“I worry about John Ross and Christopher. I don’t want them to be like us”, says Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) in TNT’s revival of the classic 1980s soap Dallas. The fact that the showrunners have decided to pit the children of Bobby and JR (Larry Hagman) against each other shows an understanding of one of the original show’s key themes. Nothing ever changes. There will be old misgivings. And they will keep on giving.
So, does this new take on Dallas work? Yes and no. The pilot, which aired earlier this week, showed some promise. Let’s get a few facts straight here. There will be both younger and older audiences checking it out. The pilot had an unusually large crowd watching, but if they are to remain, the showrunners will have to make sure a few things about this new Dallas works.
- Don’t forget the old fans. Watching Duffy and Linda Gray return to Southfork was fun enough. Watching Larry Hagman miraculously awake from his “clinical depression” at the mere thought of Bobby selling Southfork was wonderful. Having Lucy and Ray (Charlene Tilton, Steve Kanaly) as guests at the wedding was a terrific surprise (I didn’t think they would show). We want to see more of this in the future. In particular, we want to see Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) make a comeback.
- Don’t forget that times change. Too much of this pilot looked like it belonged in the old times. I’m thankful for the fact that the original musical theme was intact, but the new Dallas pilot often behaved like it was set in a place where nothing changes. Dallas, as a city, has changed a lot since the heyday of the show. The reason why the old show, as well as Dynasty, Falcon Crest and Melrose Place, succeeded was because they gave an impression of being unusually saucy and innovative at the time. This new take doesn’t give that impression at all, which is why ratings are likely to plummet in the very near future. If Dallas wants to be a hit, it needs to acknowledge the new times. That means getting a lot sexier, daring and creative – combined with a crew of writers who are willing to come up with storylines that challenge us. Don’t forget that Dallas has Latino and gay communities.