Dallas: The Last Hurrah

Posted on June 28, 2012

Okay, so:

  • J.R. is screwing over both his son and his brother at the same time.
  • John Ross is screwing with Rebecca and screwing Elena, while also screwing Marta, then screwing her over.
  • Christopher is dream-screwing Elena, but in the end, he gave her the screws.
  • Sue Ellen still has several screws loose.
  • Marta has even more screws loose.
  • Not-Pam sips coffee and packs boxes.
  • Dead Miss Ellie apparently left her shit lying all over that house, what with the diaries, pearls, and silverware that keep popping up. We’re starting to think her will must have been written like a scavenger hunt. That crafty minx. Still setting one son against the other a decade after she was put in the ground.

Have we missed anything?

We say this as people who were light fans of the original show (in that we watched it and remember the first 5 or so seasons fondly, but we didn’t exactly live for it like we did Falcon Crest and Dynasty): the younger cast members simply can’t hold a candle to the older ones and their storylines aren’t nearly as compelling. Sure, standard television practices would determine that the audience would rather see two people under 35 with great bodies, naked in bed, rather than a septuagenarian and octagenarian having a firtatious lunch together, but we’ll take ANY of J.R.’s scenes over any featuring the next generation. Even Patrick Duffy, who never was what we would call a charismatic actor, is giving a soulful, world-weary performance that not only suits his character to a T, but also lends some weight to the proceedings overall. In other words, the show was more than likely pitched as “Dallas: The Next Generation.” Unfortunately, Kirk, Spock, and Uhuru have decided to remain on the bridge, which means all the newbies are suffering from the comparison.

To be fair, we kinda like John Ross as a character. Sure, he doesn’t have nearly the wit or spark that his father had whenever he was destroying someone, but all we have to say in response to that is: Your parents are Miss Ellie and Jock Ewing vs. Your parents are Sue Ellen and J.R. Ewing. OF COURSE J.R.’s the more charismatic and fascinating one. As J.R. said himself, in the understatement of the century, “It’s no secret we weren’t the best parents, Sue Ellen.” So if John Ross comes off as a pissy, entitled little know-nothing, well, that fits him perfectly, we’d say. Besides, there are times, especially when he grins or cocks an eyebrow, where you could really believe this guy is the son of Linda Gray and Larry Hagman.

That the story of South Fork is a generational one is an important feature in the new series (and the old series as well), so we appreciate the attempt to play that up, even if the players aren’t quite up to the task. Christopher, easy as he is on the eyes, is out-blanding ’80s-era Patrick Duffy, which is really saying something. We think that sort of vagueness was deliberate in the writing. Like we said, Bobby Ewing was himself a bit of a well-intentioned tool for most of his history, so it’s not exactly surprising that the child he raised would be the same way.

No, the problem isn’t that they feature the younger cast so heavily, or that the cast itself isn’t up to the task. The problem is that the storylines they’re writing for them aren’t particularly engrossing; Christopher’s especially. Let’s face it: Elena is pretty enough, but we’ve never really been given a reason as to why these two young men are so ridiculously infatuated with her. It’s not like she’s brilliant or endearing or empathetic. She just seems to bounce back and forth between the cousins, helping them both out when it suits her. The girl desperately needs some fleshing out. As bare-bones as the John Ross and Christopher characters are, we at least understand their motivations and backstories.

Rebecca is starting to intrigue us. We’ve been given very little about her to go on, but the fact that she’s caught up in some sort of scheme while at the same time struggling with the moral implications of it is making her more interesting to us. We don’t know what the backstory could possibly be, but as was pointed out in our comments section last week, “Rebecca” was the name of Cliff and Pam’s mother. Things that make you go “Hmmmm,” to borrow a very out of date phrase.

So that’s our prescription: Flesh out those young’uns, writers. If the show is to continue, they are eventually going to have to shoulder the entire story themselves. But for now, Hagman is doing award-worthy work here, playing J.R. with a spark and an air of menace to him that somehow seems even more engaging than it did 30 years ago. Face it: an evil, ambitious, soul-less 50-year-old business man isn’t necessarily the most compelling character idea in the world, but an evil, ambitious, soul-less 80-year-old businessman looking to wrap up his life’s work and pass it on to his son? That’s pure storytelling gold. This may actually be the most interesting take on J.R. ever.

Can’t wait until the barbecue blowout next week. Southfork never did have much luck with social events, did it?

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  • Amy_R

    JR needs to preform his Evil-doing while sitting behind a big desk or in a limo. When they showed him walking, it really hit home how old he is.

    And enough walkons by Cliff, Lucy and Ray. Time hasn’t made them better actors.

    • Leslie Streeter

       I agree about Lucy and Ray. But Ken Kercheval is giving that brimstone and crazy, and I’m loving it.

  • BuffaloBarbara

    John Ross has potential, and the scenes where he and Elena are wildcatting are pretty good for her as well, much better than her supposed “love” scenes with Christopher.  At least she looks like she’s having some fun with John Ross (and he with her), so I can buy them as a couple.

    But yeah, I’m more interested in J.R. and Suellen, and if he’ll manage to win her back (which seems to be his game–again).  And I’m interested in the relationships between the parents and the kids, and the dead older generation as well, more than I am in the bed-hopping.  So far, the best scene has been the the J.R./John Ross barber shop scene.

    And I keep wondering why Lucy is always wandering around looking like she’s her uncle Ray’s wife.  Will this mystery be adequately addressed, or is Southfork a whole lot more, er, “family friendly” than we’ve been led to believe?

  • TheOriginalLulu

    Awesome summary, TLo.
    No question that the oldbies light up the screen, while the newbies are still feeling their way around the characters. That shit between Sue Ellen and JR was great. “You lost your right to decide who I lunch with a long time ago, JR”. Hah. Luv huh. That woman really knows how to smile while delivering a line dripping with venom.
    As for Elena and Rebecca, I was sure that Rebecca was going to be wishy-washy and boring, but no. Elena is the one making me yawn. Agreed that the younger characters are still lacking in dimension. I’m hopeful that this will be resolved by the end of the season. Elena in particular, we need to know what her deal is.    

  • Lilithcat

    I spend most of the show trying to ignore the fact that the entire premise is ridiculous.  That Miss Ellie didn’t have a decent lawyer tie up her will so tightly, or that Bobby is stupid enough to sign a document that allows the possibility for the conservancy to re-sell the ranch, are both ridiculous.

    But, hey, it’s Dallas!  Logic not required.  

    It’s not like [Elena]’s brilliant or endearing or empathetic.  Not endearing or empathetic, I’ll grant you.  However, she seems like a pretty smart cookie to me.  ’

    we’ll take ANY of J.R.’s scenes over any featuring the next generation.

    You and me both.  Heck, his eyebrows are better actors than the kids are.

  • MilaXX

    Initially I was hoping that John Ross would turn out to be the good one & Christopher would be the baddy.
    I do agree the older gen  are doing the heavy lifting but I don’t mind so much because JR, Sue Ellen & Bobby are wonderful. Mind you, Larry could trim and inch or two off those eyebrows, but whatev.

    Of the younger gen, Christopher’s alternative energy plot is a bit weaker than John Ross is evil plot.  The one thing I really like Marta’s apartment of blackmail. I guess we can safely say anyone she sleeps with in there is being filmed.

    Because I have tv ADD, I was a bit distracted by Jason London playing someone with drug problems considering all the issues his brother has. BTW if anyone wants to so a PSA on the evils of drugs and alcohol, jut hire the London twins. These guys used to be so identical that one replaced the other on the tv show I”ll Fly Away years ago.

    • Diane_Chambers

      Ah, so that was Jason London!  I was wondering.  Wow, he hasn’t aged so well.  

      I think he will probably be back, though – he’s a big enough name that they wouldn’t have hired him for just a one episode walk-on.

      • PaulaBerman

         OK, so how the hell did Marta get him to break down and do drugs and screw her when he presented such a centered, together, reflective mindset when Rebecca tried him? Were those pictures doctored? And would a judge really accept pictures as evidence against someone who is on probation? That whole thing seemed pretty fakakta to me.

        • grouchywif

           She probably slipped him a Mickey like she did John Ross.

      • MilaXX

        He looks a hellavu lot better than his brother Jeremy.

    • lovelyivy

       Just looked at the picture evidence on Jeremy vs. Jason London. First- OMG what a motivator to stay off the drugs kids! Second, I don’t think I fully realized how ridiculously hot they were back in the day. Too bad they don’t appear to be aging hotter a la Clooney.

  • lojoso

    I am going to go out on a limb here and say that Rebecca and her brother (does he have a name?) are the children of Pam’s and Cliff’s half sister, Katherine. I have nothing to base that on, just pretty much pulled it out of thin air. (:

    • blondie65

      I think the brother’s name is Tommy.  And I agree with you…that idea dawned on me after last week’s episode.  Here’s my theory…Katherine probably lost access to all that Wentworth money when she went on the run after shooting Bobby.  If she managed to get married and have kids, she probably raised them with absolute hatred of all things Ewing & Barnes.  What better revenge than to destroy Pam’s biggest love, her son Christopher, which would also hurt Bobby and to some degree, Cliff.  She would also know the backstory of Christopher’s adoption since this plot would mean Rebecca married her legal cousin. 

      • lojoso

         You certainly have thought it through more than  have!

  • vanjar

    I, too, am enjoying the older cast a lot more than the young’uns. Every time I see JR, I just want to get some small scissors and trim those eyebrows. 
    Things that make you go “Hmmmm,” Thanks, now I’ve got that C&C Music Factory song, that I hadn’t heard since the 90′s, in my head! 

  • Rick Aiello

    I’m really enjoying the new “Dallas,” but a major part of my enjoyment is watching Larry Hagman – wild eyebrows and all – in action again as J.R.  He was always fun to watch, but boy oh boy, he really still has that devil inside him.  There are times when the story is a bit dry– I’m still disinterested with the two young women on the show — but I think it has great potential.  John Ross isn’t nearly as dastardly as his father, but he is showing great promise.  And Christopher– while pretty to look at — is just the “nice guy” right now.  What I find interesting is that, to me, the central character in the story is Bobby.  He was always second fiddle to J.R., but he’s different now — more mature, and more grounded.  Just like his Momma.  

  • deathandthestrawberry

    John Ross has really grown on me, but Christopher gets a big old meh. The actor is one of those guys who are good looking on paper, but the reality is he is completely forgettable. I can’t buy him being a genius scientist. Please.

    I’m really loving the show. Now, if only Netflix would carry Old Dallas.

  • Hermione_Granger

    Somebody’s got to get pushed into the swimming pool at a Ewing family BBQ!

  • jblaked

    I’m loving how great Sue Ellen looks.  She doesn’t look like she’s had any work done, just aged well.  The show needs more Sue Ellen and less young uns.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QYNAGYILEHAIYAZP2BEIPGJJIQ Cindy

       I know!  I was sorry the show didn’t have a scene with her and Cliff at lunch together.  I would have liked to have seen that.

  • PaulaBerman

    Can I just say that I am totally on Team JR? I want him to screw everyone over, then waggle his eyebrows while throwing piles of money in the air and soaking his feet in a vat of oil. Hagman is KILLING it. I also like John Ross. The entire Bobby wing of the family is snooze-ville. I also have to say, I love Cliff Barnes. I always liked that character. He brings out the snark in JR. Overall, this is a very enjoyable hour of silliness.

  • http://twitter.com/bstolemyremote bitchstolemyremote

    Can’t say that I’m feeling the same sense of intrigue in Rebecca that you guys are. She just seems (like a lot of other elements on this show) TOO OBVIOUS. She may be a con-woman with her trickster brother, but she’s clearly going to actually fall in love with Christopher and choo-choo-choose him. It’d be so much more interesting if she were a legitimate femme fatale who was behind a whole bunch of plots. Especially since that role seems to have gone the cartoony, pill-popping looney route with Marta (nee Veronica? Really Dallas?)

    In our review, we struggle with how to watch this show appropriately. It’s not good enough to be enjoyable, but not bad enough to be a guilty pleasure. Hopefully next week it goes for over-the-top and just indulges in it’s inherent silliness…

  • BookishBren

    Rebecca and her bro are the kids of Cliff Barnes. Since Christopher was adopted, the gross-out factor is avoided. 

    Who else would have it in for the Ewings enough to do something like that? Gotta be Cliff Barnes. 

  • BayTampaBay

    I just love this show.  Never thought I would say that because I had no hope for this “Next Generation” reboot type thing.  I think the stories will get better as we go along.  Rating are better than expected so I am sure TNT will renew for a seond season.

  • OneTwoThreeFashion

    Liking John Ross! Actor doing a superb job, IMO,… Can’t get the girls… not pretty, not nice, not cute, not fun… neither of them. 

  • http://twitter.com/SarahJLang Sarah Lang

    Lithium and champagne. It’s what’s for dinner.

  • Judy_J

    The older characters are definitely more interesting to me than the youngsters are.  I was a huge fan of the original series, so naturally I am intrigued to see J.R., Sue Ellen, Bobby and Cliff take up the harness and soldier on.  Bobby’s new wife is boring as snot, and the younger ones’ story line is just a bit too contrived and forced.  However, I do perk up when John Ross is in the scene, because he has some spark, and is bad enough to care about.  I get Rebecca and Elena confused….it might have been better if the two actresses were not quite so similar in appearance.  That goes for Marta, as well.  But I’m still watching, still intrigued, and still interested to see who will reign supreme on Southfork.

  • http://twitter.com/TMamBo Therese Bohn

    It’s Uhura, btw.