DALLAS: what made it stand out above the other soaps?

Via The Void

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Quite simply, the show was just the best.

Everything gelled & worked. The cast, the writing, the music & the villain we all loved to hate, Larry Hagman as JR Ewing.

For me though it wasn't just Larry who made me tune in to watch, Victoria Principal & Patrick Duffy had a big effect on me.

I especially missed Victoria when she left.

You can't have Dallas without Victoria Principal & Larry Hagman because both their characters are crucial to Dallas. :(
 

Snarky's Ghost

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Quite simply, the show was just the best.

Everything gelled & worked. The cast, the writing, the music & the villain we all loved to hate, Larry Hagman as JR Ewing.

For me though it wasn't just Larry who made me tune in to watch, Victoria Principal & Patrick Duffy had a big effect on me.

I especially missed Victoria when she left.

You can't have Dallas without Victoria Principal & Larry Hagman because both their characters are crucial to Dallas. :(
Larry was very realistic about the fans liking the entire ensemble. Lorimar executives, however, probably didn't think that way.
 

Kenny Coyote

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I feel there has been alot of negativity aimed at our favourite Texan serial lately, I know we need constructive criticism, but lets spread the love and take a break from, what shoulda, woulda and coulda happened had, there been no dream, of had Pam stayed etc

What made DALLAS so special, that nearly forty years later, we still love it and has millions of fans around the world?

For me what made DALLAS great was the family relationships, we got to see that nearly every Ewing or fringe member of that family have some relationship with one another, heck I know they didn't share a scene together (though I cannot recall) but you could even believe that Lucy was the cousin to Jack and Jamie
Much more believable than on DYNASTY where we get one paltry scene between Fallon and Amanda and they're supposed to be sisters who were in the DYNASTY/COLBYVERSE at the same time!

Another thing was how even though JR was the shows undisputed villain, we saw that there were worse characters who made JR look like and angel in comparison, we saw his vulnerabilities, we saw him alone, yet we could also see him intimidate his enemies for the love of his family, he was multi-dimensional.
This is a little hard for me to answer because I'm a professional musician and when Dallas aired I was a teenager practicing to become a professional musician. This meant I needed to be very sparing with the amount of time I allowed myself to watch TV. So, Dallas was the only soap - if you want to call it that, although I think the production values, the pacing (once a week vs. 5 episodes a week), the sets, and the quality of the acting made "episodic television" a better name for it as far as I'm concerned. By episodic television I mean shows that tell a story that continues each week where the previous episode left off. Since that style, as opposed to a show where each episode is a self contained story that beings and ends all in one night, requires a commitment of watching every week, at least to receive the maximum enjoyment out of it as well as to help the storylines make sense, I decided early on I only had time for committing to one soap or "episodic TV show" in my life. I chose Dallas because that's the show the rest of my family watched and I loved it too. We all loved it!

What made it stand above other soaps? I'll have to speculate on this since I didn't watch many other shows on TV and no shows along he lines of Falcon Crest or Dynasty. I think the easiest way for me to do this, is in a list.

1. Larry Hagman's portrayal of J.R. Ewing was phenomenal! He played the part so well and it was an extremely well written tole as well. J,R, Ewing was the most iconic TV character of the 1980s and maybe the most iconic Tv character of all time. I doubt the other soaps all and a character who even rivaled J.R. Ewing for entertainment value or for iconic status.

2. Along with J.R., the restive the ensemble was incredible too. The casting was really amazing in Dallas, especially with the original ensemble of course. Barbara Bel Geddes and Jim Davis as the matriarch and patriarch of The Ewing family was an incredibly strong combination. Both of them had such a strong presence on the screen! Of course the rest of the ensemble was great too. I bet a lot of people don't realize how much Ken Kercheval contributed to the show's quality and entertainment value.. He really was an excellent actor. I can't imagine any other actor playing Cliff. Although Cliff was no match for JR, Cliff thought he was, and that led to all sorts of highly entertaining storylines.

3. The writing was wonderful. Especially in its prime years, Dallas just had great storyline after great storyline. The Barnes - Ewing feud was an integral part of the story. A well done feud can last for years and years and thins did with so many twists and turns along the way that it was just fascinating. An especially interesting twist was having the daughter (Pamela Barnes) of the originator (Digger Barnes) of the Barnes - Ewing feud marry Bobby Ewing which put Pam in a very awkward position, torn between her allegiance to her brother and her husband. It also put Bobby in a very awkward position as he was torn between his loyalty to his beloved father and his loyalty to his wife Pamela.
 
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Snarky's Ghost

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1. Larry Hagman's portrayal of J.R. Ewing was phenomenal! He played the part so well and it was an extremely well written tole as well. J,R, Ewing was the most iconic TV character of the 1980s and maybe the most iconic Tv character of all time. I doubt the other soaps all and a character who even rivaled J.R. Ewing for entertainment value or for iconic status.
Well, maybe not the most iconic TV character of all time, but certainly its most iconic villain.
 

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I liked the combination of city-based business stories and the rural ranch-based stories, with the one family involved in both, with some members being more drawn to the land and others just focusing on the next big deal.

Also the heightened nature of the storytelling, reinforced by the use of location filming, the theme tune, etc.

And most of all, the characters, especially the JR character but even he wouldn't have been so effective if he hadn't had such a strong ensemble to play against.
 

Via The Void

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There's also one other key character to Dallas which I have sometimes touched on in my posts, which was crucial to the show's success.

The Duncan Acres ranch, better known of course as Southfork. That ranch had just as much character as the people who lived in it and I got quite upset when it was damaged in the fire, started by that brawl between JR & Ray. I've often suspected the ranch was a TARDIS as it appears to be bigger on the inside than on the outside! I absolutely adore that ranch house. ;) :)

southfork2.jpg
 

Via The Void

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Well, maybe not the most iconic TV character of all time, but certainly its most iconic villain.
The most iconic TV character of all time in my book goes to the character of the Doctor, the lead character in the BBC TV series Doctor Who. However, I would directly place the character of JR Ewing in second place behind the legendary Time Lord. :)

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southfork88

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There's also one other key character to Dallas which I have sometimes touched on in my posts, which was crucial to the show's success.

The Duncan Acres ranch, better known of course as Southfork. That ranch had just as much character as the people who lived in it and I got quite upset when it was damaged in the fire, started by that brawl between JR & Ray. I've often suspected the ranch was a TARDIS as it appears to be bigger on the inside than on the outside! I absolutely adore that ranch house. ;) :)

View attachment 15951
Three similar and iconic TV houses :

1) Southfork Ranch (Dallas)

2) House on the Prairie (The Little House on the Prairie)

3) House of Pony (Candy Candy)

c0e54de33d5b5357ace364d08bd097ce.jpg
PIC00045.JPG
 
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Kenny Coyote

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Could another thing that set Dallas apart from the other soaps be that it appealed to men more? I'm just asking because I haven't seen other soaps but soaps have a reputation for being aimed at women - that's where the name "soap opera" came from. Soap and household cleaning products advertised heavily on soap operas because they knew it was a primarily female audience.

Dallas is different in that it's rugged enough to appeal to men. The western feel and Texas attitude i.e: real men get in fights when they're upset - they didn't talk things out - and that was fine because no man would even think of suing over a fight. That would be embarrassing to sue! I mean that too. Can you picture Ray Krebbs taking some roughneck to court because they got in a fight and Ray ended up getting hurt? Why the hell would he want to make it any more public than it already was that he got his ass kicked? They had pride. The last thing he'd want is for it to get into the newspapers that somebody whipped him so bad that he had to go to the hospital. Even worse, to ask the guy for money to make up for the pain he put him through???

Texans, @Lastkidpicked am I right about these attitudes? Texans, and therefore Dallas men have a more rugged mindset (in general) than most people do and the fights, the rodeos, that a man like Jock who had what was for the most part a desk job, as anyone running a company does, could still do physically rugged things like work on a cattle round-up on his day-off from the office, that his idea of a good vacation was a hunting trip, all demonstrate that rugged attitude that the show Dallas just exuded.

EDIT: I should make it clear that I'm referring specifically to the time period when Dallas aired. At that time not only had women been the primary watchers of soap operas, but something about the "prime time soap" made it more appealing and even more acceptable for both genders to enjoy watching. I think that if a man watched daytime soaps in the 1970s he probably wouldn't have been too likely to tell his friends about it. I was just a kid then so I could be wrong but I don't think I ever heard of men watching daytime soap operas in the 1970s, even if the man was at home during the day because he had a job where he worked a night shift.

I realize that these days while there still are to some extent "men's shows" and women's shows", the lines have become far less delineated and both men and women are more likely to watch shows that in earlier times they wouldn't have. We can talk about the agenda of trying to make the genders more and more similar and whether we perceive it as a positive or a negative thing but I think that's for a different thread and maybe for an entirely different forum.
 
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southfork88

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The Oleson's Mercantile was a commercial building ... and your home ;)

The Ingalls Home was a symbol ... as well as the Southfork Ranch.
 

Kenny Coyote

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Three similar and iconic TV houses :

1) Southfork Ranch (Dallas)

2) House on the Prairie (The Little House on the Prairie)

3) House of Pony (Candy Candy)
Nice! I only watched Little House On the Prairie a few times but it was iconic - that I do remember. I'm not familiar with Candy Candy though. From what era is that series?

I wanted to add to it and I can't, or at least I can't right now, not for TV shows. I can think of one of the most iconic homes in American more history though and like the Ewings' home, it had a name! Tara. The main theme of the movie is named "Tara's Theme." Who knows which movie I'm referring to? It's my favorite movie ever. Does anyone else here love the movie I'm talking about?
 
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Lastkidpicked

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Texans, @Lastkidpicked am I right about these attitudes? Texans, and therefore Dallas men have a more rugged mindset (in general) than most people do and the fights, the rodeos, that a man like Jock who had what was for the most part a desk job, as anyone running a company does, could still do physically rugged things like work on a cattle round-up on his day-off from the office, that his idea of a good vacation was a hunting trip, all demonstrate that rugged attitude that the show Dallas just exuded.
I'm going to throw something out there that might surprise you. From a Texas perspective, Dallas was not a soap opera at all. It was a western that was set in modern day.

Surprising?

It's natural that many of the characters played cowboys in westerns before they took on roles in Dallas.






Now, let's have some fun!

Imagine a few of our favorite scenes, but imagine the actors playing these scenes in the old west:

Imagine J.R. in a Western telling Sue Ellen:
"I'm going to cut Bobby out. I'm going to bring him down if I have to destroy Ewing oil to do it!"

Imagine this scene set in the old west:
upload_2019-4-16_11-7-32.jpeg


Let's have some more fun. Wouldn't the entire storyline of Ray fit in perfectly in an old Western?
upload_2019-4-16_11-10-3.jpeg


And one more. . .

I know you are already thinking what I'm thinking. . .

The famous scene . . .

Jock and Bobby argue . . .

upload_2019-4-16_11-11-42.jpeg


Very easy to imagine this taking place in an old Western.
 

southfork88

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Nice! I only watched Little House On the Prairie a few times but it was iconic - that I do remember. I'm not familiar with Candy Candy though. From what era is that series?

I wanted to add to it and I can't, or at least I can't right now, not for TV shows. I can think of one of the most iconic homes in American more history though and like the Ewings' home, it had a name! Tara. The main theme of the movie is named "Tara's Theme." Who knows which movie I'm referring to? It's my favorite movie ever. Does anyone else here love the movie I'm talking about?
I like Tara Home ... so similar to the original Southfork Ranch.

Captura-de-pantalla-2018-03-24-a-las-0.36.19-2.jpg
box-ranch.jpg
 

Kenny Coyote

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I'm going to throw something out there that might surprise you. From a Texas perspective, Dallas was not a soap opera at all. It was a western that was set in modern day.

Surprising?
To me it's not surprising. Technically Dallas wasn't a soap at all when it began because it had self contained episodes. Sometimes they had two part stories that concluded in a second episode. Eventually they stopped having the stories that started and ended within one or two episodes. Yesterday, the next line I typed would be "After a few years they turned it into a soap opera."

Today, after reading your post, I'm more inclined to describe it this way: They moved away from the self-contained episode format and they turned it into a serialized western saga. That what it was. It's fine to call it a primetime soap opera instead, but I think "a serialized western saga" is at least as good a description. I love shows and movies about families so a western saga about 3 generations of a family in the ranching and oil businesses felt like it had been tailor made for me.

To me that makes Dallas uniquely American among the primetime soaps even though they were all American made. It's no wonder they cast actors who had acted in western movies. That was a brilliant casting decision. For the benefit of our international forum members, The U.S.A. raised the generations that grew up in the middle 20th century on westerns! There is no movie star who is a bigger American icon than John Wayne. He made some movies which weren't westerns but westerns were how he made his name and what he was most closely associated with.

Americans, at least back when Dallas aired, had been raised on western movies and western TV shows like Gunsmoke. The western is deeply embedded in our culture. One of my favorite games to play with my friends when I was a little boy was "Cowboys and Indians." I had a cowboy outfit and I had an indian outfit as well. I read books about indians. I knew the names of almost all the indian tribes and a bunch of other information. They fascinated me. So did cowboys. I remember begging my parents to take me to the rodeo when it came to town one year when I was around 7 years old. It was amazing! I enjoyed the rodeo as much or more than the circus. I remember trying to learn to lasso things with a rope. That's hard to do! I had a toy bow and arrow I loved playing with and a good collection of toy guns. I especially loved cap guns. My favorite Tv show at that age was "The Lone Ranger." I don't know if they still show that on Saturday mornings or not.

So when we saw the Ewings running a ranch, doing the things that cowboys do, wearing cowboy hats and cowboy boots, getting into fistfights, even if we didn't consciously think of it this way, it reminded us of great childhood memories. It had enough of the western in it that it was equally appealing to men and women. This helped Dallas stand out compared to other soaps. The rugged western feel of it attracted men and women of all ages which gave it the best, widest demographics any studio or network could hope for!
 
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