“Dallas” debuted on April 2, 1978 — as a five-part miniseries — on CBS. Its first official “season” started in the fall of 1978.
The show was originally shot entirely on location in and around Dallas. Later, most interior shots were filmed at a studio in Hollywood.
The 1979-80 season cliffhanger when J.R. was shot led to the surge in the series's popularity. The first episode of the 1980-81 season, “Who Done It?”, was watched by an estimated 83 million Americans, setting a record that held on until the finale of “MASH” in 1983.
“Who Done It?” still remains second on the list of most-watched TV episodes of all time.
“Dallas” was eventually translated into 67 languages and aired in more than 90 countries, a record that still stands.
The original “Dallas” was known for some of the most memorable episodes in TV history.
“A House Divided” episode (also known as “Who Shot J.R.?”), season three:
J.R.'s business moves create havoc within the family. Sue Ellen also has some issues to resolve with her husband and J.R.'s enemy Cliff Barnes is planning his own revenge. So when J.R. is shot, the list of suspects is long.
“Who Done It?” episode, season four:
The aftermath of J.R.'s shooting spins out of control as police look for suspects. Sue Ellen's fingerprints are found on the gun that shot her husband and she is arrested for his attempted murder. While in jail, she discovers that the Ewing family will not stand behind her.
The “dream season”: The ninth season of the show centered on the death of Bobby Ewing. When Patrick Duffy decided to return to the show, the creators opted to make the season a dream of Bobby's wife, Pam. The season ends with Pam waking to Bobby taking a shower. Season 10 picks up as if the previous season never happened.
The series finale: J.R. is in a deep depression and contemplates suicide. As the episode ends, J.R. raises the gun to his head. Just then, Bobby arrives at the house and hears a gunshot. Bobby rushes to J.R.'s bedroom, and you hear him cry out “Oh, my God!”. And that's how the series ends. It isn't until the “Dallas: J.R. Returns” TV movie five years later that fans find out what happened.
By Laura King / WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
When I heard the first notes of the iconic theme song, I got chills. Then the sweeping shots of Dallas and the ranches and the oil rigs lined up across the screen. This was too much.
Since I grew up in the '80s, “Dallas” is a big part of my pop culture vocabulary, It was weekly Friday night viewing. “Dukes of Hazzard,” popcorn, soda, “Dallas.”
As a kid, you felt like you were watching something big.
So when I heard that TNT was bringing back the series — they're calling it a “continuation of the saga” — I was a little nervous.
Then I saw the trailer and was not disappointed. The backstabbing, the love triangles, J.R., Bobby, Southfork! I was hooked.
I write about TV, so I get a lot of advance DVDs with episodes of series from various networks. The “Dallas” DVD was one I actually opened.
I watched four episodes back-to-back (what can I say, I don't enjoy going outside). What I saw was good — not as good as the original, but good.
The new series centers on the offspring of brothers J.R. and Bobby Ewing. John Ross, J.R.'s son, is looking to strike it rich as an oil man in his own right. Bobby's son, Christopher, is focused more on discovering alternative fuel sources than oil. He's all about finding a future of energy that doesn't come covered in crude. See the modern twists here?
It takes 15 minutes for J.R. to show up in the opening episode. He doesn't say a word — and he lives in an assisted living facility — but it's J.R., and Larry Hagman is rocking some serious eyebrows.
We're introduced to Christopher's new wife, who may have some ulterior motives for entering the Ewing family. There's also a potential love triangle brewing between John Ross, Christopher and Elena, current girlfriend to John Ross and former flame of Christopher. On top of it all, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is thinking of selling Southfork to a conservancy to preserve the land from development.
This idea doesn't sit well with J.R., as you might imagine. He still thinks the ranch belongs to him as the firstborn son.
In the first four episodes, I counted at least a half-dozen double-crosses from various characters. But the plots are easy to follow and the dialogue good and soapy. It's also fun to see characters from the original series pop up in cameos (There's Ray! And Lucy! And Cliff Barnes!).
Seeing Linda Gray's Sue Ellen Ewing as a sober, successful businesswomen who's not beholden to J.R. is refreshing. And it's fun to see that J.R. still holds a flame for her despite all of his past actions.
The recent popularity of ABC's soapy drama “Revenge” shows there's still an appetite for shows like “Dallas.” So maybe the timing is right to revive the show.
If anything, it will attract viewers like me who want to relive some of the nostalgia of a time when TV viewing was an event.
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There was a time when all you had to say was J.R., and people knew exactly what you were talking about.
In the 1980s, the CBS drama “Dallas,” featuring the dastardly J.R. Ewing, was a ratings juggernaut and was responsible for some of the most memorable moments in TV pop culture.
T-shirts were emblazoned with “Who shot J.R.?,” everyone talked about the season that was all a dream and Larry Hagman would be forever typecast as J.R.
Now, cable network TNT is hoping nostalgia for the original show will help its new “Dallas,” which debuts Wednesday. Local fans of the original “Dallas” remember it fondly and look forward to the new version with cautious excitement.
The new series picks up years after the original and centers on the children of Ewing brothers J.R. and Bobby. The ultimate goal may not be control of Ewing Oil, but there's plenty of backstabbing, double-crosses and love triangles to make the original series proud.
Katrinka Dicke, 37, of Waverly, Neb., is a fan of the original “Dallas” and is hopeful the new version will be just as good. But she's not sure.
“I was really excited about the new ‘90120' when it came on, but it was a huge disappointment to me.”
Nevertheless, she plans to record the first episode and perhaps have a party with fellow “Dallas” fans. There's even talk of dressing up like favorite characters.
For Dicke, that favorite character would be Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy).
“He seemed like the perfect guy,” she said. “He was charming, romantic, great to look at. He always saw the cup as half full, and had a smile on his face!”
In the 1980s, Dicke watched the series with her mother and grandmother, who never missed an episode. Later, Dicke watched reruns of “Dallas” on the Soap Channel.
When Dicke was a child, her family visited the Southfork ranch where the series was filmed.
“It made it that much more real for me,” she said.
Dicke's least favorite plot was when they gave J.R. memory loss. She also didn't like how they would “kill off” Bobby and J.R. only to bring them back the next season.
Katie Heineman, 24, a native of Norfolk, Neb., who is studying at the University of Illinois, came to “Dallas” long after its heyday. But she became hooked in college after a friend bought a boxed set of episodes at a garage sale.
“How could anyone part with such a thing,” she said.
Katie's friends were taken with the fictional world: “We were even inspired to throw a Dallas-themed party. Bourbon was served on a beverage cart, just as the Ewings would have done in their own home.”
When a TV show becomes part of your childhood and a cornerstone of your pop culture memories, certain things stand out. For Dicke, it was the core characters of J.R., his wife Sue Ellen, Bobby and his wife Pam, who does not appear in the new series. But especially Miss Ellie, the Ewing family matriarch, who, of course, is long gone in the updated series.
The role of Miss Ellie originated with actress Barbara Bel Geddes until she left briefly in 1985. Donna Reed replaced her for one season before Bel Geddes returned to the role. Bel Geddes so inhabited the role that writers wrote out the Miss Ellie character when the actress chose to retire after the show's 12th season.
“I do think that Miss Ellie's character remained unwavered and she was the epitome of the perfect wife, mother,” Dicke said. “I don't think I have seen a character like that since then.”
The characters' ability to keep their hair and makeup flawless also made an impression on Dicke as a young girl.
“It amazed me, too, how they would all swim in the pool and their makeup would stay on, especially their lipstick.”
The episode Heineman remembers most was when Sue Ellen was sent to rehab when she was pregnant.
“It had all the quintessential ‘Dallas' plot points: substance abuse, infidelity and bribery.”
Beyond the plot points, “Dallas” is a perfect symbol of the 1980s for Heineman.
“The hair, the clothes, the excess. So classic.”
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