It's back, and it' s like it's never been away.
Dallas returns - a mix of old and new faces, but the same scheming, betrayals and seductions among the Ewing family
There has been a certain amount of hype (trailers in every ad break, red carpet launches, Stetsons left in hotel hall-ways) to trumpet the return of Dallas to our TV screens, and the good news is that there are some old (or remarkably young-looking, in the case of a couple) faces mixed in there with the old.
For the uninitiated, at the heart of Dallas is the Ewing family, a wealthy oil and cattle dynasty embroiled in a fierce battle for power, love and the Southfork ranch. Down below is a Who's Who of two generations of the family, and die-hard fans of the original series can rest assured - the scheming, the seductions, the shoulder pads are all intact for the big return.
Dallas - a new generation of cousins, but the competitiveness for money and women remains
And for those whose appetites are truly whetted, today sees the DVD launch of the original 14 series of Dallas, in all its ten-gallon glory. Here are just nine of the many reasons why it's the best thing on TV ever - there, I said it - and why you might wish to invest in the 54-disc box set, and settle in for a 356-episode run...
1. Lets get it out of the way… the theme tune, with its triptych montage opening sequence must be, beyond all doubt, the most memorable of its kind, and a huge part of the indelible mark Dallas made on viewing history. The oil fields, the working cranes, the big brass horns of the opening titles all belied the fact that, once each episode actually started, all we saw were people driving into forecourts, sitting around pools, and that real man Ray Krebbs was the only character with oil under his fingernails.
2. No matter how many wives each son kept bringing home, everyone carried on living under one roof. There always seemed to be room for one more unwelcome face at the dinner table, even after they – without explanation – exchanged their imposing antebellum mansion for the more celebrated Duchess of York pre-fab, and the little Wendy houses for the junior in-laws got sacrificed.
Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy - all on board for the return to Dallas
3. The preternaturally-hormoned teenager Lucy, uninterested in school, unless it was to titillate her teachers with her ridiculously pneumatic form. More fun was romping in the hay with real man Ray Krebbs, a union conveniently forgotten or at least unmentioned in Miss Ellie’s presence, when it was later discovered he was Jock Ewing’s secret son, and hence… Lucy’s uncle. Whoops.
4. The fabled Southfork BBQs – time for social barriers to be broken down after some home-spun Cajun cooking, impress with rodeo skills, Lucy to wear even less than usual, a bunch of black domestic staff to be drafted in, without irony, to comment knowingly but kindly on the family’s affairs, and for various interlopers to disgrace themselves (yes, I mean you Digger Barnes). Also a great opportunity to tidy up one’s dancing skills for that even more important red circle on the social calendar, the surely-every-other-week Oil Barons’ Ball.
5. The weather… Anyone who doubts that climate change exists should revisit the first season of Dallas, 1978. What we came to know as a story of antics with bikinis and pina coladas, began in a constantly bleak midwinter, everyone arguing or smoking (Jock Ewing) in duffel coats, and a massive storm even formed the narrative backdrop to one of the first season’s most memorable storylines. A pair of Waco no-hopers took offence at JR and Ray’s way with their women, and used the storm to take all the ladies at Southfork hostage, even coercing Sue Ellen into her Miss Texas swimsuit, complete with winner’s ribbon – I kid you not, have a rewatch – to sing a weepy rendition of Barbra Streisand’s People, and all because J.R. cheated on her with someone from Waco. Extraordinary television.
Sue Ellen and J.R. Ewing - a match made in... soapy heaven
6. Bobby and Pam’s great romance, despite all the brickbats thrown at them from the rest of their respective families, despite Bobby being absolutely useless at Ewing Oil, even when JR wasn’t bothering to lock the ‘real’ files in the red folder in a secret cabinet IN THE SAME ROOM. Despite Victoria Principal being far more feisty than you remember, using her high card “Bobby Ewing my husband” whenever she can’t get a parking space, and giving him THAT look when Patrick Duffy gave her unscripted butt-tap as Pam took ANOTHER riding lesson. No Pam this time around, sob.
7. The fleet of Ewing-mobiles constantly appearing (Bobby's is 'Ewing 4' telling you all you need to know about his place in the family pecking order), often to drive someone all the way from the front of the house to the end of the driveway, stopping only when it’s JR driving in the hope of catching Pamela Ewing mid-clinch with someone other than “Bobby Ewing my husband”.
8. Cliff Barnes’ Shakespearean anger with the Ewing family. The attractive (it’s the late 70s!), well-dressed, intelligent lawyer for the DA’s office can charm any woman he likes into his pied-a-terre. Unfortunately, the only women he’s interested in are those who hold the keys to unlocking the Ewing secrets and fortunes. His rage and wrath both stir him on, but will prove to be his undoing... with Ken Kercheval's raspy voice and flares worth the price of admission alone.
Bobby and J.R. Ewing - Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman - best friends for 30 years off-screen, like Cain and Abel on it
9. And the man himself, J.R. Ewing... originally conceived as a side-dish to the main meal of Bobby and Pam's Romeo-and-Juliet romance, Larry Hagman chewed up the scenery, the grass, the office woodwork and made an icon of oil's baddest daddy's boy. 47 million Americans tuned in to discover who shot him in TV's biggest-ever cliff hanger, and his chivalrous wooing of his wife - "Sue Ellen, you're a drunk, a tramp and an unfit mother..." put the cause of feminism back by several decades. And the hat.
The original 14-series set is now available on DVD, and the new series kicks off this Wednesday evening at 9pm, Channel 5. Here's Who's Who in the new era...