So, it turns out that we’re not the only ones who tuned into Dallas’ double-shot of a series première last week. Nearly 7 million people watched the return of Larry Hagman’s iconic antihero J.R.—and those mythic eyebrows—making it the highest-rated scripted series première on cable this year. For comparison’s sake, that’s more than eight times what the far trendier Girls attracted in its series debut. What can be gleaned from this disparity? Without making the mistake of reading too much into it, I wonder if the American public has an appetite for watching oldsters get over on young people, which Dallas has finally come along to satisfy.
This seems to be the predominant theme running through the first three episodes. It’s early yet, but the fresh blood in the Dallas universe is having its ass absolutely handed to it by the show’s core original cast members. (Or, in the case of the opening sequence, having a blade held to its throat until it shows some respect.)
This is a problem inherent to doing a sequel versus doing a reboot: If you liked the original Dallas, the conflict between J.R. and Bobby will be immediately more interesting than whether John Ross has the cojones to take over Southfork. Speaking of Southfork, am I the only one who finds the battle for the ranch not at all compelling? Don’t get me wrong, I have some nostalgia for Dallas’ oldest cast member. But as the central plotline and main instigator of conflict so far this season, it’s seriously wanting in the “give a shit” department.
The problem here lies partly with how John Ross has been sketched out as a character. Like Christopher, John Ross is driven by a need to prove himself to his old man; unlike Christopher, John Ross’ daddy issues have a serious “hate-fuck” edge to them. Which is potentially entertaining and all, except John Ross—partly because of how he’s written, and partly how he’s been portrayed by the vacant-looking Josh Henderson—has no real spirit to him. This is supposed to be J.R.’s son, “tit to tail,” for crissakes. Where’s the vitality, the joie de vivre, the glee in being a bastard? What’s the point of screwing over your uncle, scheming against your dad, and nailing your cousin’s ex-girlfriend if you’re not having any fun?
All of the young cast members on Dallas are similarly drab and joyless. Christopher and Elena already gave in a little to their room-temperature level sexual tension this episode by sharing a kiss, but Jesse Metcalfe and Jordana Brewster didn’t so much smolder as ease down the A/C a couple of degrees. The prospect of watching them inevitably tumble into the sack over the next few episodes ain’t exactly firing my engines at the moment. Then there’s Rebecca, who after investing a ridiculous amount of time in the most pointless long con ever, appears to be on the verge of chucking the plan altogether in order to stand by Christopher in his very serious quest to harvest methane from the ocean flo-zzzzzzzzzzz.
Look, we all know what covered the price of admission tonight, and it wasn’t boring Christopher kissing boring Elena or the goddamn methane breakthrough. (Pause for childish giggle.) It was that rictus grin splattered across the wizened face of Ken Kercheval—making a weird, crotchety, and totally grand return as Cliff Barnes—when he stared down J.R. in Bobby’s office. “Time has not been kind to your face,” J.R. shot back, perhaps cutting a little too close to the real-life bone. But it was J.R., not Barnes, who seemed rattled by his old nemesis’ overtures to purchase Southfork. “I’ll be there when they put you in the ground, Barnes,” he rattled as Barnes beat his retreat. “Listen close, I’ll be the one dancing on the dirt overhead.” It was, in a word, glorious, watching these geezers crack wise like rapping grannies in a soda commercial.
Hagman and Kercheval are a combined 312 years old, and yet this one scene was funnier and livelier than the rest of the episode put together. And I’m actively cheering for them to put these whippersnappers into place. Barnes seems to have something cooking with his nephew Christopher, and you know J.R. is not about to let John Ross take over Southfork when it should rightfully be him. Hell, I’d even pony up for a revived love triangle between J.R., Barnes, and Sue Ellen over that Christopher-Elena-Rebecca junk. On Dallas, seniors rule, and kids drool.
- I’d say that Dallas was trying to turn “red Jell-O” into a meme if I thought anybody involved in the show knew what a meme was.
- Barnes smells like “brimstone and crazy.” Also: Bengay.
- It is pretty bad-ass to play poker via closed-circuit TV.
- John Ross is also having his ass kicked by another senior, the blackmailing attorney Mitch Lobell. He’s practically one of the teenagers who won’t get off Clint Eastwood’s lawn at this point.