I recently developed a voracious appetite for late seventies melodrama and the only thing that satiates it, is Dallas. This epic prime-time saga, the Holy Grail of serialized dramatic fiction, ran for 14 seasons. I however, have only made my way through seasons one and two, whose 29 episodes and bonus features have been conveniently boxed on five discs. (Note: Season 1 was actually a five-part miniseries, which is why there were only 29 episodes in two seasons).
Now, I have always been attracted to this program. As I have mentioned before, my cell phone ring happens to be the theme song to Dallas, an homage to my childhood when this song signaled my Friday night bedtime. Odd to think that what I just consumed en masse was that which my parents were watching BEFORE I WAS BORN and until I reached the second grade (I can’t imagine waiting an entire week to see what happened next). You may have noticed that a mere two days ago I created a post about watching the entire MSCL series, well, it took me more than a week to sit down to write that, and less than a week to enjoy 23.2 hours (48 min episodes) of Dallas. Calculating that now, I’m not sure if I’m ashamed or elated that I spent an entire day of one week engaged in a 30 year old television program that NO ONE cares to discuss, despite my best efforts.
An actual text conversation with my mother:
Me: OMG. Pam just bitch slapped a drunken Sue Ellen.
Mom: That will happen. A lot.
2 hours later
Me: J.R. just slapped a drunk/pregnant Sue Ellen. That’s my last Dallas text I promise.
Mom: Can I borrow it when you’re done?
Back to the “real” drama! This show is everything I’ve ever wanted in a television program and more. I think we all know the premise, but here’s a refresher. The Ewing family are like Texas royalty. Their wealth is great and their power greater. Patriarch Jock (Jim Davis) and wife Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) run the family, which is housed (in one house, what the shit?) at South Fork Ranch, in Braddock, just outside Dallas. Eldest brother J.R. (Larry Hagman), and youngest brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) live there with their wives, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and Pamela (Victoria Principal). Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton), daughter of runaway drifter middle son Gary, also lives there. Also, it is important to know that J.R. will do ANYTHING to maintain his position of power and every Ewing (and anyone else in the show) will do ANYTHING to mention the name “Ewing.” [I’m embarrassed to admit this, but during one episode I tallied how many times someone said “Ewing” during one episode, and it was 48 times, that’s one per minute.]
A quick recap of seasons 1 &2: Bobby marries Pam, who is the daughter of Digger Barnes and sister to Cliff Barnes, both of whom are Ewing arch-enemies, theirs is a decades old rivalry of which the Ewings always come out on top. Lucy, a part-time high school student and full-time munchkin has been sleeping with the Ranch foreman, middle aged Ray up in the hay loft for some time. J.R. has dozens of affairs while his trophy wife, a former Miss Texas, sits at home and drinks until she decides to have an affair with Cliff Barnes (J.R.’s number 1 enemy in life). Is her baby J.R.’s or Cliff’s? Oh, don’t worry about that we’ll have to find out later, because Sue Ellen has just escaped from the sanitarium, pounded a bottle of hooch and crashed her stolen car into a telephone pole. She’s pregnant for the love of god!
This show is truly unbelievable, and being that its social norms are set in the 70’s, only makes for greater drama. For example, Sue Ellen’s drinking problem. She’s pregnant and living in a house with her husband, mother/father/brother/sister in law as well as a full staff, yet no one minds when she comes to dinner trashed, drinks several nightcaps or is occasionally plastered when she arrives at the breakfast table? Are all my friends, who were conceived around this time, victims of fetal alcohol syndrome? Did no one recognize this as a terrible idea? Or what about how the entire family thinks its a bad idea that Pam gets a job? She’s working as a buyer for the nicest store in Dallas. Granted she doesn’t need a paycheck, they’re worth billions, but they’re going to put their foot down on this and not the drunk pregnant lady thing? Or what about when J.R. tries to marry Lucy off to a homosexual (groundbreaking!) just so that he can merge with the gay’s big oil family? At some juncture, Bobby finally punches asshole J.R. for something shitty that he did, mind you though, this was months AFTER he “accidentally” pushed Pam out of the hayloft causing her to miscarry a fetus, after he forged his father’s will to allow drilling on South Fork and of course after he set Pam up to look like she was involved in a threesome/prostitution ring with a coworker and a Senator, which made the front page of the Dallas newspaper.
Also, within three episodes: Lucy ranaway and while hitchhiking was picked up by a whackjob robber which ended in a hostage situation and shootout that Bobby and Lucy escaped from with some quick thinking and sweet kick moves. J.R. was caught sleeping with the wife of some backwoods hick (Brian Denehey) and for revenge the hick and his scummy cohort went to South Fork, held half the family hostage and decided to rape, yes rape, Sue Ellen and Lucy for revenge. Don’t worry, Bobby got home just in time. Oh and in the next episode, some real swift crooks kidnap Bobby (intending to get J.R.) and hold him for ransom, which Cliff Barnes delivers to them in the middle of a dirt road. When they get out of the car and Bobby is home free, J.R. and some old boys pop out of the field and SHOOT ALL THREE CROOKS AND LEAVE THEM DEAD IN THE ROAD.
I opted not to listen to the available audio commentaries, but since season three has yet to arrive in the mail, I might have to go back and do that, just to get my fix. There was also a Soap Talk reunion special on the final disc. I’ll say this, seeing the cast 30 years later, and still good friends, was awesome. Forcing them to do it on a show hosted by Lisa Rinna, was not.
As I mentioned, Sue Ellen was a bit of a lush. One evening while waiting for J.R. at his office, she tied one on, (remember, she’s pregnant) resulting in her passing out in her car on the side of the road (Bobby to the rescue!). Meanwhile, Lucy has become addicted to some mystery pills. The following day J.R. removes/hides all liquor in the house and Bobby has taken the last of Lucy’s stash and allowed her to stay home from school to rest. Then this happens: