Friday, June 15, 2012

They Love You J.R. Maybe.

Wednesday saw the premiere of a new version of the classic nighttime soap Dallas on the US cable network TNT.(It also debuted in Canada on Bravo.)  The ratings have come in, and TNT is calling it a success.  It drew almost 7 million viewers, which TNT is claiming is the number one series premiere for a scripted series on cable this year.  But if you were suspecting a lot of folks tuned in to see what a 21st Century version of an old favourite looks like, you may be right.  Only 1.9 million of those viewers came from the coveted 18-49 demographic, the rest skewing largely older, with the 25-54 grouping accounting for 2.5 million viewers, and the rest older viewers.

So, will Dallas keep up these ratings?  Or will it quickly slump as, curiosity satisfied, viewers go elsewhere?  I won't be surprised at all if it's 13 episodes(or less) and out for the series.  And as the L.A. Times article notes these ratings are tiny compared to what even the final episode of the show generated, demonstrating how much the TV market has changed.

The original was hugely influential, spawning various imitators of varying quality and success.  "Who shot J.R?" was a major pop culture concern for many when the series ended its 1979-80 season on that cliffhanger.  The series also became the butt of jokes for its notorious return from the dead of Bobby Ewing. He had been killed in a car accident at the end of the 1984-85 season when actor Patrick Duffy wanted to do other things.  But when there was general discontent with the following season Larry Hagman convinced Duffy to come back,   The season ended with his wife Pam, played by Victoria Principal, finding him taking a shower.  The opening episode of the next season explained that the events of the previous season were all a bad dream, and that Bobby had never died.

Larry Hagman reprising his role as J.R. Ewing in the new series could be considered a minor miracle.  He had a long term alcohol problem, and as a result in 1995 had a liver transplant.  Yet here he is, at 80, still with us, and still acting.  But it's pretty obvious that, whatever happens, this is likely his last hurrah.

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