It can’t be overstated how much Dallas impacted my life. I was 13 years old when it came on, and I don’t think my parents let my brother and me watch the pilot. But soon, every Friday night after the Dukes of Hazzard, we were all glued to the television set.
I fell in love with Dallas in a way even Star Trek couldn’t touch. I wanted to explore in Federation space, but I wanted to LIVE at Southfork. As I grew older and realized I wanted to work in entertainment, I saw how perfect the basic plots of Dallas were – brothers fighting, feuding families tied together by marriage … come on, that’s pretty Shakespearian!
I read the tie-in novels, friends gave me Dallas scripts they’d bought and for a time, I had a J.R. ceramic whiskey bottle. I am a little obsessed. In a strange twist of fate, I now work at an organization founded by one of the investors in Lorimar, the production company behind Dallas!
The new Dallas came and went, and I wish I could have worked on it. My best Dallas friend and I agree – Christopher should have been the bad guy and John Ross the good guy. Oh, well. So, as my chances of ever seeing a new Dallas dwindle, I thought … I love reading recaps. While there’s a dearth of current shows being recapped, I never saw any retro recaps of Dallas done.
So, without further ado … my Friday nights shall be spent much as they were in the 70s and 80s … on the floor of the living room (only now I face a flatscreen TV and not the console that still sits on my mother’s shag carpeted den) eating pizza and recapping one of my top ten shows of all time … Dallas!
Just watching the opening credits and hearing the theme song is giving me the feels. Patrick Duffy doesn’t have the bare-chested shot in the middle frame he will later and Sue Ellen and Ray aren’t even listed! The show began as a mini-series and quickly became a hit, but how did they not think Sue Ellen was important enough to be in the opening credits. Blasphemy!
The ranch exterior shots are different, as well. It’s crazy I remember the sets so well and these early episodes look better decorated. They were filmed in Texas, so maybe in a real house and not a soundstage?
Ahh, Bobby and Pam head to the ranch in Ewing 4. They’ve just married and discuss the impending shit that will hit the fan when Bobby’s family finds out they married Pamela Barnes, daughter of Digger Barnes, Jock’s old partner and now enemy.
Bobby tries to comfort Pam, but it’s his Shaun Cassidy-length locks that comforts me. A gas station attendant comes up to pump their gas. Bobby even hands him the keys and tells him to park it while they eat. In the gas station. I love you and your 70s hair, Bobby, but if my first meal as a Ewing was in a truck stop, I would annul you faster than Britney Spears.
Back at a much more luxurious Ewing Oil office than we will see in upcoming seasons, Cliff Barnes is on TV doing what he does best – public go after the Ewings while pretending this isn’t a vendetta. Subtlety, thy name is not Cliff Barnes. Suddenly, Ginger (the moooovie star) from Gilligan’s Island comes in to give J.R. some coffee and open the blinds.
It’s clear she is J.R.’s secretary and mistress. What if Mary Ann had gotten off the island first? The mind boggles. Cliff yaks on about some envelopes and J.R. hopes “the old man” (which I don’t think he will ever call his daddy again) isn’t watching this hearing.
In 1978, there were only three networks and PBS. For this local hearing to be pre-empting “The Price Is Right” or something, it is probably big enough for the “old man” to be watching. The coincidental phone ring Ginger answers is, of course, the old man.
At the ranch, Jock and Miss Ellie are watching and Jock wants to know where Bobby is and why he isn’t doing something about this. Cue impending doom music, as we know Bobby and Pam are getting botcholism in some janky truck stop.
But wait! They are done eating and Pam is rifling through Bobby’s briefcase and finds some papers about legislation. He smacks her ass and tells her that’s for sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. I worry this relationship is off to a sketchy start. Granted, I want to know what Pam was snooping around for, but had the two of you not discussed what your jobs were prior to eloping? Oh, he’s Ewing Oil’s “goodwill ambassador.” So, he’s a lobbyist. He distributes the three B’s – booze, broads and booty. Pam thought he helped run the business, but now she’s learning he is the pimp. Anullment in 3 … 2 …
Jock drives to the barn. He drives Ewing 1, so Miss Ellie is probably Ewing 2, J.R. Ewing 3 and they skipped Gary entirely to give Bobby Ewing 4. I want to watch the Braddock County DMV clerk try and keep all this straight.
Jock is looking for Lucy and Ray was supposed to drive her to school. Instead, they are sleeping together in the hayloft. Now … I’ve never worked on a ranch but if my foreman was up there all the time, I’d wonder what the hell he was doing. They don’t have people to get the bales down? Anyway, Jock wants Ray to be in charge of getting Lucy to school every day. This will end well. The inside of Jock’s Cadillac is powder blue and it feels like an odd color choice for Jock Ewing. Jock asks Ray if he and “that Barnes girl” are on or off. FORESHADOWING!
Jock drives off and we see upside down Lucy giggling. I always liked Ray and I wouldn’t kick him out of bed, or a hayloft. Lucy wants to make out and Ray call her by her name. These writers were 40 years and a peach away from an Oscar.
We cut back to Bobby and Pam as she convinces him to take a more active role in the business. By the time they get to the ranch, she’s convinced him to try and work in the office and not be a pimp anymore. They are going to spring the marriage and that on the family all at once. I wonder how good a corporate pimp Bobby really is with strategies like that.
As they head up the long driveway, there’s some tomfoolery where they kiss and the car goes all over the driveway. Good thing they’re not on a road patrolled by actual cops. Oh, wait – they’re rich. Doesn’t matter.
The house is SO different from what it looks like in the future seasons. Lucy and Ray are getting dressed and Lucy is looking at the driveway with binoculars (as you do). She recognizes Pam and can see the wedding ring from a distance. That is some visual acuity.
Miss Ellie meets them outside on the porch and is so stunned, she doesn’t know what to say. Pam has to ask her to use the bathroom. Miss Ellie is mad at Bobby and doesn’t even want Bobby to bring the bags in. She’s pretty grouchy, but I suppose your ex’s daughter isn’t who you want your son to marry.
Jock went to the office to watch the hearings with J.R. Since Southfork is pretty far from the city, these are some long-ass hearings. Miss Ellie tells them to come home right now – he’s brought a wife but doesn’t say who it is. Bobby looks sheepish, and is probably re-thinking the whole “I want to work in the office now” surprise.
After the commercial break, everyone is dressed for cocktails. Our family was never as big as the Ewings so we didn’t have all these Southern rules of no business talk at the dinner table or it’s time to go in the drawing room for tea, Mrs. Padmore. Bobby explains how they got married in New Orleans. Sue Ellen can’t help but be catty. Jock is gruff and wants Pam to get her brother off this crusade.
Ray comes into the house and Jock offers him a drink. Lucy is stretch out on top of the sofa like a low-budget Catwoman and asks Ray if he’s heard Pam and Bobby are married. Subtle. Then Lucy wants Ray to kiss the bride. I never saw this as a custom in my Southern home town, but again, we were ill-mannered and often talked business at dinner.
J.R. wants to take a walk with Pam. Lucy asks Sue Ellen if she thinks all this is “exciting” and Sue Ellen says “Weddings always are, aren’t they?” Put down the drink, Sue Ellen. You’re not at a wedding.
J.R. points out he and Sue Ellen’s little house to Pam, so it all seems cozy for a few minutes. He points out Gary’s empty house and then whips out a “Did your brother put you up to this, Miss Barnes?” He tries to buy her off, which Pam pulls out her best righteous indignation face. Bobby comes out, no doubt alerted by his Scheming Brother Sense.
After supper, Jock smokes outside and JR. tells him he tried to buy Pam off to annul the marriage. Jock is pissed, and growls, “You did what?” Jim Davis’ voice was amazing, and if he were still alive, I’d make him the voice of everything James Earl Jones isn’t doing. They hear Bobby and Pam in the room upstairs making out and Jock needles J.R. about not having a kid yet. Ouch.
Ray comes up and he and J.R. concoct what may be the dumbest plan ever concocted, even in 1970s TV show.
Parking Revelations – Bobby does in fact drive Ewing 4 and we see for the first time how the Ewings have a very specific super power. They can get parking in front of anywhere they need to go. Pam goes to her apartment to pack and Cliff is sitting outside. She doesn’t trust her brother with a spare key?
They fight about the elopement, and he forces her to go find their father and tell him. At the office, Bobby wants the combination to the office safe. J.R. isn’t about to give him that, since that’s where the (duh-duh-DUH!) Red Files are. However, J.R. hands him the Red Files, which Ginger finds a little incredible. Of course, J.R. has the Reddest Red File and sends Ginger to deposit it in a safe deposit box.
Cliff and Pam find Digger telling a bunch of drunks about his glory days in a seedy bar that’s surprisingly full for an afternoon. When Pam tells Digger who she married, he’s so drunk he doesn’t get it until Cliff and a dramatic music sting point out that he’s Jock Ewing’s boy. This sends Digger into a seated coma that looks like he may never come out of.
Back at the ranch, Pam tries to bond with Sue Ellen and Miss Ellie, but they are frosty. Lucy tries to play some mind games with Pam, but she’s not very good at it. Later, Pam brushes her hair as Bobby gets out of the shower in a the tightest wrapped towel I’ve ever seen.
The next morning, J.R. and Ray’s plan finally goes into action. Ray flies the helicopter with Pam to a deserted part of the ranch that has a small bunkhouse. J.R. and Bobby head to the airport so Bobby can go to Austin – or so Bobby thinks.
Ray gets Pam by a lake and throws her in. They go in the bunk house and are drying off wearing towels and little else when guess who drives up? Bobby see through it all and threatens J.R. Bobby and Pam drive off, presumably not to the airport
For the run of the show I watched (I missed the last four or five seasons when I went to college and didn’t have a TV), Executive Producer Phillip Capice’s name would pop up at the dramatic finale of every episode. Even IRL I call things “Capice Moments,” even though no one has any bloody idea what I am talking about. The pilot episode actually has the producer’s name show up as Bobby and Pam drive away, but the real moment is this:
“I underestimated the new Mrs. Ewing. Well, I surely won’t do that again.” – J.R.
See you on the Ranch next week!