On The Box
Back in the 1980s one of the best shows on TV was Dallas.
Unfortunately I was working nights, so my opportunities to watch that series were limited.
However those clever people from Japan came to my aid with a newfangled invention called the video recorder. It was a remarkable breakthrough in technology, and for a mere $2799, a fortune back in the early 1980s, my brother-in-law and I bought one.
The only thing we didn't have was the ability to set the video to record programmes in advance. If you weren't there to push the relevant levers (yes, levers) when the programme was about to start, bad luck.
However, I was extremely lucky to have Mrs Brown, bless her, volunteer to tape Dallas. Once the programme started, she sprang into action. A couple of hours later, bro-in-law and I rushed home to watch it, and Mrs B was still up, waiting to get the kudos that was undoubtedly about to come her way.
She also proudly announced that when recording it, she had paused the video player through all the ad breaks, so I would be able to watch the full episode without interruption. What a thoughtful woman.
I turned it on, and on came some ads. I fast forwarded it, and there were more ads, and even more. Mrs B wasn't smiling quite so much at this stage and wondered if she'd accidentally reversed the process . . . oops.
She had. We watched all 42 ads, yes we counted them, one after another, all expertly timed so as to avoid even a fleeting sighting of anyone from Southfork. They'd been expertly cut out of the recording.
Mrs B reminded me it was the thought that counted. Recently I saw that a remake of Dallas (TV One, Fridays 8.30pm) was coming to our screens. I got a bit excited about it. With the wonders of MySky it was easy enough to record, and we watched episode one at our leisure.
Sadly, it was so bad that I wished Mrs B was still able to work her magic and erase the programme and keep the ads. Much as I dislike television ads, they would have been better than the mush that ran.
And that's the thing with old favourites. If someone is going to recreate them, they'd better make sure they do it justice. They didn't. An ageing, clearly unwell, Larry Hagman reprised his role as JR, but he had little of the same menace about him. Sadly, Hagman died in November and he dies onscreen midway through the second series.
Sue Ellen (Lynda Gray) is surely a monument to the wonders of plastic surgery and looked as if she hadn't aged a bit in the 20-plus years since the show last aired. Bobby Ewing, JR's noble but naive brother, is back, and in the second scene of episode one, we see him still being the nice guy. His doctor tells him he has cancer and needs urgent treatment. Bobby tells the good doctor to keep it to himself. His adopted son Christopher is getting married in a couple of days.
"I've got family business to attend to - before anyone knows I'm dying." Roll the opening credits.
In reality the show is now much more focused on the battle between JR and Bobby's sons. The two cousins, like their daddies (they still call their Dads "Daddy") are as different as chalk and camembert.
John Ross III is an evil young fella obsessed with making money. Christopher is as noble as his Daddy, Bobby, and wants only good things to happen. Not that he is helped when he discovers his drilling may be causing earthquakes in China.
Mind you, that seems of little consequence compared with John Ross III's actions in drilling on Southfork. The family ranch is strictly sacred when it comes to that sort of stuff and Bobby physically stops him, despite a big find, because he "promised Momma no one would ever drill on this land, which she wanted more than anything else".
It sure would break Miss Ellie's heart if she were alive to see that. Other characters back include Ray Krebs, the illegitimate half brother, annoying Cliff Barnes, and cousin Lucy. She is still vertically challenged, but it's fair to say she has lost her youthful good looks.
Be that as it may, the younger generations of Ewings are unconvincing and/or unlikeable and you can drill as deep as you want, but there's little reward in watching this sad successor to a top soap of the 1980s.
PS. If you want to see a good quality British drama, watch The Syndicate on UKTV on Sky on Mondays at 8.30pm. It's brilliant.
- The Timaru Herald