Return To Southfork
Ruthless rivalry, family drama — TNT brings back 'Dallas' and a new generation of the secrets and schemes, backbiting and betrayal that make the Ewings so much nasty fun.
The new cast of 'Dallas': (L-R) Jordana Brewster, Josh Henderson, Linda Gray, Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Brenda Strong, Jesse Metcalfe, and Julie Gonzalo.
Photo by Martin Schoeller/Courtesy TNT
Glamour, greed, lies, deception, scheming, sex, and oil — lots of oil. One of the most popular series in the history of television will be back with a vengeance this summer when the new Dallas hits TNT for a 10-week run and the next generation of Ewings carries on the family’s famous feud.
For 13 seasons, from 1978 to 1991, Dallas ruled the airwaves. Named by Time magazine as one of the “100 Best Television Shows of All Time,” the original series dominated the national conversation. There was the raging cliffhanger question, “Who shot J.R.?” (answer: Sue Ellen’s scheming, cheating sister Kristin). And then Lucy’s big wedding (married in the same dress Miss Ellie wore when she and Jock got hitched). And who can forget the “Dream Year,” when Pamela Barnes Ewing dreamed all of season eight (including the death of her husband, Bobby).
Courtesy Southfork Ranch
Dallas picks up 20 years after the original series left off. It brings back Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy as brothers J.R. and Bobby Ewing, and Linda Gray as J.R.’s former wife, Sue Ellen. But now there’s a new generation of Ewing family members, and a major story arc centers on two cousins who were small boys when the original show went off the air. Now grown, the scions of the original feuding brothers are naturally pitted against each other. In that struggle for supremacy, Desperate Housewives alum Jesse Metcalf stars as Christopher, the adopted son of Bobby and Pam Ewing; and Josh Henderson, of Desperate Housewives and 90210, plays John Ross, the son of J.R. and Sue Ellen.
When the original series concluded in 1991, J.R. had lost control of much of the Ewing cattle and oil dynasty and, aiming a gun at what viewers originally thought was his heart, shot his reflection in a mirror while Bobby watched in the background. Two decades later, the brothers are still estranged. In the opener, Bobby (who is now married to Ann, played by Brenda Stong) visits J.R. in an assisted-living facility to try to make peace one more time. Seemingly in a catatonic state, J.R. hears Bobby’s every word.
Then all hell breaks loose.
When Hagman, Duffy, and Gray were first approached almost two years ago about starring in the Dallas sequel series, they were initially less than enthusiastic. “When Leonard Katzman, the original heart and brains behind Dallas, passed away, no one until Cynthia Cidre understood those characters and why the series hit like it did,” Duffy says. “Katzman was the only person who could write those voices. But when we were sent Cynthia’s script it was as if she was channeling Katzman. It was better than 90 percent of the original scripts.”
As executive producer and head writer for Dallas, 20-year industry veteran Cidre was tasked with not just bringing the series into the 21st century, but with creating a balance of the old and new. Duffy says he became committed — as did Gray and Hagman — as soon as he read Cidre’s pilot script.
“It was very difficult shooting the pilot, because it wasn’t just going back and redoing Dallas,” Duffy says. “It was doing it now, seeing those characters 20 years later to find out where they were today.” But Cidre managed to hit all those notes, weaving in the next generation seamlessly.
The new series brought the actors back to the actual Southfork Ranch and the Dallas area for four months of filming. Though the city has encroached in the intervening years, the ranch remains almost exactly as it was back in the day. “It was so much fun to go back to the ranch, which is one of the biggest tourist attractions, next to the Alamo, in Texas,” Hagman says. “The place looks wonderful with horses and cattle still on the property. Originally, the production company was thinking about filming the series in Shreveport, Louisiana, but I knew that wasn’t going to fly with our hard-core audience.”
Back on the ranch, it really is a new generation. Sue Ellen has brought her son, John Ross, back home; now a young man, he’s still angry with his mother for taking him away from J.R. Since we last saw her, Sue Ellen has changed dramatically, having become a successful businesswoman — quite different from the submissive wife, who, according to Gray, “had six lines in the original pilot, one of which was asking J.R. if he’d like some more coffee.”