Dallas ep 1

The first thing you notice – well, the first thing apart from the cold open, which is just wrong; Dallas doesn’t have cold opens – is the swaggering theme tune, which says that what’s coming is going to be big and brassy and entertaining as hell. Do shows have theme tunes like that these days? I’ve been racking my brains, but I have a feeling that most of them are timid, apologetic little numbers, as befits an uncertain age. Apart from Hawaii Five-0, of course, also a reboot.

Anyway, the first task for this episode is to sketch in the next generation of Ewings: Bobby Ewing’s son, drippy would-be alternative energy tycoon Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe); J.R.’s son, apple-not-falling-too-far-from-the-tree John Ross (Josh Henderson, once upon a time Austin in Desperate Housewives); Christopher’s wife-to-be Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo, forever Unpopcult TV royalty on account of having been the Perky Associate in Eli Stone); and John Ross’s babe Elena (Jordana Brewster, who was the unpopular Jill in Chuck). The spice comes from the fact that Christopher and Elena used to be an item until he sent her an email telling her that it was over. Except he didn’t; someone else did it for him, which presumably means that Christopher and John Ross are going to be fighting over Elena, while the lovelier and perkier Rebecca has to sit it out.

The main man, for the first half or so, is Bobby himself: Patrick Duffy still has a screen presence, and it’s a pleasure to see him again. He’s fighting to keep Southfork Ranch unspoiled like Miss Ellie wanted (man, how these names take me back), but so vast is the ranch he hasn’t noticed that John Ross has set up a great big drilling rig in the middle of it, and in fact has struck oil. Bobby isn’t happy. On the other hand, Christopher’s methane extraction seems to be causing earthquakes, so which is worse, eh? Particularly given that he seems to have started up Ewing Alternative Energy. Ewing Alternative Energy? That sound you hear from underground isn’t a drill; it’s Jock Ewing spinning in his grave. In an odd development John Ross finds out about the multiple dangers of methane extraction from a stolen USB stick, when presumably he could just have Googled it.

But, of course, Dallas has a couple of cards up its Texan sleeves, and wastes little time in playing the King, J.R. himself. Depressed, silent, and in a nursing home when we first see him, he quickly perks up when he gets the scent of some good old-fashioned family feudin’ and shootin’, and ere long he’s restored to something like his former self. Larry Hagman was never a subtle actor, exactly, but there’s still something utterly irresistible about that leering grin J.R. conjures up when he’s plotting something particularly nasty. John Ross’s wussy suggestion is to litigate to get hold of Southfork. “Court’s for amateurs and the weak at heart,” snarls J.R. One also suspects it isn’t quite as much fun as the joy of the double-cross.

Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is back as well: her mouth’s the same as it always was, but the rest of her has changed. This is disconcerting. There are also cameos for Ray Krebs (Steve Kanaly) and Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton), to keep people of my generation happy, and also to drive home the message that while there might be the odd computer here and there and a girlyman who wants to find an alternative to carbon fuels, Dallas is still all about the oil, the infidelities (presumably to come), the treachery, and J.R. Was I entertained? Yes, I suppose I was. Will I watch again? I’m not quite so sure: I really don’t know if I care what happens. But for the sake of my memories I’m pleased that this wasn’t the disaster I’d feared.