EXCLUSIVE: Tomorrow night’s reboot of “Dallas” is getting terrible reviews. Are we surprised? The people who tried to revive it simply snubbed the creator, David Jacobs. What a shame. I loved “Dallas.” But it took the right attitude and ingredients to make it work again. Read how it happened:
David Jacobs, creator of “Dallas” and “ Knots Landing,” tells me he’s been excluded entirely from the coming reboot of the famous series on TNT. He will get to keep his “created by” credit, but nothing else, no money, and no participation. “I’ll get the $714 Writers Guild fee for a sequel,” Jacobs says. Jacobs tells me found out that “Dallas” was being restarted second hand. When he inquired about it, he says he told everyone — including new head writer Cynthia Cidre–that he was essentially retired and didn’t want to write the show. “I didn’t want any authority,” he told her at their one lunch. But he did think a consultancy wouldn’t be out of the question since basically, “Dallas” relies on all the characters he created in the 1970s–JR Ewing, Bobby Ewing, Sue Ellen, and their family, even the same Southfork Ranch set.
“All I said was that I’d like to be a presence. I told her if you need anything on the back story, I’m there. I never heard anything from her again until I heard TNT ordered a pilot.” Jacobs was involved with the failed John Travolta movie version, because the movie and TV rights had been separated in his original contract. “In the early 2000s, we took the movie to Warner Bros. They passed, and then New Regency bought the movie rights. But they didn’t make the movie.”
When Jacobs finally read Cidre’s script, he thought it wasn’t bad. “I said it wasn’t audacious enough. I made some notes.” But Jacob says after he submitted them to the network he was told they wouldn’t show them to Cidre. Why not? “I was told there were too many cooks. I was going to make a t shirt up that said, Too many cooks, get rid of the with the recipe.”
This year, when the producers put in for credits, they asked for “Developed by Cynthia Cidre, based on “Dallas” created by David Jacobs.” But the Writers Guild denied that, and ruled that the only credit was “Created by David Jacobs.” It was his show, still, at least at the Writers Guild.
Once the WGA ruled for him, the production extended a tiny olive branch–but with a proviso. “They offered me some money and a consultancy, but made it clear they didn’t care whether I didn’t do any consulting. But they asked me to waive all my rights.” He refused, so negotiations came to an end. “I asked to see Cynthia, and I asked her to meet me for a drink or lunch. And she said no. She refused me three times. I wrote a memo to her and said, ‘I don’t want any authority.’ Their lawyer told my lawyer I was too aggressive.”
After Jacobs created “Dallas,” he went on to run “Family,” an Emmy winning ABC drama of the 70s. But he always kept in touch with (the now deceased) Leonard Katzman, who ran “Dallas” for years. “I was around, that’s all I wanted, to be around.” For the record, he told Katzman that the famous Bobby Ewing shower scene–when Pam’s dream wiped out an entire awful season– was a “dumb idea.”
Jacobs says now the producers have cut him out completely. “I will not waive my rights. The material isn’t bad. But I read the scripts and found they were very plot driven. I thought she was going to have trouble down the road. The original “Dallas” and “Knots Landing” ran five years too long because the audience was so engaged with the characters. You didn’t need to come up with constant plot points. The scripts are good. But they should have been Bobby’s kid the bad one, and JR’s kld the good one. Bobby has a new wife, and she’s from Houston. She should have been from main line Philadelphia, or Boston or New York. Or very rich. But I never had the opportunity to express any of this.”
The revived “Dallas” launches on TNT on June 13th with a two hour premiere