The Dallas Phenomenon
Well I’ve got my lovely mum to thank for this article. If it hadn’t been for her introducing me to the 1980’s hit soap opera, Dallas, then I would still be in the dark about this massive worldwide phenomenon, which is set to launch itself upon our television screens once again in the summer of this year.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with this giant of a show, probably those of the same generation as me, I’ll give a brief outline into the concept of the show and the main themes that run through it. Okay, well Dallas was an extremely long-running soap opera (357 episodes and 3 films in fact!) revolving around the Ewings, a wealthy Texan oil and cattle-ranching family. The family is headed by Jock and Ellie Ewing whose sons, the infamously cruel J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and the younger Bobby (Patrick Duffy) are in constant conflict. The plot follows the scheming and dealings of Texas’ biggest oil barons, and viewers were treated to a whole 13 years (1978-1991) of deceit, corruption, affairs and a hell of a lot of drama. Now, at the time of writing, I have so far only caught up with around half of the episodes, and even at this point, I can understand why Dallas became the ultimate show of the 80s, with millions of viewers tuning in week after week, no matter how far-fetched and bizarre the plot lines became (including a entire series revealed to be merely a dream of one of the characters!).
It’s true, however, that the fast-paced nature of the show meant that viewers could not simply jump in half-way through a series, or even half-way through the entire show. If you are going to start watching, start watching from series 1 episode 1. It’s really the only way that you’re going to have any idea of the characters or the ridiculously rapid-changing storylines.
Dallas was notable for so many reasons. The unmistakably 80s theme tune and opening credits, the fantastic characters, and the stunning location of Dallas, Texas, with the legendary Southfork Ranch standing as the setting for the saga. However, what was most remembered about the Dallas phenomenon was its constant cliff-hangers; and I mean massive, end-of-series jaw-droppers. I think, regardless of your age and how well acquainted you are with the world of Dallas, you will have heard of the huge landmark ‘Who shot J.R?’ cliff-hanger. It was this that really catapulted the show into a worldwide sensation in 90 different countries and 67 languages. Internationally, Dallas still holds the record for the highest-rated non-finale episode of TV with nearly 360 million viewers tuning in to see who shot J.R. in the ‘Who Done It’ episode on November 21st 1980.
Okay I can pretty much hear you question why I, having been born in 1992, am so interested in this show. Well I was aware of it having heard much about Dallas from my parents, and in 2010, the TNT channel announced that they were bringing it back. Centring around the now grown-up Ewing grandsons (John Ross and Christopher, sons of J.R. and Bobby respectively), what makes this modern continuation of the show so exciting is the presence of several stars of the original series reprising their former roles (including Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, and Linda Gray as the ever-suffering wife of J.R., Sue Ellen).
Now as amazing as this all sounds, I do remain skeptical about the success of this revival. What made the original series so popular was the ridiculous nature of the plot lines, the wonderful 70s and 80s style and culture, and the dysfunctional family dynamics. I really hope that they can do justice to the old Dallas and hopefully, with the original cast, set, and theme tune, it will both serve as a tribute to the old show and be a fantastic introduction into the Ewing world to viewers of a new generation.