Recently, I received a press kit containing the first seven episodes of “Dallas,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Wednesday on TNT. The second episode airs at 10 p.m.
My husband loved the original series, so I watched the preview episodes with him to get his take on the revamped series.
Can you say, “Everything old is new again?” With original cast members Patrick Duffy, Larry Hagman and Linda Gray starring as Bobby, J.R. and Sue Ellen Ewing, respectively, their children are now grown and ready to continue in their footsteps, literally.
The season premiere centers on the wedding of Bobby's son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), and Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo).
And let's not forget J.R.'s son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), who has struck oil on — shall I dare say it? — South Fork (the family ranch), to which my husband quickly pointed out, “Miss Ellie never allowed oil drilling on South Fork!” (Miss Ellie was Bobby and J.R.'s mother and was portrayed by Barbara Bel Geddes and, briefly, by Donna Reed on the original series that ran 1978-1991.)
What ensues is a legal battle between John Ross, who wants to tap the rich oil vein, and Bobby, who is determined to stop the drilling.
There's also a battle between John Ross and his cousin Christopher, who supports his father whole-heartedly and is trying to develop his own version of “green” technology.
Matter-of-fact, Christopher is the spitting image of right, and John Ross is the spitting image of wrong.
Not only are they fighting over the right to drill or not to drill on South Fork, but these two cousins also spar over Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), their childhood friend and daughter of Bobby's maid.
While Elena's romantically involved with John Ross, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize there was (perhaps, still is) something very special between Elena and Christopher, despite the impending nuptials.
And where exactly is J.R. while all this is taking place? At first, he's in a nursing home suffering from clinical depression — probably because he hadn't been able to stir up any trouble since the original “Dallas” series was canceled. J.R. looks so old and pitiful sitting in his chair, but a visit from John Ross changes all that.
Once J.R. puts on that hat and flashes that devilish grin, he instantly turns into the conniving J.R. we all know and love to hate.
J.R. soon takes center stage, and, with excellent writing, he shows his witty side in even the most unpleasant situations.
When Bobby's wife, Ann (played by Brenda Strong), inadvertently thinks J.R. is an intruder and confronts him with gun in hand, J.R. tells her with a straight face, “Bullets don't seem to have much of an effect on me, darlin'?” (a play on the who shot J.R. phenomenon).
When J.R. enters into a business arrangement in another scene, the other side wants to know about J.R.'s references. J.R. replies, “My friends are in the Statehouse. My enemies will be harder to find.”
J.R. also expresses his disdain for modern technology. One character mentions a business transaction via email, to which he replies, “Old fogeys like me don't email darlin'. We talk to each other personally.” And his answering machine simply says, “This is J.R. After the beep, tell me what you know.”
One of the best exchanges, though, takes place when J.R. encounters Cliff Barnes (played by Ken Kercheval) in Bobby's study. For “Dallas” fans, they will be thrilled to know the rivalry remains between the two characters.
As Barnes leaves, J.R. tells him, “I'll be there when they put you in the ground. Listen close, I'll be the one dancing on the dirt overhead.” This is dialogue “Dallas” fans love to hear.
Yes, some of the other cast members from the original “Dallas” series have reprised their characters and make guest appearances in these episodes.
However, the real disappointment is in the star billing of Gray, who is underutilized in this series. Starring as a shrewd businesswoman who is contemplating a run at governor, script writers need to involve Gray's Sue Ellen character more within subplots if she's to receive this newest TV-generation's vote.
For if Sue Ellen was overshadowed by J.R. in the original series, she's doubly overshadowed with the addition of Henderson's portrayal of John Ross.
John Ross is as conniving as his father, and there are wonderful diabolical exchanges between father and son. No one doubts for a minute John Ross is J.R.'s son as he stirs up trouble at every turn.
However, when I watch him in action, another old-time show, “Father Knows Best,” comes to mind. John Ross clearly would benefit from watching the master at work, but his impetuous style is irresistible to watch. It makes me think a very young J.R. would have acted the same way.
My husband and I had to watch these episodes twice to catch all the subplots, which had more twists than a Chubby Checker record.
Despite character flaws, and there are many, viewers will enjoy this second-generation reprise of “Dallas.”