Dallas review – 1×04: ‘The Last Hurrah’

Courtesy of TNT

It’s the calm before the storm as Dallas sets up an epic catfight as it nears the mid-season mark. But more importantly, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) saves a calf.

Let’s bitch it out…At this point I still don’t know quite what to make of Dallas: it’s too bone-headed to be enjoyable, and it’s far too earnest to be a straight forward guilty pleasure. We’re four episodes in and everything – the tone, pacing, direction and acting – all remain exactly the same, meaning that this is a series that is confident in its methods, even if the audience isn’t always as sure.

‘The Last Hurrah’ is a great example of this. There’s bitching, there’s backstabbing (primarily between Larry Hagman’s JR and Josh Henderson’s John Ross, even if the latter doesn’t know what he’s doing). There’s casual drug use, rampant adultery and Linda Grey looking vaguely mummified. So far, so good, right?

And then we have a series of extended scenes featuring Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and adopted son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) birthing a calf. Yes, folks, this is what the 400 channel universe has brought us: not sex, or violence, or profanity. Nope! The greatest advent of the plethora of channels outside the “Big 4” (or 5 if you want to fight over CW or Univision) is that we can finally see Patrick Duffy with embryonic fluid on his hands, discussing how saving the calf is the equivalent of doing the right thing. Now Bobby is talking about killing the mother cow to save the calf’s life, but he’s not really talking about that. He’s talking about what Christopher needs to do about his adulterous thoughts. It’s an oh-so-obvious metaphor that is then hammered in with all the subtlety and grace of an ACME anvil when Bobby tells Christopher that he knows that when it comes to Julie Gonzalo’s Rebecca, he’ll also “do the right thing.”

First the most super obvious metaphor and then literally spelling out said metaphor?! You’d have to be deaf, blind and dumb not to get it. Gosh, thanks Dallas!

And this is my big beef with the show: Dallas doesn’t trust us to follow along. In any way. There are no twists because everything is telegraphed eight steps ahead to ensure we don’t misunderstand who’s blackmailing who, or who’s in love with who. I’m talking about one character asking another what they’re going to do and the person responding by laying out their entire plan. This is a show set in a world where deals are brokered without any paperwork, where blackmail photos involving drug abuse are taken without photographers or explanations of where the drugs came from; where a character blackmails another about an incriminating email using a traceable text message. Oh the silliness of it all!

Courtesy of TNT

At this point it’s helpful to simply using a viewing strategy advocated by my father for the most facetious shows. He would advise me that they were simply “bubblegum for the eyes” in a mocking tone. And that seems appropriate for Dallas: it’s ridiculous, it’s silly, it’s only-Texas-when-we-wear-Stetsons and it begs viewers to watch with a stiff drink and a dismissive chuckle at the ready for particularly outrageous moments. So many now that I have a better handle on the mechanics, I can sit back and simply enjoy the ride…or chew the bubblegum, as the case may be.

Other Observations:

  • Marta (Leonor Varela) – whose real name is Veronica (seriously?!) – takes pills because she’s bipolar, which in the world of Dallas means that she’s a nutjob psychopath who’s about to go batsh*t crazy and hopefully fall in the pool with all of her clothes on. Wait…didn’t I write that last week about Rebecca?
  • Speaking of the little homewrecker, she’s got a bigger role to play now that John Ross is blackmailing her. Obviously we should all brace ourselves for the “ugh” factor when she confesses that she’s actually in love with Christopher, despite setting out to pillage him for his patents *there’s the chuckle*. Clearly we’re building to a scene when brother, Tommy (Callard Harris) forces her to admit that her love for Christopher is greater than their plans to steal his clean energy plans. Yawn.
  • I’m generally not a fan of Jordana Brewster’s Elena, so I really enjoyed the scene when Christopher pays her off and rips her open with a whole host of low-blows about her tendency to flip-flop on matters of integrity when large sums of money are involved. My favourite part is her reaction: I have never seen an actress pull off “I just ate poo” face so well
  • If Southfork is so popular, why were there so few people at the final BBQ?I was particularly fond when someone sadly decreed the “last BBQ at Southfork” as though it was the Queen’s wake. And how many more times can they drag the bloated corpses of Charlene Tilton (cousin Lucy) and Steve Kanaly (Ray Krebbs) out for these family functions? Leave those poor people in peace!
  • Finally, speaking of corpse-like: 1) Linda Grey returns…and I don’t care about her run for Governor, at all! Never mind – I didn’t miss you like I said last week. 2) Whoa! What the h*ll happened to Jason London? Did the actor go method playing Rick, a former drug addict? Dude looks terrible, although in his defense he did turn 40 (!) this year. Yikes

So that’s episode four. Next week the proverbial cow dung hits the fan as everyone goes after everyone. It’s about time some fisticuffs get thrown and somebody better end up in the sticking pool! What are your thoughts? What recreational drugs are you using to get through the show (oh hello G&T!). Do you care in Rebecca falls for Christopher, or would you rather just watch more cows die in childbirth? Sound off below.

Dallas airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on TNT. It will be on next week, despite the holiday festivities in the US

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

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