Dallas: Collateral Damage

Posted on July 19, 2012

Well, so much for our ability to pick the standout characters. There we were, watching the latest episode of Dallas and happily tweeting whatever smartass comments pop into our heads, MST3K-style, when Marta-Veronica appeared once again on our screens. “We think Marta is our favorite new character,” we twatted. “How can we not love a crazy bitch in 6-inch heels?” Two minutes later, Martaronica was dead. Dammit. They couldn’t throw Elena out a window? Although we have to say, we did love that they took the classic soap opera route of depicting insanity: messy hair and smeared eye makeup. If the real world was anything like the world of the soap opera, every single gal making the Walk of Shame would be temporarily insane.

So Martaronica becomes the first new cast member to get the classic Dallas showy death treatment. In retrospect, it couldn’t have happened any other way. Of course the crazy one was going to take a fall. We were just hoping for some more crazy on the way out.

One of the more interesting developments of the new series – and an idea that took center stage in the story last night – is that John Ross, for all his smirking, his pedigree, and his mustache-twirling, is no mastermind. In fact, he’s a bit of a mess and a fuckup. Several critics have noted – and we agree – that it would have been a bit less expected and more interesting if Bobby’s son was the devious asshole and J.R.’s son was the sappy sentimentalist. But the show may be doing something slightly more subversive than that. Bobby’s son is the sentimental one with lofty goals, just like his father, but he’s also a bit of an asshole himself; stubborn, imperious, childish and defensive. Bobby may have had his flaws back in the day but for the most part, he was a halo-wearing good guy.

John Ross, on the other hand, is trying his best to be his Daddy’s boy, but at every turn, he appears to be in over his head. And while we question the reasons he pursued her in the first place, it seems he really does love Elena and cares quite deeply about her. J.R., as the new show has deliciously reminded us, was always to-the-bone evil; capable of shocking acts of cruelty and treachery even against members of his own family. Charming as hell; sure, but there was never any question which side of the divide he fell on. In other words, J.R. was never really an anti-hero or the villain you want to root for. He’s always been just a flat-out evil son of a bitch blessed with a quick wit and a flair for living well. John Ross is a guy with a fucked-up childhood who’s trying his best to make a name for himself in a family that demands its members all make names for themselves. He’s not a saint, but you can understand a little why he is the way he is.

It’s to the show’s credit that it’s making the attempt – and largely succeeding – in giving these characters shades of gray. Before it gave into the excesses of ’80s prime time soap operas, Dallas was presented more as a family drama. The new show is doing a pretty damn good job of taking the concept back to its late ’70s roots while tipping its hat to the ’80s excesses it was know for. As we’ve noted several times, it’s done a good job of continuing the generational themes of the earlier version. What’s slowly becoming clear, however, is that it’s also dealing with the idea of family dysfunction, but in a subtle, non-preachy sort of way. Christopher is defensive about his adoption and about Pam abandoning him. John Ross is clearly deeply damaged by both his parents; something all three of them openly agree on. What’s nice about all this is that it makes so damn much sense. There’s nothing forced about it. It’s a logical progression of all of the characters from their ’80s versions. You get the sense – and sometimes it’s stated outright – just how damaged all these people are after decades of Ewing bullshit. It’s never overplayed, but it adds some earned pathos to the proceedings, even as crazy ladies are being thrown out of high rise windows.

And somehow, this is all working with Not-Pam and her slimy ex-husband, too. They just feel like they belong in the cast. Better: they feel like they would have fit in quite well 30 years ago too. Did we call it on the dead baby, or what? Then again, maybe there will be some twist and the baby is ALIVE! And pregnant with Christopher’s twins! And one of those twins is EVIL.

Okay, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

It’s funny, though. It seems like our so-called “recaps” of this show never actually get around to recapping it. For us, it’s just a fun show to chat about the next day. What’s so appealing about the new Dallas is that it’s a show that knows what it is, knows where its strengths lie, and just goes about the business of giving it to the audience. We’re surprised at how much we’re enjoying it.

Next week: Evil people with accents cause trouble for the Ewings! John Ross does something else stupid. Christopher flares his nostrils and gives caveman face. Elena says or does something, but most of the audience dozes off momentarily. Not-Pam shows her ugly cry-face again. Bobby snaps and bitchslaps everyone. Marta’s even crazier twin sister shows up for VENGEANCE.

We can dream, can’t we?

Also: LUCY EWING IN THE HOUSE, BITCHES. She’s spent the last 30 years smokin’ and drinkin’ and she’s got the voice and the attitude to prove it. The lady ain’t taking no shit from nobody.


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  • TheOriginalLulu

    “Twatted” hahaha

    • Since he had a national breakfast show and a large listenership it kind of stuck.  Even 30 years later it’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her...AmazingWayOnlineCash.blogspot.com

  • Totally expect that Not-Pam’s dead/lost/adopted out baby is either Rebecca or Elena that was taken from her by the evil ex-husband who had Not-Pam institutionalized and then told Not-Pam it died because of her neglect.

    The years have not been kind to Lucy!  Would like to see more of her though.

    • MilaXX

       When they mentioned Gary I was hoping he would show up as well. It’s nice to see Lucy at something other than a Ewing cookout.

    • I know!  Lucy looks older than Gary now.  

  • TheOriginalLulu

    Yeah, it figures that just when Marta was starting to get fun, she gets thrown out the window. I like the idea of her crazy twin coming for revenge. Also the Rebecca is Not-Pam’s missing baby thing. That would be awesome.
    My favorite part last night was finally getting to see Sue Ellen’s claws: “As the sole investor of your little business venture, I hope you make the right decision.” OOOOOOOH!! Now all she needs to do is start getting shitfaced every episode and it will be just like old times.

    • Leslie Streeter

       I know! It’s wrong to wish that a sober character starts standing unsteadily at the top of steep staircases with a tumbler of Scotch and threatening to throw it screaming “DAMN YOU, J.R.!” But I wish it anyway. I wish it like I wish on stars.

      • TheOriginalLulu

        That’s it! Maybe we should all hold virtual hands and wish upon a star.

  • t b

    Thought that second photo was Bobby in a dojo, wearing a Kendo Jacket and I thought ‘COOL’ but then i realized that was an arm across his stomach so…nevermind…crickets** crickets**

  • Eclectic Mayhem

    Way back in the dim and distant past, when Dallas was appointment TV in the UK as well as the US, there was a BBC Radio 2 DJ called Terry Wogan and he christened Lucy Ewing ‘the poison dwarf’.  Since he had a national breakfast show and a large listenership it kind of stuck.  Even 30 years later it’s the first thing that came to my mind when I saw her.

    Good to see you back Poison Dwarf!

    • Corsetmaker

      Haha, first thing I thought of too! He has a Sunday show on radio 2 now. I should’ve listened last week to see if he mentioned it!

  • MilaXX

    I just love the flat out juicy old school soapiness of this show. When Marta fell out the window I think I actually cackled with glee. I’m also guessing/hoping that Rebecca is Not!Pam’s long thought dead baby.

  • gabbilevy

    Man oh man do I love this show. And your recaps are even better! 

    So for PR you have T LOunge, how about some kind of Dallas coffeehouse roundtable (where all the coffee is Irish coffee ifyouknowwhatimean, she says, waggling J.R.’s eyebrows)?

  • Amy_R

    To bad Charlene wasn’t a better actress..I was hoping she turned Evil and sided with John Ross. As soon as John Ross got the ‘DNA under fingernail scratches’ I knew Martaronica was dead. And of course the video is going to show John Ross tossing her around, but then won’t show bad guys at all. Classic!

  • Bethany Loftin

    I am quite certain that Rebecca’s twins are going to turn out to have two different fathers:  Christopher and her “brother” (still convinced he is a sibling).

    • Leslie Streeter

      Yeah. There’s something sketchy with them. And she is SO the Not-Dead Baby of NotPam. 

  • I love that Charlene Tilton has a pretty “real” looking face—not all tucked and stretched. I am about her height, so just laughed when I saw her sitting at that lunch table with John Ross. She needs a booster seat. This show is so fun.

    • TheOriginalLulu

      Same here. Mad appreciation for women who can move their faces.

  • YoungSally

    Lucy is totally channeling Mary Travers…..maybe she can hook up with Peter and Paul.

  • Judy_J

    Good call on the dead baby necklace!  Not Pam is starting to show signs of becoming a somewhat interesting character.  So glad to see Miss Lucy back at the ranch, and with more than one line!  I’d like to party with her…she’s always known how to have a good time (except when she was married to that sap, Mitch).  And could John Ross have looked any guiltier when he came upon Marta’s dead body sprawled out on that Mercedes?  Of course the only two cops in Dallas were going to come after him.  TNT knows DRAMA!

  • Lilithcat

    God, I’m enjoying this show.  I shouldn’t, because it’s utterly ridiculous on so many levels, but it’s my new guilty pleasure.  Maybe because it’s utterly ridiculous on so many levels.

  • Melissa Martin

    I don’t think the character progressions from father to son (Bobbie/Christopher and JR/John Ross) are subversive so much as just good examples of regression to the mean. 

  • BayTampaBay

    I cannot express how much I am enjoying this show.  It is more fun than eating a whole bag of family size Doritos by yourself.

    I agree with TLo’s first assessment of Rebecca Sutter.  I think she and her brother (yes I believe they are siblings) are “Barneses” or some how related to Cliff Barnes.

  • ChaquitaPhilly

    Ooooo…last night was the SECOND mention of Gary! Third time’s the charm?

  • I just said the same thing to my husband yesterday morning as I was getting caught up on the ep from July 11th.  I’m enjoying this so much more than I thought I would! I don’t care about spoilers – if I did I wouldn’t read your posts.  For a few seconds I thought it was weird that John Ross called Lucy his cousin – she looks old enough to be his aunt.  And then I remembered…Gary is her dad so of course they are cousins. Do we think there’s any chance they’ll bring back Ted Shackelford? Lord help us I hope they don’t resurrect Joan Van Ark. Let’s hope her character died off screen about 15 years ago after her 7th facelift went so horribly awry.

  • Diane_Chambers

    I’m so glad you guys are recapping/discussing this show.  When I read “The Last Hurrah” two weeks ago, I thought you might have been giving up on it, and for some reason I missed your piece last week.  I really like it, even more than Revenge.

    I know all signs (interviews, etc.) point to no, but I’m still hoping the season-ending cliffhanger involves Victoria Principal showing up.  As a kid who was way over-invested in this show, I just loved Pam and Bobby, and Bobby is shedding his early-season dopeyness.