#DallasChat Daily: Who Stayed Too Long or Left Too Soon?

April Stevens Ewing, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Donna Krebbs, Holly Harwood, Jenna Wade, Jeremy Wendell, Kristin Shepard, Lucy Ewing, Lois Chiles, Mary Crosby, Mickey Trotter, Priscilla Beaulieu Presley, Ray Krebbs, Sheree J. Wilson, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard, Timothy Patrick Murphy, William Smithers

Let’s face it: “Dallas” didn’t always know when to say goodbye. Some characters hung around long after their storyline possibilities were exhausted, while other favorites still had lots of untapped potential when they were written out.

Consider the group pictured here: Lucy, Ray, Donna, Jenna, Kristin, Jeremy, Mickey, Holly and April. (I’ll let you decide which character belongs in which category.) This is just a sampling; you’re welcome to name other characters too.

Your #DallasChat Daily questions: Which “Dallas” characters stayed too long? Which characters left too soon?

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

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘Same Old J.R.’

Dallas, Holly Harwood, Lois Chiles, Ray's Trial

Goodbye girl

In “Ray’s Trial,” a seventh-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is seated in a cocktail lounge, drinking alone, when Holly (Lois Chiles) approaches.

HOLLY: [Smiling] J.R.

J.R.: Oh, lord.

HOLLY: I was hoping I’d run into you.

J.R.: Would you please leave, Holly?

HOLLY: I just heard the most astounding news — that you and Bobby are going to run Ewing Oil side by side. [She sits across from him.] Share and share alike.

J.R.: Well, news travels fast in this town.

HOLLY: A good story like that? Hard to keep bottled up.

J.R.: You heard the story and you told me about it. Now, I really want to be alone. [A waitress brings him a fresh drink.]

HOLLY: Looks like the only friend you have left is in that glass. I just think it’s wonderful that despite all your manipulations, despite all your crooked deals, despite your hitting me up for 20 million bucks to get you out of my company — despite all that — you still couldn’t beat Bobby.

J.R.: Holly, I don’t feel that I owe you any kind of an explanation. But since you’re not going to leave my table, maybe I can shut you up by giving you a little inside information: Bobby and I agreed to split up the company long before the accounting.

HOLLY: [Smiling] Maybe you did. But the way I heard it, you were going to double-cross Bobby. It was Bobby that agreed to share Ewing Oil with you, not the other way around.

J.R.: Well, I must compliment you on the quality of your spies.

HOLLY: I still have some people in this town who owe me favors.

J.R.: Well, since I don’t think you slept with Punk or Harv Smithfield, it must have been one of the auditors. Or all of them, as the case may be.

HOLLY: Same old J.R. Losing has done nothing for your soul. But I’m happy that you lost because you cost me the one thing in the whole world that I ever really wanted.

J.R.: Bobby.

HOLLY: [Smiling] Yes.

J.R.: Well, he’s free now, honey. You can go after him — free as a bird.

HOLLY: You made that impossible.

J.R.: I did?

HOLLY: You mean because of that one night I spent in your bed? Oh, my saintly brother. [Holly begins to leave. He stops her.] Darlin’, I’d like to make a little toast: to the fact that you will never, ever be my sister-in-law. And I want to thank you too, for reminding me how ethical my brother is. It’s a flaw in his character that eventually will cause his downfall in the oil industry. I’m not finished yet, honey. Not by a long shot. Thank you. I’m feeling better.

She walks away.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 138 — ‘Ray’s Trial’

Dallas, Ray Krebbs, Ray's Trial, Steve Kanaly

His day in court

I always remembered the mystery surrounding Mickey Trotter’s death as boiling down to a single question: Did Ray or Lil pull the plug on him? Last week, when I re-watched “Ray’s Trial” for the first time in a few years, I realized “Dallas” also poses a second, more complicated question: Did Mickey want to live or die? Ray and Lucy each offer different answers during the course of the episode, and technically, both of their statements are accurate. Does that mean both statements are also true? I’m not sure anyone can answer that definitively, which makes the storyline feel a lot more interesting than I previously gave it credit for.

To appreciate this aspect of “Ray’s Trial,” it’s worth remembering two crucial scenes from the preceding episodes. In “My Brother’s Keeper,” when Mickey is struggling to come to grips with his paralysis, he pulls Ray aside and tells him, “The idea of living like a vegetable with some damn machine keeping me alive disgusts me. It’s the worst horror I can imagine. … If it happens, I hope and pray that no one’s going to let me live that way.” Later, in “The Quality of Mercy,” Mickey’s mood brightens when he realizes Lucy is determined to stand by him despite the fact that he’ll never walk again. “Who knows? Maybe we’ll get married yet,” Mickey tells her.

But this is “Dallas,” so of course that never happens. When Mickey slips into a coma, his respirator is disconnected off-screen by either Ray or Lil, the two people with him at the time. The district attorney charges Ray, although the show goes out of its way to drop hints that the real culprit is Lil and Ray is only covering up for her. “Dallas” doesn’t solve the mystery until the next episode, allowing the audience to spend “Ray’s Trial” pondering what Mickey wanted, which turns out to be the more interesting question anyway. At the top of the hour, Ray meets with his lawyer and recalls Mickey’s “worst horror” comment, holding this up as evidence that Mickey preferred death to being kept alive via medical machinery. Later, when Lucy testifies at Ray’s trial, she recalls the marriage plans she and Mickey were making before he slipped into the coma. “He wanted to live. He really did,” she says.

Once again, these are two characters offering two technically accurate but fundamentally different answers to the question of whether Mickey wanted to live or die. Who you choose to believe may come down to where you stand on the issue of euthanasia, which is where “Ray’s Trial” ultimately falls short. Scriptwriter Arthur Bernard Lewis doesn’t devote much time to examining the moral implications of Mickey’s death, which is somewhat surprising considering the difference of opinion Ray and Donna apparently bring to the issue. At one point, Ray tells his lawyer, “What I did was not immoral.” This seems to put him at odds with Donna, whose personal beliefs are hinted at in the previous episode when she declares, “Nobody has the right to play God.” So why doesn’t “Ray’s Trial” give us a scene of husband and wife debating the issue?

Even if the material feels incomplete, Steve Kanaly makes the most of it. In my recent interview with him, Kanaly recalled growing up watching westerns and admiring actors like Gary Cooper. The comment must have lodged itself in the back of my mind because when I watched “Ray’s Trial” a few days later, I was struck by how much Kanaly reminds me of Cooper. The actors share similarly quiet, dignified mannerisms, and both are able to say a lot without uttering a single line of dialogue. In Kanaly’s case, watch his haunted eyes in this episode and you’ll see everything that the script doesn’t tell us about what Ray is feeling.

The other performer to watch is Charlene Tilton, who appears only twice but makes a lasting impression. She does a beautiful job delivering Lucy’s tearful testimony, which supplies “Ray’s Trial” with its moment of emotional catharsis. My favorite scene, though, comes a few moments later, when Donna comforts Lucy in the courthouse corridor after Lucy reluctantly testifies against Ray. This is a brief scene and the script doesn’t give Tilton much dialogue, but none is needed. Her anguished expression says it all. The courtroom scenes also feature a couple of old pros — Richard Jaeckel as prosecutor Percy Meredith and Glenn Corbett as Paul Morgan, Ray’s defense lawyer — as well as a young Steven Williams, who appears here as a bailiff and later plays the police captain on “21 Jump Street.”

This episode’s other notable moments include Mark Graison’s polo match, which might be “Dallas’s” most thrilling horseback riding sequence since Jock Ewing surged across the Southfork plains at the beginning of the second-season classic “Bypass.” “Ray’s Trial” also marks Lois Chiles’ final appearance as Holly Harwood. In her last scene, Holly approaches J.R. in a cocktail lounge and taunts him over losing the battle for Ewing Oil. Besides giving Chiles one last opportunity to spar with Larry Hagman, I like how this scene mimics J.R. and Holly’s first on-screen encounter, which also takes place in a cocktail lounge.

The other highlight of “Ray’s Trial” is the arrival of Priscilla Presley, who makes her “Dallas” debut as Jenna Wade. It’s a fine first appearance, although it includes a bit of a curiosity. In one of Presley’s scenes, Bobby pulls up in front of Jenna’s home as she approaches the sidewalk. He invites her to join him for lunch, but when director Michael Preece offers us a close-up shot of Bobby’s car radio, we see the clock reads “5:45.” From this, we can deduce one of two things: Either Ewings eat lunch very late, which makes them a lot different than you and me, or Bobby has yet to figure out how to set the clock in his car, in which case he’s just like us.

Grade: B


Dallas, Jenna Wade, Priscilla Presley, Ray's Trial

Hello again


Season 7, Episode 7

Airdate: November 11, 1983

Audience: 22.4 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: Ray goes on trial and frustrates Donna with his reluctance to defend himself. Bobby runs into Jenna, who now works as a waitress. J.R. woos the cartel.

Cast: Charles Aidman (Judge Emmett Brocks), Christopher Atkins (Peter Richards), John Beck (Mark Graison), Morgan Brittany (Katherine Wentworth), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Glenn Corbett (Paul Morgan), Michael Cornelison (Dr. Snow), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Eric Farlow (Christopher Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Steven Fuller (bailiff), Tony Garcia (Raoul), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Richard Jaeckel (Assistant District Attorney Percy Meredith), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Omri Katz (John Ross Ewing),  Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Joseph R. Maross (Dr. Blakely), Andrea McCall (Tracy Anders), Priscilla Presley (Jenna Wade), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“Ray’s Trial” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

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.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘No, J.R.’

A Ewing is a Ewing, Dallas, Holly Harwood, Lois Chiles


In “A Ewing is a Ewing,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode, Holly (Lois Chiles) arrives in the darkened Ewing Oil reception area and finds J.R. (Larry Hagman) waiting for her.

J.R.: Hello, Holly.

HOLLY: Why the late-hour meeting, J.R.? I don’t understand why you couldn’t tell me what you wanted —

J.R.: There are a number of things you don’t understand, darlin’. That’s why I asked you to meet me here. Come on in my office. [Walks into his office, stands near the door] Come on, hon. [Holly comes to the door, pauses] Come on. [She enters and he closes the door behind her.] Like a drink?

HOLLY: No. Get on with it, J.R.

J.R.: [Pouring] Looks like I’m running into teetotalers all over the place. I had a meeting with a gentleman this afternoon, wouldn’t have a drink with me. [Sips from his glass]

HOLLY: J.R., I think we better talk some other time.

J.R.: You told the Air Force that I was behind your attempt to cancel their contract. [She’s silent.] Holly, we had an agreement. No one was to know I had any connection with Harwood Oil.

HOLLY: Anytime you want out of your contract —

J.R.: I don’t want out of the contract. And I don’t want any more stupid mistakes. You understand that?

HOLLY: What I understand is that I made the biggest mistake of my life when I made a deal with you.

J.R.: Not if you listen and do exactly like I tell you.

HOLLY: For how long?

J.R.: [Pauses, looks away, then back at her] As long as I need you.

HOLLY: Then what? You break Harwood? Ewing picks up the pieces?

J.R.: I don’t need to break Harwood. I already run it. And from now on, I run you too, darlin’.

HOLLY: Never!

She turns away from him. He approaches her from behind.

J.R.: Holly, you don’t have any choice, honey. [Touches her hair]

HOLLY: Take your hands off me, J.R.

J.R.: You wanted me once. [Reaches around, unbuttons her jacket]

HOLLY: You turned me down.

J.R.: Now we can start from scratch. [Pulls her jacket off her shoulders]

HOLLY: No, J.R. I don’t want this.

J.R.: I give the orders. You just follow them. That’s the way it’s going to be.

HOLLY: You won’t enjoy it.

J.R.: You better make damn sure I do.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 119 — ‘A Ewing is a Ewing’

A Ewing is a Ewing, Dallas, Holly Harwood, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Lois Chiles

It’s complicated

The most unsettling moment in “A Ewing is a Ewing”: Holly Harwood arrives for an after-hours meeting at J.R.’s office, where he chastises her for telling one of Harwood Oil’s top customers that J.R. has become a silent partner in the company. Holly expresses regret — not for letting the cat out of the bag, but for going into business with J.R. in the first place. She turns her back to him. J.R. approaches from behind, reaches around and slowly begins to unbutton her jacket. “No, J.R. I don’t want this,” she says. He pulls the jacket off her shoulders. “You won’t enjoy it,” she continues. His reply: “You better make damn sure I do.”

The scene ends here, but there’s no doubt intercourse occurs. (Later in “A Ewing is a Ewing,” Holly pulls a gun on J.R. and tells him what transpired in his office will never happen again.) The question is: Is this rape? I can’t decide. On the one hand, Holly tells J.R. “no,” but he has sex with her anyway. How can that be anything but assault? On the other hand, I wonder why Holly makes no attempt to run away or to fight J.R. when he begins disrobing her. This woman is no shrinking violet, as the gun scene later in the episode demonstrates.

Given the ambiguity, perhaps a better question is: What did the people who made “Dallas” want the audience to think when this scene was broadcast 30 years ago? It seems shocking to think that a network television show would allow its lead character to rape a woman (this was CBS in the 1980s, not AMC today), so I wonder if the producers and writers merely saw this as another example of J.R. running roughshod over one of his enemies? Could it be the people behind the scenes didn’t grasp that this might be construed as an act of sexual violence? To be fair, society has a greater understanding of rape today than it did three decades ago, but it’s not like nothing was known about these kinds of crimes back then. Perhaps these two facts are telling: None of the producers listed in the “Dallas” credits during the 1982-83 season are women, and of the 28 episodes produced that year, all but one were written by men. (Linda Elstad wrote “Requiem,” which aired three weeks after “A Ewing is a Ewing.”).

Regardless of what this scene is supposed to depict, I dislike it. I’m usually willing to forgive J.R. his sins, even when my conscience tries to tug me in the other direction. I’m an unapologetic J.R. apologist. J.R. is cheating in a business deal? I say: He’s just trying to make his daddy proud, and who can’t sympathize with that? J.R. is cheating on Sue Ellen? In my mind, he’s merely revealing his foibles. But even I can’t justify my hero’s behavior in this scene. Make no mistake: This is not one of J.R.’s sly seductions. I hate how he how he stands in the doorway of his office and beckons Holly into the room by saying, “Come on, hon. Come on.” He treats her like a child or worse, a pet.

The scene invites comparisons to another disturbing “Dallas” sequence — this one from the 10th episode, “Black Market Baby” — when J.R. angrily pins Sue Ellen to their bed and forces himself on her, despite her repeatedly saying, “I don’t want you.” I don’t like that scene any more than the one with Holly, but keep in mind: It was filmed in 1978, before Larry Hagman had perfected the smiling warrior routine that made him so endearing to fans like me. Other soap opera icons have similar skeletons in their closet — Luke raped Laura before they became a couple on “General Hospital,” while Blake forced himself on Krystle during an early episode of “Dynasty” — but once Luke and Blake were redeemed, their shows were loathe to remind audiences of the characters’ past sins. Why would “Dallas” want to risk the affection that fans had for J.R., unless the show was feeling long in the tooth and trying to recapture some of its earlier edge?

Of course, no matter how distressing I find J.R. and Holly’s scene, I still appreciate how good Hagman and Lois Chiles are in it. Hagman, who also directed “A Ewing is a Ewing,” wisely avoids any hint of mischief, choosing instead to play J.R. as purely menacing. Chiles, in the meantime, makes us feel Holly’s sense of trepidation when she arrives for their meeting, as well as the disgust that grips her when J.R. begins unbuttoning her jacket. Hagman and Chiles are also terrific in the scene where Holly pulls the gun on J.R. I like how he snickers when she produces the weapon, only to breathe a private sigh of relief the moment he exits the room. Frankly, it’s cathartic to see J.R. scared.

I think it’s also worth considering how J.R. treats Sue Ellen in “A Ewing is a Ewing.” At the beginning of the second act, he “confides” in Sue Ellen that he needs someone to refine his crude and suggests she could ask Clayton Farlow to do it on his behalf. Sue Ellen resists this idea, so J.R. exploits her Achilles heel: He suggests that without Clayton’s help, he might lose the contest for Ewing Oil, thus robbing John Ross of his birthright. “It’s funny, isn’t it?” J.R. says. “The one thing I need to beat Bobby, to secure our future — the future of our little boy — is in the hands of a man that despises me.”

This is the second time in recent episodes that J.R. has used Sue Ellen as a pawn in the battle for Ewing Oil: In “Fringe Benefits,” he asks her to host a dinner party for Gil Thurman, even though he knows the lecherous Thurman will make a pass at her. That scheme ends disastrously, and Sue Ellen’s appeal to Clayton in “A Ewing is a Ewing” doesn’t turn out much better. Clayton feels she’s taking advantage of their friendship by asking him to help J.R. and storms away. It makes me wonder: Was this J.R.’s goal all along, to drive a wedge between his wife and Clayton?

Like J.R., Bobby shows he’s also willing to use people to get what he wants in “A Ewing is a Ewing.” (No doubt Bobby’s emulation of his brother inspired this episode’s title.) When Bobby discovers J.R. is in cahoots with energy commissioner George Hicks, Bobby hires Wendy, one of Carl Daggett’s prostitutes, to begin dating Hicks so she can dig up dirt on him. (The seeds for this subplot were planted in “Where There’s a Will,” which introduced the terrific character actor Charles Napier as Daggett, an old friend of Bobby’s.) In “A Ewing is a Ewing’s” memorable final scene, Pam arrives for dinner with Bobby at an out-of-the-way restaurant, but she’s unaware the only reason he asked her out for the evening is so he can spy on Wendy and Hicks, who are drinking on the other side of the room. Bobby isn’t just using Wendy; he’s using his wife too.

I suppose I should be disappointed in Bobby, but I’m not. It’s rather satisfying to see him shed his good-guy veneer, at least for a little while. Or maybe it’s just that after everything else that goes down in this episode, seeing Bobby dabble in prostitution and blackmail doesn’t seem so bad.

Grade: B


A Ewing is a Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Patrick Duffy

Yep, he’s a Ewing


Season 6, Episode 16

Airdate: January 28, 1983

Audience: 22.3 million homes, ranking 3rd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Frank Furino

Director: Larry Hagman

Synopsis: After J.R. pressures Holly into having sex with him, she pulls a gun on him and declares their relationship is now strictly business. Bobby discovers J.R. is in cahoots with George Hicks, a member of the Texas Energy Commission, and hires a prostitute to set up Hicks. Clayton reacts angrily when Sue Ellen asks him to refine J.R.’s crude and leaves for Galveston, where he spends time with the vacationing Miss Ellie. The cartel buys out Bobby’s share of the Wellington property. Cliff urges his party to recruit J.R. as a candidate for office. Mark continues to pursue Pam.

Cast: John Beck (Mark Graison), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Ion Berger (detective), Robert Burleigh (Harry), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), April Clough (Wendy), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), John Dennis (Ned), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Paul Mantee (General Cochran), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), Charles Napier (Carl Daggett), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Arlen Dean Snyder (George Hicks), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis)

“A Ewing is a Ewing” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 116 — ‘Mama Dearest’

Barbara Bel Geddes, Dallas, Mama Dearest, Miss Ellie Ewing

Mother knows best?

In “Mama Dearest,” Miss Ellie embarks on a quest to break Jock’s will and stop J.R. and Bobby’s contest for Ewing Oil. This causes the alliances within the family to shift, sometimes dramatically. J.R. and Bobby both oppose Ellie’s efforts, but when J.R. suggests the brothers join forces to defeat their mother, Bobby refuses. J.R. isn’t on his own, though: He gets support from Sue Ellen and Lucy, who believes the competition for the company should play out the way Jock intended. In the meantime, Pam rushes to support Ellie, which strains her marriage to Bobby.

Some of these reactions are surprising, but all of them make sense. I believe J.R. would be the first to recognize that it would be in his best interest to call a temporary truce with Bobby, just as I believe Bobby would be reluctant to join J.R. because he doesn’t trust him. Likewise, Pam’s allegiance to Ellie feels reasonable, although I suspect Pam’s response has more to do with her own opposition to the contest than it does with her concern for mother-in-law’s emotional wellbeing. More often than not, Pam is a pragmatist.

Lucy’s support for J.R. is unexpected, of course, but notice how she never lets him know she’s in his corner. Even if Lucy agrees with J.R., she isn’t going to give him the satisfaction of knowing it. Instead, Lucy confides her feelings in Ellie. This conversation occurs late at night, when Lucy sits with her grandmother at the Southfork kitchen table and gently questions her decision to break the will. Charlene Tilton, in a lovely performance, manages to convey Lucy’s almost-childlike belief in her grandfather’s infallibility, as well as her confidence that he knew what he was doing when he decided to pit J.R. and Bobby against each other. “I’m sure it’s all turning out just the way Granddaddy expected,” Lucy says. It’s nice to see this character growing up and becoming wiser.

Barbara Bel Geddes, the actress at the heart of “Mama Dearest,” is terrific in this exchange too. She avoids eye contact with Tilton, which helps convey Ellie’s uncertainty about whether her legal challenge is appropriate. Even at the end of the conversation, when Lucy reaches across the table and touches Ellie’s arm, Bel Geddes looks away. Contrast this with her performance in the scene where J.R. joins Ellie for breakfast on the Southfork patio. He tries to turn on the charm, but Mama doesn’t fall for it. “You get a good night’s sleep?” J.R. asks. Ellie looks at him and coolly says, “J.R., I don’t think you really care how I slept last night.” It’s a telling moment: Even if Ellie isn’t sure she’s doing the right thing, she’s smart enough to know she shouldn’t let J.R. know she has doubts. Mama probably would have made a good poker player.

Another great scene in “Mama Dearest” belongs to Patrick Duffy, who also directed this episode. After a frustrated Bobby takes off for a nighttime drive to collect his thoughts, he returns home and finds Pam waiting up for him. Bobby tells her that he’s upset over her decision to support Ellie, and then he explains why he wants the contest to continue. Duffy’s delivery is impassioned; he makes a fist and practically shakes it at the camera as he speaks. The words are as important as the delivery. Here’s his speech:

“Pam, you don’t understand what drove Jock Ewing. And I don’t think you really understand what drives me, either. When I was at the university, making the football team just wasn’t enough. I had to be varsity. I had to be captain. I had to make All-Southwest Conference — and I did! I did all of that. When you and I met, I wasn’t just a roadman for Ewing Oil. I was the best roadman for any oil company. Because that’s what Daddy expected. And that’s what I expect from myself. And J.R. and I are a lot alike because he’s not going to take second best either. You see, that’s why Daddy turned away from Gary. The Ewings must succeed, and Gary didn’t care about that, but Pam, J.R. and I do! Now, Daddy chose that the future of Ewing Oil is going to be in the hands of the son strong enough to run it. And that’s the way it’s gonna be.”

This monologue, besides being one of the highlights of Arthur Bernard Lewis’s script, helps demonstrate why the contest for Ewing Oil is such a satisfying storyline. Bobby is usually the yin to J.R.’s yang, but notice how he doesn’t mention J.R. until almost the end of the speech. This time, Bobby isn’t simply reacting to J.R.’s schemes. For the youngest Ewing son, the contest is as much about proving himself worthy of his father’s expectations as it is stopping J.R. from committing some heinous act. The scene reminds us that Bobby is a pretty interesting character in his own right.

Of course, J.R. remains the most fascinating figure of all in “Mama Dearest.” Throughout this episode, Larry Hagman gives us the feeling his character is genuinely frightened by the prospect that Ellie might stop the contest and sell Ewing Oil out from under him. Notice how J.R. loses his cool with Ellie at the beginning of the episode, after she’s announced her decision to challenge the will, and later when he realizes she’s getting advice from Clayton. (Is it a coincidence that the last time we saw J.R. this rattled occurred after he ran into Clayton and Rebecca at the French restaurant?) I also think it’s telling the lengths he’ll go to shore up support from the other Ewings. When J.R. is trying to persuade Bobby to join him in fighting their mother, he tells him, “We may battle a lot, but I just want you to remember: You’re my brother, and I love you.” The “l word” isn’t one J.R. uses a lot. Later, J.R. stands behind Sue Ellen as she gazes into a mirror and promises she’ll one day be mistress of Southfork and share his power. He really knows how to tell other people what they want to hear, doesn’t he?

J.R. also figures into “Mama Dearest’s” funniest scene, when he arrives at Holly’s home and discovers she runs Harwood Oil from her bedroom. (“You know as many oil deals are made in bedrooms as in boardrooms,” she purrs. The line would be a groaner if Lois Chiles didn’t look like she was having so much fun delivering it.) This is one of those “Dallas” moments that I recall watching as a kid, although my memory turned things around: I mistakenly remembered Holly keeping a bed in her office, not a desk in her bedroom. Either way, I can’t help but wonder why J.R. never followed suit. Imagine how much easier life would have been for ol’ J.R. if the Ewing Oil executive suite had come equipped with a mattress.

Grade: A


Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Mama Dearest, Patrick Duffy

Rising son?


Season 6, Episode 13

Airdate: December 31, 1982

Audience: 15.2 million homes, ranking 24th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Patrick Duffy

Synopsis: Miss Ellie asks lawyer Brooks Oliver to help her break Jock’s will. Pam sides with Ellie, straining her marriage to Bobby. J.R. orders Holly to cancel her military contracts so she can refine his crude. Donna urges her fellow energy commissioners to not restore J.R.’s variance to pump excess oil. Bobby pressures the cartel to uncap the Wellington property so he can compete with J.R. Cliff buys a townhouse.

Cast: Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Paul Carr (Ted Prince), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Bobbie Ferguson (Terri), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), James Karen (Elton Lawrence), Julio Medina (Henry Figueroa), Donald Moffat (Brooks Oliver), Timothy Patrick Murphy (Mickey Trotter), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Robert Pinkerton (Elliot), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Debbie Rennard (Sly), Danone Simpson (Kendall), Arlen Dean Snyder (George Hicks), Paul Sorensen (Andy Bradley), Joan Staley (Ms. Stockwood), Don Starr (Jordan Lee), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Deborah Tranelli (Phyllis), Morgan Woodward (Punk Anderson)

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

The Art of Dallas: ‘Aftermath’

Aftermath, Dallas, Holly Harwood, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Lois Chiles

Holly and J.R. (Lois Chiles, Larry Hagman) are seen aboard her yacht in this 1982 publicity shot from “Aftermath,” a sixth-season “Dallas” episode.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 106 — ‘Billion Dollar Question’

Billion Dollas Question, Charlene Tilton, Dallas, Lucy Cooper, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Sob sisters

“Billion Dollar Question” is dominated by the Ewings’ squabbling over whether to have Jock declared legally dead, but I find the subplot about Lucy’s abortion much more interesting. “Dallas” handles her situation with a good deal of sensitivity and care, making this one of those times when the show seems to want to make its audience think, not just entertain them. It’s nicely done.

In the preceding episodes, Lucy learns she’s pregnant after being raped by her stalker, Roger Larson, and tells Pam she’s decided to have an abortion. At the beginning of “Billion Dollar Question,” Lucy’s doctor warns her some women have “tremendous psychological problems” after having the procedure, but Lucy is adamant that she wants to terminate the pregnancy. “I was raped. How could I be a good mother if every time I looked at the baby, it reminded me of that?” she asks. Lucy also rejects the idea of putting the child up for adoption, telling the doctor: “If I don’t get this over and behind me, I think I may just go out of my mind.”

Later in “Billion Dollar Question,” Pam visits Lucy at Dallas Memorial Hospital, where Lucy is anxiously waiting to have the procedure done. When Lucy asks Pam what she would do if she were in a similar situation, Pam recalls her own struggle to have children, adding that she isn’t sure how she would respond if she became pregnant after a rape. “Pam, don’t hate me for this,” Lucy says. Pam’s response: “Hate you? I could never hate you, no matter what. I love you.” The next time we see the two women, the abortion is over and Lucy is crying in her hospital bed as Pam strokes her hair. “I don’t know if I did the right thing or not,” Lucy says.

Arthur Bernard Lewis’s script doesn’t really take a side on the abortion debate, allowing the audience to decide for itself if Lucy made the best decision. It’s worth noting that Pam, “Dallas’s” original moral compass, shows compassion toward Lucy, even if she doesn’t necessarily agree with her decision. Pam also respects Lucy’s privacy — to a point. She breaks her niece’s confidence when she tells Bobby that Lucy had an abortion, but when Bobby suggests Miss Ellie should know too, Pam responds: “I don’t think we should be the ones to tell her. That’s something Lucy’s got to work out for herself.”

Charlene Tilton and Victoria Principal both deliver nice performances throughout this episode, although not everything about the storyline holds up. At times, Lewis’s script gets bogged down in the sexism that pervades this era of “Dallas.” When Pam asks the doctor if Lucy is emotionally prepared for an abortion, he responds, “I’ve always felt it’s very difficult for a man to make a proper judgment in a case like this. Very difficult.” Later, as Lucy is getting ready to leave the hospital, she tells Pam the doctor has assured her she’ll be able to have a baby one day. “And I will want one, when I find the right man,” Lucy says. Other lines sounds like they come straight from a medical encyclopedia: There are numerous references to the procedure being a “therapeutic abortion,” for example.

Of course, this attention to detail isn’t an altogether bad thing. When I recently watched “Billion Dollar Question” for the first time in years, I found it odd that Lucy had the abortion at Dallas Memorial and not a clinic — until I did some research and discovered some hospitals do, in fact, perform the procedure. Lucy refers to this when she tells Pam, “I should have just gone to a clinic. Everything takes so long here. … I’ve heard of women going in, a few hours later they go home. It’s over.”

I know a lot of  fans watch “Dallas” for escapism, but the producers deserve credit for their willingness to tackle a topic that, in some respects, remains taboo on television. Bea Arthur’s character famously had TV’s first abortion in a 1972 episode of “Maude,” but there aren’t many other examples from ’70s and ’80s television. Yet when histories of abortion in prime time are written, Lucy’s is almost always omitted. Did her procedure generate less controversy because it was the result of a rape? Does she get overlooked because “Dallas” is a soap opera?

Besides Lucy’s storyline, “Billion Dollar Question” is also distinguished by J.R. and Holly’s scenes aboard her yacht, which showcase the playful chemistry between Larry Hagman and Lois Chiles, as well as a nifty bird’s eye shot of J.R. tooling along the highway in his Mercedes. I also like Barbara Bel Geddes’ scene with Hagman, when Miss Ellie tells J.R. that his father never played dirty when he was president of Ewing Oil. J.R.’s response: “Mama, you don’t know the half of what Daddy did when he was running that company.” For once, I get the feeling he isn’t exaggerating.

Grade: B


Billion Dollas Question, Dallas, Holly Harwood, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Lois Chiles

Das boots


Season 6, Episode 3

Airdate: October 15, 1982

Audience: 17.2 million homes, ranking 12th in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Michael Preece

Synopsis: J.R. pressures Miss Ellie to have Jock declared legally dead but she tells him she needs more time. Holly rejects J.R.’s offer to mix business with pleasure and questions his advice to buy a refinery. Lucy has an abortion. Cliff accepts Marilee’s job offer. Ray learns Amos has died. Clayton tells Sue Ellen that Dusty is planning a visit to the Southern Cross.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Lois Chiles (Holly Harwood), Roseanna Christiansen (Teresa), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Fern Fitzgerald (Marilee Stone), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Alice Hirson (Mavis Anderson), Susan Howard (Donna Krebbs), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Howard Keel (Clayton Farlow), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper), Dennis Lipscomb (Nelson Harding), Frank Marth (Dr. Grovner), George O. Petrie (Harv Smithfield), Priscilla Pointer (Rebecca Wentworth), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Kate Reid (Lil Trotter), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Cooper)

“Billion Dollar Question” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘To J.R. Ewing, Back in Power Again’

Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Holly Harwood, Lois Chiles

Silent partner

In “Changing of the Guard,” “Dallas’s” sixth-season opener, Holly and J.R. (Lois Chiles, Larry Hagman) sit at a table inside a darkened cocktail lounge.

HOLLY: Well, what do you say? Do we have a deal?

J.R.: [Leans forward] Well, it’s a very tempting offer. Especially coming from such a lovely young lady.

HOLLY: It’s a dynamite offer. And you know it. [Smiles, squeezes a lime into her drink] You’re out of Ewing Oil. And I don’t know a damn thing about running an oil company.

J.R.: You’re very bright. [Sips his drink]

HOLLY: I’m bright enough to know what I don’t know. [Smiles, stirs her drink]

J.R.: All right, I’ll accept your offer. I’ll run Harwood Oil for you — on one condition: that I stay completely in the background. Nobody’s to know of my involvement.

HOLLY: Forever?

J.R.: Till I say so. You continue to act as president and I’ll give you all the moves. I don’t want an office, and I certainly don’t want to meet in your office.

HOLLY: Whatever you say. What about money? Or do you have somebody to take care of that for you?

J.R.: [Chuckles] Well, Holly, I think as you get to know me a little better, you’ll find that I take care of just about everything. I don’t want any money up front. But I do want 25 percent ownership of Harwood Oil.

HOLLY: [Smiling] Twenty-five percent? You don’t come cheap, do you J.R.?

J.R.: You wouldn’t want me if I did, would you? Look at it this way, Holly: With me, you have 75 percent of a profitable business. And without me, you just might have 100 percent of nothing.

HOLLY: [Long silence] All right. [Looks down, then back at him] Deal.

J.R.: [Smiles] That calls for a toast.

HOLLY: To Harwood Oil. Someday it may be bigger and stronger than Ewing Oil.

J.R.: [Hesitates, smiles, drinks] You know, it just occurred to me: I’ve only been out of work 48 hours.

HOLLY: [Smiles] To J.R. Ewing, back in power again.

J.R.: [Clinks her glass with his] As it should be.