Entertainment | Television

The Ewings: We'll love to hate them all over again

JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen are back for a rebooted series of Dallas on Wednesday, September 5, which picks up 21 years after the iconic series ended. The original cast members, newcomers and series creator talk us through the new series, from resurfacing past rivalries to a whole new generation of problems for the Ewing family.

  • By Lisa Williams, Friday magazine
  • Published: 11:57 September 3, 2012
  • Friday

Dallas
  • Image Credit: Supplied picture
  • The original Ewing characters are joined by the younger generation: JR and Sue Ellen's son John Ross (played by Josh Henderson) and Bobby's adopted son Christopher (played by Jesse Metcalfe).

When it first screened back in 1978, Dallas was only ever meant to be a humble five-part series.

But with its big stetsons, big egos and big money, the show dripped drama - and fans were hooked.

The life of the Ewings, a wealthy oil family from Texas, proved to be unfailingly absorbing and, during its 14-year run, the series clocked up millions of viewers around the world.

Dallas made television history in 1980 when the episode in which it was revealed who had shot dastardly JR Ewing was seen by a record 360 million people.
The Turkish parliament famously closed early that day so employees could race home in time to find out the identity of the culprit (it was Kristin Shepard, his sister-in-law and mistress, remember?).

Expectations are high for the series' return after a 21-year break. But although the action is still very much based at the family ranch of Southfork, this is a series which is fit for the 21st century.

Older family members have died or moved on, a new generation of characters has been introduced, the women are every bit as scheming as the men, and renewable energy is introduced as a cleaner alternative to the family business.
Take a look at what's in store...

The big three

Happily for the show's many fans, its most iconic characters - warring brothers JR and Bobby Ewing, played by Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy - are returning, as well as JR's feisty ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray).

Known by cast and crew as 'The Big Three', Hagman, Duffy and Gray have remained very close friends and admit it was an emotional experience heading back on to set together.

"I was very happy to be back on set with the beautiful Linda," says Hagman, looking as iconic as ever in a stetson, cowboy boots and a gold-studded bracelet. "I've been married twice to her and divorced twice," he jokes.

Duffy, who still boasts an impressive head of hair and legions of female fans, adds: "I have this emotional, heartfelt scene with Larry. It was the first time we'd worked together in 20 years, and it just killed me, in a good way."

Since we last saw them, the pair have lost their parents Miss Ellie and Jock, Bobby has married Sue Ellen's friend Ann (played by Brenda Strong) and become head of Southfork, and JR has spent time in a nursing home following his breakdown at the end of the original series (many fans believed he had killed himself).

"Although my personal opinion was that he was hiding out because he thought someone was going to kill him," laughs Hagman.
Sue Ellen is pursuing a career in politics and, although she's not JR's put-upon wife any more, she's still as ruthless as ever.
As Gray explains: "We haven't mellowed at all - and you wouldn't want us to!"

The boys

The original Ewing characters are joined by the younger generation: JR and Sue Ellen's son John Ross (played by Josh Henderson) and Bobby's adopted son Christopher (played by Jesse Metcalfe).

Herein lies the main new rivalry of the series because, while Christopher looks set to inherit the ranch from his father and is well positioned to keep up the legacy of his grandmother, Miss Ellie, to prevent it being drilled for oil, his cousin John Ross has other ideas.
"Although he has a difficult relationship with his father, John Ross wants to follow in his footsteps as a businessman, so he and Christopher butt heads," explains Henderson.

"He's like, 'You want to do green energy? Go somewhere else, we are an oil family'. It gets very interesting - but John Ross always wins!"
The rivalry isn't as clear-cut as it was with JR and Bobby, reveals Metcalfe.

"I think there are more grey areas with these next generation characters. Christopher is definitely a lot like his father in that he strives to do the right thing, but sometimes he's in conflict about the course of action to take," he says.

The girls

Dallas wouldn't be Dallas without a love triangle, and the new series is no exception. Enter Hollywood hottie Jordana Brewster, who plays John Ross's girlfriend Elena.

"She grew up on Southfork, and was initially with Chris but the wedding was called off," explains the actress.
"It's an interesting character because she's now a geologist, but she's got this conflict because she's loyal to the Ewings and Bobby was a surrogate father, and yet she wants to drill for oil and prove herself."

Julie Gonzalo plays Christopher's new wife Rebecca. Intelligent and beautiful, she is determined to make a success of her new marriage and to fit in to life at Southfork, but it soon transpires that all is not what it seems.

"There are a few twists and turns," she laughs. "I could never outguess the writers when it came to each episode, you definitely have to watch it."

The future

The Big Three are on board for seven years, according to the show's creator Cynthia Cidre. "That's probably my limit too, but who knows?" she says.
The team is currently working on scripts for the second series, which starts filming this month in the US, and the cast have a few ideas of what they would like to see happen.

"I'd like to take John Ross down a little bit as he's a threat to my husband," says Strong, whose voice is known from Desperate Housewives, which she narrated as deceased character Mary Alice Young.

"And I'd like to see more of Ann and Bobby's history, maybe in flashbacks, as we really hit the ground running in the first series," she says.
Metcalfe adds: "We don't get into the details of Christopher's adoption but I have no doubt that we will in coming seasons."

Two things are certain for series two. For a start, there will be more sleeping around. "It's fairly raunchy but we're going to push the envelop even further," promises Brewster.

And Cidre says at least one new character will be joining the fold. "There will be a blonde in season two!" she says. "I can't tell you how many people ask me about why there isn't a blonde character."

Other characters

One character conspicuous by her absence is Pamela Barnes Ewing, Bobby's wife who was played by Victoria Principal.

When Principal left the show, Pamela crashed into an oil tanker and was severely burned. Although the character returned briefly with another actress in the role, some fans believe they should ignore this chapter and bring back the original Pamela.

Duffy, who is still friends with Principal, says she has no interest in returning to acting, having made a name for herself in the cosmetics industry.
And Cidre says she didn't want to continue the Bobby and Pamela storyline anyway.

"The romance with Pamela had been written to death, and I thought she is probably burnt to a crisp, so let's just have Bobby marry somebody new," she says.
Having said that, the door has been left open for many of the former actors to return. In the first series we see guest appearances from Ken Kercheval as Cliff Barnes, Steve Kanaly as Ray Krebbs and Charlene Tilton as JR and Bobby's wayward niece, Lucy.

"If the story allows you to be alive, then you're welcome back!" says Duffy.

Southfork

The Southfork ranch is at the centre of many of the disputes so it wouldn't seem right to relocate the show elsewhere.

However, the producers ordered a total makeover of the interior, in keeping with the new decade. 

Cidre explains: "Even the fans would not have liked the 1978 decor to be back! It looked really bad, it's purple and it's garish. So we used the exterior of Southfork, which is the same, but then we built the interiors differently.

"The footprint is similar to Southfork and the idea is that Ann has come in and redone the house. It's classy but still a ranch house."

The theme tune

Last but not least, the famous theme tune returns. Much parodied, it's been refreshed for the 21st century but remains pretty much the same.
"The disco drums are out," laughs Cidre. "It's the exact same theme re-recorded with symphonic instruments, but the French horns are the same. They really make the theme."

Dallas starts on Five on Wednesday, September 5

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