The New Dallas: Ten Gallons of (Welcome) Straight-Up Soap

Dallas S01E01 and S01E02: "Changing of the Guard" and "Hedging Your Bets"

Growing up on the dusty plains of Nebraska, my siblings and I always spent weekends at my dad’s house. My parents had split in 1978 and my dad remarried soon after. My mom never watched soap operas—she hated them, thought they were silly. But for my stepmother, Friday nights meant one thing: Dallas. In 1978, Dallas started a revolution in nighttime suds. With its giant success, more shows followed suit: Knots Landing (a Dallas spin-off), Dynasty, and Falcon Crest to name a few of the more prolific ones. But their reigns came to an end in the 1990s, making way for a new wave of dramas on network television. And when soap came back big in the 2000s with Desperate Housewives and Brothers & Sisters, and Mad Men, it was a whole new beast: self-knowing, super-stylized, and heavily disguised. I am sure that Matthew Weiner would bristle at Mad Men being called a “soap.” But without J.R. Ewing would there even be a Don Draper? I am thankful to my stepmother for being passionate about her devotion to Dallas. It was my first introduction to serialized television... and I was hooked.

Dallas, the city, will now forever bring to mind Dallas, the show. But for a whole new generation that has grown up since the original left the air in 1991, they might not be so familiar with the mythology. The new incarnation, which TNT calls a “continuation,” steps quickly into its daddy’s boots; a tad wobbly at first, but gaining footing as the episodes progress (I’ve seen the first four and it keeps getting better). We find Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) tending to South Fork, the land his mama, Miss Ellie, passed on to him after her death. The land has been in the family for 150 years, and acts as a sprawling, bucolic backdrop for the “good” that is to be preserved, with Bobby its modern-day John Muir. By contrast, when we meet Bobby’s brother, the venerable J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), he is in the city, a place that only brings greed and evil, with its towering glass buildings. Happily, Cynthia Cidre, who developed the return of the series, kept this central brotherly rivalry in place. And it is still fun to watch, especially Hagman, who when he comes out of his state of catatonic-ness, rips through his scenes with a veracity fitting of his legend.


Compare this photo to the one above... see any similarities?

But this Dallas—and the pilot in particular, with its title “Changing of the Guard”—is about handing the mantle from one generation to the next. And in a wonderful bit of casting, the show has achieved this with aplomb. Josh Henderson goes teeth first into his role as John Ross Ewing, J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son and the heir to the devilish desire to be the biggest oilman in Texas. Henderson possesses a James Dean (a la Giant) quality that is mesmerizing to watch. He looks great in a Stetson, and is more than a chip off of old J.R.’s shoulder. John Ross's rival and cousin Christopher—Bobby’s adopted son, played with all earnestness by Jesse Metcalfe—is the sweet to John Ross’s salty. This is our seed for the future; the survival of Dallas 2.0 relies on this rivalry, and happily, they do fire and ice pretty well. And to make it au courant, the fuel that feeds their feude is emblematic of a bigger picture in America today, with Christopher fighting to find a “green energy” alternative to oil while John Ross only wants to drill, baby, drill... most notably under South Fork, our show’s stand-in for ANWR.

As for the women of Dallas, Linda Gray returns as the formidable Sue Ellen Ewing, former wife of J.R. and mother to John Ross. No longer under J.R.’s thumb, Sue Ellen is all business, a mogul and a magnate, with money and power, and she gets to say such pot-stirring lines as, “consider me an ally.” This, uttered to her own son—who as much as he is his own man, is still a pawn to be played by his parents. Jordana Brewster, of Fast and Furious franchise fame, dives in, eyes blazing, as Elena Ramos, the third point of the love triangle between cousins Christopher and John Ross. In a nice bit of modernizing, and an Upstairs, Downstairs nod, Elena is the daughter of the Ewing’s long-time housekeeper, and was raised on South Fork. She too has the drive of a Ewing, and seems to be up for the fight to get a piece of the pie. Lastly is Julie Gonzalo, playing Christopher’s fiancéd Rebecca Sutter. Although she may come off as the naïve good girl, we soon see she has an agenda of her own.

Dallas has always been a play on the Hatfields and McCoys feud, with the Ewings and Barnes (who will finally show up in Episode 3) fighting for land and oil. But the internal family turmoil of Ewings was always the meat and potatoes of this show. And that is fully intact. At first, I wanted more camp and maybe even a wink or two, but I soon realized that this is drama, through and through, played with a very straight face, and copious amounts of exposition. Don’t expect Mad Men-like subtext or Desperate Housewives-esque comic tomfoolery here, this is straight-up soap. If you were a fan of the original, or a newcomer to South Fork, I think you will find a lot to like in this “continuation.” It is a saga, in my opinion, worth continuing...


Did you watch tonight's two-hour premiere? What do you think of Dallas 2.0 so far?

Comments (26)
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Jul 04, 2012
I have seen the first 4 episodes...love it. I notice and wonder when and if Ewing oil enters the picture in this...So far the emphasis has been SouthFork the ranch..much of the emphasis in the original was Ewing Oil the business...
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Jun 17, 2012
I was one when the show went off the air and have tried to watch the legendary drama but couldn't get into it. Despite its epic legacy it is outdated. I have to say, against my suspicions, I am thoroughly happy that TNT rebooted the show. There's a lot of stories (albeit soapy and predictable) left in Dallas and I'm happy they updated the pace to a more contemporary feel. It's incredibly juicy and delicious and I already love it.
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Jun 16, 2012
I disagree big time with the notion that Jordana and Julie are weak they are not Elena (Jordana) and Rebecca (Julie) are awesome characters looking forward to how they are develop
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Jun 15, 2012
I pretty young to watch the original growing up, but I love this new continuation of the series! I certainly want to watch the original as well!
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Jun 15, 2012
Loved both episodes. Loved the opening theme...ah, good times. I think John Ross will inherit the villain role well, but I'd like to see him not show the rage face so much. J.R.'s quiet evil smile was much more effective - and still is. :)

Agree the younger females are weak so far, but I can see how they'll develop with the story. I think both Sue Ellen and Ann are going to be gold. (And if Ann Richards could be Texas' governor, why not Sue Ellen?)

I've seen some criticism of Chris (Jesse Metcalfe) but I think he was exactly what the part needs.
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Jun 15, 2012
Outstanding intro (pilot) to the show..well done!!
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Jun 15, 2012
Very impressed with the pilot!
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Jun 15, 2012
I agree with Faithin1 - it's not on CBS. And I was a big 80's Dallas fan......
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Jun 15, 2012
It was a decent start, with the right-if-expected feel, but the show will need some tweaking. I'd day more of JR, Sue Ellen and Bobby; the same amount of John Ross and Christopher; less of the poorly cast younger females. The problem was that it felt more like a 90's soap like Melrose Place, than the old Dallas.

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Jun 15, 2012
TNT rocked the house with the premiere of Dallas, I watched the orginal every season and episode, and TNT DID NOT DISAPPOINT ME I am very interesting where TOMMY and REBECCA story arc goes
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Jun 15, 2012
I loved it. I've never seen Dallas (even if the opening title triggered some memories), but I love this version, it's fun, it's sunny, and it's nice to see old people with moving faces on a tv show...
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Jun 15, 2012
It was awesome
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Jun 15, 2012
LOOOOOOOOOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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Jun 15, 2012
Seems like this is similar to Revenge's format of total commitment to the plot and dialogue which makes it a delicious drama rather than a too-serious soap
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Jun 14, 2012
Where do we go for eipisodes and forum for Dallas - preferred the old TV.com - I'm lost in this new forum!
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Jun 15, 2012
You COULD click the link at the top of this page where it says "Dallas S01E01 and S01E02" and the word "Dallas" is underlined, or follow this: http://www.tv.com/dallas/show/80089/summary.html
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Jun 14, 2012
Loved the 2 episodes - looks promising - now will CBS cancel it - like all the previous good programming I enjoyed on CBS? How many episodes for the summer?
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Jun 14, 2012
It's not on CBS.
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Jun 14, 2012
Bobby dying? I see another, it was all a dream, coming up.
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Jun 14, 2012
sorry it was just to tempting.
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Jun 14, 2012
It was highly entertaining. Sure, there is still a room for improvement but I felt incredibly nostalgic while watching the first two episodes. And JR is still devious. God bless him.
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Jun 14, 2012
Just got done watching this. I only watched the original off and on and do not remember what became of Victoria Principal and Ken Kercheval's characters or may not have watched that far into it.



Larry Hagman made this fun to watch. He really seems to be enjoying it and I hope he can for as long as able. We need to have more appreciation for actors lie this. Duffy and Gray were OK too, but can't tell if Duffy looked a little odd due to make up or if he may have had a touch of work done.



I think it will be a guilty pleasure type show, but feel it may soon end up recycling the same ideas and/or relationships unless it can sustain fresh characters to keep things rolling along. That's true of any show like this, I guess.
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Jun 14, 2012
I was a fan of the original, grew up watching it. I enjoyed the premiere. There were some slow parts, but I hear it gets better, so I'll stay tuned.
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Jun 14, 2012
i watched the original for the last 7 years it was on...it was an epic show for the time and i was sorry when it ended, but tv had evolved and it was time to move on...but i didn't realize how much i missed the show until i watched Dallas 2.0 tonight...it was awesome in how nostalgic and also how updated and fresh it was, and i can't wait to see more (and i hope there's a lot of MEN and women that'll feel the same, lol)
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Jun 14, 2012
It's a soap opera. The only guy I like is JR, and I get the feeling he won't be around much longer due to God/reality intervening.



I'm sure women will like it, but as for me- I don't watch soap opera's. I'll pass.
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Jun 14, 2012
Sexist presumption is sexist.
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