I admit it, I watch Dallas. I know it’s a soap opera and is a stark contrast to my Bible Series post last week.
I watch because right or wrong, the show brings back happy family memories. We had our share of adversity in our personal lives back in the day, but come Friday night at 9, the TV was on and we were taking guesses at what “good ole’ JR” had up his sleeve that week. My dad has been gone nearly 9 years and I can still hear his giggle when JR had a smart comeback. It’s nostalgia, but watching the reboot version blending the characters I grew up with and the new, it’s as comfortable as a pair of fuzzy slippers on a winter’s night.
The actor who played JR Ewing, Larry Hagman, passed away last November. Last night his character was laid to rest in a tribute episode. The hour long show impacted me on a few levels, way deeper than I expected a serial drama to.
–The nostalgia. Characters from the original show returned, honest about their run-ins with the legend. In a humorous scene, all his ex-wives gathered around the fireplace and remembered their marriages to the same man. Again, some of my happiest memories were watching this show as a family. To see the characters again brought back my own memories, as well as show reflections.
–Family is family. You don’t have to watch the show to know the Ewings have a lot of enemies, and their own infighting. Last night JR’s nemesis, Cliff Barnes, burst on the scene to “pay his disrespects.” As soon as he opened his mouth, all infighting ceased and the Ewings bonded together. When JR’s only son with his beloved Sue Ellen, John Ross, started to raise a first to defend his deceased daddy, his cousin stepped in and offered to throw the punch for him. This reminds me of my husband’s recollections growing up. He comes from a bigger Italian family and confessed he fought often with his brothers. But if someone went against one of the Arduini brothers, the boys had each other’s backs. Even in the sudsiest of shows, Dallas proves family is family.
-Grief brings a paradigm shift. When my dad passed away, the patriarch was gone. My mom was a widow, and my sister and I were without a dad. Everything changed. Although we returned in time to a normal, it was a new one. Watching Bobby Ewing return from identifying his big brother’s body, you saw the shift take place. He immediately excused himself and went to work behind den doors. He is now the patriarch and all plans to honor his brother were on him. He’s also traditionally known as the “good” brother, and now he’s conflicted. It’s the Ewing way to avenge an Ewing death, and the burden is his to make it happen. Will he remain good, or will his remaining days on South Fork be a blend or total character change? With death, nothing remains the same.
–The Daddy Complex. What made the first Dallas so engaging boiled down was a quest of an older son wanting the love of a harsh, hard pleasing father. That became an obsession for JR’s character because after the first season, Jim Davis, the man who portrayed patriarch Jock Ewing, passed away and Jock’s character was also gone. JR never got to hear his daddy’s approval, and his mom’s love focused on younger brother Bobby. The rest of the show was JR chasing a dad’s approval he would never get, and keeping a feud alive with a family that started with Jock’s friend turned enemy. The fight continued between Jock Ewing/Digger Barnes sons, and the Ewing/Barnes feud continues today.
In the reboot, John Ross was constantly motivated by wanting JR’s approval, yet conflicted because his mom suffered so because of his father’s misdeeds. Before JR was killed, he let his son know he not only loved him, but approved of him, calling him a Ewing from “tip to tail.” My writing side was fascinated with the tribute episode because the quest ended, but now the story lines multiply. Why? Because the son, the brother, and those that truly loved JR will avenge his death. And in writing, of course with every action comes a reaction.
Can you think of a character on TV or a book that impacted you when they died? Did any death scene or tribute trigger something about your life?