“A limited series, with a limited future.” So wrote one Variety critic after viewing the 1978 pilot episode of Dallas, the CBS show that would become the second-longest-running dramatic series ever (only Gunsmoke lasted longer). For thirteen seasons audiences around the world were captivated by the trials and tribulations of the most dysfunctional family ever to grace the TV screen. Dallas was a giant in television history; it set viewing records and was the prototype of the prime-time soap opera, inspiring at least one spin-off ( Knots Landing) and a host of imitators ( Dynasty, Falcon Crest).
No one could have predicted Dallas’ phenomenal impact on popular culture. Who doesn’t recognize the names “J.R.” or “Southfork”? (Ten years after the show went off the air, the ranch near Plano where it was filmed still attracts several hundred thousand visitors each year.) Dallas’ original cast members, who so perfectly portrayed the Ewing oil dynasty in all its sordid glory, have become forever linked with the characters they played. Larry Hagman was once confronted in Dallas’ Mansion on Turtle Creek by an elderly woman who, feigning outrage over his treatment of Sue Ellen, whacked him with her handbag.
Everything is bigger in Texas, and Dallas was larger than life, symbolizing the excesses of the eighties and establishing Texas as the bold and swaggering place the rest of the world already imagined it to be.
1. Larry Hagman
Character: J. R. EWING
Recent credits: had a small role in the movie Primary Colors in 1998; starred last year in Murder in the First, a play directed by Dallas co-star Linda Gray, at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura, California
Current projects: serves as a spokesperson for the National Kidney Foundation; has written an autobiography— Hello, Darlin’: Tall (and Absolutely True) Tales About My Life—which will be published in October
Lives: in Ojai, California
2. Linda Gray
Character: SUE ELLEN EWING
Recent credits: directed the play Murder in the First at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura, California, in 2000; appeared in the play The Vagina Monologues in Beverly Hills and Atlanta earlier this year
Current projects: serves as the goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund
Lives: outside Los Angeles
3. Patrick Duffy
Character: BOBBY EWING
Recent credits: starred last year in the play Art at Wyndham’s Theatre in London and in the Little League baseball movie Perfect Game
Current projects: may write a book trilogy based on his seventies television series The Man From Atlantis
Lives: on his Oregon ranch
4. Victoria Principal