Pilot Perception: Dallas

Welcome to Pilot Perception, our new feature in which we break down the first episode of each new show in order to help you decide whether it’s worth your time.

The Show: Dallas, TNT, Wednesdays at 9/8c (in Canada on Bravo at 9e/6p)

The Pedigree: David Jacobs, the creator of the original Dallas, has a writing credit but I’m not sure how involved he is. Executive producers include Cynthia Cidre (Cane) and Michael M. Robin (Rizzoli & Isles, The Closer, Nip/Tuck). Steve Robin (Ally McBeal, Boston Legal) is directing some episodes.

The Cast & How You Know Them: Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, and Linda Gray are all returning from the original cast. The new stars are Jesse Metcalfe (Chase, Desperate Housewives), Josh Henderson (Step Up, Desperate Housewives), Jordana Brewster (As the World Turns, Chuck), Julie Gonzalo (Veronica Mars, Eli Stone), and Brenda Strong (Desperate Housewives, Sports Night).

The Premise: The show picks up with the Ewing family a few decades after the original ended. J.R.’s son John Ross and Bobby’s son Christopher are fighting over girls and the future of the ranch, while Bobby, who secretly has cancer, is trying to sell the ranch to a conservancy so no one can drill for oil.

A Taste:

What Works: The tone is very classically soapy, and fans of the original seem pretty pleased with this new version so far. (I haven’t seen the original, so I can’t say much about that other than reactions I’ve seen elsewhere.) The fact that they got three main members of the original cast to return definitely helps legitimize the sequel. There’s plenty of drama and complicated, dastardly plans, and the seeds of a few mysteries were planted, so I’ll tune in again to see where those go. And the ranch setting is certainly quite beautiful.

What Doesn’t: As a newcomer to the Dallas world, I was able to follow the plot well enough, but I didn’t think this two-hour-and-a-bit premiere did a good enough job of explaining why I should care about any of this stuff if I didn’t already. I need characters to be sympathetic and/or complex to hook me, and so far, too few of these characters are either. (Again, I realize that a lot of fans are already attached to the characters because of the original show, but for this reboot to be successful, TNT needs to bring in new fans as well.) And there’s a portrayal of depression and its treatment that’s so incorrect as to be offensive; they even say outright “this is what clinical depression is like,” and . . . no. Just no. They could have easily avoided this by displaying the behavior they wanted without specifically naming a diagnosis.

Our Favorite Line: “Son, never pass up a good chance to shut up.”

You Might Like This if you like the original, obviously, or if you like prime-time soaps like Revenge. (The Desperate Housewives cast is well-represented, too.) It may also appeal to fans of sprawling multi-generational family sagas. Or . . . Texas, I guess.

If You’re Interested: TNT is replaying the first two episodes several times this week, and you can also watch on their site if you have certain cable providers. Then set your DVR for the next episode on Wednesday at 9/8c.

(Photo courtesy of TNT.)

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