Anytime a production company says they’re going to remake a classic TV show, I cringe, then I get excited. These projects generally come out of the gate surrounded by negative opinions on how they’re going to dishonor the memory or make a mockery of a beloved series. There have been reboots that failed – Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, The Munsters. But we’ve seen successes, too. Battlestar Galactica for one and Dallas for another.
Back in 1978, Dallas was the yardstick by which all nightime soaps were measured. The series combined the complex relationships and exaggerated storylines of daytime soaps with the glamour and high-production value of a primetime series. In remaking the show, the producers had to solve two, big problems. First, how do you modernize the show without losing the delightful but dated flavor of the original and second, how do you pay homage and still appeal to a new generation of TV watchers.
The solution they came up with was to allow the series to age as it would have in real time – meaning, the young actors of the original, are now the older generation and their kids are now coming into their own.
When I first heard Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy were going to reprise their roles as J.R. and Bobby Ewing, I assumed it was a publicity stunt. I figured they’d both get ten minutes of face-time in the pilot and that would be the last we’d see of them. Thankfully, I was wrong. In a very brave move, the producers gave both actors integral parts in the new series. They aren’t just background for the hot, young stars, Duffy, Hagman, Linda Gray and the other originals are leading players and it’s marvelous.
If you missed a moment of the new series from TNT, you can catch up now with Dallas: The Complete First Season. The DVD, which is new today, includes ten episodes (this is cable so the seasons are short) and two hours of bonus features.
In the featurette, “Southfork Legacy: Making Dallas Season One,” the creators talk about how they went about paying homage to the original series while building a new world for the modern audience. I was surprised to learn how many details they took from the original series, including the famous quotable close-ups before going out to commercial.
Another featurette looks at the phenomena that was “Who Shot J.R.?” and we get a closer look at the costuming and the love oak as well as the history of the Ewing family feuds.
Sadly, these featurettes represent the last look we’ll get of Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. You’ll see him stealing the spotlight from his young co-star Josh Henderson, discussing his reaction to the “Who Shot J.R.” madness, and his feelings about coming back to Southfork after all these years. I’m glad they were able to get the actor, not just the character on film for posterity.
The DVD also includes a commentary track on the pilot and deleted scenes that are actually worth watching.
Above all of that, Dallas: The Complete First Season looks as vibrant and fun as the plots and the characters. If you love a dramatic family saga, pick up Dallas today and catch-up before the series returns to TNT on January 28. It’s one of this past season’s great guilty pleasures.