Saturday, November 24, 2012

Who'll put Sue Ellen in the sanitarium now?

I gave up on Dallas after the series in the mid-80s when Bobby woke up to discover it was all a dream. That did shatter my illusions. Up until then, I’d been convinced the show was some kind of fly-on-the-wall documentary of life in oil-rich Texas. I had even glossed over the absence of Barbara Bel Geddes in one season and her replacement with another actress. (Can this stunt have been pulled in any other TV show? It’s a bit like taking June Brown out of Eastenders in the 1990s and telling the audience that Felicity Kendal would now be playing Dot Cotton.)

Although Larry Hagman had starred in some other TV shows and played movie roles, he of course became synonymous with the scheming JR Ewing. Just as the UK’s George Cole is forever Arthur Daley or, I guess, Sofie Gråbøl will always be Scandanavian sleuth Sarah Lund, some parts are just bigger than the luvvies who play them. Actors probably never know in advance where a particular role is going to lead them.

Hagman’s strength was to give JR enough comic-book characteristics that we could actually laugh along with his evil plotting. He was dastardly, but in a way that left us smiling, rather than clenching the arm of our sofa. As a result, I reckon St Peter will grant him membership of that ethereal Cattlemen’s Club which lies several miles above Dallas. The female angels had better be on their guard though.

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