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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Return to Dallas


 One of the most anticipated events of the summer is TNT's revival of the classic prime time soap drama, Dallas. Just over two decades since the fourteen season drama bowed off the air, it returns, a continuation to the original. This is not a reboot or a remake, but rather, continues the story started years ago, adding a new generation into an old rivalry, and it does not disappoint.

As the first episode, "Changing of the Guard," begins, J.R. (Larry Hagman) is suffering from a deep depression, unresponsive to visitors. Brother Bobby (Patrick Duffy), happy in his own life with wife Ann (Brenda Strong, Desperate Housewives), and facing a terminal illness, regrets their fraternal tension, hoping that their sons will not continue the horrible tradition.

But Bobby's hopes are not destined to come true. J.R.'s son, John Ross (Josh Henderson, huh, Desperate Housewives), is secretly drilling for oil on the family's property of Southfork, and finds it! A wrench is thrown into his plans to make the family rich in this business when Bobby announces his intention to sell Southfork, planning on giving the profits to his own son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe, would you believe it, Desperate Housewives), who seeks to develop clean energy. The battle is on, with twists and turns that soon reawaken J.R.'s ornery spirit.

There is something somewhat fitting that J.R. sits dormant until this new opportunity to tangle emerges. Even those not familiar with the original series have heard about how ruthless this character can be. Without an enemy to fight, he becomes unneeded in the world, and shuts down. But now that Bobby is poking the dragon, so to speak, J.R. comes back to life. Upon learning that John Ross intends to cross him, too, J.R. really digs in. Watch out!

Of course, in a series such as Dallas, there is never just one thing going one. As fun as the feuds are, there also has to be romantic tension. John Ross is furious when he learns that his gal, Elena (Jordana Brewster, Desper...er, Chuck), is only with John Ross because she received a breakup e-mail from Christopher years ago. Neither Christopher nor John Ross sent the e-mail, so who did? And does it even matter anymore, as Christopher almost immediately weds Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo, Eli Stone, Veronica Mars), who has a secret of her own?

Rounding out this gang is original cast member Linda Gray, who plays J.R.'s ex-wife, and John Ross's mother, Sue Ellen. Sue Ellen is preparing to run for governor, but her connections with the family may prove a little more tumultuous than is generally considered good for a campaign.

Having not been a viewer of the original, I cannot say if these new installments live up to their predecessors. This Dallas, though, is a guilty pleasure. It's an entertaining ride, with more twists than a lasso. It doesn't feel dated, even though the old timers still figure prominently into the plot, nor does it come across as a teeny bopper's delight, despite the new blood. There is a nice balance stricken, and this is certainly a series I will be tuning into weekly for the foreseeable future.

Watch Dallas Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on TNT.

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