Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dallas— Reinventing A Phenomenon

The first time we see J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) in Dallas, which premieres at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday on TNT, he's just a frail old man living in an assisted living facility following an emotional breakdown. And for anyone who was a fan of the original series, which became an American pop culture phenomenon during its 1978 to 1991 run on CBS, the natural reaction is: "Oh, no. I knew this was a mistake." Luckily, we're being set up in that scene, because by the end of this two-hour premiere episode, Hagman's J.R. is a revitalized lion in winter, ready and eager to renew his long-running family feud with brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) over the future fortunes of the Ewing family ranch, Southfork. Given the long list of failed attempts to revisit former TV hits— for example, Charlie's Angels, Knight Rider, The Bionic Woman, and Fantasy Island— it's easy to see why so many people were skeptical when executive producer Cynthia Cidre undertook this project."It just seemed natural to catch up with the Ewing family that we loved 20 years later and see where they were at this point in their lives and what had happened in the years since the show had gone off the air," Cidre says.

Jesse Metcalfe, who stars as Bobby’s adopted son Christopher Ewing and rotates top billing each week with Josh Henderson as J.R.'s son, John Ross, says he gets why so many eyebrows were raised at the news that Dallas was coming back. "I think all of us had the same question: 'Was this a good idea?" says Metcalfe, previously best known for playing Eva Longoria's young gardener/lover on Desperate Housewives. "We really didn't change the structure of the show, and the same compelling themes are in the new series: family dynamics, greed, ambition, love, loyalty, all of those things. My doubts about being a part of this project were quickly soothed after reading Cynthia's incredible script and seeing how well-defined and dynamic these characters really were."

The premiere finds the Ewing family gathering at Southfork for Christopher’s wedding to Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo) in the aftermath of a previous romantic disappointment with Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who now is dating John Ross. What few people know is that John Ross and Elena have been covertly drilling on Southfork, against the express wishes of the late Ewing matriarch, Miss Ellie, and they've just hit a gusher. That news immediately rekindles the old struggle for Southfork between J.R. and Bobby. Part of the success of this new Dallas lies in the way that Cidre has devised strong storylines for young cast members Metcalfe, Henderson and Brewster while keeping returning cast members Hagman, Duffy and Linda Gray, as JR's ex-wife Sue Ellen, a vital part of the show.

Linda Gray, who brought the iconic Sue Ellen Ewing to life back in 1978, explains how the reboot will be relevant to today's audience. "I feel that we have a global audience already built in," she said. "We’ve had, for years and years and years, these wonderful followers. They have stories related to the show— they sat with grandma, all of it. They have these delicious stories that we still hear about to this day. And then I feel that because of that, and because they have the stories, they will be taken into this new expansive show where we include the young people," she continued. "I think that they'll just go right to it. They'll be excited about it. They won’t miss a beat."

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