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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