3 Days, 33 Episodes: Here’s How to Catch Up on TNT’s ‘Dallas’

Dallas, John Ross Ewing, Josh Henderson, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT

Look back

Did you promise yourself you’d spend the summer getting acquainted — or reacquainted — with TNT’s “Dallas”? Did you fail to keep this promise? Relax: You still have time. Grab your DVDs and downloads and have a marathon of your own this weekend. Here’s how to watch all 33 hours of the show before the third season resumes on Monday, August 18.


Friday, August 15

9 to 11 p.m. Kick off your marathon on Friday night at 9 o’clock — the holiest hour of the week for “Dallas” fans — with a double feature of the TNT’s show’s first two episodes: “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets.”

Can you watch the former without getting chills when J.R. (Larry Hagman) doffs his cowboy hat, flashes his grin and declares, “Bobby may not be stupid, but I’m a hell of a lot smarter”? Can you watch the latter without getting choked up when our hero tells Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) she’s “still the prettiest girl at the ball”? Me either.


Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Elena Ramos, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, TNT

First time for everything

Saturday, August 16

7 a.m. Rise and shine, darlins! With so much “Dallas” to watch today, there’ll be no sleeping in. Resume your marathon with “The Price You Pay,” in which Julie Gonzalo’s character receives a smartphone pic of her husband kissing another woman. Get used to it, honey.

8 a.m. Have breakfast with “The Last Hurrah,” in which John Ross (Josh Henderson) squirts Elena (Jordana Brewster) with his hose. Insert your own joke here.

9 a.m. Have you done your workout yet? Download “Truth and Consequences” to your mobile device and head to the gym. Mitch Pileggi’s debut as Harris Ryland is bound to get your heart racing.

10 a.m. Got errands to run? Chores to complete? You’ve got one hour. Make the most of it.

11 a.m. We learn jewelry makes Ann (Brenda Strong) cry in “The Enemy of My Enemy.” Then again, doesn’t everything?

Noon. Grab lunch while watching “Collateral Damage,” in which Vicente Cano (Carlos Bernard) wonders if John Ross: 1) is a good dancer, and 2) has any oil in his pipeline. OMG, Vicente was such a flirt!

1 p.m. Tommy (Callard Harris) plants a kiss on Rebecca in “No Good Deed” — which is almost as creepy as when Nicolas starts smooching Elena in Season 3.

2 p.m. Bloody monkeys, Johnny Cash and the redemption of J.R. Ewing. It’s “Family Business” — one of my favorite episodes of this show.

3 p.m. Carmen (Marlene Forte) gets one of the crummiest chores in “Dallas” history — returning Elena’s engagement ring to John Ross — in “Revelations.” Also: More Johnny Cash!

4 p.m. Have you taken a bathroom break yet? If not, take care of that now, and then hurry back to your TV or tablet to watch the second-season opener, “Battle Lines,” in which Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) learns his wife is really his cousin. Ick.

5 p.m. In “Venomous Creatures,” J.R. saves Sue Ellen from going to jail and Judith Light discovers a taste for “Dallas” scenery.

6 p.m. Drew (Kuno Becker) arrives in “Sins of the Father” — his hair won’t show up for several more episodes — and calls John Ross “J-Ro.” Thank heavens that didn’t catch on. Also: Ann shoots Harris!

7 p.m. Has your family seen you at all today? Why not take a break from the Ewings and go have dinner with them.

8 p.m. to midnight: The next four episodes are a murder-a-thon, so brace yourself. Frank (Faran Tahir) offs himself in “False Confessions,” Brenda Strong kills it during Ann’s testimony scene in “Trial and Error,” Vicente bites the dust in “Blame Game,” and then the saddest shot of all: the death of J.R. Ewing in “The Furious and the Fast.”

Midnight. The nice thing about a late-night viewing of “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is that no one else in your house is awake to see you bawling. Once you’ve dried your tears, catch some shut-eye. Tomorrow is going to be another big day.


Dallas, Judith Light, Judith Ryland, TNT

Leg up

Sunday, August 17

8 a.m. You did a hell of a job yesterday, “Dallas” fan. Your reward: You get to start your Sunday with the wonderfully wacky hodgepodge that is “Ewings Unite!” Miss Ellie disinherits Bobby from beyond the grave, Valene (Joan Van Ark) reveals she’s as loony as ever and Cliff becomes the most hated man in the history of “Dallas” fandom.

9 a.m. Audrey Landers shows she can slink around a corner better than anyone in “Guilt and Innocence.”

10 a.m. In “Let Me In,” Harris reveals his fondness for: 1) TV nature documentaries, 2) Almonds, and 3) Hunting Ramoses.

11 a.m. John Ross and Pamela get wet in “A Call to Arms.”

Noon. You know what goes good with a nice, leisurely Sunday brunch? Watching Bobby take that badass, slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of “Love and Family.”

1 p.m. Christopher discovers the mystery lady under the big hat is not his mama in “Guilt by Association.” It’s not Aunt Katherine either, sadly.

2 p.m. Kevin Page joins Mary Crosby as an answer to “Dallas’s” most famous trivia question in “Legacies.”

3 p.m. You might think this would be a good time to take a break, but you’d be wrong. The die is cast and there’s no turning back, so keep plugging away with the third-season episodes, beginning with “The Return,” in which J.R.’s belt buckle begins wearing John Ross. Also: Hello, Nicolas (Juan Pablo Di Pace)!

4 p.m. Time for “Trust Me” a.k.a. “Judith’s Snow Day.”

5 p.m. In “Playing Chicken,” Professor Bobby Ewing teaches us about endangered wildlife.

6 p.m. “Lifting the Veil” is the episode that should’ve included Sue Ellen’s comparison of Emma (Emma Bell) to Kristin, but instead it’s the episode that gives us scenes of hookers in canine costumes.

7 p.m. Dinnertime! Enjoy a glass of J.R. Ewing Bourbon (surely you have some, right?) while watching “D.T.R.” After the episode, check your bottle and make sure Sue Ellen didn’t bug it.

8 p.m. Despite the title “Like Father, Like Son,” John Ross wants you to know that he is not his father! Also: Carter McKay has grandchildren!

9 p.m. Pamela rocks Stella McCartney in “Like a Bad Penny.”

10 p.m. It’s finally time for “Where There’s Smoke.” Southfork goes up in flames and you get to go down for a well-deserved rest. Don’t forget to watch “Dallas’s” midseason premiere Monday night!

What are your favorite “Dallas” episodes? Share your choices below and read more features from Dallas Decoder.

Emmy Voting is Underway. Will ‘Dallas’ Make the Cut?



Will “Dallas” receive Primetime Emmy nominations this year? The conventional wisdom says no, although at this early stage, the TNT drama is a contender — along with more than 100 other shows.

The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences released the preliminary ballots this week. Academy members are asked to vote for their favorites in each category through June 20; the final nominations will be announced July 10.

The preliminary ballots list hundreds of shows and individuals. Most submissions come from networks and production companies, although anyone can pay the entry fee and submit themselves for consideration.

In the dramatic series categories, the preliminary ballots list Patrick Duffy and Josh Henderson as lead actor contenders, while Linda Gray is the show’s sole candidate for a lead actress nomination.

The other “Dallas” cast members — Emma Bell, Jordana Brewster, Juan Pablo Di Pace, Julie Gonzalo, Jesse Metcalfe, Mitch Pileggi and Brenda Strong — are listed in the supporting categories. The ballots also list two guest stars: Judith Light and AnnaLynne McCord.

“Dallas” is also one of 108 shows on the ballot for best dramatic series, while director Steve Robin is up for a nomination for helming “Like Father, Like Son,” the episode where John Ross confronts Sue Ellen over her drinking.

It may be heartening to see “Dallas” listed in these races, but don’t get your hopes up, fellow fans. Each category has only a handful of available slots for nominations, which are expected to go to critical darlings such as “Breaking Bad,” “Game of Thrones” and the resurgent “The Good Wife.”

It’s also worth remembering “Dallas’s” tortured history with the Emmys: Although Barbara Bel Geddes won the lead dramatic actress race in 1980, the series picked up only a handful of nominations during its heyday. The tradition continued last year, when the academy snubbed Larry Hagman in the supporting actor race and shamefully omitted him from the special tributes during the Emmy broadcast.

The 2014 ballots also contain a few oddities where “Dallas” is concerned: The “D” in Di Pace’s name isn’t capitalized, Gonzalo’s character is listed as “Rebecca Sutter” and voters are asked to consider Light’s work in “Venomous Creatures,” a second-season episode that falls outside this year’s eligibility time frame.

Do you think “Dallas” deserves Emmy nominations this year? Share your comments below and read more news from Dallas Decoder.

Dallas Parallels: Foxes in the Henhouse

Battle Lines, Dallas, Digger's Daughter, Pamela Barnes, Pam Ewing, TNT, Victoria Principal

It’s one of the new “Dallas’s” greatest moments: Soon after Rebecca Sutter Ewing reveals that she’s actually Pamela Rebecca Barnes, she receives a visit from J.R. Ewing. He vows to run her out of town, just like he did with her namesake aunt. Says J.R.: “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse. I’m 1 for 1 on flushing out Pamelas. And I plan on being 2 for 2.”

The scene, which appears in “Venomous Creatures” (Season 2, Episode 2), brings to mind one of the famous moments from the original “Dallas:” J.R.’s clash with Pam in “Digger’s Daughter” (Season 1, Episode 1). Like the 2013 version, the 1978 edition also ends with J.R. delivering an ominous threat: “I’m willing to spend some money now to avoid any inconvenience. But if you insist upon being driven away — which you surely will be — you’re going to come out of this without anything, honey.”

More similarities: In both scenes, J.R. refers to Cliff, although not by name. In “Digger’s Daughter,” he asks Pam, “Did your brother put you up to this, Miss Barnes?” In “Venomous Creatures,” he tells Pamela, “I’m just here to look my enemy in the eye. And since your daddy is about 2 feet shorter than I am, I guess you’ll have to do.” Also, marriage is a subtext of both scenes: The older episode begins soon after Bobby and Pam’s wedding, while the newer segment shows Christopher and Pamela facing off in divorce court.

More than anything, the two scenes showcase the genius of Larry Hagman. In “Digger’s Daughter,” Hagman is still getting to know his character, but he’s already figured out that playing J.R. will require a healthy dose of mischief. I love when Bobby interrupts J.R. and Pam’s conversation and reminds his older brother that “Mama don’t like business talk with supper on the table.” Hagman breaks into a wide grin as he delivers J.R.’s next line: “Well, you know Mama. She’s so old-fashioned.” By 2013, Hagman’s sense of humor was as sharp as ever. Witness his parting line to Frank, Pamela’s pseudo-brother/henchman: “How does it feel to be a poodle?”

I also admire how both of Hagman’s co-stars equate themselves in these scenes. Victoria Principal brims with righteous indignation when J.R. tries to buy off Pam; it’s an early display of the on-screen magic she and Hagman would perfect during the next decade. Julie Gonzalo displays a spark with the actor too, suggesting she would’ve become a worthy sparring partner. It’s a shame that promise will never be realized, but aren’t we lucky we got to see one last showdown between J.R. and a fox named Pamela?


‘You’re Going to Come Out of this Without Anything, Honey’

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

A threat

In “Digger’s Daughter,” “Dallas’s” first episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) shows Pam (Victoria Principal) around the Southfork grounds.

J.R.: Did your brother put you up to this, Miss Barnes?

Pam looks stunned.

J.R.: Well, I don’t think that’s an unusual question to ask, Miss Barnes.

PAM: [Angrily] Mrs. Ewing. Excuse me, please.

She begins to walk away. J.R. grabs her arm. She stops.

J.R.: Perhaps it would be more appropriate to ask what sort of settlement you’d require to annul this farce.

PAM: Let go of my arm.

J.R.: I’m willing to spend some money now to avoid any inconvenience. But if you insist upon being driven away — which you surely will be — you’re going to come out of this without anything, honey.

Bobby (Patrick Duffy) approaches.

BOBBY: Hi there. What’s going on?

J.R.: Oh, just talking a little business.

BOBBY: Mama don’t like business talk with supper on the table, J.R.

J.R.: [Chuckles] Well, you know Mama. She’s so old-fashioned.

BOBBY: [To Pam] Come on, honey. Let’s go.

J.R. smiles as he watches them walk away.


‘I’m 1 for 1 on Flushing Out Pamelas’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, TNT, Venomous Creatures

A promise

In “Venomous Creatures,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. visits Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) in the Barnes Global boardroom.

PAMELA: What are you doing here, J.R.?

J.R.: I’m just here to look my enemy in the eye. And since your daddy is about 2 feet shorter than I am, I guess you’ll have to do.

PAMELA: I must have done something right to deserve a visit from you.

J.R.: Congratulations on your win in court. Now divorce court, if you want some tips, I can offer you a few. I’m an expert authority.

PAMELA: I already have my experts.

J.R.: Oh, and if you’ve got it in your pretty little head to go after Ewing Energies in the divorce, you won’t be dealing with Christopher. You’ll be dealing with me.

PAMELA: You’re not a part of that company.

J.R.: No, no. But I’m part of that family. You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse. I’m 1 for 1 on flushing out Pamelas. And I plan on being 2 for 2.

What do you think of J.R.’s clashes with Pam and Pamela? Share your comments below and read more “Dallas Parallels.”

The Best & Worst of TNT’s Dallas: Season 2

The second season of TNT’s “Dallas” was even better than the first. Here are my laurels, along with a few darts.


Woman of the year

Wonder woman

She spent Season 1 on the sidelines, but Linda Gray became “Dallas’s” star player this year. After losing the election, Sue Ellen maneuvered her way into Ewing Energies, then fought tooth and manicured nail to save the company. Her determination took many forms: She flirted with Gary and later Ken, proving a woman in her 70s could still be playful and alluring, and blackmailed Governor McConaughey with a smile, demonstrating just how much she learned from her ex-husband. Speaking of J.R.: Gray shined brightest at his funeral, where Sue Ellen took a heartbreaking tumble off the wagon, then delivered a mesmerizing eulogy for the man she called “the love of my life.” It was a magnificent, unforgettable performance – and if there’s any justice in the world, Gray’s next big speech will be at the Emmys.


The “Who Killed J.R.?” mystery was terrific because it allowed viewers to slide into J.R.’s boots and try to piece together the puzzle he left behind. The gun! That letter! Those cocaine shoes! How were the clues connected? This was “Dallas” at its most fun – and as an added bonus, it finally resolved Pam’s storyline and gave the character the redemption she deserved. (Pam may be dead, but please let Katherine live.) The season’s least satisfying storyline: Vicente Cano’s ambush on Southfork and the hostage crisis that ensued. This storyline did little to advance the season’s main narrative – the fight for Ewing Energies – nor did it give us much new insight into the characters. On the other hand: at least nobody made Sue Ellen sing.


Tears of the son

Tears of the son

The beautiful, elegiac “J.R.’s Masterpiece” is landmark television. From the mournful version of the “Dallas” theme music that played under the special opening titles through the moving gravesite eulogies, scriptwriter Cynthia Cidre and director Michael M. Robin made J.R.’s death feel achingly real. This is their masterpiece. At the other end of the spectrum: “Ewings Unite!,” an uneven hour marred by J.R.’s silly will reading and Gary and Val’s drive-by reunion.


Almost two months after watching “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” I’m still haunted by the memory of Sue Ellen getting drunk in her ex-husband’s bedroom on the night before his funeral. As Tara Holloway’s soulful rendition of “The Bottom” played, we watched Sue Ellen move around J.R.’s bed, caress a framed photo from their wedding and finally drown her sorrows with glass after glass of his bourbon. This was two-and-a-half minutes of exquisite agony. (Among the season’s other great scenes: Ann’s spellbinding testimony at her trial, Harris and Emma’s parking garage encounter, Harris’s Komodo dragon speech and the moment lusty John Ross storms off the elevator and into Pamela’s arms.)


Raw deal

Raw deal

The police discover Tommy’s body and murder weapon. John Ross warns Pamela, who frantically begins preparing to skip town as the police arrive with guns drawn. But wait! They’re not coming to arrest Pamela; they’re after Frank, who has been framed by Cliff. It was a classic “Dallas” fake-out and the season’s most surprising twist. The silliest: At J.R.’s will reading, Miss Ellie somehow takes half of Southfork from Bobby and gives it to John Ross. Howzat, Mama?


Season 2 gave us a Southfork swimming pool scene, the return of the old Ewing Oil building and even a reference to Westar, but where were the barbecue and Oil Baron’s Ball (er, “Cattle Baron’s Ball”) episodes? On the other hand, we did get “The Furious and the Fast,” the fantastic racetrack-set episode that marked the “Dallas” directorial debut of Rodney Charters, the show’s ace cinematographer. Perhaps racecars will become a new “Dallas” tradition? I’m ready for another spin.


Evil dad

Evil dad

Steven Weber played McConaughey to smirking perfection and Mitch Pileggi and Judith Light were delicious as the evil Rylands, but Ken Kercheval scared the bejesus out of me as Cliff. The scene where he orders the destruction of the methane rig is chilling. Yet somehow, the brilliant Kercheval made sure we never lost sight of Cliff’s humanity, especially when he was arrested for J.R.’s murder. Make no mistake: Season 2 was the performance of Kercheval’s career.

Returning Favorites

Audrey Landers’ return as Afton in “Guilt and Innocence” was a hoot. Robert Rovner’s script gave Landers plenty to do, and she made the most of it: During the course of the hour, we got to see Afton badmouth Cliff (“He’s a mean drunk, that man”), flirt with John Ross, shoot daggers at Christopher and sweetly serenade Pamela with her favorite childhood lullaby. I also liked Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark’s return as Gary and Valene (even if Van Ark didn’t get enough to do), as well as the familiar faces who showed up in “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” especially Mandy and Cally (Deborah Shelton, Cathy Podewell), whose reminiscing about their romances with J.R. proved surprisingly poignant.


Welcome to Southfork

Welcome to Southfork

Each episode of “Dallas” clocks in at 42 minutes sans commercials, making screen time a commodity. It’s tempting to knock the producers for expanding the cast in Season 2 – except the newcomers are all so good! I was especially charmed by magnetic Kuno Becker, who was both smoldering and sweet as ne’er-do-well Drew, while Emma Bell knocked me out as Emma, who shifted effortlessly from sheltered princess to a pill-popping sexpot. Is there anything this actress can’t do?

Supporting Players

Like the original “Dallas,” the new show is beginning to feel like its own world, thanks to its growing population of reliable recurring characters. My favorites include steadfast Sheriff Derrick (Akai Draco), dutiful lawyer Lou Bergen (Glenn Morshower) and of course loyal private eye Bum (Kevin Page), who charmed me in his scene with Sue Ellen and moved me when he confessed his role in J.R.’s master plan. Season 2 also introduced two promising additions to the Ewing Energies secretarial pool: perky, sneaky Jill (Amber Bartlett) and statuesque Stacy (Natalie Quintanilla). The other great addition: lusty city transportation chief Alison Jones (Annie Wersching). Could she become this generation’s Marilee Stone?


Man of style

Man of style

“Dallas” doesn’t just have TV’s best-dressed cast; the actors are also smartly dressed. Everyone’s “look” fits their character perfectly. Case in point: J.R., whose western jackets, dark suits and Butch Dorer hats made him Season 2’s most dashing figure. My favorite outfit: the classic pinstripes he sported in “Venomous Creatures” when he blackmailed the smarmy prosecutor. A tip of the hat to costume designer Rachel Sage Kunin. Thanks to her, our hero went out in style.


The music on “Dallas” is a mix of familiar tunes like Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory,” which played during J.R.’s memorial service, and oh-my-gosh-what-is-the-name-of-that-song-I-must-own-it selections like “Liar,” an unreleased number from the Unknown that was heard in “False Confessions” and “Legacies.” My favorite: “My Time Has Come,” the driving rock anthem from the Bowery Riots that played when Bobby did that cool slow-motion walk away from Cliff at the end of “Love and Family.” It was the ideal song to showcase Bobby at his badass best.


Ugly truth

Ugly truth

I’m tempted to choose Christopher’s Miller Lite bottle or all those Microsoft Surface tablets as best props, but instead I’ll go with J.R.’s handsome bourbon decanter, which the three people he loved most – Bobby, Sue Ellen and Christopher – all drank from after his death. Worst prop? That’s easy: The awful painting of J.R. unveiled at the end of “Legacies.” Where’s J.R.’s nose? What happened to his right shoulder? My plea to the producers: Fix this before Season 3 starts.


Since so much of my “Dallas” viewing experience now takes place in the Twitterverse, it seems appropriate to honor the hashtags of Season 2: #BubbaNotEarl #ByeByeCloudDrive #Clonazepam #ContinuedLegalSubterfuge #EminentDomain #FentonWashburnEsquire #HighImpactPressureMoldedCocaine #HighVelocityBloodSplatter #HornedFrogsVsMustangs #HotelColon #JudgeRhonda #KomodoDragons #MoralsClause #NuevoLaredo #PatriciaBarrett #RickyRudd #RIPKatherine?


This category is always the toughest and Season 2 is no different. What to choose? Sue Ellen’s putdown of Afton (“She’s drama, John Ross.”)? Val’s greeting to Sue Ellen (“Once a bitch, always a bitch.”)? Vicente’s observation after realizing the Ewing cousins have traded romantic partners (“You Ewing boys share after all! I love it!”)? John Ross’s not-fit-for-print philosophy on romance (“Love is for [kitty cats]”)? In the end, I’ll go with the master. J.R.’s encounter with Pamela: “You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse.” Oh, J.R. We’ll never stop missing you.

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

Critique: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Episode 18 – ‘J.R.’s Masterpiece’

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Larry Hagman, TNT

Still here

It isn’t quite accurate to call “J.R.’s Masterpiece” the first “Dallas” episode without J.R. Ewing. Our hero is present, even if he isn’t physically there. We see Larry Hagman in the special opening credits, which offer a moving, mournful version of Jerrold Immel’s classic theme music and memorably end with J.R. disappearing into white light. Beyond that, we feel J.R.’s spirit in every scene, every line, every breath. It’s gratifying and even a little exhilarating to see the show honor this character so thoroughly. This will be remembered as the hour that Cynthia Cidre, Michael M. Robin and seemingly everyone else associated with “Dallas” rose to the occasion – and then surpassed it.

The two most unforgettable moments in “J.R.’s Masterpiece” belong to Linda Gray. In the first, Sue Ellen enters J.R.’s bedroom on the night before his funeral and removes from her purse the letter he sent her before his death. She sits at his table, looks at a framed photograph from their second wedding and smiles. Then she notices J.R.’s decanter of bourbon, emblazoned with his name. With the sad country tune “The Bottom” playing in the background, Sue Ellen pours herself a glass and contemplates it for a few moments, just like she did with the wineglass in “Venomous Creatures,” an earlier second-season episode. On that occasion, J.R. arrived on her doorstep and gave her the encouragement she needed to resist temptation. This time around, he isn’t here to save her. And so Sue Ellen downs the bourbon. Hard. And then she pours herself another glass. And then another.

It’s a tense, wrenching scene on its own, but I also appreciate how it echoes one of my favorite moments from TNT’s other great “Dallas” episode, the first-season entry “Family Business.” In that scene, J.R. sits at the same table, glances at a picture of Miss Ellie and takes a swig of bourbon before signing the Southfork deed over to Bobby. In a show where the booze flows as freely as ever, both scenes are about J.R. and Sue Ellen turning to the bottle to find courage they can’t muster on their own. He needs it to do the right thing, she needs it to just get through the night.

Seeing Sue Ellen fall off the wagon is tough for me and other longtime “Dallas” fans who remember how hard she fought to get sober. But I’m also the first to admit that her relapse makes riveting television. I have no idea where “Dallas” will take Gray’s character after “J.R.’s Masterpiece,” but my guess is she won’t return to the path of self-destruction. Sue Ellen isn’t the woman she used to be. She’s wiser, more confident, more aware. We see this during the episode’s other great moment: her mesmerizing eulogy at J.R.’s gravesite, where she confesses her relapse to the other Ewings. “I’m a bit drunk right now,” she says. This line startles me even more than the one at the top of the hour, when the Mexican policewoman announces J.R.’s death. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Sue Ellen acknowledge her demons so forthrightly, which makes me think she’ll find the courage to reclaim her sobriety sooner rather than later.

As remarkable as Sue Ellen’s admission is, the most emotional part of her speech comes when she reads aloud J.R.’s letter. He writes, “For me to apologize now for all the wrongs I’ve done you would take up all the time I’ve got left. So I’m hoping it will suffice for me to say that I was never worthy of you.” The note ends with a request: “When I get back to Dallas, will you have dinner with me?” But that’s not what J.R. is actually asking, is it? He really wants to know if Sue Ellen will forgive him for all those “wrongs.” She knows this too, which is why it’s so heartbreaking when she kneels, touches his casket and sobs, “Yes, yes, J.R. The answer is yes.”

‘He Never Pretended’

Bobby Ewing, Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Grand scheme

The other eulogies in Cidre’s script are beautifully written, capturing the essence of each character’s connection to J.R. with an impressive economy of words. In his speech, Bobby says, “Throughout my life, it’s pretty much been easy for me to do good, because I could always count on J.R. to do bad. … Now I have to figure out just what I’m supposed to do in this grand scheme of things.”

When I wrote down this line and looked at it, I realized it could be seen as Bobby’s response to J.R.’s admission last season, when he told Bobby, “I don’t know who I’d be without you.” The line acknowledged what the audience always knew – that J.R. was incapable of checking his worst impulses and needed Bobby to do it for him. Now, hearing Bobby wonder aloud what he’ll do without J.R. raises the intriguing prospect that Patrick Duffy, always the unsung hero of this franchise, will soon be able to show us other sides to his character.

In the other eulogies, Ray recalls fearing how he could never make his father proud the way J.R. did, which isn’t exactly how I remember Jock’s sentiments toward J.R. and Ray, but the speech nonetheless reflects the deep-seated insecurities that always haunted Steve Kanaly’s humble cowboy. Ted Shackelford also does a nice job delivering Gary’s single line (“Every step backwards or forward I ever took in my life was because of J.R.”), which perfectly fits his tortured character – and probably every other Ewing.

The most unexpected tribute comes from Lucy. “Things I thought were so horrible that J.R. did just seem honest now,” she says. “He never pretended to be anything other than himself.” It’s surprising to hear Lucy offer admiration for J.R., yet you can’t deny the profundity of her statement. I’m also touched by the shot Robin, the director, gives us of Lucy weeping during the funeral. Given Charlene Tilton’s well-known affection for Hagman in real life, I have no doubt those tears come from the actress’s heart.

It would be wrong to overlook the newer cast members, who are every bit as impressive as the “Dallas” veterans during this sequence. Jordana Brewster’s tears move me when Elena recalls the pep talk J.R. gave her after her father’s death (“Honey, how are you going to make your daddy proud?”), and I also appreciate Jesse Metcalfe’s Duffy-esque stoicism during Christopher’s speech, when he remembers J.R.’s attempt to comfort him after Pam abandoned the family: “I don’t know why your mama left, Christopher. Especially when she had such a good, smart little boy like you. But you’re a Ewing now. So stop crying and behave like one.”

It’s somewhat surprising that Josh Henderson has no lines at J.R.’s burial. Then again, are any needed? The dazed expression Henderson wears throughout this episode and especially at the funeral tells us everything we need to know about what John Ross is feeling.

‘What You Choose to Recall’

Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

The bottom

Not all of the dramatic moments in “J.R.’s Masterpiece” happen at the funeral. Duffy and Brenda Strong have a big fight scene that’s been a long time coming, as Bobby lashes out at Ann for keeping so many secrets from him during the course of their marriage. And as with all of the new “Dallas’s” best episodes, the smaller moments are touching too. Christopher comforts Sue Ellen when she breaks down in the morgue. Ray reaches for her hands as she returns to her seat after her eulogy. Bobby sits alone in J.R.’s room and notices his brother’s hat hanging on the back of the chair.

The lighter moments are welcome too. The best of these is seeing Sue Ellen commiserate with Cally and Mandy at the memorial, a surprisingly sweet scene that offers another reminder of how much Sue Ellen has grown. It’s also hard to not get a kick out of Ken Kercheval’s appearance, when Cliff crashes the memorial, ranting and raving about the Barnes/Ewing feud. As much as I’ve come to enjoy Kercheval’s performance on the new “Dallas” as the Godfather-like Cliff, it’s nice to be reminded of his character’s combustible side.

The other highlight of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”: the music. Merle Haggard’s “My Favorite Memory,” with its references to “what you choose to recall,” opens J.R.’s Petroleum Club memorial, setting the stage for the unexpectedly warm reminiscing that follows. I also like the foreboding strings at the top of the hour, when Bobby, Sue Ellen, John Ross and Christopher arrive in Mexico. Equally haunting: what sounds like Alison Krauss’s version of “Down to the River to Pray,” which is interspersed throughout the graveside eulogies. The most memorable song, though, remains Tara Holloway’s spectacular rendition of “The Bottom” during Sue Ellen’s relapse. Who will ever be able to listen to that song again without thinking of Linda Gray’s incredible performance in that scene?

As for the mystery that begins in the closing moments of “J.R.’s Masterpiece”? I’ll confess: When I read that Cidre, Robin and company planned to kill off Hagman’s character with another “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery, I cringed. I didn’t want my hero to go down in defeat. But the idea that J.R. spent his final days crafting a “masterpiece” scheme against his enemies – a grand plan that will now be carried out by his family – might mean ol’ J.R. will be able to go out on top after all.

All of the questions raised by the end of the episode are tantalizing. Why was J.R. tracking down Christopher’s “mother” – and which mother are we talking about: Kristin or Pam? Will John Ross end up using the gun that J.R. left him? Could there be significance to Christopher’s vow to help John Ross find J.R.’s killer so they can confront the bad guy (or gal) as “brothers”? What’s in the document that J.R. left for Bobby, and what should we make of Bobby’s tearful smile and last line: “I knew you’d have at least one more left up your sleeve, J.R. It is a good one. I love you brother.”

Until we get the answers, we won’t know what J.R.’s masterpiece will be. But at least we know what “Dallas’s” looks like.

Grade: A+


Dallas, J.R.'s Masterpiece, TNT

Hat tip


Season 2, Episode 8

Telecast: March 11, 2013

Writer: Cynthia Cidre

Director: Michael M. Robin

Audience: 3.6 million viewers on March 11

Synopsis: Bobby, Sue Ellen, John Ross and Christopher learn J.R. was shot and killed during a robbery in Mexico. Sue Ellen falls off the wagon. After the funeral, Bum reveals J.R. had been searching for Christopher’s mother and that he went to Mexico to follow a lead on Harris. J.R. also leaves a gun for John Ross and a document for Bobby, who refuses to reveal its contents to John Ross and Christopher.

Cast: Kuno Becker (Drew Ramos), Emma Bell (Emma Brown), Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos), Mark Cuban (himself), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Marlene Forte (Carmen Ramos), Julie Gonzalo (Pamela Barnes), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Castulo Guerra (Carlos del Sol), Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Robert Anthony Hunt (minister), Jerry Jones (himself), Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing), Kevin Page (Bum), Hugo Perez (Dr. Garcia), Mitch Pileggi (Harris Ryland), Cathy Podewell (Cally), Mayor Mark Rawlings (himself), Tony Sears (George GIilchriest), Ted Shackelford (Gary Ewing), Deborah Shelton (Mandy), Brenda Strong (Ann Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing)

“J.R.’s Masterpiece” is available at DallasTNT.com, Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’s’ Ratings Rise During Week 3

Ann Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, False Confessions, Patrick Duffy, TNT

Relax. The numbers will go up.

More viewers made time for “Dallas” this week.

TNT’s telecast of the latest episode, “False Confessions,” was seen by 2.4 million viewers on Feb. 11. The audience grew almost 10 percent from the previous week’s telecast.

“Dallas” is also getting a healthy boost from DVR users. The two-hour season opener – comprised of back-to-back telecasts of “Battle Lines” and “Venomous Creatures” – was seen by 2.9 million viewers on January 28, although the audience soared to 3.7 million when people who recorded the show and watched it a few days later were counted.

The second season’s third episode, “Sins of the Father,” was seen by 2.2 million viewers on Feb. 4, but by the end of the week, DVR users had increased the audience to 2.9 million.

“Dallas’s” first season averaged 4.2 million viewers on Wednesday nights last summer, although DVR users boosted its weekly haul to 6.1 million.

In last week’s edition of “Drill Bits,” TV ratings expert Marc Berman said a decline was expected since “Dallas” is now being telecast on Mondays in the winter, when it faces tougher competition on the broadcast networks.

Strong Speaks

Dallas Decoder was lucky to participate in a press call last week with Brenda Strong, who dished on her character Ann’s recent shooting of ex-husband Harris, “Dallas’s” ratings, working with Larry Hagman and more. If you haven’t already read it, be sure to check it out.

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

The Dal-List: 10 Classic Clashes Between J.R. and Pam

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Julie Gonzalo, Larry Hagman, Pamela Rebecca Barnes Ewing, TNT, Venomous Creatures

2 for 2?

The confrontation between J.R. and Pamela (Larry Hagman, Julie Gonzalo) in “Venomous Creatures,” one of this week’s new “Dallas” episodes on TNT, was an instant classic. The scene demonstrated how Gonzalo can hold her own against the legendary Hagman, but it also evoked memories of J.R.’s showdowns with the original Pam (Victoria Principal). Here’s a look at some of those moments.

Dallas, Digger's Daughter, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Fight or flight

10. Let the games begin. J.R. and Pam’s first fracas set the stage for all the fights that followed. On the day she arrived at Southfork, he gave her a friendly tour of the ranch – then offered her a bribe to leave: “I’m willing to spend some money now to avoid any inconvenience. But if you insist upon being driven away – which you surely will be – you’re going to come out of this without anything, honey.” Pam ignored J.R.’s offer, but maybe she should’ve taken the money and run. Think of all the pain she would’ve been spared! (“Digger’s Daughter”)

Dallas, Barbecue, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Fall gal

9. Legend of the fall. J.R. and Pam’s most controversial encounter: During her first Ewing barbecue, pregnant Pam retreated to a Southfork hayloft for some much-deserved alone time. Suddenly, a drunken J.R. showed up, crawled (slithered?) toward her and apologized for “going too far” during her early weeks at Southfork. While trying to get away from him, Pam slipped, fell and lost her baby. Some fans remember J.R. pushing Pam, but when you watch this scene, it’s pretty clearly an accident. J.R. was bad, but he wasn’t evil. (“Barbecue”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Love and Marriage, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Stud or dud?

8. Stud finder? If there was sexual tension between J.R. and Pam, it was strictly one-sided. When he suggested her demanding job at The Store might prompt lonely Bobby to reclaim his reputation as Dallas’s top stud, Pam declared that Bobby “isn’t standing at stud anymore. … He left the field wide open for you. Of course, from what I hear, that still leaves the field wide open.” J.R.: “Anytime you want to find out, it can be easily arranged.” Pam: “Don’t bother, J.R. Even if I weren’t married to Bobby, you aren’t man enough.” OK then! (“Love and Marriage”)

Dallas, Pam Ewing, Quandary, Victoria Principal

Bag it, J.R.

7. Tea for one. When Bobby “died,” Pam joined Ewing Oil as J.R.’s new partner, bringing the animosity between them to new heights. Within minutes of her first day on the job, J.R. minced no words letting Pam know how he felt about her new career: “I don’t want you in my sight, much less my offices!” Pam didn’t miss a beat. She ignored J.R.’s huffing and puffing, buzzed her secretary Phyllis on the intercom and ordered “a cup of tea – a cup of herbal tea.” Pam then turned to J.R. and asked if he wanted anything. He didn’t. (“Quandary”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Nothing's Ever Perfect

Dream on, Pam

6. Truce? In your dreams. After spending months fighting with J.R. at Ewing Oil, Pam decided their war wasn’t worth it and sold him the share of the company she controlled. After signing the papers, Pam told him, “It’s all yours, J.R. I hope this does mean that we can all live in peace now.” His response: “We’ve got nothing to fight about anymore.” Ha! This scene aired six months before Bobby stepped out of Pam’s shower. Looking back, the moment J.R. and Pam made nice should’ve been the first clue our heroine was dreaming. (“Nothing’s Ever Perfect”)

Dallas, Fallen Idol, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Hold the butter

5. Dining with the devil. For purely selfish reasons, J.R. didn’t want Bobby doing business with shady college chum Guzzler Bennett, so J.R. invited Pam to lunch to enlist her help in stopping Bobby and Guzzler’s project. When Pam wondered how she might persuade Bobby to call off the deal, J.R. told her, “You’re a very clever woman, Pam. You’ll think of something.” I also love her cutting response to his attempt to butter her up at the start of the scene: “J.R., please don’t make me lose this good food.” (“Fallen Idol”)

Dallas, Ewing Inferno, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Sting like a bee

4. Slap! J.R. and Pam’s fights almost never turned physical. Emphasis on “almost.” While Pam waited alone for Bobby inside his office one day, J.R. popped in to say hello. She wasn’t in the mood for his insincerities. “Save that nonsense for somebody who doesn’t know you,” she said, then chastised him for his latest extramarital fling. “Climb down off your soapbox, honey,” J.R. responded before accusing her of sleeping around. Before all was said and done, Pam had stomped away, leaving J.R. with a big red mark on his cheek. (“Ewing Inferno”)

Dallas, If At First You Don't Succeed, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman

Change of tune

3. Get your feud on. When Cliff was arrested for Bobby’s shooting, Pam accused J.R. of framing her brother. Cue J.R.’s eye-roll: “I’m getting kind of tired of that old song. Mean, nasty J.R. beating up on poor, innocent Cliff Barnes.” Pam’s response: “I’ve never believed in the Barnes/Ewing feud, J.R., but now I’m going to join it. I’m going to do everything I can to help Cliff – and I’m not going to rest until all our family scores are settled!” Something tells me Pam’s namesake niece would be proud of auntie here. (“If at First You Don’t Succeed”)

Dallas, Legacy of Hate, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Babble on, honey

2. True lies. Just to mess with her, J.R. sent Pam on a wild goose chase to the Caribbean to find her presumed dead lover Mark Graison. When she found out, she stormed into J.R.’s office and demanded an explanation. J.R. played dumb. “You’re babbling like a lunatic,” he said, adding: “I never liked you a hell of a lot, you know that, Pam? But I never thought you were stupid until now.” Principal is fantastic here – and so is Hagman. Pam knows J.R.’s lying. The audience knows he’s lying too. Yet somehow, we kinda believe him. (“Legacy of Hate”)

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Long Goodbye, Pam Ewing, Victoria Principal

Choose or lose

1. The choice. J.R. rejoiced when Pam left Bobby, but when he found out she was thinking about reconciling with him, J.R. knew he needed to act fast. He showed up on Pam’s doorstep and tried to persuade her that a divorce was in her best interest. “How nice! You’re concerned about my happiness,” she said, sarcasm dripping from every word. J.R.’s matter-of-fact response: “Oh, no. I don’t give a damn about you or your happiness, honey. But I do care about what’s good for me.” As Pam stood with her back to him, J.R. circled her, explaining she had two options: divorce Bobby and bring the Barnes/Ewing feud to an end, or return to him and watch as “all hell [breaks] loose.” Hagman is downright chilling, and as Pam, Principal looks visibly shaken. We can sympathize; in this scene, J.R. scares us too! (“The Long Goodbye”)

What do you think are J.R. and Pam’s best confrontations? Share your choices below and read more “Dal-Lists.”

Drill Bits: ‘Dallas’ Returns, But Some Viewers Don’t

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT, Venomous Creatures

He showed up. Did you?

Mondays are a bitch: “Dallas” opened its second season in its new Monday time slot this week – and a lot of fans didn’t show up.

The two-hour premiere drew 2.98 million viewers on January 28. As the Hollywood Reporter pointed out, the numbers were down 58 percent from the series debut last summer and 32 percent from the first-season finale. Ouch.

There could be a couple of explanations for the decline. TNT showed “Dallas’s” first season during the summertime, when the competition on other channels tends to be lighter. This week’s premiere – which actually consisted of two one-hour episodes, “Battle Lines” and “Venomous Creatures,” that were telecast back-to-back – faced fresh episodes of “The Biggest Loser” and “The Bachelor” on the broadcast networks.

Also worth noting: “Dallas” was a hit with DVR users last year. The series averaged 4.2 million viewers on Wednesday nights, but once people who recorded the show and watched later were counted, “Dallas’s” weekly haul surged to 6.1 million viewers. Perhaps ratings for the second-season premiere will get a big boost once DVR users are included?

And don’t forget: “Dallas” has a history of bouncing back from ratings dips. Back in 1978, CBS moved the original “Dallas” to Saturday nights for its second season. ABC’s “Fantasy Island” crushed the show, prompting CBS to restore it to its original Sunday berth before shifting it to Fridays, where it remained for the rest of its run.

Say You Want a Resolution?

It’s no secret “Dallas’s” longtime fans are clamoring for the return of Pam, the classic show’s heroine, immortalized by Victoria Principal. And if fans can’t have Pam, they at least want to know what happened to the character, who fled Southfork in 1987.

We may soon get our wish.

Check out this tantalizing exchange from Jesse Metcalfe’s recent conference call with reporters and bloggers:

Reporter: Will we learn any more this season about what happened with Pam in the last 20 years, where she’s been and what happened with her and Christopher?

Metcalfe: Yes. Yes we will. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much more than that. I’m sorry.

OK, fellow Pam fans. Start salivating.

Dress Like ‘Dallas’

If you love the styles worn by the women of Southfork, you’re in luck: HSN has opened an online Dallas boutique featuring clothing and accessories inspired by Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), Ann (Brenda Strong), Elena (Jordana Brewster) and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo). The show’s ace costume designer, Rachel Sage Kunin, selected the products in the collection.

Sorry, fellas. If you want to dress like John Ross or Christopher, you’re on your own.

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

TNT’s Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘You’re Not the First Pam. …’

Dallas, Larry Hagman, J.R. Ewing, Venomous Creatures

Odds are in his favor

In “Venomous Creatures,” a second-season “Dallas” episode, J.R. (Larry Hagman) visits Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) in the Barnes Global boardroom.

PAMELA: What are you doing here, J.R.?

J.R.: I’m just here to look my enemy in the eye. And since your daddy is about 2 feet shorter than I am, I guess you’ll have to do.

PAMELA: I must have done something right to deserve a visit from you.

J.R.: Congratulations on your win in court. Now divorce court, if you want some tips, I can offer you a few. I’m an expert authority.

PAMELA: I already have my experts.

J.R.: Oh, and if you’ve got it in your pretty little head to go after Ewing Energies in the divorce, you won’t be dealing with Christopher. You’ll be dealing with me.

PAMELA: You’re not a part of that company.

J.R.: No, no. But I’m part of that family. You’re not the first Pam to fox her way into the henhouse. I’m 1 for 1 on flushing out Pamelas. And I plan on being 2 for 2.