While “Jaws” is credited with launching the summer blockbuster and “Survivor” is credited with launching the reality competition genre, many forget “Dallas” was responsible for launching the modern day cliffhanger. In 1980, “Who Shot J.R.?” became part of modern day vernacular. Now years later the man at the center of it has passed away and tonight his friends and family are ready to pay tribute.
When TNT re-launched “Dallas” last summer fans were psyched to see original cast members Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Grey return alongside new favorites Jesse Metcalfe and Josh Henderson. However none of them could have imagined the addition of Hagman was only for the short term. Sadly the man who redefined what it meant to be a TV “villain,” died over the Thanksgiving holiday leaving a big void to fill in both the show and life itself.
Faced with the loss of her biggest star, let alone one of TV’s most iconic personalities, executive producer Cynthia Cidre was left to craft the exit of Hagman's J.R. Ewing. With the blessing of his portrayer's longtime friend and co-star Patrick Duffy, as well as his son Preston, Cidre decided to bring back the “Who Shot J.R.?” storyline. The difference was this time J.R. wouldn’t survive.
At a Paley Center event last night Cidre elaborated on the show’s plan for Hagman’s exit and more importantly promised fans they wouldn’t have to wait as long to find out who killed J.R. as they did to learn who shot him decades ago! Cidre broke the news that the person behind Ewing’s death would be unmasked in the show’s second season finale airing next month.
The decision for the early reveal is welcomed news to fans who are still stewing over “The Killing’s” first-season non-ending. Cidre assured fans that type of long draw out was never in the cards for “Dallas.”
“It would be like putting this great meal in front of (fans) and then taking it away”
For now though tonight’s episode is a tribute to J.R. Ewing from “tip to tail,” with many of the original “Dallas” characters coming back to pay their last respects (and in some cases to make sure he’s actually dead this time). After all this was J.R. Ewing…love him or loathe him he was a force to be reckoned with!
While Ewing was a polarizing figure, so was the man who brought his electric personality to life every week. In the eyes of network executives, Larry Hagman was a popular star but also a shrewd negotiator who knew how to draw the hard line, although in the eyes of his friends he was a loyal and steadfast supporter and to his many fans he was simply “J.R.”
While Hagman may no longer be with us, his presence will forever be felt across the television industry. His trailer remains on the "Dallas" set, his name remains on the top of the call sheet and his character remains firmly ingrained in the annuls of pop culture history; just as it should be!
“Dallas” airs Monday night at 9 p.m. EST on TNT.