#DallasChat Daily: Which Sister-in-Law Belonged with Bobby?

Abby Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Cally Ewing, Cathy Podewell, Donna Krebbs, Donna Mills, Jenna Wade Krebbs, Joan Van Ark, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Sue Ellen Ewing, Susan Howard, Valene Ewing

Bobby would never steal one of his brother’s wives, but I bet some of those gals wish they had married him instead. So how about we play a little fantasy matchmaking?

Should Sue Ellen or Cally have married Bobby instead of J.R.? If Valene and Abby hadn’t married Gary, would they have been better off as better halves to Bobby? Instead of marrying Ray, should Donna and Jenna have waited around for Bobby to become available?

Your #DallasChat Daily question: Which sister-in-law should have married Bobby?

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

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 126 — ‘Hell Hath No Fury’

Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing

Those eyes

Sue Ellen is the perfect wife, living the perfect life, when “Hell Hath No Fury” begins. She fusses over J.R. at breakfast, smiles when he brings Roy Ralston home for dinner and gazes at him adoringly during his latest appearance on Ralston’s TV show. Of course, this is “Dallas,” so Sue Ellen’s bliss doesn’t last. During a visit to the hair salon, she runs into Holly Harwood, who later confesses to Sue Ellen that she’s having an affair with J.R. Sue Ellen doesn’t want to believe it, so Holly tells her to go home and check his shirt collar. Sure enough, the collar is smeared with Holly’s lipstick. The episode ends with our heroine clutching the garment and sobbing quietly.

Beauty parlor run-ins, lipstick-smeared collars, tear-streaked faces: If this sounds like the stuff of 1950s and 1960s soap operas, I suspect it’s purely intentional. “Dallas” routinely honors the tropes of daytime dramas and Douglas Sirk movies (witness Rebecca Wentworth’s weepy deathbed scene a few episodes earlier). This is something I’ve always admired about the show. The homage presented in “Hell Hath No Fury” is especially fitting: J.R. and Sue Ellen have an old-fashioned marriage; of course it should collapse under old-fashioned circumstances.

I also love how Lois Chiles and Linda Gray handle the material. Chiles is deliciously cunning as Holly, who wants to destroy J.R.’s marriage to get back at him for costing her company millions of dollars in a bungled deal. In the lunch scene, Chiles smiles — ever so slightly — when Holly sees how much her confession hurts Sue Ellen. Gray is wonderful too. This is another example of Gray using her big, expressive eyes to convey the depth of Sue Ellen’s pain. (I’m usually not one to notice makeup, but Gray’s blue eye shadow in this scene is a work of art. Eat your heart out, Donna Mills.) Even more moving: “Hell Hath No Fury’s” closing moments, when Sue Ellen retrieves J.R.’s shirt from the laundry basket, sees the lipstick and weeps. There’s no dialogue, but none is needed. Gray’s tears say it all.

If Sue Ellen’s marital turmoil in “Hell Hath No Fury” has an unmistakable retro vibe, then Pam’s feels slyly modern. Pam, who is now living in a hotel because she feels Bobby’s ambition has changed him, calls her husband at the office and invites him over for a drink. The couple spends the evening reminiscing, but when Bobby tries to leave, Pam kisses him passionately until they slump back onto the sofa. The next morning, she awakens to find Bobby planning her move back to Southfork. Pam corrects him: Just because she spent the night with Bobby doesn’t mean she’s ready to take him back. Bobby is aghast. “You make me feel like I should give you a bill for services rendered,” he seethes.

Oh, how I love this. How often have we seen the men of “Dallas” treat women as vessels for sexual satisfaction? Isn’t it refreshing to see a woman do the same thing? This entire sequence is about Pam acknowledging that she has sexual needs and fulfilling them. She calls Bobby and invites him over for a drink. When he declares it’s time to go home, she lets him know that she wants him to stay. And in the morning, when Bobby assumes Pam will now come back to him, she sets him straight. Don’t get me wrong: I feel bad for Bobby when he brushes past that chump Mark Graison on his way out of the hotel, and I believe Pam is wrong later in the episode when she agrees to accompany Mark to France. She is married, after all, and if she believes Mark is going to keep his promise to leave her alone during the trip, she’s a fool. Nevertheless, I applaud “Dallas” for depicting Pam as a woman who isn’t afraid to express her sexuality.

I’m also charmed by the scene where Bobby and Pam recall the first time they met. Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal’s chemistry is effortless, and I love how Arthur Bernard Lewis’s dialogue honors “Dallas” history. Pam remembers arriving at a Ewing barbecue on Ray’s arm and being surprised to discover the family isn’t as monstrous as Digger led her to believe. I also like how the scene ends with Duffy reaching behind him to turn off the lamp while locking lips with Principal. She does something similar during another reunion with Bobby in the eighth-season finale “Swan Song.” Along these lines, I also chuckle when Bobby greets Pam in “Hell Hath No Fury” with a winking “good morning.” This won’t be the last time he’ll say these words to her, will it?

The other highlight of “Hell Hath No Fury”: J.R.’s latest appearance on “Talk Time,” Ralston’s TV show. In typical J.R. style, the guest spot is part of a convoluted scheme. J.R. needs to find a way to visit Cuba so he can claim millions of dollars owed to him in an illegal deal, but of course Uncle Sam doesn’t know allow just anyone to visit the communist outpost. So J.R. goes on Ralston’s show and talks up the need for “businessmen” to get more involved in foreign affairs, apparently hoping his comments will inspire the State Department to send him to Cuba on a diplomatic mission. Whatever. Forget this absurd backstory and focus instead on how J.R. describes for Ralston his philosophy of government. “Government is big business. The biggest,” he says. “They’re in the police business and the land management business, the health and education business. All those bureaus are just departments of one big department store.” Does this not sound like the kind of rhetoric we’ve heard from real-life politicians for years?

Lewis’s script also offers a couple of pop culture references that make me smile. When Ralston visits Southfork, he suggests filming an interview with J.R. and Sue Ellen at the ranch, the way Edward R. Murrow once conducted interviews with celebrities in their living rooms on “Person to Person.” TV historians will recall Murrow’s show was a Friday night staple on CBS in the 1950s, a few decades before “Dallas” became a Friday fixture. In another scene, Holly lashes out at Bobby for interfering with J.R.’s Cuban deal. “You had to play James Bond and prevent the deal from going through,” she fumes. The line, which is clearly a reference to Chiles’s role in “Moonraker,” raises a question: If Bobby is Bond, does that make J.R. Blofeld?

Grade: B


Dallas, Hell Hath No Fury, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

That smile


Season 6, Episode 23

Airdate: March 18, 1983

Audience: 20.8 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Ernest Pintoff

Synopsis: J.R. schemes to get the government’s permission to visit Cuba. To get back at J.R., Holly tricks him into believing she wants him, then lies and tells Sue Ellen that J.R. is her lover. Mark talks Pam into letting him accompany her on a trip to France. Bobby worries his Canadian field won’t come in. Lucy and Mickey continue to date.

Cast: John Anderson (Richard McIntyre), John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), James Brown (Detective Harry McSween), William Bryant (Jackson), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Fay Hauser (Annie), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Kenneth Kimmins (Thornton McLeish), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Tom McFadden (Jackson’s partner), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Ben Piazza (Walt Driscoll), Ron Ellington Shy (singer), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), John Reilly (Roy Ralston), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“Hell Hath No Fury” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Knots Landing’ Episode 59 — ‘New Beginnings’

J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman, New Beginnings

Home field advantage

“New Beginnings” is chockablock with trivia. Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy both guest star in this “Knots Landing” episode, the only time two marquee players from “Dallas” appear in the same hour of the spinoff series. (Eric Farlow, who was little Christopher Ewing on “Dallas,” pops up too, along with Philip Levien, who had two roles on “Dallas” and appears here as a record producer.) “New Beginnings” also marked the only time “Knots Landing” followed its parent show in CBS’s Friday night lineup. Not only did this allow the spinoff to crack Nielsen’s weekly top 10 for the first time, the episode’s audience — viewers in 21.3 million homes tuned in — makes “New Beginnings” the most-watched “Knots Landing” broadcast ever.

This also happens to be one of Hagman’s most satisfying “Knots Landing” guest spots. In most of J.R.’s earlier visits to the show, the writers strained to come up with excuses to bring the Texas oil baron to the suburbs of Southern California. (The biggest eye-roller: J.R. shows up to steal the prototype for the environmentally friendly car engine that Sid Fairgate is building in his garage.) “New Beginnings” deftly avoids this dilemma by having all of J.R. and Bobby’s scenes take place in Dallas, where Gary has come for the reading of Jock’s will. This solution is so simple — instead of bringing J.R. to “Knots Landing,” take “Knots Landing” to him — you have to wonder why the producers didn’t try it sooner.

Even though J.R. and Bobby are on their home turf, scriptwriter Mann Rubin keeps the spotlight on Gary, whose storyline dominates this episode. In “Jock’s Will,” the “Dallas” segment that sets up “New Beginnings,” Gary learns his late father left him $10 million, but the inheritance comes with strings attached: For the first few years, Gary is entitled only to the interest the money earns. Gary then spends most of “New Beginnings” pouting about the terms of the will, until he finally realizes he isn’t angry at Jock; he’s sad that his dad is dead.

The scene where Gary explains this epiphany to his girlfriend Abby is quite poignant. Jock and Gary never quite figured out how to relate to each other; now they’ll never get another chance to try. Shackelford is adept at making the audience feel the rage that’s always brewing within Gary, but he also does a nice job in scenes like this, which demonstrates how much of his character’s anger is rooted in heartbreak. Later, when Gary stands up to J.R., you can tell Shackelford is enjoying the opportunity to remind the audience that his character does, in fact, have a backbone. Shackelford also has a good scene at the top of the hour, when Bobby gently reminds Gary that his inheritance, even though it comes with strings, is nothing to scoff at. (More trivia: This will be Duffy and Shackelford’s last scene together until their recent reunion on TNT’s “Dallas.”)

In addition to bringing Abby into the mix, Rubin’s script makes room Gary’s other love, estranged wife Valene. In the episode’s first scene, after director Lorraine Senna shows us a sweeping aerial shot of the Dallas skyline while the familiar “Dallas” theme music plays, we watch as Abby arrives at Gary’s hotel to surprise him. Unbeknownst to them, Val is also staying at the hotel while in town to publicize her new Ewing-inspired novel, “Capricorn Crude.” The two women have several close calls throughout the episode but never run into each other until the last scene, when they both respond to a bellhop’s page for “Mrs. Gary Ewing.” The exchange that follows is appropriately bitchy (“Success seems to agree with you” says Abby; “I might say the same about you,” replies Val), but it’s also kind of bittersweet. This is especially true when the slow, sentimental version of the “Knots Landing” theme begins playing under the dialogue.

Of course, Donna Mills and Joan Van Ark have their best moments with Hagman. When Gary leaves the hotel to visit Southfork, J.R. visits Abby, who asks him why he feels so threatened by his ne’er-do-well middle brother. J.R.’s response is revealing. “That man is full of anger and frustration. Maybe even hatred, I don’t know. If he ever channeled all that energy … well, it could make my life miserable,” he says. Later, Val is signing books in the hotel gift shop when she looks up and sees the next person in line is none other than J.R. “I bought it fair and square with the promise that you’d autograph it for me,” he says with mock innocence. Her hissed response: “You are disgusting.”

The scene really does nothing to advance the storyline in this episode, yet it’s still the most entertaining exchange during the hour. This is the last time we ever see Val clash with J.R., which might make the scene kind of sad — if it wasn’t so much fun.

Grade: A


Gary Ewing, Knots Landing, New Beginnings, Ted Shackelford

Man of the hour


“Knots Landing” Season 4, Episode 6

Airdate: October 29, 1982

Audience: 21.3 million homes, ranking 4th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Mann Rubin

Director: Lorraine Senna

Synopsis: Gary is angry about the strings attached to his inheritance from Jock but comes to accept it with help from Abby. J.R. tells Val he bought the company that published her book.

Cast: Rita Crafts (customer), Kevin Dobson (Mack MacKenzie), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Reynaldo Duran (bellhop), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Julie Harris (Lilimae Clements), Lisa Hartman (Ciji Dunne), James Houghton (Kenny Ward), Dudley Knight (bookstore manager), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Philip Levien (Andy), Claudia Lonow (Diana Fairgate), Donna Mills (Abby Cunningham), Pat Petersen (Michael Fairgate), Michael Sabatino (Chip Roberts), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Louise Sorel (Bess Riker), Steve Shaw (Eric Fairgate), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing), James Winkler (desk clerk)

Share your comments about “New Beginnings” below.

The Art of Knots Landing: ‘Daniel’

Abby Cunningham, Daniel, Donna Mills, J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing, Larry Hagman

J.R. and Abby (Larry Hagman, Donna Mills) have a meeting of the minds in this 1982 publicity shot from “Daniel,” a fourth-season “Knots Landing” episode.

Knots Landing Scene of the Day: ‘The Crown Stays in Dallas’

Abby Cunningham, Daniel, Donna Mills, J.R. Ewing, Knots Landing

The king’s speech

In “Daniel,” a fourth-season “Knots Landing” episode, Abby and J.R. (Donna Mills, Larry Hagman) are in his hotel room, where she gives him the missing chapters of Val’s book.

ABBY: As promised, chapters 2, 5, 6, 11 and 18. [Places each chapter on a table]

J.R.: [Pouring two glasses of champagne] Good, good.

ABBY: Now, the will?

J.R.: You don’t think I brought a copy with me, do you?

ABBY: Well, I guess I can wait until tomorrow.

J.R.: Honey, you’re going to have to wait until it’s read. I don’t even have a copy.

ABBY: [Angry] Wait a minute!

J.R.: [Reassuring] I know what’s in the will — generally speaking. And generally is all you need to know, isn’t it? [Abby sighs.] Gary’s coming into money. Big money. Valene’s got nothing to do with it. Now, feel better? [Hands her a glass of champagne]

ABBY: [Giggling] Oh, yes. [They clink glasses and each take a sip.] Yes, indeed.

J.R.: Oh, my poor little baby brother. You’re just going to eat him alive, aren’t you?

ABBY: [Sits on the sofa] What makes you think I want to do a thing like that?

J.R.: Well, drink’s not the only thing he can’t handle.

ABBY: He handles me very nicely, thank you.

J.R.: [Chuckles] That’s not what I’m talking about. You know, when Gary was 16, he somehow got it into his head that he wanted a motorcycle. And our family spoiled us boys rotten. But on this issue, my daddy put his foot down. He says, “You want a motorcycle? You’re going to have to earn it.” And by God, he did. Before dawn, up every day, mucking out the stables and pitching hay. Working on the rigs in the blazing sun. He just never missed one single day. Come September, my daddy took him down to the showroom. Gave him a slap on the back and a blank check. And of course, Gary had read all the brochures and motorcycle magazines. He knew exactly what he wanted. And he signed the check and revved that old motorcycle up. He drove straight through that plate-glass window. [Chuckles] I tell you.

ABBY: Some people take longer to grow up.

J.R.: Well, that’s true. [Sits next to her] And then of course some people never grow up at all. Are you really going to marry him?

ABBY: I love him.

J.R.: You mean that? Hmm? [He tries to kiss her. She resists.] Well if you do mean it, keep him out of my showroom.

ABBY: Your showroom?

J.R.: Keep him out of Dallas.

ABBY: What makes you think that I want to be in Dallas?

J.R.: You’re not Valene. When they were together, he wouldn’t come within spitting distance of me. But you’re different. You want to be queen of the Ewings.

ABBY: [Smiles] No. I’ll settle for princess.

J.R.: All right, you’ve got it. You get the ermine and the jewels. But the crown stays in Dallas. Because the crown is mine.

ABBY: If I do keep Gary out of Dallas, what do I get in return?

J.R.: [Strokes her hair, grins] My blessing.

Critique: ‘Knots Landing’ Episode 55 — ‘Daniel’

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


J.R. Ewing is sitting across from Abby Cunningham in his hotel room, where he’s invited her to join him for a seafood lunch. Of course, J.R. wants more from Abby than her company. She promised to sneak him a copy of Val’s soon-to-be-published novel about the Ewings, but Abby sent only a handful of chapters. When J.R. tells her he wants to see the whole manuscript, Abby says she can arrange it — if J.R. lets her know what Gary’s going to inherit in Jock’s will. J.R. tries to charm his way out of giving up this information, but Abby won’t hear it. She fixes a steely gaze upon J.R., picks up a crab leg and — crunch! — cracks it in two. Our hero has met his match.

This is one of several terrific scenes in the “Knots Landing” episode “Daniel,” although my favorite moment comes later, when Abby returns to J.R.’s hotel room with the missing chapters from Val’s book. J.R. keeps up his end of the bargain too, telling her that Gary will soon come into “big money” courtesy of Jock’s will. J.R. then launches into a story about how a teenaged Gary spent one summer working at Southfork to earn the motorcycle he desperately wanted. That September, Jock took him to the showroom, where Gary picked out his bike, revved it up — and drove it through the dealership’s plate-glass window. The purpose of J.R.’s tale: He wants Abby to keep Gary out of his showroom. “Your showroom?” she asks. “Keep him out of Dallas,” J.R. responds.

The metaphor isn’t all that elegant, but no matter. I love watching Larry Hagman in this scene. He delivers every word of J.R.’s speech with a downhome, folksy charm. In J.R. speak, the word “motorcycle” becomes “motor-sickle.” Next to the parable about the blind horse that J.R. shares with John Ross during an early episode of TNT’s “Dallas,” this might be Hagman’s most memorable monologue. It makes me wish he had taken this act to the stage. Imagine: a one-man show where Larry Hagman tells stories, in character as J.R., about growing up on Southfork. It could’ve been this generation’s “Mark Twain Tonight.”

Donna Mills doesn’t have much to do in this scene, but she holds her own against Hagman nonetheless. In J.R.’s previous visits to “Knots Landing,” when Abby was still a new character, the writers tried to elevate her to his level by having him fawn over her (J.R. to Abby in “A Family Matter,” a second-season “Knots Landing” episode: “You know, you are the most delicious conniver it’s been my pleasure to encounter.”). In “Daniel,” with Abby’s bona fides established, we see her and J.R. try to outmaneuver each other, which proves much more entertaining. I especially like when J.R. tells Abby she wants to be “queen” of the Ewing family. “No. I’ll settle for princess,” she purrs. J.R.’s response: “You’ve got it. You get the ermine and the jewels. But the crown stays in Dallas. Because the crown is mine.”

“Daniel” also includes a terrific scene where J.R. shows up unexpectedly on Val’s doorstep. Hagman and Joan Van Ark are always electric, especially when J.R. is pretending to be nice to Val. His “compliment” on her recent redecorating (“I just love what y’all have done with this room. It’s … it’s really you.”) is sublime. As an added bonus, this scene also features a brief encounter between J.R. and Lilimae, which reunited Hagman with Julie Harris, his co-star in the 1959 Broadway production of “The Warm Peninsula.” The best exchange, though, comes when J.R. is introduced to Val’s book editor Joe Cooper, played by Stephen Macht:

J.R.: Her editor? Oh, well it is true, then. You know, there’s been rumors flying all around Dallas about a book called “Corn Crude” or “Crude Porn” or “Corn Pone.”

Joe: “Capricorn Crude.”

J.R.: Yeah, that’s it!

“Daniel” was written by John Pleshette, the great actor who played Richard Avery on “Knots Landing.” Besides J.R.’s appearance, the episode is probably best remembered as the segment where Richard wrecks his car while driving pregnant wife Laura to the hospital, forcing him to deliver their child in the backseat. I watched it with my mom on the night it first aired, but the only thing I remembered were the credits rolling over a shot of Laura holding the child, whom she and Richard name “Daniel.” Seeing the episode again recently (it isn’t available on DVD, but you can find recordings online), I was gripped by the childbirth sequence. The baby isn’t breathing when he’s born, so Richard must force air into his lungs. It’s a touching performance and a reminder that on “Knots Landing,” even jerks like Richard can occasionally be heroes.

Grade: A


Constance McCashin, Daniel, Knots Landing

Special delivery


“Knots Landing” Season 4, Episode 2

Airdate: October 7, 1982

Audience: 14 million homes, ranking 28th in the weekly ratings

Writer: John Pleshette

Director: Joseph B. Wallenstein

Synopsis: J.R. visits Knots Landing and wishes Val success on her novel, then secretly buys the company that published the book. After J.R. tips Abby off to Gary’s inheritance, she sneaks him an advance copy of Val’s manuscript.

Cast: Tonya Crowe (Olivia Cunningham), Kevin Dobson (Mack MacKenzie), Hank Garrett (Frank), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Julie Harris (Lilimae Clements), Lisa Hartman (Ciji Dunne), James Houghton (Kenny Ward), Robert Jayne (Brian Cunningham), Kim Lankford (Ginger Ward), Michele Lee (Karen Fairgate), Claudia Lonow (Diana Fairgate), Stephen Macht (Joe Cooper), Constance McCashin (Laura Avery), Richard McMurray (Glen Needham), Donna Mills (Abby Cunningham), Harry Northrup (Wayne Harkness), Pat Petersen (Michael Fairgate), John Pleshette (Richard Avery), Danny Ponce (Jason Avery), Marcia Solomon (Masha), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing), Lesley Woods (Martha Needham)

Share your comments about “Daniel” below.

The Dallas Decoder Guide to Surviving a Hostage Crisis

Blame Game, Dallas, Drew Ramos, Kuno Becker, TNT

Drew to the rescue

In “Blame Game,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode, Vicente Cano ambushes Southfork and holds the Ewings captive. Dumb move, Vicente. These people are experts at surviving hostage crises, as they demonstrated time and again on the original “Dallas” and its “Knots Landing” spinoff. Let them show you how.

Charlene Tilton, Cooper Huckabee, Dallas, Lucy Ewing, Payton Allen

Light her fire

Beware of cute boys with shaggy hair. The best way to survive hostage crises is to avoid them altogether – a lesson Lucy (Charlene Tilton) learned the hard way. When Payton Allen (Cooper Huckabee) showed up at Southfork one windy afternoon, she flirted with him shamelessly – until he took her whole family hostage. Eight episodes later, when Lucy saw Willie Gust at a roadside diner, she gave him a coquettish glance. His response: taking her hostage as he traversed Texas in his far-out custom van, waging a one-man crime spree.

Brian Dennehy, Dallas, Greg Evigan, Luther Frick, Willie Gust

Bear and B.J.

Don’t get star-struck. Once you find yourself in a hostage situation, you may notice that at least one of your captors looks familiar. In the Ewings’ cases, Willie (Greg Evigan) bore a striking resemblance to that one guy who used to ride around in a semi-truck with a monkey (or that one guy who raised a daughter with Paul Reiser), while Luther Frick (Brian Dennehy), Payton’s partner in crime, looked an awful lot like that one guy who’s been in everything. Don’t let this cause you to lower your defenses. Remember: These are bad men!

Dallas, Ginger Ward, Joan Van Ark, Karen Fairgate, Kim Lankford, Knots Landing, Michele Lee, Valene Ewing

Please, Karen. Not again.

Stay calm. Don’t let this picture mislead you. When Val (Joan Van Ark) threw a baby shower for her Seaview Circle neighbor Ginger (Kim Lankford) and armed robbers burst in and took everyone hostage, the ladies remained admirably restrained. The only reason they look panicked here is because Karen (Michele Lee) was threatening to recite her famous “Pollyanna speech” for the umpteenth time. Kidding! We love you, Karen. And you’re right: Nice should be the norm. If only the hostage-takers of the world felt that way!

Dallas, Linda Gray, Peter Ellington, Philip Anglim, Sue Ellen Ewing

Hurt her and you’ll answer to us

Keep your priorities straight. J.R. was hashing out a big oil deal with Bobby, Ray and Carter McKay when he discovered McKay’s nutty protégé Peter Ellington (Philip Anglim) was holding Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) at gunpoint in the next room. So what did J.R. do? He finished negotiating his deal of course! Once that was settled, J.R. let everyone know what was happening on the other side of the door so they could rescue Sue Ellen. Hey, don’t look so surprised. These are Ewings we’re talking about. Oil comes first. Always.

Abby Ewing, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

Hi, bob

Always look your best. When villainous Mark St. Clair took Gary’s second wife Abby (Donna Mills) hostage in the back of a limousine during the final moments of “Knots Landing’s” 1983-84 season, her flaxen hair fell onto her shoulders. The following fall’s season premiere picked up moments later, yet Abby was now sporting a chic bob. How? Why? It was never explained. Perhaps she gave herself a trim to ensure she’d be camera-ready in case the press showed up to cover her eventual rescue. Now that’s thinking like a Ewing.

Abby Cunningham, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

She never liked Val’s curtains anyway

Give Abby the weapon. Speaking of Abby: If you’re able to wrest control of your captor’s weapon and she happens to be nearby, by all means toss the instrument to her. She’ll know what to do with it. During Val’s baby-shower-from-hell, Abby used a fire extinguisher to blow away one of the bad guys (literally!). Later, during her own hostage crisis, Abby managed to grab St. Clair’s gun and turn it on him. In that instance, her rescuer Greg Sumner insisted she give him the gun. Just like him to waltz in and take over a show, isn’t it?

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

What’s the big deal?

Master the art of the fake-out. When J.R. (Larry Hagman) went to an abandoned theme park to negotiate the kidnapped John Ross’s release, the boy’s captor, B.D. Calhoun, thought J.R. was alone. Wrong! Bobby and Ray secretly tagged along and helped J.R. stage a daring rescue of his son. Years earlier, J.R. and Ray pulled a similar stunt when they helped Cliff negotiate Bobby’s release from a trio of dim-witted kidnappers. In that instance, Cliff was almost killed, which seemed to upset a lot of people. J.R. never understood why.

Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Ewing

Command performance

When all else fails, sing! If your captors are anything like the bad guys the Ewings encounter, chances are they’re going to want you to sing. Don’t ask why; apparently this is something hostage-takers do. You could be like Sue Ellen, who sobbed her way through Barbra Streisand’s “People” for Frick and Allen, or you could play it like Lucy, who was forced to enter a talent competition by Willie and absolutely killed it with her rendition of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” It was a great performance, but we wonder: Why didn’t Lucy sing “Rescue Me” instead?

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

The Dal-List: Classic ‘Dallas’s’ 5 Most Meddlesome Mamas

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

Boss mom

Judith Light is making quite a mark on TNT’s “Dallas,” where her cunning character, Judith Brown Ryland, exerts enormous influence over equally sadistic son Harris. Of course, Mrs. Ryland isn’t this franchise’s first meddlesome mama. Here’s a look at five others from the original “Dallas” and its “Knots Landing” spinoff, ranked in order from least intrusive to most.

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Boys’ mama

5. Miss Ellie Ewing. Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) spent most of her time quietly fretting about her sons and their wives, but occasionally she couldn’t help but stick her nose in their business. Like the time she called out J.R. for allowing Sue Ellen’s drinking to spiral out of control. Or the time she suggested the newly divorced Sue Ellen stop dating Cliff. Or the time she pressured Ray – gently, of course – into confessing his financial failings. Did the Ewings mind Miss Ellie’s interference? I doubt it. I mean, look at that woman’s kind face. How could anyone ever get mad at Mama?

Dallas, Priscilla Pointer, Rebecca Barnes Wentworth

Mommy’s revenge

4. Rebecca Wentworth. For a long time, Rebecca (Priscilla Pointer), Cliff and Pam’s mom, wasn’t meddlesome enough: She abandoned her kids when they were little and allowed them to believe she was dead. Once Cliff and Pam grew up, Rebecca re-entered their lives and tried to make up for lost time, but she overcorrected a bit, like the time she told Cliff to stop seeing Sue Ellen. Later, while Cliff was recovering from a suicide attempt, Rebecca browbeat him into resuming his war against the Ewings, even buying him his own oil company so he’d have a platform to launch his attacks. Gee, thanks Mom.

Abby Cunningham Ewing Sumner, Dallas, Donna Mills, Knots Landing

Maternal affairs

3. Abby Cunningham. Abby (Donna Mills) was a pretty good mom, although sometimes she was more smothering than mothering. Remember when she ordered daughter Olivia to stop seeing Harold Dyer, just because he was in the mob? Or how about when Olivia suspected Abby of killing her crush, Peter Hollister? Abby didn’t really do it, but the fact that Olivia thought Abby was capable of murder tells you what kind of mom she could be. Then there was the time Abby flipped out after discovering Olivia was using drugs. Oh, Abby. It was the ’80s. Girls just wanted to have fun!

Dallas, Martha Scott, Patricia Shepard

Mother wants best

2. Patricia Shepard. This one warrants a psychological dissertation. Patricia (Martha Scott), mother to Sue Ellen and Kristin, only wanted the best for her girls – and I mean that literally. When J.R. was courting Sue Ellen, Patricia didn’t think he was rich enough. Of course, once they wed, Patricia came around – so much so that when Sue Ellen began to lose interest in her marriage, Patricia began grooming Kristin to replace her as the next Mrs. J.R. Ewing. Weird! Later, Patricia softened and even made amends with Sue Ellen – but that turned out to be part of Pam’s dream. Thanks for nothing, Pam.

Alexis Smith, Dallas, Lady Jessica Montford

Serial mom

1. Lady Jessica Montford. This loony lady could out-meddle them all. Jessica (Alexis Smith) was the biological mother of Dusty Farlow, although he grew up believing she was his aunt (don’t ask). Jessica committed all manner of evil in Dusty’s name, including murdering a bunch of people to ensure he’d inherit a big chunk of Westar stock. Her killing spree was pretty heinous, but if you ask me, Jessica’s vilest crime was the time she knocked out Miss Ellie and stuffed her in a car trunk. Sorry Lady Jessica, but when you did that, you broke Dallas Decoder’s cardinal rule: Never mess with Mama!

Which “Dallas” mamas do you consider most meddlesome? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

After ‘Dallas’: 7 Shows That Aired in TV’s Best Time Slot

Monday Mornings, TNT

Who the hell are these people?

Stick around after “Dallas” tonight and you’ll see the debut of “Monday Mornings,” a weekly medical drama that – in the words of TNT’s press release – “follows the lives of doctors as they push the limits of their abilities and confront their personal and professional failings.” Back in the ’80s, the post-“Dallas” time slot – Friday nights at 10 – was some of the hottest real estate in prime time. Do you remember the other shows that tried to ride J.R.’s coattails to the top of the Nielsen charts?

“Falcon Crest”



Well, of course you remember this one. “Falcon Crest” debuted December 4, 1981, and followed “Dallas” on Friday nights for almost its entire nine-season run. (CBS bumped the show to Thursdays for its final four episodes.) The series starred the great Jane Wyman as the indomitable Angela Channing, who ruled the Northern California wine country the way J.R. ruled Big D. Wyman’s co-stars included Lorenzo Lamas, whose playboy Lance Cumson was the John Ross Ewing of his day. “Falcon Crest” also starred Robert Foxworth, a fine actor who turned down the role of J.R. in 1978 because he feared the character wasn’t likable enough. For this, we thank him.


Washington women

Women at war

Wasn’t “Capitol” a daytime soap opera, you ask? Yes it was. But on March 26, 1982, three days before the serial joined CBS’s afternoon lineup (where it was sandwiched between “As the World Turns” and “Guiding Light”), “Capitol” got a one-hour preview after “Dallas.” The show was set in Washington, D.C., and told the story of two families: the McCandlesses and the Cleggs, who fought over politics the way the Barneses and the Ewings feuded over oil. Instead of old coots like Jock and Digger, “Capitol” gave us two grand dames: Constance Towers as Clarissa McCandless and Carolyn Jones – a.k.a. Morticia Addams – as Myrna Clegg. How progressive!

“Knots Landing”

Three’s a crowd, Gary

Three’s a crowd, Gary

“Dallas” and “Knots Landing” were made to go together, but the spinoff followed its parent in CBS’s lineup exactly once: October 29, 1982. That evening, Gary (Ted Shackelford) visited “Dallas” for the reading of Jock’s will, and the story continued on a special “Knots Landing” episode in which J.R. (Larry Hagman) canoodled with his middle brother’s latest squeeze Abby (Donna Mills). If CBS’s goal was to goose “Knots Landing’s” numbers, the plan worked: That week, “Dallas” finished first in the ratings and “Knots Landing” finished fourth. It was “Knots Landing’s” most-watched episode ever and the first time the show cracked Nielsen’s top 10.

“The Mississippi”

All wet

All wet

When “Falcon Crest” finished its second season early, CBS used the post-“Dallas” time slot to try out “The Mississippi,” which began a six-week run on March 25, 1983. The series starred “The Waltons” dad Ralph Waite as Ben Walker, a tugboat captain who also fought crime with help from sidekick Stella McMullen (Linda G. Miller). “The Mississippi” was an instant hit and earned its own slot on CBS’s fall 1983 schedule: Tuesday nights at 8. But without the benefit of a “Dallas” lead-in, “The Mississippi’s” audience dried up. (Oh, stop groaning. You knew that was coming.) In 1997, Waite appeared on Hagman’s “Orleans,” another CBS riverboats-and-crime drama.

“Hard Copy”

Get them rewrite!

Get them rewrite!

“Hard Copy” starred Michael Murphy as Andy Omart, a scribe for the Los Angeles Morning Post; Wendy Crewson as fellow newshound Blake Calisher; and Dean Devlin as David Del Valle (or was it David Del Valle as Dean Devlin?), a cub reporter. Also featured: George O. Petrie – a.k.a. Ewing family consigliere Harv Smithfield – as Scoop Webster. CBS launched “Hard Copy” after Super Bowl XXI (Giants stomp the Broncos, 39 to 20) in January 1987, where it bombed. In May, the network moved the show to Fridays, where it followed summertime “Dallas” reruns and bombed again. CBS stopped the presses for good six weeks later.

“Beauty and the Beast”

Once upon a time

Once upon a time

If you remember “Beauty and the Beast” airing before “Dallas,” you’re right. But before the romantic fantasy/action show moved to the pre-Southfork slot, CBS aired its pilot after “Dallas’s” 11th season premiere on September 25, 1987. You’ll recall that was the night Pam was rescued from her fiery car crash. Perhaps CBS thought seeing Pam wrapped in bandages would help viewers mentally prepare to meet Vincent (Ron Perlman), the lion-like creature who made Catherine Chandler (Linda Hamilton) swoon. Vincent’s face was hidden in all the show’s pre-debut publicity, including TV Guide’s fall preview; the hairy mug wasn’t revealed until the premiere.

“Sons & Daughters”

Circle unbroken?

Circle unbroken?

“Dallas’s” final dance partner, “Sons & Daughters,” debuted January 4, 1991, four months before the Ewings rode off into the sunset. The “Parenthood”-style series starred Don Murray as Bing Hammersmith, the patriarch of a quirky family that included Lucie Arnaz as his eldest daughter Tess. CBS planned to call the show “The Hammersmiths” and pair it with Murray’s previous series, “Knots Landing,” on Thursdays, but when Fox shifted its red-hot “The Simpsons” to that night, CBS changed the title to “Sons & Daughters” and shifted it to Fridays. “Sons & Daughters” was set in Portland, Oregon – just like “Monday Mornings.” We’ve come full circle, folks.

What did you enjoy watching after “Dallas” on Friday nights? Share your memories below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Knots Landing Scene of the Day: ‘You Won’t Cheat Old J.R.’

Fine lady, fine print

Fine lady, fine print

In “Knots Landing’s” second-season episode “Designs,” Abby (Donna Mills) meets with J.R. (Larry Hagman) in his hotel room.

J.R.: Now, you see? You didn’t need Gary after all, did you?

ABBY: No, but I wanted him.

J.R.: Disappointed?

ABBY: I’ll live. [Rises from her seat, shows J.R. a legal document]

J.R.: What’s this?

ABBY: A contract. A girl has to protect herself.

J.R.: In Texas, a man’s word is worth a whole lot more than a little piece of paper.

ABBY: We’re in California.

J.R.: [Chuckles, sits, signs it] OK.

ABBY: Aren’t you going to read it?

J.R.: No. You’re not going to cheat old J.R. [Hands her the paper] There you are. Now that’s finished, partner.

ABBY: For the time being.

J.R.: You know, now that we’ve consummated that, I’m getting a little restless.

ABBY: Well, maybe that you ought to learn how to relax.

J.R.: Oh, Abby, I know how to relax. [Pulls her onto the sofa, kisses her]