Old links save new Dallas

NICK WARD
Last updated 12:46 17/01/2013
The Importance of Being Earnest
THEY'RE BACK: Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman in the new Dallas.

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REVIEW: Dallas, One, Friday, 8.30pm.

Revive, revamp, repackage . . . call it what you will, a new version of a television show is never guaranteed to work, despite the huge potential for homage and in-jokes. So it is with the new Dallas.

The original was hugely popular here, as it was everywhere, and I still crack up every time I watch the Young Ones parody, with Neil the hippie donating his oil company's profits to a Welsh commune.

The good news is that the revived supersoap is well made and has solid links to the past, with Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Ken Kercheval renewing acquaintances as J R, Bobby, and Cliff Barnes. Even lizard-lipped Linda Gray is back as Sue Ellen, clean and sober and considering a political career.

Bobby, as always, would like the feudin' and fightin' to stop, but that wouldn't make good TV, and there's a new generation of Ewings involved. J R's son, John Ross, is an oilman like his daddy, and has made a big strike on Southfork ranch, while Bobby's adopted son, Chris, has embraced alternative energy.

Caught in the middle is their childhood friend, Elena, a drilling engineer who's been romantically involved with them both.

Everyone's double-crossing everyone else again, but times have changed. The cast includes Latinos and blacks (including the sheriff), and the female characters aren't idle trophy wives. When Bobby's office was burgled, his new wife went after the burglar with a big gun, like a good Texan should.

The reappearance of J R - estranged from his son, clinically depressed and vegetating in a rest home - was genuinely touching. But it didn't take long for that old black-hearted spirit to come bubbling back - and there's already been a good joke about him being shot.

The bad news is that the new Ewings, played by Desperate Housewives pretty boys Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe, are a pitiful pair who spend as much time taking off their shirts as they do arguing, and who've both been had by seductive con artists.

It's the angry young men show - they're always coming to blows, Chris lacks his father's scruples, and John Ross' psychopathic "you forced me to do this" attitude doesn't have any of his daddy's sugar-coated slipperiness to make it digestible. J R is a charming scoundrel, but his son is a hopeless amateur who's always asking people for money, and was dumb enough to become the star of a sex tape.

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Whoever wins, we all lose. Chris is going after frozen methane deposits on the sea floor - which will simply add to climate change if we burn them. John Ross is staking everything on his Southfork strike, but it won't be bountiful enough to let America avoid another dodgy war, or drilling in Alaska's national parks.

The new Dallas is supposed to be about the feud between a new generation, but it feels more like war by proxy. Why should the older Ewings give way to the new ones anyway? They're better characters, played by veteran actors who blow the young pretenders off the screen.

But Hagman's recent death has thrown a spanner down the well. Will Dallas wither and die without him?

- © Fairfax NZ News

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