In the ranks of prime-time dramas, this was one of the biggest. Dallas, the saga of the Ewing Family, began as a five part mini-series in 1978. Throughout its thirteen seasons, many actors passed through the gates of Southfork. In the late 1960's, Peyton Place was a nighttime serial drama success-a novelty at the time. But since then, no P.M. show had caught the soap opera crowd's attention… until Dallas. The show first went on the air for a five week run in early 1978, and then fell into a Saturday nighttime slot later that year.
Ratings were fair, but they were nothing compared to when the show moved to Friday nights, when the ratings well didn't run dry for a long, long time.
The Ewing family lived at the sprawling South Fork ranch, in hoity-toity Braddock County just outside Dallas. Like any good power family, there was a matriarch and patriarch, and three sons- this core group, their extensive romantic relations, and the Barnes clan of rival oilers were all Jacobs needed to create a self-contained histrionic world of intrigue, dysfunction and passion. Borrowing from Romeo and Juliet, the youngest Ewing boy, Bobby, fell for a beautiful Barnes girl. And with a nod to the biblical Cain and Abel, Bobby and older brother J.R. didn't exactly play nice with each other like you might expect brothers to. Whereas J.R. was nearly a hundred percent scoundrel, Bobby had discernable streaks of honesty and integrity…but that patented Ewing viciousness certainly reared its head once in a while. The South Fork ranch housed Jock and Miss Ellie, the king and queen of South Fork, J.R. and long-suffering wife Sue Ellen, and Bobby and Pamela…though why they all lived under one roof demands a little poetic license, because money certainly wasn't a problem, and it wasn't like there was a whole lot of binding inter-family harmony.
Here's just a taste of the drama devices that ensued: insane asylums, car accidents, affairs, illegitimate children, gunfights, fistfights, catfights, lies, drinking problems (both real and imagined), poufy 80's hairstyles for the ladies and best of all, notorious season finale cliffhangers.
The most famous, of course, came at the end of the 1979-80 season, when a mysterious late-night intruder shot J.R. in the chest while he was toiling away at the office one night. The resulting "Who Shot J.R.?" publicity raced around the globe, because by that time, Dallas was an international hit in just about every developed country in the world. Odds on...