I surprised myself this week. When it comes to television, I’m a bit of a snob. I don’t like trashy soaps and most reality shows. I avoid them like the plague. Yet somehow, when watching “Conan” on Monday evening, I found myself setting the DVR when I saw the ad for the grand premiere of the new “Dallas” reboot for Wednesday on TNT. I knew chances of me catching it live were slim (the reality of being a wife and mother) and I didn’t want to miss it.
Wait a second, I didn’t want to miss it? What sort of alien has taken over my body?
It’s really not too far fetched. I did watch the original. After all, what else was a 12 year old going to do on her Friday nights? I watched from the premiere until Bobby Ewing stepped out of the shower and Pam Ewing realized that the entire prior season was a dream. I never went back. Okay, I’m lying, I did see the series finale. Even though they ended on a cliffhanger, you know J.R. Ewing didn’t shoot himself.
I wasn’t able to watch the show live on Wednesday as expected, but did have time last night. It all came back to me why I wanted to watch this show. So much is different, but everything is the same.
In picking up where they left off, I really don’t know if the setup given followed any sort of canon. I don’t know if Bobby ended up taking over Southfork, and I do vaguely remember Cliff Barnes taking over Ewing Oil. I don’t even remember if Bobby got remarried, but I know he was in another relationship after Pam disappeared for whatever reason. Or did she die? Anyway, I could drive myself crazy with all of that, so we’ll just go with “my recollections are sketchy.”
Most of the time I roll my eyes at reboots, but I saw potential in this premise. The original “Dallas” excelled at using parallels between the older generation (Jock and Digger) and the current one (J.R., Bobby, and Cliff Barnes). The opportunity is golden now to carry on the story. Little John Ross and Christopher are grown and trying to make names for themselves. It’s interesting that they didn’t profit from the family name, or had their futures handed to them on silver platters. John Ross is all about the family legacy, making loads of money with oil and restoring the family name. Christopher, even though adopted, is more like his Dad, and doesn’t want anything to do with the family legacy. He’s about alternative energy and finding his own way.
What’s clever here though is the older generation isn’t forgotten. They’re winding their way back into the fold either out of necessity (Bobby) or for fun (J.R.). I found it extremely interesting that the Patriarch of the family is now Bobby. Southfork is now his, and he’s handling all the family affairs while a both mentally and physically weakened J.R. is spending his salad days in the old folks home. Bobby is the one carrying on Miss Ellie’s dying wishes for the ranch, which means no drilling for oil, even though they’re sitting on a huge pot of it. This does not sit well with young and hot headed John Ross, who’s extremely eager to reboot the family legacy. Can’t have a show named “Dallas” without boat loads of family conflict, right?
Just so we never forget this is a soap opera, Bobby’s got other issues too. Apparently he has a serious, if not fatal form of gastrointestinal cancer. He decides that selling Southfork to a conservatory would do its legacy better justice than the oil rich property driving a wedge between John Ross and Christopher, just like it did between him and J.R. all those years ago. The sap even tells J.R. that, and I commend J.R. for playing along and not retching or breaking out in completely laughter during the drama. All I was thinking was, if they do decide to kill Bobby Ewing again, can he stay dead this time? This isn’t “Supernatural” after all.
There’s also this love triangle thing between John Ross, Christopher, and Elena, who’s currently with John Ross but clearly still loves Christopher. Seems that she didn’t marry Christopher because he supposedly sent her a rejection email, except he didn’t. Don’t you think you should have called him first babe before running off the Mexico with your heart broken?
The primary plot is super clear despite all these overlapping dramas. It’s a ruthless battle for Southfork. John Ross makes peace with J.R. so he can use him to steal Southfork away from Bobby, but he’s making the old man think he’s stealing it for himself when really he has a plan in place to steal it from dear old Dad too. Got all that? Christopher’s scheming new wife and her maybe brother are trying to get control of the family fortune through Christopher. I called it early on that Rebecca and her brother were behind that email to Elena the second John Ross denied it. He may be a schemer, but he’s also a terrible liar. He also needs to learn a thing or two from his daddy, for he doesn’t seem to be as cunning. Don’t openly kiss your conspirator where dad can see it from his room window idiot.
Sue Ellen is around too, still pretending to be important at her social functions, opening herself up to being scammed by someone. She’s offering Elena money to go after old oil leases. Elena seems very moral compared to the rest of this bunch, so why do I have a bad feeling about this arrangement? Seems that Sue Ellen’s trusting nature is the same it’s always been, which never goes good for her. Come on though, you had to love the compliment J.R. gave her at the ball. Even when he’s a frail old man, he’s still got it.
What I got from the first two hours is that the writers are obviously big fans of the original series and get its true spirit. It’s all about scheming, double crossing, and loads of cheesy drama. Out of all the new characters, I really love Josh Henderson as John Ross. He’s smart yet he’s reckless, ambitious yet impatient, and his ruthlessness could easily be outdone by his hot head. He seems more like a Jock Ewing to me than J.R., but he’s young too and probably has no idea what he’s getting into. Or maybe he does. That’s the thing, there’s a lot to play out here yet. He’s full of surprises. Christopher seems a lot more generic and I’m not quite feeling his story, but perhaps that too will take time. I also like Jordana Brewster’s Elena. She’s more bold, confident, smart, but she’s getting into a very dirty game with a strong set of morals. It’s almost like she’s the female version of Bobby Ewing, except she actually wants in the oil business. She’s no Sue Ellen, that’s for sure.
Overall, despite the fact it was no barn burner, I actually enjoyed the two hours I spent watching this premiere. So, is all this enough where I’m going to be watching every week? Once I’m done wrestling with my inner conscience for allowing myself to indulge in such a guilty pleasure, I don’t see why I can’t check out a few more episodes here and there. It’s at least worthy of a season pass on the DVR. For summer fare this is perfect, but I’m definitely not wishing this was a 22 episode fall prime time series on CBS. Come fall, there’s just going to be higher priorities than oil, sex, and greed in Texas.
As a bonus, it seems that someone at the TNT PR department has the same lingering feelings I have about the infamous shower scene and the best sense of humor ever. This is brilliant beyond words!