The Best & Worst of Dallas: Season 2

“Dallas” was still figuring itself out during its second season, which means there was plenty to hail and heckle.


Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Miss Ellie Ewing

Don’t mess with Mama

Although every member of the ensemble has great moments this season, no one is as consistently wonderful as Barbara Bel Geddes. Miss Ellie becomes a somewhat frustrating character as “Dallas” progresses – she too often casts a blind eye to J.R.’s shenanigans, in my view – but Season 2 is the year you do not want to mess with Mama. We see her demand J.R. clean up his act, order Julie to stay away from Jock and urge Pam to fight for her marriage. (There’s also Ellie’s encounter with the poor sap who makes the mistake of sneaking onto Southfork; see “Scenes” below.) In just about every second-season episode, Bel Geddes demonstrates how lucky “Dallas” is to have her.


“Black Market Baby” is the most intriguing, “For Love or Money” is the saddest and “Royal Marriage” is a sentimental favorite, but “John Ewing III, Part 2” gets my vote for the season’s all-around best episode. Linda Gray is mesmerizing in the scene where Sue Ellen tearfully confesses her sins to Bobby, but Larry Hagman, Ken Kercheval and Victoria Principal all have terrific moments too.

Hands down, the season’s weakest hour is “Runaway,” the first – and so far only – “Dallas” episode to receive a “D” grade from me. Run away, indeed.


Ten words of dialogue are all you need to describe Season 2’s best scene: “Ray, get me the shotgun out of the hall closet.”

The worst scene? The “Call Girl” sequence where Leeann Rees (Veronica Hamel) lures drunken Ben Maxwell (Fred Beir) into Pam’s bed while J.R.’s sleazy photographer furiously snaps pictures outside the window. What a farce. I half expect Mr. and Mrs. Roper to come charging into the room, wondering what all the commotion is all about.

Supporting Players

Dallas, Joan Van Ark, Valene Ewing


I don’t care how many times I watch it, Joan Van Ark’s performance at the end of “Reunion, Part 2” always knocks me out. In the blink of an eye, Valene goes from anguished when she bids Gary adieu to enraged when she confronts J.R. for driving away his middle brother. With the exception of Linda Gray, no actress in “Dallas” history has better chemistry with Larry Hagman than Van Ark. What a shame she didn’t spend more time at Southfork.

My least-favorite guest stars: the three actors who portray the bad guys in “Kidnapped.” What’s the bigger crime here: holding Bobby hostage or the witless Edward G. Robinson imitations these villains-of-the-week deliver? Then again, what do you expect when performers are given lines like, “We may have the wrong goose – but he can still lay the golden egg!”


Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal


I loved the striped hoodie, green pants and knee-high tan boots Pam wears during the “Election” scene where Cliff persuades her to organize a fashion show fundraiser for his state senate campaign. You could put this outfit on Jordana Brewster on TNT’s “Dallas” and she’d look just as stylish as Victoria Principal does in 1978.

Pam also gets my vote for worst outfit: the weird “pants dress” she sports in “Black Market Baby.”


Season 1 gives us Jerrold Immel’s classic “Dallas” theme music, but Season 2 brings us many of John Parker’s magical background tunes, including “The Only Lovers,” Bobby and Pam’s theme; “The Adulteress,” Sue Ellen’s bluesy signature; and “The Loyal Foreman,” Ray’s anthem. (If you don’t own it already, do yourself a favor and purchase Parker’s classic “Dallas” soundtrack today.)


Best: “Bobby, come on. Women marry homosexuals all the time. It seems to suit a lot of them.” – J.R.’s response in “Royal Marriage” after Bobby questions his insistence Lucy marry the closeted oil-and-cattle heir Kit Mainwaring.

Worst: In “Fallen Idol,” J.R. expresses his annoyance with Guzzler Bennett’s name-dropping thusly: “The next thing you know, the name of that actress is gonna be Farrah Fawcett-Guzzler.” Oh, J.R.! Leave the pop culture references to Sue Ellen.

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘I’m So Scared, Cliff’

Cliff Barnes, Dallas, Ken Kercheval, Kidnapped, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Words are cheap

In “Kidnapped,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Pam (Victoria Principal) passes through Southfork’s foyer before dawn and notices Cliff (Ken Kercheval) standing on the porch.

PAM: [Through the window] Cliff? Cliff, didn’t you sleep?

CLIFF: No. Did you?

PAM: [Joins him on the porch] I’m so scared, Cliff. You like now, don’t you, since you got to know him?

CLIFF: Yeah, I do. I like him.

Jock and Miss Ellie (Jim Davis, Barbara Bel Geddes) step onto the porch.

JOCK: Time to go, Cliff.

ELLIE: You bring my son home safe, I’ll be grateful to you forever. We all will.

Jock hands the bag of money to Cliff, who takes it and walks away.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 18 – ‘Kidnapped’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Kidnapped, Patrick Duffy

Bobby, trapped!

New rule: If you’re watching “Dallas” and a Ewing becomes a crime victim before the second act, chances are it’s going to be a lackluster episode.

So far, crooks and lowlifes have been front and center in three installments: The first-season episode “Winds of Vengeance” (two working Joes hold the Ewings at gunpoint and threaten to rape the women), the second-season entry “Runaway” (a robber makes Lucy his reluctant accomplice) and now “Kidnapped” (three abductors hold Bobby hostage).

The first of these segments is actually pretty good. The other two? Not so much.

The problem is “Dallas’s” depiction of criminals. They’re almost always straight-from-central-casting villains who specialize in evil cackling and corny one-liners.

In “Kidnapped,” the bad guys think they’re nabbing J.R. when they tail his Mercedes and force it to come to a stop on a dusty Texas back road. They’re surprised to learn Bobby is behind the wheel, having borrowed his older brother’s car after his own vehicle got a flat tire.

“Our luck!” exclaims Fay, one of the kidnappers, while laughing uproariously. “We may have the wrong goose – but he can still lay the golden egg!”

“Kidnapped” isn’t as awful as “Runaway.” Patrick Duffy does a nice job making Bobby more vulnerable than usual, and I appreciate how the show uses Cliff as the intermediary between the Ewings and the kidnappers. It’s a clever way to involve Cliff in the story and add drama to the scenes of the family awaiting word on Bobby’s fate.

This plot device also lends “Kidnapped” some historical significance: This is the first episode where Larry Hagman and Ken Kercheval share scenes.

Today, we remember J.R. and Cliff’s bitter feud as one of “Dallas’s” defining conflicts, so it’s surprising to remember it took 18 episodes to bring them face-to-face.

Cliff also figures into “Kidnapped’s” best moment: when Jock and Miss Ellie wish him luck before he departs to deliver the ransom.

“You bring my son home safe, I’ll be grateful to you forever,” Ellie tells Cliff.

For a woman whose husband is holding a bag with more than $1 million in cash, those words prove mighty cheap.

Grade: C


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

Face to face, at last


Season 2, Episode 13

Airdate: December 17, 1978

Audience: 16.5 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Camille Marchetta

Director: Lawrence Dobkin

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Nancy Bleier (Connie), Byron Clark (Tom), Stephen Davies (Will Hart), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Meg Gallagher (Louella), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Bob Hoy (Mahoney), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Paul Koslo (Al Parker), Kelly Jean Peters (Fay Parker), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

Synopsis: A trio of kidnappers hold Bobby hostage for $1.5 million. Cliff delivers the money and secures Bobby’s release, but they’re almost shot when J.R., Ray and several ranch hands ambush the kidnappers.

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