Looks who's back (and no, it's not all a dream!): More Blackmail, backstabbing and bed-hopping as Dallas returns
02:52 GMT, 15 June 2012
A frail, elderly man sits and stares out of the window of a nursing home deep in the heart of Texas. He is contemplating the ruins of his life; his wife has left him, his son has been estranged for many years and the business empire he had kept afloat through a combination of guile, venality and sheer bloody-mindedness has all but crumbled to dust.
In his depression, he barely registers his brother’s plea that their own children should not suffer the same fall-out that they once did: ‘All the bitterness and bad blood you and I had — I don’t want them to be like us,’ says his sibling.
The man says nothing until his son, John Ross, makes a surprise visit. ‘Bobby’s selling Southfork, Dad. I hit a two billion-barrel oil reserve but he won’t hear of drilling,’ he says and suddenly, the sleeping giant is raised from his slumber: the word ‘oil’ always did have that effect on him.
The old man’s eyes ignite. ‘Bobby was always a fool,’ he says, smiling that familiar reptilian smile. ‘We’ve got some catching up to do, son.’
What a shower: J.R and Bobby's families are set to take the families are set to take the feud to a new level when the new version of the show is aired
J.R. Ewing is back in business.
After an absence of 21 years, Dallas returned to U.S. TV screens on Wednesday — and no, it wasn’t all a dream. Bobby, Sue Ellen and of course the dastardly J.R. are back and it was as if they’d never been away.
Sex, scheming, sibling rivalry and those interminable family lunches — they are all present and correct, along with that same rousing theme tune.
As well as promising to be ‘sexier, edgier and more fast-paced than the original series’, the masterstroke has been to bring back the show’s illustrious old-timers: Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as J.R.’s former wife Sue Ellen, and, of course, Larry Hagman as the show’s resident anti-hero J.R.
As Hagman himself says: ‘It would have been silly to do the show without us because we bring an in-built audience with us,’ adding: ‘And who else was going to play J.R’
He’s in his 80s now with shorter hair and longer eyebrows, but Hagman as J.R. can still command a scene like nobody’s business, as I discovered when I watched the first episode this week. When we pick up the action, the Ewings are once more mired in family crisis.
John Ross, J.R.’s wildcat son (played by Josh Henderson) has been secretly drilling on Southfork when he strikes oil. Unfortunately, the ranch is now in the hands of Bobby, who is planning to sell it and pass on the proceeds to his adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) — a green fuel campaigner.
Early years: J.R. and Sue Ellen in the original series of Dallas
J.R. may have lost his wealth and even his home, but once he gets wind of Bobby’s plan, all those latent Ewing fighting muscles spring into action and he prepares to battle his brother once more for control of the family empire, this time dragging their respective sons into the fray.
Christopher tells John Ross: ‘You and I — we’ve been on opposite tracks since we were born’ and the scene is set for a new generation of Ewing feuding to begin.
As the Ewing sons square up for a confrontation both on the business and romantic fronts, other rivalries, old and new emerge. Both are in love with Elena Ramos, the daughter of Southfork’s cook, played by Jordana Brewster, although Christopher is preparing to marry fiance Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo).
Sue Ellen, once a quivering drunk entirely in J.R.’s thrall, returns to Southfork sober, smarter and, believe it or not, now an influential Texas politician.
It was she who introduced Bobby to his new wife Ann (Brenda Strong) — a rancher with a secret past — and although the two women are ostensibly friends, the rivalry between John Ross and Christopher could soon put their friendship in jeopardy.
But for J.R., things couldn’t be worse: his old adversary Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) has now gained control of Ewing Oil. As Linda Gray says: ‘Cliff’s now a billionaire with his own jet and a Maybach car. It’s J.R.’s ultimate nightmare!’
During the second episode, Bobby’s wife Ann tells J.R: ‘It’s nice to be in the company of a legend’ —and although referring to the mellifluously evil Ewing patriarch, she could just as easily be talking about Hagman himself.
He is 80 now and was diagnosed with cancer last year, but has lost none of his celebrated charisma. Asked whether J.R. still has an eye for the ladies in the new series, he says: ‘Well, he might, but it hasn’t happened in the first ten episodes, so I’m going to have to have a word with them about that,’ a J.R. gleam briefly flitting across his eyes.
When we pick up the action, the Ewings are once more mired in family crisis.
‘They could give me someone younger and since anyone who’s under 65 seems young to me, that shouldn’t be too difficult,’ he jokes. ‘Getting back into the show this time was like coming home — it just felt right.
‘I don’t even know whether I’m in or out of J.R. any more — he’s become such a part of me. He’s rubbed off on me and I’ve rubbed off on him and I’ve even incorporated some of J.R.’s personality into mine. When I think people want to see that, I use it. It’s like learning a language . . . the language of lying!’
He’s particularly happy to be reunited with Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray once more — friends since the show’s inception 35 years ago — ‘especially as we couldn’t work together on other projects because we would have had the stigma of Dallas attached to us.
‘People were reluctant to hire me after the show ended because I’d been so strongly connected to the character of J.R., but luckily I made enough money in that time to not give a s***.’
Popular: The whole cast from the original series of Dallas in 1978
Hagman was a renowned party man during the filming of the original series, riding his scooter on set, with Linda Gray wearing a cocktail dress and 3in heels on pillion, and drinking five bottles of champagne a day until he developed cirrhosis of the liver in 1992 and had to have a liver transplant.
Linda, who at 71 looks 20 years younger, is relieved to be finally free of Sue Ellen’s seemingly endless cycle of, ‘having affairs, drinking, having affairs, drinking,’ she says.
‘Now she’s in control of her life and has political power, although she has a lot of guilt because she took away her son John Ross from his father J.R.’ And does Sue Ellen treat herself to a toyboy ‘Not yet. She’s too busy for that. But you never know.’
The only senior Ewing who does have time for love, it seems, is good old dependable Bobby, now happily ensconced with his third wife Ann.
Having mislaid his first wife Pamela (Victoria Principal) after a car crash and losing his second wife April Stevens (Sheree J. Wilson) to kidnappers, Bobby hopes that his marriage to Ann, played by the statuesque Brenda Strong, will be plain-sailing.
However, Bobby has just been diagnosed with cancer. ‘Ann is a strong, feisty woman who loves Bobby and likes going toe-to-toe with J.R.,’ says Brenda, ‘although there are things in her past that come back to haunt her.’
Patrick Duffy is still very handsome and at 63 is barely distinguishable from the Bobby of old, save for a few more grey hairs. ‘Bobby won’t be taking off his shirt nearly as much as he used to,’ says Duffy, ‘because I think that’s more a job for the younger guys.’
Bobby’s most famous — and most pilloried — scene, where he emerged from the shower after a year-long ‘dream season’ of Dallas (Pamela had dreamt the death of her husband) has been used to promote the new show on U.S. billboards.
‘They ran a picture of all of us in towels [left], emerging from the shower with the tagline: “They’re back, and no, you’re not dreaming”,’ says Duffy.
‘They wanted to pick a seminal moment
from the show to advertise the new series and since they couldn’t shoot
everyone [a reference to the famous “Who shot J.R.” storyline], they
then figured the shower scene was the next best thing.
'BLOOD'S THICKER THAN WATER, BUT OIL'S THICKER THAN BOTH'… MEET THE EWINGS
‘It’s noticeable,’ he adds, ‘that the three of us old actors were in the back and all the young actors were in the front.’
how did the younger ones feel about setting foot on the hallowed Dallas
turf with its most iconic stars ‘It was a little daunting, especially
meeting J.R. for the first time,’ says 33-year-old Jesse Metcalfe, who
plays Bobby’s son Christopher.
‘But Larry had everyone over to his
house for dinner before filming began and that really broke the ice.
Larry, Linda and Patrick were so welcoming. And Larry, thank God, is
nothing like his character.’
J.R.’s son, 30-year-old Josh Henderson is aware that, ‘I have very big
shoes to fill and very early on, John Ross even tries to get one-up on
'Everything that was great about the original is there too – the backstabbing, the blackmailing and the excess living.'
Whether he can ever succeed remains to be seen, although J.R. has lost none of his ability to cut people down to size. ‘Son,’ he tells John Ross at one point, ‘never pass up a good chance to shut up’.
So, how does Dallas 2012 differ from the original series ‘Well, there’s a lot of skin and a lot of sex,’ Henderson promises — the first semi-sex scene comes in the first five minutes. ‘But everything that was great about the original is there too — the backstabbing, the blackmailing and the excess living.’
With J.R., Sue Ellen and Bobby forming the backbone of the series and with old Dallas favourites Lucy Ewing (J.R.’s niece, played by Charlene Tilton) and J.R.’s half-brother Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) all making their appearances in the pilot episode, and Cliff Barnes due to appear later, the only question that remains is: will the new series measure up
Will Sue Ellen and Ann Ewing catfight their way into the outdoor swimming pool and will there ever be another Oil Baron’s Ball (the second episode features a Cattle Baron’s Ball, but that’s really not the same thing)
‘You’ll have to wait on the last two,’ says Hagman. ‘As for whether Dallas will be a success again Who knows I think it will be because somebody somewhere wants to make some money,’ he laughs, ‘and that’s always a great incentive.’
J.R. Ewing couldn’t have put it better himself.
■ Dallas is on Channel 5 later this year.