‘Dallas’ returns — without Hagman, but chock full of juicy back-stabbing
There’s bound to be a lot of channel clicking in North Texas come Monday night, as RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo and TNT’s reboot of Dallas both return for their season premieres — Ru’s sixth, Dallas’ third. Then again, that’s what DVRs, and rebroadcasts, were designed for.
It’s sad you’d even have to make a choice, as both appeal to a similar demographic: Those on the prowl for juicy scandal and shade-throwing bitchiness. And all due respect to the queens, but they got nothin’ on those Texas Ewings.
Dallas was always the king of the nighttime soaps, a potboiler that set the standard, if not the high-bar, from trash TV, which its back-stabbing, conniving, sex, violence and oil — both the kind you dig for underground at the kind you rub all over men in bed. Ooh-la-la. RuPaul has the race, but Dallas has the racy.
That’s apparent during the opening scene of the season premiere, where John Ross (Josh Henderson) — equally evil son to the late, not-so-great J.R. (Larry Hagman, who died midway through filming of Season 2) — steps on screen as ripped and slimy as a serpent, but with sultry bedroom eyes that could meld gold. He’s a transparently devious fella, but it’s so hard to concentrate when he’s talking and his shirt is off. That must be what distracts everyone from his cousin Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe, bearded and butch), son of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and even his mom Sue Ellen (Linda Gray, off the wagon again). When John Ross’ lips are moving, he’s lying, but damn if you don’t like looking at those lips.
That’s the appeal of Dallas, of course — always has been: Pretty people doing ugly things that, no matter how preposterous, are as addictive as popcorn. The plotting has never been more outrageous, and most of the time depends on short attention spans. Everyone is continually willing to forgive everyone else, no matter how egregious the transgression. Ellen (Jordana Brewster) betrays Christopher? No prob — one insincere apology later, and he’s turned over the keys to the safe to her, even though she’s now in the pocket of Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). John Ross tries to destroy you — and is still trying — no worries, we can still work together. Just as long as we stare down each other menacingly before the commercial break.
Having just concluded a 13-episode marathon of Season 2 of House of Cards, in which a man schemes to usurp the White House from under the American people (and will commit murder to do it), it’s difficult to take faking a land survey in order to frack on Southfork too seriously, but there you have it. This isn’t lofty television, but it is damned entertaining.
Part of that appeal derives from the dialogue, which cannier than the plotting and character development. There are knowledgeable references to Dallas geography (half the fun is playing Spot the Landmark), pop culture (jokes about Duck Dynasty) and Texas life (an understanding of the prominence of barbecue feels more lived-in that most shows set in the state). So what if we have a new, evil character who does everything shy of twirling a moustache and laying a damsel on the train tracks? There’s enough laying of another kind to make up for it. And John Ross’ eyes. Remind me to give him my debit and PIN. I’m sure he’ll be responsible with it. You can just tell he really likes me.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 21, 2014.