By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
7:21 AM EDT, June 13, 2012
Whatever you thought of the original "Dallas" on CBS, you have to admit it spoke to its times like few other pop culture artifacts of the 1980s.
In the Reagan era with its celebration of McMansions, corporations and de-regulated savings & loan presidents who got rich by stealing from their elderly clients, why wouldn't J.R. Ewing become the most popular character in prime time drama? Was any character more an embodiment of 1980's values?
But why in the world would anyone think it was a good idea to revisit that turf again in 2012, simply repeating the same conflicts, themes and values almost note for note as they were first sounded some 34 years ago? Why, indeed, when as a nation we have come to see the misery that such greed and excess have wrought for those of us who are 99 percenters?
I don't want to insult anyone, so if you are touchy, stop reading now and go to some gumby blog where the writer is nice.
Here's my take on watching this reboot that premieres at 9 p.m. Wednesday on TNT: I can see some people checking out the pilot thinking they are going to get some nostalgic charge or, perhaps, a postmodern pop out of seeing Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray reprising their roles alongside a much younger generation of actors playing their sons and daughters.
But if you come back for a second hour after you have been reminded of how sadly, soap-opera one-dimensional Gray and Duffy are, then you need to check yourself into a clinic or hospital and ask them to hook your head up to one of those machine with lots of little suction cups to see if there is any activity anywhere within your brain. Or, let me put it this way so the people in Texas can understand it: If you think the new "Dallas" is really worth a second hour of your time, you just might be flatlining intellectually.
I spent two hours with the new "Dallas," and I swear I would rather have been watching Sunday morning infomercials for overpriced gated communities or those knives that never need sharpening even if you are using them to cut through blocks of iron ore that you happen to find on your kitchen counter next to the tomatoes and iceberg lettuce.
I wasted way too much time watching to write a long review -- and waste some more.
Here's the premise: Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), the adopted son of Bobby Ewing, is battling with John Ross (Josh Henderson), the son of J.R. Ewing, over Southfork.
Christopher seems like a decent guy who is concerned with the environment, while John Ross is an evil, lying, scheming, power-grabbing rat just like his daddy. Christopher wants to extract methane from the sea bed as a source of energy, while John Ross wants oil, oil, oil and money, money, money -- the eco-system on Southfork be damned.
The pilot opens with John Ross and his lady friend, Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster,) drilling for oil on Southfork and hitting a home run.
But Bobby (Patrick Duffy) holds title to Southfolk, and he promised Miss Ellie there would never be drilling on Southfork. Did I mention that Elena really seems to love Christopher, but John Ross did something low-down and dirty to trick them into breaking up? See what I mean about lost hours of my life?
Wait, here's the dialogue from the big scene with Bobby (Duffy) visiting J.R. (Hagman) who is in a coma or something. (Or, he might just be extremely depressed, the script isn't clear on this point).
"All the fights, J.R., over Ewing Oil and Southfork," Bobby says in that achy-breaky voice. "Those fights changed me in a way I didn't like... But now, there's a chance to be a family without all the bitterness and bad blood we had."
Yes, that's the level of writing. And that's as close to a dramatic scene that almost works as you are going to get in TNT's "Dallas."
Go ahead, watch if you must. But the '80s were bad enough the first time through for me.
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