Thursday, June 21, 2012
Dallas Dish: Seems Like Old Times
The new TNT continuation of Dallas does seem like old times - and so far I'm enjoying this return visit to Southfork. I watched the original 1978-91 prime time soap back in its "Who Shot J.R.?" heyday, and although the new series hasn't reached those melodramatic heights, it has all the right ingredients to become a must-see addiction. So here is the show's delicious recipe for success that is making me a fan of the Ewing clan once again:
1) Attractive eye candy: The original had a frequently shirtless and speedo-clad Patrick Duffy to drool over as well as the gorgeous Leigh McCloskey as Lucy's husband Mitch. So I'm happy to report that the new series has its fair share of appetizing hunks, including Josh Henderson as John Ross (J.R.'s chip off the old block), Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher (Bobby's adopted son), and Callard Harris as Tommy (Christopher's new brother-in-law). Now they just need to get these handsome guys to take an occasional dip in the Southfork swimming pool.
2) A good combination of the new and the old: Fortunately, the series is equally interested in both the new and the older generations of Ewings. 80-year-old Larry Hagman is back as J.R., who - after spending a few years in a nursing home with a bad case of clinical depression - is now plotting to get his hands on Southfork, which Bobby plans to sell. The actor appears to be having the time of his life reprising his most memorable role - and although J.R. has slightly mellowed, the character is still a helluva lot of fun to watch.
Meanwhile, Patrick Duffy's Bobby has a third wife, Ann (played by Desperate Housewives' Brenda Strong), and they are the new Jock and Miss Ellie of Southfork. Duffy and Strong have good chemistry together, but I'm hoping that we get to learn more about Ann in future episodes (so far she seems to be a devoted wife who enjoys handling a rifle).
And then we have the lovely Linda Gray as my favorite Dallas character, Sue Ellen, J.R.'s ex-wife who might run for governor of Texas. I always liked the boozing, Dr. Ellby-seeing, Dusty-loving Sue Ellen of the old days, but all of that past drama seems to have made her much stronger - and somewhat less interesting. Hopefully she will have more to do as the series progresses - and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a romantic reunion with Mr. Farlow.
3) Groovy guest stars: It was nice to see Steve Kanaly and Charlene Tilton make cameo appearances in the first episode as Ray Krebbs and Lucy Ewing, who were guests at Christopher's wedding. But I was much more pleased with Ken Kercheval's return as J.R.'s longtime nemesis, Cliff Barnes, in last night's third episode. Seeing him and J.R. trading barbs once again was amusing. However, if I could choose an original cast member to come back, it would be Victoria Principal as Bobby's first wife Pam, who would definitely stir things up with her ex and her son Christopher. Yes, I know the writers would have to address the character's plastic surgery and terminal illness - but since it's a soap opera, these "little" things can easily be explained or completely forgotten. Principal probably isn't interested, but she did star in the short-lived 2000 soap, Titans - so it couldn't hurt to ask.
4) Engaging storylines: So far so good with the dramatic twists and turns of the new series. Of course, they're not going to kill off Bobby with cancer - he'll recover - and J.R. and John Ross's scheming team-up is delightfully reminiscent of the original show. However, my favorite storyline is the mystery surrounding Christopher's new wife Rebecca and her brother Tommy, who have some sort of secret vendetta against the Ewings. I do find it interesting that Rebecca has the same name as Pam and Cliff's mother, which makes me suspect that she has a connection to Cliff (the Dallas Redone blog thinks that Pam and Cliff's crazy half-sister Katherine Wentworth might be the siblings' mother, which makes sense). And - SPOILER for those who have not yet watched last night's episode - now that we know that Rebecca was the one who sent the email to Christopher's former fiancée Elena that broke them up, I'm more intrigued than ever to find out her secret. And keeping the audience tuning in each week is one of the required ingredients for making a good soap opera. It's an easy recipe - just mix together great writing, terrific performances and a few shirtless hunks and you've got yourself a new Dallas worth watching.
And, finally, I blogged back in early April that I would be reviewing Dallas every week here on DEEP DISH. Well, this is not going to happen due to a busy summer, but I do plan on revisiting the Ewings with a review of their first season after the final episode on August 15. So until then, let's hope Christopher continues to parade around in his black underwear, Sue Ellen gets somebody to love, and J.R. keeps delivering such amusing lines as "Bullets don't seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin'."
My Grade: A
Below you can watch "The Story Behind Dallas", a recap of all the pivotal events of the original series. And visit www.dallastnt.com for the weekly Dallas Round-Up, an online aftershow hosted by All My Children's Cameron Mathison, who interviews the cast and producers after each new episode airs.