On April 2, 1978
, one of the biggest television series in American history premiered on CBS
. The network only contracted Lorimar
for five episodes, saying that if the show became popular, they might extend the contract to a full season of 24 episodes.
Man, talk about a lack of foresight. Dallas aired for an unprecedented 356 episodes over fourteen and a half seasons, and basically gave birth to the prime time soap operas that characterized television in the eighties. When J.R. Ewing, the show's main character, was shot in 1981, it made headlines all over the world, a testament to the show's depth and popularity... and when "Who Shot J.R.?" aired, it became the second most-watched television program in U.S. history (after the final episode of M*A*S*H).
Much like other television institutions (I'm thinking Star Trek here), Dallas brought with it an entire history, a unique world within the idiot box. It focused on Ewing Oil, a fictitious company in Dallas, Texas, and the Aaron Spellingesque family who ran it. There was corporate warfare involved, and plenty of soap-style intrigue. The show portrayed the company's evolution in real time, so that the 1985 season would represent what happened to Ewing in 1985, and so on.
In 1991, "The Cartel" finally succeeded in destroying Ewing Oil, and the series drew to a close, having won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and virtually every Soap Opera Digest award. Dallas' spirit lived on for two more years in the form of a spinoff soap called Knots Landing.
Cast and Crew
Jock Ewing - Jim Davis
Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Southworth Ewing Farlow - Barbara Bel Geddes
Clayton Farlow - Howard Keel
J.R. Ewing - Larry Hagman
Bobby Ewing - Patrick Duffy
Sue Ellen Shepard Ewing Lockwood - Linda Gray
Other actors who appeared in the series include Priscilla Presley, Lesley-Anne Down, and Donna Reed.
Produced by Leonard Katzman, David Paulsen, and James H. Brown, and written by Loraine Despres and Peter Dunne. The theme music was written by Jerrold Immel.
Dallas ceased production as a TV show, but continued its life as a franchise. It had already given rise to a TV movie prequel, Dallas: The Early Years, in 1986, and after the last episode aired, two more TV movies were made: 1996's Dallas: J.R. Returns and 1998's Dallas: War of the Ewings.
Some jolly filmmakers in the United Kingdom went on to produce two documentary films about Dallas, Doing Dallas in 2000 and After Dallas in 2002.
A new movie is set to hit the silver screen late in 2003 or early in 2004. The Ewings pay off Dubya for a contract in American Iraq! Coming this Christmas! Man, I can't wait.
Sources: http://www.ultimatedallas.com/ and imdb. I have never actually watched Dallas, but my mother was an addict, and the theme music has been stuck in my head ever since I was a kid.