Dallas: The return of an iconic show
Published 12/10/2011 | 09:40
HOLD on to your (cowboy) hats: it's confirmed that Dallas will be back on TV over here.
If you were around three decades ago, then chances are you will be among the 300 million people around the world who were glued to the TV for the answer to the memorable cliffhanger: 'Who shot JR?'
JR Ewing, hammed up with great swagger and charm by Larry Hagman, is back on the Southfork ranch.
The producers of the new series, which is shooting again in Dallas 20 years after the original series about two feuding Texan oil families came to an end, have, happily, decided to keep the same iconic theme music.
But much else will be different when it's shown on Channel 5 in the UK. The glamorous women in the original series tended to be kept in their place - in one instance, the place for JR Ewing's wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) was in a sanitarium after being being committed by JR to save money on divorce settlement - but the balance of power will change for Dallas 2012. The series is being scripted by a woman - Cynthia Cidre - and Sue Ellen will be holding the reins of power as CEO of Ewing Oil.
Dallas ran for 357 episodes between 1978 and 1991 and was a heady cocktail of constant cliffhangers, with lavish dollops of divorces, deaths, fist fights, miscarriages, car accidents, love tiffs, suicide attempts, overdoses, mental institutions and murder attempts, both successful and botched.
There were great - and irritating - characters galore. The ludicrous Jock Ewing, Charlene Tilton’s Lucy Ewing – ‘The Poison Dwarf' – or the pudgy-faced, interfering Miss Ellie and the permanently embittered and undersized Cliff Barnes, the arch-rival to JR, played so well by Ken Kercheval. You can bet Cliff Barnes will make a 'surprise' return to confront JR once again.
Hagman is now 80 but as well as wheeling out some of the old cast - Patrick Duffy, a sprightly 62, will return to play younger Ewing brother Bobby - the new 10-part series will feature Jesse Metcalfe and Brenda Strong, who both starred in Desperate Housewives, as part of a new generation fighting for the family fortune.
The look will be fresh too. Some of the older faces will have to cope with HD definition and as well as featuring the new Dallas skyline there will be a 'modern' feel to the camerawork courtesy of art director of photography Rodney Charters, who shot 24 for eight years.
Cidre, writer and executive producer of the new series, said: "The people who love Dallas are Trekkies, really committed to that show, so I never wanted to violate anything that had happened in the past. On the other hand that was the past, twenty years had gone by, so at the same time I think we're properly balanced between the characters of Bobby Ewing, JR and Sue Ellen, I also have the new cast and it's John Ross and Christopher, the children of Bobby and JR, and their love interests. Total respect and a balance of old and new."
The emotions will have a 21st-century feel to them. JR, once the swaggering giant of Texas, will be stressed and depressed. Hagman admitted: "The JR we see at the start is not the one we'll recognise. Let's just say that things have been as tough for JR as they have been for me."
It remains to be seen whether Dallas 2012 is a nostalgia trip too far. Perhaps the big hair and big shoulders should remain in an 1980s closet. Rather like trundling out Dennis Waterman to offer an Help-The-Aged Minder service to Arthur Daley, you suspect that Dallas may be a thing of its time.
But here's a double Sue Ellen vodka to being proved wrong.
That's certainly what Hagman hopes. As he put it: "I think Dallas will be a hit because mums and grandparents will remember sitting around as a family watching it and they’ll encourage their families to watch it. I think it’s something that just goes to the heart, the psyche, of people who were there the first time around."