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TV Series Review

Those rascally Ewings. CBS tried to pull the plug on the family's soapy schemes way back in 1991: Thirteen seasons of über-villain J.R. plotting and conniving and drinking and cheating was plenty, execs said—particularly since not many folks were watching toward the end.

But you can't keep a bad oil baron down. Now, after a nice, long, two-decade layoff, Big D is back—still fronted by its biggest, most notorious pest. Now on TNT, Dallas seems to pick up about where it (and a pair of reunion specials) left off. Many of the original program's most important characters—J.R., "good" Ewing brother Bobby, and J.R.'s former wife Sue Ellen—are back. Plots still revolve around big oil and the big Southfork Ranch. "We consider this year 14 of the show," said Patrick Duffy (who plays Bobby) on The Tonight Show. "It's exactly as if [viewers] forgot which channel we were on."

But time never stands perfectly still, even for Dallas. Bobby's battling cancer. J.R. uses a walker occasionally (mostly to glean a few pity points here and there). And there's a new cast of heroes and villains to meet, too. At the top of the list is J.R.'s son John Ross, whom his pappy grudgingly describes as a "chip off the old block." His next-gen rival? Bobby's adopted son Christopher, who's dreaming of starting a renewable energy biz. (He drives an electric Tesla sports car for emphasis.) The latter got married to a seemingly nice young woman named Rebecca (who may be hatching her own no-good scheme with the help of her brother). The former's still obsessed with Christopher's old girlfriend Elena.

Television itself has changed over the last 20 years, too. Dallas—never exactly a model of restraint back in the old days—feels a bit more amped up, content-wise, from what fans might remember. Sex scenes are full of suggestive moans and movements. Occasional language would make Miss Ellie blush.

Granted, when it comes to shows built around familial intrigue and infighting, it's far from the worst on TV these days: HBO's  Game of Thrones has that little competition pretty much locked. And, frankly, Dallas is even a Back 40 or two better than some notable network shows.

But is it good, clean, family entertainment? Just one look at gleeful schemer J.R. tells you everything you need to know about what this series thinks of family.

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Episode Reviews

Dallas: 6-13-2012
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