Staying at home has given plenty of people a chance to rediscover old TV shows through digital binges. And one of our personal favorites here at Hollywood Outbreak is the original Dallas, which aired on CBS for 14 seasons starting in 1978. At the time, it was the sudsiest of prime-time soaps, and it revolutionized the use of the season finale cliffhanger. Even when it went off the rails — “dream season,” anyone? — it was still one of television’s guiltiest pleasures. And, of course, it had one of the greatest TV villains of all time: J.R. Ewing. Prior to his death in 2012, we spoke with the man who brought the character to life, Larry Hagman. Previously known for his screwball comedy on I Dream of Jeannie, Hagman made J.R. Ewing the man that all of America loved to hate. But even though his character was pure evil, Hagman still liked to have fun. Since he was a Dallas-area native, he told us he was the show’s de facto social director when it was just starting out. (Click on the media bar below to hear Larry Hagman)
While he had to trade on his Jeannie fame at first, it wasn’t long before Dallas took off, and Hagman says the magic you saw on the screen was the result of a little off-screen wizardry. Click on the media bar below to hear Larry Hagman)
Along with the characters and the amazing cast who played them, though, Hagman admits the show also got a little bit lucky, going on the air at a time when a lot of people — like today — were stuck in front of their TVs. He says that was one of the factors that made the show an instant hit. (Click on the media bar below to hear Larry Hagman)
Although the show was successful from the start, the moment that made Dallas a pop culture phenomenon was its Season 3 finale cliffhanger — the infamous “Who Shot J.R.?” episode. In the summer of 1980, that was all people could talk about, and since ’80 was also an election year, the show’s success actually spilled over into the voting booth. (Click on the media bar below to hear Larry Hagman)
The original Dallas is now streaming on IMDb TV, can be purchased digitally on Amazon, and is still available on DVD.