For 14-seasons, the TV series Dallas exposed the city to an international audience and cemented its reputation – for better or worse – as a capital of big hair and big money. Twenty-one years later, Dallas returns to primetime Wednesday night. And the makers of the new show were careful to do right by the original and the city that inspired it.
KERA Radio story:
The show’s executive producer says bringing back one of television’s highest-rated shows is equal parts exciting and nerve-racking.
Cynthia Cidre also wrote much of the new season of Dallas.
CIDRE: “It didn’t occur to me to be frightened until after we finished the pilot and then we put on the main title sequence – which you actually do everything before you put that on. So we were done. And then the main title sequence came on and the music played. … And I thought, ‘What have we done?’ … It was really the first time I was petrified.”
Dallas is getting a hand from its past. The original’s big three stars are all back. Linda Gray’s returns as Sue Ellen, Larry Hagman is back as the devious J.R. and Patrick Duffy plays his brother, Bobby – an easy decision on his part.
DUFFY: “The minute I read it and turned the last page, I was on the phone to Larry and Linda. I said, ‘I’m in.’ This is better than 50 percent of the original Dallas scripts that we ever had.”
In the season premiere, the Ewing family squabbles have trickled down to the next generation. Bobby’s son, Christopher, is interested in developing alternative energy sources and protecting Southfork Ranch. J.R.’s son, John Ross, discovers oil on Southfork and sees a big payday in his future.
JOHN ROSS: “I hear you’ve come home with some kind of alternative energy scheme to save the world. Here I was hoping to tempt you into wildcatting with me.”
CHRISTOPHER: “Oil’s the past, John Ross. Alternative’s the future.”
JOHN ROSS: “I couldn’t disagree more.”
CHRISTOPHER: “Well, this country’s quickly running out of resources.”
JOHN ROSS: “With all due respect, cousin – that’s a load…”
CHRISTOPHER: “With all due respect, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”]
Jesse Metcalf, plays Christopher. You might remember him from Desperate Housewives. Dallas native Josh Henderson plays John Ross, who is ever bit as conniving as his old man.
Some of the cast members were apprehensive about resurrecting the show.
Brenda Strong plays Bobby’s wife, Anne.
STRONG: “The Ewing family is a legacy. And so to step in as the new Mrs. Bobby Ewing, I’m aware I’m filling some big shoes. Pam and Bobby were beloved.”
Duffy says because there are so many important pieces of the original show in place, there is pressure to deliver.
DUFFY: “No aspersion intended, but it’s not like doing Hawaii 5-0, where you just bring in a whole new cast of people, you play the theme song for a minute and then it’s a cop show. We’re doing Dallas. We’ve got J.R. We’ve got Sue Ellen. We’ve got Bobby. We’ve got South Fork. We’ve got everything, and people expect things, and you can’t disappoint them.”
The new show also has one thing the old show didn’t – Dallas itself. The original only came to North Texas for two months a year to shoot exterior scenes at Southfork. But the entire first season of the new show was shot in town. In the first episode alone we see the Arts District, Cowboys Stadium and other local landmarks.
That authenticity will pay big dividends says Dallas Film Commissioner Janis Burklund.
BURKLUND: “Cynthia [Cidre] and Mike Robin, the two executive producers, when we had them here for a scout and we started showing them the Dallas that is today and they were meeting people, they were like, ‘Oh my God! If we do this somewhere else, we don’t have this backdrop. We don’t have these great new buildings that is Dallas.’”
Should Dallas find an audience and renewal for subsequent seasons, there’s a strong chance the series will continue to be shot here. The Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a deal in which the city will offer $200,000 in incentives per season for as many as six additional seasons of the show.