling the collapse of their partnership decades earlier. He concluded his history lesson by declaring Digger had “been a loser every day of his life,” which sent the recovering alcoholic straight off the wagon. Jock’s tongue-lashing angered Miss Ellie and Pam (Barbara Bel Geddes, Victoria Principal), but Jock suspected the only reason Digger came to the party in the first place was to find an excuse to resume boozing. And as Jock told his family, “I generally try to accommodate my guests.”

Time to go, darlin’

Drink up! Memories shouldn’t be the only thing that flows at your gathering. The Ewings knew a little alcohol could really help guests loosen up and get in a celebratory spirit. For this, we have Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) to thank. Remember when she got tipsy at a Southfork barbecue and blabbed to everyone the intimate details of her marriage? How about the time the Ewings held a bash at the Oil Barons Club and Sue Ellen passed out after taking a nip or two (or three or six) of vodka? Then there was the time our heroine got smashed at Lucy and Mickey’s cookout, swiped J.R.’s keys and wrecked his car. OK, that last one ended up killing the joyful atmosphere at Southfork that evening – but at least it didn’t kill Sue Ellen’s future political viability.

Taste of success

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No one should try to organize a big celebration on their own. Just ask Miss Ellie, who always counted on family and friends to help out – especially in the kitchen. Sister-in-law Jessica Montfort was a whiz at chopping veggies and Donna was an ace sous chef, while J.R. (Larry Hagman) and the rest of the Ewings were happy to serve as Mama’s taste-testers. For the real heavy lifting, though, Ellie relied on the hired help. The Ewings went through dozens of butlers and housekeepers over the years. Some were old, some were young, but remarkably, all of them were named “Raoul” and “Teresa.” Carmen the cook has been at Southfork for a long time too, although we didn’t see her until the Ewings moved to cable.

Guess what?

Parties are for surprises! Do you know someone who’s been dying to share a big secret with the world? Perhaps your event offers the stage they seek. Lucy blurted out her suspicions about Sue Ellen and Peter Richards’ affair at a get-together on the Southfork patio. Cousin Jamie chose a Ewing barbecue to reveal her stake in the family empire. James Beaumont announced he was J.R.’s illegitimate son at a Ewing dinner at the Oil Baron’s Club. The tradition continues: John Ross used Bobby’s birthday party to unveil his plot to drill for oil on Southfork, while Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) decided the family’s final barbecue at the ranch was the ideal setting to tell Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) about her role in the scheme to break up him and Elena.

Oh, sit

Seating matters. Will your affair include a sit-down meal? Follow the example set by J.R., who always knows the perfect place for newcomers to the Southfork dinner table. He once told Ray, “You sit where Gary used to. You two have so much in common.” Later, on her first night at the ranch, J.R.’s daughter-in-law Michelle Beaumont asked him where she should sit. “Right there,” J.R. responded, pointing to an empty seat on the other side of the table. “Used to be Pam’s chair. I couldn’t stand her either.” J.R. also knew where guests shouldn’t sit. Just ask Clayton (Howard Keel), who got the stink-eye every time he sat in Jock’s old seat. No, seriously. J.R. cut Clayton a dirty look each time he came to the table. Every. Single. Time. For eight seasons.

The price of a clever wit

Keep the conversation lively. Miss Manners will tell you some topics shouldn’t be discussed in polite company – but Miss Manners never attended a Ewing fete. When this brood gets together, every subject is fair game. Once, when Miss Ellie worried that Sue Ellen didn’t eat enough at dinner, J.R. waved around a liquor bottle and said, “She gets all the nourishment she needs from this.” Moments later, he described Pam thusly: “Everybody can see that she’s cracking up, slowly and surely. And who can blame her? I mean, she finds out that her daddy, Digger Barnes, is no relation at all. And her real father is a saddle tramp and a thief. And her mother’s a whore! Who could find it in their heart to hate that poor little girl, huh?” Bobby responded by punching J.R. in the gut. He never could take a joke.

Everybody in!

Two words: “Swimming pool.” If you have one, use it. After all, if you’re going to party like the Ewings, your guests are going to need a place to cool off.

What have the Ewings taught you about entertaining? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Decoder Guides.”

The Dallas Decoder Guide to That Darned Barnes Family

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, Revelations, TNT

Pamela redux

The Barneses are back: In “Revelations,” the first-season finale of TNT’s “Dallas,” we learned Rebecca Sutter Ewing is Pamela Rebecca Barnes, Cliff’s daughter. Need a refresher on the rest of the Barneses? Here’s a look at who’s who, how they’re related to each other and the Ewings and some of their family traditions, including their penchant for interesting headgear and shooting people. Also listed: the actors who portrayed the characters on the two “Dallas” series.

The Elders

Dallas, David Wayne, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn

Double Diggers

• WILLARD “DIGGER” BARNES: Boozy wildcatter who claimed Jock Ewing cheated him out of his share of Ewing Oil and stole his girl, Miss Ellie. Liked hats. Remembered for two deathbed confessions: 1. He shot and killed wife Rebecca’s lover, Hutch McKinney; 2. McKinney was Pam’s real dad. Played by David Wayne and Keenan Wynn.

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Runaway Rebecca

• REBECCA BARNES WENTWORTH: Digger’s wife and Cliff and Pam’s mama. After lover Hutch McKinney’s murder, ran away, became a secretary and married her boss, Houston tycoon Herbert Wentworth. Was believed dead for many years until Pam found her. Died (for real this time) from injuries sustained in a plane crash while waging corporate warfare against the Ewings. Favorite candy: black licoricePlayed by Priscilla Pointer and Victoria Principal (in a flashback).

Cliff’s Corner

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval

Presto-chango

• CLIFF BARNES: Digger and Rebecca’s son. Inherited mama’s money and daddy’s genetic disorder, hatred for Ewings. Unfortunate tendencies to pursue women involved with archenemy J.R., marry blondes to snag a piece of Ewing Oil. Frequent career-changer: lawyer-turned-politician-turned-bureaucrat-turned-prosecutor-turned-oilman-turned-evil mastermind. Regularly accused of murder and shooting Ewings, but known to have killed only one man: mobster Johnny Dancer. Sharp dresser. Favorite food: Chinese. Favorite activity: revenge. Played by Ken Kercheval.

Afton Cooper, Audrey Landers, Dallas

Steal her away

• AFTON COOPER: Sexy southern songbird who dreamed of a better life. Seduced J.R., then fell for Cliff. In-law to the Ewings: brother Mitch married and divorced Lucy, then married and divorced her again. After longing for someone to steal her away, Afton finally left town on her own carrying Cliff’s child, whom she named Pamela Rebecca. Married and divorced alcoholic gambler/con artist Harrison Van Buren III. Despite questionable taste in men, probably the smartest character among this bunch. Played by Audrey Landers.

Dallas, Jenna Pangburn, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, TNT

Daddy’s girl

• PAMELA REBECCA BARNES: Cliff and Afton’s daughter. Like Aunt Katherine, broke up a relationship with forged correspondence (an e-mail). Like Aunt Pam, married a Ewing (Christopher). Like Granddaddy Digger and Daddy Cliff, shot and killed a man (ex-lover/fake brother/hat wearer Tommy Sutter). Pregnant with Ewing spawn. Played by Julie Gonzalo. Previously played by Jenna Pangburn.

Dallas, Faran Tahir, Frank Ashkani, TNT

Daddy’s boy

• FRANK ASHKANI: Real name: Raheed Durani. Cliff’s right hand/driver/designated disposer of dead bodies. Not a fan of Tommy Sutter. According to J.R.’s private eye Bum, Cliff plucked Frank off the streets of Islamabad 30 years ago and paid for his fancy education, nice wardrobe and – presumably – frequent trips to the barber. Sometimes referred to as “Smiling Frank.” Doesn’t actually smile. Played by Faran Tahir.

Pam’s Portion

Dallas, Margaret Michaels, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Pam-o-rama

• PAMELA BARNES EWING: Daughter of Rebecca Barnes Wentworth and lover Hutch McKinney; raised by Digger and Aunt Maggie Monahan. Super heroine. Suffered bouts of mental instability and at least one 31-hour nightmare. Occasional wearer of hats. Bad driver. Like her mama, abandoned her own family. Probably dead, but hopefully not. Played by Victoria Principal, Margaret Michaels and at least one heavily bandaged extra.

Bobby, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Ewing-in-law

• BOBBY EWING: Golden son. Fell in love with Pam and thought she was so nice, married her twice. Usually a supportive spouse, but not always. Not a fan of brother-in-law Cliff in the beginning, but eventually became his pal and made him a partner in Ewing Oil. The lingering warmth will probably fade when Bobby discovers Cliff is once again plotting against the Ewings. Additional potential complicating factor: new wife/gun fetishist Ann may or may not have had a one-night stand with Cliff in 1987. Played by Patrick Duffy.

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe, Joshua Harris, TNT

Half-breed

• CHRISTOPHER EWING: Golden son’s golden son. Adopted, making marriage to cousin Rebecca Barnes only slightly less icky than it might be otherwise. May not have Barnes blood coursing through his veins, but inherited the family’s gun habit: as a boy, Christopher shot at John Ross. Dream meal: eggs and toast. Played by Jesse Metcalfe. Previously played by Eric Farlow and Joshua Harris.

The Wentworth Wing

Dallas, Katherine Wentworth, Morgan Brittany

She’s all hat

• KATHERINE WENTWORTH: Herbert and Rebecca Wentworth’s daughter. Television journalist/Christopher’s babysitter/ultimate diva. Hated Cliff. Not a big Pam fan, either: wanted Bobby for herself, so Katherine broke up his first marriage to Pam with a forged letter. Later shot him. Known for visiting sick relatives in hospital and making threatening comments/trying to kill them while they sleep. Most amazing hat collection ever. Disliked tomato juice. Played by Morgan Brittany.

Monahan Members

Dallas, James Canning, Maggie Monahan, Philip Levien, Sarah Cunningham

The lost ones

• AUNT MAGGIE MONAHAN and COUSIN JIMMY MONAHAN: Maggie was Digger’s long-suffering sister who helped raise Cliff and Pam. Rocked hats with the best of them. Her son: Jimmy, the Chuck Cunningham/Judy Winslow of “Dallas.” After two appearances in 1978, never seen nor mentioned again. Aunt Maggie was played by Sarah Cunningham; Cousin Jimmy was played by James Canning and Philip Levien.

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 32 – ‘The Silent Killer’

Dallas, Digger Barnes, Keenan Wynn, Silent Killer

The rogue

“Dallas” recasts two pivotal roles in “The Silent Killer:” Keenan Wynn succeeds David Wayne as Digger Barnes and Mary Crosby replaces Colleen Camp as Kristin Shepard. Both newcomers instantly put their own stamp on the characters.

Wayne played Digger during “Dallas’s” earliest episodes, offering an angry performance that helped establish the show’s dark tone when it began. Wayne beautifully captured Digger’s broken spirit, earning the “special guest star” billing he received during his appearances.

The moment Wynn appears in “The Silent Killer,” it’s clear “Dallas” is taking Digger in a different direction. Wynn is taller than his predecessor, and with his bushy beard and cheap fedora, he comes off as more of a charming rogue than a pitiful drunk.

Wynn’s Digger is also mellower. In “The Silent Killer’s” first act, he tells Cliff, “I only want what’s coming to me. I don’t want to see Jock Ewing flat broke.” It’s hard to imagine Wayne delivering that line.

Crosby reinvents her character, too. Camp’s unconventional beauty was unique, but in Crosby’s hands, Kristin is slyer and more seductive. Neither Camp nor Crosby particularly look like they could be Linda Gray’s sister, but Crosby’s bitchy chemistry with Gray is undeniable, as demonstrated in the scene where Kristin asks Sue Ellen if she’ll be joining the family for dinner.

“Were you thinking of occupying my chair?” Sue Ellen asks.

“Somebody will if you don’t pull yourself together,” Kristin sneers.

In another fun scene, Patricia, played by the wonderful Martha Scott, stands with Miss Ellie on the Southfork patio, watching over baby John and imagining the bright future that awaits him. “Someday, I expect, he’ll have a great big office, right next to his daddy’s,” Patricia says.

This rather prescient moment, like Crosby and Wynn’s strong first impressions, make up for “The Silent Killer’s” eye-rolling final scene, when Pam refuses to tell Bobby why she suddenly doesn’t want to have children.

The audience knows Pam’s reason – she fears her children will inherit neurofibromatosis, the Barnes family’s newly discovered genetic disease – but it isn’t clear why she insists on keeping Bobby in the dark about it.

Be careful, Pam. Neurofibromatosis may kill children, but secrecy kills marriages – and if you want to save yours, you’ll have to come clean soon.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby, Silent Killer

The rascal

‘THE SILENT KILLER’

Season 3, Episode 3

Airdate: October 5, 1979

Audience: 14.1 million homes, ranking 31st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Irving J. Moore

Synopsis: When Digger visits, Pam and Cliff learn the Barneses have neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disease that could be fatal to their children. Pam persuades Cliff to keep this a secret from Sue Ellen, even though he might be baby John’s father. Patricia and Kristin visit and Kristin flirts with J.R.

Cast: William H. Bassett (Dr. Paul Holliston), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jocelyn Brando (Mrs. Reeves), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Georgann Johnson (doctor), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Randolph Powell (Alan Beam), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Martha Scott (Patricia Shepard), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Keenan Wynn (Digger Barnes)

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 11 – ‘Double Wedding’

Dallas, Double Wedding, Ed Haynes, Pam Ewing, Robin Clarke, Victoria Principal

Forgotten but not gone

“Double Wedding” focuses on the return of Pam’s long-lost first husband, but I’m much more interested in the subplot about Bobby’s bid to build a “wayward boys’” school for his family’s church.

Yes, the Ewings are churchgoers. Who knew?

Initially, Bobby seems poised to win the congregation’s business: Ewing Oil has donated the land for the school and Sue Ellen, a member of the church’s building committee, has recommended him for the job.

But the stuffy church elders are openly skeptical of Bobby’s plans. One clutch-the-pearls snob turns up her nose at Bobby’s architectural drawings, wondering why there are no bars on the school’s windows. Meanwhile, sanctimonious Reverend Thornwood points out Bobby and Pam have been missing from the pews lately.

Later, when Pam’s bigamy scandal explodes, Sue Ellen lectures Bobby. “You know, it’s not so much that it’s immoral,” Sue Ellen says. “The reverend feels that if a man is incapable of handling his family, he’s also incapable of handling his business.”

By populating the Ewings’ congregation with holier-than-thou types, you might think “Dallas” is thumbing its nose at organized religion. And maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just reflecting the prevailing mood of the 1970s, when by many accounts, narcissism ran rampant and Americans grew disenchanted with churchgoing and other social traditions.

“Dallas” appears to underscore this sentiment in the scene where Bobby jokingly tells Pam she’ll have to stop throwing her “weekly wild parties” while he competes for the church’s business. The implication: Young people like Bobby and Pam who don’t attend church regularly aren’t necessarily immoral.

It would’ve been interesting to see “Dallas” continue to explore the Ewings’ relationship with their church. Aside from the ministers we see preside over weddings and funerals in later seasons, references to religion on the show pretty much vanish after this episode.

In addition to the church subplot, I like “Double Wedding” because it offers another strong performance from Victoria Principal, who is heartbreaking in the scene where J.R. reveals Pam’s potential bigamy in front of the family.

David Wayne is also touching in the scene where Digger tries to help his daughter by confronting Ed Haynes, her first husband. Digger is so small and feeble; you can’t help but feel moved by the sight of him standing up to smarmy Haynes.

Until this point on “Dallas,” Digger has been mostly depicted as a self-centered, embittered drunk, so this scene also marks a moment of real growth for the character.

Think about it: Digger Barnes is trying to save his daughter’s marriage to a Ewing. “Dallas” may not be a religious show, but sometimes miracles happen!

Grade: A

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Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Double Wedding, Patrick Duffy

Field trip

‘DOUBLE WEDDING’

Season 2, Episode 6

Airdate: October 21, 1978

Audience: 11.2 million homes, ranking 48th in the weekly ratings

Writers: Jim Inman and Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Paul Stanley

Synopsis: Pam’s first husband surfaces, claiming they’re still married. Pam realizes he’s a con artist after Ewing money and tricks him into abandoning his scheme.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Robin Clarke (Ed Haynes), Sarah Cunningham (Maggie Monahan), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Desmond Dhooge (Harvey), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Charles Hallahan (Harry Ritlin), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Lisa Lemole (Susan), Randy Moore (Reverend Thornwood), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), David Wayne (Digger Barnes)

“Double Wedding” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.