With each new “Dallas” release, I expect the show to finally start sucking, and this was the first set where it seemed like that might actually be the case. Picking up (as soaps are wont to do) where we left off, Pam has been burnt to a crisp in a fiery explosion, because Victoria Principal wanted off the show. But Pam lives – bandaged up and looking an awful lot like Karloff’s Mummy, inert in a hospital bed. Why not just kill her, fer chrissakes? Apparently, after the dream season fiasco, the producers were simply not going to kill off a major player for good, and the first third of the season revolves around this nonsense. Will she live or won’t she? What will she look like beneath the bandages? Will Bobby ever let little Christopher see his mummy again? Is it possible Victoria isn’t gone after all? The first ten or so episodes of the thirty presented here are some of the silliest “Dallas” I’ve ever seen. (Even the producers seem to think it’s all a joke – one of the episodes is actually titled “Mummy’s Revenge.”)
Alongside the Pam drama, the show also presents a lengthy plotline involving Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) meeting an old drunk named Dandy (Bert Remsen) who reminds him of his father, Digger. This tediously goes on and on and on, until it reaches a logical conclusion, which in turn leads to a scene between Barnes and Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes) that’s one of the most pivotal, moving scenes in the entire series. No, it doesn’t justify hours of watching Cliff hanging with an old drunk, but it does make some sense of it all. It’s somewhere around this point that the season gets back on track and turns into some pretty decent “Dallas.”
Also at the end of Season 10, J.R. (Larry Hagman) lost Ewing Oil completely, thanks to the government and Jeremy Wendell (William Smithers), the head of Westar. He spends all of Season 11 deviously plotting to get it back, and it’s a major highlight to watch this unfold, one sleazy step at a time. There doesn’t seem to be anything J.R. won’t do, or anyone he won’t trample, in order to get his daddy’s company back. As is usually the case, J.R.’s antics keep the series centered, regardless of how numbing some of the proceedings may be. At the same time, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is busy furthering her lingerie company with the help of high-powered business consultant Nicholas Pearce (Jack Scalia). For the first half of the season, Pearce is one of the most grating, annoying characters ever seen on this series…and then he suddenly becomes hugely likable, with a pretty damn interesting backstory as well. It’s one of the coolest “Dallas” flip-flops I’ve ever experienced.
In other news, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) finds potential love – not once but twice – after losing Pam, as well as going after something J.R. covets dearly. Clayton (Howard Keel) falls in love with a painting, and Bel Geddes gets to play a ridiculous drunk scene that must be seen to be believed. Ray (Steve Kanaly) and Jenna (Priscilla Presley) finally tie the knot, which leads to endless problems for the couple, including Charlie (Shalane McCall) acting up at school and messing around with a boy – but not just any boy. No, the object of Charlie’s teenage lust in no less than Brad Pitt! He’s got maybe one scene in each of four episodes, and has very little to do, but nevertheless it’s freakin’ Brad Pitt, some 20 years before he became an Inglourious Basterd.
And just in case anyone might think the show is becoming less and less “Dallas” with each passing season, in the penultimate episode, “Things Ain’t Goin’ So Good at Southfork Again,” Lucy (Charlene Tilton) returns to the fold after a three season absence. And she is lookin’ mighty fine.