Dallas: TV Review

Dallas Cast - H 2011
Martin Schoeller

Dallas Cast - H 2011

The writing is not there. Neither is the acting. And the plot – well, it’s not like that was a strong point of the original version anyway. But none of the elements is present, just soap bubbles and silliness. This is a remake that should never have been remade. 

The reboot of the '80s drama brings a new generation of troublemakers to the small screen on TNT.

The trail of bad ideas surrounding the revamping of Dallas by TNT is a long one. A very long one. 

First, if TNT wants the Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray demo, then more power to them. It’ll make CBS feel like The CW for five minutes. Besides, few actors of that age get a shot at being in a major series, much less reprising their iconic (if soap-laden) roles they started in 1978 and rode through 1991, only to return in 2012, like well-lit Lazaruses walking the South Fork ranch.
If TNT believes that a younger generation who may have only heard of Dallas via Trivial Pursuit or some joke on Twitter will flock to this new version with unbridled enthusiasm, well, that’s some fantastic spin. Good for you. We are a country lacking in optimism.
If TNT thought it was a good idea to toss in a bunch of young actors pretending to be the children of the above-mentioned, very old actors, tremendous. We are a math-challenged country. What better mirror than television to show us what a real age gap looks like to drive that point home. Trying to calculate when one train leaves a station and then crosses paths with another train and which one will arrive on time? What a headache. But looking at Hagman and then looking at Josh Henderson as his son, John Ross, well, the disparity on those numbers provides startling clarity.
And let’s not sell TNT short. The channel may have done a survey that asked Americans if they’d watch a slow-moving, super-obvious soap opera with bad acting and the answer may have come back, “Absolutely!” We are not privy to that data.
But here’s what you should know (write this down in case you forget in five minutes): Dallas is terrible. No matter how many guilty-pleasure excuses you may have used up in the initial run, if in fact you’re still alive to remember it, there’s no good excuse for watching it now. This is pandering of the lowest kind. The writing is brutal and obvious, the acting is comical, and none of it is bettered by the directing, which puts a premium on shocked/horrified close-ups of the characters, lingering on them too long like they’re filming a Saturday Night Live spoof of a soap opera but nobody will admit it.
VIDEO: TNT Releases 'Dallas' Refresher Course
It’s not worth anyone’s time to detail the premise or set up the various scenarios. You will know what’s happening five or maybe even nine minutes before it flashes on your screen. All you need to know is that The Next Generation Dallas Kin are as predictably nasty as the first, and faster than you can say J.R. vs. Bobby 2.0, you will be checking your watch or asking Siri why you scheduled this viewing in the first place.
One of the few truly interesting aspects of this Dallas reboot is how it can make an hour feel like 90 minutes in a heartbeat. That is super tricky.
Henderson, as John Ross, is the son of J.R. and Sue Ellen, who conceived the child somewhere in their 60s, it appears. Jesse Metcalfe is Christopher, the adopted son of Bobby. He’s a long way from Desperate Housewives, and who would have guessed that he’d wind up on a soap opera that was five times more ridiculous? For fans of his, there is an underwear ad interspersed in the pilot somewhere. Or maybe it was the second episode. In either case, they definitely wrote that in. “Jesse will stand up in his boxer briefs and look into the mirror for a long time. He will run a thumb under the waistband. In the meantime, there will be exposition galore.”
Something like that.
Jordana Brewster plays Elena, Christopher’s former fiancee and now – wait for it! – current girlfriend of John Ross. Elena and Christopher’s story of how the wedding imploded is, you should know in advance, deliciously ridiculous. You will rewind several times to ask yourself, “What? That’s how it happened? What?”
Julie Gonzalo is Rebecca, Christopher’s current fiancee, who must have seen him in an underwear ad or something. She seems so sweet. He thinks she’s the best person in the world.
VIDEO: Jordana Brewster, Linda Gray on Bridging the Gap Between Loyal Fans and New Viewers
(Cue ominous music!) She’s not. (Several close-ups of the cast, lingering at such a length that you start counting their wrinkles.)
Wait, that’s already too much plot. Oil, intrigue, back-stabbing. It’s like a paint-by-numbers rendering of a bad idea. Even if you’re a sucker for nostalgia, don’t go back to Dallas.
Email: Tim.Goodman@THR.com