TV legends: Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman are back tonight with a new series of DallasStrong couple: Duffy and his wife Carlyn RosserBuddhist beliefs: Patrick Duffy's faith has seen him get through some tough times, including when his parents were murdered in a bar in 1986
Then the titles roll, their traditional split screens offering vistas of Dallas town and country accompanied by those familiar blasts of French horn.
Dallas, the next generation, gets its big names up first -- Desperate Housewives' Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe are the quarrelsome scions -- but then come Duffy, Hagman and Gray.
The three of them, Duffy says, account for half the screen time. "The promise we were given by Cynthia [Cidre, the executive producer] is that we are integral to every episode." Ratings for Dallas 2012 are, by TNT standards, high and the network has already ordered a second season.
All in all, it is the biggest fillip for the franchise since May 16, 1986, when Bobby, who, you may distantly recall, had been killed in a car crash at the end of season eight, rematerialised in his wife's shower, thereby pronouncing, to much viewer resentment, that the entire season nine had been "a dream".
When Dallas was shown on this side of the water in the late 1970s, American imports had a rather different status than they do now. They were considered artistically inferior to homegrown fare but were shown in peak time.
Dallas was the biggest of the lot, for which Duffy politely thanks Terry Wogan, who made Dallas jokes his speciality. Its "Who shot JR?" cliffhanger at the end of season three made it on to the BBC Nine O'Clock News.
Kim LeMasters, who commissioned the original Dallas for CBS, recently told Entertainment Weekly that the show's demise began with Bobby's watery apparition.
Duffy was 36 when he rashly decided to leave the series after seven years. Although he had been known before it only as the Man from Atlantis, he was convinced it was time to develop a career outside Bobby Ewing. Having quit, he worked in television movies for a year, not very happily. His friend Hagman was equally miserable, struggling without him and minus the show's producer Leonard Katzman. Then Katzman decided to return, and had a plan.
"I came home one night and the little red light was blinking on my answering machine. I hit the play button and it was Larry's voice. 'Patrick, this is Hagman. I want you to come out to Malibu. We're gonna get drunk. I wanna talk to you.' I turned to Carlyn and I said: 'They're going to ask me to come back on the show.' And her instant response -- she's a very cultured, well-read, brilliant woman -- she said: 'There's no way you can go back on that show unless the entire last year was a dream'."
He must have known it would be ridiculed? "I knew that it would disappoint some people, absolutely. The interesting thing is people got very upset, but our ratings never dropped. They actually went back up." Dallas finally did end in 1991.
He adores his wife, crediting her with his intellectual development and, more importantly, his conversion to Nichiren Buddhism, a Japanese branch of the tradition which focuses on individual empowerment. "I only converted because I wanted to sleep with her. And now I do it because it's such a part of my life."
They met on a tour bus. He was a "young stud" hired to play the narrator in a dance troupe's school performances. She was a ballet dancer 10 years his senior. He had never come across such beautiful women in his life and was delighted to see they had a habit of wandering around with very few clothes on.
"In short order, I fell in love with the artform and with her." There was a problem, however. Carlyn Rosser was married, and had been for 13 years. "She had the hardest job. She had to tell her husband. And they were happily married. It wasn't, you know, a bad relationship. He was a good man, and he is a good man.
"We would have Dallas nights, the four of us. We'd sit around and we'd make the boys little ice-cream sundaes and sit and watch Dallas. My children in that year were probably four and nine, and there's a scene of Victoria and me in bed. You never could do it on screen, so it was either post- or pre-, I'm not sure which, but kissing and everything like that.
"And I look over and my wife's welling up in tears. I said: 'Sweetheart, what's the matter? You've seen me do these scenes with Victoria before.' And she said: 'I just saw a look on your face I thought you only had with me.' It broke my heart. I was probably thinking: 'What's for lunch?'"
Duffy has a sincere but smooth way with heartbreaking intimacies that makes you wonder if his heart ever has been broken. Yet can it really not have been?