Sunday, June 17, 2012
Review - Dallas
I am (sheesh) old enough to remember the original Dallas from the '80s - back when Fridays were must-see viewing with the one-two punch of it and Falcon Crest (with Dukes of Hazzard as the 8 o'clock lead in, if you can believe it) - and this ... comeback? return? ... isn't messing around when recapturing all the delicious scandal, backstabbing, double-crossing and family dysfunction the Ewings can serve up.
It's no secret the genre of the nighttime soap - some may deem a "guilty pleasure" - is hot right now with ABC's breakout hits Revenge and Scandal and even the CW's short-lived Ringer, and this new Dallas seems right on par with the trend, featuring fast moving plot lines, big secrest and bigger reveals and story arcs that encompass all in one way or another.
There are familiar - albeit older - faces in the cast, the main trio being Bobby (Patrick Duffy), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and, of course, J.R. (Larry Hagman), who still holds the title of being the center of one of the biggest cliffhangers in TV history ("Who Shot J.R.?" anyone?). Hagman hasn't aged terribly well physically with all of his health ailments (and could someone please trim those eyebrows?!), but the man hasn't lost his bite when it comes to playing the iconic devil in a stetson.
Let me first compliment the producers for a terrific title sequence, which honors the original (on the air from 1978-91) by replicating the moving composite of shots of Texas and Dallas in particular, all to that classic Dallas theme song (you know you know it). Hawaii Five-0 did the same, and it's awesome!
The new show introduces us to the machinations of the next generation of Ewings, namely J.R and Sue Ellen's son John Ross (Dallas-born hottie Josh Henderson, Desperate Housewives) and Bobby's adopted (or black market baby, if memory serves...) son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe, Desperate Housewives). It's actually a Housewives veteran trifecta, being that Brenda Strong (Mary Alice Young on DH) plays Bobby's now-wife Ann (sorry, Pam).
John Ross and Christopher both endeavor to return the Ewing name to its former glory but in very different ways: The former is following in the family tradition of oil drilling (on the legendary South Fork Ranch, expressly forbidden according to matriarch Miss Ellie's will) while the latter is pursuing a more modern path - undersea methane extraction.
When John Ross and girlfriend Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster, Chuck, Fast and the Furious film franchise) - the daughter of a former South Fork cook and former fiancee of Christopher's - strike oil, it's a shower of liquid gold - until Uncle Bobby - who is dying of stomach cancer (does this mean a short-lived run for Duffy?) puts a kibash on the celebration by intending to sell the ranch to land conservationists (they tend to not be in favor of drilling).
Over the course of the pilot episode - which centered a great deal around the wedding of Christopher and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo, Eli Stone, Veronica Mars) with Dallas vets Steve Kanaly (Ray) and Charlene Tilton (Lucy) in attendance - this dispute erupts into a full-blown war full of cold threats, hard shoves, blackmail, secret allies, power struggles, shocking reveals ... like I said, classic Dallas.
As for J.R. - first seen in a retirement home and said to be suffering from clinical depression - by hour's end shows he is back in the game (maybe he never truly left?), complete with his trademark Cheshire sneer, velvety Texan drawl and omnipotent swagger that made him the man you always loved to hate.
South Fork - the same ranch used in the original - is as stunning as ever. There is word that other alums, including Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), will be making appearances, which, if the pilot is any indication, will work nicely to bridge generations old and new.
The action in the pilot moved along at an engaging pace and I hope that keeps up over the course of the run. Unlike other failed attempts to revisit/re-imagine/re-invent shows of the past (Charlie's Angels, The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider), 2012's Dallas works for me. It has enough history to stand on and just enough of the past to satisfy original fans while roping (see what I did there?) in new ones with the younger cast and fast-paced energy and plot lines.
Bottom Line: Saddle up for this return of a true guilty pleasure classic.
Dallas airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on TNT.