The Art of Dallas: ‘Who Done It?’

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), after being arrested for J.R.’s shooting, has her mug shot taken in this 1980 publicity shot from “Who Done It?” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode.

Dallas Scene of the Day: ‘It Was You, Kristin, Who Shot J.R.’

Dallas, Kristin Shepard, Mary Crosby, Who Done It, Who Shot J.R.?

Who done it

In “Who Done It?,” a fourth-season “Dallas” episode, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) arrives at Southfork to find J.R. (Larry Hagman) reading in his wheelchair on the patio.

SUE ELLEN: J.R.?

J.R.: [Looks up from his book, startled] What are you doing here?

SUE ELLEN: Where’s Kristin?

J.R.: Don’t come any closer. [Moves his wheelchair toward the table] I’m going to call the police. Don’t you come any closer. [Struggles to get out of the wheelchair]

SUE ELLEN: [Looks at him with pity] J.R., I didn’t come here to hurt you. I just want to know where Kristin is.

Kristin (Mary Crosby) exits the house, steps onto the patio.

KRISTIN: [Cheery] Sue Ellen, I brought your things.

SUE ELLEN: [Sarcastic] Regular angel of mercy, aren’t you? So supportive. Keeping my secrets. Taking me in.

KRISTIN: What happened? What are you talking about?

SUE ELLEN: I have finally figured everything out, that’s all. You have been trying to frame me.

KRISTIN: [Laughs] You’re crazy.

SUE ELLEN: [Smiles] Well, you were right. I was at that condo that night, looking for J.R. And yes, I did have his gun. But you saw how drunk I was, and you still gave me a drink, knowing I’d put the gun down to take it. You went to the office that night with J.R.’s gun. It was you, Kristin, who shot J.R. Then the next morning, while I was showering, you hid the gun in the closet. [Flashbacks appear as Sue Ellen speaks.]

KRISTIN: You think you’ve got it all figured out.

J.R.: [Speaking into the phone] Get me the police.

KRISTIN: I wouldn’t do that if I were you, J.R. [She and Sue Ellen walk toward him.] Not unless you want your child born in prison. Now wouldn’t that be a scandal? Jock Ewing’s grandson: jail baby. [Snickers] I think I’ll write my memoirs there.

J.R.: You’re bluffing.

KRISTIN: Call Dr. Gibson. I saw him yesterday. He’ll tell you. [A voice on the phone says, “Dallas Police Department.”]

SUE ELLEN: [Reaches for the phone] Give me that phone. I’m not going to jail for her.

J.R.: Nobody’s going to jail. I’ll handle Kristin my own way.

Critique: ‘Dallas’ Episode 58 – ‘Who Done It?’

Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, Who Done It, Who Shot J.R.?

Just shoot her

“Who Done It?” brought the world to a standstill. Eighty-three million Americans, or roughly one-third of the nation’s population, watched this episode on the night it aired in 1980, a record at the time. The global audience is estimated in the hundreds of millions.

I’m sure many viewers still remember where they were and who they were with when they saw “Who Done It?” It’s less likely anyone remembers much about the episode itself. Aside from the final scene, when Kristin is finally revealed as J.R.’s shooter, this is pretty much a run-of-the-mill hour of “Dallas.”

From today’s vantage point, I find this astonishing. When “Who Done It?” was filmed, the producers must have known the broadcast would attract a huge audience, including people who’d never seen “Dallas” but wanted to witness the climactic moment in the “Who Shot J.R.?” phenomenon that had been raging for months.

You might expect the producers to craft an episode to welcome these newcomers. Instead, “Dallas” plows forward with storylines already in motion. Bobby tries to buy a refinery. Cliff hitches a ride on the Culver political bandwagon. Lucy continues wooing Mitch.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s nice to see “Dallas” conclude the “Who Shot J.R.?” mystery with an episode that’s designed to reward loyal fans.

It’s also nice to see the producers showcase Linda Gray, who does some of her finest work on “Dallas” in this episode. The actress makes Sue Ellen believably desperate at the beginning of “Who Done It?” when the character, clad in that iconic black-and-white dress, is forced to spend the night behind bars because the Ewings refuse to bail her out.

It’s always worth paying attention to the details of Gray’s performances, and “Who Done It?” is no exception. Watch closely when Sue Ellen is sitting alone in the jailhouse visitation room and Cliff arrives unexpectedly. The moment she recognizes him, Gray’s posture stiffens and she begins fixing her mussed hair. It’s a small gesture, but it lets us know Sue Ellen is determined to preserve whatever dignity she has left.

I also appreciate how the “Dallas” writers allow Sue Ellen to find a little inner strength after the Ewings reject her in the aftermath of her arrest. When she’s released from jail, she doesn’t hit the bottle, as you might expect. Instead, she turns to Dr. Elby and tries to get to the bottom of what happened the night her husband was shot.

You can’t help but feel Sue Ellen’s triumph when she arrives at Southfork in the final scene, armed with the truth that Kristin is trying to frame her. In contrast, I also appreciate how we get to see a different side of J.R. at this moment. When he spots Sue Ellen, he looks genuinely frightened; director Leonard Katzman even allows the camera to linger on Larry Hagman as he fumbles to get out of his wheelchair. Brilliant.

Of course, as good as Hagman and Gray are in this scene, don’t overlook Mary Crosby. I don’t think I’ve ever found Kristin as distasteful as I do when she coos about giving birth to Jock Ewing’s “jail baby” grandchild. But watch how Crosby’s bravado melts the moment J.R. announces he’ll “handle” her his own way.

In that instant, you can almost hear the wheels turning inside J.R.’s head. Or maybe it’s just the sound the world makes as it starts spinning again.

Grade: A

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Dallas, J.R. Ewing, Larry Hagman, Who Done It, Who Shot J.R.?

He’ll handle it

‘WHO DONE IT?’

Season 4, Episode 4

Airdate: November 21, 1980

Audience: 41.5 million homes, ranking 1st in the weekly ratings

Writer: Loraine Despres

Director: Leonard Katzman

Synopsis: Sue Ellen is arrested and jailed. Someone posts bail, but she doesn’t know who did it. Cliff offers to help Donna’s stepson Dave Culver run for governor. Bobby wants to buy a refinery but can’t arrange the financing. After Dr. Elby hypnotizes her, Sue Ellen realizes Kristin shot J.R. and confronts her sister, who reveals she’s pregnant with J.R.’s child.

Cast: Tyler Banks (John Ross Ewing), Barbara Bel Geddes (Miss Ellie Ewing), Jeff Cooper (Dr. Simon Elby), Mary Crosby (Kristin Shepard), Jim Davis (Jock Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing), Kenneth Farmer (Gil), Tom Fuccello (Dave Culver), Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Laurence Haddon (Franklin Horner), Nik Hagler (Detective Frost), Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Susan Howard (Donna Culver), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), John Lehne (Kyle Bennett), Leigh McCloskey (Mitch Cooper), Victoria Principal (Pam Ewing), Charlene Tilton (Lucy Ewing), Gregory Walcott (Jim Redfield)

“Who Done It?” is available on DVD and at Amazon.com and iTunes. Watch the episode and share your comments below.

Drill Bits: For Patrick Duffy, Edits Go with the TV Territory

Ann Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Brenda Strong, Dallas, Patrick Duffy, Price You Pay, TNT

Don’t cut Bobby!

TNT’s “Dallas” has given audiences lots of great scenes this season, but some of the best moments – like J.R. and Sue Ellen’s dance at the Ewing barbecue in “The Last Hurrah” – have been left on the cutting room floor.

As Patrick Duffy sees it, that’s showbiz.

“Several of my favorite scenes didn’t make it to the show,” the actor told me during a conference call with bloggers and critics last month. “These scripts are so compact and so intense and every scene is so brilliantly done. You finish filming and you think I can’t wait to see that – and then it’s edited out. … You just can’t put everything in each episode.”

In some cases, scenes are merely shortened, not completely cut. “I had a scene with Jesse [Metcalfe] in a barn, which they only kept the lead-in scene for that,” Duffy said. “And they eliminated it. It was one of my favorite ones [from] that episode.”

TNT’s “Dallas” is the fourth weekly series for Duffy, who takes a Zen-like approach to the cuts. “I’ve learned to let those feelings go and just enjoy what I see,” he said.

Besides, the footage isn’t really lost. “It still exists somewhere,” Duffy said, adding the deleted scenes could wind up on TNT’s “Dallas” DVD releases.

Red, White and Ewing

TNT’s next “Dallas” episode, “Truth and Consequences,” will debut Wednesday, July 4, at 9 p.m. The cable channel had planned to pre-empt the show on Independence Day, when prime-time viewership levels tend to plummet, but reversed course and announced the schedule change yesterday. No reason was given for the about-face.

Speaking of ratings: “The Last Hurrah,” “Dallas’s” June 27 telecast, was seen by 4.1 million viewers, a small dip from the previous episode’s numbers. This week’s audience included 1.4 million adults between the ages of 18 and 49, the viewers advertisers covet.

Hopefully “Dallas’s” numbers will hold steady on July 4. Before “Truth and Consequences” premieres that evening, TNT plans to show back-to-back reruns of “Dallas’s” first four hours, beginning at 5 p.m.

And in case you’re wondering: No, this won’t be “Dallas’s” first holiday premiere.

The old show aired fresh episodes on at least seven official or “almost official” holidays: “Barbecue Two” (New Year’s Day 1982), “Mama Dearest” (New Year’s Eve 1983), “Ray’s Trial” (Veteran’s Day 1983), “Dire Straits” (Valentine’s Day 1986), “Territorial Imperative” (Halloween 1986), “The Call of the Wild” (Veteran’s Day 1988) and “The Sting” (Inauguration Day 1989).

Line of the Week

“Rebecca, you strike me as an extremely resourceful woman. I’m sure you’ll figure that out.”

I loved John Ross’s comment to Rebecca in “The Last Hurrah” – not just because Josh Henderson’s delivery was so Hagman-esque, but also because the line kind of paid tribute to the enigmatic Rebecca, who is becoming one of my “Dallas” favorites. (By the way: If you thought Julie Gonzalo was terrific in this week’s episode, wait until you see next week’s installment.)

I also couldn’t help but notice John Ross’s line echoed the “compliment” J.R. gave his favorite sister-in-law (“You’re a very clever woman, Pam. You’ll think of something.”) in “Fallen Idol,” an episode from the original show’s second season.

Take a Shot of J.R.

A reminder: This week’s “Dallas Drinks” offering is The J.R., a shot of bourbon, peppermint schnapps and black-as-oil coffee liqueur. It’s mighty delicious – the recipe comes from Cook In/Dine Out – but it has a lot of kick. You’ve been warned.

While I’m shamelessly plugging my own stuff, a reminder that I’m in the midst of critiquing the original show’s “Who Shot J.R.?” episodes. My “A House Divided” critique was posted this week; I’ll get to the “No More Mr. Nice Guy” two-part episode next week, followed by “Nightmare” (Monday, July 9) and “Who Done It?” (Tuesday, July 10).

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

Drill Bits: TNT’s ‘Dallas’ Wrangles Big Audience

Ann Ewing, Brenda Strong, Changing of the Guard, Dallas, Linda Gray, Sue Ellen Ewing, TNT

Reason to celebrate

The June 13 debut of TNT’s “Dallas” drew 6.9 million viewers, becoming the year’s most-watched premiere of a cable drama or comedy. The audience included a healthy 1.9 million viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, the group advertisers pay a premium to reach.

“Dallas’s” two-hour premiere drew more viewers than any program on the broadcast networks between 9 and 11 p.m. and made TNT the evening’s most-watched basic cable channel.

Also worth noting: “Dallas’s” opening night drew a bigger crowd than the first episodes of other top cable dramas, including “Mad Men” (1.65 million viewers in 2007), “Breaking Bad” (1.35 million, 2008) and “Walking Dead” (5.3 million, 2010).

Yes, “Dallas’s” 6.9 million number is nowhere near the 83 million viewers who saw the old show’s most-watched episode: “Who Done It?”, the 1980 broadcast that revealed the identity of J.R.’s shooter. But c’mon, there were only three networks back then!

Comparing TNT’s two-hour premiere to other episodes from the original “Dallas” series is trickier. In those days, Nielsen usually counted the number of households that watched television, not individual viewers.

For example, the fourth-season episode “No More Mister Nice Guy, Part 2,” the old show’s second highest-rated broadcast, was seen in 31.1 million homes. “Dallas’s” lowest-rated episode, “Fathers and Sons and Fathers and Sons,” which aired during the final season, was seen in 8.9 million homes, ranking 52nd for the week.

And in case you’re wondering, “Digger’s Daughter,” the original “Dallas’s” first episode, was seen in 15.7 million homes, ranking 18th in the weekly ratings, while “Conundrum,” its 1991 finale, was seen in 20.5 million homes, ranking 2nd.

Metcalfe’s Favorite Scenes

Christopher Ewing, Dallas, Jesse Metcalfe

Jesse speaks

In my “Changing of the Guard,”critique, I praised Jesse Metcalfe’s terrific performance in the scene where Christopher and Elena finally come clean with each other on the day of his wedding to Rebecca.

When I spoke to Metcalfe during a conference call with bloggers last month, he told me he likes that scene, too. So does he have favorite moments from other episodes?

“I probably have a favorite moment from every episode,” Metcalfe said. “It’s really difficult for me to pick just one scene. I mean, the fun thing about this show is that it’s a magnificent ensemble.”

We agree!

‘Dallas,’ Then and Now

How does “Digger’s Daughter,” “Dallas’s” first episode from 1978, compare to “Changing of the Guard,” the first hour of TNT’s “Dallas” series?

• First line of dialogue

1978: “Bobby James Ewing, I don’t believe you!” (Pam)

2012: “John Ross, wake up!” (Elena)

• Saltiest language

1978: “You jackass!” (Jock)

2012: “It’s bullshit!” (John Ross)

• J.R. loves red …

1978: Files

2012: Jell-O

• Bobby’s reason to celebrate

1978: A wedding!

2012: A birthday!

• Words spoken by Sue Ellen

1978: 38

2012: 120 (approximate)

• Get a room! (But not that one!)

1978: Lucy and Ray in the hayloft

2012: Christopher and Rebecca in the locker room

• Last line of dialogue

1978: “Well, I surely won’t do that again.” (J.R.)

2012: “The fun is just beginning.” (John Ross)

Line of the Week

“You are still the prettiest girl at the ball.”

There were a lot of great lines in the back-to-back “Dallas” episodes TNT telecast June 13, but if I had to pick a favorite, it was J.R.’s parting words to Sue Ellen at the end of their long-awaited reunion in “Hedging Your Bets.”

In the first episode of “Dallas Round-Up,” TNT’s post-show webcast, “Dallas’s” executive producer and head writer Cynthia Cidre revealed the line was suggested by another of the show’s writers, Robert Rovner.

When Rovner pitched the line to her and the other writers, “we all got misty-eyed,” Cidre recalled.

Diva Declared

The arrival of TNT’s “Dallas” wasn’t the only big event in the Ewing-verse this week: A few hours before the show debuted, Katherine Wentworth was crowned the winner of the Dallas Divas Derby race.

David W., whom I interviewed last month, created the derby, which pitted 32 of the original show’s heroines and villainesses against each other in a two-month brackets-style competition. The final race came down to Katherine (Morgan Brittany) and Sue Ellen (Linda Gray); when all was said and done, Katherine received 2,494 votes, or 424 more than Sue Ellen.

Be sure to also check out David’s insightful review of the TNT series, as well as his sentimental introductory post, in which he recalls his childhood love of “Dallas.”

Get Your Drink On

A reminder: This week, my husband Andrew and I began offering “Dallas Drinks,” a series of cocktails inspired by the characters on the TNT show. First up: The John Ross; we’ll post another recipe next week.

Be sure to visit Andrew’s blog, Cook In/Dine Out, too. As you’ll see, he’s an amazing cook. Heck, he could probably teach Carmen Ramos (Marlene Forte) a thing or two!

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