Oil, greed and double dealing: JR is re-shot as 'Dallas' returns

  • @tompeck

JR is to be shot again – by the cameras, at least. Actor Larry Hagman has, not for the first time, ended months of suspense by confirming that he will reprise his most famous role in a TV remake of Dallas, the 1980s soap.

The 79-year-old Texan will again play the nefarious oil baron JR Ewing, in a pilot commissioned by the American television network TNT. Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray will also return to play Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing.

The updated drama, written by Cynthia Cidre (who has previously written The Mambo Kings, starring Antonia Banderas, and Tara Road, starring Andie MacDowell), is to focus on the next generation of Ewings – John Ross and Christopher Ewing – as they battle for control of the dynasty. JR is expected to play only a minor role. TNT has yet to announce a start date.

Other actors signed up include the Desperate Housewives star Josh Henderson, who will play JR's son, John Ross, and Jordana Brewster, from the film The Fast and the Furious. Coincidentally, Hagman is making a guest appearance on Desperate Housewives as Frank, a character described as a "grumpy racist OAP". He begins a romance with Stella, the mother of Lynette – played by Felicity Huffman – after they meet in a nursing home.

JR was originally intended only as a minor character, but audiences loved his scheming and plotting, and he became the show's star. The original series of Dallas ran for 357 episodes between 1978 and 1991. Hagman was the only actor to appear in every episode. When his character JR was shot in the series final in 1980, an estimated 400 million people worldwide watched the show, including 27 million in the UK. It fuelled six months of speculation over who was the perpetrator, until the show returned in October with JR still alive.

In comparison with other soap operas of its or any time, it is hard to overestimate the cultural impact of Dallas – although Hagman has tried.

"I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire," Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. "They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, 'Hey, we don't have all this stuff.' I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority."

In communist Romania, it was the only western TV show allowed. After Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife were executed on Christmas Eve 1989, the pilot episode – with a previously censored sex scene spliced back in – was one of the first foreign shows broadcast on liberated Romanian TV.

The TNT revival is not the first time someone has tried to resurrect the Texas oil family drama. In 2006, Twentieth Century Fox made an abortive attempt to adapt the soap for the big screen, closing deals with John Travolta, Jennifer Lopez and Luke Wilson.