THE SHOW "Dallas"
WHEN | WHERE Monday night at 9 on TNT
CATCHING UP The Ewing family feud heats up as J.R.'s (Larry Hagman) son John Ross (Josh Henderson) cooks up a con with dear old dad to take over the family company -- now firmly in the control of Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and adopted son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), both of whom want to control the methane market. Meanwhile, Chris and Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo) -- pregnant by him -- are at war, too. Viewers know something he doesn't -- that she's really Ewing nemesis Cliff Barnes' (Ken Kercheval) daughter.
Monday night's episode: Sue Ellen's (Linda Gray) run for governor hits a pothole; and someone from Ann Ewing's (Brenda Strong) deep past resurfaces -- and not just evil ex, Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi), who joins as a series regular. Hagman filmed five episodes before his death last fall.
MY SAY TNT scored one of the supreme casting coups in many TV seasons when it got Hagman to join the rebooted "Dallas" -- although you kind of suspected Hagman would have almost done this for free, for old times' sake. He plunged right back into J.R. as if the intervening time between old and new versions -- more than 20 years -- never existed. Hagman was born to play the role of a Texas-sized schemer with smiling arctic blue eyes, and a sharp dagger embedded in every word he speaks.
"You're not the first Pam to fox your way into the henhouse," he says to one femme fatale tonight (can't tell you who "Pam" is or you'd kill me). "I'm one-for-one on flushing out Pamelas and I plan on being two-for-two." To someone else, this artful dispatch: "How does it feel to be a poodle?" It feels beautiful, J.R. Just beautiful. To see the greatest prime-time soap actor in TV history back on top of his game is joy mixed with an acute sadness, for you know as you watch that a glorious part of our TV lives is now gone forever.
BOTTOM LINE Monday night's return of "Dallas" is a joy, too, and everything fans could ask for -- the past, present and future all skillfully bound up in a high-gloss melodrama full of deceit, greed, Velveeta and (surprisingly enough) even love.