I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Monday, October 17, 2005

"Dallas" (1978-1991)

"Dallas" began as a limited run series in 1977. It's success led CBS to air this weekly soap opera on Friday nights.

J.R. Ewing has to be one of the most evil, low down characters ever paraded across American TV. He was the oldest son of a rich Texas family who had made its fortune in the oil business. J.R.'s wife was Sue Ellen, a former beauty queen, whom he cheated on constantly. They had a son, John Ross. J.R. was a master of dirty tricks. He would stoop to the lowest levels to protect and promote the family business and to push his own agendas.

J.R.'s main enemy was a lawyer named Cliff Barnes. Barnes couldn't stand the very ground the Ewings walked on. Decades ago, Cliff's dad, Digger, was partners with Jock and Jason Ewing, J.R.'s dad and uncle, in the oil game. Jason had a falling out with Jock and never spoke to him again. Jock cut Digger out of the partnership and got rich, while Digger became an alcoholic. Digger and J.R.'s mom, Miss Ellie, were a couple until Jock came along. Cliff also hated the fact that his sister, Pam, was married to Bobby, J.R.'s upstanding younger brother. J.R. didn't like the idea either, because he was always interfering in their marriage.

J.R. had did a lot of dirt to everyone at the end of the 1979-1980 season. Someone was angry enough to tip up to his office after hours and put a few bullets in him. That cliffhanger set off a world wide phenomenom. All summer long, people wanted to know "Who shot J.R.?" The cast was badgered for answers, in some cases, being offered big money to divulge the answer. Finally, in November of 1980, it was revealed that Kristin Shephard, Sue Ellen's vengeful sister, had fired the gun. Kristin also had another bomb to drop--she was pregnant, and the baby was J.R.'s! Kristin never spent a day in jail, but she did leave town. A few seasons later, she was found dead in the pool on Southfork, the huge ranch owned by the Ewing family. Cliff found the body and assumed J.R. did it, but it turns out Kristin overdosed on drugs. Her baby was found out not to be J.R.'s but the son of one of Kristin's old boyfriends. Childless Bobby and Pam adopted the child.

The show went on for several seasons of scheming, secrets, blackmailing, corporate skullduggery, and murder, among many other staples of soap opera plotting. Characters were added to the mayhem, while other left for various reasons. One of the saddest moments was when Jock Ewing passed away. The actor who portrayed him, Jim Davis, had passed away in real life, so his character was written out. The writers made a big mistake, however, when they killed off Bobby Ewing. The following season limped along without moral Bobby there to counteract J.R.'s underhanded ways. Bobby appears in the shower near the end of that season, leaving viewers to wonder what was going on. When the 1986-1987 season opened, it was explained that Bobby hadn't died after all. Pam had dreamed the entire 1985-1986 season!

The final season found J.R. struggling to hold on to Ewing Oil, while Bobby, tired of the constant fighting, had sold his interest in the company. Sue Ellen and J.R. were divorced, and she had taken John Ross and went off to England to marry a film director. J.R.'s second wife Callie, had gotten tired of him mistreating her, and she had left and taken their baby with her. Ms. Ellie had remarried to oilman Clayton Farlow. Ellie was tired of J.R. and Bobby's bickering, and she and her husband took off to Europe. Bobby was licking his wounds--he and Pam had divorced, and his second wife, April, had been killed during a vacation. An angel appeared to a depressed J.R. and showed him what life would have been like if he had never been born. Turns out that the angel wasn't a representative from Heaven from from the other place, and he encouraged J.R. to committ suicide. Bobby came in the house and heard a gunshot. He ran upstairs, flung open a door, and gasped, "J.R.!" The credit rolled; end of the show.

Several years later, a couple of reunion movies confirmed that J.R. didn't die. In fact, he was back to his old tricks. There was even a pre-quel TV movie that explained how J.R.'s dad built the Ewing oil empire, and how Ellie tricked Jock into marrying her to save Southfork. "Dallas" also gave birth to a spinoff soap called "Knots Landing" (1979-1993) which followed J.R. and Bobby's brother, Gary, who was married to Valene, and their problems in a Southern California community.

J.R. Ewing was portrayed in excellent sliminess by Larry Hagman, who was the affable Major Tony Nelson on the 1960's sitcom, "I Dream Of Jeannie". Patrick Duffy, who played brother Bobby, had been in an earlier series called, "The Man From Atlantis". The late Barbara Bel Geddes, who played matriarch Miss Ellie, had appeared in several films including Vertigo with James Stewart, and the family charmer, I Remember Mama. The late George O. Petrie, who played the Ewing's lawyer, Harve Smithfield, had appeared as numerous characters on "The Honeymooners" back in the 1950's. The late Howard Keel, who played Miss Ellie's second husband, Clayton, was a song and dance man. He had a great baritone voice used to great effect in the movie musicals, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, and Kiss Me Kate.


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