Big­ger than Texas

JR’s back so get ready for one wild ride, writes Neal Justin

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page -

JR EWING makes Tony So­prano look like a pussy­cat – and we’re not just re­fer­ring to ruth­less be­hav­iour.

In the new re­vival of Dal­las, a se­ries that picks up 21 years af­ter the iconic drama ended, we find the oil ty­coon in a funk that re­quires more than weekly vis­its to a psy­chi­a­trist.

In fact, he’s so de­pressed that he can only stare silently out the win­dow of a nurs­ing cen­tre, dream­ing, no doubt, about the days he could ruin lives with that grin of a cat who just ate the ca­nary, along with some fava beans and a nice chi­anti.

Ewing snaps out of it when his es­tranged son, John Ross, in­forms him that JR’s brother, Bobby, plans to sell South­fork Ranch to a con­ser­va­tory.

JR’s first words in months: ‘‘ Bobby was al­ways a fool.’’

Yes, tele­vi­sion’s nas­ti­est Cat in the Hat has come back, but will au­di­ences want to re­visit a fam­ily awash in lux­ury cars, coun­try club mem­ber­ships and fancy duds in such hard eco­nomic times?

Larry Hag­man is will­ing to bet the ranch on it. ‘‘ You’ve got to re­mem­ber that when Dal­las got go­ing, we were in a ma­jor re­ces­sion and peo­ple couldn’t get a babysit­ter and go out. They couldn’t af­ford it,’’ said Hag­man, who first played the char­ac­ter in 1978.

‘‘ They had to stay home on Fri­day nights and watch some­thing, and we were it. Well, here we go again.’’

The se­quel has some mighty big boots to fill.

In its hey­day, Dal­las, which ran for 14 sea­sons, was a pop- cul­ture phe­nom­e­non. The Novem­ber 1980 episode that re­vealed who shot JR was de­voured by 83 mil­lion view­ers. ( By com­par­i­son, the 2003 sea­son fi­nale of Amer­i­can Idol, the most watched in the show’s his­tory, drew 38 mil­lion.)

Even a gen­er­a­tion that was in nap­pies in the early 1980s has some mem­ory of the orig­i­nal se­ries.

‘‘ I knew of it,’’ said Dal­las- born Josh Hen­der­son, 30, who plays John Ross.

‘‘ I lit­er­ally would run around the TV and be told to shut up while they [ his fam­ily] were watch­ing it.’’

To en­sure that younger view­ers won’t think the new Dal­las is solely for their par­ents, pro­duc­ers have brought in fresh faces such as for­mer Des­per­ate Housewives sup­port­ing play­ers Hen­der­son and Jesse Met­calfe, and Jor­dana Brew­ster ( The Fast and the Fu­ri­ous).

Yes, Bobby and JR are still fight­ing for both the deed and the soul of South­fork, but the feud has been passed on to their only sons, who also in­her­ited their fathers’ white and black hats.

There may be a crop of new faces, but the over­all theme re­mains the same: Don’t. Trust. Any­one.

Ev­ery bed­room can have a hid­den cam­era. Ev­ery email ac­count can be hacked. Ev­ery hand­shake deal can be un­done by some­one cross­ing their fin­gers be­hind their back.

‘‘ While we’ve fresh­ened it with all these new faces, you’ll still be watch­ing this fight within a fam­ily,’’ said co- pro­ducer Michael M. Robin. ‘‘ Those are things that peo­ple ex­pect from Dal­las and we’re not here to take this in some whole other place. We hon­our the past.’’

Part of this nod to his­tory is pro­vid­ing juicy roles for Hag­man, Patrick Duffy as Bobby and Linda Gray as JR’s for­mer tro­phy wife, Sue Ellen, with cameos early on by Char­lene Til­ton ( Lucy) and Ken Kercheval ( Cliff Barnes).

Miss­ing is Vic­to­ria Prin­ci­pal, who played Bobby’s wife, Pamela. ( Bobby has re­mar­ried, with Des­per­ate Housewives nar­ra­tor Brenda Strong step­ping in as his new wife, Ann.)

But pro­duc­ers haven’t killed off Pam, leav­ing the door open for Prin­ci­pal to join in the fun af­ter the first 10- episode run is done.

She’d be wise to con­sider it.

DAL­LAS, WIN, Wed­nes­day, 9pm

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