|Dallas revolved around the exploits|
of Texas oil magnate J.R. Ewing
(played by Larry Hagman).
The dawn of the nighttime cliffhanger
In its hey day it was a cultural phenomenon that left its imprint on popular culture. The show hit prominence in its third season, with the first season-ending cliffhanger of its time – who shot J.R.?
It spawned a country music song, and curiosity that made Dallas the highest-rated show. In our little corner of the world, there was a Lethbridge Broncos game scheduled the Friday night the shooter would be revealed on TV. The hockey team said they would announce at the game who shot J.R.
Never say die
|Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) is run over|
by a car and killed, as his ex-wife Pamela
(Victoria Principal) comforts him.
|It turns out Bobby never died |
at all – it was all a dream. Come on!
Every primetime soap opera forever after – Dynasty, Knot’s Landing (itself a Dallas spinoff), Falcon Crest – emulated the season-ending cliffhanger. Dallas would even go down as having the most infamous of all cliffhangers. After an uneven year that saw the death of Bobby Ewing (played by Patrick Duffy), the season ended with Bobby appearing in the shower. The whole season had been a dream dreamt by Pamela Barnes Ewing. Lame, lame, lame.
Romeo and Juliet for the 1980s
|Romeo and Juliet for the 1980s, but|
they live, and die, and live again.
|Crockett and Tubbs never stood a|
chance on Friday nights against Dallas.
The 1985-86 season saw what analysts had described as a Friday night showdown as NBC slotted its up-and-coming hit Miami Vice against Dallas. Crockett and Tubbs had no success against J.R., Bobby, and company either, and NBC moved Miami Vice again.
|The original Ewing family before Dallas|
became a serialized drama. You could
actually watch an episode without
having seen the previous four or five.
What is interesting is the show did not start out as a soap opera per se. Back in the late 1990s, TNN re-broadcast the entire run of Dallas. The first season had every show rapped up, and quite efficient. Then it slowed to a glacial pace as it became more and more serialized.
|How many times did J.R. Ewing knock down|
Cliff Barnes, watch him get back up, and
knock him down? The show ran out of ideas.
Out of steam
Like all shows that run for a long time, it just ran out of ideas. How many times could Cliff Barnes get knocked down by J.R., get up, then get knocked down again. How much lower could J.R. sink. How many more cast members could leave either by attrition or death? Watching it beginning to end over a few months showed just how bad it actually became, totally bereft of ideas. You ask the average fan, and they could not tell you the names of Bobby and J.R.’s wives at the end of the show (it certainly was not Pam and Sue Ellen).
It had made such a mark during its run that when the series finale was set to air, it was during the Stanley Cup playoffs in Canada. The CBC had aired Dallas for its entire run, and announced it would pre-empt hockey – playoff hockey – to broadcast the series finale. Now that is some kind of power the show had.