Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dallas, Dallas, Wherefore Art Thou, Dallas?

You know you’re old when the oil barons are getting younger. 

The remake of Dallas has brought us a new breed of Texan magnates who look barely out of their Lego and I don’t like them one little bit.
At best, Bobby’s son Christopher is Thunderbirds’ Scott Tracy after a day at the spa; at worst, Norman Bates after a week of bad bookings. JR’s son Christopher has a walrus sitting on his face and is about as sexy as . . . well, a walrus sitting on your face.
 John Ross’s and Christopher’s fathers, who were once such magnetic personalities, are no longer appealing, either. JR’s eyebrows look as if they need their own Visa to enter the country, and Bobby looks as if he has had the kind of eye-lift that turns people Chinese overnight; in fact, his eyes appear to have been eaten by his forehead. Lucy looks as if she has spent 20 years eating all the pies she never got to consume when the wind swept the food away every morning on the breakfast terrace, and all the allegedly glamorous women make a Stepford Wife look like Personality of the Millennium.
I so, so wanted to like it; but it is bad. So, so bad. Lame writing, lame acting, and a lame Bobby, who keeps clutching his leg in pain, as the cancer he is trying to keep secret takes hold. Sue Ellen appears to be the only character who has survived the fallout. And Linda Gray still brilliantly plays it for the laugh it always was.
 I first watched Dallas when it was broadcast in the UK on BBC2 in the afternoon; I think I was probably its first UK fan. Although I did not know the term soap opera when growing up, I knew it must be something very, very naughty, because my parents always sent me to my room when Peyton Place was on.
Never having watched Coronation Street, I took to Dallas because of the shoulder pads, the pools, the glamour. It was a world so far removed from my own in South Wales, I could fantasise about riches, fine clothes, magnificent dinners, and take joy in the knowledge that for every material wealth these people had, they were still miserable as hell. That made me happy. Being poor. With no fine clothes. And, in a bad week, rather hungry.
 I specially liked Dallas’s annual Oil Barons Ball, where the oil magnates would gather to celebrate the industry but end up fighting and/or murdering each other. WestStar oil head honcho Jeremy Wendell always featured heavily on these occasions, though I swear he never washed his shirt from one year to the next.
Dallas lost its credibility with the “death” of Bobby, quickly resurrected and made the subject of wife Pam’s dream, when the ratings plummeted following the departure of Patrick Duffy, who played him.
 The biggest problem was that the sister show, Knot’s Landing, was still in production and had a lot of episodes in the can; so Bobby’s brother Gary continued to grieve on one channel, telling everyone how momma had never been the same since Bobby’s death, and nobody ever bothered to tell him that an entire year had all been in his head.
But it was the ludicrousness – the complete lack of believability – that, strangely, made it work. The new mob are playing it as if they have landed parts in Henry V, and they are about as menacing as a dead mouse in a Camembert.
After two episodes, I’ve already wiped it from my “series record”; life really is too short. 

And I really, really don’t want to watch Bobby dying from cancer – well, not unless he emerges wet and glistening and we discover that it was Christopher’s dream after all.   

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