Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’s’ Ratings Dip Again, But Don’t Panic

Dallas, Julie Gonzalo, Pamela Rebecca Barnes, Sins of the Father, TNT

Where’d everybody go?

“Dallas’s” audience shrunk again this week, but TV ratings expert Marc Berman said it’s too soon for the show’s fans to sound the alarms.

“I wouldn’t panic yet,” Berman, editor in chief of TV Media Insights, a top industry news site, said yesterday. “The numbers are disappointing, but they’re not horrific.”

TNT’s “Dallas” revival averaged 4.2 million viewers on Wednesday nights last summer, but when DVR users who recorded the show and watched it later were counted, the audience rose to 6.1 million viewers.

Last week, “Dallas” opened its second season on a new night – Mondays – with 2.9 million viewers. This week’s episode, “Sins of the Father,” dipped to 2.2 million viewers, “Dallas’s” smallest haul yet. The Feb. 4 audience included 773,000 viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, a demographic advertisers pay a premium to reach.

Berman said “Dallas” faces much tougher competition in the winter than it did last summer, when the broadcast networks are mostly in rerun mode. This week, “Dallas” aired opposite fresh episodes of CBS’s popular sitcoms “2 Broke Girls” and “Mike & Molly,” which were the evening’s most-watched programs, and Fox’ “The Following,” the highly touted serial killer drama starring Kevin Bacon.

Also: Don’t overlook the importance of the bump “Dallas” gets when DVR users are counted. Television executives take DVR numbers into consideration when deciding a show’s fate, Berman said.

Nevertheless, TNT might be questioning its strategy to bring back “Dallas” in the middle of winter and on a new night, Berman said. The cable channel has paired “Dallas” with a new medical drama, “Monday Mornings,” which bowed to just 1.3 million viewers on Feb. 4. “That doesn’t reflect poorly on ‘Dallas,’ that reflects poorly on ‘Monday Mornings,’” Berman said.

If “Dallas’s” numbers continue to fall, Berman predicted the cable channel might shift the series to another night. “It’s not an impossibility,” he said. TNT had no comment, a spokeswoman said.

Berman himself is a longtime “Dallas” fan and said he enjoys the new series, praising it for incorporating original cast members like Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray with newcomers like Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe. “When I heard it was coming back, I was apprehensive, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” Berman said.

Catch Up on Your ‘Dallas’ Reading

Dallas Decoder is best known for its episode critiques, but we’ve been cranking out fun features during the past two weeks.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out our retrospective of the shows that aired after the original “Dallas” (it wasn’t just “Falcon Crest”!); our look back at the classic show’s Barnes/Ewing romances (it wasn’t just Bobby and Pam!) and J.R./Pam clashes; and everything you need to know about Pamela’s mother Afton Cooper, who is slated to visit the new “Dallas” in a few weeks.

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

TNT’s Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘A Rare and Beautiful Thing. …’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Sins of the Father, TNT

Night visitor

In “Sins of the Father,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, Frank (Faran Tahir) enters his darkened home and finds J.R. (Larry Hagman) seated there.

J.R.: You lost a step, Frank. It’s a sad day when an old man can sneak up on a super ninja.

FRANK: What are you doing here?

J.R.: Well, I heard they found some – what do you call it? – high velocity blood splatter at Pamela Barnes’s old condo. Word is it might belong to Tommy Sutter.

FRANK: I’m no detective, but whatever they found in Pamela’s condo is Pamela’s problem.

J.R.: Well, I’m no detective either, but it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to know you clean up whatever mess Cliff asks you to. And this certainly is a mess.

FRANK: It may be hard for an old, retired fellow like you to understand this, but I’m a busy man. I don’t have time to chat.

J.R.: Well, I’m retired, but not by choice. Getting pushed out of my place at the table stung like hell. But you know how that feels, don’t you Frank? After all the jams you’ve gotten Cliff out of, to be treated like a lapdog by that spoiled princess? You’re not a Barnes, Frank. No matter how much Cliff appreciates what you’ve done, when push comes to shove, he’s going to protect his daughter. Now we both know that rich folks don’t go to jail. However, the people that clean up after them do.

FRANK: What are you suggesting?

J.R.: Tell me where the body and the gun are. I’ll make sure they pop up. You can get your place back at the Barnes Global table, and I make sure that Barnes girl doesn’t get a piece of Ewing Energies. [Smiles]

FRANK: If there were a body, the moment it appeared, Cliff would know I sold him out.

J.R.: [Chuckles] Frank, I’m J.R. Ewing. I can make a body appear in the middle of a church social without anybody knowing how it got there.

FRANK: Why should I trust you?

J.R.: Because we both want to destroy Pamela. And it’s a rare and beautiful thing when enemies share the same enemy. [Rises] I’ll be expecting your call. [Walks past him] Make it soon.

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 13 – ‘Sins of the Father’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Sins of the Father, TNT

The master

Larry Hagman supplies “Sins of the Father” with its best moments, including the cool scene where J.R. pressures Frank to betray Cliff, as well as the surprisingly sentimental one where he vows to help Bobby get revenge against Ryland. But for once, Hagman isn’t the only great thing about the new “Dallas.” Every member of the ensemble shines in this episode, especially Brenda Strong, whose performances are pitch perfect. This is the first time I’ve cared about Ann’s storyline this season, and that’s mostly because Strong does such a beautiful job selling it.

Strong has always had the most thankless job on this show because Ann has been assigned a dual role previously occupied by two of the most beloved figures in the “Dallas” mythos. Not only has Ann succeeded Pam as Bobby’s wife, she’s also assumed Miss Ellie’s mantle as the first lady of Southfork. Now, in “Sins of the Father,” with all her secrets seemingly exposed, Ann finally begins to feel like her own woman. She repeatedly calls Harris a “son of a bitch,” lobs a few barbs at Judith, and then confesses to Emma her past addiction to tranquilizers. We’re not in Pam or Ellie territory anymore.

I applaud the “Dallas” writers for turning Ann into a flawed heroine, but Strong gets the credit for making the character so convincingly human. Ann’s tears during her reunion with Emma at the end of “Battle Lines,” the second-season premiere, seemed to exceed what the moment called for, but I never get that feeling watching her in “Sins of the Father.” Strong strikes the right balance between regret and resolve in this episode’s Ann/Emma scene, making me believe Ann is a woman who hasn’t forgotten her mistakes, even if she’s risen above them.

Strong is downright mesmerizing at the end of “Sins of the Father,” when Ann confronts Harris and shoots him. It’s unsettling to see Ann behave so coldly, although I can’t say the shooting shocked me since TNT’s second-season promos included a glimpse of her brandishing a gun. I also can’t help but notice how closely Ann’s shooting of Harris mirrors Pamela’s shooting of Tommy in last season’s “Family Business,” right down to the victim’s slow-motion fall to the floor. There’s one big difference, of course: Pamela’s shooting was an act of self-defense, while Ann shoots Harris in cold blood. How’s the show going to redeem her after this?

Even though Strong dominates “Sins of the Father,” this is a solid hour for all the “Dallas” women. For me, seeing Sue Ellen march into Ewing Energies and threaten to call in Elena’s loan was a little metaphysical: Suddenly it was the 1980s again and I was back in my parents’ living room, watching Sue Ellen square off against one of her rivals, except this time the fight was over her son, not J.R. The role of Mama Bear fits Linda Gray well, although I think this moment would’ve been more effective if Sue Ellen had taken it upon herself to go after Elena instead of being manipulated into it by John Ross. Regardless, I welcome the return of the take-no-prisoners Sue Ellen, and I’m thrilled to see her get involved with the family business. At long last, the new “Dallas” seems to have figured out how to put Gray’s gifts to good use.

As for Elena: How nice is it to see her do something besides moon over John Ross and/or Christopher? Jordana Brewster is an actress with tremendous poise and grace, and I’m glad the writers are turning Elena into such a smart, savvy businesswoman. She keeps her cool when Sue Ellen confronts her (Elena: “I’m not sure where all this anger is coming from, but if this is about something more personal, we should talk about it”), but Elena would be dull if she was perfect, and in “Sins of the Father” she isn’t. Brother Drew’s return rattles her, although I also feel the warmth between the characters during their heart-to-heart in the Southfork pasture. I hope the show will continue to develop Elena and Drew’s relationship with each other, as well as the one they share with mama Carmen. Between the three of them, Brewster, Kuno Becker (a promising addition to the show) and Marlene Forte have the potential to turn the Ramoses into a meaningful presence at Southfork.

Let’s also hear it for John Ross and Pamela. Their first scene in “Sins of the Father,” when they frolic in bed, arguing over who gets to be on top, is fun, and their repeated use of “Dallas’s” most enduring term of endearment – “darlin’” – is cute. On the other hand, John Ross’s worried expression over Pamela’s connection to Tommy’s death at the end of the episode feels a little out of place. I like the idea of him falling for Pamela, but isn’t it a little soon? For that matter, I also don’t buy the notion that the detective investigating Tommy’s death would call Christopher to the crime scene for a chit-chat (shouldn’t Christopher be a suspect too?), and I wonder if Harris would really be beyond punishment for kidnapping Emma. The criminal justice system on this show seems to be exist in another dimension.

Of course, every time “Dallas” offers head-scratchers like these, it usually cuts to something wonderful – like Hagman’s scenes. Director Jesse Bochco smartly shrouds Hagman and Faran Tahir in darkness during J.R.’s exchange with Frank, which makes it feel that much more mysterious. I also love how scriptwriter Bruce Rasmussen peppers J.R.’s dialogue with an extra dash of homey references (church socials, lapdogs), which allows Hagman to play off the suave Tahir. My gut tells me Frank isn’t long for this world, which is too bad because of all the new show’s villains, he’s the most menacing.

Hagman’s other highlight: the scene where Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris. Besides capitalizing on the chemistry between Hagman and Patrick Duffy, the scene also draws upon the deep familiarity between these characters. J.R.: “I’ve seen that look before. You go over there to get justice and you’re likely to beat him to death.” Bobby: “That’s why I need you. Help me find a way to bring him down.”

I wish the show had allowed the audience to savor the idea of J.R. and Bobby joining forces against a common enemy; instead, it cut to the scene of Ann shooting Harris, which kind of undermines any threat J.R. might pose. Then again, something tells me Mr. Ryland is going to be just fine (please note: Mitch Pileggi was added to this show’s opening credits two episodes ago), so J.R. might yet get his chance to stage his “masterpiece” against Harris. Rarely have I wanted to see anything more.

Grade: A

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Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Sins of the Father, TNT

Woman on the edge

‘SINS OF THE FATHER’

Season 2, Episode 3

Telecast: February 4, 2013

Writer: Bruce Rasmussen

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 2.2 million viewers on February 4

Synopsis: When the police begin to suspect Pamela killed Tommy, J.R. urges Frank to betray her. After Christopher warns Becky she’s in danger, she receives a visit from Frank and disappears. At John Ross’s urging, Sue Ellen threatens to call in Elena’s loan, prompting Elena to turn to her estranged brother Drew for help striking oil. Ann tries to connect with Emma but is once again rejected. Bobby asks J.R. to help him get revenge against Harris, unaware Ann has shot him.

Cast: Amber Bartlett (Jill), Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Rebecca Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Judith Light (Judith Ryland), Alex McKenna (Becky Sutter), Marcus M. Mauldin (Detective Ronnie Bota), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Matthew Posey (Bubba), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank Ashkani)

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

Dallas Burning Questions: Season 2, Week 2

Watch your back, honey

Watch your back, honey

Here are the questions we’re pondering as we await tonight’s telecast of “Sins of the Father,” TNT’s latest “Dallas” episode.

• John Ross and Pamela: What’s next? At the end of “Venomous Creatures,” the second half of last week’s two-hour season premiere, Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) agreed to give John Ross (Josh Henderson) 70 percent of her share of Ewing Energies, once she wins a piece of the company during her divorce from Christopher. John Ross and Pamela then sealed their deal by having sex. So will these two remain enemies with benefits – or are they going to develop real feelings for each other?

Will Christopher learn the truth? Frank (Faran Tahir), Pamela’s rival at Barnes Global, secretly sent Tommy’s cell phone to Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), who played its voice mail messages and discovered: a) Pamela threatened Tommy for pushing her too hard, and b) Tommy’s sister Becky (Alex McKenna) was part of the con against Christopher. Will Christopher discover Pamela killed Tommy and had her father’s henchmen dispose of the body?

Is there more to Ann’s story? When Ann (Brenda Strong) was married to Harris (Mitch Pileggi), they had a daughter named Emma, who was kidnapped from her stroller at the Texas State Fair. After Harris told Ann he found Emma, Ann went to see the young woman, who coldly rejected her. Bobby (Patrick Duffy) did some digging and discovered Harris himself snatched Emma and sent her to Europe to live with his mother Judith (Judith Light). Clearly, there’s more to this story. Clue No. 1: After Emma (Emma Bell) rejected Ann, Ann began receiving injections from the Ewings’ family physician. Later, when Bobby met with Harris, Harris asked, “Did Ann ask you for a shot yet? Something to help take the edge off? That’s a slippery slope. Trust me, I’ve witnessed it firsthand.” Clue No. 2: When Bobby met Emma, he told her Harris “kidnapped you from your mother.” Emma’s cryptic response: “He saved me from my mother.” What’s really going on here?

Should Elena be worried? After Elena (Jordana Brewster) scored a big deal for Ewing Energies, Bobby, Christopher and John Ross made her an equal partner in the company. Later, John Ross reminded J.R. (Larry Hagman) that all of Elena’s assets – including her Ewing Energies shares – are vulnerable until she repays Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) the money she borrowed from her for an earlier deal. Are J.R. and John Ross going to use Sue Ellen and Elena in their plot to take over the company?

Are J.R. and Sue Ellen getting back together? Speaking of J.R. and Sue Ellen: After he got her off the hook with the prosecutor, J.R. showed up on her doorstep and received a sweet peck on the cheek. “If you can behave yourself, would you like to come in for some tea?” Sue Ellen asked. “I thought you’d never ask,” he said as he stepped inside. Did J.R. keep up his end of the bargain?

What “Dallas Burning Questions” are on your mind? Share your comments below and watch TNT’s “Dallas” tonight.