Yes, there were anchor actors Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing and Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing, and they even dragged in Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes, now more evil, petty and jealous than ever.
But, it was JR Ewing (Larry Hagman) they tuned in to see. Ratings for the first season were fairly good and everyone was thrilled to see JR one more time, but knowing Hagman's poor health, the writers started the show with JR in a nursing home, in a wheelchair, wondering whether he'd eaten his oatmeal yet.
Now, try and build ratings off of that!
Some people loved the new show, but as a devotee, one of millions, to the original show, actors Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe were stunted by scripts that made them appear imbecilic, whiny, and let's just call it for what it was, poor excuses for the name Ewing. Jock and Miss Ellie would not have been proud of the Generation Y's Ewings. No, sir.
Good move, TNT.
These 'kids' didn't have what it takes to bring it to the name Ewing. In anything else, they're sure to build a following as actors, but this wasn't their breakout starring role op, either.
Given Texas' current and outgoing governor, Rick Perry, Sue Ellen Ewing was right up there as a Texas gubernatorial candidate.
After all, everything is bigger, including egos, in Texas, right?
Sometimes it’s true that you just can’t go home again. Such is the case for The Ewings, an iconic but fictional television family, whom TNT resurrected from three decades ago, at the height of the oil boom. It was a kinder, gentler time when oil barons and the best in nighttime soap operas that were actually must-see programs worth arranging your schedule around. On October 3, 2014, TV Line reported that TNT decided it was time to put a(nother) fork in Southfork and call it done after three very long seasons on cable.
Who among Baby Boomers didn’t tune in to see what J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the man everyone loved to hate, was up to each week? His never-ending battle with younger brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy) was more a battle of the wits with love undergirding the jealousy and competition, which endured for 357 episodes. Back in the day Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing was consistently beautiful and tortured as she tried to survive life at Southfork amidst everyone either hating or pitying her. Good times? Not so much. With the remake the scripts were just not what she needed to establish the "new" Sue Ellen as solidly.
Sadly the writers of the 21st-century Ewing saga weren’t attuned to the original David Jacobs formula, and it was a "silk purse, sow's ear" reverse transformation, compared to the original CBS and Lorimar Production's “Dallas” that was an American and international favorite. It was also both hard to watch and even more traumatic to compare the two shows. It was barely palatable if you weren't old enough to have seen the first one.
Three seasons ago, when Larry Hagman was alive, it was clear that he was ill, but he gave it his very best and the scripts were basically solid enough to help you drift back and remember the days of Jock (Jim Davis), Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes and Donna Reed). The second-generation of “Dallas” didn’t include Victoria Principal’s Pamela, nor did the added strength (and built-in adversary) of Steve Kanaly’s Ray Krebs character and those omissions did matter.
Patrick Duffy looked simply aggrieved most of the episodes in the next-gen “Dallas,” likely due to wondering why and how he stayed after Hagman’s passing. The biggest flaw in the entire concept was the casting of Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe as John Ross and Christopher Ewing, respectively. It’s hard to know whether it was script quality or acting ability that the “kids” failed to hold anyone’s attention for more than four seconds. In other vehicles they may fare quite well, but they no more embody the offspring of the evil J.R. and the good Bobby than the man in the proverbial moon. Likely they were more eye candy than Ewing-caliber.
Without the early, established presence of Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) in the show, J.R., in a wheelchair and potentially brain-numb and it went downhill from there. The women of Southfork were equally disappointing, the plots were confusing and well, let’s just say it was time to pull the curtain. Even the show opening was muddled until Season 3 when they went back to the blatant reproduction of the original show’s three-way screen split and the theme music sounded closer to real.
You can find the complete collection of 14 seasons of the original 1970s and 1980s show on DVD at amazon.com and other outlets near you. The original Southfork Ranch in Plano, Texas, is still available for tours and there’s even a Southfork Hotel for the full experience at the Ewing Mansion. So next time you're craving nostalgia, get in your car and drive over Dallas way. Turns out that TNT really does know drama, when it is, and when it’s not.
[Note: Full story previously published on examiner.com]