Oil, duplicity and birthrights: Dallas is officially back. Broadcast from 1978 to 1991, the nighttime soap dominated the small screen in the early eighties, the pinnacle being Who Shot J.R.? a cliffhanger episode that drew more than 90 million viewers in 1980. This time around, just a handful of the grizzled originals surface at Southfork Ranch: Larry Hagman reprises that devilish smile as oil baron J.R. Ewing. His ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and brother (Patrick Duffy) also return, older but not much wiser. The epic family dysfunction has bled down to their children, oil-drilling John Ross and Christopher, the “foundling” who's pushing renewable energy. Whether Dallas diehards will fall for the new incarnation remains to be seen; they may be displaced by Desperate Housewives fans – two of the new leads arrive from that domestic melodrama. Beyond the power struggling youngsters, some notable updates ...
New sources of tension
“Alternative energy schemes” – not oil – are the future Christopher Ewing, Bobby's adopted son, is more of a methane man: He's extracting gas frozen in underwater ice, prompting such memorable soap opera lines as “Do you think in time methane can be safely extracted from the seabed?” Bobby, meanwhile, wants to turn Southfork into conservation parkland, just as John Ross, J.R.'s devious kin, has found a two-million barrel reserve right on the ranch. It's good environmentalism versus evil, gluttonous oil as John Ross and his girlfriend Elena make out, their faces slick with oil from a gushing rig that also sets the riggers fistbumping. In John Ross's Dallas, oil is a birthright – renewable energy “a load.”
Handy thumb drives
Technology sinks ships faster than loose lips Once staples of the soap-opera genre, whispered gossip and pregnant pauses used to get the real action moving. Now, it’s the Internet and handy thumb drives. A chance conversation reveals it was a treacherous e-mail that derailed Christopher and Elena’s wedding: “I never sent you an e-mail. I waited for six hours! I thought you were dead, Elena,” Christopher screams hoarsely. Before that, a hoodied imposter steals Christopher’s methane secrets using a memory key. Thankfully, John Ross still reads PDFs with his lips moving.
From jumpsuits to peasant tops
Perms, please? Gone are the iridescent jumpsuits, shoulder pads and eighties opulence: Today’s Dallas chicks prefer cowboy staples like jeans and fat belt buckles, but also little black dresses worthy of oil lease trackers. Everyone’s hair is still loaded with product, but Kardashian-dos now rule, not Farrah Fawcett feathering. Making a cameo as bubbly, loose Lucy Ewing, Charlene Tilton’s ditched the bathing suits and braids: She’s a cougar in a peasant top now.
Off the sauce
Hooch is out, sweet tea’s in DUIs, rummies and wine bottles hurled at walls: it’s so nostalgic. Years on, most of the Ewings are off the sauce. They celebrate their oil discovery with dainty champagne, John Ross and his riggers implausibly clinking individual bottles of bubbly in a dingy bar. Once the biggest boozer of the lot, Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen now lingers next to a jug of sweet tea at a wedding bar – she’s running for Texas governor. When John Ross starts teetering at the premiere’s close, J.R. says the unthinkable: “Listen son, take it from me: No point in drowning your sorrows, it’ll all still be here tomorrow when you come to.”
Silver foxes and botoxes
Familiar faces, with new faces Ditching her sexy brown bun for middle-aged highlights, Sue Ellen sports a newly-moulded Courtney Love face. Aside from a nasty gastrointestinal tumour, Bobby fairs far better: He's a buttoned-up silver fox, no coiling chest hair in sight. As for J.R., the patriarch sits robed and near-catatonic in a home. But as John Ross brings fresh word of the clan's infighting, J.R.'s glassy eyes pop open under the owl brows – the smile is back. Enlivened by conflict, the geriatric asks for fried chicken and red Jell-O to resume the scheming. Dallas airs Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET, on Bravo!