TV Show Review – Dallas
Rating: 3. “Dallas,” the top-rated southern-soap series that ran from 1978–1991, is back this season with a new cast, a new generation, and a lot of the same old problems. The show’s two-hour premiere will be broadcast on TNT on Wednesday, June 13th at 9 p.m.
USA Today says, “This ‘Dallas’ may be new, but it’s not improved.” They write, “You can find mummies who look fresher than this mold-encrusted relic, and who have newer ideas in their empty, embalmed heads. Not, of course, that this embarrassing throwback has any idea to offer beyond a desire to cash in on the standard-setting success of the CBS original in the 1980s.”
The New York Times says the show “doesn’t meet expectations, let alone defy them. This version is palely faithful to the original without any of its seditious zest.” They add, “Texans used to be big hat; now they are old hat. So, unfortunately, is ‘Dallas.’”
Entertainment Weekly liked the show, saying, “The new TNT version of Dallas is a rare example of an artistically successful — well, entertainingly successful, at least — TV-classic update.” They even went so far as to call David Jacobs, the creator of the original “Dallas” series, an “auteur.” “Overall,” they write, “Dallas is a solidly constructed soap opera, with strong dialogue and oily plot twists.”
Variety says, “TNT’s take on the classic primetime serial is exactly as it should be: Texas-sized, frothy and unwilling to settle for a double-cross when a triple can be executed.” They also say that the show “does a deft job of wedding old and new, setting a fresh generation of Ewings at each other’s throats while credibly (enough for these purposes, anyway) incorporating the old guard,” and add that although “Audiences have seen plenty of Texas [on TV] in recent years…there’s no substitute for old-fashioned crude.”
The Washington Post said the show, “does the near-impossible. It reclaims the soapy and sinister charm that made this saga a hit for 14 seasons until relinquishing its hold on CBS’ Friday lineup in 1991.”
The Kansas City Star featured an in-depth review, saying, “the presence of Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray as JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing – arguably the most important characters from the original series – means that you should take it as seriously, on its less than serious terms.” They also noted the fact that, while the original “Dallas” aired on CBS, “CBS is not what it was when “Dallas” reigned, and advances in television technology mean that even in this relatively more economy-minded venue, it is a fancier affair – and given looser standards and practices, an edgier, more explicit one – than the original. But as redeveloped by Cynthia Cidre (the 2007 CBS prime-time soap “Cane”), it is very much its heir, in spirit and execution.”
The San Francisco Chronicle also liked it, saying, “TNT’s new take on “Dallas” is so calculating, it’s almost worthy of JR Ewing himself, and I mean that in the most complimentary way…Resist if you want to, but whether you were a fan of the original series, or still in utero when it went off the air in 1991, TNT’s “Dallas” will wear you down and pull you in with its mix of sex, intrigue, backstabbing, dirty dealing, blackmail and family secrets.” They also noted, “The female characters are especially elusive and underwritten, with the exception of Strong’s Annie, who has her own secrets to hide.”
On the other hand, the Washington Times called the “Dallas” reboot “vapid” and “unimaginative.” They said, “it’s a show that wants to have it both ways: offering a reductive view of upper-class life that robs the show of its dramatic potential even as it attempts to lure viewers in with the spectacle of wealth and success.” Even more critically, they added, “‘Dallas’ tries to let viewers live vicariously through the privileged lives of its characters, while at the same time reassuring them that they’d never truly want those lives as their own. Where’s the drama in that? Where’s the suspense? If the wealthy are so uninteresting, then why care about their fate at all? And if wealth is its own punishment, then what is there for the audience to root for? Forget whether it’s fair to the rich: It’s unfair to ordinary viewers.”
The Wall Street Journal writes, “As the premiere episode nears its end, the plot begins thickening agreeably with so many secrets, dark revelations, shocks and betrayals it all begins to seem familiarly and comfortably absorbing. Enough anyway to evoke memories of the ‘Dallas’ that America and half the world came to know and love during its long run on CBS (1978-91).”
The Washington Post called it “A satisfying role in the sentimental hay,” and said it’s the show’s “reverence for the deceit and despair that so thoroughly colored the original” that makes it successful. They add that “The new version also has a healthy respect for the general ‘Dallas’ canon, embracing 13 years of convoluted story lines and long-gone characters instead of pretending the whole mess never happened.”
The Sioux City Journal is a bit more skeptical, saying, “It’s fun to see the parade of past pranksters but if you don’t have a history with ‘Dallas’ you’ll wonder why these people get screen time without contributing much to the storyline.” They also say that, in order to succeed, “this ‘Dallas’ needs to go out on its own, enjoy the spoils from the earlier one and explore new plotlines. Some look re-tilled; others need more nurturing.”
Columbus Alive was less appreciative, however, writing, “the melodrama is utterly unwatchable — it’s not even so bad that it’s funny,” and adding that “The cast isn’t capable enough to make the convoluted, yet meaningless writing — an amazingly obnoxious contradiction to pull off — any better. If anything they make it worse.” The show is “supposed to be epically dramatic,” they say, “but it’s actually just dumb.