Summer 2012 Review: Dallas

7 Aug

Dallas is part of a recent spate of TV soap revivials including the kind of successful 90210 and the unsuccessful Melrose Place, but this revival is of a slightly older show, and with more original characters and actors playing more important parts.

I can sum up what I know about the original Dallas in a couple of sentences.  I know J.R. is the bad one and Bobby is the good one, and that the events take place near and on the Southfork Ranch in Texas.  (Sidenote:  My parents took my brothers and I to the real Southfork Ranch when we visited Dallas as kids).  I knew the Ewings were the good guys and the Barnes’s were the bad guys, and who shot J.R.  I also know the theme song.  That’s about it.

The theme song is back (smart move; the theme is a total classic, and hearkens back to the best of themes from that era) along with J.R., Bobby, as well as Sue Ellen, J.R.’s wife in the original, and now ex-wife, all played by their original actors and actress.  Even as someone who never watched the original Dallas, I can appreciate there’s something to having the old actors back at their classic parts; it’s like watching an old pitcher you didn’t get to appreciate as a youngster back on the team later in his career.  The new major characters are Bobby’s son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe, who played John Tucker in John Tucker Must Die, and also appeared in Desperate Housewives), and J.R.’s son John Ross (Josh Henderson, also a recurring character in Desperate Housewvies), along with their respective belles, Rebecca (played by third season Veronica Mars actress Julie Gonzalo) and Elena (Fast and Furious veteran Jordana Brewster).  Bobby also has a new wife played by Brenda Strong (best known, you guessed it from Desperate Housewives).

Okay, let’s run through the pilot episode right quick.  Christopher went abroad for a while before the series, where he met Rebecca; they’re now engaged, and he comes back to Southfork for their wedding.  John Ross and Elena made a huge discovery of oil on Southfork, drilling without asking Bobby, owner of the ranch, for permission.  Bobby’s got stomach cancer but is reluctant to tell his family before the wedding.  He visits J.R., who is rotting away in a home, suffering from depression.  While John Ross has put his stock in oil, Christopher is all in on alternative energy, and he’s got a big plan with methane, but he needs money.  Bobby is ready to sell Southfork off to a conservatory to provide him with the cash.  Bobby finds out about the drilling on his land and is furious.  It turns out that Chris’s methane technology has major issues, which John Ross, after spying on Chris’s work to discover the information, threatens to tell Bobby about on the day of the wedding.  Fortunately for Chris, Bobby doesn’t care, and a petulant John Ross goes to see his father who rises up for the first time in ages, spurred by the desire to take back Southfork for himself.  It also turns out that Elena was once engaged to Bobby; they had each thought the other had broken the engagement, but the break up was due to an e-mail sent by a mysterious third party telling Elena that Bobby wasn’t interested anymore.  The episode ends with a handshake deal between Bobby and the woman from the conservatory, followed by consecutive scenes showing that either J.R., John Ross, or both, have the conservatory woman in their pocket.  Oh, also John Ross meets this woman on the center of the new Cowboys field for a reason I’m not aware of.

I’ll admit.  I haven’t really been huge into primetime soaps over the course of my teleiviosion watching days.  I don’t really have a great reason for it.  In fact, after watching all my favorite but often more serious shows, it might be just what I need.  I didn’t watch 90210 or Melrose Place as a kid and I never really got into The OC or Gossip Girl when they were big.  Revenge is a big moment in personal prime time soap history for me, following one regularly, and I quite like it, and while I’m probably not going to watch more Dallas, it really wasn’t bad.  Larry Hagman as J.R. already seemed more put together and cunning than his son in about three minutes of non-comatose time.  The show wasn’t incredibly compelling, but it was a little bit, and the warring family classic soap pattern still has some potential juice in it.  It was irony-free prime time soap, unlike the Gossip Girls of the world, but it seemed like it could have the right level of trash to keep things going.  I may be couching this in a surprising way, but that might be because whenever I watch a show that I don’t have a high expectations for, I have low expectations for it, and even just exceeding those is kind of impressive.  The old characters were actually more riveting than the new.

Will I watch it again?  You know, I probably won’t.  I have Revenge in my life as my current top soap, and it’s better than this, at least from the first episode of each.  Dallas isn’t close to must watch TV.  But I was interested enough to read the quick wikipedia summaries of each episode, and that’s perhaps worth something.  The show is a solid okay.

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