It’s widely known that when Larry Hagman donned the ten-gallon hat once again for the first table-read of Cynthia Cidre’s pilot script for the 2012 TNT reboot of Dallas, he introduced himself thusly: “Larry Hagman. Icon.”
It’s hard to quibble with that. The relaunched Dallas sure hasn’t. Its hour-long farewell to J.R. Ewing Monday night was poignant, funny, and, above all, reverent for the character in its irreverence. For the actors involved, including Patrick Duffy, who considered Hagman his best friend, it must have been doubly painful because they, in essence, had to bury the man twice: once, after Hagman died of complications from cancer in November 2012, and again when they had to give his infamous alter ego J.R. an equally worthy send-off. Rather than the usual Dallas fanfare of a credits sequence, the theme music was stripped down to a few mournful, “Taps”-like horns before the montage settled on one last lingering close-up of J.R. as Hagman most recently portrayed him on the show—stern, wily, and sporting the wildest pair of eyebrows on TV since Andy Rooney.
In his old age on the new Dallas, J.R. once said “bullets don’t seem to have an effect on me.” Of course he was referencing the most buzzed-out cliffhanger in TV history: when he was shot by an unknown assailant at the end of the spring 1981 season. He survived that assassination attempt. But not this one. Indeed, it was a bullet that ultimately claimed J.R.’s life, when he was gunned down inside a Mexican hotel room after possibly having dealt with a cartel representative and definitely having had relations with a señorita of shady repute. Once again we have to ask the immortal question: “Who shot J.R.?”
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Always a step ahead, it seems J.R. knew in advance who was gunning for him and even left a note for his brothers Bobby and Gary, to that effect. Oh, that’s right. Ted Shackleford’s Gary Ewing, the black sheep of the family who sought refuge in Knot’s Landing, returned! If ever there were an occasion to reenter the Dallas-verse, J.R.’s death was it. On hand were also Charlene Tilton as Lucy Ewing, Bobby and J.R.’s niece; Cathy Podewell as J.R.’s second wife Cally; Deborah Shelton as one of his more memorable mistresses, Mandy; Steve Kanaly as Ewing bastard, and Bobby and J.R.’s half-brother, Ray; and most important of all, a sweet bottle of bourbon in Sue Ellen’s supposedly sober hands.
Ah yes. The moment we’ve longed for/feared is at hand. Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) has resumed her drunken ways. Bourbon and branch water are tempting enough on their own. Bourbon and branch water in a bottle marked “J.R. Ewing” is more tempting still. Bourbon and branch water in a bottle marked “J.R. Ewing” to be imbibed after J.R.’s death and following the reading of a weepy note from him? Totally irresistible. She’ll be back to Betty Ford before the season is out. Her one possible saving grace? She’s at least honest about the fact she’s off the wagon. “I think I have never wanted a drink more than I want one now,” she said at the funeral reception.
Mind you, there was another undesirable return at that reception: Ken Kercheval’s supervillain, Cliff Barnes. He burst in with the fighting words, “I came to pay my disrespects, and good riddance!” then proceeded to call J.R. a “junkyard dog.” He was subdued quickly enough and kicked out, and with no fisticuffs. I suppose Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and John Ross (Josh Henderson) don’t have the stomach to fight an old man, even if he’s an old man hellbent on destroying their family. They didn’t feel the same way about a fellow (much younger) reception guest, however, who decided to call J.R. a “selfish prick.” That led to one of the best exchanges we’ve ever seen between Christopher and John Ross: the former backing off J.R.’s son with a gentle brush of his hand, saying “I got this, cousin,” then taking a slug at the foul-mouthed offender. What would a Ewing family gathering be without a few dislodged teeth? (Oh yeah, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban were also there, but somehow we think they avoided the melee.)
The burial itself, set to the old spiritual “Down to the River to Pray,” was a more moving affair. J.R. was a military man in his day, so he lay in a flag-draped coffin. Everyone had an opportunity to say a few words, and Lucy teared up when it was her turn. She said everything he did seemed so horrible when he did it, but with hindsight it had become apparent that he was the most honest person of all—because he knew what had to be done and did it. Christopher, J.R.’s nephew, said that, since he was adopted, J.R. only let him into the Ewing inner circle once: after his mom, Pam (Victoria Principal, notably absent) walked out. “I don’t know why she left,” J.R. told the grieving boy. “But you’re a Ewing now, so stop crying and behave like one.”
Sue Ellen, soused as can be, said J.R. was “the most infuriating, charming scoundrel [she’d] ever known. He was enough to turn a woman to drink.” Then, admitting that she was drunk even then, read his final letter to her, in which J.R. said his greatest hope in life was the possibility of earning a second chance with her. To start, he asked her out to dinner, if she’d be available upon his return from Mexico.
Bobby was a tad more reflective. “It’s always been easy for me to do good, because I could always count on J.R. to do bad,” he said. “But those bad things were necessary.” Does this mean that one of the most goody-goody characters in all of TV will suddenly take a little walk on the Dark Side, to fill J.R.’s shoes?
After the funeral, Ray and Gary met with Bobby, John Ross, and Christopher to go through J.R.’s effects. It turns out J.R. had recently gone to Abu Dhabi to put together an oil deal that he felt would lure Pam out of hiding. Victoria Principal has repeatedly said she will never return to Dallas, so why the show would decide to throw this particular red herring out there was surprising. As part of his will, he left a handgun for John Ross to protect himself from Cliff Barnes, who surely will be gunning for him. And finally, he left a note for Bobby that presumably named his killer. Bobby, maybe already embracing that Dark Side, decided that they would further the idea that J.R. had been killed randomly by a mugger, while they settled the score against his real killer, in the family way. “I knew you’d have one more up your sleeve, J.R….And it is a good one.” Maybe it was so good, that’s why this episode was called “J.R.’s Masterpiece.”
This was the perfect note for the departure of one of TV’s all-time greatest antiheroes: a note of intrigue. J.R.—and probably Hagman—wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Skip Bolen/TNT]
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Tonight TNT does the absolute unthinkable: It is restarting legendary prime time soap opera Dallas 21 years after it went off the air. No, this is not a reboot or a reimagining, it's just picking up the action 21 years after we left the Ewing clan on Southfork Ranch and starting all over again as if nothing happened in the last two decades worth mentioning.
But that means it's expecting modern viewers to know just the heck who these characters are that started in 1978 (which happens to be the year I was born). Sure, I watched some Dallas back in the day with my mom, but I barely remember anything but the awesome theme song and that there was this character named April that I loved because she was a former hooker and had this seriously swank apartment.
Now I'm here to fill in the blanks for all of you, so that you can enjoy the show tonight. Let's meet the Ewings, shall we?
J.R. Ewing: The villain and main character of the show, played by Larry Hagman, is a devil in a ten gallon hat. He's a schemer and philanderer who runs Ewing Oil with his brother Bobby. These children of privileged inherited the business from their father Jock (no relation to the strap), a hard-scrabble oil man, and South Fork Ranch from their mother Miss Ellie, a patron saint of southern maternity. J.R. made and lost his fortune a million times and was famously shot in the third season's final episode. The nation waited months to find out who shot him (it was his scheming sister in law Kristin who he also had an affair with) and if he survived. His son, John Ross (which is J.R.'s real name), features prominently in the new series.
Sue Ellen Ewing: J.R.'s wife's defining characteristic was always that she was a drunk. She'd be on the wagon, off the wagon, loving J.R., hating J.R., having an affair, being faithful, wearing shoulder pads, not wearing...OK, she always wore shoulder pads. Linda Grey was always aces in the role, and I secretly hope she's back on the sauce this time around, because that's when she was at her most viciously awesome.
Bobby Ewing: J.R.'s angelic younger brother was always loved more by his parents, and that is seemingly the reason for his brother's evil streak and continued jealousy. He still lived with the family at Southfork and eventually helps J.R. run the family business. Patrick Duffy infamously left the series in 1985 and his character was killed. When he came back after being absent for a season, the show explained that the previous season was all a dream in his wife Pam's head. He has a son Lucas with his first love Jenna (played by Priscilla Pressley) and his adopted son Christopher is a main character in the TNT show.
Pamela Barnes Ewing: Bobby's wife and the daughter of the hated Barnes clan, the Ewing's rivals. Pam's main storylines had to do with her tension within the clan and the fact that she was barren. She and Bobby eventually adopted, but she never did fully fit in with the family. When Victoria Principal wanted to leave the show, Pam drove her car into a oil tanker and was badly burned. She left Bobby because of her disfigurement and later showed up (played by a different actress) to explains he was happy and marrying her plastic surgeon. Supposedly she had a terminal disease, but she's never been declared dead. Look for her character to come back (please, please, please) and for Principal to have nothing to do with her.
Cliff Barnes: Pam's brother and the Wile E. Coyote to J.R.'s Roadrunner, who could never quite beat his nemesis in a scheme though he never stopped trying. That includes sleeping with Sue Ellen for years behind J.R.'s back. Ken Kercheval will be back for the new show, probably still a loser.
Lucy Ewing: Bobby and J.R.'s niece who was raised by her grandparents because her father Gary (the hero of the soap Knot's Landing) was an alcoholic and her mother was a teenager. Lucy was a trouble child who always cut school, had a drug problem, a gay boyfriend, an abortion, and every other thing you might possibly squeeze into an after-school special. When we see Charlene Tilton again, I can only hope that she's a boozy old broad who tells stories of her glamorous modeling days with an Eve Slim 120 Menthol hanging out of her lips.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan More: Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy plotted spoof Dallas 'Dallas' Pic: Holy Flashback, Patrick Duffy! Patrick Duffy feared Dallas was dead forever
Studio bosses decided to relaunch the sex-and-scandal show as a new TV series after plans to make an all-star movie version fell through.
They also opted to bring back original cast members Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Charlene Tilton and Linda Gray to keep the saga authentic - and Kanaly, who also returns, is convinced the producers made the correct choice.
He tells UltimateDallas.com, "After all the talk about John Travolta and Brad Pitt taking the roles in the Dallas film, I am so happy that it is happening this way instead.
"People have been talking about that for years. But fans have always said that it would not be the same without the original cast members in it."
Kevin Costner, Tommy Lee Jones and Mel Gibson have now joined the list of names scrambling to play Jr. Ewing in an upcoming movie version of classic TV show Dallas. While the producer insists no casting decisions will be finalized until the script is rewritten, John Travolta has emerged as one of the favorites to play ruthless oil tycoon Ewing, originally portrayed by Larry Hagman. And sources say that Gibson is considering vying for the role, while Costner wants to see a rewrite first. The movie, to be directed by Robert Luketic, also has Jane Fonda named as the likely candidate to take on the role of the late Barbara Bel Geddes' matriarch Miss Ellie. The favorite to play Sue Ellen, originally portrayed by Linda Gray, is Catherine Zeta-Jones, but Demi Moore and Jennifer Lopez also want to nab the role, according to Daily Variety. For the role of Victoria Principal's Pamela, Drew Barrymore and Reese Witherspoon have been eyed, while Lucy, portrayed on the show by Charlene Tilton, has ignited hopes for Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore. Article Copyright World Entertainment News Network All Rights Reserved.
Actress Tracey Gold booked for DUI after car accident
Actress Tracey Gold Marshall, best known for playing Carol Seaver on the hit sitcom Growing Pains, was booked for investigation of felony drunken earlier this month after her sport utility vehicle flipped on a highway in Los Angeles, injuring her husband and two of their three children, The Associated Press reports. Gold Marshall wasn't hurt, but her husband, Roby Marshall, 39, suffered neck injuries, the officer said. The couple's 7-year-old son suffered a broken collarbone and a 5-year-old son was cut, but their 4-month-old son wasn't hurt, California Highway Patrol officer Steve Reid told AP. The actress, 35, spent five hours in jail and was released on $50,000 bail the following day. A court date wasn't immediately available, the highway patrol said.
Baywatch actor charged with DUI
Former Baywatch actor Michael Bergin, who wrote a book about the affair he had with late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wife, less than a year after she was married, was charged Tuesday with a felony for driving under the influence, AP reports. Bergin was charged in connection with a July 16 incident in Los Angeles in which a professional inline skater, Jennifer Armstrong, was allegedly struck by Bergin's sport utility vehicle and seriously injured. The actor/model was charged with one felony count of DUI causing injury and one misdemeanor count of driving with a blood alcohol level of more than the legal limit of .08 percent. Both counts alleged great bodily injury to the victim, AP reports.
DreamWorks defends Shark Tale
DreamWorks SKG on Tuesday found themselves on the defensive after their upcoming animated film Shark Tale was criticized for ethnic slurs against Italian-Americans, Reuters reports, who say the movie's gangster-like shark characters foster ethnic stereotypes. The New York-based Columbus Citizens Foundation joined an outcry from Italian-American groups condemning the film. "The movie introduces young minds to the idea that people with Italian names--like millions of Americans across the country--are gangsters," Columbus Citizens president Lawrence Auriana said in a statement. Studio spokesman Andy Spahn, however, said the emphasis of the film's humor was on pop culture and Hollywood parodies, similar to DreamWorks' hit storybook satires Shrek and Shrek 2. "It's a family comedy that pokes fun at a number of film genres," Spahn told Reuters. "It doesn't demean anyone, there are no negative stereotypes. There is nothing mean-spirited in the film."
Speaking of Italian-Americans…
Martin Scorsese is being sued for breach of contract by a production company, Hollywood Gang Prods., who claim the director reneged on a promise to undergo a medical checkup as required to obtain insurance coverage during work on an upcoming film, Reuters reports. The lawsuit said Scorsese had agreed in February to "submit to such physical examination" before working on the period drama Silence but had ignored repeated requests to fulfill that commitment. "All we want to do is stick a thermometer in him," Richard Golub, the lawyer for Hollywood Gang, told Reuters on Tuesday.
ABC airs Trump segment alongside The Apprentice
ABC News' newsmagazine show Primetime Live launches its new season with a segment on Donald Trump Thursday at 10 p.m.--smack dab in the middle of the real estate mogul's hit NBC reality show The Apprentice, which will air its supersized episode from 9:20-11 p.m. "I'm a ratings machine," Trump told Reuters Tuesday. "So they figured, hey, we'll do a story on Trump. I do get big ratings, as you know." But Trump is worried the Primetime Live segment could be biased because reporter Chris Cuomo might have an ax to grind. Trump has often criticized Cuomo's father, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo. "I've openly said to anyone who wants to listen that he's the worst governor in the history of New York," Trump said. ABC, meanwhile, said the segment is fair.
Chubby B-listers take Body Challenge
Former Brady Bunch stars Christopher Knight and Susan Olsen, who portrayed Peter and Cindy Brady respectively, will join Erik Estrada (ChiPS' Ponch) and Charlene Tilton (Dallas' Lucy) in Discovery Health Channel's Body Challenge: Hollywood, a 12-week health and fitness competition. The participants were given personal trainers and nutritionists to help in their transformation. Reuters reports the 47-year-old Knight lost 50 percent of his fat mass during the competition, and is now considering working in the entertainment industry again. The four-episode Body Challenge: Hollywood, which was filmed last December, premieres Sept. 14.
NYC renames street for Law & Order
New York City yesterday renamed a short road that heads to Pier 62 on Manhattan's West Side "Law & Order Way," in honor of the NBC show's 15th anniversary, AP reports. The location is where the show's offices are located and many of its episodes shot. "New York City is as much a part of every Law & Order ensemble as the actors," series creator Dick Wolf said. Veteran actor Dennis Farina, a former police officer, is joining the show's cast this season as actor Jesse L. Martin's detective partner, replacing Jerry Orbach. Orbach is heading to the drama's new spinoff Law & Order: Trial By Jury, which is scheduled to begin shooting next month for a possible January premiere.
Snoop Dogg hosts VGAs
Hip-hop star Snoop Dogg will host Spike TV's second annual Video Game Awards on Dec. 14. Snoop has appeared as himself in several video games, including True Crime: Streets of L.A. and NBA Live 2003, and will appear in the Def Jam: Fight for NY, which hits stores Sept. 20. The rapper and other celebs will pass out awards that include the categories Best Games Based on Movie, Best Music, Best Performance by a Human, Most Anticipated and Most Addictive.