August 9, 2012



The title of tonight’s season finale of DALLAS was “Revelations,” but really it had only one reveal worthy of a SPOILER ALERT, and even that one was increasingly guessable as the hour went on, for anyone attentive to the opening cast credits.

Yes, it turned out, implausibly but in keeping with the demands of the genre, that Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) wasn’t merely someone other than the seemingly innocent fiancee (now wife, although the marriage seems of dubious legality) of Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe) that we’d met in the first episode, not just the relatively benign con woman working with fake brother Tommy (Callard Harris) to take Christopher’s money but who then fell in love with him–no, all along she was the daughter of the dreaded Cliff Barnes (Ken Kerchival, whose role as the mastermind became obvious as the hour neared its end and he still hadn’t appeared), working with Dad to destroy the Ewings entirely.  Leave aside the fact that Kerchival is more likely to be Julie Gonzalo’s grandfather than father, and the extreme oddness that Rebecca had never even tried to contact him through all the plot turns of this season, it still leaves a fairly unpromising, repetitive storyline for next season:  whether Rebecca is working for herself, her brother or her dad, she’s still essentially a con artist who’s going to try to worm her way–again–back into Christopher’s affections.  (Also, as a cliffhanger it means much more to fans of the original series than the new one, since Cliff has barely been a character in this version so far.)

That’s been the problem with this reboot of Dallas, a set of plots and characters that are resolutely unthrilling.  In the finale, written by Co-Executive Producer Robert Rovner (from a story by Rovner and Executive Producer Cynthia Cidre), and directed by Steve Robin, we got another helping of the plastic love triangle between Christopher, his cousin John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Elena (Jordana Brewster), as Elena, not the sharpest drill on the oil rig, finally discovered that John Ross had been behind the scheme to take Southfork away from Christopher, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and Ann (Brenda Strong), and dumped John Ross for Christopher.  There was also a wildly anticlimactic resolution to the story of Bobby’s seeming stroke, which turned out to be a “medical miracle” that had him out of the hospital with no ill effects at all halfway through the episode.  And despite the fact that Ann’s ex Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi) was supposedly totally ruthless, he instantly backed down the instant he found out Ann was wearing a wire–even though no one was listening on the other end, and he could have just taken the tape recorder from her.  There just doesn’t seem to be any appetite in the show’s writers for the kind of wild, daring twists that have enlivened Revenge, Scandal and other recent soaps.

The show really only comes to life when JR (Larry Hagman, of course) is on screen, and while he continues to be terrific fun to watch, there are risks in resting a TV series on the shoulders of an 80-year old actor.  Whether for creative reasons or due to Hagman’s physical limitations, he was largely absent for the middle of the season, appearing in just a token scene or two in several episodes, and the series suffered as a result.  No other character or performer has his pungency or self-mocking humor, and since Hagman isn’t going to get any younger as the show goes on, that’s a problem.  The other original Dallas stars who regularly appear vary from decent enough (Duffy) to veritable waxworks (Linda Gray, Kerchival, Charlene Tilton), and the younger leads are far more CW-level attractive than they are substantial.

Dallas did well enough for TNT to earn a renewal, although it’s been more successful with older audiences than with the 18-49 demo (falling in recent weeks from a 0.9-1.0 level to 0.7-0.8, far below Falling Skies, and even slipping behind The Closer).  The show is scheduled to return in January, where even though some broadcast programming will initially be in post-holiday repeats, the level of scripted competition will be stronger than the series faced during the summer.  This new Dallas, so far, doesn’t seem likely to rise to the challenge.  It’s stodgy and tired–it needs someone like JR behind its own scenes to give the writers a kick where it counts.

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."