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It's Become Obvious Why Dallas Went Downhill

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Sep 22, 2016.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Fan

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    Wow Lastkid, you're coming up with some damn good original storylines that I think would have been great for Dallas. The alternative storylines for Wes Parmalee you wrote were good and I like this storyline even better.

    For Miss Ellie to tell the wildcatting stories of Jock and Digger to inspire JR and Bobby is right in character for Miss Ellie. I can definitely picture her doing that. J.R. borrowing a pickup from Ray and then allowing himself to be seen driving a pickup is harder to imagine but the storyline of JR doing that and spending time in bars talking to good ol' boys and making lots of little oil deals as his method of rebuilding Ewing Oil is compelling!

    I would love to be able to see that story acted out by Larry, Patrick and the rest of the original Dallas ensemble. If there's a downside to it, it's that it's such a big change from how the audience was accustomed to seeing the Ewings that there's a chance they might not accept it. There would have been a certain amount of risk involved to show them in such a different light. I think it would have been worth the risk though. Too bad they didn't decide to go in that type of direction. It also would have made sure that Dallas didn't get stale by repeating the same thing over and over again. JR and Sue Ellen fighting over marital problems, breaking up and reconciling every season got so stale! Of course here we're talking about Ewing Oil being on the cusp of bankruptcy as a change from them always being very well of financially.

    Seeing the Ewings endure some economic hard times was done in season 10. It was a reflection of what was really happening in the American oil states. To the credit of the producers of Dallas at the time, they took what was actually going on in the economy of the real world and made the characters in the show have to deal with the economic situation that real people were living through! It's my understanding that Dallas and other shows with a serialized style have a handbook in which the major storylines they're going to use are planned out well in advance. For them to react to the drastic drop in the price of oil and its effect on the economy and adjust the storylines to reflect that in such a timely manner, so that when we saw it happening in Dallas was when it was happening in the real world is impressive.

    So it's not as if we never saw the Ewings in financial peril. It took a lot of financial peril for JR to be desperate enough to hire B.D. Calhoun to blow up Saudi oil fields! Still, we never saw the hard times manifest themselves in a change in their lifestyle beyond J.R. driving a Cadillac Allante instead of his usual Mercedes Benz. The storyline you're proposing would enable the viewers to actually see a drastic change in the lifestyle of the Ewing family. We never saw them in anything remotely close to what you're proposing and while that makes it risky, it also makes it compelling!
     
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  2. Taylor Bennett Jr.

    Taylor Bennett Jr. Soap Chat Fan

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    I'm pretty sure you've successfully eviscerated my 'subdued and lame' thesis! :)
     
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  3. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Active Member

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    You make a good point, here, Rove. I can offer the viewpoint from a Texas perspective, and I hope the background helps you enjoy the show:
    There is a feel around Texas that you experience when you are out here. During rough times, such as Hurricane Harvey last year, we were all equal. You couldn't tell who was rich and who was poor because we were all wearing jeans and muddy boots.

    During these times, a display of wealth is in bad taste. If you were going to the hardware store to get supplies, you would leave your Cadillac in the garage and take your kid's truck. That is no joke and I experienced it just last year.

    But other than those few times, watching a person drive by in a Cadillac Escalade make us happy, and we aspire to be that person. I've mentioned before where I personally witnessed a J.R. type step out of an Escalade and have this conversation with the valet:

    Oil Executive: "How they treating you, Jimmy?"
    Valet: "Just fine, sir."
    Oil Executive: (Hands him a large tip): "Well, you tell them that ole' J.D. treats you even better!"

    This is very true. And again, the storylines (especially when they were filming on location around Dallas) really captured the feel of the city.

    And here's one thing they really got right:

    In Dallas, it doesn't matter how wealthy you are, you prefer diving yourself over having a chauffeur. There are wide open spaces and good roads. Why be driven when you can drive!



    Heading there now. Thank you, Taylor.
     
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  4. Karin Schill

    Karin Schill Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Interesting how the oil market dropped so much and the bubble of the "happy 80s" burst around 1987. As someone who was a child back then I had no clue about any of this. I like how they incorporated the troubles into the B.D. Calhoun storyline. But I also agree that maybe it would have been better to have a storyline with hardships for Ewing Oil due to the drop of oil price and the recession rather than having just lost it all to Weststar.
     
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  5. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I accept the influence of Dynasty, to a degree, impacted Dallas...and it shouldn't have. As you rightly point out, "Dallas had always been the innovator." Dynasty may have crept up on Dallas in the ratings but like all this things flashy, viewers would soon grow tired of their shenanigans, as shown with Dynasty's return season following the "Moldavian Massacre."

    However, I've always felt Dallas had secured Miss Ellie's shotgun and rightly shot itself in the foot beginning with the season return of September 1984 and Killer At Large. Something was off. No way in hell would anyone have kept Miss Ellie escaping the Mediterranean and wishing to be beside her son Bobby. It would have been out of character for Miss Ellie. As I was besotted with Dallas at the time I'm sure I would have read somewhere Barbara Bel Geddes had been replaced by Donna Reed. And of course I would have read this information well before Dallas was to screen in Australia. So when the series returned I knew there was an issue.

    Something...SOMETHING had occured behind the scenes between May 1984 and September 1984. There must have been some major power struggles going on between Executive Producers and Producers of Dallas. Perhaps some outside influence from Lorimar Dallas, CBS Executives and the kingmaker, Larry Hagman. Throw into the mix Barbara Bel Geddes and suddenly the very foundations of Southfork began to tremble.

    Two major events are the catalyst for the downfall of Dallas and they are the creation from within; The replacement of Barbara Bel Geddes and the Dream Season resolution. Some argue the rise of sitcoms and the effect of Dynasty and yes I accept this. But Dallas hurt itself. Pity the drama going on behind the scenes wasn't replicated in the stories on-screen.

    Despite it all, I still like talking about it.
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2018
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  6. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Active Member

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    And that is the quote of the week, my friends. Rove summed up this entire board in 9 words.
     
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  7. Chris2

    Chris2 Soap Chat Active Member

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    The trouble with any long-running series is that it loses its ability to surprise you. Dallas, as many have stated, was already starting to retread previous stories even prior to Bobby’s death. How many more battles for Ewing Oil did we need to see? How many more times did we need to see Sue Ellen and J.R. break up and reconcile?

    The dream season was an opportunity to reinvent the show. Unfortunately, they did not have the right people in charge. I didn’t see why Pam, who was NOT Bobby’s widow but his ex-wife, would stick around and continue to involve herself with the family of her late ex-husband. Pam should have been in residence at Southfork as Bobby’s widow. The Jamie and Jack characters were lame. Mark had outlived his usefulness a year earlier and his resurrection was pointless. Angelica was very cartoonish and silly. Etc.

    So when the “reboot” of what turned out to be the dream season didn’t work, they went back to the tried and true. It worked for about a season, I guess. But you could see the show fraying even during Duffy’s return season. They clearly had to save money to pay for his increased salary. The supporting “Also Starring” characters in previous seasons had helped keep the show fresh and interesting. But during 86-87, there was hardly any “Also Starring” cast by midseason. The show couldn’t afford them any more. It left the show feeling strangely depopulated after the entertaining Wes Parmalee story concluded.

    I also HATED the story where the Ewings lost the company. And brought down by that woman with the terrible hair. Splitting up Ray and Donna was a terrible decision, too.

    Pam’s departure was a death blow, because the Romeo/Juliet dynamic was so important to the show. But don’t underestimate how much Susan Howard’s departure hurt. Donna was a great character and helped the show feel more authentically Texan. And Ray was a much less likeable character after their divorce.

    When it comes down it it, Dallas was about a family, as opposed to a show like Knots Landing, which was about a locale. It’s much harder for a show about a family to reinvent itself and stay fresh (while Knots could bring in new neighbors and it felt organic). Eventually, you run out of stories for family members, and it’s not as easy to bring in new characters when the old ones have gotten stale (or when the actors playing them choose to leave).
     
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  8. Mustard

    Mustard Soap Chat Active Member

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    I do think it was a bit odd that Clayton came back briefly while Miss Ellie didn't. I think it would be in character for both to come back (most likely), or just Miss Ellie, or even neither, but just Clayton was a bit odd.

    Yes, a lot happened during those months. Leonard Katzman was getting more annoyed with Philip Capice each year and vice versa despite the show's big success, and these tensions were now getting much worse around those 1984 months that you mention, and they only worked together as Executive Producer and Producer for 1 more season. After Barbara Bel Geddes' return from heart surgery, her agent during Season 7 DVD was trying to negotiate a temporary reduction in her workload and a pay rise, and he failed to do so. Philip Capice therefore decided to recast the role of Miss Ellie, Barbara then elbowed her agent aside and tried to say that she'd do the next season but Capice pressed on with the recast. Larry Hagman then got wind of it when somebody asked him what he thought of Donna Reed possibly playing Miss Ellie and his first thought was that it was a joke. Larry then realized that Barbara was gone and lamented that she didn't go to him earlier, while he was annoyed at the whole situation and Capice's role in it. Larry then tried to get his mother Mary Martin to take the part, which she turned down. Donna Reed was cast as Miss Ellie in August 1984, on a 3-year contract.

    Fast forward to April 1985 and there is more controversy. Having now seen off Leonard Katzman from the Producer's role, Philip Capice is asking Barbara Bel Geddes back, and effectively admitting that he'd made a mistake before. Barbara agrees to come back, and Donna Reed is on holiday in Europe at the time when she hears the news. This results in legal battles for months afterwards when Donna sues for breach of contract and there was even the threat that the Miss Ellie character wouldn't be allowed to be used on screen in Season 9 DVD, as this was something that Reed's lawsuit was initially demanding as she tried to get the Miss Ellie role back, but this demand was dismissed by the court. Apparently, the Dallas brass wanted Reed to say publicly that she was only filling in for Bel Geddes temporarily, which Reed refused to say. In September 1985, Reed got a $1 million out of court settlement, and she tragically passed away from pancreatic cancer in January 1986.

    It's interesting because before those May to September 1984 months that you mention, the political tensions on Dallas were nearly always kept under the surface apart from Larry Hagman's 1980 contractual demands following the "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger. Barbara Bel Geddes missed 11 episodes at the start of Season 7 DVD after her March 1983 heart surgery, and it seems that the Dallas brass didn't take kindly to demands from Barbara's agent for a temporary workload reduction and a pay rise after she had missed the first 11 episodes of the new season. Capice opened up a can of worms by deciding on a recast and pressing on with it. From that point on, there was always something controversial going on behind the scenes.

    It was bizarre when I recently read an article from a Chicago newspaper from 1988 where Larry Hagman was talking about how he was asked by the boss of Lorimar to be an Executive Producer on Dallas with Leonard Katzman for Season 12 DVD, and Larry questioned why Lorimar thought he had Executive Producer credentials, and Lorimar said something like "You'll make lots of money".
     
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  9. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    I was aware Larry had publicly stated he wished Barbara Bel Geddes had spoken with him. I was also aware he had suggested his mother, Mary Martin to take over the role. This is where I like to dig a little further. If this cast was so tight knit as often has been said publicly, why then, did the likes of Larry, Patrick and Linda not band together and speak with Barbara Bel or the Executives with their concerns?

    As an outsider looking in and with maturity and hindsight on my side it begs the questions. Were relationships between the cast and Executives also fractured at this point? Larry had enormous clout on Dallas. Both Lorimar and CBS Executives knew this. Why didn't Larry storm the offices once he got wind of Miss Ellie's recast? Did the cast personally visit Barbara Bel and had a conversation with her? Why didn't they band together and refuse to work with anyone other than Barbara Bel? I don't believe Barbara's demands for a temporary reduction in workload is not too much to ask for, especially after surgery.

    And another. Larry points out he wished Barbara Bel had informed him of her troubles but accepts the recast decision (without a lot of effort I might add) and promptly suggests his mother. If I was in Barbara Bel's position I think that would have hurt more than hearing Donna Reed had replaced me.
     
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  10. Mustard

    Mustard Soap Chat Active Member

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    It was too late by the time they found out. To quote David Paulsen, the die had been cast.

    Larry Hagman was certainly always on Leonard Katzman's side in Katzman's power struggle against Philip Capice. There were cast members on both sides of the Capice vs. Katzman battle, and others in the middle. Also with Hagman and Capice, there was the past regarding the 1980 situation, when Hagman had won with his new contractual demands after "Who Shot J.R.?", which was a bitter pill to swallow for the powers that be, that an actor had outwitted and outmanoeuvred them, and got a big increase in his power on Dallas in return. Larry knew that Dallas at that time could not carry on without J.R., was out of the USA at the time that the episode aired, and had the powers that be chasing him all over the place as he made new contractual demands. I doubt Capice fully forgot those times. In 1980, the actors were all on Larry Hagman's side, because him winning would help all of the actors on the show also.

    He did. It was too late, according to David Paulsen, although they hadn't picked Barbara's replacement yet. Larry had power on Dallas, but he wasn't all powerful, especially when Capice was still there.

    They did, yes. Actors don't have the power to make her return, though.

    The negotiations between the Dallas/Lorimar brass and Barbara's agent had been going on for months, I think the pay rise demand is what annoyed Philip Capice, after Barbara had missed the first 11 episodes of Season 7 DVD, especially with the Larry Hagman situation of 3-4 years before when he got a big pay rise and new powers on Dallas. Capice would not have wanted another such political loss for the Executive Producer's office, and would have been very sensitive to the possibility of it happening again.

    I'm sure I read once that Barbara called Larry a "bastard" around this time when she was definitely gone. We'll probably never know the entire picture. However, reports and rumours from that time indicate that Larry was never happy with how Barbara was gone from Dallas, and others say that he didn't like Donna Reed and that some of the other actors followed his lead, although he denied that he disliked Donna. Still, something must have made Philip Capice ask Barbara Bel Geddes back, even though Barbara's agreement to return to Dallas meant that the Dallas brass would be facing a lawsuit from Donna Reed for breach of contract which still had 2 years to run.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2018
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  11. Mustard

    Mustard Soap Chat Active Member

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    They must be pretty tight knit, because no matter what disagreements the cast have between themselves, they have done a very good job over the decades of keeping those arguments in house as much as possible.
     
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  12. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Possibly the backlash from viewers. They/we weren't accepting Donna Reed as Miss Ellie. I've never blamed Donna Reed for being placed in an impossible situation.
     
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  13. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Active Member

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    . upload_2018-11-5_9-47-2.jpeg
    The fact that Donna Reed was the actress when Miss Ellie took down Jock's portrait doomed her fate. And as Rove points out, this was not her fault.
     
  14. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    There are two things in life I feel I've been short-changed.
    1. Donna Reed's Miss Ellie taking down Jock's portrait.
    2. Donna Reed's Miss Ellie being present upon the passing of Bobby.
    Two events that can never be undone.

    P.S. Not passing judgement on Donna Reed.
     
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  15. Michael Torrance

    Michael Torrance Soap Chat Addict

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    But...but... Bobby's passing was undone. :confuse:
     
  16. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Dream Maker

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    Michael I'm acutely aware Bobby eventually returned. I'm just saying if Barbara Bel Geddes was in that hospital room when Bobby falsely died it would have been a very powerful scene.
     
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  17. Jock's Ghost

    Jock's Ghost Soap Chat Newbie

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    The show already had a perpetual loser and that was Cliff and to an extent Sue Ellen. JR was a winner and always needed to be winning, with an occasional slap down by his family, enemies and lovers. I hate the post Pam years as JR is a whiny bitch. He lets the dumb ass sisters get the better of him, James the bastard son ruins all and he takes way too much guff from everyone.
    The show needed a Bobby, but I don't think Patrick needed to return. The show did fine with bobby gone, JR was the show so to have Bobby leave wasn't a big deal. THe only problem with that is it was too permanent, he should have just left town...I think once divorce between Sue Ellen and JR was enough... I don't know where Sue Ellen could go once she was a miserable drunk. Do they keep her as the boozy doormat or as the scrapper who climbs from the depths to beat her shithead husband or something else? I would have had her marry Clayton after her divorce from JR. He dies of a heart attack and leaves her his fortune.... JR swoops in and has his fun... Sue Ellen goes back to the bottle for solace.
     
  18. ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989

    ArchieLucasCarringtonEwing1989 Soap Chat Addict

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    For me the real rot started to set not with Bobby’s shower but long before that to the Who Shot Bobby storyline years earlier, from that point on in season 8 they had clearly ran out of ideas, retelling story’s that had been resolved several years earlier.

    The recast of Miss Ellie was a disaster, at that point there really was no where else the writers could go.

    Bobby’s death was what cleared out the cobwebs, found new territory and changed the dynamics for the better, like it or hate it season 9 was the beginning a whole new era, which was needed considering the show had been on the air since the late 1970s and it was now the mid 1980s a completely different era.

    Season 10 comes along and puts a premature halt to this, causing a mass exodus in the last five years of the series, Pam’s departure hurt the series more than Bobby’s, sure dynamics did Change but for the worse , but the rot was setting in during season 8.
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018 at 11:27 PM
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  19. Snarky's Ghost

    Snarky's Ghost Soap Chat Oracle

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    DALLAS' Season 6 and 7 (per DVD count) were arguably the most solid two-year period the series ever had, the show reaching its creative maturity circa 1983.

    So say I.

    Spiritually, the recasting of Miss Ellie (with Donna Reed or anybody) still seems to be the line in the sand, the crack in the veneer, the symptom that something was now wrong behind the camera. When we read during the Summer of 1984 that Miss Ellie was being re-cast, we couldn't believe it --- DALLAS wasn't just a hit, but already a legend in its own time. And they were recasting a core character, the Emmy-winning matriarch??

    It was obviously going to be a disaster, so why didn't the executives know that at Lorimar? It's always so frustrating and perplexing when the brass understands their show less than the viewers do.

    The short-term effect of Mis-Ellie Syndrome was that the otherwise competent Season 8 (per DVD count) had a pall over it, a feeling of depression, a sense that something had now been ruined -- and perhaps that sense of ruination made Bobby's death even more effective (although I wish they'd found a reason to leave poor doomed Donna Reed out of Bobby's hospital bed scene). And maybe the show should have indeed ended there, I'm not sure.

    For the year Bobby was ostensibly dead, DALLAS' writing team changed (Katzman, Art Lewis, and Paulsen went elsewhere the same time Duffy did) and the KNOTS LANDING writers came in; at first, Season 9 (per DVD count) seemed like it was going to be a rawer, more experimental DALLAS, using techniques, even camera work, Katzman would never have permitted.... That could have been good, as Katzman had sometimes kept DALLAS on too tight a leash and a little rigid, but, alas, the new team began to show by mid-season that they didn't really know where they wanted to go with their new DALLAS stories --- they'd done great work on KNOTS, but on a somewhat less subtle and nuanced show like DALLAS, the narrative rambling and 'let's-fix-this-series' agenda just became a cluttered mess. It felt smug, and politically correct.

    Then, when Katzman returned with Duffy for Season 10 (per DVD count) in 1986, Uncle Lenny's malice seemed most involved in his cutting out the previous year as a "dream" (then and now considered the pre-eminent 'jump-the-shark' moment in all of TV history, and not the minimal controversy the surviving cast tries to make it out to be in recent years) than necessity. There were other ways to do it, even in a single episode; and if they felt they had to use the dream, making it comatose Bobby's dream still seems the only logical way to do so, but instead they chose to push blame off onto his ex-wife, Pam, which just made the scenario feel five times dumber than it had to.

    The only reason viewership didn't drop much from the previous year was that, aside from the "I just had a terrible 31-episode dream, Bobby!" opening most people hated, the rest of Season 10 -- Wes Parmalee and BD Calhoun -- was so snappily good, and the closest DALLAS ever came to self-parody which actually worked --- that it remains one of the most re-watchable years the series ever did (and the sole reason I'm happy DALLAS didn't conclude immediately after Bobby's demise).

    But the next season, Pam's exit was bungled (in part because they lacked the usual spring hiatus planning time in 1987) and the series seemed to know Pam's exit was umbilically-tied to Bobby's much-despised method of resurrection, choosing to sweep her fiery crash almost under the rug to avoid complications, which just displayed contempt for the exiting actress, character, and the audience at home.

    DALLAS was doing what all the decade's nighttime serial were doing after 1985: turning into daytime soaps. Even the new edited-on-video post-production style made everything look cheap, even KNOTS, which was the only show maintaining creative integrity into the late-'80s.

    DALLAS began doing the same kinds of silly, shlocky things they used to criticize DYNASTY for... I can handle the range war, Cally as JR's mismatched wife, the timely oil spill, JR's burn-out, even Lady Jessica's murder spree.... but the pacing, tome and details were now all wrong (which is what happens when a Howard Lakin replaces a David Paulsen) and Katzman, long-cited as "the brains of DALLAS" happily signed-off on all of it, even though most of it was as bad or worse than anything Peter Dunne did to the show the year Duffy and Katzman were gone.

    Many years later, Larry Hagman admitted that the last couple of seasons "weren't up to par" and Patrick Duffy conceded that they "lost objectivity" about what qualified as a good story.

    It got to the point that DALLAS seemed determined to commit one major gaffe annually during the last half of its iconic run, but that self-debasing slide all seemed to start with what they did to Bel Geddes/Reed and the viewer in November of 1984.

    That's when the karma changed.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018 at 7:18 PM
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  20. Michael Torrance

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    It is the sign of death when a cabal starts running a show and defines its truth in its own terms, and outside reality is not a factor. In both cases any outside observer would know the first was a horrible mistake and the second a lethal one, but at that point the team at the helm thought they knew better than the little people.

    And Hangman and Duffy should NOT have had any say in what makes good story and who runs the show but they did, and that has a lot to do with what happened to DALLAS at the height of its popularity. DYNASTY's hubris was to completely discount actors, whereas DALLAS' was to elevate certain actors even above writers/producers/directors/what have you, and even allow them to oust those they didn't care for.
     
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