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A Theory For What We Saw Happen In The Waning Days Of Dallas

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    It seems logical that if you're talented enough and lucky enough to have created a TV series that becomes the phenomenon that Dallas became, you'd want to keep doing what you do best. Why change such a successful way of doing things? But they did change the way they did things, didn't they? Why would anyone do such a thing?

    It's possible that the people in charge of the creative team, or whatever it's called, thought, no matter how well we're doing, if we keep doing things the same way over and over it's going to become stale. It's probably human nature for most people to see a show as becoming stale if it does things the same way, year after year for a long time. There are always people who are exceptions to that, but in the TV industry, they're concerned about what the masses think, and more precisely, how do we get them to keep watching?

    They certainly did change the style of their show. First they went from primarily showing stories which were resolved within the span of one or two episodes to having the stories continue from week to week. I liked that change and the people liked that change. They became the most watched show on TV.

    At some point I think they worried about how they would continue to keep such a huge audience and stay ahead of their competition. They paid too much attention to their competition to the point where once the innovator, Dallas was in some ways copying the shows which had begun by copying them! That leads to becoming a copy of a copy. I don't know that that has ever worked well for a TV series. It certainly didn't work well in this case. Dynasty actually surpassed them in the ratings a couple of years.

    I wonder of maybe it was around then that they decided, if we're going to stay in the top two most watched shows, or even the top ten, we're going to have to do something to keep the show fresh and change the way we do things.

    So they went from presenting what had been a somewhat believable, serious show, to more of a comedic approach. Instead of staying with what had worked for so long, they decided instead of portraying our most popular character, JR Ewing, as a badass who makes people afraid of him and always finds a way to get what he wants, we'll make him funny. If they "love to hate" JR already, they'll really enjoy seeing him fail miserably. We'll also change the lineup so that people don't get tired of seeing the same people every week, every year. It'll save us money too.

    We all know it didn't work, but maybe that's what they were thinking when they aired that stuff that didn't work and it would explain why they didn't immediately, or ever, go back to the tried and true and instead continued down the road they went.
     
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  2. pete lashmar

    pete lashmar Soap Chat Fan

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    I think that their hands were forced on some issues, not least BBG & Patrick wanting to come back.

    With BBG it's very difficult because Miss Ellie was such an important character. In hindsight they could have just written her out of Season 7 (8 DVD) because she really doesn't have any storylines that are important - or even needed to be fair. BUT with BBG having such severe surgery they had no idea whether she'd be fit enough or even want to return, so they made a decision to recast, Again, in hindsight, they should have written her out for a whole season and seen where they were the following year - if BBG had decided to not return then they could have gone from there....but with Season 8 (9DVD) becoming the dream season, they could still have brought BBG back if they wanted to.

    With Patrick they put themselves in the corner and came up with a totally illogical solution, and that damaged the show badly.

    Season 8 (9DVD) was also the season that saw big changes with the costumes and characters - trying to compete with Dynasty and just making the show look plastic IMO.

    Then, going onwards, within a year they would pay the price of Patrick's return by not killing off Pam and coming up with a crazy, screwball plot that made absolutely no sense at all as well as writing out other ,major characters and replacing them with caricatures rather than solid, believable characters.

    It was change for change sake, not because the show was king - they dropped the ball and forgot who their audience was - as loyal as they come but not when the carpet had been pulled from under their feet so many times.
     
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  3. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

    Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Soap Chat Oracle

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    For one thing, the producers went after Patrick and BBG to come back, despite what's sometimes been said.

    And the show never fared terribly well post-WSJR? without the presence of brilliant constructionist David Paulsen who simply knew how to tell a story. When Paulsen left DALLAS in 1988 to go producer S9 of DYNASTY (where he massively improved the writing, albeit too late to save it from the axe), Larry made a little snip about him in the press, saying Paulsen's exit from DALLAS was probably a good thing because Paulsen lacked "a sense of humor" ---- which signals that DALLAS' Katzman had already made the conscious decision to turn DALLAS more overtly self-parodic (which may have been why Paulsen had the desire to leave DALLAS even before he got the offer to produce DYNASTY).

    As David Jacobs has said, you can have humor and satire under the surface with these shows, but on the face of it, they need to be played absolutely straight. Otherwise, you wind up with a satire of something that's already a satire.

    And that's what happened to DALLAS' later years.
     
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  4. Lastkidpicked to be Santa's Helper

    Lastkidpicked to be Santa's Helper Soap Chat Well-Known Member

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    This is a very good point. It's a balancing act to have the characters behave badly enough that they are entertaining, but not so badly that we don't want to watch any more.

    When you watch the early years, you can understand the motivation behind J.R., Jock, Bobby and Cliff. Agree with them or not, you can at least understand that Jock is out to defend his company from outsiders, J.R. is out to stake the claim he feels is rightfully his, Bobby is out to prove you can do business honestly and still succeed, and Cliff is out for revenge.

    All the makings of a great show! But then. . .

    This is about the time that the motivation of the characters becomes into doubt:

    Bobby: Has learned the hard way that often times, nice guys finish last. He has even said, "I can get dirty. I can get down in the mud just as much as J.R." So what exactly is Bobby's motivation in the later years? Why not just give up the oil business and run the ranch?

    Cliff: In the early years, we can understand Cliff's motivation in avenging his father being cheated out of the deal that made Jock rich. But as the years go on, and Cliff is beaten down time and again, don't you think he would be smart enough to just take what successes he had, the money he had, and just move away and start a new life?

    J.R: Again, it was fun to watch the Magnificent Bastard in the early seasons. But getting into the later seasons every deal just seemed so convoluted. Some of the episodes were like watching the nightly business report to remember who was doing what.

    And then comes the revolving door of characters who don't add to the show or move the plot forward. Looking at you, Jenna and Charlie.
     
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  5. Piggy It's Kermit Outside

    Piggy It's Kermit Outside Soap Chat Star

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    I think that the problem with the latter years was the infamous theory of "too many captains for this ship" (or something...). On one side, we had the Katzmen and his avid poster boys, Hag & Duff. On another, CBS and their failure at creating another adult drama to replace the show, hence they stuck so many years to "Knots" and "Falcon" too. Last but not least, the newcomers from Telepictures, who had serious ideas about not overrating any actor and showing them the door if they asked for more money.

    [​IMG]

    "I used to play Lucy but asked for too much money.
    Now I´m a blond avatar who shows her blurred face in family meetings."​

    The horrid image quality added negative points, and I think it was a matter of the industry not really adapting to the times technically. All four major soaps had really atrocious seasons image-wise. No wonder they don't dare to launch dvds of "Knots" and "Falcon" because they should do a clean-up of the look, at least like what they did with "Dynasty"´s last years on dvd. Why to release them on dvd, just like that? To read reviews saying "Warners are as cheap stakes as ever, and you can see ants from the studios walking through Joan Van Ark´s face"...? I don´t think so. OR Seasons 9, 10 and 11 of "Dallas" are painful to watch on dvd...

    [​IMG]

    Here is April shopping in a Dallas mall.
    Where is Waldo...I mean, April...?​

    Also, I think they analyzed what had worked on those two other Lorimar shows and tried to follow the pattern: young hot heir and his younger sexy lover to replace the leads at mid-term. Of course, it didn´t work on "Dallas" because of miscasting and boring, unbelievable plot points. Hire unexpensive actors to fill the void left by the most loved (and now gone) original stars. Wrong. All wrong.

    upload_2019-7-11_12-53-19.jpeg

    I just found this pic on Google and wanted to share it...​
     
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  6. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    The waning years of Lorimar Dallas is a topic I've always been curious about. How did such a juggernaut move from go to whoa? There is no mistake horrid stories, sub par actors, allowing established veterans like Linda and Susan to drift away and the big one; Victoria leaving, were contributing factors in the demise of Dallas. My theory has always been the untold story behind the scenes and the fight for creative control over a product with humble beginnings as a self contained episode story based around a Texas family to the serialized drama it became. Many have mentioned the tension between Phil Capice and Leonard Katzman. Others have stated allowing one actor to demand such an income to the detriment of others put the series at risk (actually it did) which kept me glued to Dallas.

    When I re-watch Lorimar Dallas the series edgers closer to what I thought would be the ultimate story; JR and Pam in the Ewing office. It was courageous on Patrick's part to leave the hottest show on television and challenge himself in another career. Even more courageous on the part of the writers and producers to add such finality to a well loved character like Bobby. Having us witness Bobby flatline had a profound effect on me, as I imagine it did many others.

    So the story was set. Pam was now a rich woman in her own right. This was the kind of female character I wanted to see. Stepping aside from the shadow of her Romeo and powering forward in the cut throat world of Oil, all the while keeping an ever watchful eye on the powerful JR Ewing. With the character of Pam we could have witnessed something different to what other shows had established in that strong willed women are nothing but bitches. Let's be honest, who wasn't over the shrill of Alexis Carrington and her empty threat gestures. We needed something different and Dallas had it in Pam.

    The season after the death of Bobby was a major let down for me. The story was right there in front of them to continue pushing the boundaries of what Dallas had managed so magnificently in the years prior. But Phil was gone, Lenny had returned and achieved exactly what he wanted. Problem being? The show went to ruin and no one else was to blame except those which made the series such a hit in the first place.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  7. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

    Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Soap Chat Oracle

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    I'm now re-watching the "they say Jock is dead!" season right now (uncharacteristically, I skipped the Amos Krebbs-thru-Clint-Ogden episodes from the previous season) and I keep re-amazing myself with how good shows with good producers who exercised such good judgment to make a show a hit will later just go into a creative tailspin and drive that show right off of the road to an inevitably fatal end.

    I have no trouble understanding how certain plots and new characters may look better on paper then how they ultimately turn out (the "power is something you take!" season is proof that decent storylines can be boringly bungled, and we'll probably never understand how the composers' strike of 1980 derailed the tone and texture of much of that year) but it's much harder to grasp how so many series --- including DALLAS, of course -- can jump the shark via such obvious gaffes that can't possibly be committed by the same executives, and yet are.... Multiple Ellies, entire seasons wiped out by an ex-wife's untimely slumber, the turn to overt self-satire which forced the ratings into a sudden spiral which doesn't clue-in the writers that perhaps this might be the wrong approach, especially for the most successful drama series in global television history.

    Just how does it happen, as it has so often in the annals of series TV, that millions of audience members can sit at home knowing exactly where and why and how their favorite show is way off track, but the producers who've run the program from the beginning are oblivious??

    [​IMG]
     
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  8. pete lashmar

    pete lashmar Soap Chat Fan

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    Re-watch update - got to Swan Song yesterday and decided to skip season 8 (9 DVD) and go straight to 9 (10 DVD) and it's completely screwed up. Although there's a natural continuation everyone has aged, sets have changed and many dressings (hanging pictures etc) from the dream season are still there - the producers didn't just drop the ball they tossed it out the window.

    A whole new mansion appears on the ranch for Ray and Donna for heaven's sake....how bloody ridiculous is that!?

    To this day I don't understand why they needed to wipe out an entire season - Bring Bobby back, wake him from his coma and just carry on with the storylines - but no, a power play was going on and Katzman wanted everything from the dream season scrapped.

    The introduction of Jamie & Jack had already upset the status quo of the show - now - 2 years later the execs still didn't realise that viewers didn't like these extra Ewings, yet we get more and more as the years go on. Jack's ex-wife, her sister, her ex-employer...until the show becomes stiff, dull and boring.

    Great, intellectual characters like Donna and Pam are gone, replaced by paint by numbers bimbos that men like to look at and women loathe - that wasn't what Dallas was ever about and the execs lost sight of it.

    EDITED TO ADD - This will be the last season on my re-watch, I simply can't bring myself to watch what happened after Pam's crash because it is literally car crash TV from season 10 (11 DVD).
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  9. Walking in a Winter Guzzlerland

    Walking in a Winter Guzzlerland Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    I think there was a clue as to at least a small part of the reason for the decline in an interview with Larry someone posted here recently. When Patrick told him he was thinking of leaving, Larry responded that he'd be a fool to leave such a steady, high-paying job for the uncertainty of a freelance career.

    I think once the show was several seasons in, some of the people in power, especially Larry, saw Dallas as a fun, steady, super-lucrative gig, not some great piece of art, and really didn't care much if the quality declined. I've seen it in the software startup industry, where some of the founders and original employees stick around for a while after an acquisition or IPO for the additional easy guaranteed money, but have nowhere near the passion they did when they were starting out.
     
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  10. stevew

    stevew Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    They lacked the opportunity CC had - a place to check out what the audience says. I’m sure in part they’re isolated, maybe running out of ideas, afraid to take risks and afraid not to take risks and then theirs the two may people think they have the right idea grabbing the steering wheel. Lots of factors contribute to the end, but they all end and very few end on top. So if Dallas had a place like this site, they could have got some idea of what was going wrong, but who to listen too? There are so many conflicting ideas here as well.

    To me Dallas lost it when it no longer was about family, the Ewing family, and their rise to the top, stumbling along the way, yet still getting there. When it was just JR and Bobby and who ever stumbled into their lives, it was over and there was no getting it back it seemed.
     
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  11. tommie

    tommie Soap Chat Star

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    I dunno
    True and I don't think it helped in the later seasons when Larry got more control over the direction of JR and turning him into a comedic buffoon - something he probably enjoyed playing more on camera, but at the same time not exactly what we, as an audience, wanted from JR. Then of course you have increasing costs just to keep people like Larry and Patrick on at all, which inevitably meant that they had to cut costs and cast members to keep the show profitable.
     
  12. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    Truly bizarre ratings are there to assist Executives/Producers and writers that we're on the right track - or not - with our audience but then choice to ignore it and continue to dish up the same dribble which forces viewers away.
     
  13. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star

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    To be fair to those behind the scenes of Lorimar Dallas they only had ratings to inform them if their ideas were playing well with the audience. Today with Twitter, Instagram, facebook and others, producers today can receive instant feedback if their storytelling is working or not. CC clearly had heard some criticism because the 3 way split intro was back as many had asked for. But everything else was falling on deaf ears. As I continued to watch TNT Dallas I struggled internally (with some yelling at the computer screen) how those thought this was Dallas. It wasn't. CC and Crew offered their version of what Dallas was, the audience responded in kind.
     
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  14. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

    Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Soap Chat Oracle

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    Amazing, isn't it? Over on DYNASTY, that happened really quickly: by Season 3 or 4, it was clear the producers no longer cared about the product, only the "success" it generated. At least on DALLAS it mostly took a decade.

    Something I've heard writer-producers say is that working on a creatively lucid show, one that's a hit, can be one of the best jobs you could ever have -- it's hard work but great fun in terms of what you can do.... While I'm sure that's not always true, I do find it hard to understand how anyone could become so complacent after a few years. But then, I'm not there.
     
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  15. Miss Texas 1967

    Miss Texas 1967 Soap Chat Fan

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    Passing on the advice given to him by Hayden Rorke on the set of I Dream of Jeannie. Larry was frustrated with the goings on behind the scenes of that show too and was thinking of quitting and was quickly brought back down to earth by someone who'd been in the business longer than him. When you find something good, don't leave unless you've lined up something even better for the future, especially in acting because the industry is a lot about reputation and who knows who.
     
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  16. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Yes we didn't have social media in the 1980's but I am sure the producers of Dallas got lots of letters and postcards from fans who told them what they loved/hated about the show. So I think that feedback was more detailed than the 60 characters/tweet that fans write today.
     
  17. pete lashmar

    pete lashmar Soap Chat Fan

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    The Wes Parmalee storyline comes to mind here - was it dropped because the audience hated it or because the writers ended it the way they intended?

    If it was down to the audience hating it (I did at the time but absolutely love it now) then good on them, but if the writers executed it as planned...well...it was very bad planning and left the audience with a "What!?" taste in their mouths.

    Even now the ending of that story makes no sense.
     
  18. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat TV Fanatic

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    A wise man learns from the mistakes of others. Patrick should have taken the advice; Larry had been in the business for a lot longer than Patrick and he knew what he was talking about.

    Does anyone here have some numbers on this, such as what percentage of their revenue they were paying them, how much profit the show was making, etc? I don't know that these numbers are released to the public. Are they? How did their salaries compare to someone such as Leonard Katzman or the CEO of CBS?

    It was dropped? Bobby had come back from South America having learned that Parmalee was Wyatt Hanes, she had said goodbye to Ellie and left town.....so other than seeing him tried in court and sent to prison there wasn't much more they could have done with the storyline at the time they ended it.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
  19. pete lashmar

    pete lashmar Soap Chat Fan

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    It was still left rather ubiquitous though and very rushed and I remember at the time as soon as the "Jock reveal" was made on screen the viewers had a very negative reaction and it was publicised in a lot of papers - but again - without knowing how far they were into production of the season I don't know if the negative reaction brought the story to it's sudden end.

    It was also an added insult to the viewers that we were asked to believe that this man could name faces on sight, from the whole oil industry of Dallas having only heard delirious rambling from Jock on his death bed.
     
  20. Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come

    Snarky's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come Soap Chat Oracle

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    They had finished filming the story before the plotline had a chance to air, so they couldn't have been responding to the audience's reaction. And besides, not everyone hated it.

    It was mostly wrapped up but, yes, it seemed to end in a rather sudden way -- but Steve Forrest had to go film a GUNSMOKE reunion movie, and the Wes Parmalee plotline was an intentionally ambivalent one that was meant to leave us hanging and not have anything completely explained away, so the viewer could believe he was or wasn't Jock depending on what we wanted.
    Ubiquitous?
     

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