Texans are fond of the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” and now they have a specific example to point to instead of relying on a novelty oversized Stetson or a steak that’s basically a whole cow. TNT has made its Texas-based drama Dallas bigger with a Season 3 renewal, removing it from the list of many bubble shows whose fates are still undetermined. The third season will consist of 15 episodes, just like the recently concluded second season, and air sometime in early 2014.
A “continuation” of your mother’s favorite family drama from the ’80s, the modern Dallas follows a new generation of Ewings dealing with the same old backstabbing, adultery, and crime. Stars Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, and Julie Gonzalo join original series vets Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, and the late Larry Hagman, who passed away halfway through Season 2.
After setting records for TNT in its first season, averaging 3.8 million viewers when time-shifted viewing was factored in. That’s lower than most of TNT’s other original dramas, if you’re wondering. TNT has not announced verdicts for Southland or new series Monday Mornings, but final decisions should come soon.
Spoiler alert! TNT’s Dallas closed out its second season with one major revelation and reversal after another. Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe) tracked down the plastic surgeon who treated his mother, Pam (Victoria Principal), after her horrific 1987 car accident and was told that she never wanted to see him again. Cue the waterworks! But when Christopher later discovered that the doctor and a woman named Karina were closing out his mother’s Swiss bank account, he got a full confession. Pam, we learned, died of pancreatic cancer back in 1989. Prior to her diagnosis, she had fled from her family because 60 percent of her body had been burned in the accident and she deemed herself too hideous to be seen. After undergoing plastic surgery, she intended to get back to Dallas, but got sick before she could make it home. Her brother, Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), kept her death a secret.
Meanwhile, Cliff appeared to be J.R.’s killer and the family plotted to plant evidence to send him to jail. Only after Cliff was imprisoned did Bobby (Patrick Duffy) confess to John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher what really happened: After learning that he only had days to live, a cancer-stricken J.R. (Larry Hagman) plotted his own demise. He had his henchman, Bum, steal Cliff’s gun; Bum then shot J.R. with the intention of framing Cliff for murder and ending the decades-old Barnes/Ewing feud once and for all. As Bum told John Ross, “J.R.’s last act was an act of love for his family and for you.”
Here, executive producer Cynthia Cidre talks about the controversial decisions she made this season, and what she’s hoping to explore if TNT gives her a third year.
TV Guide Magazine: When did you make the decision to kill Pam?
Cynthia Cidre: We were probably going to let [the mystery] continue for years on end. Then there were too many questions around it and a little too much drama for us after Victoria Principal’s statement. (On March 1, Principal released a statement saying, “I cannot be held responsible for any choices made by producers once I left Dallas, but I do take responsibility for my decision not to risk tarnishing Bobby and Pam’s love story with a desperate reappearance.) And so we decided it was best to put it to rest so that there would be no more questions.
TV Guide Magazine: What did you think of Principal’s statement?
Cidre: People have to do what they have to do for themselves, but for those people who read it, I regret it kind of ruined our story for them. But it’s all good. We’re happy to have put that to rest and Christopher gets his shares of Barnes Global.
TV Guide Magazine: Just so we are clear, Pam is now unequivocally dead?
Cidre: Unequivocally dead.
TV Guide Magazine: And if Victoria Principal changed her mind and wanted to come back, it’s now too late?
Cidre: Dead. Okay?
TV Guide Magazine: Did you ever reach out to Principal about appearing on your show as her statement suggests?
Cidre: Never. From the beginning, I needed the two boys [John Ross and Christopher] to come back because they existed in the previous show and were now the perfect age. They obviously had to have girlfriends or wives, so that’s already four people. I knew Larry Hagman had to come back as J.R., and then I went online and looked at Patrick Duffy, who looked awesome. I went online and looked at Linda Gray (Sue Ellen); she looked awesome. Now that’s seven people. Victoria Principal had left the show way earlier and there was a really good chance Pam was dead, so I said, ‘Why can’t Bobby just have a new wife?’ So no one from casting ever reached out to her.
TV Guide Magazine: Did it ever cross your mind to try to reintroduce Pam?
Cidre: It crossed my mind once because it had become such a question. It was a fleeting thought but never enough to actually make a phone call and find out if she was interested. I knew I had to fish or cut bait. And I decided it was best for the show long term all around to cut bait and not keep teasing the audience about it. Even before Larry passed away we already had a plan that Christopher would try to find what he assumed was his third [share of Barnes Global]. Internally, we all decided we had enough characters and liked the way the story was going. It is almost impossible to keep up with our 12 main characters. So it was never a real reality.
TV Guide Magazine: Why did you choose for Pam’s death to be from pancreatic cancer?
Cidre: That’s the one cancer that’s fast. What I thought was clever about the storyline was that it killed three birds with one stone. [Besides killing off the character], Pam was not cruel to her son for 24 years, so Christopher can feel that he was not abandoned. She was trying to come back to him and loved him. It would have been very hard to redeem a character who decided the Barnes/Ewing feud was so terrible that she couldn’t even see her son. That was unacceptable in my opinion. We wanted Christopher to stop feeling bad about what had happened. Then we could spin it to make Cliff even worse. He had kept that a secret from his nephew for his own evil purposes. That was the way to go.
TV Guide Magazine: Any significance to the date of death you chose for Pam’s death certificate: July 14, 1989?
Cidre: I was asked by props to come up with something so someone suggested Bastille Day, and I said, ‘Sounds good.’
TV Guide Magazine: Why not cast the original actor who played Dr. David Gordon in 1988?
Cidre: We looked and couldn’t find him. Our casting director thought he found him, but it turned out it was a different actor with the same name.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you ever consider Pam having had another child prior to her death? Maybe even Bobby’s child?
Cidre: We remembered that Pam, right before she died, found out she could get pregnant, so we did think about that. But we have explored every possible relative and illegitimate child who could come back. We had to wrap up what we had rather than keep creating new stuff.
TV Guide Magazine: Did J.R. know about Pam’s death and Cliff’s cover up?
Cidre: I’m going to say no.
TV Guide Magazine: How did Katherine Wentworth [Pam and Cliff's half sister] die, and is she really dead?
Cidre: I don’t know if she’s really dead. There’s no proof of that. There’s always the chance that Cliff was also faking her death. That she’s living in the Cayman Islands supported by Cliff just so he could control her third of the shares. Anything’s possible. The only thing definitive about Katherine is that she gave her beautiful emerald earrings to Cliff, and Pamela Ewing (Julie Gonzalo) now wears them.
TV Guide Magazine: Some feel Cliff Barnes, who was sympathetic on the original series, was the victim of character assassination over the past two seasons. He had his daughter marry Christopher as a way of infiltrating the Ewing family. He had a hand in killing his daughter’s babies. And he kept news of sister Pam’s death a secret. Why make a former underdog so vile?
Cidre: I had a theory that in the years that had passed, Cliff had not gotten over the feud and it had gotten worse. He had become slightly Howard Hughes-ish; that he’d crossed into madness. There was a certain goofiness to him before. Once Larry passed, we needed a villain and Harris Ryland wasn’t involved in a blood feud. Ken Kercheval, by the way, has never been happier with his material. He’s been fabulous.
TV Guide Magazine: How do we justify Bobby setting up an innocent man for J.R.’s death?
Cidre: Bobby did feel bad about that and gave Cliff an out for a moment in the jail. Bobby had to take his brother’s shoes, which was very hard for him and was done with some regret. He protected his family and did what his brother asked him to do and now gets to put his white hat back on.
TV Guide Magazine: One bit of confusion. There was a line explaining that Carlos del Sol bought the gun used to kill J.R. But we know the gun was stolen from Cliff’s locker.
Cidre: We sadly had to cut a couple Carlos scenes in the last episode that made this more easily understood. Carlos was J.R.’s partner in all this who helped him perpetrate this fraud. That line was one of the lies to tell John Ross and Christopher.
TV Guide Magazine: What was up with the drug stilettos?
Cidre: Oh, the cocaine shoes. (Laughs) We found out that there are all sorts of ways to smuggle drugs. One is high-impact cocaine in the shape of high-end women’s shoes. When they arrive at the location, there is a chemical reaction that reduces them back to cocaine.
TV Guide Magazine: Was that new portrait of J.R. painted by the same artist who created the portrait of Jock and Ellie that hangs in Southfork?
Cidre: Yes. It was painted by our construction designer, Richard Berg.
TV Guide Magazine: Is it true that the heirs of the late Jim Davis, who played Jock, won’t allow you to use the classic Jock portrait seen on original series?
Cidre: I believe that’s true, yes, but I have no idea why.
TV Guide Magazine: Who is this mysterious Joaquin character Elena went to visit? A drug lord? And where was that scene set?
Cidre: I’m very, very excited about this. This is somebody from her past, who was perhaps a street kid. I don’t think he will be a drug lord. I’m very excited to cast this part. The scene took place in Mexico but we found the compound down some country road about 20 minutes from Southfork.
TV Guide Magazine: At Joaquin’s compound, Elena announces herself and says, ‘My brother and I grew up with him in Mexico.” Hasn’t it been established that Elena and Drew grew up on Southfork?
Cidre: They lived in Mexico until they came to Southfork when Drew was 9 and Elena was 7.
TV Guide Magazine: With the Barnes/Ewing feud now over, you seem to be planting the seeds for a Ramos/Ewing feud. But the Ewings were always so good to Elena and her mother. It was only J.R. who double-crossed Elena’s father and he’s dead. How can we accept Elena turning evil and taking down all the Ewings?
Cidre: I’m not sure that’s where we’re going with this. We’ve just reenergized her character. Jordana Brewster (Elena) is so much fun when she plays anger. And I’m not so sure the Barnes/Ewing feud is over. We’ll see. Howard Hughes’ hair and nails are sure to be growing down in Mexico.
TV Guide Magazine: What is in Ryland’s briefcase that Emma stole for John Ross?
Cidre: We have discussed that ad nauseum and have a lot of ideas. There is a lot of fun stuff in there.
TV Guide Magazine: Are Cliff, Ryland and Drew all gone from the show?
Cidre: Oh gosh, no.
TV Guide Magazine: What are you being told about a third season?
Cidre: Nothing except, ‘Hang in there; we love you.’
TV Guide Magazine: Why is the decision taking so damn long?
Cidre: There are some TNT negotiations. I don’t think it’s personal. They couldn’t be nicer to us.
TV Guide Magazine: What are you hoping to explore in a third season?
Cidre: Obviously the Elena/Joaquin relationship. John Ross and Pamela’s marriage. John Ross/Emma. Emma/Judith. Judith/Ryland. Christopher without Elena.
TV Guide Magazine: Any new characters you’re conceptualizing?
Cidre: Ann has to have relatives we haven’t met yet. She may have a brother.
TV Guide Magazine: Lastly, with Pam definitely dead and Katherine likely dead, are there any remaining veteran characters still alive that you’d like to bring back? Like Jenna (Priscilla Presley) and Donna (Susan Howard) perhaps?
Cidre: I think we tried to get them for J.R.’s funeral but they weren’t available. We’d love to see them and the fans love them, but no specific plans. I’m sure they’ll be a reason for more of them to come back in the new year.
Lost‘s Bernard (the lesser-seen half of the Rose and Bernard coupling) will appear in next week’s two-hour Dallas season finale in a key role that should resolve the mystery of what happened to the original Pam Ewing.
Sam Anderson will assume the role of Pam’s plastic surgeon, Dr. David Gordon.
The character was last seen in 1988 when Pam (then played by Margaret
Michaels after Victoria Principal’s departure) informed brother Cliff that she never wanted to see her family again and had fallen in love with her doctor. After Cliff left, Pam turned to Dr. Gordon and revealed the real reason she gave Cliff the brush off: she was dying and didn’t want to burden Bobby and Christopher with another painful goodbye.
Dallas producers told me they made an attempt to locate the actor who originally played Dr. Gordon but were unable to find him. (That guy needs a new manager!)
This isn’t Anderson’s first time on Dallas; he appeared as Inspector Frank Howard in a pair of episodes on the original show back in 1985.
The season finale of Dallas airs Monday, April 15 at 9/8c on TNT.
In many ways, Larry Hagman‘s final appearance on TNT’s Dallas… wasn’t.
Though the beloved actor had three scenes in last week’s episode — culminating with the moment in which J.R. was shot by an unseen assailant — each of those sequences was fashioned from preexisting footage and dialogue, as producers scrambled to reconfigure Season 2 in the wake of Hagman’s passing. Reflecting on the process, executive producer Cynthia Cidre tells TVLine, “‘Crafty’ is a good description” for what they pulled off.
But well before that bit of FX magic came into play, the Dallas brass needed to figure out how J.R. would exit the canvas — and what that canvas would look like afterwards — upon hearing the tragic news of Hagman’s passing in late November.
HOW THEY SHOT J.R.
Reflecting on that time, Cidre says the question was: “How do you say goodbye to such an iconic character and such an iconic actor in a way that pays tribute to him and also makes the fans happy? It was a huge challenge, but we knew we had to accept it and rise to the occasion.”
To that end, Cidre says that she, fellow EP Michael M. Robin and their writing team “kind of threw away the rest of the season as we had plotted it, just for the moment, to free our minds about what else we could do.” After a couple of weeks and considering “what must have been 30 different” scenarios, “I think we came up with a really good one,” she says. “The next challenge was: OK, now let’s reintegrate all of the really good moments that we had already planned. And I think we ended up keeping 80 percent of it.”
The storyline conceived to accommodate Hagman’s death, as now revealed, involved killing off TV’s greatest love-to-hate character by way of a murder mystery. And while the original idea was to simply have J.R. shot off-camera during a one-way call with Josh Henderson’s John Ross, “Post-production put together all the lines of dialogue Larry had recorded, and we the writers figured we could reverse-engineer the John Ross side of it,” Cidre says. “Our editor was able to come up with something extremely clever.”
Robin explains that the episode-ending phone call was built off of an Episode 4 scene between J.R. and Pamela Barnes’ No. 1, Frank, who had just delivered the upsetting news that John Ross was sleeping with the enemy (ergo J.R.’s distressed reaction). The FX guys then stripped out the original background (J.R.’s room at Southfork) and dropped in the walls of the motel room in Mexico where the oily tycoon is ultimately found murdered. Add in the sound of approaching foot-steps, cut to John Ross’ reaction when shots ring out and… “We were like, ‘Son of a gun!’” Robin shares.
But lest that one scene feel tacked on to an otherwise J.R.-less episode, the editors and post-production wizards cobbled together two others — J.R. in a limo, and then a phone call with Bum — to create a three-beat final arc for the character. (The second scene involved tweaking a spliced-in snippet of Season 1 Hagman dialogue from, “What are you doing about that rat [Harris Ryland]?” to “What are you doing about that race?”)
THE MOURNING AFTER
One aspect of Hagman’s sendoff that was extremely real, however, was the emotion heavy in the air around as longtime castmates, present and past (including Steven Kanaly’s Ray Krebbs, Charlene Tilton’s Lucy and Ted Shackleford’s Gary), reacted to the character’s and/or Hagman’s passing.
Though TV dramas regularly film scenes out of order, Robin says, “I asked our first assistant director to shoot as much in order as we could” for this episode. “You can kind of make that request, especially when big emotional throughlines are involved.” As Cidre explains, “Actors need to travel to the emotion” of something as resonant as a funeral scene.
And make no mistake, much of what viewers witness at J.R.’s gravesite tonight is not so much Southfork residents walloped by a loss, but the stars of Dallas tributing one of their own.
“One of the things that makes this a remarkable hour is that the emotion is honest, from everybody involved,” Robin notes. “That line was blurred for everybody who knew Larry.”
Crew members included. Robin shares that for the lensing of a scene centered on Linda Gray’s Sue Ellen, “I didn’t have anybody in that room other than a camera operator, a focus puller, a dolly grip and a sound guy, to keep it small for her. And the focus puller was just clearing tears out of his eyes. Everybody, everyone, was quite choked up.”
Television journeyman Steven Weber‘s next stop will be in Dallas, with a recurring role on the TNT drama.
TVLine has learned exclusively that Weber will play Governor McConaughey, an ambitious politico who conspires with Cliff Barnes and Harris Ryland — a gruesome twosome if ever there was — to take down the Ewing family.
Weber will first air in Season 2′s 12th episode.
In addition to his runs on, of course, Wings, Brothers & Sisters and Studio 60, Weber’s more recent TV credits include visits to Malibu Country, 2 Broke Girls (where he plays Caroline’s father), Parenthood and TNT’s Falling Skies.
Christopher’s petition for annulment was rejected! Ann’s long-lost daughter hates her guts! Sue Ellen lost the election! It was an eventful return to Dallas on last week’s two-hour season premiere. After five months off the air, the Ewing clan & Co. wasted no time answering some of fans’ biggest burning questions from the first season finale, and raising some new ones for Season 2 (Mondays at 9/8c on TNT). Although she did her best not to spoil what’s to come, we turned to showrunner Cynthia Cidre for answers:
1. Could Elena and John Ross be the real deal? It wasn’t a complete surprise to see brokenhearted bad guys John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) hook up in the premiere, but where will their romantic entanglement will lead to? “I think they’re very much cut from the same cloth. It’s out of convenience and scheming against the same people, having the same enemy and it’s also a little bit more than that,” Cidre says. “[Their relationship] has some huge ups and downs too because neither is willing to be hurt.” But two of those people John Ross and Rebecca are both scheming against are their respective exes, Elena (Jordana Brewster) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), whom they still having feelings for. “People heal, and 15 episodes is a long time. They don’t carry the torch forever,” Cidre says. “Who [Rebecca] ends up with is fun.”
2. Can Christopher and Elena make it work? Despite the (many) odds against them, “Christopher and Elena are grounded and stable,” Cidre says. However, expect things to get complicated for Elena now that John Ross knows she owes quite a bit of debt to Sue Ellen (Linda Gray). “That will definitely play out in a huge way,” Cidre says. “It’s something that John Ross can manipulate to get his way, and he will get allies to help him do that.”
3. Will Ann be able to get her mojo back? In the season premiere, Ann (Brenda Strong) was elated to learn that her long-lost daughter Emma (Emma Bell) was alive and in Dallas. Too bad her daughter wanted nothing to do with her — which left Ann in a fragile place. “That will change. We knew her as a fighter in Season 1 and we haven’t abandoned that,” Cidre says. However, there will be “a few hiccups” ahead for her and Bobby (Patrick Duffy). Apparently, their recent marital problems and Emma’s presence are “related, and there will be a huge climax before things settle down,” Cidre says. “You can’t put a story point that way in their lives — of finding a child she hadn’t seen in 20 years — and have it not have repercussions.”
4. How much of Emma will we see? Cidre was tight-lipped about what kind of interactions Emma will have with the rest of the Ewings, but says Emma’s story “will be an integral part” of the Ewing clan. “She is going to have some personality too by the time we’re done with Emma Brown,” Cidre adds. “There will be a lot of healing, and a lot of heartache before healing.”
5. What’s the deal with Harris’ mom? As if Ann’s ex-husband wasn’t bad enough on his own — seriously, how was Ann ever married to that guy? — Bobby learned that it was in fact Harris (Mitch Pileggi) and his mother Judith Ryland (Judith Light) who took Emma as a baby and raised her in secret. But why? “This is a little bit over the top, but the way I had pictured it was if Norman Bates turned that rocking chair around, if Norma Bates stood up. So that was the character,” Cidre says of Judith. “It’s not apparent yet in the early episodes of where all of that comes from, but by Episode 9 or 10, you start to get a little more backstory.” Adds Cidre, “Emma is sort of the child they never had. It’s a little sick sounding, but at its most basic, it’s probably true.”
6. How will the show say goodbye to J.R.? After the unfortunate passing of Larry Hagman in November, many of the questions surrounding Season 2 have been related to exactly how his character will go out this season and the aftermath of his death. “J.R. was such a delicious and iconic character that we couldn’t just kill him by natural circumstances. It had to be bigger than that, and more fun that, and at the same time, it has to be emotional and a proper goodbye to both J.R. Ewing and Larry Hagman,” Cidre says. “I think we came up with something pretty good. A little bit of it will be revealed in Episode 8, and then we will take the rest of the season to reveal a mystery.”
TNT’s Dallas is taking a page from the original series’ playbook to explain J.R. Ewing’s sudden exit.
According to TV Guide Magazine, the iconic villain — played by the late Larry Hagman — will be murdered by an unknown assailant toward the middle of the show’s upcoming second season. The plot, of course, recalls the original program’s classic 1980 “Who Shot J.R.” cliffhanger.
“We all felt having J.R. die of natural causes would have been completely inappropriate, not only to the character, but also to Larry Hagman,” exec producer Cynthia Cidre told the mag.
As TVLine previously reported, J.R. will be laid to rest Season 2′s eighth episode, slated to air on March 11. The new season kicks off on Jan. 28.
Hagman completed work on a handful of Season 2 episodes prior to his death on Nov. 23 from cancer complications.
Do you agree with Cidre that killing off J.R. is the best way to honor both the character and Hagman? Any early theories as to who pulled the proverbial trigger this time around?