January 29, 2013



DALLAS:  Monday 9PM on TNT

The most important fact about this second season of the revamped DALLAS is, of course, the sad event that occurred off-screen:  the death of Larry Hagman, the legendary J.R. Ewing.  Hagman apparently worked right up to the end, and in fact despite evident frailty, he was quite prominent in tonight’s 2-part Season 2 premiere, and proved to be, still, its greatest asset.  The question for the TNT series is how it will fare once he makes his final exit.

The premiere (first hour written by Executive Producers Cynthia Cidre and Robert L. Rovner and directed by Executive Producer Michael M. Robin; second hour written by Story Editor Aaron Allen and directed by Steve Robin) picked up shortly after the events of Season 1.  The battles that have always been fought among the Ewings have shifted down to the next generation, as Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), son of Bobby (Patrick Duffy), and John Ross (Josh Henderson), son of JR, occasionally join forces against a common enemy, but are more often at each other’s throats.  They’ve become partners in Ewing Energy, with John Ross as the oil guy and Christopher as the advocate of clean methane fuel.  And, of course, they battle about women, with their particular mutual love being Elena (Jordana Brewster), who had been Christopher’s fiance before the series began, was with John Ross through most of Season 1, and then went back to Christopher.  Christopher, though, had the more spectacularly bad record with the opposite sex, as the Season 1 big finale reveal was that the woman he knew as Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), and whom he had married in the belief that, while a liar, she was merely a petty con artist, was in fact the daughter of the dreaded Cliff Barnes, arch-enemy of the Ewings, and out to destroy them all.

The second season, naturally enough, is starting off by concentrating on the implications of this revelation.  “Rebecca,” whose actual name is Pamela Rebecca Barnes, schemed to have her marriage to Christopher declared valid, so that he could only divorce her (giving her a share of Ewing Energy in the property settlement) and not get an annulment.  This required John Ross to help Pamela turn the testimony of the real Rebecca (Alex McKenna), which they did with a lot of money–but Real Rebecca didn’t know (until the end of the episode) that Fake Rebecca/Pamela may have killed Tommy, Real Rebecca’s real brother.  John Ross has meanwhile partnered up with Pamela in all possible ways, although his eyes are still on Elena.

The new Dallas is on its firmest ground with that plot, which regularly features Duffy and Hagman barking at each other on their sons’ behalf, just like the old days.  Other plots are weaker, like Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and her struggle to stay off the bottle and out of jail after the revelation of last season’s bribe causes her to lose her race for Governor of Texas.  The new season apparently plans to build up the role of Bobby’s wife Ann (Brenda Strong), with her evil ex-husband Harris (Mitch Pileggi) and long-lost daughter Emma (Emma Bell) added as new regulars, in a plot about Emma having been kept from Ann since she was 18 months old that doesn’t seem too gripping as of yet.

This Dallas is a reasonably engrossing soap in its very old-fashioned, unambitious way, but its weakness is that no one in it is nearly as interesting as JR, which is to say as Hagman.  Henderson is a bland anti-hero by comparison, and Metcalfe is even less distinctive.  At first glance, Gonzalo looks to be far less well-cast as a duplicitous schemer than she was as the “good girl” last year, while every script tries unsuccessfully to convince us that Elena, as played by Brewster, is a brilliant businesswoman.

After a huge start, ratings for Dallas settled to a decent but not overwhelming level last season (far stronger with older audiences than with 18-49s), and this season should hold well, as it’s been well-publicized that the season is leading up to JR’s death and funeral.  After that major event, TNT will find out how much interest there is in a JR-less Dallas.

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."