Diary of an old cheeser

Hi there! Like other blogs, this is my chance to wax lyrical (some might say talk utter cr*p) about a) what's happening in my life b) all of my pet obsessions in particular music, tv, movies, books and other generally connected things, quite often of the retro, old and "cheesy" variety. Hence the title of my blog. Feel free to leave a comment if the mood takes you. There's nothing like a good chinwag about one's favourite topics and besides I love to meet new people! Cheers, Simon

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dallas: the lowdown

And talking of "Dallas", how many of you watched it or are familiar with its characters? Want the ultimate lowdown? I caaaaan't resist. (He said in a Deep Southern accent).

Dallas” started off as a relatively mundane drama, relating the ups and downs of two feuding families living in the great state of Texas: the Ewings and the Barnes. The plotlines were pretty average, run-of-the-mill fare, dealing with “issues” like who owned which oil well, problems with the cattle and working on the ranch. Okay that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the picture. However as the 1980s kicked in, the storylines became more melodramatic and OTT, with an ever increasing quotient of kitsch and camp thrown in for good measure ("Dallas" was never quite as camp as its sister soap, "Dynasty", but it came quite close at times). And glamour was a mainstay of the soap too – particularly amongst the female characters. As the decade moved on the hair got bigger and the shoulder pads wider.

So, WHO were the men and womenfolk of "Dallas"? Hold onto your Stetsons for the definitive lowdown, cowboys and cowgals…

Miss Ellie Ewing (Barbara Bel Geddes; Donna Reed). The matriarch of the Ewing family, often to be seen at Southfork, the Ewing’s perennial home (that’s it above – big ain’t it?) Miss Ellie was certainly no Margaret Thatcher – she was homely, kind and cuddly – but neither was she a pushover either. Contrary to appearances, she ran the roost and usually had the final say so, especially where family matters were concerned. For instance, JR might have been the meanest son-of-a-b*tch going, but he always deferred to his Momma. Miss Ellie also suffered the indignity of soap opera re-casting. When actress Barbara Bel Geddes fell ill, she was replaced by Donna Reed, who unfortunately was not a hit with the viewers (rumour has it that the cast didn’t take to Ms Reed either and snubbed her on set – nice!) Neither did she particularly resemble the old Miss Ellie, prompting comments like: “Miss Ellie – you seem SO DIFFERENT since coming back from your honeymoon!” After one season, Barbara BG thankfully returned to the role and “normality” (always a questionable term where soaps are concerned) was restored.

Jock Ewing (Jim Davis). The founder of Ewing Oil and JR and Bobby's dad. Rather a staunch, serious type. To tell the truth I don't remember his character that well, as Jim Davis sadly died in the early 1980s and consequently the writers had no choice but to kill Jock off in a plane crash in some distant jungle. Or DID they?? Cue several years later when a ranch hand with the bizarre name of Wes Parmalee (?!) turns up at Southfork, claiming to be Jock with plastic surgery. Er, right. But this man seemed to know everything about Jock's life and more. Even the disbelieving Miss Ellie ended up falling for him, hook, line and sinker. It later transpired that this man had met the dying Jock and, suffering from schizophrenia or some such mental illness, assumed Jock’s personality and believed he really was him! Eventually the pseudo-Jock was exposed and driven out of town. Yeehaah!!

Clayton Farlow (Howard Keel). Jock's replacement and Miss Ellie's second husband. A dignified oil baron who was a bit more refined and well-mannered than Jock, although perhaps a tad dull too. At first Miss Ellie resisted his charms but eventually they got hitched. JR however did not take to Clayton – his dear beloved Daddy was always the apple of his eye – and the two had a fair few fights during the course of the show...

JR Ewing (Larry Hagman). The ultimate villain and the patriarch of "Dallas". Every good soap needs a character you love to hate and John Ross II fitted the mould perfectly. Even the dreadful country group “The Wurzels” were inspired enough to bring out a ditty entitled "I Hate JR." JR was a wheeler and a dealer, always looking to pull off a business deal that would leave Ewing Oil on top and streets ahead of its rivals and he didn't care who got screwed in the process. Talking of screwing, JR was rather fond of mucking around with the Dallas ladies too, much to the chagrin of his longstanding, long-suffering wife Sue Ellen. She and JR broke up and reunited probably more than any other couple in soap history. And WHO can forget the most famous storyline of all, the one that kept us on the edge of our seats, WHO SHOT JR?? JR had made so enemies with his despicable ways; virtually the entire cast had a motive for shooting him. Not to mention the guest cast and the extras.

Sue Ellen Ewing (Linda Gray). JR's long-suffering wife and one of my favourite characters. A classic drawling Southern belle (although her accent dwindled over the years) dark haired beauty and former Miss Texas. Also an alcoholic who hit the bottle at regular intervals (well wouldn’t you if you were married to someone like JR?) Famous for her quivering lip and declaration: "You're a bastard, JR." Sue Ellen endured JR’s mistreatment and indiscretions for a number of years before finally getting it together. She ditched the drink once and for all and set up her own business, a sexy underwear company called Valentine Lingerie. Later on she finished with JR and hooked up with Ian "Lovejoy" Mcshane, a movie producer who helped her make a "Citizen Kane" type movie, closely modeled on her life with JR, which set out to publicly humiliate him! You GO girl!! I was so glad to see Sue Ellen become empowered and gain a proper sense of self respect in the last few series - even Linda Gray who played her admitted that the character was going round in circles and was on the verge of quitting the show so the change in character was timely. Although I must add that some of Sue Ellen’s “drunken” scenes were quite memorable, in particular one from the “Dream” season in which she hangs out with a load of drunken derelicts down a back alley. And two other great Sue Ellen clips are here and here.

Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy). The white (or should that be black?) sheep of the Ewing family. A real goody two shoes who you couldn't help liking even if he was a bit TOO nice at times. Bobby wasn’t bad looking either, with quite a nice bod (anyone remember him in "The Man From Atlantis", in those yellow swimming trunks?) The true love of Bobby's life was Pam, and when Dallas began, they’d just got spliced. However there was a slight problem - Pammy was a member of the Barnes family, the old enemies of the Ewings, which caused serious ructions, most of all with JR, who never approved of their union. Bobby had his share of ups and downs and a few years after the shooting of JR, ended up getting gunned down too by the insane and jealous Katherine Wentworth. Fortunately he survived but the most notorious Bobby plotline of all was still to come. Bobby was run down and killed by a car (yep, by that mad b*tch Katherine again!) leading to untold grief for Pam and the Ewing family. Or WAS he? In an utterly bizarre and much derided plot twist (even if you never watched Dallas you’ll still probably know about it) Pam wakes up one morning to find her so-called dead husband alive and well in the shower! Yep, it turned out that the entire series that took place after Bobby’s death was a dream, as was the death of Bobby himself! Er, yeah, right. Consequently this season became known as the “Dream” season of "Dallas". And strangely enough, after this gob-smacking revelation, the rating figures for the show started to slide as "Dallas" viewers switched off. I can’t imagine why.

Pam Ewing (Victoria Principal). Pam was the Barbie of the programme - a real "Dallas" dollie and one for the boys, obviously put in the show to up the sex appeal quotient. She was always well turned out, although her dress sense in earlier episodes did leave something to be desired e.g. a very early installment where she and Bobby go dancing at the disco, with Pam wearing turtle neck and slacks, throwing “odd” Disco moves. However she became progressively more and more glam and immaculately coiffed as each series progressed. She also had to suffer the eternal hatred of JR who was always convinced that "The Barnes woman" was never good enough for his beloved brother Bobby. Sadly pressure drove Bobby and Pam apart but they eventually reunited - hooray! But in soaps happiness is never eternal and the end was nigh. Driving back to Southfork and Bobby with the joyous news that she could bear children (after years of apparent barreness - yeah, right), Pam's car suddenly collides with an oil truck and explodes into spectacular flames. Oh sh*t. But even though Victoria Principal left the series at that point, Pam survived and appeared next season, heavily clad in bandages. Clever eh? However once the bandages were taken off, Pam was so upset by her hideously disfigured appearance that she ran away, not wanting Bobby and their son Christopher to see her! Some time later Bobby tracks her down but she’s had plastic surgery and is a changed woman, wanting nothing to do with her old life. As Bobby leaves we find out that she only has months left to live. A sad end for the Barbie Doll of "Dallas".

Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton). Or the "poisoned dwarf" as that most astute of DJs, Terry Wogan, christened her. Lucy was another attempt by the producers to add sex appeal but somehow this failed. Although she was blonde and curvy there was a kind of naïve, gawky awkwardness about Lucy that you couldn’t help but laugh at. Gosh I’m mean. Maybe it was because she was always the “Fall Girl” and got saddled with the same limited plotlines – usually involving Lucy meeting a guy, getting messed around/mistreated by aforementioned guy, then finally getting dumped by self-same guy. What a life. One of her major loves was Dr Mitch Cooper who she actually married twice but even the second time it didn’t work out. However Lucy returned to the show later on, older and wiser, helping Sue Ellen to make her “Citizen Ewing” movie.

Ray Krebbs/Ewing (Steve Kanaly). A ranch foreman, Ray was the more “macho” of the male characters, and usually seen working out on the land with his shirt off (nice). He wasn’t an office fella. Like Bobby he was one of the “good” characters although he did have quite a hot temper. And later on it transpired that he was – gasp! – Jock’s illegitimate son! Another Ewing! Ray eventually got married to Donna, an attractive politician and widow; however a few years down the line they sadly split after one too many disagreements. Then he got together with Jenna Wade and they left Dallas. Bye Ray!

Donna Krebbs (Susan Howard). One of my favourite characters, a genuinely likeable and attractive lady. She first turned up in the show working as a politician and was actually one of JR’s rivals. Donna was intelligent, sussed and certainly no shrinking violet. When she first started dating Ray, JR set her up to witness Ray in bed with Bonnie, a cowgirl and ex of his. Donna took matters into her own hands and met Bonnie in a bar, offering her money to leave Dallas. In response Bonnie threw a drink in Donna’s face but Donna flattened her out on the bar floor with one punch! WHAT a lady. In the “Dream” season Donna was involved in an interesting storyline in which she becomes pregnant with a down- syndrome child which causes tensions between her and Ray. Unfortunately she loses the child but her and Ray sort out their differences and decide to adopt a deaf child instead. Donna also starts working with physically handicapped children. However as all of this turned out to be a “dream” it was scrapped, and next season we were back to square one, with Donna and Ray splitting, and Donna having a “normal” child and leaving Dallas.

Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval). Pam’s brother and JR’s arch rival – the two characters shared a mutual loathing and were always trying to out manoeuvre one another. Cliff was also meant to be the loveable “comic relief” in the programme but personally I found him a bit of a dork. His heart was in the right place though. And the ladies flocked to his side (heaven knows why) – model Mandy Winger, perm-headed Afton Cooper and Jamie Ewing, who Cliff later wed.

Jenna Wade (Priscilla Beaulieu Presley). Yep, Elvis’ wife got cast in "Dallas"! Well they were from the South too, so it kind of figures. Jenna was Bobby’s “other woman” once he’d split with Pam. A very classy looking lady but there was something a bit cold and standoffish about Jenna which I couldn’t warm to. Certainly we all knew that Pam was the only woman for Bobby and it was only a matter of time before he and Jenna split! Poor Jenna got a raw deal I guess. One of her most riveting plotlines was when her ex Naldo Marcetta (where do they come up with these names?!) kidnapped her. Jenna wakes up next to Naldo in a hotel room to find him dead beside her with a gun in her hand! Did she do it? Aha...

Okay, I’ve exhausted the main cast list. Finally, here’s just a few of my other favourite characters who graced the show…

Jamie Ewing (Jenilee Harrison). As the Ewings sit round the Southfork swimming pool in the shimmering heat, a dirty, tomboyish looking woman struts onto the patio to announce she was...a Ewing! Jamie had landed. It turned out she was related to Jock and had papers to prove it (where do all these long lost relatives come from?) JR as usual was suspicious and hostile, Sue Ellen did her best to welcome Jamie into the Ewing fold. One of my fave scenes with Jamie was at one of the annual Ewing barbecues. Jamie and Marilee Stone, an old work associate of the Ewings, face-off next to the swimming pool. Jamie tells Marilee that she reminds her of one of those “drunken sluts my Daddy used to hang out with in bars”, earning a slap from Marilee in return. Jamie announces: “I’ve had it with you” and proceeds to push Marilee into the pool! Poor old Jamie ended up dying in a mountaineering accident later on. Gosh, life’s short when you’re from Texas isn’t it?

Mandy Winger (Deborah Shelton). Slutty but attractive model who had an affair with JR. She also went to work for Sue Ellen as the “Valentine” girl, modeling lingerie. When Sue Ellen gets wind of the affair she sends Mandy out of town and out of her and JR’s life. However profits start to flag for Valentine Lingerie and Sue Ellen realizes she has no choice but to re-hire Mandy, who willingly comes back, saying that she only wants to help Sue Ellen achieve success. Little does she know that Mandy is plotting to get back with JR. Once Sue Ellen twigs she summons Mandy to her office and terminates her contract in one fell swoop – one of my favourite ever Dallas scenes, in which Sue Ellen subjects randy Mandy to a fabulous put-down, telling her: "You're nothing more than a disposable piece of facial tissue". Fiddle-dee-dee!

Kristen Shepherd (Mary Crosby). Sue-Ellen's power hungry, conniving sister who sh*agged JR and...was the real person responsible for his shooting! This only came out into the open later. Of course the bad don’t go unpunished and Kristen later ended up very dead, floating in the Ewing swimming pool.

Katherine Wentworth (Morgan Brittany). Yet another soap bitch and a great villainess who deserved more screen time than she got. Pam’s half-sister, she was a conniving madam who fell in love with Bobby and did everything in her power to split him and Pam up. When Bobby resisted her charms she shot him. However this wasn’t the end of Katherine and when Pam ended up in hospital after her car crash, she turned up again in tres camp hat and veil attire, claiming to have reformed. We all knew she was lying and Bobby told her to sling her hook. And she did. Rather too willingly.

Angelica Nero (Barbara Carrera). Probably the campest, craziest, most glamorous and fabulous villain ever to grace "Dallas" (why are all the best baddies women?) Anyone remember Barbara Carrera as Fatima Blush in “Never Say Never Again”? This was a similarly delicious performance from Ms Carrera. She appeared in the “Dream” series (rather appropriate seeing as she was so larger than life) as a glamorous shipping magnate who tried to entice JR into a deal but was really plotting bad stuff. At the end of the season an embittered Angelica plants several bombs in a bid to destroy JR and the Ewings. One bomb blows up Jamie in her car (although of course she came back alive and well next season – it’s all too confusing) and another goes off in the Ewing office as Sue Ellen walks in!! (But again it was all a fantasy…) And I love the bit when Angelica is dragged off by the Police screeching: “It’s too late JR, IT’S TOO LATE!” Class.

Gosh. I think that was my longest post EVER. Or ev-aaah as they might say in Texas. It was mighty fine of y'all to read it. So long, partners!!

PS - A special message to High Camp Caress Morell - if you're reading this, I hope this proves my soap credentials, darling! Proof that I don't always write about "Dr Who" - honest!


  • At 7:05 am , Blogger Steve said...

    Thanks for this - Dallas was yet another show that I missed out on during my childhood (my parents didn't watch the Beeb) but I was obviously aware of the media frenzy that surrounded the 'Who Shot J.R." thing.

    Who shot J.R? Wow. Now there's a show... Tennant gunning down Hagman... hmm. Better start work on the script and get it sent into Russell T Davis!

  • At 1:54 pm , Blogger Old Cheeser said...

    Steve - You're welcome, I can't believe you never saw it! My Mum was addicted to watching it and I ended up getting sucked in to the soap vortex.

    Tennant gunning down Hagman? Eh?

  • At 7:53 am , Blogger calvierude said...

    Hey guys Dallas: the lowdown is a great show. In this I like "Miss Ellie Ewing" by "Donna Reed". She is really an amazing actress and she always gave mind blowing performance. One of her best is in "Donna Reed" TV Show. She is very beautiful in this...


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