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'Dallas': Is TNT's remake a winner or loser?

Ann and Bobby Ewing (Brenda Strong and Patrick

Ann and Bobby Ewing (Brenda Strong and Patrick Duffy) with their son's fiance, Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo). Credit: TNT/Erik Heinla

TNT's “Dallas” remake bows tonight and -- as always -- the diversity of opinion on this newcomer is a veritable rainbow of differences, ranging from “not bad at all” to “another nail in Western civ's coffin.” My reax? Not bad at all, because in part I assumed it really would be terrible. After all, the last moments of “Dallas” 20-odd years ago were the TV equivalent of the destruction of Carthage . . . "no show will ever be reborn out of this salted earth again..." There was Joel Grey, who turned into Satan, telling J.R. to shoot himself. J.R. does or appears to; then Bobby -- Patrick Duffy -- walks in the room and says, “Oh my God!”  It was all a joke really, and meant to be one -- not a “who shot J.R.' but  a 'Did J.R. shoot himself?'" 

Clearly, everyone -- cast and crew and CBS -- were ready, willing and happy to move on.

TNT, and Warner Bros., revived this for one reason and one reason only: There's still gold in them thar hills. The show has been presold in international markets where the old show is still a magic name; same thing happened with “Beverly Hills 90210.” These relics are not brought back from the dead because American audiences are clamoring for remakes -- they're brought back from the dead because viewers in Turkey and Uzbekistan are. 

Nevertheless, that can also be a prescription for disaster -- a beloved show turned into a Frankenstein, with bits and pieces from the dead body stitched together, or worse, a show turned into a zombie, with a bloody mangled eyeball popped out of the socket. (Man, I wish I didn't have to wait till October for the return of “The Walking Dead.") A perfect example was the remake of “Charlie's Angels,” which managed to be a zombie stitched into the side of a Frankenstein -- no mean feat. 

The new “Dallas” certainly isn't trying to do anything particularly imaginative -- the young cast is perfectly OK, but shoehorned into the wearily predictable brother-against-brother, father-against-son narratives than were moldy cheese rinds on “Dallas” even during its heyday. But this is what viewers in Turkey want and I suspect what people who remember “Dallas” still want. 

All in all, a serviceable remake. 

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