When I was growing up, the Dallas theme tune was like a call to prayer. As the Copland-esque trumpets rang out, we ran to the television set. A hushed silence descended as cattle stampeded beneath the snazzy gold title credits. To watch the glamorous travails of the Ewing family from a sofa somewhere near Coventry in the 1980s was to experience the very promise of the age. Escapism, certainly. But Dallas was also about dreams. Frontier dreams.
That there was a place on earth where oil men in Stetsons plotted each other’s downfall while slurping bourbon was too fabulous. That these men were married to women with shoulder pads bigger than Darth Vader’s was beyond inspiring if you were a kid growing up not in Midland, Texas, but in The Midlands, UK.
When CBS started repeating the iconic series ahead of the revival show, I became hooked again. The impossible shoulders, the clinking bourbon tumblers, a restaurant called The Oil Barons where, if you came across your enemy, you threw a glass of champagne over him…. Ah, the 80s. Things were simpler then.
But what I realise now is that Dallas is also a complex morality play. J.R. is the best anti-hero since Othello. He can’t help being wicked. A passionate man, he is driven by a heart-breaking desire to please his daddy by outperforming his saintly brother Bobby. The insufferably chirpy Cliff Barnes is the real villain of the piece: a twisted inadequate masquerading as a crusader for justice. An Iago if ever there was one.
However, I will not be watching C5’s new series (from 13 June). Age must not weary J.R. and Bobby, nor a remake condemn.