“Blood is thicker than water, and oil is thicker than both.” The premiere of TNTs Dallas laid it on thick this week and completely won this fan’s heart.
I feel I must forewarn you. I have been at Defcon-4 since the reboot was announced last year so TNT was going to have to work really hard to get a bad review out of me for this premiere. JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen could simply walk into the room and give each other knowing glances and I’d rate it 4 stars. If the show is terrible it will probably take me 3 or 4 episodes to realize it, so bear with me. I am not the most objective person in the world when it comes to nostalgia. My eyes are clouded with the soft, backlit, Vaseline covered haze of the 80s.
Dallas is one of the tent pole shows from the 80s that really define my youth and along with its spin off Knots Landing were the only shows we really watched together as a family each week. It is hard to separate the Ewings from the 80s. They were always around, mostly acting crazy and making questionable moral (and fashion) choices. Literally hundreds of characters rotated in and out of that white house, but at the core it was the story of embattled brothers JR and Bobby and their struggle for control of the family legacy that drove the story. Fast forward twenty-one years and the story is the same.
Admittedly, a large part of my giddy glee during the premiere was just being so damn happy to see that opening sequence in all it’s HD glory and having so many fond memories come flooding back. Thanks to the success of the original series Southfork Ranch remains virtually unchanged since the 80s. Some clever camera angles and some CGI pastures hid the visitor parking lots and the Dallas museum from view, and some remarkable set design that included a full-size replica of the interiors carefully matched to the familiar layout and updated with 21st century furnishings and fixtures. Never mind that the interiors don’t come anywhere close to matching the exterior of the home since a different location was used originally. We can forgive little things like that. But fantastic sets and nostalgic title sequences can only carry a show so far. It could have easily fallen apart as soon as anyone started speaking and I was prepared for the worst. But fifteen minutes in I felt a grin creep across my face and knew that all was right and good with the world. My Ewings were back and it was a GLORIOUS thing.
What I loved about the old show was how over the top and melodramatic it was and TNT has embraced the shit out of that heritage. Patrick Duffy, Larry Hagman and Linda Gray stepped effortlessly back into those roles and it was a joy to watch. I totally believed where their characters ended up 14 years after War of the Ewings. Bobby is still the moral compass and Sue Ellen is still a fierce bitch, albeit a sober one. And seeing JR sitting in the Home for Sad and Lonely Old People just made his reawakening at the end of the first hour that much more satisfying. Don’t poke the sleeping snake. It was also good to see Lucy (Charlene Tilton) and Ray (Steve Kanaly) at Christopher’s wedding and I hope they get some more screen time. And I really look forward to the return of Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval).
The basic premise of this new series is that Jr and Bobby lost Ewing Oil to rival Cliff Barnes. Bobby returned to Southfork to run the ranch and JR apparently lost his mind and wound up in a home. Now their sons, John Ross and Christopher are looking to put the Ewings back on top and have very different ideas about how to do so. Throw in a love triangle or two and some backstabbing and it’s game on at Southfork Ranch.
I was mostly impressed with the new batch of Ewings. Josh Henderson bugged me a little with his bad Texas accent and strutting around like an extra on Gunsmoke but by the end of the first hour I was totally ALL IN with his portrayal of John Ross. Of course JR’s son would be a nightmare of arrogance and betrayal at the age of 33. Anything else would have been disappointing. Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher made a nice contrast to his cocky cousin but it took me a while before I was able to shake his Desperate Housewives character from my head. Nice to see he is still fond of wandering around shirtless. Speaking of Desperate Housewives, it was nice to see Brenda Strong acting ON camera for a change as the new gun-toting matriarch of Southfork. As for the younger ladies I loved Jordana Brewster’s saucy cook’s daughter Elena Ramos. Julie Gonzalo as Christopher’s new wife Rebecca didn’t do much to win my heart but I’m willing to see how she plays out.
The two-hour premiere which included the episodes “Changing of the Guard” and “Hedging Your Bets” was full of great moments and some really great quotes. The one that really made me glow with happiness and nostalgia though was the big showdown at John Ross’s forbidden oil rig in the far reaches of the ranch. Hearing Bobby utter the phrase “I promised Mama there would be NO DRILLING ON SOUTHFORK” conjured images of Barbara Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie and took me right back to 1987 again. But then John Ross had the GALL to respond with this:
“Isn’t it about time we stopped caring about Miss Ellie’s precious wishes?”
I am not lying when I tell you that both myself and my partner said out loud “Oh no no no…that will not do.” John Ross had better watch his dirty little mouth or he might wake up to find Miss Ellie’s ghost standing at the foot of his bed with a shotgun and a disappointed look. Anyway, I didn’t need any further proof that I was completely invested in this new Dallas. JR’s comment later on that his son should “Never pass up a good chance to shut up” and his realization in the closing moments of episode two sealed the deal.
The Ewings are indeed back yall, like a stampede of longhorns. Everybody is scheming everybody and screwing everybody else and it is just getting started. The first mini-season is set to run ten episodes and I assume if it does well then it will return next summer. Catch it Wednesdays at 9pm on TNT. Not doing so would be downright unpatriotic.