Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 6

“Life always seems more complicated than you imagine it to be – especially in this family.” – John Ross Ewing

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Previously, on Dallas: Last week, everything came out in the wash, as all the double dealing so far was exposed.

  • JR revealed himself to be the new owner of Southfork
  • Rebecca came clean to Christopher that her brother had split up his earlier engagement, earning them both a one way ticket off the ranch
  • John Ross found out that his father had cut him out of the Southfork deed
  • ‘Marta’ revealed herself to be even more nuts than we thought she was as she seethed with jealousy over John Ross’ dalliances with Elena
  • Saintly Ann revealed her dark past as she went crawling back to her slimy ex, the owner of Dallas’ only trucking firm, for a favour – to stop the trucks carrying out JR’s oil
  • And Christopher discovered Marta’s ‘sex tape’ of her and John Ross, in which John Ross called her by her real name, and threatened to go to the cops unless John Ross proved his father’s involvement in the fraudulent sale of Southfork.

So, with Ewing battle lines drawn, the conflict was back out in the open for another week of twisty turny plotting, which soon laid the groundwork for yet more hidden wheels within wheels. Various parties competed for the favours of Ann’s ex Harris Ryland and his bounteous gift of oil trucks, marking him out as a major player in this second half of the series. Mitch Pileggi, formerly that nice Walter Skinner off The X Files, plays Ryland as a really nasty, creepy piece of work, so it’s good to see that he’s got a major role in the upcoming treachery.

Bobby, who bears the heavy burden of being the show’s only ethical character, predictably was not too happy when he discovered what his wife and son had been up to. Working out in a split second why the trucks belonging to his wife’s ex had ceased to turn up, he took Ann aside to spout homilies at her. Warning that Ryland was unlikely to offer favours for nothing, he counselled, “I just hope this doesn’t come back and bite us in the ass.” Ryland is so creepy, and Ann so repulsed by him, I wouldn’t put it past him to do just that – literally.

In fact, when Ann received an unexpected bunch of flowers from him accompanied by a mysterious small box, I half expected it to contain a human finger – or something equally unsavoury. But the seemingly innocuous little necklace inside was enough to cause Ann to crumple into floods of tears. Clearly it has some significance in her Dark Past. Still, it annoyed Bobby enough for him to hotfoot it over to Ryland’s office and give him an unannounced slap, which I have to say he took well. Probably enjoys that sort of thing.

Sue Ellen too was courting the unwholesome trucking magnate, on behalf of her desperate son, who needs that oil moving. Proving she’s got what it takes to make it in US politics, she offered Ryland a job in her cabinet should she win as Texas Governor. Ryland demurred; after being clouted by Bobby, he was going to send the trucks back in anyway. But he made sure to give Sue Ellen a big donation, now that he knows what her political honour is worth: “people like me, we need to make sure that people like you get into office.” The formerly honourable Sue Ellen looked dismayed – well, as dismayed as you can when your face is that immobile.

Christopher’s approach to screwing over JR and John Ross met with no more approval from Bobby than Ann’s did. ”A lifetime of dealing with JR has put me on both sides of blackmail,” Bobby averred, accurately. “It never pays off in the end. An eye for an eye just makes both people blind.” Fortunately for Christopher, the chance to hear more from the show’s ethical Yoda was averted by another possibility, as his conscience-stricken wife turned up bearing a gift filched from her shifty brother – an old document showing that the mineral rights to Southfork are not included with the land rights.

So JR and John Ross can’t drill for oil even if they own the place. One snag – Bobby and Christopher needed the original version of the document, which was harder to find than Arthur Dent’s compulsory purchase order in Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. They had to rummage through Bobby’s grandfather’s old storage unit, wherein they discovered a desk, which contained a shoe, which contained a key to a safety deposit box at the National Bank of Texas, which hadn’t been opened “since before Mr Southworth’s death”. This took most of the episode, and failed to address how, if the document was so hard to find, Tommy happened to have a copy of it in the first place.

Still, they’ve got it now, much to John Ross’ frustration. John Ross did not have a good week. Dumped “in the briar patch” by JR to sink or swim (as it were), he found himself menaced by mad Marta, who took to impaling photos of Elena, and terrorised by Vicente from Venezuela, annoyed at not receiving his oil. Stalking around dressed in black with his menacing sneer and scary Latino accent, Carlos Bernard was clearly having a whale of a time delivering lines like, “in my country, when the sons fail to make good on the commitments of the father, there is a price to be paid.” Comprende, muchacho?

Said father, that Machiavelli of the petroleum industry JR Ewing, was comfortably ensconced with a trio of young manicurists in a Las Vegas penthouse, from where he was trying to get into a high stakes poker game run by Cliff Barnes, for some reason. He thinks Cliff’s up to something. Well, of course he is, this is Dallas. Everyone’s up to something.

Family matters

A bit of history to cover the mysterious document seen herein – Southfork was originally built by the Southworth family, of whom Miss Ellie, JR and Bobby’s mother, was the sole heir. When she married oil magnate Jock Ewing, the ranch passed into another name for the first time since the 19th century; JR and Bobby, despite both bearing the Ewing name, represent the opposing interests of each family. One’s mad keen on oil and wealth, the other likes integrity and sticking his arm up cattle.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Well, with the ammunition being freely offered from all sides, it looks like Harris Ryland’s gearing up to double cross absolutely everybody. I’d like to see him try and take on JR though.

JR has tasked his henchman, the curiously named Bum, with investigating Cliff Barnes’ henchman, the scarily bald Frank Ashkani. Bum is also trying to find ‘Marta’ for John Ross, while concealing that he knows perfectly well where JR is and how to get in touch with him. As a piece of treachery this seems fairly pointless, but I’m sure JR has his reasons.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

While trying to regain her place in Christopher’s affections (this is not going to happen quickly), Rebecca discovered that she felt a bit funny and had a nosebleed. Being a soap opera, there can only be one of two reasons for this – she’s terminally ill, or she’s pregnant. Since we’ve already had a terminal illness plotline this season, it proved to be the latter of the two options, as she confessed to nasty old Tommy while trying unsuccessfully to shove him out of the door and her life. This cliffhanger is so effective it’s one of the very oldest soap opera can offer – the final two words of the episode being, “I’m pregnant.” You almost expected to hear the EastEnders theme thundering in. Or Neighbours. Or Corrie. Etc, etc…

After last week’s barnstorming apocalypse of revelations, this was another great slice of treachery and betrayal, as the forces of Light, represented by Bobby and Christopher, commenced their battle against the forces of Dark – JR and John Ross. Expect to see the Eye of Sauron over Southfork very soon…

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

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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:

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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:

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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)

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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

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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.