TV review: Dallas

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From the June 7, 2012 edition

“Dallas” was a wildly popular nighttime soap that ran from the late ’70s all the way to the early ’90s, but it will always be identified with the pop culture phenomenon of “Who shot J.R.?” Of course, most of us were too young to actually experience that storyline.

With TNT rebooting “Dallas” for modern audiences, the network is looking to bring in fans of the series’ heyday — Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman are back and old! — while adding some fresh (i.e. younger and prettier) elements for new viewers.

Oil magnate J.R. Ewing (Hagman) and his brother Bobby Ewing (Duffy), the patriarchs of a wealthy family, are feuding with the younger Ewings, John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe).

John Ross — J.R.’s son, serving as a bad guy — wants to drill for oil on the Ewing family’s sacred Southfork land, and Christopher — Bobby’s adopted son — takes the moral high ground and tries to stop it. There’s also a sordid past involving Elena (Jordana Brewster), who was once engaged to Christopher, but is now with John Ross.

TNT’s tagline is “We Know Drama,” but “Dallas” seems to refute that claim. Drama is best when it’s subtly powerful, like “Mad Men,” or viscerally intense, like “Breaking Bad,” but “Dallas” takes drama soooo over-the-top.

Look, I know “Dallas” is a soap opera, so it’s going to play up every squabble, backstab and double-cross, but the melodrama is utterly unwatchable — it’s not even so bad that it’s funny. 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.

When two characters meet at the end of the first hour to discuss/reveal their nefarious plot, they do it on the 50-yard line at the billion-dollar Cowboy Stadium. Why? Because it’s supposed to be epically dramatic, but it’s actually just dumb.