After 21 years and one of the biggest TV cliff-hangers of all time, Dallas returns to TV this June on TNT. Just don’t call the new series a reboot or a remake.
“I couldn’t imagine making a remake. We’ve seen it. There were 357 episodes,” Dallas executive producer Cynthia Cidre told reporters Saturday at TNT’s winter TV previews. “It just seemed natural to catch up with Ewing family 20 years later.”
When we return to Southfork, Bobby Ewing is happily re-married — to Desperate Housewives’ Brenda Strong! — and his adopted son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) is desperate to push the Ewing family into a new, more environmentally minded direction away from oil. However, J.R.’s son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), has very different ideas about the family business. In case you were worried that the new Dallas would lack conflict, John Ross’ girlfriend Elena (The Fast and the Furious’ Jordana Brewster) is also Christopher’s ex-fiancée. “[The script] honored all of the intricate elements of what Dallas was in the past, and basically, we’ve dropped back in 20 years later,” executive producer Michael M. Robin said. “The storytelling elements are similar.”
So how did producers lasso original stars Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Larry Hagman? “Work at 80. How many people do you know working at 80? And a job that they love with the people that they love,” said Hagman, who told the crowd that his current cancer treatments are “going along very well.”
And unlike other revamped series (à la Tori Spelling’s blink-and-you-missed-it cameo on the new 90210), the returning original cast members aren’t just back for nostalgia. “[The plan] was really to integrate them fully with the new cast. “It’s not two separate storylines,” Cidre said. “So far we’ve been in every episode, unless Cynthia and Mike have plans we don’t know about,” Duffy said, who said he’s left his infamous shower-scene days behind him for the new kids. “The younger people have more stamina and they have a function in the show, but we’re here.”
(When asked about the chances of more returning characters, particularly Bobby Ewing’s ex-wife Pam (Victoria Principal), producers sounded open to the idea should the series take off. “I don’t know yet,” Cidre said. “We create it one season at a time and hopefully we’ll get a second season.”)
Although Metcalfe, Henderson and the rest of the newbies won’t have that same familiarity with audiences as the returning vets, they’re not worried about winning over the fans. “Our characters are defined by who they are. Every bit of who Christopher is is part of Bobby, and the same with John Ross and J.R.,” Metcalfe said. “We’re the next generation that’s carrying those timeless themes” of greed and love.
So how will producers make sure nothing overlaps with the series’ original run? There’s always someone watching. “From the beginning, I never wanted to violate anything that had actually happened,” Cidre said. “Whenever we are making a choice in the present, someone is researching all 357 episodes. We want to honor the original show and the original conception.”
So far it seems the team isn’t having too hard of a time coming up with new material. “After 13 years, she gave me my first slap,” Hagman teased about Gray. “You weren’t supposed to hear that,” she added, “but it was great!”