August 18, 2014

THE SKED Midseason Premiere Review: “Dallas”


DALLAS:  Monday 9PM on TNT

As TNT pushes its action-oriented “Boom” branding campaign (successfully with The Last Ship, not so much with Murder In the First nor apparently the new Legends), DALLAS seems more and more like a remnant not just of an earlier era of television, but of its own network’s past.  The only soap on TNT’s air returned tonight for the back half of its 3rd season, and it was creakier than ever, with very little to take the place of its lost star Larry Hagman.

The episode, written by Executive Producer Bruce Rasmussen and directed by Steve Robin, did with Season 3A’s cliffhangers what old soaps typically did–as little as possible.  No one died as a result of the fire at Southfork, or was even seriously injured.  The house itself was damaged but will survive.  Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) pulled through her suicide attempt with such good health that she was practically spitting at her adulterous husband John Ross (Josh Henderson) by the time the hour was over.  The script attempted a double reverse by first strongly suggesting that the fire had been set by Ewing hater Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker) as revenge for his discovery that the family had robbed his grandfather of the Ramos family’s rightfully-owned oilfields, then revealing that a drunken Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) had accidentally set the fire, but then topping that with a reveal that in fact Drew had done the deed after all.  It was a lot of fanciness to very little effect, since the storyline ended up just where we’d originally thought it would.  The episode concluded with shady businessman Nicolas Trevino (Juan Pablo Di Pace) proving himself to be the season’s Big Bad by allowing the gangsters he owed to murder Drew in front of his eyes, even though Nicolas has lured Drew’s sister Elena (Jordana Brewster) into both a business and romantic relationship.  (One that may not last too much longer in any case, since Elena may not know about her brother, but she knows Nicolas’s actions led to Pam’s suicide attempt.)

The main problem with the new Dallas is the same as it’s been since the series returned:  the young leads (Jesse Matcalfe as Christopher Ewing along with Henderson and now Di Pace on the male side, and Emma Bell along with Gonzalo and Brewster among the women) are all good-looking stiffs, none of them capable of filling Hagman’s boots, or even the more low-key footwear of Patrick Duffy, still assured as Bobby Ewing.  The group bounces from one bed to another, and from one scheme to another, and never makes any strong impression.  That leaves the heavy lifting to the senior citizens, and Gray had a strong episode tonight with her misleading flashbacks and extended drunk scene, but too often her Sue Ellen is left with little to do but stare disapprovingly at her son or some other character, depending on the demands of that week’s script.  Judith Light, although giving a performance so hammy that Carol Burnett in her heyday would have applauded it, at least seems to be having a ball as the evil ex-mother-in-law of Bobby’s wife Ann (Brenda Strong), and in one bright spot on the under 50 (to be charitable) side, it’s been interesting to watch AnnaLynne McCord play completely against her 90210 image as a tenacious single mother, but now her character seems to be fizzling out.   The stories have largely been repetitive roundelays of characters framing others as part of corporate takeovers, with a minimum of zing and no surprises at all.

Dallas‘s lack of compelling drama has shown in the ratings, which sank last spring to the 0.4-0.5 level in 18-49s (although with its extremely old audience, it does better with total viewers).  If the series can’t show some bounce over its remaining episodes this season, it’s hard to see TNT bringing it back; there’s precious little boom left in that aging dynamite.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."