Without a chance for redemption, there’s no romance to the role: Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing.

Without a chance for redemption, there’d be no romance to the role:  John Ross Ewing.

So what do people think of the new Dallas?

It may not have been the ratings hit that Five envisioned, with the channel relegating it to the later 11 pm slot on a Tuesday night,[1] but I’ve stuck with it and reckon it’s been well worth the viewing.

First off, I love the fact that they opted to keep the theme tune and style of the title sequence. Instantly recognisable, it transports you back to your schooldays when (and I speak for myself here) that week’s episode of Dallas was going to be the most exciting thing that happened to you.

But then I am someone who rotated chores with my siblings, lugging the family’s washing to the launderette with my Mum on a Saturday morning, for instance. Life was dull and plodding. To give you an idea of how slow my parents were to incorporate all mod cons, they didn’t get colour TV till 1981. Christmas 1981.

God rest the great JR: Larry Hagman.

God rest the great JR: Larry Hagman will of course be greatly missed.

But anyway, back to the subject at hand. And secondly, God bless Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy for revisiting their iconic roles, cementing the links between old and new. Their involvement validates the revival, lending it authenticity, gravitas and a certain cachet it might otherwise have lacked. Having said that, the old guard are now relinquishing the reins to the young bucks.

This second season is brash and bold, colourful and dynamic, with the warring Ewing clan constantly at each other’s throats when they are not forced to band together to face a common enemy. Alliances are forged fast and ditched just as quickly as the battle for supremacy builds.

Of course, greed plays a big part as a motivation, the lust for money, power and control. But the new series has introduced an environmental aspect, with Bobby’s son, the rather righteous Christopher standing for a progressive alternative to oil, as well as more straightforward and less underhand methods. A chip off the old block, John Ross, JR’s boy, has an eye firmly on the main chance, never missing an opportunity for dirty dealing and skulduggery.

I do enjoy the fact that the almost-sibling rivalry between Christopher and John Ross isn’t as black and white as the old battle between Bobby and JR. Purists may demur. I think the original JR may have been more of a definitive, even cartoonish, baddie, with few redeeming features. If he had veered even the nth of a degree toward altruism, tremors would have been felt along every plotline.

The cousins square up for a face off.

The cousins square up for a face off.

But John Ross’s role is more nuanced and the character more unsure and conflicted. Fallible and less in control of himself than his father, yet desperate for his approval, he is often seen to be rendered helpless by more experienced players in the game or worse, falling victim to his own insecurities and impulses.

So to those who say he’s not a patch on his daddy, it’s true that he’s less single-minded but also perhaps more rounded and believable as a villain. Let’s face it, he has pretty big boots to fill and the series may have an even harder job retaining viewers now that Larry has sadly left us.

Like the best (let’s face it, ever so slightly homoerotic) relationships between televisual enemies (Lindsey McDonald [Christian Kane][2] and Angel [David Boreanaz] in Angel, Clark Kent [Tom Welling] and Lex Luthor [Michael Rosenbaum] in Smallville), it’s not all dark and light.

Josh Henderson plays the (wouldn’t you love to redeem him?) antihero John Ross Ewing with just the right heady mix of cold-blooded calculation and hot-blooded emotion. You can practically see the tussle between the two dynamics on his face. His vulnerability in matters of the heart may not have pleased his old man but it makes him easier for us to identify with.

Crossed over to the dark side: Christian Kane as Lindsey in Angel.

Crossed over to the dark side:  Lindsey in Angel.

Like Lindsey in Angel, JR’s son’s not all bad by a long shot and often the most intriguing aspect of these characters is the inner turmoil between their evil aspirations and the nigglings of their latent moral principles. Set up as the immoral pole of the series universe, they have to actively wage war against any temptation to do good. A bad boy whose desires put him in conflict with his conscience as well as everybody else is one helluva sexy proposition. Without the possibility of redemption, there’s no romance to the role.

Jesse Metcalfe’s Christopher is just as passionate but suffers in comparison because he lacks that duality in his nature, the constant back and forth that you relish in John Ross. The villain’s role is definitely the more delicious one but Bobby’s pride and joy wasn’t going to be anything but honest, honourable and good. I’d like to see his stance on the moral high ground challenged – perhaps his cousin can provoke him into forsaking some of that integrity?[3]

If the series writers are thinking straight, they should exploit this chemistry of repulsion between the cousins, fuelled by healthy mutual disrespect and ancient grievances. It was interesting when the guys were fighting for the same girl, the practically skeletal Elena (Jordana Brewster). Subsequently, as JR’s Facebook (brilliant) commentary had it

John Ross is cavorting with Pamela Barnes [Julie Gonzalo]. What a fool. Had a talk with him and knocked some sense into him. He should know better than to get in bed with a Barnes. Anger and pride aside, my boy won’t betray me again …

Thus taking on another one of Christopher’s exes. Rather like Lindsey’s memorable dalliance with Angel’s ex, Darla (Julie Benz)  in Angel.

Remember, Smallville (which dubbed Clark and Lex scenes ‘Clex’ encounters) and Angel (whose writers acknowledged the popularity of such scenes with some tongue-in-cheek teasing)[4] both enjoyed multiple seasons.

Tongue-in-cheek banter and fisticuffs in Angel.

Of course another example of this type of relationship is that between Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) and Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins) in Justified, arguably the most interesting aspect of that show. Never mind sniping and bickering, these two aren’t averse to shooting each other. Yet they really don’t seem that different when it comes down to it. These ‘frenemies’ also have a tendency to bed the same women and are constrained to band together on occasion to battle a common or more formidable adversary.

So the producers need to capitalise on the intensity of this crucial relationship, which is such an important element to the unfolding narrative of the future of the Ewings and the show. We need more needle and bitchy banter … perhaps even jockey the verbal sparring up to physical confrontations, some actual fisticuffs.

It can only help that both actors are fairly easy on the eye.[5]

One of those hospital bedside scenes between rivals, also common in Justified. Okay, that got deleted so here’s a clip on one of the Ewing love triangles.

Not only does the series have the potential to gain fans from the original but it should also be able to attract a whole generation of new converts.

Okay, some of the old fans seem to be bordering on the obsessive compulsive. One commented on the Facebook page,

One thing I noticed on this week’s episode, and I can’t believe I didn’t pay attention to this before, but, remember that what is now Bobby’s office at Southfork use [sic] to be the Ewing dining room. Well, the old dining room use [sic] to have a window opposite the entrance to the dining room, but now that window is gone. So, I guess in totally remodeling Southfork, Bobby had the window removed???

Seriously, how would you remember something like that? For a start, the guy must have a photographic memory.

But at least he’s watching it, and pretty closely, so more power to him. For now, I’ll continue to do the same. It’s what Larry would have wanted.

For more on Josh Henderson, see https://bashfulbadgersblog.wordpress.com/2013/05/17/is-josh-hendersons-john-ross-a-worthy-successor-to-the-great-jr/.


[1] I quote from a letter sent to explain the rescheduling: ‘The series has not been performing as well as we had hoped and is likely to continue in this time slot.’

[2] Incidentally, Christian has a pretty successful career as a country musician on the side.  See http://www.christiankane.com/. Josh Henderson has also dabbled with music, although of a different variety. See www.theewebsite.com/JoshHenderson. Both actors were born in Texas and moved to towns in Oklahoma and feature, along with Timothy Olyphant and David Boreanaz in a list of modern-day cowboys at http://www.buddytv.com/slideshows/supernatural/tvs-top-10-modernday-cowboys-10166.aspx. Maybe they should cast Christian in Dallas now that Leverage is done?

[3] First billing rotates each week between the two young guns.
[4] Angel: I want you, Lindsey.
[pause]
Angel: Thinkin’ about rephrasing that.
Lindsey McDonald: Yeah, I think I’d be more comfortable if you did.

[5] Both also had early roles in Desperate Housewives.

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