David Jacobs, creator of TV sensation Dallas, dies aged 84

Writer and producer also created the spin-off series ‘Knots Landing’

Louis Chilton
Wednesday 23 August 2023 09:18 BST
Dallas legends reminisce

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David Jacobs, the creator of the hit TV show Dallas, has died at the age of 84.

The influential writer and producer was also known for creating the US soap opera Knots Landing.

Jacobs’s son Aaron confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that his father died on Sunday (20 August), at a hospital in Burbank, California, following complications from a series of infections. He had previously been diagnosed with Alzeimer’s.

Dallas was created in 1978, and followed the exploits of the Ewings, a family of wealthy oil barons in Texas. The series ended up running for 14 seasons, comprising a staggering 357 episodes.

Over the course of its run, Dallas became known for high-profile cliffhangers, including the “Who Shot JR?” mystery, which endures as one of TV’s most iconic whodunnits.

The series, which saw Larry Hagman star as the breakout character JR Ewing, eventually came to an end in May 1991.

Knots Landing, a spinoff of Dallas, launched in 1979, and enjoyed similiar longevity; the series ran for 344 episodes and 14 seasons before wrapping up in 1993.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1939, Jacobs initially started out as an aspiring artist, before pivoting to writing.

Donna Mills, David Jacobs, Michelle Phillips, and Michele Lee accept the 30th Anniversary Award for ‘Knots Landing’ onstage at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards in 2009
Donna Mills, David Jacobs, Michelle Phillips, and Michele Lee accept the 30th Anniversary Award for ‘Knots Landing’ onstage at the 7th Annual TV Land Awards in 2009 (Getty Images)

Early work saw him write biographies for the Book of Knowledge encyclopaedia, and publish a book on Renaissance art. He went on to write about art, architecture and cinema for publications including Esquire and The New York Times Magazine.

He then pivoted to short fiction, writing stories for publications including Cosmopolitan. He would later describe his work writing for magazinese as “the perfect apprenticeship for television”.

Jacobs got his break on TV as a story editor on the short-lived CBS cop show The Blue Knight, before being hired by the ABC drama Family.

The cast of ‘Dallas’
The cast of ‘Dallas’ (Getty Images)

As well as Dallas, Jacobs also co-created the western series Paradise, which ran from 1988 to 1991, and created Four Corners in 1998, a drama that ran for just five episodes.

Later in life, Jacobs was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

He is survived by his children, Aaron, Albyn, and Molly, his second wife, Diana, and grandchildren Riley and Georgia.

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