By David H. Kirkwood
A blog is a good place to be candid, so I’ll confess that for a good many years I was hooked on Dallas. No, not the city, though I do have some good friends at Callier.
The Dallas that kept me home on far too many Friday evenings in the late 1970s and the 1980s (this was before the days of taping shows on a VCR) was the hit CBS-TV series about the Ewings and their cheating, drinking, and scheming ways. It was the one and only soap opera, evening or daytime, that I ever followed. In self-defense, I could point out that I was not alone. For years, it was the top-rated program in the country.
One episode was watched by 76% of Americans who had their TVs on, a figure that has been exceeded only by the finale of MASH. That much-anticipated episode of Dallas, which aired in November 1980, finally answered the question, “Who shot JR?”
Millions of Americans had been asking that question ever since the closing show of 1979-1980, in which JR Ewing, the oil mogul everyone loved to hate, was shot by an unseen assailant.
Americans were not the only ones captivated by this plot twist. England’s Queen Mother (the mother of Queen Elizabeth II) was openly intrigued, and the Turkish parliament suspended a session to let legislators get home in time to find out that (as I had suspected all along) the culprit was Kristin Shepard, one of JR’s many, many mistresses, as well as his wife’s sister. I should point out to those of you too young to remember Dallas, the Ewings were not exactly role models.
Eventually, my enthusiasm for Dallas flagged. The death of Jim Davis, who so memorably played Jock Ewing, the family’s ruthless patriarch, left a void that was never properly filled. It was also a blow when Barbara Bel Geddes, who portrayed Miss Ellie, the saintly wife and mother in the vipers’ nest known as South Fork, died.
But the final straw for me came when the story line, always far-fetched, jumped the shark entirely in the opening episode of the 1986-1987 season.
That was when it was revealed that the entire previous season in which Bobby Ewing, JR’s kid brother, was ostensibly dead, was actually one long bad dream. The fatal accident in which Bobby was struck by a speeding car while pushing his wife, Pam, out of its path was a figment of her imagination. It turned out that Bobby was alive and well.
Actually, this was the lame way that the producers of Dallas enabled Patrick Duffy, who had quit the show for a year in a dispute over his pay, to return as Bobby.
In case you were wondering, all of this is by way of pointing out that Dallas is set to return to the air this very evening (June 13 at 9 pm Eastern) on TNT, after an 18-year hiatus. Remarkably, three of the original stars—Larry Hagman as JR, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen, and Patrick Duffy as Bobby—are back and looking surprisingly young for their ages, 80, 71, and 63, respectively. There are also a whole slew of new actors, many of them playing the next generation of Ewings.
A BETTER HEARING MESSAGE FROM DALLAS?
Whether the show will succeed in attracting a new generation of viewers, I have no idea. But as an editor of Hearinghealthmatters.org, I do have an idea for the show that might appeal to many of our readers. Why not include a continuing theme about hearing health?
Why so? Well, for one thing, Patrick Duffy is now a hearing aid wearer. True, lots of older actors need a little hearing help, but they rarely admit it—especially if they are still looking for parts. But Duffy has been a paid spokesman for Miracle-Ear since 2010. So let’s have Bobby wear hearing aids on the new show.
Also returning to Dallas redux will be Lucy Ewing, who was JR’s sexually precociously niece on the original series. A few years ago, Charlene Tilton, who played Lucy, revealed that she has suffered from hearing loss since she was a young girl, which sometimes led to missed cues and other problems on the Dallas set. She tried hearing aids at the time, but was dissatisfied and gave up on them.
Tilton, now 53 and a recent contestant on the British TV show Dancing on Ice, told a reporter at The Express that she had finally decided to give amplification another chance while she was performing in England. She said she “was amazed at how the technology had improved.” So, now, instead of hiding her disability, she is publically encouraging others to follow her lead and get help for their hearing loss.
Given some cast members’ advocacy for hearing aids, there must be some fitting ways to incorporate them into the plot of the new Dallas. For example, if Bobby sleeps with Sue Ellen, perhaps a hearing aid battery carelessly left behind in her boudoir will tip off JR that he’s being cuckolded by his own brother. Nothing could be truer to the original spirit of the show.
And Lucy could urge Uncle JR who, by now, very likely has some hearing loss, to get hearing aids. That way, he’ll be able to hear the next time one of his mistresses tries to sneak up behind him with a gun.
Will the new Dallas follow my suggestions? Probably not. But if the revival flops, the producers will have only themselves to blame.