Finally, a TV show that is not a sitcom. “Dallas” was the first of the so-called American prime time television soap operas. It aired on CBS from April 2, 1978, to May 3, 1991.The series revolved around an affluent and feuding Texas family, the Ewings, who owned the independent oil company, Ewing Oil, and the cattle-ranching land of Southfork. The series originally focused on the marriage of Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) and Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal), whose families were sworn enemies with each other. As the series progressed, Bobby’s older brother, oil tycoon J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), became the show’s breakout character. His schemes and dirty business became the show’s trademark. When the show ended on May 3, 1991, J.R. was the only character to have appeared in every episode.
Other main characters in the ensemble cast included Barbara Bel Geddes as Ewing matriarch, Miss Ellie, whose family were the original owners of Southfork; Jim Davis as her husband, Jock, the founder of Ewing Oil and head of the Ewing family, Linda Gray as J.R.’s long-suffering, alcoholic wife Sue Ellen, Steve Kanaly as ranch hand Ray Krebbs, Pam’s ex, who would eventually turn out to be Jock’s illegitimate son, and Ken Kercheval as Pam’s brother Cliff Barnes, J.R.’s archrival.
The show initially borrowed a familiar premise from Romeo and Juliet — young lovers from feuding families — for one of its key plotlines: the marriage and subsequent drama between J.R.’s youngest brother, Bobby and Pamela Barnes, the sister of rival oil tycoon and J.R.’s chief nemesis, Cliff Barnes.
“Dallas,” with its tales of wealth and power, scheming intrigue, and dramatic feuds, quickly became an international favorite, and the exploits of the Ewing clan and their assorted relatives, allies, and enemies were eventually broadcast in more than 130 countries. Amid the never-ending saga of secret affairs, backstabbing, gunfights, car accidents, and various dramatic twists and turns, Dallas became best known for its cliff-hangers at the end of each season, especially the “Who Shot J.R.” episode at the end of the third season, which ended with J.R. lying on the floor of his office, felled by an unknown attacker. After a summer of frenzied speculation during which the phrase “Who shot J.R.?” entered the lexicon of American pop culture, the identity of the assailant was revealed in the fourth episode of the fourth season, which became the highest-rated single broadcast in American television history at the time.
And yes, I admit that I watched this prime time soap opera.