Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dallas Season 2: Coping With A Big Death

I'm not afraid to admit it --I simply couldn't see the reboot of that old favorite Dallas making a big comeback.
But I reviewed the new Dallas if it were the old show. And its not.
The new Dallas could never be as big a hit on cable as the original was on CBS. But it nevertheless is a hit by cable standards.
But its return for a second season is marred by the death of Larry Hagman who passed on during filming of the sixth episode.
Hagman looks horribly drawn in the first two new hours which I've previewed. But he still sports that malicious gleam in his eye and effortlessly steals the few scenes he's in.
The younger cast members must deal with the usual amounts of outrageous melodrama including love trysts, a missing daughter who appears 20 years later and various boardroom machinations.
Then there's the strange spectacle of Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) running for governor of the Lone Star state. Until ----.
And what about Chris's bride Pamela who turned out in last year's finale to be Cliff Barnes' daughter. And, yes, vengeance is on her mind.
But it's J.R. who gets off the best line here: "You're not the first Pam to flush her way into the hen house."
Which is why the new version constantly reminds me of another TV family --The Borgias.
To me it seems the new show is handsomer than the original just because most scenes are now shot on actual locations rather than the old standing sets in a TV studio complex.
And the dialogue certainly is crisper than once permitted by CBS which always kept a network censor on the set to complain about lewd language and Sue Ellen's cleavage,
This time out Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) calls J.R.'s boy John Ross (Josh Henderson) a "douche bag" right to his face. Times certainly have changed!
Hagman expired late November and months later the cast assembled for a TV reunion. The cast included Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), Gary and Lucy Ewing (Ted Shackeford and Charlene Tilton), and Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly). How's that for familiar faces in unusual places?
In 1980 the cliffhanger "Who Shot J.R.?" created additional popularity for the show as will this similarly titled cliffhanger.
For J.R. to simply die of natural causes simply would not do --an elaborate murder mystery will follow.
And fresh villains have been imported including Judith Light as the manipulative grandmother of the abducted baby now full grown. And there's the wonderfully oily Mitch Pileggi playing Harry Ryland first husband of Bobby's second wife Ann (Brenda Strong). Are you still with me?
To me it's problematic whether Dallas 2 can survive Hagman's death over the longer run. J.R. was  always the soul of the show even though his appearances were brief.
Surely the highlight of the first two hours is the tentative reconciliation between J.R. and the fragile Sue Ellen.  Now that I think of it a lot of characters depended on their interaction with him.
But as far as Dallas 2 goes I have been wrong before, haven't I?

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