|Larry Hagman and Gayle Hunnicutt|
I was never the biggest fan of Dallas, but like most people (including my late mother who never watched the show ever) I tuned in for "Who Shot J.R?" but the show never became a guilty pleasure until the last couple of seasons, which were fast-paced fun. J. R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) got involved in a near-shotgun wedding with Callie (Cathy Podewell), had himself committed to a mental institution to get some papers (from Alexis Smith!), got shot again by his ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), who used her money to finance a biopic about him. While this roman a clef film took center stage in season 12, the sub-plot never really amounted to much. Sue Ellen simply told J. R. that she wouldn't release the film as long as he behaved himself. We never saw the reaction from the cast or even the director (whom she married off-screen) when they found out the public would never even see the movie. George Kennedy [Strait-Jacket] showed up as a business rival with his own inner demons, and Gayle Hunnicutt [The Legend of Hell House] appeared in more than one season as J. R.'s lost and long-time love (when she finally breaks off her engagement to him, J. R. doesn't try very hard to get her back). Meanwhile Bobby (Patrick Duffy of The Last of Mrs. Lincoln) lost his wife, Pam, who first ran off after being disfigured in a car crash and then got a terminal illness, but decided not to tell anyone; Bobby's next wife was shot and killed on their honeymoon. Hagman wasn't a great actor, but he made the most of J. R. and offered a very effective portrayal. The performers on Dallas sometimes phoned in their performances, but at other times they were really on target. For instance, George Kennedy had a great scene when he's talking to his son on the phone and expressing how overjoyed he is that he's being released from a Mexican prison. Season 13 introduced the charming Sasha Mitchell as J. R.'s son (by Hunnicutt, who was quite good), who crosses both wits and swords with his father. Mitchell was not a seasoned performer, but he had an appealing, inoffensive arrogance that complimented his good looks and made him an asset to the show. A mention should be made of the two very talented child performers, Omri Katz and Joshua Harris, as the sons, respectively, of J.R. and Bobby. It was fun to see Barbara Eden, Hagman's co-star from I Dream of Jeannie, as an oil woman who really puts J. R through the wringer in season 14. Ken Kercheval was fine as J. R.'s bitter rival, Cliff Barnes, but the character could be so irritating (and always looked like an unmade bed) that it's a wonder he lasted fourteen seasons when others were sent packing! The disappointing last episode of the show had J. R. contemplating suicide while a demon played by Joel Gray (!) showed him what life would have been like for the other members of his family if he had never been born. Ted Shackleford as Gary Ewing (of Knots Landing) probably had more footage in this episode than in all the other seasons combined. The final season was followed by three TV movies and the show was revived in 2014 with some of the original players.
Verdict: Big hair, bad marriages, cat fights, bar fights, bed-hopping, philandering, plotting and co-plotting, and a little something about the oil industry, ***