Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 55 – ‘No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1’

Dallas, Dr. Miles Pearson, No More Mr. Nice Guy Part 1, Peter Donat, Who Shot J.R.?

Hurry up, doc

The Ewings go through “No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1” not knowing who shot J.R. or whether he’ll survive the attempt on his life, and this uncertainty lends the episode a paranoid, almost Hitchcockian vibe. Poor Sue Ellen looks positively dazed. What frightens her more: the possibility that her husband will die – or that he’ll live?

I also can’t help but wonder if some of the worried looks on the actors’ faces aren’t real. Production on this episode began during the summer of 1980, when Larry Hagman was in seclusion while his agents renegotiated his contract. In Hagman’s absence, the “Dallas” set buzzed: If the actor’s salary demands weren’t met, would J.R. succumb to his gunshot wounds? Would he come out of surgery looking like Robert Culp? Either way, could “Dallas” survive without its biggest star?

No wonder Patrick Duffy is visibly sweating when Bobby arrives at the hospital.

The anxious atmospherics in “No Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1” help distract me from some of this episode’s flaws, beginning with the campy opening, when the shrieking cleaning lady discovers J.R. (By the way: Where’s the blood?) Also, the episode’s action sequences are curiously lethargic: The police car that arrives at the crime scene isn’t moving very fast, the paramedics who bring J.R. into the emergency room aren’t in much of a hurry and the doctors and nurses who treat him are downright plodding.

Of course, “No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1’s” biggest weakness is the void Hagman leaves. He appears in just two scenes, which were filmed after his contract was settled and he returned to work. (Extras fill in for Hagman in the scenes where J.R. is seen laying on ambulance stretchers and operating tables.) This makes the episode a kind of precursor to TNT’s “Dallas,” where Hagman’s role is similarly limited.

So even though I appreciate the raw honesty of Valene’s response to her brother-in-law’s shooting (“If J.R. was dead, I honestly could not mourn him.”), I can’t help but think she should bite her tongue. After all, if this episode proves anything, it’s that “Dallas” without J.R. just isn’t the same.

Grade: C

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Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, No More Mr. Nice Guy Part 1, Who Shot J.R.?

Invisible man

‘NO MORE MR. NICE GUY, PART 1’

Season 4, Episode 1

Airdate: November 7, 1980

Audience: 29.7 million homes, ranking 2nd in the weekly ratings

Writer: Arthur Bernard Lewis

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: J.R. is rushed to the hospital, where the Ewings keep vigil. Sue Ellen can’t remember what she did the night he was shot, but Kristin tells her she came to her condo, vowing to kill J.R. After J.R. has life-saving surgery, a detective asks who shot him and J.R. looks at Sue Ellen.

Cast: Michael Alldredge (Detective Don Horton), Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Sarah Buchannan (Beth Forrester), Christopher Coffey (Professor Greg Forrester), Karlene Crockett (Muriel Gillis), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Maureen Crudden (candy striper), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Peter Donat (Dr. Miles Pearson), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Nik Hagler (Detective Frost), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Barbara Kain (Nurse), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Virginia Peters (cleaning lady), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Joan Van Ark (Valene Ewing)

“No More Mr. Nice Guy, Part 1” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.