Dallas on TNT: My First-Season Critique

Now that TNT’s Dallas revival has played out its first season and we fans have celebrated the show’s pick-up for a second season of 15 episodes starting next January, I want to look back on its maiden voyage to contemplate what worked and what needs work on the show. This is my “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” post, if you will, but I’m happy to say that the good far outweighs the weak spots and the show is off to a good start. I’m really looking forward to season two. That said, here’s my take on the first ten episodes.

The Good.

The Rebecca Mystery – This storyline captured the fascination of fans and was very well laid out, serving up subtle but titillating clues that led us in a bunch of different directions tracing Becca’s heritage to all three Barnes siblings — Cliff, Pam and their half-sister Katherine — and even veered in the direction of Ann, who’s mourning her own lost child. Now that we know Cliff is her not-so-proud papa, the question is whether Audrey Landers will reprise her role as Pamela Rebecca’s mother Afton, a twist Landers’ fans are rooting for on Facebook.

Brenda Strong as Ann Ewing I have already gone on record with my admiration for how Brenda has carved her own position in the Dallas history with her spirited portrayal of Ann. She’s feisty, looks great in tasteful fashions and the ongoing joke about her love for shotguns is a hoot. When she outsmarted and punched her slimy ex Harris Ryland in the season finale, Dallas fans cheered. Welcome to the Ewing family, Ann. Bobby deserves a woman like you.

Mitch Pileggi as Harris Ryland – In soap operas, the good guys are only as interesting as the bad guys they come up against. Mitch Pileggi of The X Files fame, really brought it as the odious Harris, who used his transportation business to toy with the Ewings and torment his ex-wife Ann. He’s a worthy adversary for Bobby, the good knight, and I hope he sticks around for season two when we learn more about Ann’s mysterious child.

Leonor Varela as Marta del Sol – Carrying the time-honored mantle of resident vixen, Leonor Varela scored big with her brittle performance as the duplicitous Marta del Sol a.k.a. con artist with a video fetish Veronica Martinez. The 40-year-old Varela sizzled in her scenes with Josh Henderson as John Ross and held her own acting alongside veteran Larry Hagman. Past Dallas villainesses got 22 episodes to wreak havoc but Varela did her crazy-gal thing in just seven without missing a beat. As for her sexy outfits? Va-va-voom!

The Dallas Veterans It was a pleasure to see Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray back in action after so many years showing the sweet young things how it’s done. Patrick is now the strong patriarchal center of the show and Linda, rocking glamorous fashions at the age of 71, slipped back into Sue Ellen’s skin effortlessly. Larry, although slowed down by time and the toll of health issues in recent years, still has the J.R. magic. He owns every scene he’s in with his captivating eyes and wicked smirk.

The Bad.

Not Enough Sue Ellen As great as it is to see Linda back on TV, the Dallas writers didn’t give her enough to do. I realize that the show’s focus is the new generation but Linda is a compelling actress who has performed every conceivable emotion during her first tenure as Sue Ellen and she is still captivating to watch with her exaggerated features, trademark gestures and flare for fashion. Sue Ellen has always been a woman of passion and I hope she’ll get some romance next season as she runs for governor of Texas. Perhaps a dashing campaign manager or even her opponent? For next season, more Sue Ellen, please.

Elena’s Weightless Role The Jordana shippers on Twitter are gonna hate me for this but I have to say that as beautiful as she is, the role of Elena needs to be fleshed out more. Elena spent too much time bouncing between John Ross and Christopher despite being a junior oil baron in her own right. Perhaps the complex role inherited by Julie Gonzalo as the scheming Rebecca watered down Elena’s impact by comparison. I’m hoping her new gig with the Ewing cousins at Ewing Energies opens up story possibilities that give Elena more layers in season two.

The Show’s Small Scale – The new Dallas doesn’t feel as big and exciting as the old one and I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not. I think some old-school fans were disappointed by the downsizing of the Ewing world that once included high-rise offices with pretty secretaries, loud cow-herding and swanky bars filled with good-old-boy oil barons. Then again, our lives are downsized in general and Cynthia Cidre and her team are just expressing the new reality. The Ewings of today are getting by as best they can, just like the rest of us. It was sad to see that Ewing Oil was no more but now we have the promise of the company’s rebirth as Ewing Energies and with it we can hope for a whole new crop of corrupt 21st Century moguls and scheming sirens.

The Ugly.

The Lucy and Ray Cameos Ugly may be too strong a word, but I really was not happy with the bit parts Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly played for the sake of having some of the original stars back. Yes, it was great to see them and Lucy is as spunky as ever but we didn’t get a chance to find out through dialog how life is treating them in 2012. I guess we have to assume that they’re happy since their scenes were treated so casually. At least Lucy got treated to lunch by John Ross.

My Suggestions…

Audrey Landers as Afton Cooper

It’s a no-brainer to say I hope Audrey Landers appears as Afton to bring Rebecca back into the straight and narrow. Unless, of course, Afton wants in on Cliff’s plot against the Ewings. LOL.

Make Ewing Energies a major focus of next season’s storylines. Alternative energy and digital communication may have changed the way business is conducted these days but there’s always room for good, old-fashioned back-stabbing in the corporate world. We know how sordid the business world can be in real life, imagine how juicy the stories will be with John Ross and Christopher in business together.

Add a sexy new guy to the mix, perhaps a Latino new-media tycoon who creates a corporate website for the Ewing cousins and shows Elena there’s life beyond the musical bedrooms of Southfork Ranch? I’m just sayin’.


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