A punch up in Texas – How to bring back a dead show

As we celebrate fifteen years online the fans and some of the original cast members credit ultimatedallas.com with the return of Dallas on TNT.

We now take a look back to find out how a once dead show can return to a be ratings hit through the dedication of it’s fans, the press and a big punch up in Texas.

Raise it’s profile 

Back in 1997 Dallas had a mediocre web presence – a handful of geocities sites with flashing avatars and bright green text (nice) and a fairly active, yet messy, newsgroup.  A group of fans put their heads together to up the game, our  aim to put the fans at the heart of a website and raise the profile of what was once the worlds biggest TV show.

It wasn’t just dedication but it was more the case of obsession – working throughout the night for months on end to create and promote the series itself and the website.  It paid off as stats started to go crazy as fans from around the globe wanted a big dose of Dallas nostalgia.

Ultimate Dallas 1997

Early version of ultimatedallas.com

 

The show had only been off the air for six years so still fresh in the publics mind. We discovered that for many fans Dallas was the first search they  conducted – we were in the world of web newbies, the landing pad for web arrivals.  Most people didn’t get the internet in their homes until 1997 and 1998 so we saw her numbers increase rapidly over the first few years.  This was a time where there was no YouTube, Facebook, or even Google.

We were one of the first television show websites to include video, embedded chat and messageboards.

 The cast

We had the website, we had the fans but what about the actors? We recognized early on that this was a wonderful opportunity to bridge the gap between the actors and the fans, to immerse the fan-base in the world of Dallas.

But how would we explain this relatively new phenomenon to the cast and get their buy in? It was no easy task – endless phone calls and letters to agents. It became obvious that following the disaster of War of the Ewings  several of the cast assumed nobody cared or as Larry put it “the bloom was off the rose”. But the rose was blooming on the ever growing web.

But we struck lucky with the web savvy Morgan Brittany and Steve Kanaly who embraced the site and the fans. Steve Kanaly  took it upon himself to become an ambassador for the website and it wasn’t long before Larry Hagman, Charlene Tilton and the ever elusive Victoria Principal were on board.

For many it was the first time they could have a direct dialogue with their audience. This wasn’t a reporter or some TV show PR guy asking the questions but the people who understood and appreciated their work.

Recognition 

As awareness grew the website was frequently quoted in the press. A two page spread in The Net Magazine, a slot dedicated to the website on The Web Review on ITV1 in the UK, BBC News and countless other magazine, TV and newspaper articles sent our profile even higher. It also raised the profile of the the show and spurned several TV specials on both sides of the Atlantic. This has continued throughout our fifteen years.

The Dallas Morning News & a Southfork shindig

In 2008 The Dallas Morning News ran an article ‘Dallas lives on through the net ‘ which detailed the  popularity of ultimatedallas.com and the TV series.

The article caught the attention of an event organization who pitched the idea of a spectacular fan event at Southfork Ranch. We thought this was a wonderful opportunity to bring the fans and cast together for one final celebration of the show. Initially we were  involved in the planning and their credentials appeared up to scratch but as it progressed our role was solely to promote tickets with a guarantee they could handle the capacity.

News of the event grabbed the worlds attention with journalists descending en masse to Southfork Ranch to report on the celebration. Fans traveled from all across the world to attend but for many the event turned into a big Texas showdown.

The organizers had sold well over the number of allocated tickets resulting in thousands of fans ‘crashing’ onto the ranch. We witnessed two punch-ups between fans (those who paid and those who didn’t) and a drink over the face of one lady.  OK not to make light of a pretty awful situation (some people lost a great deal of money) but in some bizarre way it  felt rather fitting – it was Dallas after all.  It was chaos.

The story made headlines across the world (not the ones anyone hoped for) such as The Dallas reunion at Southfork was destined to end in tears and Confusion at ‘Dallas’ reunion rankles fans

Was this really how Dallas would end in a blaze of litigation and fist fights?

It was not long after the showdown at Southfork that we got wind of ideas to continue the Dallas legacy in a televised format.

It was now obvious the fans were out there.

The first idea that came our way was an American Idol type audition process for the characters of John Ross and Christopher that would form the basis of a new Warner show. Our feedback in no uncertain terms was “Bad idea”.  Over the next couple of years scripts would make their way into our in-box for feedback. Something was bubbling away.

Dallas 2012 

Now here we are in 2012. Season one of Dallas 2.0 has wrapped and season two makes its way to our screens in January 2013.

It’s been a rather interesting, frustrating and enjoyable ride.

If you want to get a TV series back on your screens forget Facebook petitions and likes – prove there is an audience in a creative way and have a fist fight (or perhaps not).

Written by Sarah

 

 

 

 

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