NEW YORK (AP) -- "I hate to hit a man below the belt, but you know I will,"
says J.R. Ewing. "No hard feelings."
No hard feelings at all, J.R. We're just feeling thrilled to have you
And as he resumes his special grade of sweet-crude villainy, TNT's
resurrection of "Dallas" does the
near-impossible. It reclaims the soapy and sinister charm that made this saga a
hit for 14 seasons until relinquishing its hold on CBS' Friday lineup in 1991.
And it ushers in a new generation of at-odds characters to supplement such
timeless personalities as J.R. (Larry Hagman), his former wife Sue
Ellen (Linda Gray) and his ever-upright
brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), while folding in
contemporary plotlines, notably the push by Bobby's son Christopher to profit
big from renewable energy — which, of course, is heresy to J.R. and his own son
John Ross, whose veins flow with oil.
All this awaits viewers on the back-to-business "Dallas" (with a two-hour
premiere Wednesday at 9 p.m. EDT).
But wait! There's even more to look forward to: J.R., undiminished by the
passing years, is meaner and more diabolical than ever.
"In my wildest imagination," Bobby's wife, Ann (played by Brenda Strong), wails at him, "I
never dreamed you would stoop to this," to which J.R. advises, "Well, you're
just gonna have to work on your imagination."
As the series begins, Bobby is preparing to sell Southfork to a conservancy
that would guarantee the ranch's vast, pristine acreage can never be despoiled
by oil rigs. Little does Bobby suspect that his nephew, John Ross, is already
drilling Southfork land on the sly.
Across town, J.R., who since we last saw him lost Ewing Oil and much of his
fortune, resides in near-catatonic gloom at a retirement facility.
But never fear: News that Southfork is about to be sold jolts J.R. back to
gleeful, vengeful life. His cold hawk eyes glisten. His tufted eyebrows rise
like devil's horns. His wicked grin gleams.
He's talking about the new "Dallas" and the opportunity to play J.R. again in
the company of his "Dallas" pals.
The only thing bothering the 80-year-old TV legend right now: The salsa
before him needs a little kick. "You got any hotter stuff?" he asks the
Hagman, his Stetson parked on the table by his plate, has joined Gray and Josh Henderson, who plays their son,
at a barbecue restaurant in midtown Manhattan to talk with a reporter about the
"It moves so quick," says Hagman with a chuckle, referring to the brisk pace
and twisted narrative. "The old shows just drug along: long, long pauses; come
in for a close-up where the actor's doing nothing. On THIS show, they don't
waste any time!"
"The attention to detail, that's what impresses me," says Gray. She speaks of
a meeting early on with one of the producers, "and he said, 'What do you think
Sue Ellen should wear?' Most executive producers don't ask that. They leave it
to the wardrobe people."
"Ohhhh, my God!" gasps Hagman, who has just sampled the revved-up salsa. "I
need an Arnold Palmer to put that fire out!"
While Hagman douses his flaming tonsils, Gray needs minimal prompting to
describe the day she met him some 35 years ago.
"It was at Warner Bros. in Burbank," she says, "with the 'Dallas' cast in
this little room sitting around a table for our first meeting. And he walks in,
this man with a cowboy hat, and I thought, 'What's this?' To me, he was still
the astronaut from 'I Dream of Jeannie.'
Then he looked at me and he went, 'Hello, darlin'.' And that was it: I thought,
Oh, darn, this is gonna be fun."
"She THREW herself at me!" Hagman breaks in. "She'd had a couple of glasses
of champagne already, and she put her arms around me and said, 'I'm your
"They're not just pretty people," Gray says she swiftly concluded. "They're
pretty AND they're talented, and lovely human beings."
Henderson confesses to his own concerns on joining the ensemble.
"I was a little intimidated the first day when Larry came on set. When J.R.
came alive it took the whole room by storm. But once we had that first scene
together, I was completely excited about what would be unfolding between us. And
same with her," he goes on, nodding toward Gray. "Linda was just the sweetest,
sweetest woman EVER when I met her. But being in those scenes with Sue Ellen
...." He shakes his head with mock-consternation. "It was scary, meeting J.R.
and Sue Ellen!"
Henderson is known for playing the bad-boy nephew of Nicolette Sheridan on "Desperate Housewives"
and his starring role on the 2005-06 FX drama series "Over There" as a soldier
wounded in the Iraq war.
Born in Dallas 30 years ago and raised in Tulsa, Okla., he was familiar with
"Dallas" from his childhood.
"I don't really remember watching it, because I was so young, but I knew it
was a big deal. My meemaw watched it every week, and my aunt, who had kids in
sports playing on Friday nights, saved up money to buy a VCR, which cost $1,000
in those days, to record 'Dallas' while they went to the kids' games.