Sunday, July 31, 2011

J.R. Ewing is returning to television - but is it a good idea to bring back Dallas?

Larry Hagman and Linda Gray

So Dallas is coming back after all these years.  It will return to the screen in the summer of 2012 on the TNT cable network.  Filming began in Texas in April and the pilot episode will be aired this autumn.  79-year-old Larry Hagman will reprise his role as the dastardly oilman J.R. Ewing.  Patrick Duffy, 62, will return as J.R.’s younger brother, Bobby Ewing, and Linda Gray will be back as Sue Ellen, J.R.’s alcoholic former wife. 

Linda Gray, now 70, credits her Dallas storyline for making it easier to discuss the issues associated with alcohol abuse.  Linda told the British Weekend magazine:  “Nowadays , if you have a problem with alcohol, it’s easier to get help, but  then it was like you had leprosy and people would say to me, ‘Because of Sue Ellen, I went to Alcoholics Anonymous.’  It felt good that we were helping in some way.”
Some members of the original cast can’t or won’t appear in the new series.  Barbara Bel Geddes, who played Miss Ellie, the matriarch of Ewing clan, passed away on August 8, 2005 at the age of 82.  Victoria Principal, who portrayed Pamela Barnes Ewing, left the show in 1987 and did not appear in either of the two Dallas reunion shows;  “J.R. Returns” (1996) and “The War of the Ewings” (1998).  She is not slated to appear in the new Dallas.  Neither is Priscilla Presley who portrayed Bobby’s old flame, Jenna Wade. 
Dallas debuted in 1978 on CBS and had 13-year run.  Two decades have passed since the series ended in 1991.  A whole generation has no memory of the wildly popular “Who Shot J.R?” plot line of 1980.  In November of that year, after a delay due to a writer’s strike, millions of viewers tuned in find the answer.  J.R.’s sister-in-law, Kristin Shepard (played by Mary Crosby, Bing’s daughter) was the one who did the deed.  It was really no surprise to anyone who had read that Mary Crosby was planning to leave the show.  Kristin, Sue Ellen's sister and J.R.'s jilted mistress, was found floating dead in the Ewing swimming pool.
Then, of course, there was the infamous 1985-1986 season of Dallas.  The whole lacklustre season was explained away as a dream.  During the previous season, Bobby Ewing had been “killed” in a hit-and-run accident.  Without Patrick Duffy, ratings sagged.  Larry Hagman urged Duffy to rejoin the cast and he eventually agreed to so.  The 1986-87 season opened with Bobby very much alive and soaping himself in the shower.  His death and all the events of the 1985-86 season had been a dream of ex-wife Pam.  Although pleased to see Bobby Ewing again, viewers scratched their heads and groaned.
I have to admit that I am not a big fan of reprising old shows, especially ones that have been off the air for two decades.  The new series will succeed only if it is deemed fresh and relevant.   The original Dallas reflected the “greed is good” mentally of the Reagan era.   The United States is now struggling to recover from a nightmarish recession and it is also in the midst of a debt crisis.  Will contemporary viewers be attracted to a show about a family of filthy rich Texas oil barons living on a luxurious ranch called Southfork? 
Older viewers who were fans of the original show will undoubtedly tune in, but the success of the show ultimately depends on two criteria.  The first is the quality of the writing.  The second measure of success hinges on attracting younger viewers – the 20 to 35 year old demographic.  That is why the performances of the newcomers are so important.  The new Dallas will feature the next generation of Ewing oilmen and women.  It will focus on John Ross Ewing, son of J.R. and Sue Ellen.  The stories will revolve around the conflict between John Ross and his cousin, Christopher Ewing, the adopted son of Bobby and his former wife, Pam.  Christopher is also the biological son of the late Kristin Shepard. 
John Ross and Christopher will be smitten with the same woman, Elena Ramos, played by Jordana Brewster.  The situation poses a real dilemma for Christopher since he is engaged to Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gunzalo).
Actor and singer Josh Henderson will portray John Ross.  Dallas-born Henderson, 29, is best known for his role as Austin McCann on Desperate Housewives.  Christopher will be played by 32-year-old Jesse Metcalfe.  Coincidentally, Metcalfe is also a former cast member of Desperate Housewives. He played John Rowland on the series. 
Brazilian-American actress Jordan Brewster, 31, has appeared as Mia Toretto in three instalments of the Fast and Furious film series.  Argentine-born Julie Guzalo has played Parker Lee in the television series  Veronica Mars and Maggie Dekker in the 2008-09 series Eli Stone

Brenda Strong has been cast as Ann Ewing, Bobby's new wife.  Brenda is yet another former member of the cast of Desperate Housewives.  She portrayed Mary Alice Young on the show. 

The new cast of Dallas

To watch a video preview of the new Dallas, click on the link below.  

 - Joanne

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