Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 5

“I’m gonna make this right. And I’m taking you down – brother.” – Bobby Ewing

DallasCowboys

Previously, on Dallas: Last week, the double dealing reached fever pitch as final moves were made in the game to get Southfork.

  • The deal to sell the ranch to the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ went through, and Bobby had a farewell barbecue
  • Bobby’s treacherous lawyer Lobell was prevented from blowing the deal with a nifty bit of blackmail, as ‘Marta’ entrapped his beloved son into some druggy looking photos
  • JR succeeded in shafting his own son, by using Marta and Lobell to remove John Ross’ name from the newly minted Southfork deeds, leaving him as sole owner
  • John Ross spent his week blackmailing Rebecca with his knowledge that the fateful email which averted Christopher’s marriage to Elena came from her IP address
  • Calling his bluff, Rebecca took Christopher aside at the barbecue to tell him everything…

This week opened with a splurge of revelations that pretty much blew open every double-dealing plotline in the show so far. Rebecca did indeed reveal that the email had been sent from her computer, and that it had been sent by her shifty, stubbly brother Tommy, who’s now wormed his way into the Ewings’ affections, as the opening move in a scheme to set her up as Christopher’s wife, gaining… something. Chris and Bobby think it’s money, but we know it’s actually the frozen methane plans (whatever they might be).

Afflicted with a conscience that must be a severe hindrance to her chosen occupation as con artist, Rebecca thinks that confessing all to Christopher because she loves him will get her off the hook. Fat chance – Christopher may be nice, but he’s still a hot-blooded Ewing man. Pausing only to slug Tommy in the face in front of the whole party, he got on with packing Rebecca’s things and telling her to “make sure I never see you again”.

A bit of a blow, to be sure, but a mere trifle compared with the next scene’s revelation to Bobby (handily delivered by the US mail in a sealed envelope) that the new owner of Southfork is none other than JR Ewing, and not some nice Conservancy after all. Bobby hit the roof (as much as a nice guy can), and Patrick Duffy got an electric confrontation scene with a smirking Larry Hagman. Inventing some guff that he had to buy Southfork to keep it out of Cliff Barnes’ hands, he told Bobby, “I’m taking back what should have been mine in the first place”.

Understandably not convinced, Bobby vowed to undo the deed. With everything now in the open, battle lines have again been drawn between the feuding Ewing brothers, just as they always were in the original series.

Lobell, knowing his plotline’s over at this point, had the good grace to clear out his office and bugger off, so Bobby found a more trustworthy-looking lawyer to explain (at some length) the rules of the plot to come. It seems that JR’s ownership is legitimate even if the original sale was fraudulent, as the subsequent sale to him wasn’t – unless he knew about the initial fraud himself. All clear?

So Bobby and the ‘nice’ Ewings must now find a way to prove that JR was in on it from the start. Shouldn’t be too difficult; I predict it taking another five episodes or so. Christopher and Ann have made a start by promising to undertake the kind of dodgy dealing that Bobby would never stoop to. She was straight off to see her ex, conveniently the owner of the trucking firm JR’s employed to move the oil, and ask him to stop the trucks; while Christopher went straight to the breaking and entering of John Ross’ office.

John Ross, meanwhile, also found out that he’d been done over by his own father, and wasn’t very happy about it. Not only had he had his name removed from the Southfork deeds, his father has also screwed up his sex life by telling the increasingly loopy ‘Marta’ about his dalliances with Elena. Cue Marta looking psychotically annoyed as the camera jump cut to ever closer shots of her deranged stare.

But it looks like JR’s doing it for John Ross’ own good, like a sort of malign Obi Wan Kenobi. “You wanted to learn about the oil business,” he sneered at his son while watching the Dallas Cowboys. He then announced that, his plans accomplished, he was heading off to… somewhere. And leaving John Ross in charge, to get that oil drilled. Before he went though, there was a symbolic passing of the Stetson from father to son – or old baddie to new baddie. But JR’s still the best thing about this show, so wherever he’s gone, let’s hope he’s back soon.

Family matters

Nothing new on the Ewing front, but we discovered that Bobby’s saintly wife Ann may have a bit of a dark past. She hinted as much to Rebecca, this being the reason why she’s prepared to give Miss ConArtist 2012 another chance. I’m guessing Ann’s dark past has something to do with her slimy ex-husband Harris Ryland, who owns what seems to be the only trucking firm in Dallas. She seemed creepily willing to accede to his every demand in a 50 Shades of Grey-like submissive style, so who knows what they used to get up to behind closed doors?

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Actually, at this point, pretty much nobody. Everyone’s cards are on the table now, and they all know where they stand. That can’t last though, or it wouldn’t be Dallas. Expect a new round of double-dealing to commence next week.

Hey look, it’s that guy from that thing:

A few guest stars this week might have rung bells. Bobby’s earnest, exposition-spewing new lawyer is played by Glenn Morshower, a prolific player of solid, dependable authority figures. You might remember him from such TV shows as every season of 24, where he played Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce, one of the only characters in that show who never betrayed anyone to anyone else:

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Ann’s unspeakably creepy ex-husband Harris Ryland is played by well-known follically challenged genre stalwart Mitch Pileggi. Pileggi’s played quite a few baddies in the past, but for most of us he’ll forever be stern-but-fair FBI boss Walter Skinner from The X Files:

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And not strictly an actor (as his performance here amply demonstrated), but a well-known sports figure popped up to hobnob with JR – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:

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This week’s big cliffhanger:

Only one this week, a change from recent episodes. Having obtained Marta’s sex tape from John Ross’ office, in which John Ross calls her by her real name, Christopher now has proof that JR’s son at least was in on the fraud. But that’s not enough to take Southfork back from JR – they have to prove that the slimy old reprobate knew about it himself. So Christopher confronted John Ross with the evidence (which must have been sort of creepy, knowing your cousin’s been watching you have sex with a psycho), and gave him an ultimatum – either testify to his father’s involvement in the fraud, or go to jail for it himself. Where I’m guessing he’d be quite popular, with his pretty face and hot body…

After last week’s fairly sedate episode, it was good to see the show back on rip-roaring form in a packed episode as all the secrets came out and finally everyone can be as nasty as they want to be. Now that Bobby, Christopher and Ann are on the defensive, it looks like the battle for Southfork will be truly joined as of next week. But I’m guessing JR has more than a few cards up his sleeve still…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 4

“Now that John Ross has got Bobby to sign over the ranch to the Del Sol Conservancy, I think it’s time for me to claim my birthright.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: As the massively complex Ewing world of double dealing continued, last week we learned that:

  • JR joined John Ross in the double crossing deal to buy Southfork and drill for oil on it
  • He also met the real buyers pretending to be the Del Sol Conservancy – the sinister ‘Venezuelans’ and their sneering, black-clad leader Vicente
  • JR’s old nemesis Cliff Barnes has turned up looking mummified, and is also after Southfork
  • Troublesome lawyer Lobell has a shiftless son who JR and John Ross can use as leverage
  • Christopher still has feelings for Elena, which doesn’t seem to bother his treacherous con artist wife Rebecca
  • Rebecca’s conscience won’t let her steal Christopher’s ‘frozen methane’ process
  • Bobby agreed to sell Southfork to the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ rather than see Miss Ellie’s guilty secrets come up in court
  • And John Ross discovered that the email which split up Christopher and Elena had been sent by none other than his wife Rebecca.

This week, we saw more intrigue and subterfuge, in a curiously muted episode where not a whole lot seemed to happen. John Ross spent most of his time trying to set up Lobell’s son with incriminating pictures, while JR plotted and schemed (as ever) to get the upper hand on his own son. Christopher and Bobby had a heart to heart chat while Bobby had his hand up a cow; and Rebecca and Elena were having trouble deciding where their loyalties lay.

With Southfork now sold, Bobby should have been packing and arranging for the final barbecue (Southfork has always thrived on barbecues and parties, where all the surreptitious sex and blackmail tends to happen). But Ann is left to do the packing, as Bobby needs to spend most of the episode engaging in some massively unsubtle visual metaphors while he and Christopher have some father/son quality time.

After being seen quite literally mending fences together (imaginative), the two ‘nice’ Ewings then spent most of the episode dealing with a troublesome calf birth. It was at this point that Christopher chose to confide in his father that, after finding out about the email (which he still thinks was sent by John Ross), he still has feelings for his former fiancee Elena. “The choice is yours,” Bobby tells him earnestly, “but you gotta make one”. It’s hard to deliver heartfelt dialogue with your arm up a cow, but all credit to Patrick Duffy for pulling that off.

The cow metaphor became clear eventually, as only the calf could be saved, and had to be hived off to a “new mother”. Leading to a discussion about Christopher’s adopted status, just in case you hadn’t got the sledgehammer obviousness of what that represented.

Family matters

The fate of Bobby’s first wife (and Cliff’s sister) Pam remains mysterious. “”When Ann and I got married,” Bobby remarks, “she was pretty insecure about your mother.” Why? Just what did happen to Pam? I suspect the door is being left open here for Victoria Principal to return to the show, but she hasn’t agreed to it yet. In the meantime, she’s Schrodinger’s Ewing, neither alive nor dead until contracts are signed.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Having let Rebecca know that he knows that sent the marriage-ending email, John Ross has a go at getting her to set up the son of Bobby’s treacherous lawyer, Lobell. Lobell’s son Rick, who he’d apparently do anything for, is an ex-druggie with two criminal convictions – and the state of Texas is pretty firm on the “three strikes and you’re out” rule introduced by good ol’ country boy Bill Clinton.

So Rebecca is duly dispatched to set up the now recovering addict in a drug sting. Unfortunately for her, Rick now runs a rehab group and is a nice guy, so that troublesome conscience of hers won’t let her go through with it. She must be a really rubbish con artist.

Fortunately ‘Marta Del Sol’ (who we now know is called Veronica) doesn’t mind at all, and stitches Rick up good and proper, with pictures of him naked and snorting coke. As an aside, I have to say that, initially, I had trouble telling the younger women of the show apart – each is tall, glamorous and brunette. I thought it was just me, but a friend of mine told me last weekend that she had exactly the same problem. I guess that’s the problem with casting similar types of artificially perfect actors in a show. At least John Ross has that scratty beard to distinguish him from Christopher…

Be that as it may, JR has unearthed quite a bit about ‘Marta’, using his own private investigator, the curiously named ‘Bum’. Bum has discovered that Marta/Veronica is actually a bit of a loony in a Fatal Attraction-stylee, which could be bad news for John Ross, to whom she’s developed an unhealthy attachment. “I thought we had a date,” she purrs menacingly to him, before dragging him down for some late night shopping at Neiman Marcus.

JR and Sue Ellen are maintaining an uneasy peace, which isn’t helped by another appearance from the duplicitous and calcified Cliff. Apparently he wants to fund her bid for Texas governor. Knowing how US politicians are bought and paid for by corporate interests, this can’t be a good thing, and yet only JR seems to see this. You’d think Sue Ellen would have learned something about corruption in all those years of being married to him.

Elena, meanwhile is torn not just between Christopher and John Ross, but also between their energy systems. It’s not many women who can say they’re cheating on methane with oil.

Faces from the past

RayLucy

Another brief visit this week from Lucy and Ray Krebbs, played as ever by Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly. Better preserved than Cliff, they seem to have no function in the show other than to show up occasionally to remind you that they used to be in it.

Hey look, it’s that guy from that thing:

Only one notable guest star this week (well, semi-notable). Rick Lobell is played by Jason London, formerly a teen heart throb in movies like Richard Linklater’s indie classic Dazed and Confused:

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Jason London, now and in 1993

This week’s big cliffhanger:

Cliffhangers seem to travel in pairs in the new Dallas, and this week was no exception. Firstly, JR confronted Lobell with his son-based blackmail photos, demanding not only that the lawyer stop asking for more money, but also that the Southfork deeds, formerly split 50/50 between John Ross and himself, be signed over to JR alone. As expected, he’s already doing the dirty on his own son. Well, the boy’s gotta learn somehow…

Unaware that his own dad is shafting him, John Ross has gone to the Southfork farewell barbecue, ostensibly to reveal Rebecca’s treachery as payback for her failing to go through with setting up Lobell Jr. Unable to pacify that troublesome conscience of hers, Rebecca drags Christopher aside. “I’ve got something to tell you,” she gasps as the screen fades to black. Is she about to confess to everything? Since the plotline looks to have a way to go yet, I rather doubt that…

That may sound like a lot of plot to pack in to on episode, but by Dallas standards this week felt positively sedate. What with Bobby spending half his time with his arm up a cow, and the endless attempts to persuade Rick Lobell to do drugs on camera, it was a pretty slow episode. But then, there’s still six to go, and I doubt it’ll meander for too long.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 3

“I spent most of your childhood chasing women I didn’t love and making deals that didn’t matter. I will get Southfork back – so you don’t have to pay for my sins.” – JR to John Ross

DallasChrisRebecca

Previously, on Dallas: Having laid out the complex stall of setups in the first week, last week we learned that:

  • JR isn’t ‘depressed’ at all, but embroiled in yet another fiendish plan to obtain Southfork
  • Christopher’s wife Rebecca is engaged in some two year long con trick that involves marrying him, but is ‘going native’
  • Bobby’s lawyer is covering up for JR’s plan to buy Southfork via the Del Sol Conservancy, but also covering up from JR the fact of John Ross’ triple cross to sell it to somebody else
  • Elena is mighty pissed that her impending marriage to Christopher two years ago was aborted by a mysterious email she thinks John Ross sent, so she’s dumped him
  • John Ross’ partner in crime ‘Marta Del Sol’ (for it is not she) likes to film him having sex with her, for reasons as yet unknown
  • John Ross, not too happy at being blamed for the marriage-killing email, hired a private detective to find out who really sent it
  • JR, having flown to Mexico to see ‘Marta’s father, learned that she wasn’t Marta at all, and that his son’s sale of Southfork wasn’t to Del Sol at all either

All clear on that? Cool. This week, the subterfuge, backstabbing and OTT dialogue intensified as JR weaselled his way back in to the family home, plans were made by some characters to shaft other characters, and an old face put in a surprise appearance.

As predicted, JR was really not happy learning that his own son was double crossing him, and chose to warn him about the lack of wisdom in this course by giving him a shave. With a deadly sharp straight razor, naturally, held at John Ross’ throat when he least suspected it. This being JR, you half expected him to be fine with slitting his own son’s throat; but that’s not the JR style. Besides, it looks like he’s halfway proud of his son for being a chip off the old block. He had a warning for him though, based on his own experience of father-son relationships: “I loved my daddy, and I respected my daddy. But most of all, I feared my daddy.”

Thus chastised, John Ross entered into an unwilling alliance with his snake of a father. Somehow I can’t see either of them being loyal to the other though – it’s the Ewing way. Nevertheless, John Ross is now taking “daddy” into his confidence – some of the way at least. So he introduces JR to the real Southfork buyers – the sinister and stereotypically Latino ‘Venezuelans’. Ostensibly oil profiteers, they behave more like a drug cartel from an action movie, with their sneering, black-clad leader Vicente Cano equipped with the requisite facial hair that indicates a Dallas character is a wrong ‘un.

Vicente tries making threats to JR, but that ain’t gonna fly – JR’s been doing this for a whole hell of a lot longer. “If the oil were to stop flowing,” Vicente purred menacingly, “that would be… unacceptable.” At which point he and JR had a “menacing stare” contest, which JR plainly won, saying “my friends are in the state house. My enemies are harder to find”.

This week’s face from the past

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Actually, he’s wrong about that. Having bribed his doctor to persuade Bobby that the ‘unwell’ JR needs to move back into Southfork for the benefit of his health, the old devil was somewhat surprised to find his oldest enemy waiting right there for him, having a leisurely chat with Bobby. Yep, Cliff Barnes is back, played as ever by the redoubtable Ken Kercheval!

“Time has not been kind to that face,” smirked JR (accurately, as it happens) “But I do recall the smell of brimstone and crazy.” Yes, if anything, the return of Cliff means that the already cheesy level of dialogue can be turned up to 11.

Family matters

The new show establishes Cliff as JR’s old archenemy with admirable economy, but in case you’re confused, this is their relationship:

Cliff’s family were archenemies of the Ewings in the oil business – until his sister Pam married Bobby Ewing. Cliff himself had at least two flings with JR’s wife Sue Ellen (she may have been drunk at the time), and has at various times wanted/managed to obtain Southfork and/or Ewing Oil. Looks like he’s up to his old tricks, as he’s popped up to buy the ranch from Bobby – but Bobby won’t sell.

More family background is provided in other meetings, including tantalising hints as to the fate of Pam Ewing (nee Barnes). Discussing Christopher’s past with Rebecca, Elena revealed that “Pam just… disappeared”. Perhaps she’ll wake up in a shower at some point. Or perhaps not – summoning his adoptive nephew Christopher for a chat, Cliff urged him, “don’t let them destroy you like they did Pam.” Perhaps she’s now chained up in Southfork’s attic.

On the subject of family, it’s worth mentioning that, while Christopher gained the Ewing name via adoption, he really is family. In the classic series (if you can call it that), his mother was Sue Ellen’s sister Kristin Shepard, who later went on to shoot JR (the first time, anyway), then died. So biologically at least, he and John Ross really are cousins. Confused? Try not to worry about it.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Bobby’s shifty lawyer Lobell, with his surprisingly tiny office, can no longer blackmail John Ross to keep his secret from JR, since that’s out now. But he can still threaten to reveal to Bobby that the ‘Del Sol Conservancy’ aren’t buying Southfork at all, and have both JR and John Ross in court on fraud charges. So now he wants $5 million, up from last week’s $2 million. It’s hard not to picture him ultimately turning into Dr Evil, finger to his mouth as he demands, “one billion dollars!”

Clearly Iago and son (JR and John Ross, obviously) need to get shot of him, and JR knows how. Lobell has a shiftless son that he dotes on, who several years ago got off a hit and run charge because the only witness couldn’t be found. So once again John Ross turns to his philosophically-minded private investigator to track said witness down.

Back at the ranch, Tommy is getting impatient for Rebecca to steal Christopher’s methane hydrate secrets (for what that’s worth, since the whole thing seems to be scientific bunkum). So he gives her one of those magic USB sticks from 24 and Spooks that can download the entire contents of a laptop within the amount of seconds guaranteed to generate maximum onscreen tension.

Trouble is, she’s obviously having second thoughts, moved by her love for the virile Christopher – even when presented with a picture of him kissing his ex Elena in the stressful moment of learning about Bobby’s cancer. All it takes is one apology from Christopher, and Rebecca’s back in his arms, while the USB stick’s in the bin. Either he’s one hell of a lover, or she’s one hell of a pushover…

Hey, it’s that guy from that thing!

Aside from the return of Ken Kercheval, this week saw a bit of a 24 reunion. Vicente, lip-curling leader of ‘the Venezuelans’ is none other than Carlos Bernard, previously best known as CTU’s Tony Almeida:

DallasVicente (2)

While Cliff Barnes, ever the good judge of character, has hired one of that show’s bad guys from 2005 (Faran Tahir) to be his PA, Frank Ashkani:

DallasFrank

I’m guessing he does more than just take the minutes for Cliff’s meetings.

This week’s big cliffhanger

JR has given Miss Ellie’s diary to John Ross (while pretending to be outraged that he has it), giving John Ross the ammunition to discredit her will; seems she went a bit loopy when Jock died,and spent a while in an institution. Bobby, appalled at the thought of this being heard in court, caved like wet paper for the first time this year. So now he’s selling after all – and the deal with ‘the Venezuelans’ is back on…

But that’s not all – John Ross’ PI may have turned up sweet FA on the witness to Lobell’s son’s hit and run, but he has found out who sent the email that wrecked Christopher’s nuptials. John Ross is more than a little surprised to discover that it was none other than Rebecca!

Just another week with the Ewings then – backstabbing, betrayal, dodgy deals and people standing around looking statuesque. Less action than previously, but the return of Cliff Barnes more than makes up for it – just what the heck is he up to?

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 2

“It’s better to be old than to be the devil.” – Mexican proverb (allegedly)

DallasJRJohnRoss

Previously, on Dallas: In the space of one episode last week, we had an insane amount of plot dumped in our lap (so, business as usual for the Ewings, then). We learned that:

  • Bobby is dying of cancer (sob), which nobody knows except his wife Ann
  • JR is in a care home, suffering from depression (as if)
  • JR’s son John Ross has discovered loads of oil under Southfork, but isn’t allowed to drill there under the terms of Miss Ellie’s will, enforced by Bobby
  • Bobby’s (adopted) son Christopher has a new green energy process using frozen methane (or something), which unfortunately causes earthquakes
  • Christopher has married Rebecca, but only because his former fiancee Elena jilted him
  • Rebecca has a shady brother, and looks distinctly dodgy herself
  • Elena is now going out with John Ross and working with him on the oil drilling
  • Elena never turned up at Christopher’s wedding because of an email purportedly from him calling it off, which he’d never heard about till now, but may have been sent by John Ross to split them up so he could get her
  • Bobby is going to sell Southfork to fund Christopher’s methane thingy (and also to keep it out of John Ross’ drill-happy hands)
  • Marta Del Sol, the lady from the conservation concern he’s selling it to is actually a shill for JR, who’s not very ill after all, and wants Southfork for himself (as usual)
  • But she’s also sleeping with John Ross, and presumably going to betray JR for him…

That’s a lot to pack into a standard length opening episode, and thankfully the second week slows the pace a bit. But not much. There’s still intrigue, sex and Stetsons aplenty, with yet more schemes within schemes revealed by people telling each other things they must logically already know, for our benefit.

“Are you telling me that the only reason we’re together is because someone sent you an email pretending to be Christopher breaking up with you?” John Ross asks Elena, presumably rhetorically as this is exactly what she’s just told him, remembering to be a Ewing bad boy with the parting shot, “screw you, lady!” We are thus reminded of what’s going on in this subplot, and also that John Ross has a hell of a (handsome) poker face. Either that, or he’s not a terribly good actor.

Elsewhere, it looks like both JR’s and John Ross’ cunning plans have hit an early snag, as they’ve both unwisely chosen to bribe the same lawyer to keep Bobby ignorant of what’s going on, and in John Ross’ case to keep JR ignorant that his shill is really John Ross’ shill. Sounds complicated (and it is), so it’s spelled out in an astonishing torrent of exposition from said lawyer the moment John Ross walks into his surprisingly small office. Pausing only to raise his price to $2 million, he pours John Ross an expensive whisky which John Ross doesn’t drink (this happens a lot in Dallas), because he then walks out.

Bobby now knows what we know, that his wife knows what he knows about the cancer. A quick visit to the Ewing love tree ensues, in which generations of Ewing couples have carved their names (but without little hearts, because that would be tasteless). Nice to see “Jock and Ellie” in there, though a little surprising that Bobby’s carving has him paired with Ann rather than Pam. Perhaps he sanded Pam’s name off to carve Ann’s.

Christopher still doesn’t know what Bobby knows, Ann knows and we know that they both know about Bobby’s illness, but he’s worried about the Southfork-selling plan, so decides not to go on honeymoon. Suits Rebecca, whose shifty brother Tommy has been offered a job on the ranch by the credulous Ann. He’ll stand out a bit, as the only Caucasian working there. But now they’re both entrenched. “Don’t get too comfortable being Mrs Ewing,” Tommy sneers, before informing her that they’ve been working on this plan for two years, which I’m guessing she already knew. Who are they? And how does Tommy maintain the exact same length of sinister stubble from week to week?

Christopher and John Ross got a nice scene together at the bar they used to frequent when both were younger (and different actors). The scene cemented their status as the new Bobby and JR, truly their fathers’ sons (even if Christopher is adopted). “We ain’t family,” snarls John Ross, his face contorting in what I’m guessing is meant to be anger. “I’m a Ewing. Everything I am, everything I’d die for, has the Ewing name on it.” To which Christopher replies, “give me a break”, thus echoing the sentiments of the viewer.

In any other show, this sort of clumsy, overheated drama would be difficult to forgive, but in Dallas it’s a vital part of the show’s flavour. It has to be cheesy, glossy and over the top – that’s why we loved it the first time around. And it’s not disappointing in any of those regards now, either.

Thankfully out of his sick bed, JR got lots more to do this week, and Larry Hagman was chewing the scenery all over the place. The dramatic centrepiece was the prestigious Cattle Barons’ Ball, (a real thing which raises money for the American Cancer Society). Given Bobby’s illness in the show and Hagman’s in reality, there was an unexpected note of pathos as JR paused for photos in front of the Society’s logo. But it didn’t last long as the old devil floated through the sea of Stetsons for some much deserved face time with the rest of the old cast.

Pretending to be more infirm than he actually was, JR still managed to lay some threats on Bobby’s duplicitous lawyer (who’s actually working for John Ross, unbeknown to JR, who thinks he’s working for him while Bobby thinks he’s working for him). But it’s his scenes with Bobby and Sue Ellen that stand out, as he makes a convincing job of being a (very hammy) reformed character.

“I’m not gonna forget what you done for me, Bobby,” he told his brother, which Bobby amusingly took at face value. Employing his usual technique of calling every woman he meets “darlin”, he eventually worked his way over to the long-awaited meeting with his ex-wife, only to surprise her by telling her, “you won, honey. And I couldn’t be happier.” It was terrific to see Hagman and Linda Gray together again, and they still have the old chemistry. But is JR really reformed? I’ll believe that when I see it.

Marta Del Sol was at the Ball too, and a desperate John Ross tried to seduce her in order to lay his hands on the money to pay off the lawyer. Marta didn’t seem very happy about this. “Do you remember last time we were lovers John Ross?” she purred menacingly, drugging his drink with a Rohypnol-type thing. “It was an amazing experience.” I’m sure it was, he’s pretty hot. But why drug him when he wanted sex anyway? Unless it was to keep him from spotting the large camera filming them from the ceiling, with a very conspicuous red light flashing on and off.

So, is Marta just into a bit of home video fun, or is John Ross not her first priority after all? Cause that looks like top blackmail material right there. Either way, I was quite happy to see Josh Henderson get his kit off, though slightly baffled as to why he woke up tied up, but still hadn’t taken his boxers off. Ah well, there’s a limit to how far you can go in prime time, I guess.

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But JR was getting suspicious at the delayed call from her father, so he popped down to Mexico to see him. I guess he can afford the flight. Then he met the real Marta, who was very different from the woman he already knows – she’s blonde, for a start. So the cat’s out of the bag for John Ross. But if Marta’s not really working for him or JR, who is she really working for?

It was good to see the intrigue, betrayal and gratuitous rumpy-pumpy continue in the same vein as last week, even if this week was slightly less frantic and OTT. Pretty though the new boys are, though, it’s still Hagman and Duffy who rule the drama here, with able help from Linda Gray. Nonetheless, the new rivalry is coming to the boil nicely, along with the usual overcomplex duplicity. It’s as hard as ever to keep track of who’s betraying who to whom and why. One thing’s for sure – I predict JR is not going to be happy with his son next week. And an angry JR is not to be messed with, so John Ross better look out…

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 1

“Dallas is like every American soap opera you’ve ever seen, all rolled into one and given an unlimited charge account at Neiman-Marcus.” – Clive James, The Observer, 1979

DallasSouthfork

It seems so obvious, it’s amazing it hasn’t happened earlier. Dallas, that most beloved of 1980s guilty viewing pleasures, has been properly revived as an ongoing series, and it’s back on UK screens tonight. But can it match the mad excesses of its original incarnation – the sex, the backstabbing, the stetsons, the vast amounts of money?

Back in the day of the original Dallas, it was an absolute phenomenon. Nobody had seen anything like it, least of all in the UK, where our idea of a soap opera was the dour Northerners of Coronation Street or the wobbly sets and forgotten lines of Crossroads. Suddenly, the British viewer was thrust into an alien world of greedy, amoral oil tycoons and their ultra-glamorous wives, where sex was every bit as much a currency as money, and ‘family’ meant ‘feud’.

Said family being, of course, the immortal Ewings, who had such enemies as Cliff Barnes, but spent more time fighting among each other as to who owned what large amount of money/oil well/wife. Ewing monarchs Jock and Miss Ellie watched uncomprehendingly over their bickering offspring, most notable of whom was goody-goody Bobby (Patrick Duffy), and that most loved of pantomime villains, JR. Initially just one of an ensemble, Larry Hagman’s deliciously evil tycoon ended up being the star of the show. When he was shot, at the climax of the third season in 1980, it made the national news.

It seemed like pretty much everyone in the UK watched Dallas, from the highbrow to the lowbrow. Terry Wogan would recap events sarcastically on his morning Radio 2 show, coining such epithets as “the poison dwarf” (for the diminutive Lucy Ewing), while Clive James regularly chimed in from his cerebral Observer column to guiltily admit that he couldn’t live without his weekly fix of Ewing action.

But such popularity rarely lasts, and Dallas was finally wound up in 1991. Its final episode was a surfeit of surreal plot excess, as an ‘angel’ turned up to show JR how the Ewings might have lived if he’d never been born. In a devilish inversion of It’s a Wonderful Life, they were of course a lot happier. At which point the ‘angel’ revealed himself to be quite the opposite, and urged JR to reach for what Clive James always referred to as his “gern”. We heard the gern go off, and that was it for the Ewings.

Twenty years and a couple of TV movies later, they’re back, and just as bonkers as ever. The old, unstoppably catchy theme tune is there in all its timelessly cheesy glory as the camera once again pans over Southfork ranch with yellow credits superimposed over it. The only shock is the absence of those split screen triptych shots of the stars freeze-framing at a moment of action/glamour/sex.

It’s hard enough to remember the conclusion of the labyrinthine plots in the series, not to mention the TV movies, so here’s a brief guide to the plot.

Southfork is now owned by Bobby Ewing, as nice a guy as ever (so he’ll almost certainly finish last). No mention is made of his wife Pam, but I seem to recall she had a terminal illness when the show wound up, so she’s presumably dead. Unless that turned out to be a dream, of course. Bobby is now married to Ann, a previously unseen friend of Sue Ellen’s. Of all the original cast, Patrick Duffy seems to have aged most gracefully; he still retains those boyish features, even as the new Ewing patriarch. But as we learn even before the credits, Bobby has a Deadly Secret – he’s been diagnosed with cancer. Can he survive long enough to fight off his brother one more time?

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Perhaps he won’t need to. JR is semi-catatonic with depression in a nursing home; having failed to commit suicide, perhaps even he couldn’t live with the knowledge of what a dastard he is. But is he faking it? Larry Hagman seems not so much to have aged as dried out; he’s way thinner than he used to be (in real life he has been diagnosed with cancer after a life of epic excess). But those devilish horned eyebrows are still there, even if they’re white now.

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Sue Ellen, meanwhile, has cleaned up from the demon drink, and is in the process of running for Governor of Texas. Probably sensibly, the script doesn’t tell us which party she’s running for, but the Ewings are ultra-rich elites with a giant corporation; let’s face it, she’s a Republican. Linda Gray manages to look every bit as glamorous as she ever did despite now being in her 70s, though some of the facial glamour is strangely immobile…

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The plot proper has to do with the next generation of Ewings, cannily set at loggerheads in the manner of their parents. “I don’t want them to be like us,” Bobby earnestly says to the immobile JR. Hmm, good luck with that. JR’s son John Ross Ewing (the hunky Josh Henderson) has struck oil in the hallowed grounds of Southfork itself. If he sets up a rig, it’ll restore the Ewing fortunes in no time. Trouble is, the late Miss Ellie, a moral guardian even from beyond the grave, specified in her will that the grounds of Southfork were to remain inviolate, and the ever-respectful Bobby intends to honour that. Looks like there’s trouble a-brewing!

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John Ross Ewing – so evil he’s wearing the Master’s old beard.

Also opposing John Ross is Bobby’s (adopted) son Christopher (the hunky Jesse Metcalfe). Christopher’s keen on green energy, and has some kind of new process by which he can power the world with frozen methane (or something). So he’s not keen on John Ross digging for oil anywhere, least of all the ol’ family homestead. But he has a Deadly Secret of his own – his frozen methane drilling unfortunately causes earthquakes (somehow). And John Ross suspects…

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Christopher Ewing. He suspects nothing, the poor sap.

Complicating matters even further (this is Dallas, after all), is the fact that John Ross is going out with the beautiful and glamorous Elena, daughter of the Ewing housekeeper and also (shock) Christopher’s former fiancee who jilted him at the altar. Christopher, meanwhile, is now engaged to the beautiful and glamorous Rebecca – but Rebecca isn’t who she seems to be. There’s something a little fishy about her recently arrived brother, whose unshaven face immediately brands him as a man Not To Be Trusted.

In classic Dallas style, all this is revealed in a series of exchanges that take place at parties, round the dinner table, and in the process of sexual congress. Old hands Lucy and Ray Krebbs pop up for a brief cameo at Christopher’s wedding bash, but don’t really do much. With the welter of plots already fomenting, there probably wasn’t much room for them.

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You’d think a wedding where the bridegroom’s former fiancee who jilted him turned up as his cousin’s girlfriend would be awkward. And you’d be right. Only halfway through the first episode, and there’s Ewing fisticuffs already, especially over rascally-bearded John Ross’ plan to drill for oil on Miss Ellie’s beloved Southfork.

Trouble is, if Bobby dies, John Ross might get to do just that. So Bobby comes up with a plan – he’ll sell Southfork to a conservation concern, the Del Sol conservancy. This mystifies everyone, as he hasn’t told them he’s ill (do try and keep up). The beautiful and glamorous (that’s the third one this week) Marta Del Sol arrives to check out the ranch, so Bobby can sign over the deeds as quickly as possible.Unknown to Bobby, his wife has discovered his cancer medication, and now knows his Deadly Secret.

But Marta isn’t who she seems (by this point, this hardly comes as a surprise). She’s secretly in league with JR, who (surprise!) isn’t as ill as he looked. Hagman is on triumphant form as the old Stetson goes back on, along with the old evil grin. Champagne glass in hand, he’s obviously relishing the evil plans to come.

JR’s not Marta’s only secret ally, though. Turns out she’s also secretly in league with John Ross (getting confused yet?). This secret is demonstrated when they choose to clandestinely meet in the very centre of Dallas’ most well-known large public space, the Dallas Cowboys stadium. Walking slowly toward each other, they eventually meet up for a snog in the centre of the field, and snigger evilly. Well, not quite, but they might as well have. At this point all John Ross needs is a small dog called Muttley.

So, one episode in and it’s already matching up to the convoluted excess, glamour and implausible complexity of the original. The new stars are great, although JR and Bobby were never as buff and pretty as John Ross and Christopher. But it really comes to life with the old guard, including an electric scene where the dying Bobby visits his ‘depressed’ brother/adversary JR at the rest home. What’s JR up to? Does he know about John Ross and Marta? Who is Rebecca really? Tune in next time to find out – perhaps. I know you will, because new, bonkers Dallas is every bit as addictive as old, bonkers Dallas.