|Created by||David Jacobs|
|Written by||List of writers|
|Directed by||List of directors|
|Theme music composer||Jerrold Immel|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||14|
|No. of episodes||357 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||47–50 mins|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Original release||April 2, 1978 –|
May 3, 1991
|Related shows||Knots Landing|
Dallas is an American prime time television soap opera that aired on CBS from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991. The series revolves around an affluent and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who own the independent oil company Ewing Oil and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes, whose families were sworn enemies of each other. As the series progressed, Bobby's elder brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, became the show's breakout character, whose schemes and dirty business became the show's trademark. When the show ended on May 3, 1991, J.R. was the only character to have appeared in every episode.
The show was prominent for its cliffhangers, including the "Who shot J.R.?" mystery. The 1980 episode "Who Done It" remains the second-highest-rated prime-time telecast ever. The show also featured a "Dream Season", in which the entirety of season 9 was revealed to have been a dream of Pam Ewing's. After 14 seasons, the series finale "Conundrum" aired in 1991.
The show is mostly an ensemble cast, with Larry Hagman as greedy, scheming oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, stage/screen actress Barbara Bel Geddes as family matriarch Miss Ellie and Western movie actor Jim Davis as Ewing patriarch Jock, his last role before his death in 1981. The series won four Emmy Awards, including a 1980 Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series win for Bel Geddes.
With its 357 episodes, Dallas remains one of the longest lasting full-hour prime time dramas in American TV history, behind Gunsmoke (635 episodes), Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (478 episodes as of April 2020), Law & Order (456 episodes), Bonanza (430 episodes), and Grey's Anatomy (363 episodes as of April 2020). Dallas also spawned spin-off series Knots Landing in 1979, which also lasted 14 seasons and a total of 344 episodes.
In 2010, TNT announced it had ordered a new, updated continuation of Dallas. The revival series, continuing the story of the Ewing family, premiered on TNT on June 13, 2012, and ran for three seasons, ending its run on September 22, 2014.
Dallas debuted on April 2, 1978, as a five-part miniseries on CBS. Although the miniseries was created as the series' pilot, by the time it was aired, neither the producers nor the network were hopeful that it would continue beyond these five episodes and initially had no plans for expansion. It was shown in a late Sunday night time-slot, known for low ratings. However, the miniseries proved popular enough to be turned into a regular series and broadcast for 13 full seasons from September 23, 1978, to May 3, 1991. The five pilot episodes, originally considered a miniseries, are now referred to as season 1, making fourteen seasons in total.
The show is known for its portrayal of wealth, sex, intrigue, conflict and power struggles. Throughout the series, the main premise is the longtime rivalry between the Ewing and Barnes families, which came to a head when the Barnes daughter Pamela (Victoria Principal) eloped with youngest Ewing son Bobby (Patrick Duffy), in the first episode. The series is largely set in Dallas, Texas, and fictional Braddock County, where the Southfork Ranch is located.
The backstory was that, in the 1930s, wildcatter John Ross "Jock" Ewing (Jim Davis) had allegedly cheated his one-time partner, Willard "Digger" Barnes (David Wayne/Keenan Wynn), out of his share of their company Ewing Oil, and married Digger's only love, Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Southworth (Barbara Bel Geddes/Donna Reed). In contrast to Jock, Miss Ellie came from a long line of ranchers with great love for the land and the cattle. Following their marriage, the Southworth family ranch, Southfork, became the Ewings' home, where Jock and Miss Ellie raised three sons: J.R. (Larry Hagman), Gary (David Ackroyd/Ted Shackelford) and Bobby.
J.R., unscrupulous and unhappily married to former Miss Texas beauty queen Sue Ellen Shepard (Linda Gray), was frequently at odds with Bobby, who had the morals and integrity that J.R. lacked. Middle son Gary was Miss Ellie's favorite as he displayed Southworth traits; however, Gary had been in conflict with both Jock and J.R. since childhood and was dismissed as a weak link. At 17, Gary secretly met and married 15-year-old waitress Valene Clements (Joan Van Ark), producing the first Ewing grandchild - petite and saucy Lucy (Charlene Tilton) - before returning to Southfork with the intention of settling down. Although Jock warmed to Valene and supported Gary's fledgling family, J.R. pressured Gary into alcoholism by landing him with bad business deals that caused him to flee Southfork. With Gary gone, J.R. persecuted Valene until she left the ranch and the state, leaving Lucy to be raised by her grandparents.
During the first episodes of the series, teenage Lucy is seen sleeping with ranch foreman Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly). Later, in season 4, Ray was revealed as Lucy's uncle, an illegitimate son of Jock's through an extramarital affair during World War II. Unhappy with his small, one-dimensional role, Kanaly had considered leaving the show; to add depth to the Ray character, Hagman suggested that the writers create a plot wherein Ray becomes half-brother to J.R., Gary, and Bobby, noting his resemblance to Davis. The episodes where Ray and his niece Lucy had a fling are, as Kanaly told Dinah Shore in an appearance on her show, "prayerfully forgotten, I hope".
Ray had previously engaged in a short fling with Pamela, but she fell deeply in love with Bobby, and the pilot episode begins with the two of them arriving at Southfork Ranch as newlyweds, shocking the entire family. J.R., who loathed the Barnes family, was not happy with Pam's living at Southfork, and constantly tried to undermine her marriage to Bobby. Meanwhile, Pam's brother Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who had inherited Digger's hatred towards the Ewings, shared J.R.'s objections to the marriage and continued his father's quest to get revenge.
Most of the seasons ended with ratings-grabbing cliffhangers, the most notable being the season 3 finale "A House Divided", which launched the landmark "Who shot J.R.?" storyline and was ranked No. 69 on TV Guide's list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time". Other season finale cliffhangers include an unidentified female corpse in the Southfork swimming pool (season 4); a blazing house fire (season 6); Bobby's death (season 8) and subsequent resurrection (season 9); and J.R.'s apparent suicide (season 14).
For the original five-episodes miniseries (season 1) six actors received star billing: Barbara Bel Geddes as Ewing matriarch Miss Ellie, whose family were the original owners of Southfork; Jim Davis as her husband Jock, the founder of Ewing Oil and head of the Ewing family; Patrick Duffy as their youngest son, Bobby; Victoria Principal as Pamela Barnes Ewing, the daughter of the rival Barnes family whom Bobby brings home as his wife in the pilot episode; Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, the oldest son, who strongly objects to his new sister-in-law; and Charlene Tilton as Lucy, Bobby's and J.R.'s teenage niece, who adores Bobby, but resents J.R. for disposing of her parents in order for her to be raised by "true Ewings".
Not receiving top billing during season 1, although appearing in the majority of the episodes, were Linda Gray as Sue Ellen, J.R.'s long-suffering, alcoholic wife; Steve Kanaly as Pam's ex-boyfriend Ray Krebbs, a Southfork ranch hand who would later turn out to be Jock's illegitimate son; and Ken Kercheval as Pam's brother Cliff Barnes, J.R.'s archrival. Gray and Kanaly were promoted to the regular cast as of the first episode of season 2 and Kercheval as of the first episode of season 3. David Wayne received guest star billing as Willard "Digger" Barnes.
Further on in the series, several new characters were added as the original actors departed the series:
For season 5, after guest starring since season 2, Susan Howard joined the main cast as Donna Culver Krebbs, politician and widow of a former Texas governor, who becomes Ray's first wife and mother to his daughter Margaret.
Season 8 saw musical actor Howard Keel promoted to the star cast after appearing since season 4 as wealthy, occasionally hot-tempered rancher Clayton Farlow, Miss Ellie's husband following Jock's death, and of Priscilla Beaulieu Presley as Bobby's teenage sweetheart Jenna Wade, who gives birth to Bobby's only biological child, Lucas, and eventually becomes Ray's second wife. Jenna had previously been played by Morgan Fairchild for a season 2 episode, and Francine Tacker for two episodes in season 3 before the role was permanently taken over by Presley in season 7. Donna Reed also joined the main cast during season 8, temporarily portraying Miss Ellie until Barbara Bel Geddes returned in the following year.
Dack Rambo, portraying wandering cousin Jack Ewing, was promoted to regular status for season 10, after having appeared regularly since the end of season 8. However, he was written out of the show midway through the tenth season. Jack's ex-wife April Stevens Ewing, played by Sheree J. Wilson, first appeared during seasons 10 and 11, before being promoted to a main character for season 12. Originally a scheming character, April eventually became Bobby's second wife after his divorce from Pam.
Season 13 saw several additions to the main cast: Academy Award winner George Kennedy as Carter McKay, who buys Ray's ranch and eventually becomes the head of Ewing Oil rival WestStar; Cathy Podewell as the young and naïve Cally Harper Ewing, J.R.'s second wife, whom he married to escape false rape charges; Sasha Mitchell as J.R.'s illegitimate firstborn son, James Beaumont; Kimberly Foster as April's devious sister Michelle Stevens, who marries both James and Cliff Barnes; and finally Lesley-Anne Down as PR woman Stephanie Rogers. While Kennedy and Podewell had appeared regularly throughout season 12, Mitchell, Foster and Down's characters were all new to the series when they joined the regular cast.
During its fourteen-year run, Dallas saw several actors appearing in supporting roles. The most notable include:
Long-time child characters include J.R. and Sue Ellen's son John Ross Ewing III (portrayed for seasons 4–6 by Tyler Banks, and for seasons 7–14 by Omri Katz); Bobby and Pam's adopted son Christopher Ewing (portrayed by Eric Farlow for seasons 6–8, and by Joshua Harris for seasons 9–14), and Jenna's daughter Charlotte "Charlie" Wade (Shalane McCall, seasons 7–11, also played by Laurie Lynn Myers for a season 2 episode).
Among the most frequently appearing business associates of the Ewing family are oil cartel members Jordan Lee (Don Starr, seasons 2–14), Marilee Stone (Fern Fitzgerald, seasons 2–13) and Andy Bradley (Paul Sorensen, seasons 2–10); Jock's good friend Marvin "Punk" Anderson (Morgan Woodward, seasons 4–11) and his wife Mavis (Alice Hirson, seasons 6–7 and 10–11); and shady investment banker Vaughn Leland (Dennis Patrick seasons 3, 5, 7–8). Other long-time Ewing acquaintances include Dallas PD detective Harry McSween, serving as J.R.'s source within police force (James Brown, seasons 2–12); family attorney Harv Smithfield (George O. Petrie, seasons 3–14); and Donna's stepson, U.S. Senator Dave Culver (Tom Fuccello, seasons 3–6, 8, 10–11 and 13–14).
Also appearing in many episodes are several background characters, including Bobby's secretaries Connie Brasher (portrayed by Donna Bullock in season 1, Ann Ford and Nancy Bleier in season 2, and Jeanna Michaels in season 2–4) and Phyllis Wapner (Deborah Tranelli, seasons 4–14); J.R.'s secretaries Louella Caraway Lee (Meg Gallagher, seasons 2–4) and Sly Lovegren (Deborah Rennard, seasons 5–14); Cliff's secretary Jackie Dugan (Sherril Lynn Rettino, seasons 2–5 and 7–14); Ewing Oil receptionist Kendall Chapman (Danone Simpson, seasons 6–14); Southfork maid Teresa (Roseanna Christiansen, seasons 6–14); and Oil Baron's Club staff Dora Mae (Pat Colbert, seasons 7–14), Cassie (Anne C. Lucas, seasons 5–10) and Debbie (Deborah Marie Taylor, seasons 11–14).
By the end of the series, only three of the series' original characters (J.R., Bobby, and Cliff) were left in Dallas, the others having either died or left town.
Jock Ewing was the first main character to depart the series, as Jock died offscreen in a mysterious helicopter crash in South America, during season 5. Actor Jim Davis, who played Jock, had died just after production had completed on season 4 in 1981.
Bobby Ewing's death in the season 8 finale, alongside his subsequent absence during the following season, was explained away at the beginning of season 10 as having been dreamed by Pamela, thus erasing everything that had happened during season 9. Patrick Duffy had left the series to pursue other opportunities, but due to declining ratings, he was persuaded to return to the series by production company Lorimar as well as series star Larry Hagman.
Jack Ewing left Dallas to continue his travels and get away from J.R., midway through season 10, and returned a final time for two episodes towards the end of the season. While there has been no official reason as to why actor Dack Rambo was written out of Dallas, Rambo himself later stated that he believed the reasons to be his bisexuality and/or his conflicts with Larry Hagman, which Rambo said had particularly intensified during his last season on the show (season 10). Before Dallas, Rambo and Hagman had worked together on Sword of Justice in the late 1970s. Hagman later denied any involvement in Rambo's dismissal from Dallas.
Pamela was severely burned after driving a car into an oil tanker, which then exploded into flames, in the season 10 finale in 1987. During season 11, Pam disappeared after her half-sister Katherine was seen around the hospital, with Pam seemingly leaving Bobby and Christopher due to her unwillingness to let them see her in such a physically disfigured fashion. While Victoria Principal never returned to Dallas again after the season 10 finale, Margaret Michaels, a Principal look-alike, played Pam in the opening episode of season 12. Having undergone plastic surgery which explained the difference in her appearance, it was revealed that Pam was dying of a disease, though only she and her doctor knew about this. After this episode, Pam is never seen again. Unable to reach a salary agreement and having a desire to start her own business, it was Principal's own decision not to return to the show after the season 10 finale.
Budget cuts also meant other long term cast members were let go. In addition to Pamela's departure, Ray and Donna divorced at the end of season 10. Donna moving to Washington, D.C., where she later married Senator Andrew Dowling (guest star Jim McMullan), with whom she raised Ray's daughter Margaret. Actress Susan Howard stated in 1987 that the producers had told her that her character had run its course. As season 11 ended, Ray sold his ranch to Carter McKay and left Dallas for Switzerland with Jenna and Lucas, Charlie having already moved there to attend a finishing school. Ray returned for five episodes in the early period of season 12.
Lucy Ewing, who had left with husband Mitch at the end of season 8, returned to Southfork in the final episodes of season 11, only to leave again two years later for Europe. On both occasions, Charlene Tilton's axing was a decision made by the creative team, who had difficulties creating storylines for her.
Sue Ellen left in the season 12 finale, moving to London with her new husband, film director Don Lockwood (guest star Ian McShane). While Linda Gray was let go by the same budget cuts that ended Steve Kanaly's run on the show, Sue Ellen's exit has since been described by Gray as a mutual decision by her and Leonard Katzman, agreeing that the character "had come more than full circle".
Stephanie Rogers was let go as Cliff's PR representative at the end of season 13, making actress Lesley-Anne Down the most short-lived member of the regular cast, appearing in 8 episodes and being on the opening title sequence in 13 episodes.
Barbara Bel Geddes had quadruple heart bypass surgery on March 15, 1983, just days after finishing her last scenes on season 6. Bel Geddes then missed the first 11 episodes of season 7, as she had a period of rest and recuperation following the surgery. After the season 7 finale, Bel Geddes left Dallas entirely after disagreements over her workload and salary in the period following her heart surgery. The role of Miss Ellie was then recast with Donna Reed for season 8, with Reed signing a 3-year contract. Bel Geddes was asked to return for the start of season 9, a request to which Bel Geddes agreed, resulting in a high-profile public relations debacle that left Reed infuriated and in litigation with the series producers, who eventually made Reed a $1 million out-of-court settlement. Reed died unexpectedly of pancreatic cancer a few months later, in January 1986. Miss Ellie remained on the show until near the end of season 13, when she and Clayton left Dallas, deciding to travel around Far East Asia before eventually settling in Europe near Ray and Jenna. Following her exit from Dallas in 1990, Bel Geddes retired from acting.
When the 14th and final season of the series commenced, ten actors received regular cast status. Although half of them left the show prior to the series finale, all of them remained billed in the series' opening sequence throughout the year. Clayton Farlow made four appearances, clearing up business that included deeding Southfork to Bobby; April Stevens Ewing died early on in the season, kidnapped on her honeymoon by Hillary Taylor (guest star Susan Lucci); Cally Harper Ewing left midway through the season to build a new life, with a new boyfriend and her and J.R.'s newborn son; Liz Adams broke her engagement to Cliff and left near the end of the season, and James Beaumont left the show a couple of episodes before the series finale, to start a new life on the east coast with his newly discovered toddler son Jimmy, and Jimmy's mother Debra Lynn (guest star Deborah Tucker).
As the series concluded, Carter McKay stayed put at WestStar, as powerful as ever; Michelle Stevens was left heartbroken and humiliated, alone in the ranch she had bought from McKay hoping to live there with James; Cliff Barnes was once and for all the sole owner of Ewing Oil, and Bobby Ewing, now owner of Southfork, was finally able to find closure after April's death. J.R., however, having lost both Ewing Oil and Southfork, as well as being abandoned by his sons, was at the end of his rope; the series ended with the unanswered question whether or not he killed himself.
Series creator David Jacobs's partner Michael Filerman suggested Dallas as the name for the show. Jacobs knew nothing about the city other than the Kennedy assassination and the Dallas Cowboys; only after visiting the state to prepare for filming did he realize that the show should be called Houston as the petroleum industry is much more important there, while Dallas has banking and insurance. He wrote the first and the final episode of the original five-part miniseries (season 1), with the other three episodes being written by Arthur Bernard Lewis, Camille Marchetta and Virginia Aldrige. While Aldrige didn't return to the series again and Marchetta left during season 4, Lewis grew to be one of Dallas's most influential writers.
Leonard Katzman had been a part of season 1 as producer, and during season 2 his influence increased, as he began writing and directing episodes. Series creator David Jacobs left his day-to-day duties as executive story consultant at the end of season 2, in order to focus on the production of spin-off Knots Landing. The executive producers of Dallas in the first 3 seasons were Philip Capice and Lee Rich. During the first 8 seasons of the show, Dallas's production team remained basically intact (the main exception being Rich's leaving after season 3). After Lee Rich's departure, Philip Capice served as the sole executive producer, Leonard Katzman as producer and showrunner, Cliff Fenneman as associate producer, and Arthur Bernard Lewis as executive story editor/supervising producer. And, although 25 writers contributed with scripts, the trio of Katzman, Lewis and David Paulsen wrote nearly two-thirds of the episodes during these first eight seasons. Paulsen had joined the show during the season 4 and was promoted to story editor for season 6. Notably, the three of them wrote every episode but two during seasons 7 and 8.
Creative conflicts between executive producer Philip Capice and producer Leonard Katzman led to Katzman leaving the show at the end of season 8. Although Katzman was to continue writing for the show during season 9 and also acted during this season as "creative consultant" (which meant he was sent copies of all scripts and asked to give his input), Capice decided to bring in a new production team: joining him and associate producer Cliff Fenneman were James H. Brown as producer and Peter Dunne as supervising producer/showrunner, executive story consultant Joel J. Feigenbaum, and story editors Hollace White and Stephanie Garman.
However, increased production costs and the claim of decreased ratings (though the accuracy of this has been disputed) caused production company Lorimar to persuade both Patrick Duffy and Leonard Katzman to return. As season 9 came to a close, Katzman was on board to return as showrunner for the following season and the season finale saw Patrick Duffy inexplicably resurface on screen.
As of the season 10 premiere, there was another major overhaul of the crew, with Leonard Katzman not only returning to the production side of the show but also getting promoted to executive producer, reportedly on the condition that he would get "total authority" of the show, while Philip Capice and most of the season 9 staff left the production. Alongside Katzman, David Paulsen was brought back as the show's new producer, while the position as supervising producer was offered to newcomer Calvin Clements Jr. and Cliff Fenneman remained associate producer. A new writing staff was hired to work alongside the producers, including Katzman's son Mitchell Wayne Katzman as story editor and Leah Markus as story consultant. Markus left after two years, while the others remained until the show's end.
Scriptwise, Patrick Duffy's return was explained by having the entire season 9 being a dream of Victoria Principal's character Pam, effectively sweeping away the events occurring during the period in which Katzman's involvement with the show had been minimized.
Even the cast were affected by the production and political struggles. While Larry Hagman (J.R.) reportedly supported Katzman, and had played a great part in bringing Duffy back, Susan Howard (Donna), who also had written the script for one of the season 9 episodes, had sided with Philip Capice, and was opposed to the idea of annulling the events of season 9. While she returned to write another episode for season 10, she left the show, both as a writer and as a cast member, at the end of the season.
During the final four years of the show, Leonard Katzman remained showrunner, with series star Larry Hagman joining him as executive producer (beginning with season 12) and Ken Horton as co-executive producer (as of season 13).
Supervising producer Calvin Clements Jr. left the show after season 10, and was replaced for seasons 11 and 12 by the returning Arthur Bernard Lewis, who remained a writer on the show until its end. Lewis was thus reuniting with Leonard Katzman and David Paulsen. However, Paulsen left Dallas at the end of the 11th season (to join rival soap Dynasty), and was replaced as the show's producer first by Howard Lakin for season 12, and then by longtime associate producer Cliff Fenneman for the final two years. Lakin spent seasons 13 and 14 as supervising producer.
Mitchell Wayne Katzman was promoted to co-producer as of season 12, while Frank Katzman (the other son of Leonard Katzman) and John Rettino (Leonard Katzman's son-in-law), served as associate producers during seasons 13 and 14. Additionally, Katzman's PA Louella Lee Caraway was credited as executive coordinator for the final three seasons. The final major addition to the staff was Lisa Seidman, who joined the show as executive story consultant for the final two seasons.
The pilot season was shot entirely on location in Dallas, Texas, and at the Cloyce Box Ranch in Frisco, Texas. Later, most interiors for the show were shot at the MGM Studios in Culver City, California (which was purchased outright by Lorimar in 1986), with some exteriors being shot at the Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, and other sections of Dallas. For season 13, rising production costs led to all filming being relocated to California. Typically the cast and crew would spend six to eight weeks filming on-location sequences in the Dallas area during the summer prior to the season, then film the remainder of the season in the Los Angeles area; less than half of the episodes in a given season had on-location sequences filmed in Dallas. MGM built a full-size replica of the Southfork Ranch backyard and pool on one of its soundstages, allowing for filming of "location" shots during the latter part of the season.
Leonard Katzman is the most prominent director on the show, having directed episodes of every season except seasons 1, 9 and 12. Next to Katzman, Michael Preece, is responsible for having directed the most Dallas episodes, having joined the show during season 4 and remaining until the end. Of the two directors attached to the original miniseries, Robert Day did not return for subsequent seasons, while Irving J. Moore remained on the show until season 5, and then returned for the final three.
Five of the series' stars also directed episodes: Larry Hagman (seasons 3-14), Patrick Duffy (seasons 4-8 and 10-14), Linda Gray (seasons 9-12), Steve Kanaly (seasons 10-12) and Ken Kercheval (seasons 13-14).
(in ratings points)
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||5||April 2, 1978||April 30, 1978||42 ||N/A|
|2||24||September 23, 1978||March 30, 1979||40 ||18.4|
|3||25||September 21, 1979||March 21, 1980||6||19.1|
|4||23||November 7, 1980||May 1, 1981||1||27.6|
|5||26||October 9, 1981||April 9, 1982||1||23.2|
|6||28||October 1, 1982||May 6, 1983||2||20.5|
|7||30||September 30, 1983||May 18, 1984||1||21.5|
|8||30||September 28, 1984||May 17, 1985||2||20.97|
|9||31||September 27, 1985||May 16, 1986||6||18.8|
|10||29||September 26, 1986||May 15, 1987||11||18.6|
|11||30||September 25, 1987||May 13, 1988||21||15.2|
|12||26||October 28, 1988||May 19, 1989||30||13.9|
|13||27||September 22, 1989||May 11, 1990||43||N/A|
|14||23||November 2, 1990||May 3, 1991||61||N/A|
Dallas originally aired on Saturday nights when it debuted as a regular series. Within a month, the show was moved to Sunday nights, where it stayed until halfway through the season, when it took a Friday-night slot. Dallas remained on Fridays until the show ended in 1991, alternating between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. airings.
The "Who Done It" episode of Dallas that revealed who shot J.R.?, the famous 1980 cliffhanger, received the highest domestic ratings at that point with over 90 million American viewers (representing more than 53% of the U.S. households and 76% of the U.S. television audience for November 21, 1980) tuning in for the answer. The episode surpassed the ratings record of the final episode of The Fugitive, broadcast in August 1967, but the record of Dallas was broken only by the last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983, falling into the second internationally most watched U.S. television episode, with nearly 360 million viewers in over 57 countries worldwide (by the year 1980) tuning in to see who shot J.R.
Although the soap's audience had consistently declined since the "Who Done It" episode of 1980, the series finale of Dallas, "Conundrum", garnered 33 million viewers and a 22 household rating from 9 to 11 pm on May 3, 1991, becoming the country's 14th most watched television series finale. Its competition, Manhunter (on NBC), only drew a 9.8 rating.
Date / title / network / household rating / share / viewers / time
Beginning in fall 1984, Dallas was packaged for off-network syndication by Lorimar to local stations; among the stations to purchase the program initially was the Dallas-Fort Worth ABC affiliate, WFAA-TV. Only the first 222 episodes (seasons 1 through 9) were part of the syndication package. However, Dallas did not achieve the same type of rating success in local markets as it did during its CBS primetime run.
During the 1990s, the show aired briefly on TNT (from September 1992 to August 1993, again the first nine seasons only), followed by a run on TNN beginning in the fall of 1996 (the first network to air all 357 episodes of the original series, but the episodes were heavily edited for time), and from 2003 to 2008 the entire run aired on the all-soaps cable network, SoapNet, uncut and unedited, as it was originally broadcast. On January 1, 2011, CMT aired the show for one day, and prior to the premiere of the 2012 sequel, select episodes were shown on CMT and its website.
In the UK, the rights to show Dallas had been bought by the BBC and quickly became a ratings winner, drawing audiences of over 20 million. However, in 1985 the corporation refused to pay $60,000 per-episode asking price for the next (ninth) series. Whilst negotiating with the distributor to acquire the next season, their commercial rival, the ITV franchise holder Thames Television unexpectedly stepped in and met the price. The BBC reacted angrily to this development, pulling the current series mid-run, and threatening to broadcast the remaining episodes simultaneously with Thames Television's intended scheduling in November of that year. It caused a furore in the press and a question on the matter was even asked at Westminster in Parliament. The BBC relented, and re-commenced their broadcasts of the current series. Ultimately, the regulatory Independent Broadcasting Authority forced Thames Television to back down on their plans, with the IBA ordering them to sell the latest series that they had bought (season nine, the dream season) back to the BBC, at a loss. Dallas continued to be broadcast on the BBC, being shown on BBC1 until the end of the series run until 1991.
Dallas is notable for its cliffhangers. Throughout the series' run, every season ended with some sort of cliffhanging ending designed to drive ratings up for the season premiere later in the year.
Before the premiere of Dallas, Jacobs originated the idea for a drama series about four married couples in different stages of marriage, inspired by Ingmar Bergman's Scenes from a Marriage. However, CBS wanted a "saga-like" show, resulting in Jacobs creating Dallas. When the series proved to be a hit, CBS reconsidered Jacobs's original idea, which evolved into Dallas spin-off series Knots Landing, premiering in late 1979.
Knots Landing followed the lives of Lucy's parents, Gary (Ted Shackelford) and Valene (Joan Van Ark), as they move to California to start a new life following the start of their second marriage in 1979. During the early seasons of Knots Landing, several Dallas actors (Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Charlene Tilton, and Mary Crosby) made guest appearances in the new series, and Shackelford and Van Ark continued to make occasional appearances in Dallas. In addition to this, some storylines crossed over, such as the reading of Jock Ewing's will, with events having an impact on characters in both shows.
The ongoing bond between the two series was eventually cut in 1986, as the 10th-season premiere of Dallas declared Bobby's death the previous year had been a dream. Bobby's death had had some influence on the Knots Landing storylines as well, with Gary grieving for his dead brother while Gary's wife Abby (Donna Mills), who had lost her brother Sid (Don Murray) a few years earlier, consoled him. Abby and Greg Sumner (William Devane) then took advantage of Gary's grief and Gary's journey to Dallas for Bobby's funeral to gain politically at Empire Valley. Val also named her and Gary's son "Bobby" in memory of his late uncle. Unlike the Dallas producers, the Knots Landing producers were not prepared to reset their series, resulting in the producers cutting ties between the two shows. As a result, there were no further crossover episodes or storylines; Bobby's return was simply never addressed on Knots Landing, nor was he mentioned again (ironically on Dallas, however, mentions of Gary increased, and archive footage of Joan Van Ark appeared in Season 12). However, Shackelford and Van Ark did reprise their roles for the Dallas series finale "Conundrum" in 1991, which showed what would have happened to their characters if J.R. had never existed.
Between Seasons 1 and 4 of Knots Landing, there were nine episodes where Dallas characters appeared, played by their respective actors.
In addition to the above, Gary and Valene Ewing appeared in the following episodes of Dallas, as listed below.
A prequel story, Dallas: The Early Years, was a made-for-TV movie that first aired on March 23, 1986, on CBS during season 9 of the TV series. The movie starred David Grant as Digger Barnes, Dale Midkiff as Jock Ewing, Molly Hagan as Miss Ellie Southworth Ewing, David Wilson as Jason Ewing, and Hoyt Axton as Aaron Southworth, and was introduced by Larry Hagman in the role of J.R. Ewing. Detailing the origins of the Barnes-Ewing feud and the creation of Ewing Oil, and covering a timespan from 1933 to 1951, the movie was written by series creator David Jacobs.
There were also two made-for-TV reunion movies that aired on CBS several years after the series ended: Dallas: J.R. Returns (1996), which resolved the series finale cliffhanger; and the 20th anniversary movie Dallas: War of the Ewings (1998). Alongside returning series stars (Patrick Duffy, Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, George Kennedy, Ken Kercheval and Steve Kanaly), and recurring cast (Omri Katz, Audrey Landers, Deborah Rennard and George O. Petrie), the two telefilms also introduced new characters – most notably up-and-coming lawyer Anita Smithfield, played by Tracy Scoggins. The younger characters Christopher Ewing, and Cliff and Afton's daughter Pamela Rebecca were recast with Chris Demetral and Deborah Kellner taking on the roles.
In November 2003, SOAPnet aired a Dallas reunion on Soap Talk to coincide with SOAPnet acquiring the rights to rerun Dallas episodes. Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Charlene Tilton all participated in the reunion, which included clips of past episodes. The SOAPnet Dallas reunion was included in the special features of Dallas Seasons 1 & 2 DVD set.
On November 7, 2004, CBS aired a prime-time TV special titled Dallas Reunion: The Return to Southfork, in which the stars reminisced about their work on the series (by coincidence, actor Howard Keel, who played Clayton Farlow, had died earlier that same day).
On November 8, 2008, a Dallas 30th anniversary reunion was held at Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, with original cast members Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Ken Kercheval, Steve Kanaly and Charlene Tilton; other cast members in attendance were Susan Howard, Audrey Landers, Mary Crosby and Sheree J. Wilson. The front and back lawn of the fictional Ewing family home played host to a massive barbecue filled with people from the Dallas area, across the U.S. and around the world (who paid as much as $1,000) to reminisce and celebrate the series, as well as meeting with cast members. During the festivities, Kercheval said he was shocked to see the continued support for the show 17 years after it last aired: "I don't understand it. The staying power. Who knew?" Linda Gray also fondly remembered her time on the show: "I think it was a special time. It was a time when there weren't a hundred million channels and the Internet and all of the other things that came to existence."
A Dallas Retrospective: J.R. Ewing Bourbon Presents Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy one-night only event was held on March 23, 2017, at the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Winspear Opera House in Dallas, during which both Duffy and Gray reminisced about their careers and their time on Dallas. It was sponsored by the nationally distributed J.R. Ewing Bourbon and moderated by The Dallas Morning News columnist Robert Wilonsky.
On March 30–31, 2018, a Dallas 40th anniversary reunion was held at Southfork Ranch in Parker and the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas, with cast members Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Charlene Tilton and Steve Kanaly attending the festivities. The celebrations included Southfork tours, a meet-and-greet with the cast, an array of Dallas memorabilia at the "Dallas Legends" exhibit and closing out with a party at the historic Longhorn Ballroom.
In 2010, cable network TNT announced they had ordered a pilot for the continuation of the Dallas series. After viewing the completed pilot episode, TNT proceeded to order a full season of 10 episodes.
The new series, which premiered on June 13, 2012, focused primarily on John Ross and Christopher Ewing, the now-grown sons of J.R. and Bobby. Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray returned in full-time capacity, reprising their original roles. The series was produced by Warner Horizon Television, a subsidiary of Warner Bros., which holds the rights to the Dallas franchise through its acquisition of Lorimar Television and is a sister company to TNT, both under the ownership of Time Warner.
The new series is a continuation of the old series, with the story continuing after a 20-year break. It does not take the events of the 1990s TV movies Dallas: J.R. Returns or Dallas: War of the Ewings as canon. Instead we find the characters 20 years after the events of the Season 14 cliffhanger. In an interview with UltimateDallas.com, writer/producer Cynthia Cidre was asked to describe the new Dallas. She responded, "I tried to be really, really respectful of the original Dallas because it was really clear to me that the people who love Dallas are [like] Trekkies, really committed to that show and I really did not understand that before, so I never wanted to violate anything that had happened in the past. On the other hand that was the past, twenty years had gone by, so at the same time I think we're properly balanced between the characters of Bobby Ewing, J.R. and Sue Ellen. I also have the new cast and it's John Ross and Christopher, the children of Bobby and J.R., and their love interests. Total respect and a balance of old and new."
In the show's second season, J.R. Ewing was killed off (following the death of actor Larry Hagman in November 2012), sparking another "who-done-it" storyline throughout the remainder of the season. Various cast members from the original series attended his onscreen funeral.
Despite initially strong numbers, ratings for the new Dallas declined over the three seasons that the show ran before TNT cancelled it in 2014.
During the series' heyday, several magazines, books and merchandise were produced.
The 1956 film Giant is considered to be the inspiration for Dallas. Both productions focus on the struggle between wealthy oilmen and cattlemen in Texas, in the mid to late 20th century. In addition, both productions have a lead character prominently referred to as "JR".
Dallas is alleged to have helped partially hasten the downfall of the Eastern Bloc country of Romania during the final years of the Cold War. Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu allowed airings of Dallas, one of the few Western shows allowed to be aired in the Communist state during the 1980s. The belief that the show would be seen as anti-capitalistic backfired on the regime as Romanian citizens desired and sought the luxurious lifestyle seen in the show, compared to the despotic situation in Romania at the time. Shortly after the execution of Ceaușescu and his wife on Christmas Day 1989, the pilot episode of Dallas, which had been edited for a sex scene, was one of the first Western shows aired on the newly liberated Romanian TV. The popularity of Dallas in Romania is the subject of the 2016 experimental documentary Hotel Dallas, directed by artist duo Ungur & Huang and starring Patrick Duffy, who plays a surreal double of the Bobby Ewing character.
Also in northern Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic, Dallas became popular when shown on Finnish television, being watched illegally on modified Soviet television sets. In the communist Soviet Union thousands of people drove regularly to the northern tip of Estonia to pick up the series on Finnish TV. This was described in the 2009 documentary Disco and Atomic War.
In 2007, British comedian Justin Lee Collins went searching for all the stars of Dallas to bring them together for a special reunion party. The show was broadcast at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 27, 2007, on UK television network Channel 4 as part of the Bring Back... series. After hunting down most of the main cast by any means necessary (e.g., climbing over security fences and ambushing hotels), Collins interviewed them and gained more knowledge about some of the decisions made throughout the show's seasons. The participants amongst the cast were Larry Hagman, Linda Gray, Patrick Duffy, Ken Kercheval, Charlene Tilton, Susan Howard and Mary Crosby. He held his own Oil Baron's Ball, where none of the main cast turned up. However, the actor who played baby Christopher (Eric Farlow) attended. Charlene Tilton spoke in an interview in 2011 about the program, which she said was one of her and the cast's worst experiences ever.
In March 2011, the Texas Theatre in Dallas began showing two episodes of Dallas on the big screen every Sunday; over 100 patrons, some in costume of their favorite characters, appeared at the free screenings every week. However, the screenings came to an abrupt end in May 2011 after Warner Bros. issued a cease-and-desist against the Texas Theatre for unauthorized showings, citing the fact that those that were involved in the show's production were not getting paid or benefiting from these screenings.
J.R. Ewing's hat, a foremost symbol of the show's inherent "Americanness" that contributed to its hold over audiences on a global scale, is currently held in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History's collections.
In a popular Forbidden Broadway parody, an actress playing Mary Martin sings the song "Never Never Panned" to the tune of "Never Never Land" from the musical Peter Pan. One of the lines sung is "you too can be a star, like my son who plays J.R. on Dallas! We're never never panned!"
The show's "Who shot J.R.?" storyline has been used to great effect in other drama series, most notably the BBC's EastEnders with the "Who Shot Phil?" Mitchell storyline, and more recently with the "Who Killed Lucy Beale?" storyline. In 1995, the animated series The Simpsons also had a "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" storyline.