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

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

Look back

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


Friday, August 15

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

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


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

First time for everything

Saturday, August 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Leg up

Sunday, August 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 31 — ‘Like Father, Like Son’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Like Father Like Son, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT


Josh Henderson is a revelation in “Like Father, Like Son.” I’ve admired Henderson’s work on “Dallas” from the beginning, but I didn’t know he was capable of the kind of performance he delivers in this episode. In some scenes, I want to reach through my screen and break John Ross in two; in others, my heart breaks for him. This reminds me of the early days of the original series, when we were beginning to discover what J.R. Ewing and Larry Hagman were made of. John Ross is becoming as bad as J.R.; will we one day say Henderson is as good as Hagman? Time will tell, but what a thrilling prospect to consider.

The dramatic highpoint in “Like Father, Like Son” is the scene where John Ross confronts Sue Ellen over her betrayal. This is a two-minute emotional roller coaster, and Henderson brings us along for the whole gut-wrenching ride. We feel everything John Ross does: his rage when he storms into his mother’s house, his incredulity when she accuses him of cheating, his disappointment when he realizes how drunk she is. I especially love when John Ross holds up Sue Ellen’s bottle of booze and says, “Why are you doing this to yourself again, huh?” It’s one of the best lines in Julia Cohen’s taut script because it shows how much John Ross cares about Sue Ellen while inviting us to consider what it must have been like for him to grow up with an alcoholic mother. As much time as I’ve devoted to “Dallas” over the years, I’m not sure that’s something I’ve thought much about until now.

Of course, nothing gives me chills like the moment John Ross slams his hand on Sue Ellen’s kitchen counter and exclaims, “I am not my father!” Henderson delivers the line with such uncontrolled force, it feels like the most genuine thing John Ross has ever said. Indeed, his statement is very true: John Ross loves J.R. and takes pride in being his son, as evidenced by the fact that he runs around wearing Daddy’s wristwatch. But I believe John Ross sees himself as being a better man than J.R. We witnessed this in the first-season classic “Family Business,” when John Ross urged J.R. to return ownership of Southfork to the cancer-stricken Bobby, and we see it again in this episode, when John Ross rejects Candace’s overtures. (Would J.R. have turned down the advances of a comely secretary?) This is why Sue Ellen’s accusations sting her son more than we might have expected.

Yet no matter how much John Ross might want to think of himself as being “better” than J.R, he can’t resist all of his dark impulses: At the end of “Like Father, Like Son,” John Ross takes advantage of Sue Ellen’s relapse by blackmailing Judge Blackwell to send her to rehab against her will. (Blackwell: “You certainly are just like your father.” John Ross: “You hear that enough, eventually you start to believe it.”) Is John Ross doing this because it will help his mother, or because it will make it easier for him to take Ewing Global public and seize control of the company? Perhaps we’ll never know, and maybe in John Ross’s mind, there’s no difference. I’m not sure J.R. saw too many distinctions when he committed Sue Ellen to a sanitarium during the original “Dallas.” Yes, J.R. knew his wife needed help for her alcoholism, but he was also eager to get her out of the way before she spilled their marital secrets to the rest of the family.

Regardless of John Ross’s motivation, I admire Henderson’s willingness to take his character into such dark territory. I also have to hand it to Linda Gray, who fearlessly takes Sue Ellen back to her roots. In the confrontation with John Ross, Sue Ellen stands in her kitchen, drinking openly; there’s no more discreet nipping from the flask. This is not the confident, successful Sue Ellen we’ve come to know; this is the old-school, deeply vulnerable Sue Ellen. She lashes out at John Ross and blames him for her problems (“You did this to me!”), just like she used to do with J.R. I’ve gotten so used to seeing Gray play Sue Ellen as a functional alcoholic, it’s surprising to see the character lose control like this.

The most startling moment: John Ross denies he’s cheating and Sue Ellen screams, “Bullshit!” Did you ever dream you’d see Miss Texas use this kind of language? It’s shocking, and yet it makes perfect sense: The love of Sue Ellen’s life is dead, her relationship with her son is broken, and now she’s back on the bottle. Sue Ellen’s entire identity is slipping away; of course her sense of decorum would go with it. I also love Gray’s reaction shots during this sequence. As John Ross loses control and gets choked up, so does Sue Ellen. Just as our hearts break for John Ross, so does hers. It’s similar to what Gray did in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” when she became the audience’s avatar and allowed us to express our grief through her. Will someone please give this woman an Emmy already?

Together, Sue Ellen’s relapse and John Ross’s descent into full-fledged J.R.-dom fit with the broader theme of “Like Father, Like Son,” which shows how the “Dallas” characters struggle to break old patterns. We also see this when Ann urges Emma to find a man who will love her and not use her for sex. The pained expression on Emma Bell’s face at the end of this scene suggests Ann’s words have sunk in, but of course Emma later has, ahem, relations with John Ross in exchange for the file he wants on the judge. (After he satisfies her — without ever undressing himself, notably — she tells him, “Now go home and kiss your wife.” This might be “Dallas’s” naughtiest moment ever.) Even Bobby gives in to his baser instincts, using his new position as the railroad commissioner to threaten Nicolas. I suppose I should chastise “Dallas” for once again taking a dim view of public service, but at least Bobby isn’t patronizing Judith’s brothel like most of the other political figures on this show.

There’s much more to like about “Like Father, Like Son,” especially the slow-motion sequence that director Steve Robin gives us at the end of the episode, when John Ross walks away from Bobby after telling him he’s going to use Sue Ellen’s power of attorney in his bid to take Ewing Global public. Unlike Patrick Duffy’s slow-mo walk during Season 2, which felt so triumphant, Henderson’s version is positively chilling. I also love Jesse Metcalfe’s adorable scenes with Dallas Clark (yes, that’s his name), the child actor who plays little Michael, as well as Metcalfe’s charming rapport with AnnaLynne McCord’s Heather. McCord has proven an especially welcome addition to this show. I know a lot of fans watch “Dallas” for escapism, but isn’t it nice to see Heather experience a real-life problem like finding last-minute child care?

This episode’s other highlight: The dueling boys’ and girls’ nights out on the town, although just once, I’d like to see television characters in these kinds of settings have to shout at each other over the sound of the music, the way people do in real-life nightclubs. As my husband Andrew pointed out, the sequence with the women brings a touch of “Sex and the City” to “Dallas,” except one of the ladies is cheating with the other’s husband, and a third is trying to prove it. By the way: Cynthia Addai-Robinson brings an undeniable sense of cool to her scenes as Jasper, Elena’s private eye. How much fun would it be to see her go toe to toe with Kevin Page’s Bum (who is sadly missing from this episode, along with Mitch Pileggi’s Harris)?

Meanwhile, some fans are wondering how Carter McKay, George Kennedy’s character from the original “Dallas’s” final seasons, has a grandson as old as Hunter, who is introduced in this episode as one of John Ross’s childhood friends. As far as we know, Tracey and Tommy, Carter’s children, didn’t have kids of their own. In light of this episode’s boardroom showdown, there’s also confusion in Fan Land about the ownership of Ewing Global and how it’s divided. I, too, wish the show handled these details better, so my only advice to fellow fans — and I know this won’t satisfy many of you — is to just go with it.

My other gripe has to do with Harris’s accordion file. It’s become a treasure trove for storyline purposes, so I wish the show had made it an updated version of J.R.’s infamous “red file” instead; it would have been another nifty way to keep Larry Hagman’s spirit alive. Then again, Josh Henderson is doing a pretty good job of doing that on his own.

Grade: A


Dallas, Linda Gray, Like Father Like Son, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Slipping away


Season 3, Episode 6

Telecast: March 31, 2014

Audience: 1.82 million viewers on March 31

Writer: Julie Cohen

Director: Steve Robin

Synopsis: Bobby gives control of his Ewing Global shares to Christopher and, in his new role as railroad commissioner, vows to scrutinize Nicolas’s Texas holdings. Elena hires a private eye to follow John Ross and discovers he’s cheating with Emma. John Ross’s childhood friend, Hunter McKay, gives him the idea of taking Ewing Global public. John Ross gets support from Nicolas, who aims to take control of the company once it goes public, and also Sue Ellen, but when she gets the impression John Ross is cheating with Candace, she votes against her son, incurring his wrath. John Ross blackmails a judge into having Sue Ellen committed to rehab against her will and tells Bobby he has her power of attorney, which gives him her vote to take the company public.

Cast: Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Jasper), Emma Bell (Emma Ryland), Donny Boaz (Bo McCabe), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Dallas Clark (Michael), Jude Demorest (Candace), Juan Pablo Di Pace (Nicolas Treviño), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Rick Herod (Judge Blackwell), Fran Kranz (Hunter McKay), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Bryan Pitts (paramedic), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Kenneisha Thompson (police officer)

“Like Father, Like Son” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

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.

One Year Later, Larry Hagman’s Legacy Lives

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

Remember the titan

The first anniversary of Larry Hagman’s death is November 23, although to me, he never really went away. Hagman’s old “Dallas” episodes run on a seemingly endless loop in my house. I watch him all the time, and that would probably be true even if I didn’t write and edit this website. Larry Hagman still brings me joy. The other day, I re-visited the 1983 segment where J.R. goes to the Oil Baron’s Ball and slyly insults every relative seated near him. With each gleeful quip, Hagman’s smile couldn’t be contained. Neither could mine.

Do I wish Hagman were still around, filming new episodes of TNT’s “Dallas” revival? Of course, although given the remarkable body of work he left behind (more than 380 appearances as J.R. in the various “Dallas” shows, spinoffs and sequels), to want more from him feels almost greedy. Likewise, while I’ll always regret that I never met my hero, I did get to speak to him on the phone once. How lucky am I? By most accounts, Hagman was a hell of a guy — joyful, generous, wise, progressive, amusingly eccentric — and so one year after his death, whatever sadness I feel is reserved for the people who knew him best. As a fan, I lost an actor whose work I admired from afar. But Hagman’s family and friends? They lost a real, special man.

Don’t get me wrong: Hagman’s death upset me a year ago. He died on the day after Thanksgiving, giving Black Friday a whole other meaning. Now the timing feels kind of cosmic. The anniversary of his death will always come two days after the anniversary of the “Who Shot J.R.?” revelation and around Thanksgiving, reminding us to feel grateful for the wonderful performances he gave us. We can also feel thankful to the people who help keep Hagman’s memory alive, including the folks who run his Facebook page, which offers a treasure trove of rare photographs and other mementos. For that matter, we should also give thanks to the “Dallas” producers and cast members,  who have done an impressive job honoring their show’s biggest star. The episode where Hagman’s alter ego is laid to rest, “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” lived up to its title, but the tributes haven’t stopped there. Showrunner Cynthia Cidre has promised to keep Hagman’s name atop the production call sheets for the duration of the series, reminding the cast and crew that “Dallas” is the house Hagman built.

There are also hints that J.R. will figure into next season’s storylines, wheeling and dealing from beyond the grave, and a recent tweet from the set suggests Josh Henderson will sport his on-screen daddy’s signature wristwatch and belt buckle. If the producers are looking for one more way to honor Hagman, “Dallas” fan Joe Siegler has a nifty suggestion: Instead of continuing to have the cast take turns delivering each episode’s “Previously on ‘Dallas’” voiceover, why not use Hagman’s version exclusively? This would be a small gesture, but I can’t imagine a better way to start each new hour of “Dallas” than by hearing J.R.’s voice.

Of course, Hagman’s legacy extends beyond the show he made famous. We live in a golden age of television drama, populated by antiheroes like Walter White and Don Draper. None of them would exist if J.R. Ewing hadn’t come first. What a shame so many TV critics neglect to mention that. Even more shameful: Hagman’s omission from the special tributes during this year’s Emmy broadcast and his snub in the dramatic supporting actor race. Few performers deserved Emmy recognition more than Hagman this year — and not just because he didn’t receive a trophy during the original “Dallas’s” heyday. Hagman did some of the best work of his career on the TNT series. One example: last year’s “Family Business” episode, which showcased his powerful, poignant portrait of the aging J.R.

On the other hand: Who needs Emmys? If the past year has taught me anything, it’s how much affection “Dallas” fans have for Hagman. Our love for him is deep and real, and it will sustain his legacy for a long time to come. It’s another reason I don’t feel a strong sense of loss as the anniversary of his death approaches. The truth is, Larry Hagman isn’t really gone; he just lives in our hearts now.

How will you remember Larry Hagman and J.R. Ewing? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 18 – ‘J.R.’s Masterpiece’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Larry Hagman, TNT

Still here

It isn’t quite accurate to call “J.R.’s Masterpiece” the first “Dallas” episode without J.R. Ewing. Our hero is present, even if he isn’t physically there. We see Larry Hagman in the special opening credits, which offer a moving, mournful version of Jerrold Immel’s classic theme music and memorably end with J.R. disappearing into white light. Beyond that, we feel J.R.’s spirit in every scene, every line, every breath. It’s gratifying and even a little exhilarating to see the show honor this character so thoroughly. This will be remembered as the hour that Cynthia Cidre, Michael M. Robin and seemingly everyone else associated with “Dallas” rose to the occasion – and then surpassed it.

The two most unforgettable moments in “J.R.’s Masterpiece” belong to Linda Gray. In the first, Sue Ellen enters J.R.’s bedroom on the night before his funeral and removes from her purse the letter he sent her before his death. She sits at his table, looks at a framed photograph from their second wedding and smiles. Then she notices J.R.’s decanter of bourbon, emblazoned with his name. With the sad country tune “The Bottom” playing in the background, Sue Ellen pours herself a glass and contemplates it for a few moments, just like she did with the wineglass in “Venomous Creatures,” an earlier second-season episode. On that occasion, J.R. arrived on her doorstep and gave her the encouragement she needed to resist temptation. This time around, he isn’t here to save her. And so Sue Ellen downs the bourbon. Hard. And then she pours herself another glass. And then another.

It’s a tense, wrenching scene on its own, but I also appreciate how it echoes one of my favorite moments from TNT’s other great “Dallas” episode, the first-season entry “Family Business.” In that scene, J.R. sits at the same table, glances at a picture of Miss Ellie and takes a swig of bourbon before signing the Southfork deed over to Bobby. In a show where the booze flows as freely as ever, both scenes are about J.R. and Sue Ellen turning to the bottle to find courage they can’t muster on their own. He needs it to do the right thing, she needs it to just get through the night.

Seeing Sue Ellen fall off the wagon is tough for me and other longtime “Dallas” fans who remember how hard she fought to get sober. But I’m also the first to admit that her relapse makes riveting television. I have no idea where “Dallas” will take Gray’s character after “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” but my guess is she won’t return to the path of self-destruction. Sue Ellen isn’t the woman she used to be. She’s wiser, more confident, more aware. We see this during the episode’s other great moment: her mesmerizing eulogy at J.R.’s gravesite, where she confesses her relapse to the other Ewings. “I’m a bit drunk right now,” she says. This line startles me even more than the one at the top of the hour, when the Mexican policewoman announces J.R.’s death. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Sue Ellen acknowledge her demons so forthrightly, which makes me think she’ll find the courage to reclaim her sobriety sooner rather than later.

As remarkable as Sue Ellen’s admission is, the most emotional part of her speech comes when she reads aloud J.R.’s letter. He writes, “For me to apologize now for all the wrongs I’ve done you would take up all the time I’ve got left. So I’m hoping it will suffice for me to say that I was never worthy of you.” The note ends with a request: “When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?” But that’s not what J.R. is actually asking, is it? He really wants to know if Sue Ellen will forgive him for all those “wrongs.” She knows this too, which is why it’s so heartbreaking when she kneels, touches his casket and sobs, “Yes, yes, J.R. The answer is yes.”

‘He Never Pretended’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Grand scheme

The other eulogies in Cidre’s script are beautifully written, capturing the essence of each character’s connection to J.R. with an impressive economy of words. In his speech, Bobby says, “Throughout my life, it’s pretty much been easy for me to do good, because I could always count on J.R. to do bad. … Now I have to figure out just what I’m supposed to do in this grand scheme of things.”

When I wrote down this line and looked at it, I realized it could be seen as Bobby’s response to J.R.’s admission last season, when he told Bobby, “I don’t know who I’d be without you.” The line acknowledged what the audience always knew – that J.R. was incapable of checking his worst impulses and needed Bobby to do it for him. Now, hearing Bobby wonder aloud what he’ll do without J.R. raises the intriguing prospect that Patrick Duffy, always the unsung hero of this franchise, will soon be able to show us other sides to his character.

In the other eulogies, Ray recalls fearing how he could never make his father proud the way J.R. did, which isn’t exactly how I remember Jock’s sentiments toward J.R. and Ray, but the speech nonetheless reflects the deep-seated insecurities that always haunted Steve Kanaly’s humble cowboy. Ted Shackelford also does a nice job delivering Gary’s single line (“Every step backwards or forward I ever took in my life was because of J.R.”), which perfectly fits his tortured character – and probably every other Ewing.

The most unexpected tribute comes from Lucy. “Things I thought were so horrible that J.R. did just seem honest now,” she says. “He never pretended to be anything other than himself.” It’s surprising to hear Lucy offer admiration for J.R., yet you can’t deny the profundity of her statement. I’m also touched by the shot Robin, the director, gives us of Lucy weeping during the funeral. Given Charlene Tilton’s well-known affection for Hagman in real life, I have no doubt those tears come from the actress’s heart.

It would be wrong to overlook the newer cast members, who are every bit as impressive as the “Dallas” veterans during this sequence. Jordana Brewster’s tears move me when Elena recalls the pep talk J.R. gave her after her father’s death (“Honey, how are you going to make your daddy proud?”), and I also appreciate Jesse Metcalfe’s Duffy-esque stoicism during Christopher’s speech, when he remembers J.R.’s attempt to comfort him after Pam abandoned the family: “I don’t know why your mama left, Christopher. Especially when she had such a good, smart little boy like you. But you’re a Ewing now. So stop crying and behave like one.”

It’s somewhat surprising that Josh Henderson has no lines at J.R.’s burial. Then again, are any needed? The dazed expression Henderson wears throughout this episode and especially at the funeral tells us everything we need to know about what John Ross is feeling.

‘What You Choose to Recall’

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

The bottom

Not all of the dramatic moments in “J.R.’s Masterpiece” happen at the funeral. Duffy and Brenda Strong have a big fight scene that’s been a long time coming, as Bobby lashes out at Ann for keeping so many secrets from him during the course of their marriage. And as with all of the new “Dallas’s” best episodes, the smaller moments are touching too. Christopher comforts Sue Ellen when she breaks down in the morgue. Ray reaches for her hands as she returns to her seat after her eulogy. Bobby sits alone in J.R.’s room and notices his brother’s hat hanging on the back of the chair.

The lighter moments are welcome too. The best of these is seeing Sue Ellen commiserate with Cally and Mandy at the memorial, a surprisingly sweet scene that offers another reminder of how much Sue Ellen has grown. It’s also hard to not get a kick out of Ken Kercheval’s appearance, when Cliff crashes the memorial, ranting and raving about the Barnes/Ewing feud. As much as I’ve come to enjoy Kercheval’s performance on the new “Dallas” as the Godfather-like Cliff, it’s nice to be reminded of his character’s combustible side.

The other highlight of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”: the music. Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory,” with its references to “what you choose to recall,” opens J.R.’s Petroleum Club memorial, setting the stage for the unexpectedly warm reminiscing that follows. I also like the foreboding strings at the top of the hour, when Bobby, Sue Ellen, John Ross and Christopher arrive in Mexico. Equally haunting: what sounds like Alison Krauss’s version of “Down to the River to Pray,” which is interspersed throughout the graveside eulogies. The most memorable song, though, remains Tara Holloway’s spectacular rendition of “The Bottom” during Sue Ellen’s relapse. Who will ever be able to listen to that song again without thinking of Linda Gray’s incredible performance in that scene?

As for the mystery that begins in the closing moments of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”? I’ll confess: When I read that Cidre, Robin and company planned to kill off Hagman’s character with another “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery, I cringed. I didn’t want my hero to go down in defeat. But the idea that J.R. spent his final days crafting a “masterpiece” scheme against his enemies – a grand plan that will now be carried out by his family – might mean ol’ J.R. will be able to go out on top after all.

All of the questions raised by the end of the episode are tantalizing. Why was J.R. tracking down Christopher’s “mother” – and which mother are we talking about: Kristin or Pam? Will John Ross end up using the gun that J.R. left him? Could there be significance to Christopher’s vow to help John Ross find J.R.’s killer so they can confront the bad guy (or gal) as “brothers”? What’s in the document that J.R. left for Bobby, and what should we make of Bobby’s tearful smile and last line: “I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R. It is a good one. I love you brother.”

Until we get the answers, we won’t know what J.R.’s masterpiece will be. But at least we know what “Dallas’s” looks like.

Grade: A+


Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, TNT

Hat tip


Season 2, Episode 8

Telecast: March 11, 2013

Writer: Cynthia Cidre

Director: Michael M. Robin

Audience: 3.6 million viewers on March 11

Synopsis: Bobby, Sue Ellen, John Ross and Christopher learn J.R. was shot and killed during a robbery in Mexico. Sue Ellen falls off the wagon. After the funeral, Bum reveals J.R. had been searching for Christopher’s mother and that he went to Mexico to follow a lead on Harris. J.R. also leaves a gun for John Ross and a document for Bobby, who refuses to reveal its contents to John Ross and Christopher.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Mark Cuban (himself), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Castulo Guerra (Carlos del Sol), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Robert Anthony Hunt (minister), Jerry Jones (himself), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Hugo Perez (Dr. Garcia), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Cathy Podewell (Cally), Mayor Mark Rawlings (himself), Tony Sears (George GIilchriest), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Deborah Shelton (Mandy), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“J.R.’s Masterpiece” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ is on DVD. Go Ahead and Get Carried Away.

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, No Good Deed, TNT

Arrested development

The first season of TNT’s “Dallas” was released on DVD last week. It has all 10 episodes and 2 hours of bonus material, including some Larry Hagman goodness you’ve never seen before.

In other words: Take a day off work. You’re going to need it.

The extras feature more than 25 deleted scenes, including three sequences starring Hagman. My favorite: a moving exchange from “Family Business” in which J.R. promises Ann he’ll protect Sue Ellen from Harris. I won’t give away anything else here, but trust me: This scene alone is worth the price of admission.

A lot of this unused footage will help you see the characters more clearly. Examples: We finally get to see the moment Sue Ellen decides to run for governor, as well as a wonderful exchange where Christopher talks about what it was like for him to grow up as Bobby’s son. The latter scene features beautiful performances from Jesse Metcalfe and Patrick Duffy, who described it as one of his favorite first-season moments during my brief chat with him last year.

Curiously, the deleted scenes don’t include the one with Josh Henderson from the publicity shot above, which TNT released to promote “No Good Deed,” the episode where John Ross is arrested for Marta’s murder. We also don’t get to see J.R. and Sue Ellen’s dance from “The Last Hurrah,” although given the number of fans who are clamoring for it, something tells me it won’t stay buried forever.

(We do, however, get to see Elena’s visit to a bank, where she scans a plaque listing the board of directors. Sue Ellen’s name is there, along with production designer Richard Berg and other members of the “Dallas” crew.)

The DVD’s other highlight: an audio commentary from executive producers Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, who do a nice job explaining how much work – and love – went into making the “Changing of the Guard” pilot. Robin, the episode’s director, calls the scene where Bobby visits J.R. in the nursing home one of the highlights of his career, while Cidre reveals it took 10 hours to film the episode’s fantastic dinner scene.

The bonus material also includes new segments on the making of the first season and “Dallas” lore. Also included: the behind-the-scenes production videos that were posted on the “Dallas” website last year, including costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin’s fun “Dressing Dallas” piece.

I could go on, but really, why are you still reading this? Go get the DVD and see for yourself!

Life After J.R.

“Dallas’s” second season begins two weeks from tonight, and the press is beginning to publish stories about what we’ll see. The best preview so far comes from Entertainment Weekly’s Karen Valby, who reports Hagman filmed five episodes before his death on November 23. An extra scene that had been cut from an earlier episode will be inserted into the sixth installment, while Episode 7, which Cidre handwrote in the days after Hagman’s death, will explain J.R.’s absence. His funeral will be seen in Episode 8, which TNT will telecast Monday, March 11.

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

Dallas Decoder’s Man of the Year: Larry Hagman

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

The man

A few days after Larry Hagman’s November 23 death, his son Preston told a television interviewer that his father’s work on TNT’s new “Dallas” series extended Hagman’s life during his struggle with cancer. I believe it. I also believe the relationship between star and show was mutually beneficial. “Dallas” kept Hagman alive, but he kept “Dallas” alive too.

Two thousand twelve was the year “Dallas” became a hit all over again, and no one was more responsible for its success than Larry Hagman. The actor long ago established J.R. Ewing as one of television’s most fascinating characters, but on TNT’s “Dallas,” Hagman made J.R. even more complex. In old age, J.R. was often downright demonic, but he could also be shockingly vulnerable and at times even sweet. It was the performance of Hagman’s career.

Critics loved it, finally giving Hagman the acclaim he deserved but didn’t receive during the original “Dallas’s” heyday. Viewers embraced J.R. too, including a new generation that discovered him for the first time. More than 8 million people watched TNT’s “Dallas” opener within a week of its June 13 debut. The full 10-hour season averaged 6.1 million weekly viewers. I’m convinced Hagman is what kept people coming back. Even in the episodes where J.R. only had a scene or two, Hagman’s presence loomed large. “Dallas” was still his show.

To be fair, the actor received plenty of support from the new “Dallas’s” creative team, which gave J.R. some of his best-ever material. (“Family Business,” the first season’s penultimate episode, written by Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Michael M. Robin, is one the finest hours of “Dallas” ever made.) Hagman also got a boost from longtime friends and costars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray, with whom his chemistry remains unrivaled, as well as from Josh Henderson, who held his own against the actor and made John Ross a terrific partner in crime for J.R.

I’m naming Hagman Dallas Decoder’s first man of the year in recognition of his crucial contributions to the “Dallas” franchise in 2012. This won’t my last tribute to the actor, either. Before Hagman’s death, he completed a handful of episodes of the new “Dallas’s” second season, which TNT will begin showing Monday, January 28. Something tells me his final performances as J.R. will be every bit as good as what we saw in 2012.

My goal is to make my man or woman of the year selection an annual tradition. Twelve months from now, I hope to honor someone else who has made a Hagman-sized contribution to “Dallas.” And make no mistake: As much as I love Hagman and J.R., “Dallas” is bigger than both of them. The themes David Jacobs established when he created the Ewings 35 years ago – family, loyalty, ambition – are timeless. If the storytelling is good, the show can go on.

In thinking about “Dallas’s” future, I keep coming back to the classic scene from the fifth-season episode “Head of the Family.” J.R., depressed over Jock’s recent death, tells his youngest brother, “It’ll never be the same, Bob.” Bobby’s response: “Maybe it won’t. [But] if this family quits just because he’s gone, he didn’t leave us very much, did he?”

My guess is these words describe how many of us feel today. We know “Dallas” won’t be the same without J.R., but we also know how much the show meant to the great actor who portrayed him. Larry Hagman kept “Dallas” alive, and now it’s up to all of us – fans and the people who make the show alike – to continue the tradition. In the end, that might be the best tribute we can offer him.

Share your comments about Larry Hagman and J.R. Ewing below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.

Dallas Parallels: Saving Southfork

At the end of “Ellie Saves the Day,” one of my favorite “Dallas” episodes, Miss Ellie sits at J.R.’s desk and signs paperwork authorizing Ewing Oil to drill on Southfork. For Ellie, a principled conservationist, this is painful but necessary. J.R. has mortgaged the ranch and sunk the money in a foundering deal – and now the loan is due. Tapping Southfork’s vast oil reserves is the only way to raise the cash needed to stave off foreclosure.

As luck would have it, J.R. strikes oil elsewhere at the 11th hour, allowing the Ewings to preserve Southfork for ranching. But the story isn’t over. When TNT’s “Dallas” begins, Ellie is gone and Bobby has succeeded her as Southfork’s owner and guardian – until J.R. “steals” the ranch and sets out to pump its oil, triggering a bitter feud that divides the Ewings like never before.

The battle culminates in “Family Business,” an instant-classic episode from the new show. In a poignant scene, J.R. sits at a table in his bedroom, staring at the Southfork deed. With trembling hands, he takes a shot of bourbon, glances at a framed photograph of Ellie and signs the paper, returning ownership of the ranch to Bobby.

The parallels to “Ellie Saves the Day” are unmistakable. So are the ironies. Conservationist Ellie is forced to plunder the land, while oilman J.R. chooses to preserve it. Yet both characters end up saving Southfork.

The way mother and son reach their fateful decisions is revealing. In “Ellie Saves the Day,” the Ewing matriarch gathers her family in the living room and announces her plan to lift the drilling ban. Ellie mentions how much Southfork means to her, but she also displays her practical side. When Bobby reminds her Graddaddy Southworth’s dying wish was to preserve the land, Ellie responds: “Do you think the banks will preserve the land? They will not.”

Surprisingly, J.R. proves more sentimental. In “Family Business,” John Ross comes to his father’s bedroom and tries to persuade him to return the ranch to Bobby, but J.R. doesn’t want to hear it. Slumping onto his bed, he tells his son, “Southfork isn’t just a piece of dirt. It’s as much a part of me as my blood, in my bones.” Suddenly, we’re forced to consider the possibility that maybe the battle for Southfork isn’t just about the ocean of oil flowing beneath it.

Later, after confrontations with Sue Ellen and Bobby, J.R. finally comes around and signs over the deed. He brings the document to his brother, who is in his sickbed. “You’re still not off the hook for how you got this in the first place,” Bobby says. It brings to mind the final line in “Ellie Saves the Day,” when Ellie, after giving up the mineral rights, turns to her oldest son and says, “I may never forgive you for this, J.R.”

Perhaps that’s true, but something tells me Mama was smiling the moment J.R. put pen to paper and did his part to save Southfork.


‘Do You Know How Much Southfork Means to Me?’

Ms. Practicality

In “Ellie Saves the Day,” a third-season “Dallas” episode, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) enters the Southfork living room, where Jock (Jim Davis), J.R. (Larry Hagman), Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and the other Ewings await her.

JOCK: Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: Jock.

BOBBY: Mama, Ray said you took a tour of the ranch this morning.

ELLIE: [Smiling] Yes, I did. [She sits.]

JOCK: Well, we’ve tried everything, Miss Ellie.

ELLIE: I’m sure you have. J.R., do you know how much Southfork means to me? To all of us? I’ll never understand your motives as long as I live.

J.R.: Mama –

ELLIE: Now as I see it, the problem is this: Next week, the bankers who own the mortgages expect to be paid, and we don’t have the money. Is that right?

JOCK: Yes. And everything worthwhile is mortgaged.

ELLIE: Except one.

J.R.: What?

ELLIE: They can take this land, but they don’t have the right to drill for all that oil under Section 40. My daddy’s will gave the mineral rights to me.

BOBBY: [Leans forward] Mama, you can’t do that. You can’t break Granddad’s will. He wanted that land preserved for ranching.

ELLIE: You think the banks will preserve the land? They will not. However, I can release all of that oil for drilling. Millions and millions of dollars worth. And for that, I’m sure the bank will extend the due date on the mortgage indefinitely.

JOCK: I could never ask you to do that, Ellie.

ELLIE: It will save this ranch, Jock. And for that, I’ll go against my daddy’s wishes. [Rises, walks toward Jock] Jock, 40 years ago, Ewing Oil paid off the mortgage on Southfork and saved it. Now I think it’s time that Southfork repaid those debts.


‘Southfork Isn’t Just a Piece of Dirt’

Mr. Sentimental

In “Family Business,” TNT’s ninth “Dallas” episode, John Ross (Josh Henderson) speaks to J.R. (Larry Hagman) in his Southfork bedroom.

J.R.: I’m not signing Southfork over to anybody. The thing we should be concentrating on is a little payback to the boys who did that to you. [Points to the bruises on John Ross’s face]

JOHN ROSS: It’s a little late for that. Lucky for me, I had Uncle Bobby to get me out of that situation.

J.R.: Well, I got here as soon as I heard.

JOHN ROSS: Southfork is useless to you without the mineral rights. Now Uncle Bobby has agreed to drill. Once the Venezuelans are paid off, your piece of that oil, it’ll get you back on top.

J.R.: Christopher’s already agreed to pay off the Venezuelans with his gas rights. What’s gotten into you, anyhow?

JOHN ROSS: A little decency. They should not have to clean up after our mess. Haven’t we put Uncle Bobby through enough?

J.R.: You’re confusing emotion with business. This land is finally mine like it should have been all along.

JOHN ROSS: I’m so damn tired of hearing about your birthright.

J.R.: What did you say?

JOHN ROSS: Can’t you just let it go?

J.R.: [Sits on the bed] Southfork isn’t just a piece of dirt. It’s as much a part of me as my blood, in my bones. I paid a hell of a price for it. I thought you of all the people in the world would understand that.

What do you think of Miss Ellie and J.R.’s efforts to save Southfork? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Best & Worst of TNT’s Dallas: Season 1

The first season of TNT’s “Dallas” brought the Ewings back to series television after a two-decade absence. I loved it – mostly.


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

The Great One

The new “Dallas” cast divides into two categories: Larry Hagman and everyone else. As the now-elderly J.R., Hagman was sometimes mischievous, sometimes moving and always magical. Trying to figure out how Hagman does what he does is futile, so I just sit back and enjoy the ride. Nominate him in a supporting category if you must, but if Larry the Great doesn’t take home an Emmy next year, we should all raise hell.

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Rebecca Barnes, Rebecca Sutter, TNT

Your next queen

Among the rest of the cast, give it up for Julie Gonzalo, who made Rebecca’s desperation palpable as the character’s world collapsed in the season’s final hours. Seeing Rebecca drag around Tommy’s dead body in “Revelations” reminded me of when Abby Ewing did something similar on “Knots Landing” – which is fitting since Gonzalo seems destined to claim Donna Mills’s crown as television’s next great queen bee.


The war for Southfork was the ideal vehicle to re-introduce “Dallas,” not just because the storyline ensnared every character – even Gary got involved – but also because it helped keep alive the memory of Miss Ellie, whose ghost looms over the new show the way Jock’s did on the old one.

The most incomplete plot: Sue Ellen’s run for governor. The character’s foray into politics can be seen as a logical outgrowth of her civic activism on the original show (remember all those Daughters of the Alamo luncheons Sue Ellen hosted?), but I wish the new series had acknowledged some of the skeletons rattling around her closet. Given Sue Ellen’s scandalous past, shouldn’t voters have been more skeptical of her candidacy?


Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, TNT

Scarred, inside and out

“Family Business,” the episode where J.R. returns the Southfork deed to Bobby, is as good as any of the best entries from the classic series. This intimate hour offered poignant performances from Hagman and Patrick Duffy, but no one moved me like Josh Henderson, especially in the scene where John Ross pours out his heart to Elena about his failure to live up to J.R.’s legend (“I spent my entire life missing him, wanting to be with him, wanting to be him.”).

“The Last Hurrah,” the Ewing barbecue episode, was the season’s biggest letdown. It brought together more original cast members than any other TNT entry – in addition to J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen, we also saw Cliff, Ray and Lucy – yet these old favorites shared little screen time. On the other hand, allow me to defend “The Last Hurrah’s” much-maligned calf-birthing sequence, a metaphor I appreciated, even if the snarkmeisters at Entertainment Weekly didn’t.


As fantastic as J.R. and John Ross’s tense-then-tender “shaving scene” was in “The Price You Pay,” nothing wowed me like Ann’s sting against smarmy ex-husband Harris Ryland in “Revelations.” What a great scene! I liked Brenda Strong’s character from the beginning, but this was the moment that made me love her. Somewhere, Miss Ellie is smiling.


Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, TNT

Great twist!

The new “Dallas’s” twist-a-minute storytelling was often too much, but not always: The moment Ann exposed the mic she was using to record Ryland’s confession was terrific, and so was the big reveal at the end of “Changing of the Guard,” when the audience learned J.R. and Marta were in cahoots.

Meanwhile, what should have been the season’s biggest twist – the revelation that Rebecca is Cliff’s daughter – was no surprise at all, at least not to “Dallas” diehards. Gonzalo’s character’s first name was a huge tipoff, and once we discovered Cliff had become a high-stakes gambler, her “Changing of the Guard” reference to her poker-playing daddy became another big clue. Still, seeing Cliff emerge from his jet in the final moments of “Revelations” – and then hearing Frank Ashkani refer to Rebecca as “Miss Barnes” – was pretty damn cool.


Charlene Tilton’s appearance in “Collateral Damage,” when Lucy and John Ross reminisced about his boyhood antics while brunching at the Omni, was fabulous. Let this serve as the model for integrating old favorites into new storylines.

Less enthralling: The “Truth and Consequences” scene featuring Jerry Jones. Nothing against the Dallas Cowboys owner, but why remind fans of the dreadful 1998 reunion reunion movie “War of the Ewings,” which also featured a Jones cameo?


Dallas, Leonor Varela, Marta Del Sol, Veronica Martinez, TNT

Nut’s landing

The TNT series spent a lot of time honoring its predecessor. Among the best tributes: Ann’s penchant for shotguns and pearls (a la Miss Ellie), Marta’s deadly dive in “Collateral Damage” (shades of Julie Grey) and John Ross’s “Changing of the Guard” meeting with Marta at Cowboys Stadium, which evoked J.R.’s many stadium encounters in days of yore.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also point out some of the historical liberties the new show took: Ellie’s commitment to a sanitarium after Jock’s death (when did this happen?), Grandpa Southworth giving the Ewing brothers the Southfork mineral rights (Ellie controlled them on the old show) and Cliff’s visit to Islamabad in the early 1980s (did he do it during the summer reruns?).


Carlos Bernard was effectively oily as Vicente Cano and Faran Tahir makes Frank a genuinely frightening dude, but my prize for best villain goes to Mitch Pileggi, whose Harris Ryland was creepy and charming all at once. Here’s hoping Pileggi will become the new “Dallas’s” answer to Jeremy Wendell, J.R.’s best adversary from the old show, played by the great William Smithers.

Supporting Players

Dallas, Margaret Bowman, Mrs. Henderson, TNT

Mrs. Henderson, Presented

Let’s hear it for the supporting actors – many of them honest-to-goodness Texans – who didn’t log a lot of screen time but made each moment count. My favorites: Richard Dillard, who was perfectly sleazy as Bobby’s double-dealing lawyer Mitch Lobell; Glenn Morshower as Lobell’s no-nonsense replacement, Lou; Brett Brock, who had real presence as John Ross’s private eye, Clyde Marshall; Kevin Page, who was oddly endearing as J.R.’s henchman Bum; and Margaret Bowman, who was a hoot as Southfork neighbor Miss Henderson.


TNT’s heavy use of music on “Dallas” might be the new show’s best innovation of all. In “Hedging Your Bets,” J.R. and Sue Ellen reunited at the Cattle Baron’s Ball to the sounds of Justin Townes Earle’s gorgeous “Midnight at the Movies,” while Adele’s “Turning Tables” was the ideal soundtrack for Christopher and Rebecca’s “Changing of the Guard” wedding sequence.

The real highlight: the instant classic montage that concluded “Family Business,” when Bobby’s collapse and Rebecca and Tommy’s gun struggle played out as Johnny Cash’s “The Man Who Came Around” boomed in the background. And while Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” was a fine choice to end “Revelations,” I hope the show doesn’t return to that particular well for awhile.


Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Cool zip

The zip-front dress Sue Ellen wore when she visited Ryland in “The Enemy of My Enemy” was the perfect garment for a woman who was exposing her vulnerabilities in a bid to help her son. I also liked how the dress showed Linda Gray, now in her 70s, could still be sexy and playful.


Loved the groovy spectrum artwork in Sue Ellen’s office. Hated the watercolor painting of Jock and Ellie that hangs in the Southfork living room.


As much as I enjoyed all the hilarious stuff that came out of J.R.’s mouth, Sue Ellen delivered the season’s best line in “No Good Deed” when she blackmailed the hapless medical examiner by reminding him, “You’ve been writing more prescriptions than Michael Jackson’s doctor – which is odd, since all of your patients are dead.”

Biggest head-scratcher: “We ain’t family, bro.” – John Ross’s putdown of Christopher in “Hedging Your Bets.”

Behind the Scenes

Much praise goes to the many talented folks on the other side of the camera, including Michael M. Robin, the most inventive director in the history of the “Dallas” franchise; cinematographer Rodney Charters, who makes the real-life Dallas look so good, the city should name a street after him; and the TNT Publicity Machine, which did a helluva job promoting the show in the months before its debut.

Of course, the biggest hat tip goes to Cynthia Cidre, the new “Dallas’s” creative force. After an uneven start, Cidre – with help from a team of talented writers – brought “Dallas” back to its roots as a character-driven family drama. Let’s hope they keep the momentum going in Season 2.

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

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 10 – ‘Revelations’

Ann Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Revelations, TNT


No one gets shot, run over or blown up at the end of “Revelations” – and for this, we should be thankful. As much fun as the original “Dallas’s” season finales were, they feel a little gimmicky in retrospect. Smart storytelling, not splashy cliffhangers, keep today’s television audiences hooked.

Cynthia Cidre, the creative force behind TNT’s “Dallas,” seems to recognize this, so instead of trying to recreate old-school theatrics, she delivers a finale that focuses on concluding most of the show’s first-season storylines. This is a wise approach, but it might also be a function of circumstance: Since “Revelations” was filmed before “Dallas’s” second season was assured, the episode was no doubt crafted so it could serve as a satisfying series finale, if need be.

Whatever the reason, Cidre and “Revelations” co-writer Robert Rovner tie up a lot of loose ends, although one or two things also unravel. Mostly, though, this is an hour of victory laps: J.R. and John Ross confess their sins and are granted immunity by the feds. Sue Ellen tells her cheering supporters she’s staying in the gubernatorial race. Bobby recovers his health and his ranch. Christopher gets the girl.

Of course, the moment that leaves me cheering loudest belongs to Ann, who wears a wire and tricks Harris into admitting his illegal schemes against Sue Ellen. When Ann reveals her sting and Harris tries to snatch the recording device hidden beneath her blouse, she pops him in the mouth and declares, “You make a move against me, Sue Ellen or any member of my family – you’re going to jail.”

What a great scene. Brenda Strong’s delivery is determined, but it also carries a hint of vulnerability. This is probably how most of us would sound if we found ourselves conducting a sting against a creepy ex, heaven forbid. We still don’t know Ann’s secret – one of the few loose ends “Revelations” leaves hanging – but no matter. We know who Ann is, and thanks to Strong, we love her.

The other great scene in “Revelations” comes before the opening credits, when J.R. stands at Bobby’s hospital bedside and pleads with him to wake up after his surgery. J.R.’s speech echoes Bobby’s own soliloquy in “Changing of the Guard” but more importantly, it offers a glimpse into J.R.’s soul. “I love you, Bobby, and I don’t know who I’d be without you,” he says, gripping his brother’s hand. J.R. is finally acknowledging what the audience has known for a long time: He is incapable of checking his own impulses; he needs Bobby to do it for him.

A similar dynamic exists between John Ross and Elena, as we’re reminded in the charming scene where he proposes to her in the old Ewing Oil office space. “My life and everything I want it to be is better with you,” John Ross says while on bended knee. It’s a revealing line, but when Elena accepts John Ross’s proposal, the sweet smile that spreads across Josh Henderson’s face does more to humanize his character than any of the dialogue. (By the way: Kudos to Rob Cairns for scoring the beginning of this scene with a few notes from Jerrold Immel’s “Dallas” theme music.)

Visually, “Revelations” is another artistic achievement for the TNT series. Director Steve Robin’s opening shot of Tommy’s slow motion fall to the floor is creepily exquisite, particularly when the blood spurts out of the hole in his chest at the moment of impact. (This raises a question, though: If Tommy doesn’t start bleeding until he hits the floor, how do Rebecca and those stuffed monkeys wind up splattered?) I also love when the camera follows John Ross as he throws open the plastic tarp and sweeps into the old Ewing Oil office space with Elena in tow.

The two episode-ending montages are also fabulous. In the first, we hear Sue Ellen deliver her speech over scenes featuring other characters: When she talks about making mistakes, we see Carmen return Elena’s ring to John Ross; when the speech turns to overcoming adversity, we watch Ann embrace a wistful-looking Bobby on the Southfork patio.

The second montage – this one set to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” – intersperses scenes of Christopher and Elena making love with images of John Ross staring out the window of his new office. In the last shot, the camera pulls back on John Ross, now with J.R. at his side, until we get a panoramic nighttime view of the dazzling Dallas skyline.

This brings me to a gripe: In this final scene, I’m disheartened to see John Ross declare he wants J.R. to teach him “every dirty trick” he knows. I understand John Ross is angry after Elena spurns him, but as we saw in the previous episode, “Family Business,” he is more interesting when he’s rising above J.R.’s wicked ways, not embracing them. John Ross has grown so much this season; I hate to see him go backward.

I’m also troubled by the big revelation in “Revelations” – not that Rebecca is Cliff’s daughter (what “Dallas” fan didn’t see that coming?), but that he’s the mastermind behind her scheme. I can accept that Cliff, despite his wealth and success, is still hell-bent on getting revenge against the Ewings, but I have trouble believing he would use his own daughter in a plot to hurt Christopher, the son of his beloved sister Pam. (Not to mention the fact Cliff knowingly allowed Rebecca to marry her own cousin, which is pretty icky, even if they’re not blood relatives.)

Hopefully, Cliff’s motivations will become clearer when “Dallas’s” second season begins in January, along with the precise identity of Julie Gonzalo’s character: Is the actress playing Pamela Rebecca, the daughter we discovered Cliff had toward the end of the original “Dallas’s” run, or is this another daughter we never knew about?

Whoever she is, I love hearing Frank (the menacing Faran Tahir) call Gonzalo’s character “Miss Barnes.” At its best, “Dallas” has always been the story of two families whose fates are forever linked – the Ewings and the Barneses – and I’m thrilled the new show is returning to those roots.

No matter how the rest of this storyline plays out, here’s hoping the new “Dallas” will maintain the quality of its past few episodes. The show hit its stride as it barreled toward the end of the first season. Can it keep the momentum going in Season 2? That’s the real cliffhanger here.

Grade: B


Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, Rebecca Sutter Ewing, Revelations, TNT



Season 1, Episode 10

Telecast: August 8, 2012

Writers: Cynthia Cidre and Robert Rovner

Director: Steve Robin

Audience: 5.9 million viewers (including 4.3 million viewers on August 8, ranking 7th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: After the gunshot kills Tommy, Rebecca’s mysterious associates dispose of his body. Bobby recovers from his seizure. J.R. and John Ross confess to their fraud scheme and are granted immunity from the feds, who nab Cano. Elena accepts John Ross’s marriage proposal but returns the ring after she discovers his role in the fraud. Christopher discovers Rebecca isn’t Tommy’s sister and tells her their marriage is over, then reunites with Elena. John Ross tells J.R. to teach him to play dirty so he can take Ewing Energies away from Christopher and Elena. Rebecca apologizes for botching her scheme and pledges loyalty to the mastermind behind her plot: her father, Cliff.

Cast: Carlos Bernard (Vicente Cano), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Rebecca Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Alex McKenna (Rebecca Sutter), John McIntosh (Dr. Bennett), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Glenn Morshower (Lou), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank), Gail Washington (nurse)

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