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

“That grin makes you look like trouble. And my daddy told me to stay away from trouble.”

So, them feudin’ Ewings are back, quicker than I expected on the UK screens. Looks like Channel 5 showed the season premiere the very night after the US broadcast – though they only showed one of the two eps shown over the pond, meaning they’ll presumably remain a week behind. Quicker than the period of months from last year, though.

And woo-hoo! My blog is back. Haven’t written anything for a month; it’s not like there haven’t been interesting political events and TV shows, just that my new job has kept me incredibly busy. But now the Ewings are back, I have a deadline to carry on from last year…

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Previously, on Dallas: You might need a moment to remember last year’s gloriously convoluted plotlines of betrayal, sex and very big Stetsons. Fortunately, all through this first episode, the characters involved kept meeting up and telling each other things they must logically already know for our benefit:

  • Sue Ellen’s still running for Texas governor, and still has no recognisable party affiliation. But she’s doing well, apparently, so here’s the cue for things to go pear-shaped for her campaign. Wait, remember all that bribery and double dealing she engaged in last year?
  • Exposition-spewing lawyer Lou (the ever-reliable Glenn Morshower) popped up to remind us (and Christopher) that Christopher had married a conwoman whose fake brother had spurred her on to steal Ewing money and secrets even while Christopher impregnated her with twins. “She’ll never see those kids,” snarled Christopher – a neat trick, given that she’s still gestating them.
  • Christopher and John Ross had come together to set up a new company, Ewing Energies, which would combine the former’s love of green energy with the latter’s love of oil. Naturally, they were instantly at loggerheads, with JR lurking behind to pull John Ross’ bitter twisted strings.
  • Bobby’s saintly wife Ann has a Dark Secret – one which slimy ex-husband Harris Ryland threatened to reveal to Bobby. Ann used to have a daughter – but what happened to her?
  • And in a stunning twist which most people probably saw coming, Christopher’s conwoman wife (who’d already murdered her fake brother) turned out to be the daughter of none other than … Cliff Barnes!

So, this season opener strode in with even more confidence than the last, buoyed by the success of last year’s revival. Noticeably, the new cast seemed to take more prominence over the older ones than previously; a sign, perhaps, that the show can stand on its own feet without the need for past glories.

Probably a good thing – as fans will undoubtedly be aware, JR Ewing is no longer with us. The undoubted star of the original, Larry Hagman sadly passed away late last year. He did complete filming for several episodes of this new season, and was briefly present here for a couple of scenes; but he looked frail, and watching him was tinged with sadness.

Still, it’s looking like his mantle will be well picked up by the younger, fitter (boy, is he fit) John Ross, played as ever by the chiselled Josh Henderson. John Ross wasted no time getting his shirt off in a pre-credits opener that showed him to be the new bad guy in town – not only did he charm a young bride into bed at her father’s house on her hen night, he then promptly used a film of said event to blackmail her reluctant daddy into selling him a trucking firm. Way to go, John Ross!

Other characters introduced last year made a welcome reappearance, a sign that they’ve worked out as popular as the originals. Everyone’s favourite slimy trucking magnate Harris Ryland turned up to loom lecherously behind ex wife Ann, before villainously explaining last years’ blackmail plot and revealing that he values his and Ann’s kidnapped daughter mostly as a bargaining chip to leverage aspiring Governor Sue Ellen. Mitch Pileggi has been promoted to the main cast this year – a sure sign we’ll be seeing a lot of Ryland this season.

Conflicted (and ineffectual) conwoman Rebecca was back too, having had an extended vacation, much to sinister henchman Frank’s displeasure. Thus invigorated, she had a newfound evil veneer suitable for her function as the New Cliff.

Looking good for a pregnant lady, she had a revelatory, exposition-filled confrontation with Bobby and Christopher at the Barnes Global building (“but what’s she doing here??”), which also seems to accommodate corporate vulture Deloitte; perhaps Cliff’s not doing as well as he thinks. Or perhaps the producers just CG’d an extra sign onto the Deloitte building and forgot to remove the original.

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Be that as it may, it was positively Star Wars-esque as these adversaries confronted each other, complete with a parental reveal – “Cliff Barnes is my father!” Yes, Rebecca is actually Pamela Rebecca Barnes, last seen as a wee infant in the late 80s. So now that cat’s out of the bag, it’s time for Pamela/Rebecca to take her father’s place as Darth Barnes. I’m just waiting for the light saber duel.

Family matters

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Having now discovered Rebecca’s true identity as Pamela Rebecca Barnes, daughter of Cliff, all but the most dedicated fans may need reminding that she was born in the original show’s12th season, round about 1988, to Cliff’s ex Afton Cooper, sister of Lucy Ewing’s then husband Mitch. Still no info on the fate of the Pamela we know, Cliff’s half-sister and Bobby’s ex – is Victoria Principal still too busy for a cameo?

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

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No notable guest actors this week, but a quick cameo from former NASCAR driver Ricky Rudd (who is definitely not an actor, on this evidence). Playing himself, Ricky was impressed with Christopher’s methane-fuelled stock car. I wanted to know more about how it worked, but Christopher was less than forthcoming, perhaps worried that Cliff Barnes might be watching.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Everyone.

Harris’ blackmail of Sue Ellen is back on track with his acquisition of ‘the tape’ (there’s always a tape), and already her gubernatorial campaign is in a bit of a mess with the news appearance of the Medical Examiner she tried to bribe/blackmail last year. Not sure how Harris gains from Sue Ellen not becoming governor, so maybe there’s more than one double cross going on here.

Elena is innocently trying to buy decommissioned oil rigs from an unsuspecting (and near-incoherent) Texan oilman, who is unaware that Christopher’s Secret Methane Plans can turn them into money spinners.

John Ross, trying to gain control of Ewing Energies (and screw over his hated cousin), has forged an unholy alliance with Methane Plan-seeking Pamela/Rebecca Barnes, which hinges on him poaching Christopher’s star witness in the marriage annulment case – the real Rebecca Sutter.

This week’s big cliffhanger:

John Ross’ reveal of his Evil Plan. But also – why does Ann’s daughter know and hate her? What will happen to Sue Ellen’s political ambitions? Will Elena succeed in buying her beloved Christopher some cheap oil rigs? And will the scriptwriters remember Bobby’s brain tumour at an opportune moment?

This was a hugely enjoyable season opener, with the confidence of a show that’s found its niche. It was nice to see JR, frail though he may look, but he doesn’t seem as instrumental to the show’s success as he did last year. Bobby too took something of a back seat, and there was no sign of Cliff, leaving Sue Ellen as the only Dallas veteran with much of a plot. But that’s OK – the new guys have proved their worth in twisted soap opera shenanigans and looking good with not many clothes on. I look forward to their undoubtedly bizarre and implausible goings on over the coming weeks.

Dallas (the next generation): Season 1, Episode 10

“I’m gonna tell you something I’ve never told you before. I love you Bobby. And I don’t know who I’d be without you.” – JR

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Previously, on Dallas: Last week saw most of the show’s ongoing plots wrapped up, then suddenly dropped a triple whammy cliffhanger to set up one more week of Ewing double-dealing for this year.

  • Christopher and John Ross buried the hatchet to create a new joint venture, Ewing Energies
  • Bobby was so pleased to hear this he immediately keeled over with a brain aneurysm
  • JR revealed that he had a conscience after all by signing the Southfork deed back over to him, rendering everything he’s done this season somewhat pointless
  • Having compromised her political integrity every which way, Sue Ellen decided to drop out of the race for Texas Governor rather than give in to slimy Harris Ryland’s demands to launder dirty money
  • Lou the lawyer found Marta/Veronica’s Cloud drive, which just might contain evidence to incriminate everyone involved in the scam to get Southfork – particularly JR
  • The recovering Bobby, probably flabbergasted at a nice gesture from JR, had another aneurysm and was carted off to hospital
  • And Rebecca, still being plagued by shifty Tommy, took matters into her own hands in a struggle during which a shot was heard…

This week’s season finale had a lot to do in resolving these and other loose ends, while also setting up the plot for next year’s second season (it starts in the US in January). So we quickly established, in an arty slo-mo shot, that the gunshot victim was actually Tommy, who’d outlived his plot purpose at this point. But it was something of a surprise that Rebecca could so easily summon a shadowy Tarantino-esque figure to help her clean up and dispose of the body.

Well, she did have a former career as a con artist, I suppose. Unfortunately for her, having disposed of the body, she was obliged to spend much of the episode trying to find it again, as Tommy had kept her engagement and wedding rings, which Christopher wanted her to put back on.

Christopher and the rest of the Ewing clan were gathered at the hospital, anxiously awaiting Bobby’s prognosis. Larry Hagman gave us an impassioned speech by the bedside, as the newly contrite JR recognised that the show depended on his and Bobby’s rivalry, like an American archetype: “Wake up and get better. Keep fightin’. Keep fightin’ me.”

Actually it turned out (again) that Bobby’s health scare was no real problem, just a cheap dramatic device; he was on his feet again within ten minutes. But you can be sure those brain problems are tucked away in showrunner Cynthia Cidre’s file for potential later use.

Having last week given Christopher and John Ross the glimmer of a happy ending, the script this week was obliged to summarily tear them apart again to reset the dramatic tension for next year. So John Ross in particular had a pretty bad week which saw him lurching away from his newfound path of righteousness back into JR-inspired darkness.

It all started nicely enough for him; having leased the old Ewing Oil offices to set up their new corporate HQ, he also found time to propose to Elena by giving her an engagement ring that reminded him of dirty oil. What a romantic. But you could tell trouble was a-coming by the dismayed look on Christopher’s face when he found out about the engagement.

John Ross may have missed that, but he could hardly miss what came next as he was told of the video evidence from Marta’s Cloud drive, which incriminated him while, astonishingly, exonerating JR. Everyone was pretty angry about this, which seemed odd until you reminded yourself that the characters in the show didn’t actually have the details of all the dirty tricks John Ross has been up to. Listening at the door, Elena too was disgusted, and the engagement was off – even by soap opera standards, that was pretty quick.

Luckily for Christopher and Bobby, the evidence also gave them the drop on Vicente from Venezuela, unexpectedly back this week. Not only did it prove that the homily-spouting Venezuelan had fraudulently acquired the ranch, it also handily showed his men tipping ‘Marta’ out of a ninth floor window. So Vicente was off to jail, having lost both the ranch and the methane technology. You could tell this made him unhappy from Carlos Bernard’s trademark angry sneer – what’s the betting he’ll be back next year?

Next up for defeat was Mitch Pileggi’s unspeakably slimy Harris Ryland. When Ann learned of Sue Ellen’s plight, she immediately took steps to ensure that her sister-in-law could stay in the gubernatorial race.These steps involved her confronting Ryland in his office, where as usual he was straight in with the creepily licentious suggestions: “…since you’re here, and in the mood… how about it?”

Unfortunately for him, when the seemingly submissive Ann unbuttoned her blouse, it was to reveal a microphone that had recorded their every word, money laundering, blackmail and all. She left with a threat involving shotguns and a more effective clout to Ryland’s smug face than her husband had previously managed, then gave the tape to Sue Ellen. So Sue Ellen’s back in the gubernatorial race; which is nice for her, but may not be so nice for the people of Texas, given that she’s spent the whole season proving how eminently unsuited she is to the role. Still, this is Texas; last night they elected a dead guy to the State Senate, so they’ll probably cope with a soap opera drama queen.

Rebecca, meanwhile, was hunting high and low for those rings, while the slow-on-the-uptake Christopher was beginning to piece together what had been going on. Clocking her bruises, he enquired “did someone hurt you?” before belatedly launching a search for her miscreant ‘brother’; a hard task, given that he was already dead. Nevertheless, turning over Tommy’s hotel room with the ever-helpful Bum, Christopher was somewhat surprised when the room’s phone rang with a call from the real Rebecca – a rather less glamorous young lady in Des Moines.

So now Christopher had proof that Rebecca wasn’t who she said she was. Given that she’s already revealed herself to be a con artist who connived to split up his previous engagement, it was hard to see why this should be such a shock, but Christopher hit the roof. “So who the hell are you?” he angrily enquired. Ah well, that’s the real question, isn’t it? But ‘Rebecca’ had other points she could score: “I never had a chance, because you’re still in love with Elena!”

Of course he was. And handily for him, John Ross had just pissed Elena off enough for her to be single again. So together they got, in a steamy sex scene intercut with the mournful John Ross being handed back his oily engagement ring by Elena’s disapproving mother.

So, to the tune of Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” (they love Cash on this show), John Ross made the inevitable decision to turn back to evil. As his father handed him a glass of whisky and the two surveyed the Dallas night skyline, John Ross entreated JR to teach him “every dirty trick you know”, so that when he took the company from Christopher and Elena, they’d both be partners. “But if you cross me, I will send you straight back to that home.”

JR simply smiled benevolently; “that’s my son. From top to tail.” And so he is; all demons have tails.

Who’s double crossing who this week?

Cliff, Cliff, Cliff! So JR’s machinations weren’t in vain, as his near-mummified rival turned out to be behind, basically, everything. His right hand man Frank had been thwarted in purchasing Southfork and the methane thing from Vicente by the inconvenient arrival of the FBI. Now we discovered that it was Frank who’d cleaned up Rebecca’s murderous mess. And that Rebecca had always been working for Cliff. Because we now know who she really is – his daughter! “Like your Aunt Pamela, I can’t trust you around the Ewings.”

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This might have come as more of a surprise if the opening guest cast list hadn’t conspicuously said, “and Ken Kercheval”, although to be fair, you might easily have forgotten that amidst the usual cornucopia of intrigue. The revelation also seemed at odds with much of what we already knew – but then the schemes in this show are so mind-bogglingly overcomplicated, it can be hard to keep track. Nonetheless, we can now safely say that the real villain this entire year has turned out to be Cliff, pulling the strings all unseen like Ernst Stavro Blofeld. If he’s not back next year, I’ll be very surprised.

Season Finale

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This has been an unqualified success in reviving a much-loved classic series and giving it a modern spin while remaining true to its original spirit. The new Dallas plainly costs a lot more than the old, with impressive Texas location shoots where the original made do with second unit stuff and a lot of Burbank studios. It looks great, and has a classy cast, even if the youngsters seem chosen more for photogenic reasons than acting talent.

Indeed, nice to look at though Jesse Metcalfe, Josh Henderson, Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo undoubtedly are, the heart of the show, and its charisma, still lie with those original characters, and they’re still the best thing in it. JR, Bobby, Sue Ellen and Cliff might be noticeably older (very noticeably in Cliff’s case), but the actors have stepped back into those roles like they were never away.

With its labyrinthine double-dealing, Texan excess and often hilariously over-dramatic dialogue, the new Dallas is every bit the equal of the old, and its shorter season has allowed so much to be packed into ten episodes that it often felt like an overstuffed melee. That’s exactly as it should be. This has been so much fun, and I’m eagerly awaiting next year’s run.

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.