Back to Southfork: ‘Dallas’ Returns

Television has had its share of remade shows, retooled for a new generation in a process given the computer-age moniker “reboot.” Some, like “90120” and “Hawaii Five-0,” have done better than others, such as “Charlie’s Angels.”

But the new “Dallas” (TNT, 8 p.m.) that begins tonight, 20 years after the first run ended, has a better than usual chance to work because they take some of the stars from the original, including Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy and have them as they would be in 2012 – still around, but a little removed from the action, now featuring young offspring.

Luckilly, oil and energy is still as much a central concern today as it was back in the heyday of the show and the way the new show is framed, there is a fiehgt among Ewing heirs about the direction to take their company – toward a more environmental approach or one that would drill, baby, drill.

In addition to this conflict between the cousins, played by Jesse Metcalf and Josh Henderson, there is also the triangle around the women they both romance, played by Jordana Brewster and Julie Gonzalo.

It’s a show that doesn’t depend on the original cast members, but is deepened by their involvement, in which the shiny young generation rightfully takes over the big, soapy action.

Even for those who didn’t follow the series, which ran 357 episodes and was at the epitome of pop culture when J.R. Ewing was shot as one season’s cliffhanger, it’s a tale that works.

For Larry Hagman, the decision to go back to being J.R. was a simple one:

“How many people do you know working at 80?” he told reporters at the TV Critics press tour earlier this year. “And doing a job that they love with the people he loves. Oh, yeah, I’m a very lucky man.”

It was as if no time had passed, said Gray.

“It was a seamless time warp,” Gray said. “To walk back on set and back onto Southfork and back on the set with my friends was a seamless transition. I didn’t feel an ending or a beginning. It was just like we seamlessly moved into the new series.”

And the time is right for a “Dallas” revival, Hagman said.

“You’ve got to realize when ‘Dallas’ was really hot, when it got going, we were in a major recession, and people couldn’t go out and get a babysitter and have dinner and go to a movie. They couldn’t afford it. So they had to stay in on Friday nights and watch something, and we were it. And here we are again.”

Said Duffy: “t was like snapping your fingers, and we were Bobby, and Sue Ellen, and J.R. again with no interspersing time whatsoever in between.”

If nothing else, the series originals have been an inspiration for the young cast.

“They, without a doubt, have set the tone for what the experience has been like on set,” said Metcalfe, still best known as the landscaper on “Desperate Housewives” named John Rowland. “I think I’ve learned so much from all of them already as far as being very gracious actors, you know, and just like having that kind of familial bond as far the cast is concerned.”

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