I have vague memories of the original Dallas, but they’re mostly limited to the opening credits (it was a tradition in my family to sing the theme song every time we drove into Dallas, just to annoy the menfolk in the family) and what I’ve seen in retrospectives. Imagine my delight at realizing my mother had the first and second season on DVD!
We start off with a nice hook. Bobby Ewing and Pamela Barnes have just gotten married (presumably an elopement) without telling their families. This becomes a nice way to weave in plenty of exposition. We learn quickly that the Barnes and the Ewings have a long standing family feud. We know that Jock Ewing is a big oil baron, and his wife Miss Ellie is from an old cattle family. Work in an old gunfighter and a dark eyed señorita somewhere and you’ve kind of got all your Texas essentials rolled up in one family.
Older brother JR has apparently been taking over the family oil business while Bobby’s been out doing the wheeling and dealing to cover their butts politically. There was a good-for-nothing middle brother in there somewhere, but he ran off, leaving behind a good-for-nothing daughter (more on this later). JR is a little resentful when Bobby announces now that he’s married he wants to settle down and move into the office with his big brother. And you kind of feel for him (even though JR is an underhanded snake); he’s worked hard for years to get where he is and his brother just walks in and wants to be in the same place. (In episode 2 we also learn that Bobby was a football star in his younger days. As the younger sister of a teen model I can imagine how much it must suck to be the older brother of a football star in Texas).
Bobby’s new wife Pamela is a nice girl. You can tell because she wears such demure dresses and has soft brown hair and a soft voice to match. We don’t know much about JR’s wife Sue Ellen other than from a few comments she makes to Pamela we can gather she’s a snob. Miss Ellie is sweet and loving like matriarchs often are in soap families where they have a patriarch to do the dirty work. She’s a good southern woman who is always nice to people’s faces, though you gather she’d have no problems doing a little smack talk behind someone’s back.
Then there’s Lucy. Jock and Ellie’s aforementioned good-for-nothing granddaughter. She’s our resident slut. You can tell because she wears lots of red. She’s also, perhaps not coincidentally the only blonde on the show. Lucy serves as a constant reminder that the show started in the 1970s and that the 70s were a dark, dark time for fashion. In her first scene she’s scrumping Ray Krebbs, foreman on the Ewing ranch. By the way, Ray used to date Pamela, and is more than a bit of a slimebag, but not a terribly smart one.
Lucy warns Pamela she’s not tough enough to survive the Ewing family. Pamela responds by showing Lucy how tough she is: she makes her start going to school, spoils her plans to get a teacher fired with a bogus attempted rape charge, and exposes her affair with Ray. Lucy does not enjoy any of this, but is moved by the realization that Pamela actually cares for her. Aw!
I’m not totally sure what I think about Pamela. Pamela’s such a good girl she wears a white turtleneck to a disco and puts her hair in a Gibson girl style bun. But she’s a little too street smart for a nice girl. And a little too comfortable using blackmail. I’m not complaining though. These are the things which will allow her to survive in this family. Speaking of survival skills—I have to admit that I love the way Lucy smirks every time a fight breaks out in the house.
In Episode 3 we learn that JR could have married his redheaded, deviously loyal secretary and that his marriage to Sue Ellen is not exactly happy. Their honeymoon is definitely over. We’re not real clear on why he married Sue Ellen at all, but my best guess is she had family connections and he liked the status of a former beauty queen for a wife. When Sue Ellen buys a lacy black nightie to wear for JR he dismissively declares it’s not her and instructs her to take it back. I’m starting to worry about JR—what kind of good Texas boy turns down sex for work? I can’t blame him for running out when she starts crying about them not making love anymore though. There’s no way to use “make love” in a sentence and not have it sound awkward.
I can blame him a little for leaving to go scrump his secretary (who is begging him the whole time to stop the bootie calls so she can move on.) He dismisses secretary’s urging to stay the night and leaves her with a $100 bill to buy herself something “real nice.” Oh… JR. That’s no way to treat a lady who knows all your dirty secrets. And has Cliff Barnes’s phone number.
So far… I’m enjoying it. I’m not exactly loving it. Like I know I should be rooting for Jim and Pam and their love to triumph over all. But really I’m just itching for more scandalous, soapy goodness. Maybe that’s what this type of show is really all about though. I’m diverted enough to keep watching.