It may not be hitting our shores until September, when you’ll have to tune in to Channel 5 to see it in the UK, but here at What Culture, we’ve already had a bit of a dabble into the new season of Dallas, the television soap opera that made JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen global superstars right up until 1991, when the thirteenth season wrapped.
For those of you too young to remember, and that includes much of the cast, the phenomenon of dirty double (and triple) dealings, family rivalry, murder and professional backstabbing practically ruled the ratings for an entire decade. It was big hair, big shoulder pads and too much make up for the women and oil, horses and Stetsons for the men.
And now it’s back, with most of the original cast. Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray are joined by Ken Kercheval, Steve Kanaly and Charlene Tilton. The rest of the main cast have already headed for the great Baron’s Ball in the sky, save for those that have been replaced by younger stars.
The new Dallas of 2012 does away with the sibling rivalry of JR and Bobby (at least to begin with) in favour of concentrating on the bright young things, their sons, John Ross and Christopher. Like father like son, however, and the rivalry is still there, it’s just moved on a generation. Christopher is trying to turn Ewing Oil into a planet friendly provider of alternative energy, as opposed to John Ross, who just like his Daddy before him, is an oil man and a proud driller.
In the eighties, Dallas was a template for Dynasty, Knots Landing and Falcon Crest, all of which concentrated on wealthy families and the hangers-on and ne’er do-wells that became inevitably attached to them through the pursuit of wealth and power. Here, the old computers and landlines have been replaced by laptops and smartphones, but it doesn’t make the family any less wretched, greedy and unpalatable.
The beautiful people of a generation ago may have become a little bit cloth-eared and droopy, but make no mistake about it, Dallas is as much about the glamour as it ever was. Unfeasibly beautiful women and square-jawed men were the order of the day then, and so it is now. The Producers have not been shy of vacuuming up the talent from some of the most successful American television shows casting Josh Henderson (90210, Desperate Housewives) as John Ross with Jesse Metcalfe (Desperate Housewives) playing the part of Bobby’s son Christopher.
These two are great for those same desperate housewives to sit home of an evening and drool over, but the old Dallas never shied away from giving the hot-blooded gentlemen in the audience a reason to watch as well. And as expected, they are well served here. There may be no Kimberley Foster or Victoria Principal, but filling their high heels are Julie Gonzalo (Veronica Mars, Eli Stone) who becomes Christopher’s wife in the pilot episode and Jordana Brewster, most famous for her continuing role as Mia Toretto in the Fast & Furious franchise.
TNT announced as far back as 2010 that they were ordering a pilot and in 2011 it was filmed in and around Dallas itself. The remaining nine episodes began filming in August 2011, with the finale completed at the start of this year.
Early indications suggest that the new season of Dallas has been favourably received by critics and audiences alike and as one who remembers the original fondly; I have to agree that the script is as intriguing and complicated enough to keep you guessing with a denouement in the pilot that made me gasp. It seems that the Ewing’s are indeed back to thrill us once more and given the small amount we have seen so far, it has lost none of its potency. Executive Producer Cynthia Cidre (who also wrote the script for the first two episodes) may well have a firecracker on her hands. So far she hasn’t let the fans down. Let’s hope we see more of the same.