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Ed Martin

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TNT Does 'Dallas' Right

Posted: 06/05/2012 4:17 pm

If you have fond memories of the high drama at those annual Ewing barbecues, then you're likely to agree that the return of Dallas on June 13 just might be the most exciting television event of the year.

That may sound like an exaggeration, but consider the context: The original Dallas, which ran on CBS from 1978-1991, remains one of the most popular and powerful television series of all time. In terms of overall impact, not to mention audience size, there hasn't really been a series like it since. Subsequent television sensations such as Seinfeld, Friends, The West Wing, The Sopranos and Lost may have been pop culture phenomena of the highest order, but they didn't permeate the zeitgeist in the way that Dallas did during the '80s -- and on Friday nights, no less! Everybody watched this show -- or knew someone who did. The resolution of the legendary "Who Shot J.R." cliffhanger, on November 21, 1980, remains the second-highest-rated episode of a television series in history, topped only by the series finale of M*A*S*H on February 28, 1983.

Given the outsized success CBS enjoyed for so long with this formidable franchise, which included two reunion movies in the '90s, one might think it would be the natural home for the new Dallas, which is not a remake or a reboot but an actual continuation of the original show, picking up the lives of the oil-rich Ewings in the present day. But as much fun as it might have been to once again have it back on Friday on the only broadcast network that currently knows how to attract an audience on that night, Dallas will instead be on TNT on Wednesdays as a mid-week treat. (How interesting that it could only come back on basic cable. And yet how fitting, given the proud state of basic cable these days.)

I can't say that I had been pining for the Ewings during the last twenty years or that I missed the ongoing war for Ewing Oil all that much. But five minutes into the first episode I was happily hooked all over again. That has a lot to do with the very smart decision to use Jerrold Immel's iconic theme song -- one of the most distinctive in television history -- and an opening credit sequence that excitingly evokes the original. (I can't help but think that the broadcast programming executives who have insisted on compromising TV theme songs and opening credit sequences during the last 20 years have done much to erode the emotional connection network programs used to establish with their viewers.)

This column continues over at MediaPost.

 

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