8 Decades of The Hollywood Reporter
TNT's revival of Dallas, which premiered June 13 to 6.8 million viewers, has plenty of catching up to do regarding Ewing intrafamily shootings, sex and oil deals gone bad. The original CBS drama began as a miniseries; was turned into a weekly show that ran from 1978 to 1991, making it one of the longest-running series of all time; won four Emmys; and spawned a quartet of made-for-TV movies, plus the spinoff Knots Landing. There was enough Ewing family evil to make the Borgias look like the Osmonds. "During the 1970s, you had The Waltons on TV being about family as your emotional support and defining who you were. When you got to the 1980s, you had the Ewings, where family provides wealth and power," says Dallas creator David Jacobs. "Dallas was what anyone wanted it to be: Cain and Abel, Romeo and Juliet, a sprawling saga, an intimate family drama." The original series' ratings high point came at the end of the third season. There was intense pressure to come up with a cliffhanger involving J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) when writer Camille Marchetta blurted out, "Let's just shoot the bastard." Thus was born the so-called "Who Shot J.R.?" episode. When the secret was finally revealed Nov. 21, 1980 (his sister-in-law/mistress pulled the trigger), the episode raked in what was then the highest domestic rating in episodic television history -- a 76 percent share and 83 million viewers. (Only M*A*S*H's 1983 finale has ever topped it.) The hype that year reached such a fervor that Hagman, who took part in a tribute to England's Queen Mother on her 80th birthday, was asked by her backstage, "I don't suppose you could tell me who shot J.R.?" He replied: "No, ma'am. Not even for you."