Released by: Warner Brothers Rating: NR Region: 1 Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Fans should own.
Welcome to Dallas. Meet the Ewings. They’re the wealthy family behind Ewing Oil and they are flat out rich. Just like any family, though, they have their problems. J.R. (Hagman) is a machiavellian bastard who looks out for himself and is utterly irredeemable. Bobby (Duffy) is the nice son of the bunch, but he’s gone and married Pamela (Principal), the daughter of the Ewings’ chief rival. Niece Lucy (Tilton), the roiling sexpot, who’s got nothing but trouble in her future. And so forth, and so on. Let the backstabbing begin.
Ah, the Golden Era of prime time soaps. Dallas is what really kicked it off, spawning a spinoff and many pretenders to the throne. What started off as a five-part mini-series would only end many years later in 1991, after becoming a worldwide sensation. But even then, it wouldn’t die: two more TV movies followed. With cable and its ever expanding spectrum of channels, it’s apparently still got an audience. And now, with DVD, the fans’ thirst for the complete run will be slaked.
And really, as much as the show (like all soaps) has been maligned, and as much as it deserves some of that, there is something to be said for a good old fashioned show full of asylums, sex, drinking problems, treachery and infidelity. Part of the reason the show works (and still works, despite its extremely dated music, and hairstyles–Christ, the hairstyles) is because of Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing. There’s a reason why Hagman still remains recognizable for this role, even moreso than his ongoing part in I Dream of Jeannie–and that’s because J.R. is a completely unmitigated son of a bitch. He’s ruthless and has no qualms about destroying you and your entire bloodline if it means there’s a way to advance his own power position. And really, what’s there not to like about that in a well-acted character?
Duffy played an important role as the good brother, a foil to J.R. The show became notorious many seasons down the line when Duffy decided to leave and the character was killed off–only to be brought back a season later with the whole thing being a dream. Bobby’s departure was the beginning of the end for the show, and it’s clear why: he’s the heart of the show, whereas J.R. is merely the spleen. Or something like that. You know what I mean.
Jim Davis and Larry Hagman
This set has all twenty-nine episodes from the first two seasons. It also comes with commentary on the pilot episode, “Digger’s Daughter,” and both parts of “Reunion,” done by creator David Jacobs, Hagman and Tilton. The talk falls into a pretty standard pattern: Hagman and Tilton reminiscence a bit, then they joke a bit, then Jacobs will from time to time join with both and throw out an actual bit of fact that’s interesting. Diehards will appreciate the commentaries, but there was a bit too much dead air for my tastes–it’s always a shame when the participants get so wrapped up in watching what they’re supposed to be discussing.
Much more worthwhile–and a little scary–is the reunion special from Soaptalk from the SOAPnet network. Worthwhile because it’s Hagman, Gray, Duffy and Tilton together again on one stage, sharing their memories, much like you would have wanted from the commentary. Scary because everybody there in the audience appear to be just absolutely freaked regarding Dallas. It’s very entertaining, mostly because Hagman is such a card, and the four actors are truly believable when they say that they stay in touch even after all this time. So that’s a bit of a hoot.
This set is for the fans, pure and simple. It’s probably only going to confuse those who don’t get it, so if you don’t get the draw of the show, don’t bother even renting. If you don’t know it, at least for the sake of TV history knowledge, you should check it out.