Introduction to the TV series Dallas
It was a Sunday night, April 2nd 1978, that TV history changed forever when a new five part mini series made its debut on CBS. That show was Dallas, created by David Jacobs and went on to become the most sucessful show in the history of television.
Dallas was not. however. initially produced as a serial. It was conceived as a noncontinuing drama. "I had hoped we’d be able to serialize after we got a hold." says David jacobs. Dallas’s creator. Indeed, the show changed to its present serialized form after about ten episodes of its first official season in the fall of 1978. As a result, the early episodes of Dallas presented story lines that had no relationship to each other - one week Bobby is kidnapped and shot, yet the next week he has no bandages. "My favorite one of those,” says executive producer Philip Capice. "is the one where suddenly Pam has an ex-
husband who just shows up and says, 'Hi, we used to be married', and then by the end of the show he sort of disappears".
Dallas producers assume that their viewer is a regular who has either seen all the episodes or has caught up on the news through a friend. There is no reviewing of the situation in a new episode (in syndication a narrator explains the previous episode
with one minute of flashbacks).
"We move a lot faster than a daytime soap." says Capice. “In the course of twenty-five or twenty-six shows a season, we did the same amount of material that a daytime serial does in two hundred and fifty shows. Now we’re doing thirty or thirty-one shows a season."
At the time the show was first broadcast- five episodes aired in spring 1978 to test the waters—there were no big, splashy family dramas dealing with larger-than-life “real people. ” One-hour dramas in prime time were primarily doctor shows, detective shows, or family shows in the Eight Is Enough mold. (Family, the one serious family drama of the time, was so serious it was canceled.)
Dallas was the first show to combine the scope of a mini-series with the big ideas of life—themes such as good vs. evil and brother vs. brother. Set in the big state of Texas—where life is lived in the fast lane, where everything is bigger and badder than anywhere else—the breadth of the show made viewers realize that Romeo and Juliet had at long last come to Giant. Victoria Principal credits the 1956 movie Giant as the inspiration for Dallas.
“In its form, Dallas is a kind of soap opera" says Larry Hagman, known the world over as “But let me tell you something. Soap opera is damn good. I worked almost three years on The Edge of Night. It was done live and provided marvelous training for actors. Soap operas provide fine acting performances, and they’re damned hard too. I consider Dallas drama—turgid drama, sometimes, but it's always interesting with the major characters bouncing around. The show’s fine when it revolves around several themes. People say that it’s sexy and trashy. If you call screwing your wife’s sister sexy, then perhaps it is. To me, it’s just all in the family"
Creator David Jacobs originally created and came up with an idea for the series Knots Landing, but CBS wanted a glitzy "saga-like" show. Jacobs therefore created Dallas, a series about a wealthy family in the oil business. When Dallas proved to be a hit, CBS reconsidered Jacobs' original idea and turned Knots Landing into a spin-off of Dallas in late 1979.
Dallas was originally shot entirely on location in Dallas, Texas. Later, most interiors for the show were shot at the MGM studios in Hollywood. Exteriors were shot at the Southfork Ranch in Parker, Texas, and other parts of Dallas, until 1989, when rising production costs led to all production being located in California.
Dallas wasn't an instant hit and gradually picked up an audience. It wasn't until its 1979-1980 season cliffhanger when JR was shot that the show was catapulted into a worldwide phenonmen. "This show had a long climb up hill, there were five shows produced which we called the mini series, each show quite different than the other" explains Steve Kanaly "They were opposite heavy competition , a major show about Fred Astaire, another about the Holocaust. The who was originally on a Sunday night and did not have any audience until the 5th show. It was 12th in the week on the very last show. If it had not been for the 5th show there would have been no audience. So then there was what is called a half order, your picked up but not for a whole season but for twelve shows. We go down to Texas and start filming again, at the end of that 12 we are on the air but we are not getting good numbers. The network is not in a hurry to buy the next half, then we go home and think its all over but been nice. The next day Leonard Katzman rings and says the order went through. The next year again they did not buy a full season . So we are struggling, this is a show that isn't going any place fast, then in the second part of the second year it starts to pick up audience and at the end of that season there was a two part show where Jock was on trial for murder when they discovered some bone buried on Southfork, largely a court room drama, then at that point the network comes and says "do you think you can give us another couple of shows". The writers and producers are scrambling, it took them many days then finally someone said "why don't we just shoot the s.o.b.", "well who's gonna shoot him?" , "we don't have to decide" . So it was this fluke, after a season of planned episodes that set the show on fire."
The "Who Done It?" episode of "Dallas" that revealed "Who shot J.R.?", the famous 1980 cliffhanger, received the highest domestic ratings at that point with over 90 million American viewers tuning in for the answer. The last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983 finally beat the ratings; however, internationally "Dallas" still holds the record for the highest rated episode with nearly 360 million viewers tuning in to see who shot J.R.
Produced by Leonard Katzman, the "Dallas" television series was one of the first to be distributed globally. "Dallas" was eventually translated and dubbed into 67 languages in over 90 countries, a record that to this day still stands for an American television series.
Dallas originally aired on Saturday nights when it debuted as a regular series. Within a month, the show was moved to Sunday nights, where it would stay until halfway through the season, when it took a Friday-night slot. Dallas remained on Fridays until the show ended in 1991, alternating between 10 p.m. and 9 p.m. airings.
The show's seasonal rankings were as follows.
Warner Brothers continue to release the series on DVD with the last season expected to be released in the summer of 2010
The original mini series is now termed as season one on the Dallas DVD releases.
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