After a full year of advance hype, TNT’s 2012 gloss on Dallas premieres tonight, with J.R., Bobby, and Sue Ellen Ewing joined by a too-pretty younger generation, including Josh Henderson as the next J.R. (John Ross Ewing III, who was born during the original show’s first season) and Jordana Brewster as his love interest Elena Ramos (the daughter of the South Fork Ranch’s cook).
The advance word has been (mostly) good. As of early Wednesday morning, the show had a Metacritic score of 62, which may not look good on a school report card, but is counted by the site as “generally favorable,” with nine positive reviews, six mixed, and only two negative.
How critics have reacted to the remake seems to depend entirely on how they felt about the first Dallas, so with that in mind, we’ve broken down the reviews into three categories.
Loved it the first time, loving it the second time
Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times
“Dallas,” which in its love of the anti-hero and elevation of the cliffhanger set the stage for much of what is now considered Important Television, is back, 21 years after the end of the series proper and 14 years from the last branded TV movie. And the presence of Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray as JR, Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing — arguably the most important characters from the original series — means that you should take it as seriously, on its less than serious terms.
Then as now — and acknowledging some good work among the younger set, especially the Texas-born Henderson — it is Hagman’s show. To say there is no series here that would be worth watching without him is indeed only to point out another way in which the new “Dallas” is very much like the old.
As the premiere episode nears its end, the plot begins thickening agreeably with so many secrets, dark revelations, shocks and betrayals it all begins to seem familiarly and comfortably absorbing. Enough anyway to evoke memories of the “Dallas” that America and half the world came to know and love during its long run on CBS (1978-91).
Like that gusher of oil, the show surges to life with the re-emergence of J.R. Ewing.
The reboot’s a kick when the veterans are on screen; they’re the gods, after all, and their offspring are mere mortals….
Writer Cynthia Cidre, who rescued the series from myriad attempts at campy big-screen adaptations, has great fun with J.R. as a senior citizen. A scene at the Cattle Baron’s Ball (held at the American Airlines Center) ranks among the best in the series’ history, as J.R. brandishes a walker as prop. He’s still the greatest con artist in the 214.
What I like about TNT’s “Dallas” is its reverence for the deceit and despair that so thoroughly colored the original. “Dallas,” always an epic tragedy, has learned important contemporary tricks from “Desperate Housewives” (from which it also borrows some of its new ensemble), “Revenge” and even some telenovelas, while mostly avoiding the pitfalls of the self-conscious camp displayed in ABC’s fizzled “ GCB.”
“Dallas,” the Rosetta stone of the city’s stereotypes, is now somewhat circumspect when it comes to transacting in caricatures. Though it’s sprinkled with the usual colloquialisms, there’s very little talk here of big hair and boob jobs.
Southfork, which is still a popular tourist attraction in real life, is portrayed even now as a bucolic ideal far outside the bustle of glitzy Big D. In fact, it’s Plano-adjacent, in a county that has quintupled in population since Kristin Shepard shot J.R., an endless unfurling of metroburbs approaching one million residents. The Ewings certainly would have long since moved another 30 miles north, into a custom mansion many times larger. Yet they remain in little old Southfork, forever resolute in their shared pride and scorn.
Loved it the first time, not so much the second time
Heather Havrilevsky, New York Times Magazine
“Dallas” is the show that is most emblematic of its era. How else did a scoundrel as arrogant as J. R. Ewing wind up on the cover of Time magazine in 1980? J. R. wasn’t even meant to be the lead character of “Dallas,” but when audiences were first treated to his smooth patriarchal condescension in 1978, they couldn’t get enough. A far cry from the deeply conflicted protagonists of today’s TV dramas — Don Draper, Walter White, Tony Soprano — J. R. was always smugly satisfied with his bad behavior …
This flavor of swagger isn’t as common today, outside Kanye albums and certain self-promotional Twitter feeds. But it once represented a period-specific American grandiosity that felt synonymous with Texan pride. In the ’80s and early ’90s, plenty of us watching “Dallas” bought into this mythical vision of Texas as the heart of the country, the last frontier, a land of handsome cowboys galloping across the grassy ranchland, home of the freest and the bravest.
Aside from John Ross’s cowboy hat and the occasional outdoor barbecue, this is just another gaggle of energetic, beautiful people with international ambitions and very little body hair, bedding and double-crossing one another to a generic twangy-guitar soundtrack.
Hagman and his eyebrows are simultaneously the best and the worst thing about this “Dallas” sequel…On the one hand, even at the age of 80 and moving much slower and speaking in a raspier voice than he did in his 1980s peak, Hagman effortlessly commands the screen. It’s a pleasure to watch him slip on J.R. Ewing’s old Stetson and sneer at the thought of his good but naïve younger brother Bobby, or once again wrap ex-wife Sue Ellen around his wrinkled fingers.On the other, Hagman — and to a lesser extent fellow returning stars Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray — are so much more fun to watch than their four new, young co-stars that the new “Dallas” plays less like a passing of the torch than a suggestion that torches were better