DALLAS and other TV Entertainment News

Dallas Is Back: Can It Help Save Television?

There was certainly a lot of hype proceeding the premiere of the new 'Dallas' on TNT. The actors portraying the Ewing clan and their hangers-on have been all over the tube giving individual interviews and appearing as a group. Did the new old nighttime soap deliver the goods? You bet it did! I was blown away by the amount of intrigue generated in the first two episodes which aired as the series premiere on the TNT cable network this week. Even by 'Dallas' standards, the number of double and triple crosses among the characters were staggering.

Larry Hagman (J.R. Ewing), Patrick Duffy (Bobby Ewing) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen Ewing) brought home the bacon and mixed well with newcomers Josh Henderson (John Ross Ewing), Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing) and Jordana Brewster (Elena Ramos). As someone who watched many of the 1978 TV series episodes during it's fourteen seasons, I can say that the original cast members really brought their best to the reincarnation. The class of 2012 also excelled by creating their own drama within a drama. By the time the series premiere ended, my head was spinning and it left me wanting a lot more.

The real question is not about how well 'Dallas' has been successfully resurrected. As far as I am concerned, that question was answered in the positive. It's about whether or not this series can help save television. During a guest spot on The Today Show, Patrick Duffy happened to comment that in the heyday of the original series viewing choices were limited by the small number of networks available at that time. It was easy to see his point. Today the choices are almost unlimited and have to compete with online activity and web entertainment options.

'Dallas' is not for everyone and never has been. However, the new old series is something that I believe has the potential to appeal to all ages. If younger viewers give the show a chance, I believe they'll love it. The story lines include very modern situations and concerns creating drama from things like green energy and social networking. Older viewers who recall the heady days of Jock, Miss Ellie and all the melodrama generated by the ever-scheming J.R. will find that magic back in the 2012 reincarnation.

The best thing I can say about the new 'Dallas' is that it managed to give me two hours of pure entertainment without upsetting, insulting or angering me. The same cannot be said about many other program choices and I think that's a lesson that must be learned by the entertainment powers that be. They seem to feel that throwing garbage like G.C.B. at viewers or pulling stunts like placing a decapitated prosthetic George W. Bush head on a stake during a recent 'Games of Thrones' episode will endear them to the public or make them seem socially superior. Well, guess again.

Entertainment is all about entertainment. There's nothing wrong with sarcastically making light of various people or issues in the news as we have seen done time and again with style by Doctor House (Hugh Laurie) on the Fox Network's 'House, M.D.", but that's a world away from attacking them. When it comes to non-reality television, I have always believed that the best shows do not choose political or social sides. They simply entertain their viewers, choosing to be politically or socially offensive only when it's funny and in a light-hearted way. Those are the programs that last and ground-breaking series like 'All In The Family' and 'Mash' are good cases in point.

It wasn't long ago that almost every series on television became a morality play. It began with shows like 'Ben Casey' (1961-1966) which starred Vince Edwards, Sam Jaffe and Jeanne Bates. That show moved from a gritty medical drama to a platform for almost every social issue of the day and I believe that is what brought about its premature demise. Then came 'Quantum leap' starring Scott Bakula, Dean Stockwell and Deborah Pratt.

How can you lose with a science fiction show about Time Travel? Just ask the people that brought us 'Time Tunnel' and 'Time Cop' if you want an answer. Those shows could have hit huge sci-fi pay dirt, but lacked the kind of emotional drama generated by the time travel episodes that became and remain so popular among Star Trek fans of all the Trek series incarnations. You need more than just shoot 'em up situations mixed with cool looking technology. You also need to entertain your audience without preaching to them.

When 'Quantum Leap' premiered in the late 1980s, I was excited and had hight hopes for it because Time Travel stories have always been my favorite kind of science fiction. After I read 'The Time Machine' by H.G. Wells, I was hooked. Coincidentally, that story managed to entertain and still offer social commentary without hitting you over the head with it. That is definitely a lesson the series could have learned from, but they didn't and watching 'Quantum Leap' became painful after a short time. That's because they managed to drudge up absolutely every social issue that anyone could possibly care about and shove it down their viewer's throats.

Is it any wonder that television once moved away from series like 'Ben Casey' to 'My Three Sons' and 'Get Smart' during the 1960s to increase ratings? It was about attracting viewers with the novel concept of entertaining them, instead of upsetting or annoying them. A happy medium was reached with programs that offered a gentle push towards civility and sanity. 'Star Trek' and 'Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In' excelled in that genre and can still teach a lesson or two about programming to those responsible for what people watch these daze. It's lesson they had better learn fast if they really want to wrest people away from their computer screens, back to television screens.

In the mean time, I will delight in watching members of the older and younger Ewing clan feud, scheme and almost self-destruct occasionally on the new old 'Dallas' series. I have to admit that although I was a frequent viewer, I was never a diehard fan of the original series. That's because it moved a bit too slow and got a bit too steamy for my tastes back in the day. The new series moves faster and spends less time in the bedrooms of the characters. Best of all, good old J.R. Ewing is up to his old tricks again and that will make this series well worth watching.

Read more provocative articles at Mysterious Q's News Commentary

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