As the familiar theme music from the old Dallas introduced the new TNT version, and for most of the next two hours, I was pleasantly surprised by the updated drama that evolved from the iconic CBS show of the 70's and 80's.
There must have been others who felt that way, or at least enough sufficiently curious to check it out, because TNT says 6.8 million viewers tuned in to the premiere, making it the top-rated series debut for a scripted series on cable this year.
This new iteration, I believe, successfully blends the old with the new by laying a foundation with the aging original characters while introducing attractive new ones with depth and interest.
Of course, the two sides of the Ewing family continue to battle it out over good and evil. Big, bad J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and his now adult son, John Ross (Josh Henderson), want to drill for oil on the family's South Fork Ranch. Good brother Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) wants to preserve the land, while his son, Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) is pursuing alternate energy means.
It's not that simple, though. There's double-crossing, surprising plot twists and romance, enough to make this feel like a new drama. There's also some of the old magic, like when J.R. pulled a fast one and you didn't necessarily see it coming. Shockingly J.R. remains so dastardly that he seems to be at odds with his own son.
Additional characters from the past appeared, as well. But it's hard to determine where fit in going forward. J.R.'s ex-wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is apparently running for governor of Texas, but that was mentioned only briefly. Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton) and Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly) appeared for a wedding, but didn't seem to have a further storyline. Ken Kercheval's character of Cliff Barnes is mentioned and scheduled to appear in future episodes.
The new characters were actually interesting. Jordana Brewster plays Elena Ramos, the South Fork cook's daughter who almost married Christopher, but is now sleeping with John Ross. She is a smart, educated woman who's promised to help her ex-fiance with his business plans. Rebecca Sutter (Julie Gonzalo), who actually married Christopher in the first episode appeared, at first to be an innocent, but has since been revealed to be double-dealing with a brother who seems to have an ax to grind with the Ewings.
Back to the old, I'm personally unhappy that the character of Bobby Ewing is battling a life-threatening illness, but that may be swept under the rug when the ratings come in. And no one explained where his new wife, Ann (Brenda Strong) came from and what happened to his old one, Pam, played by Victoria Principal.
I'll continue to watch the new Dallas (Wednesdays at 9 pm on TNT, at least for the next couple of episodes out of the 10 scheduled, to see if it remains interesting, gets better or fizzles. For now I'll say it holds promise and seems like a good summer get-a-way from reality.
By the way, the original Dallas ran for 13 seasons, beginning in 1978 and logged 357 episodes. There were two reunion movies, one in 1996 and another in 1998.