Drill Bits: This Week, Ratings Rose for TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, Harris Ryland, Mitch Pileggi, Patrick Duffy, TNT, Truth and Consequences

His blood pressure rose too

Ratings for TNT’s “Dallas” rebounded this week after dipping on Independence Day.

Approximately 3.4 million viewers watched “Truth and Consequences,”the show’s fifth episode, on July 4. Although the audience was down about 18 percent from the previous week – no surprise there, TV audiences always shrink on holidays – “Truth and Consequences” still managed to become the evening’s top original cable show and the 16th most-watched cable program of the week.

TNT’s sixth “Dallas” installment, “The Enemy of My Enemy,” did better: It scored 3.6 million viewers on July 11, including 1.3 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach. “Dallas” and USA’s “Royal Pains” tied for second place among the 18-to-49 crowd that evening; the top-rated cable show in that demographic: ESPN’s “ESPY Awards,” which was seen by 1.5 million viewers in that group.

“Dallas” is averaging 4.5 million viewers of all ages on Wednesday nights, although the numbers go up when people who record the show and watch it later are counted.

‘Who Shot J.R.?’ Still Making News

“Who Done It?,” the “Dallas” episode that reveals Kristin as J.R.’s shooter, remains one of the most memorable television moments of the past 50 years, according to a study published this week.

The 1980 broadcast ranked 44th on the memorable moments list, ahead of “events” like Chaz Bono’s participation in “Dancing with the Stars” (No. 59) and Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries (No. 76), but below ABC’s 1977 miniseries “Roots” (No. 36) and the Beatles’ performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (No. 43).

Sony Electronics and the Nielsen television research company conducted the study. The findings are based on a survey in which people were given a list of landmark TV events and asked to rank them.

News stories dominated the list: Coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks ranked first, followed by reporting on the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster (No. 2) and the 1995 verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder trial (No. 3).

Dressing ‘Dallas’

Here at Dallas Decoder, we’re big fans of Rachel Sage Kunin, costume designer for TNT’s “Dallas,” which is why we’re pleased to see her get a little love in the press.

In a new interview with the design site Artinfo, Kunin reveals why Linda Gray is her favorite cast member to dress – and why we’re unlikely to see John Ross sporting a Stetson with his business suits.

ICYMI: Gray Speaks

Ultimate Dallas’s revealing interview with Gray stirred the Ewing-verse this week, prompting us to weigh in with a call for more screen time for Sue Ellen. Of course, we weren’t the only ones. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the Dallas Morning News’s blog post and Dallas Divas Derby’s wish list for the new show’s second season (No. 3: Save Sue Ellen!).

Line of the Week

“What now?”

John Ross’s exasperated response to seeing Bobby and Christopher barge into his room at the end of “The Enemy of My Enemy” made me laugh. Look, I love Bobby and Christopher, but you gotta admit: These two can be a little too Dudley Do-Right for their own good. I see why John Ross finds them a little hard to take sometimes.

Sweet and Strong

A reminder: This week’s “Dallas Drinks” offering is The Bobby, named for Patrick Duffy’s all-American hero. The recipe comes from Dallas Decoder’s favorite spouse at Cook In/Dine Out.

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

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 6 – ‘The Enemy of My Enemy’

Dallas, Enemy of My Enemy, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Compromised integrity? Check.

At long last, Sue Ellen.

Linda Gray comes off the sidelines in “The Enemy of My Enemy” – and not a moment too soon. Last week, in a candid interview with Ultimate Dallas, Gray politely – but pointedly – expressed her disappointment with the limited amount of screen time she’s received on TNT’s “Dallas.” As she reminded fans, Sue Ellen’s fate rests with the new show’s writers, who are now working on the second-season scripts.

Although “The Enemy of My Enemy” was filmed months ago, it serves as Exhibit A in the case for giving Sue Ellen a more prominent role on the show. Gray makes this one of TNT’s strongest episodes yet. She only appears in three scenes, but she dominates each one – not by chewing scenery but through the force of her grace and elegance. The actress has inherited Barbara Bel Geddes’ mantle as “Dallas’s” elder stateswoman, and that’s why I hope TNT will keep her front and center. This show needs her.

The nice thing about “The Enemy of My Enemy” is how it gets Sue Ellen involved in the fight over Southfork while finally delving into the subplot about her gubernatorial run, which has been simmering on the back burner all season.

In the storyline, John Ross asks his mama to use her political connections to persuade trucking magnate Harris Ryland to ship the oil being pumped out of Southfork. Initially, Sue Ellen resists (“John Ross, if I go down that road….”), but she eventually gives in and visits Ryland, offering him a coveted appointment in her administration if he’ll help her son. Ryland, played with wicked charm by Mitch Pileggi, rejects the offer because he says he doesn’t want Sue Ellen to compromise her integrity. Nevertheless, he agrees to help John Ross – and to demonstrate his admiration for Sue Ellen, he cuts a big check to her campaign.

The first time I watched this episode, seeing Sue Ellen sell out made me cringe. This didn’t feel like something the new, improved version of our beloved heroine would do. But then I thought about Sue Ellen’s guilt over her shortcomings as a mother when John Ross was younger. I can see how her judgment might be clouded where he’s concerned.

Besides, let’s face it: A saintly Sue Ellen is a boring Sue Ellen. Like I wrote earlier this week, I’m happy the character has changed with the times, but the show needs to reveal Sue Ellen’s humanity, and her foibles in “The Enemy of My Enemy” feel credible. It’s worth noting Sue Ellen’s actions also place her squarely in the tradition of other “Dallas” mothers (Miss Ellie, Rebecca Wentworth) who make questionable choices on behalf of their adult sons.

In addition to finally giving Sue Ellen a meaningful storyline, I like how scriptwriter Gail Gilchriest brings Elena and Rebecca together in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” Having Elena drive Rebecca to the doctor is a clever way to highlight the uneasy bond developing between these characters, whose relationship is beginning to recall the one shared by “Dallas’s” ultimate frienemies, Sue Ellen and Pam.

I also appreciate how director Jesse Bochco showcases some of the lighter moments in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” At the end of the episode, I love when Bobby and Christopher storm into John Ross’s room, prompting his exasperated, “What now?” There’s also an amusing scene before the opening credits, when the roughneck Earl interrupts Bobby and John Ross’s argument on the Southfork patio.

“Mr. Ewing?” Earl says.

“Yeah?” Bobby answers.

“I meant John Ross.”

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out this episode’s big historical inaccuracy: The discovery that Miss Ellie’s father left her sons the mineral rights to Southfork contradicts long-established “Dallas” lore. In the past, major storylines have hinged on the fact Ellie controlled the ranch’s mineral rights.

The other eye-roller comes when Bobby discovers his grandfather’s prized pistol in the safe deposit box. During the original show’s classic “Jock’s Trial” episodes, we learned Ellie’s father had given the gun to Jock before his death, signaling he had finally accepted the young oil baron as a member of his family.

Or is that why Bobby seems to smile mischievously when he pulls the gun out of the lockbox in this episode? In that instant, does he realize his granddaddy pulled a fast one on Jock, all those years ago?

Maybe the Southworths were more like the Ewings than they cared to admit.

Grade: B

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Dallas, Enemy of My Enemy, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Empire of the son

‘THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY’

Season 1, Episode 6

Telecast: July 11, 2012

Writer: Gail Gilchriest

Director: Jesse Bochco

Audience: 5.3 million viewers (including 3.6 million viewers on July 11, ranking 26th in the weekly cable ratings)

Synopsis: With Rebecca’s help, Bobby and Christopher find an old legal document that will give Bobby control of Southfork’s mineral rights. After business partner Vicente Cano threatens him, John Ross turns to Sue Ellen, who persuades Harris to transport the oil pumped out of Southfork. Bobby punches Harris after he sends Ann a locket that upsets her. John Ross fears Marta is stalking Elena. In Las Vegas, J.R. tries to muscle in on Cliff’s high-stakes poker game. Rebecca tells Tommy she’s pregnant.

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), Callard Harris (Tommy Sutter), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Matthew Posey (Earl), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Faran Tahir (Frank), Leonor Varela (Marta del Sol)

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

Linda Gray is Speaking Up — Just Like Sue Ellen Would

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Still our girl

Atta girl, Linda Gray.

In a candid interview with Ultimate Dallas last week, the actress expressed her disappointment with the amount of screen time her character, the indomitable Sue Ellen Ewing, has received on TNT’s “Dallas” revival. The cable channel has telecast five hours so far, and Gray has been missing from two of them.

“I’m not happy not to be in an episode. I’m not a happy camper,” Gray told the fan site, adding viewers should “go and rattle cages” if they want to see more of Sue Ellen.

Let’s be clear: Gray doesn’t sound at all angry during the interview. In fact, she seems pretty enthusiastic about the show overall. (In addition to a transcript, Ultimate Dallas has posted an audio recording of its conversation with the actress.)

Still, I suspect it took more than a little courage for Gray to admit she’d like to be given more to do. We’ve all seen Hollywood sideline older actresses, and I’m sure there are plenty of people in the entertainment industry who will look at Gray and think she should be happy to have a steady gig, even if she isn’t getting as many scenes as she’d like.

That’s why I’m proud of the actress. Gray is demonstrating she’s learned a thing or two from her “Dallas” alter ego, who has always had to fight to make her own way in the world.

Think about it: Sue Ellen has been part of our popular culture since the Carter era, and in that time she’s gone from an alcoholic Stepford wife to a confident, independent woman. In the history of prime-time television, few characters have endured as long as Sue Ellen, and fewer still have changed as much.

‘Dallas’s’ Secret Weapon

Make no mistake: “Dallas” is Sue Ellen’s story as much as it is J.R. and Bobby’s – and Linda Gray has always been the show’s secret weapon.

Since I began re-watching the original series for Dallas Decoder, I’ve been struck by the quiet power of Gray’s performances. I marvel at her work in classic early episodes like “John Ewing III, Part 2,” when Sue Ellen confesses her affair with Cliff in a heartbreaking, four-and-a-half-minute monologue. Her work later in the series, particularly during the unfairly maligned “dream season,” blows me away too.

Most surprisingly, Gray dominates the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes, more so than Larry Hagman. She is mesmerizing in “A House Divided,” the season-ending cliffhanger where J.R. is shot, and she absolutely owns “Who Done It?” the most-watched “Dallas” episode ever.

Gray still impresses me. She hasn’t been given much to do on TNT’s “Dallas,” but when she appears, she lights up the screen. With the exception of Hagman, no one on the new show is as charismatic as Gray.

Sue Ellen is Us

Of course, I’ve had a soft spot for Sue Ellen since I was a kid. I’ve come to see the character as an avatar for the gay rights movement, but the truth is, Sue Ellen serves as a stand-in for anyone who has ever had to stand up for themselves. In other words: Sue Ellen is us.

I think that’s why she’s always been a fan favorite. Remember, “Dallas” was prime-time television’s 26th most popular series until the 1989-90 season, when Gray left and it plunged to 43rd.

To be fair, because Sue Ellen is so beloved – and because she’s changed so much over the years –I would imagine the character is tough to write for. I wish TNT’s writers had made more of an effort during the new show’s early episodes, but as we head into the first season’s home stretch, Sue Ellen seems poised to get more screen time.

The character is featured in several pivotal scenes in “The Enemy of My Enemy,” the episode TNT will telecast tomorrow night. As audiences will see, some of Sue Ellen’s old habits endure, a revelation I welcome. I’m glad Sue Ellen has changed with the times, but it’s also good to see she’s still human.

And as much as I appreciate Gray’s suggestion that fans “rattle cages” and demand to see more Sue Ellen in the future, I don’t believe television scripts should be crowd-sourced. Cynthia Cidre, the creative force behind TNT’s “Dallas,” has a vision for the series, and she deserves an opportunity to fulfill it.

But let’s face it: Unless that vision includes Sue Ellen, it won’t really be “Dallas.”

Do you want to see more of Sue Ellen on “Dallas”? Share your comments below and read more opinions from Dallas Decoder.