Possibly the greatest event in the history of White Trash television,
notwithstanding a "Dukes of Hazzard" reunion which I
must believe is in the works, occurred this past Friday
night at 8 p.m. on CBS. I'm referring, of course, to the "Dallas"
In the two-hour "made-for-television feature film,"
original cast members Larry Hagman, a.k.a. "Master,"
"Major Healy" (J.R. Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing),
Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing), Ken Kercheval (Cliff Barnes), George
Kennedy (Carter McKay), Audrey Landers (Afton Cooper) and Omri
Katz (John Ross Ewing) reprised their roles as members--in any
number of twisted, country-fried ways--of the most famous oil
family the world has ever known. And it was an event to behold!
Incidentally, Charlene Tilton--the only original cast member other
than Hagman who asked to be included in the reunion--was
reportedly turned away. I can't remember the name of the character
she played anyway, so who cares?
The special episode was the Great White Trash Hope of American
prime-time soap operas. Although the various hare-brained schemes
were decidedly difficult to follow, it went something like this:
With pre-owned liver in tow, the infamous J.R. Ewing steps off
an American Airlines jet and back into the lives of his supremely
dysfunctional family like a surgically enhanced wrecking ball.
The mayhem begins almost immediately as J.R. strolls into the
office of arch-idiot Cliff Barnes--who had been running the Ewing
oil empire since Bobby got out of the business and J.R. got drunk,
mumbled something about the Devil and took off for Europe five
years ago. A self-described "kindlier, gentler J.R."
all but begs Barnes to sell Ewing Oil--his Daddy's legacy--back
to him. Upon Barnes' refusal, J.R. makes some unintelligible threat
and sets out to take the company by force.
Just how he pulls off the coup is a piece of work so outrageous
that it is truly a monument to White Trash television writing.
The script was written by longtime "Dallas" producer
Arthur Bernard Lewis, who obviously spent a lot of time hunched
over platters of fried food and cheap beer to get into the mindset
of the intended viewers. His understanding of what the people
want is uncanny. And he delivers with aplomb.
Without the necessary funds to buy Ewing Oil himself, sneaky J.R.
calls upon younger brother Bobby to join him in the quest. Bobby,
who's been fairly bored running Southfork for the past five years,
refuses, of course, and sends J.R. on his way. The Evil One immediately
puts Plan B into action, stealing his own son's inheritance ($200
million) and buying stock out from under arch-rival Carter McKay,
who plans to absorb the dwindling Ewing empire into his own company.
Interspersed throughout the flimsy plot are Bobby's squeaky clean
romance with a long lost acquaintance, J.R.'s affair with a beautiful,
crooked lawyer (Tracy Scoggins) and several gratuitous public
service announcements. Perhaps the most annoying and ubiquitous
of these are Bobby's incessant sermons about not drinking and
driving. Perhaps the most annoying is the safe sex lesson Bobby's
stupid teenage son, Christopher, attempts to teach J.R.'s stupid
teenage son, John Ross. And the infinitely evil J.R. himself blathers
on several occasions about "the doctors" advising him
to "stay away from the hard stuff"--an exclamation that
seems a bit on the sick side considering Hagman's recent battle
against cirrhosis. Oh, and did I mention that J.R. fakes his own
death only to make an appearance at his own memorial service?
And tries to convince Sue Ellen that she is "the only woman
I ever really loved?" And manages to get exactly what
he wants despite Bobby's efforts to thwart his master plan? Could
it have been any other way?
When all is said and done after 120 minutes of sex, scandal, family
feuds, syrupy romance, explosions and bad business, J.R. has become
the new Chairman of McKay's oil empire, and Bobby and Sue Ellen
have formed a partnership to obtain Ewing Oil. The non-sequitur
sub plot works itself out as well, as Cliff Barnes reunites (sort
of) with his long lost daughter and his mistress, Afton Cooper.
Audrey Landers as Cooper, in fact, gives the best performance
of the lot even though she spends most of the episode locked up
in a Waco mental institution confused, with mascara melting down
her right cheek. "I'm not crazy, I promise," she tells
her daughter upon release ... no one is convinced. And so the
mighty Ewing family--what's left of it anyway--inhabits Southfork
True fans are left in a state of teary-eyed nostalgia, desperately
hoping for "Dallas: The Next Generation." Non-fans didn't
watch. And as I turned off the television, the wise words of J.R.
Ewing reverberating within my chicken-fried brain, I suddenly
knew what it means to be a true fan of White Trash Television.
As J.R. so eloquently put it, "You have ham and eggs. The
chicken who laid the eggs is involved. The pig who supplied the
ham is committed." I am the pig, coo-coo-ka-choo.
There's no word yet as to whether we'll ever hear from our favorite
Texan family again, but the made-for-TV reunion movie at least
gave us a certain amount of closure. We can finally get on with
our lives knowing J.R. Ewing is back where he belongs. Thanks,