Sunday, July 29, 2012

Return to Dallas

After twenty years, Dallas is back, and it's almost as good as it used to be. Focusing on a younger generation, but still making time for the original characters, the show has cleverly designed an appeal to its old viewers, and is prepared to bring in lots of new ones. The story lines are pretty much more of the same, and that's okay. We're not expecting Shakespeare here. What we are expecting is intriguing stories, driven by intriguing characters.

 Of the new young actors, the best job is done by Jordana Brewster, who plays a geologist caught in a love triangle between the two Ewing boys. By focusing on the little moments, she can lend a sense of realism to her scenes that the other young actors lack. Also, being that she is Latina, her character helps represent Dallas' enormous Latin population. Second, is Josh Henderson as John Ross, whose screen presence alone makes up for any lack of depth. The actor has a lot going for him, but is untrained. That means the show will be his training ground and we'll have to give him a year to see if he can live up to expectations. He does seem tailor made for the role, so I'm confidant he will ultimately not disappoint as J.R. Junior. I'm not sure why they cast Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher. I have seen this actor in several television roles, and he has never showed a great deal of talent. Since several of the actors on the show have appeared on Desperate Housewives, I think it may be a matter of who he knows, rather than what he is capable of. Julie Gonzalo plays Rebecca, a reforming con-artist. She's not very convincing with her scenes of desperate repentance, and I think the actress may find that aspect of the story to be as preposterous as we do. A character's motivations have to be believable, and in this case, they aren't. Of the younger characters, John Ross and Christopher were born on the show during the early 1980's, so they should be around thirty years old. I believe that is consistent with the age of the actors.

The stronger acting is done, not surprisingly, by the veterans of the show. Of them, Patrick Duffy is given the most to do, and he is more or less the show's main character. I suspect that Linda Gray and Larry Hagman negotiated light work schedules, which limits their screen time, but that keeps us wanting more, which isn't a bad thing. Larry Hagman's performance is always engrossing because he has the ability to jump from one mood to another with ease. In one scene he can be jolly, then quickly turn around and be crotchety, then come back as tender. If you look at some of Hagman's early work, before I Dream of Jeannie, you'll find that he has always shown a strong capability for multi-dimensional acting.

What Dallas has always done best is to present the greed and ostentation that defines Texas. From it's grand introduction, to its scenery, and most importantly to the way the characters interact with their surroundings, it really comes down to how one saddles up a horse and how one pours a drink. These are people who know how to live big. They own it all. The Southfork Ranch is different than it used to be, and that is disappointing. Originally, much of the action took place in the parlor, where the family gathered before dinner. Now it tends to take place in the kitchen, and though the Ewings have a cook, they seem to be more or less involved in many of the household chores. This could be considered a character choice, being that Bobby is now the primary resident, and he was always the more homespun of the brothers. I'd like to see the old floor plan back, and this could be incorporated should the more lavish J.R. take control of the ranch. I give them credit for addressing the lack of continuity between the exterior and interior of the house in the original series, as the outside view was of a one story house, while the inside had two.

Oddly, the show almost takes on an element of science fiction, with Christopher's development of methane ice as a form of green energy. It isn't so far off from reality though, since methane hydrate does exist, and is being investigated. It does have mass energy potential, but is extremely dangerous, as this article explains: Maybe this television show can be a harbinger of the future by raising awareness of a potential new industry.

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