Dallas Review:Say Hello to the Next Generation
Family feuds! Fist fights! Earthquakes! Weddings! Burglaries! Corporate backstabbing! A terminal illness! Overhead panning shots of horses galloping in fields!
And that’s all just in the first episode. Dallas is back with a bang.
The US mega-soap that took the world by storm through the 70s and 80s is just as ambitious as ever, with the resurrected series still focussing on the antics of the impossibly wealthy Ewing family, and the drama, conflict and power struggles that money inevitably brings.
And if there’s one word to sum up this new series, it’s the word ‘glossy’. It’s a slick, soapy drama that looks wonderful, feels expensive and is just, well, glossy, and very much so.
But don’t take that to mean the show lacks substance, as there’s plenty for viewers to sink their metaphorical teeth into, with the whole of this inaugural episode dedicated to setting up character dynamics and future plotlines.
The writers pack a lot of plot into this series opener, and in the first ten minutes alone you learn that Southfork Ranch is oil rich, Bobby Ewing has a terminal illness, and his adopted son Christopher Ewing, played by Jesse Metcalfe, is getting married.
Ewing, portrayed by the actor otherwise known as the shirtless gardener from Desperate Housewives who can’t do a French accent for love nor money,is a champion of alternative energy sources, putting him in direct opposition to John Ross Ewing (Josh Henderson, also from Desperate Housewives), the oil-hungry progeny of the J.R.
You can genuinely feel the on-screen tension between this Dallas ‘next generation’, with Henderson playing the part of ruthless, duplicitous bastard, who just oozes charm and appeal. Metcalfe unfortunately doesn’t fare as well in this first episode, coming across as the slightly bland ‘good guy’ of the series, but that doesn’t mean his character won’t develop depth over ensuing episodes
But predictively, it’s the old guard we all know and love that truly shine. Patrick Duffy plays Bobby to perfection (we’re forgive the overacting in places), relishing his role as the fair but firm patriarch, and Larry Hagman slips back easily into the Stetson cowboy hat of J.R.
His transformation throughout the episode really does make great viewing, with viewers reintroduced to him as a virtual recluse, clinically depressed, whiling away his days in an armchair, and staring silently out of a window. It’s a genuine pleasure to see the ‘old’ J.R. reawaken, as the smell of money, oil and power brings back the ruthless, conniving, brilliant businessman we all know and love/hate. The few shared scenes between J.R. and his son also show promise, with delicious tension bubbling under the surface of their strained relationship.
However, while there is a lot to like about the new Dallas, you can’t help but feel that it leans toward the soapier side of the primetime drama spectrum. There’s slapped faces, dramatic showdowns, lingering close-ups and plot points that require a considerable logic leap. That said, its frothiness is fun and promises a very enjoyable season to come.
As J.R. says in one of the closing scenes of the episode, “Blood may be thicker than water, but oil is thicker than both.”
Welcome back, Dallas.