For the better part of the 1980s, my friends and I would get together on Friday nights for dinner and a movie. It wasn’t unheard of for us to see a movie during the afternoon or evening, sometimes at a local drive-in theater, then see another at a midnight show.
But we always carved an hour out of our Friday nights for “Dallas.”
It might seem strange, a group of 20-something movie, sci-fi and comic book geeks calling a halt to everything else for an hour to tune into CBS to watch a night-time soap.
But “Dallas,” like any good TV show, became a viewing ritual for us. The show began with a limited season in 1978 and lasted until 1991, when, I have to admit, I was no longer regularly watching. But during the prime years, including the third season, which climaxed with the “Who Shot J.R.” cliffhanger, and the eighth season, which was later revealed to be Pam’s dream that Bobby had been killed, you couldn’t budge me from in front of the TV.
A couple of TV-movie sequels and a failed attempt at a big-screen movie — John Travolta as J.R.? No. Just no. — didn’t seem nearly as promising as TNT’s continuation of the series, which debuts Wednesday.
Larry Hagman is back as J.R., along with Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing and Linda Gray as Sue Ellen. There are some new characters too, including the grown-up versions of Ewing offspring Christopher and John Ross.
I’ll be watching Wednesday night. And here are five things I’m really hoping to see on the new “Dallas:”
A robust J.R. Larry Hagman is in his 80s, for goodness sake, and his eyebrows look like the tangled back-country brush on Southfork Ranch after an unexpected Texas frost. I’ve seen Hagman in a few clips and interviews and he looks pretty good. But what the new “Dallas” really needs is a vigorous, conniving, gleefully evil J.R. I’m hoping that Hagman is up to it and still has that wonderful malevolent twinkle.
Drinking. Lots of drinking. If you think the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad execs drink a lot, you didn’t watch “Dallas.” Every time a Ewing would walk into the family room at Southfork Ranch, he or she would make a stop at the bar cart and pour a scotch. Drinking was such a part of the show that, when I visited friends in Canada in 1984, everybody up there expected me to drink “Bourbon and branch.”
A trip to the Cattlemen’s Club. J.R. and the rest of the Ewings frequently had lunch at this upscale eatery in downtown Dallas. It became a joking reference for my friends and me. We’ve got to have at least one visit to the Cattlemen’s Club this season.
Southfork Ranch. I want to see the new show roam all over the Ewings’ sprawling spread, from the remote oil fields — kept as nostalgia pieces by the family — to the pastures where cattle grazed to the barns and haylofts where Lucy once tussled.
Visits from lots of familiar faces. I’ve heard that Charlene Tilton might return as Lucy Ewing Cooper and Steve Kanaly could show up as Ray Krebbs. I really want to see Indiana’s own Ken Kercheval as J.R.’s antagonist Cliff Barnes. And why not bring back, at least in some form, other favorites like Carter McKay and Jenna Wade?
Lots of nostalgia. I want to hear a lot of references to Miss Ellie and Jock. I want to see that portrait of Jock in the family room. I want somebody, somebody, to make a reference to J.R. getting shot before this first season is out.
Then I’ll know we’re back in “Dallas.”