TNT’s Dallas Spurs Its Namesake to Prosper
The time-honored TV show is finally back, and it's bringing Dallas economic and tourism growth, as well as a certain sense of pride.
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TNT’s reboot of the classic television series Dallas has proved a boon on many levels. The nearly forgotten stars of the original CBS show—Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray—reprise their roles, and have been given a new lease on their careers.
TNT executives, meanwhile, are no doubt pleased with the show’s ratings: Since its premiere in mid-June, Dallas has averaged nearly five million viewers each week, making it one of the most popular scripted shows on basic cable.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary, however, is the city of Dallas. In recent months, the city has experienced a boost in civic pride and tourist activity. It is also enjoying economic perks that it never got from the original Dallas, which ran from 1978 to 1991, but was mostly shot in Los Angeles.
The first, ten-episode season of the new Dallas was filmed throughout North Texas in 2011 and early 2012, injecting an estimated $28.8 million into the local economy. On June 29, TNT announced that it had renewed the show for a second, fifteen-episode season.
“We didn’t want what happened with the first season of the original show to happen again,” said Janis Burklund, the head of the Dallas Film Commission. “They did the first season here, and then pretty much went back to Los Angeles.”
Burklund began working to lure Dallas to its namesake city in 2010. Last year she successfully lobbied the city to approve a $25,000 grant to the production, as well as a $235,000 economic development grant to help finish a privately-owned production facility in south Dallas.
Texas has an incentive program for film and television productions, run through the governor’s office, and the first season of Dallas ultimately qualified for a $2.1 million grant, based on the fact that it would pay $7.2 million in wages in Texas, according to Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor. But this program is not considered as generous as those offered by neighboring states, such as Louisiana and New Mexico, which is why Burklund felt her city needed to supplement the state incentives if it hoped to secure the production.
Warner Horizon Television, the show’s production company, “was determined to go with whoever had the best incentives,” Burklund said. “Luckily, the producers saw the artistic value of being here.”
Ken Topolsky, one of the producers of the show, said: “The city of Dallas is trying to make its place in the 21st century. It feels important and dramatic. We felt we had to shoot here.”
In June, shortly after a number of City Council members attended a premiere of the show at the Winspear Opera House, the Council unanimously approved another package, granting the production $200,000 for each new season produced there, up to $1.2 million over six seasons.
The new Dallas is also stimulating local tourism, especially at Southfork Ranch in Parker. The ranch, a special event and conference center since 1991, was the fictional homestead of the Ewings in the original show, and a number of scenes from the new Dallas have been shot there, too. According to Janna Timm, the regional director of sales and marketing for Southfork, the number of visitors has tripled since the show began airing, with more than four hundred people touring the premises each weekend day. She also reported a flurry of calls from people looking to have weddings there.
“One woman already had her wedding planned for New York,” Timm said. “But the day after the show premiered, she called and said she and her husband wanted to have their wedding just like the Ewings. They wanted to have it here.”
Then there is the welcome ego boost that Dallas is giving local actors and crew, following a string of high-profile disappointments. In 2010, three new network series set up shop in North Texas, bringing with them the promise of new work opportunities. But Chase (on NBC), and The Good Guys and Lone Star (both on Fox) received poor ratings and were quickly canceled.
“When they all hit at once, there was excitement—auditions, crew interviews, a big buzz,” said Brett Brock, a Dallas-based actor who appeared in episodes of both The Good Guys and Chase. “It felt like a big wave was coming. Of course it didn’t play out that way.”
The popularity of Dallas, Brock added, has the local talent pool excited again. He appeared in the first two episodes of the season, acting as a henchman of John Ross, J.R., Ewing’s son, played by Josh Henderson.
As for Dallas residents, no one seems to be complaining. Despite the show’s sometimes broad caricatures and reinforcement of long-standing stereotypes about big oil and big hair, the new Dallas deftly pays heed to a city that’s forever been proud of its own sheen. The show’s opening credits feature brand-new landmarks, like the downtown Omni Hotel and the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, alongside familiar ones, such as Reunion Tower.
The first few episodes alone set scenes at the American Airlines Center, the trendy bar, The Cedars Social, and even on the fifty-yard-line of Jerry Jones’s billion-dollar Cowboys Stadium.
“Everywhere I go, I’m hearing from people about how cool it is to see the city on the show,” Burklund said. “And it looks great. When you watch the show, you have to say, ‘Wow, our city looks great.’”