TV Review: “Dallas” – Same Old, Same Old

Written by Guest June 27, 2012

“Blood may be thicker than water…”

The original “Dallas” is considered landmark television. It showed that the primetime soap opera could be a hit and that serialized story telling could be a hit. After fourteen seasons, “Dallas” paved the way for many modern shows with its notable plot twists and cliff hanger endings. Twenty-one years later, “Dallas” has returned with a new series that seems very familiar, for better or for worse.

The new incarnation of “Dallas” airs on TNT in the United States and Bravo in Canada on Wednesday’s at 9PM. It is not a reboot of the original series but a continuation, featuring the returns of Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing and Larry Hagman as the notoriously despicable JR Ewing. Bridging the generation gap are franchise newcomers Josh Henderson (“Desperate Housewives”), Jesse Metcalfe (“John Tucker Must Die”) and Jordana Brewster (“The Fast and the Furious”).

“Dallas” continues the story of the Ewing dynasty in Dallas, Texas and their oil and cattle enterprises. Like the original series, the plot focuses on their family dynamic of betraying each other to make more money. The new wrench thrown into the machine is Bobby and JR’s sons who are exact copies of their fathers’ characters. The drama follows how the family deals with new schemers in a more modern world.

The lies and deciet have not changed, but no one here at a MacBook Pro!

Almost immediately, it is obvious that “Dallas” is not attempting to do anything different than its parent series. After fourteen seasons of writing for these characters there may not be much more to say, but having a long break in-between with no real development feels like a completely missed opportunity to do something truly interesting. Simply throwing in modern technology and attractive young actors does not make the show feel fresh when they are doing the same things their parents did.

The dialog leaves much to be desired. Because the show is focused on moving the plot forward, the conversations feel forced and fake, especially with the new cast. The old cast are used to their characters and the aura they give off reminds the viewer that this is their land and choppy dialog comes with the territory. The new cast however is still trying to find the right beats to fit into this world. The potential is there for them to do so, but the pressure is on them as “Dallas” will not be improving its scriptwriting anytime soon.

“… but oil is thicker than both.”

Despite the mediocrity of the new characters and the awkwardness of the dialog, “Dallas” is able to do what its parent series did best: create an oddly compelling plot. Already there are plotlines of manslaughter, earthquakes, cancer, adultery, burglary and depression. Reflecting back on them, they are absolutely absurd, but watching it in the moment is extremely engaging.  This is truly the same show that brought the world “Who shot JR?” as a pop culture phenomenon and had an entire season turn out to be a dream. Only time will tell if “Dallas” will be able to approach the same levels of insanity.

“Dallas” is a highly compelling show that will likely best function to its viewers as a guilty pleasure show rather than a high-calibre drama. The old characters are still just as fascinating to watch as they return to their old grounds and only time will tell if the interactions they have with the young newcomers will be worth it. “Dallas” deserves credit for maintaining its trademark viewer-engagement even after being gone for so long. Even with its flaws, it has enough goodwill in its heart to keep your attention. “Dallas” truly has not changed.

My Rating: 5/10

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