Producer Cynthia Cidre's reboot of Dallas didn't turn out to be one of the great guilty pleasures of 2012. It turned out to be one of the great pleasures, period, of 2012. Tonight it returns for Season 2, with a spectre of grief — and remembrance — hanging over it. That's because, following Larry Hagman's death on Nov. 23, after a long battle with cancer, it's obvious his iconic Dallas creation J.R. Ewing has only a limited number of episodes left to air. Seven episodes to be precise, with a funeral for J.R. set for March that may feature cameos from veterans of the original Dallas television series.
When we last saw the gang at the Southfork Ranch, we received a Texas-sized revelation. Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), who we already knew had tricked Bobby's son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) into marrying her and having a baby, was far more treacherous than anyone had yet realized. She is, in fact, the secret daughter of Ewing family nemesis Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), and she's helping realize her father's ultimate endgame to destroy the Ewings and take Southfork for himself!
We also got what we had been waiting for during all 10 episodes of the rebooted Dallas' run: Christopher and Elena (Jordana Brewster) finally hooked up! They had previously been a hot-and-heavy couple, but that scheming Rebecca sent a cryptic email, posing as Christopher, to break off his relationship with Elena. Sort of a reverse Catfish scenario. Now Elena, Christopher, and Bobby were set to square off against J.R. and his son John Ross (Josh Henderson) for control of the ranch and the company that Christopher and John Ross had recently founded, Ewing Energies. All the while, Cliff Barnes waits in the wings.
In the summer of 2012, Dallas debuted to an audience ripe for new nighttime soaps and scored blockbuster ratings for TNT. The same people who flocked to Revenge and Scandal love Dallas. What's old is new again. The rebooted Dallas works so well, because it's actually not a reboot. The first 10 episodes basically played as Season 15 of the original Dallas, picking up 21 years later from where the show left off when it ended its original run on CBS in 1991. Cynthia Cidre's take on the show was not to make it Dallas: The Next Generation. Instead the addition of the young, hot actors playing the heirs to Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy were integrated into the original power dynamics of the old show. Rather than generational conflict fueling the drama, J.R. and his son John Ross face off against Bobby and adopted son Christopher, pretty much exactly like we could have imagined it in 1991. Its the exact same battle lines. Better still, the new characters actually aren't new. John Ross and Christopher were introduced as children during the show's CBS tenure.
Will you be watching when Season 2 premieres tonight? And, like me, are you hoping Dallas' success means a relaunch of spin-off Knots Landing is in the works?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Skip Bolen/TNT]
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
The star plays Rebecca Sutter in the relaunch of the hit show, but a romantic scene with Jesse Metcalfe's character, Christopher Ewing, left her in agony when she stumbled and accidentally headbutted him.
Gonzalo tells Britain's Daily Star newspaper, "It was so embarrassing. I tripped as we filmed and I hit my nose on his cheek bone. Thankfully I didn't bleed but I did get a bump on my nose."
The opening scene of TNT's resurrected version of '80s primetime soap Dallas features a crew of people hovering around an oil rig feeling the ground rumble as they strike oil and the black gold, the Texas tea, bursts up into the air raining down on all of them. First of all, why is everyone celebrating? This is gross. Can you imagine what it takes to get oil out of your hair? Secondly, this is an appropriate metaphor for this show, drilling in the fertile ground of South Fork Ranch and striking it rich once again.
Yes, this new version, which picks up 21 years after the last one as if the intervening hiatus was nothing but an inconvenience, has everything the original had: Scheming family members, love triangles, betrayals, affairs, a sincerity that is just on the right side of camp, and, of course J.R. Ewing.
The oil driller is John Ross Ewing, J.R.'s son who is a chip off the old block. Of course he's stopped by Bobby Ewing, who wants to preserve his land and promote his son Christopher's alternative energy business. Christopher is wrestling with a sassy fiance Rebecca and is busy causing earthquakes with his crazy frozen methane fuel nonsense. And J.R.? Oh, well he's in a deep depression and hasn't left a chair or spoken to anyone in years. This is not directly connected to his newfound addiction to ascots, but I believe there might be a correlation.
The major conflict is about the selling of South Fork, the family ranch. John Ross wants to drill for oil and Bobby wants to sell it into conservation and use the money to fund Christopher's business. John Ross is also trying to swindle J.R. as he tries to swindle bobby out of the plot of land. Oh, and Sue Ellen is sober and running for governor. She has moved from Dallas to Yawn City, Texas.
Bobby's cancer storyline is also a little tired and means he either needs a miracle cure or to die, either of which would really suck. (Apparently Patrick Duffy made the same deal with the devil that Dick Clark did where he never even ages a day). It's also a little boring that John Ross and Christopher are carrying on the good son/bad son dynamic that their fathers had. Wouldn't it be even more dramatic if John Ross was the good one and Christopher the jerk? And why is their rivalry so intense? They're not brothers, they're just cousins, which makes their closeness ring a little false. Sure fighting over Elena, the maid's daughter, is a good step in the right direction, but we need some more motivation.
Jesse Metcalfe acquits himself nicely as Christopher a role, much like Bobby, that requires more time in the gym than in classes at The Actors' Studio. The problem is Josh Henderson's John Ross, who is no J.R. Ewing, and it's even harder when you have Larry Hagman capturing the old magic like a day never passed. The great thing about J.R. was that he was like a true devil, smiling to your face as he stabs you in the back. When he blackmails a lawyer he threatens his life and career and then says, "No hard feelings" and shakes his hand. Or at the end of the episode, when he realizes that John Ross has been playing him all along, he never shows the others in the room what is going on, but there is a the brilliant flash on his face as he goes from amused That is J.R. He's not angry, he's just determined. John Ross, on the other hand, has something to prove and does his double dealing with a snarl. He isn't the villain, he's just a jerk.
Honestly, I was mostly concerned with how the younger and older generations would share the screen on this show. Would J.R., Bobby, and Co. just be set dressing for nostalgia buffs like the original cast members were on the rebooted Melrose Place or would they refuse to let go of the spotlight and shortchange the kids? Or would there be an old-people show and a young-people show running simultaneous and not interacting? It seems like it's found a good balance, where the kids and adults both have their own lives but interact in true and believable ways (my favorite example of this is Sue Ellen loaning Elena money to start a business, something that is going to end as well as Sue Ellen entering a beer pong tournament).
But I like where this thing is going. I'm especially fond of Christopher's fiance Rebecca and her brother who are apparently secret grifters. I always love a secret grift. Sure, there were some quibbles with the start of Dallas (not enough fat Lucy or drunk Sue Ellen) and it doesn't feel as fresh and hip as current king of nighttime suds Revenge, with its internet millionaires and spy ware, but I just gave this thing a season pass, if only to watch J.R. completely humiliate his son.
Looks like the rest of the audience was into the show too. According to TVLine, the show averaged nearly 7 million viewers during the two-hour premiere. It's not Hatfields & McCoys, but still excellent for cable.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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TNT has released a trailer for its new series, Dallas, a sequel of sorts to the classic drama that ran from 1978 to 1991. The upcoming show follows the original's antiheroes, brothers J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), and their respective sons John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). As money and oil continues to drive the already heavily fissured family apart, the primary focus will be on the younger Ewings, who are destined to tread the line of brotherly love and vicious, greed-induced enmity as their fathers did before them.
The trailer below offers snippets from the new series, as well as some words on reviving the spirit of the Ewing family from a few of the stars. Dallas also introduces new characters like Elena Ramos, played by Jordana Brewster (of the Fast and the Furious series), Rebecca Sutter(Julie Gonzalo), and Bobby's new wife Ann Ewing (Brenda Strong). Other returning Dallas vets include Linda Gray and Steve Kanaly.
Dallas will premiere in the summer of 2012.