It’s two decades since the oil ran out of Dallas as a weekly series but now American cable network TNT is going drilling again: a new series is being produced that brings back Larry Hagman in his iconic role as the manipulative oil baron JR Ewing.
An unaired pilot episode was made earlier this year and on the strength of that a new series is being made, to be screened in America in 2012. “It is incredibly exciting to see both new and familiar characters in the hands of a dream cast,” said TNT’s Michael Wright. “We couldn’t be more pleased with how Dallas has come together.”
Like the original, this new run will focus on the residents of Southfork Ranch and their glamorous, wealthy and troubled lives. The oil business has changed a lot since Dallas began as a mini-series in 1978 but if anyone has hung onto his riches, it’s JR.
All the best Dallas episodes centred on his machinations and the lives he ruined. The most famous was when he appeared to finally get his comeuppance: “Who shot JR?” was big news in summer 1980. When the series returned, international phone lines overloaded as UK fans rang friends in the States to find out whodunnit. It was easy to find an American who knew the answer because over 80 million of them had tuned in.
Not one of them remembers who it was now – a fact that The Simpsons parodied 15 years later with its own successful Who Shot Mr Burns?.
For all its immense popularity, Dallas never regained that peak of interest and the only other moment still much remembered is the show’s infamous shower scene. Co-star Patrick Duffy was killed off in the 1985 season but, following disastrous ratings, he was brought back and the whole 1986 series was claimed to have been a very, very detailed and remarkably fast dream his wife had while he was in the shower.
Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal) obviously didn’t have recurring nightmares because Duffy is in the revival, along with Larry Hagman as JR and Linda Gray as JR’s tortured wife, Sue Ellen. The show will also feature new faces, including Desperate Housewives’ and Sports Night’s Brenda Strong.
“TNT has explored the possibility of an updated version of Dallas for several years,” continues Wright, “but it wasn’t until we read Cynthia Cidre’s outstanding pilot script that we knew we had the foundation for a great new series.”
Cynthia Cidre is best known for her screenplay for The Mambo Kings and for creating the short-lived US drama Cane, starring Jimmy Smits. TNT is the network that makes Leverage, the con drama that aired here on Bravo and continues on Sky.
We have been back to Southfork before: since the final episode in May 1991, there were two feature-length TV movies in the 1990s and a reunion special in 2004.