“Dallas” came back tonight after 22 years. And this is what we’ve got: lots and lots of double crosses and backstabbing. And very little fun. Cynthia Cidre got JR right, I thought. And I liked Brenda Strong as Ann, Bobby Ewing’s new wife. But the show felt like one long plot without any characters. Cidre writes in modern soap opera style– she’s good at putting the jigsaw pieces together even when they don’t fit.
The show now supposedly pits Bobby and Pam Ewing’s adopted son, Christopher, against JR and Sue Ellen’s son, John Ross. Surprisingly I liked Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher. He felt substantial. But John Ross, at least in these two episodes, was a mess. John Henderson made John Ross seem like a boor. This is the sole progeny of JR and Sue Ellen. Back in the day, when he was a pre-teen, John Ross saw it all. Cidre would have done better to make John Ross the good guy, and Christopher–once thought to be the illegitimate son of Sue Ellen’s sister, Kristen (the woman who famously shot J.R.)–the bad guy.
Henderson has none of Larry Hagman’s spark or Linda Gray’s spunk. He reminded me of that latter day JR Ewing son, James Beaumont, as played by the worst actor ever to grace Southfork, Sasha Mitchell. Everything about this John Ross spells punk. JR Ewing is all about panache. Cidre completely struck out there.
The beauty and fun of the original “Dallas” were the little things, the characters’ quirks, the sense of family, the Greek chorus of oil barons who were constantly trying to do deals with JR and Bobby. The show had flavor. This version is bland. The outside of Southfork looks the same, but inside a decorator has gotten his hands on Miss Ellie’s knickknacks and replaced them with granite counter tops.
The characters are a lot like that. The guy playing the two timing lawyer was forgettable until JR showed up and reminded him of a long ago blackmail. He was no Jordan Lee, or Marilee Stone, that’s for sure. Wasn’t the whole idea of “Dallas” to be about colorful characters? And now, with oil a hotter international commodity than ever, Cidre is drilling on Southfork. There are no Arabs in this “Dallas,” which is preposterous. And there was no Dallas, the city. Where are the skyscrapers, the malls? I got more Dallas out of Robert Altman’s movie “Dr. T and the Women.”
So the new “Dallas” will give us eight more episodes after tonight’s double opener. John Ross will do nothing to inspire ten different people wanting to kill him, that’s for sure. And way too many characters are involved in double-crosses. When Christopher’s new wife was revealed to be in cahoots with her brother to swindle the Ewings, really, it was like an old episode of “All My Children.” (And the actors were very undistinguished–no Victoria Principal and Ken Kercheval).
Some time ago there was a “Dallas” reunion movie. Cliff Barnes was in it, and it was suggested that he had a daughter by his old girlfriend, Afton. The table was set for a next generation rumble. But this looks like a stale surface fight. Maybe it will improve. We can only hope.
PS Linda Gray looked amazing. But again, Sue Ellen seemed to have lost all the energy she had in her last few original seasons.