What with Hollywood snapping up every old TV show in creation to make campy theatrical comedies (21 Jump Street? Dark Shadows?), there’s hardly anything left for television to reboot. (Sure, we got a couple crappy episodes of “Charlie’s Angels” last season, but that was only after two big budget movies had their way with the series.) For the last five years, Hollywood bragged about shooting a feature film reboot of the once-popular nighttime soap “Dallas.” John Travolta was slated to be our new J.R. Perhaps mercifully, that seems to have fallen apart—and now TNT is free to rush ahead with its own brand-new prime-time version of the series.
Unlike the proposed theatrical take, this is no joking revamp. It’s pure, unadulterated, ’80s-era “Dallas.” It even follows up, pitch-perfectly, on the storyline of the original 1978-1991 series. It’s been two decades since we last saw the Ewing clan and, right off the bat, things are not looking good. Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) is dying of intestinal cancer. J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) is clinically depressed and near-comatose in a retirement home. At least we’ve got their offspring to concentrate on if things take a turn for the worse. First up is hunky Christopher Ewing (likable Jesse Metcalf from “Desperate Housewives”), the adopted son of good-guy Bobby. Next, we’ve got equally hunky John Ross Ewing (oily Josh Henderson, also from “Desperate Housewives”), the scheming offspring of bad-guy J.R.
As in the previous generation, Christopher Ewing is the good son—trying to bring alternative fuel solutions to America through the mining of frozen methane. John Ross, on the other hand, is the bad son—plotting to steal Southfork Ranch out from under his relatives so he can tap the land for its fat oil reserves. Throw in a couple of sexy girlfriends (John Ross gets Jordana Brewster from The Fast & The Furious movies. Christopher gets Julie Gonzalo from “Veronica Mars”) and you’ve got plenty of juicy love triangle material to add to the mix of backstabbing business.
Unlike the prime-time soapers The CW has been building its rep on, this “Dallas” isn’t really aimed at the tween crowd. Yes, there are a few good-looking young faces, but the pace is slow, the style is old-fashioned and there isn’t a sexy vampire in sight. Longtime fans of “Dallas” will feel right at home. By the end of the first episode, Bobby and J.R. have picked up where they left off. The show’s continuing storyline includes plenty of room for nostalgic cameos. (Hello, Charlene Tilton! Hey, Ken Kerchival!) And shooting the entire thing in and around Dallas proper allows Southfork Ranch to become a character all its own.
With the first few episodes anyway, the show doesn’t go for campy in-jokes or silly melodrama. (Let’s give in and say the premiere ep’s climactic shot at Cowboys Stadium embraces just right level of over-the-top-ed-ness.) This “Dallas” is good old-fashioned, steal-your-cousin’s-fiancée, conspire-with-your-uncle’s-enemies, hire-some-industrial-spies and slap-somebody-in-the-face soap opera action—the stuff guilty pleasures are made of.