Is Brenda Strong “strong enough” to survive the curse of marriage to Bobby Ewing on TNT’s Dallas?
Longtime Dallas fans will no doubt be closely scrutinizing Brenda Strong’s performance as Bobby Ewing’s new wife Ann on TNT’s Dallas. The tall, elegant actress, known for her voiceover role (and occasional on-camera appearances) as Mary Alice, the character who shot herself dead in the beginning of ABC’s long-running “Desperate Housewives,” is stepping into some mighty big shoes and hoping to carve her own space in TV viewers’ hearts in the shadow of the classic Dallas love story of Bobby and Pamela Barnes. It’s no easy task as other actresses might attest to, given the string of love interests Dallas producers gave Bobby in the wake of Victoria Principal’s departure from the show in 1987 in a fiery cliffhanger that had Pam crashing her car into an 18-wheeler.
Indeed, the characters paired with Bobby often remarked that escaping the specter of “Bobby and Pam” was a tall order. April Stevens, the scheming ex-wife of Bobby’s cousin Jack Ewing played by Sheree J. Wilson, had to do a lot of penance to earn Bobby’s respect when she turned over a new leaf and fell for him. April had to endure stiff competition from pretty-but-bland Washington power player Kay Lloyd and a Pam lookalike named Jean O’Brien before Bobby could look past the fact that she had broken the all-important rule of not sleeping with JR before falling in love with him. Holly Harwood and Katherine Wentworth both learned that painful lesson long before April traveled the well-worn path to JR’s bed, but Bobby miraculously found it in his heart to look beyond April’s checkered past and appreciate the woman she had become. Just as April managed to become the new Mrs. Bobby James Ewing, however, she was shot dead on her honeymoon after getting enmeshed in a convoluted international assassination plot hatched by Sheila Foley, a mysterious schemer played by the queen of daytime soaps Susan Lucci. Poor April never had a chance. Ann may have better luck in that she’s pairing up with an older and wiser Bobby. The appeal of Pam and Bobby was due in large part to the sizzling chemistry between Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal. They were major sex symbols in the 1980s and their on-camera dynamic was as sexual as it was romantic. The tall, dark and handsome Duffy was the epitome of Prince Charming and, although built like a Playboy centerfold, Principal had a wide-eyed innocence that elevated her performance as the eternally victimized Pam.
Strong isn’t the bombshell type but sneak previews of the new show suggest she has the same feistiness that Principal tapped into standing up to JR though the years. She has a kind face and a softness reflecting the type of woman Bobby would be happy with. Dallas fans may remember that it wasn’t until the role of Bobby’s first love Jenna Wade was recast with the angelic Priscilla Presley that Pam really got any serious competition. Bobby truly loved Jenna and even fathered a son with her, Lucas, but he always loved Pam more. Time will tell whether Ann can create a new iconic love story with the romantic prince of Southfork.