Why J.R. Ewing Makes the New Dallas
I once chatted with an actress at a wrap party in L.A. who was around 80 years old and had just done a goofy spot in a TV commercial. "I just like to do fun roles," she said, beaming, clearly enjoying every minute of it.
And that is a huge key to the charm of TNT's Dallas reboot, which wrapped up its first season with a bang last night. The veteran actors who reprised their roles from the long-running soap -- Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing (who's now running for Texas governor), Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes -- are having such a blast doing it that their enthusiasm is infectious. The series has a quick pace, is nicely written with some cheesy lines but good twists and turns, and is perfect guilty-pleasure fare for a Wednesday night.
But the best thing about the show by far is the return of the original J.R. The ten best things about Hagman's character, then, have been each of the ten episodes of this first season (with new episodes due in January).
I was too young to watch the original run of Dallas. Because it was so culturally ingrained, though, I still felt the palpable suspense about who shot J.R. (though I didn't know exactly who DID). Still, I wasn't all that jazzed when TNT announced a reboot of the classic primetime soap. At first, the greatest value was in seeing energy reporters on Twitter criticizing whether the show was accurately portraying drilling and methane harvesting. But I broke down and caught some on-demand episodes -- and watched the first three all in a row.
The show has evil Venezuelans, an alternative-energy subplot that isn't politically pushy (Christopher Ewing, the brains behind that, turns out to be just as devious as the others), and a gentle reminder that if one ever gets a facelift to tell the doc not to pull as tightly as Gray's doc did.