It’s always a little sad when a long-running series begins to show its age, yet fights against it tooth and nail, and that’s more or less what’s happening with Dallas in its twelfth season. The core cast that remains is getting noticeably grayer, and so younger, prettier actors have been brought in to help spice things up – a move that seems to work only about half the time. The plots, too, seem to have been given a bit of an overhaul, probably in an attempt to compete with other primetime dramas of the day. This isn’t a show that has by any means “lost it,” but it’s most certainly one that has seen far better days.
After the Nicholas Pearce debacle of Season Eleven, which provided the season cliffhanger, J.R. (Larry Hagman) has once again been shot – this time by Sue Ellen (Linda Gray). His recovery is swift and he’s back on his feet by the second episode, and the entire incident is written off by the authorities as self-defense on everyone’s part, so no charges are filed against anyone. But Pearce is dead, and Sue Ellen wants revenge against J.R., and so begins her story arc for the entire season, which would turn out to be Gray’s last on the series proper. It cannot be calculated exactly how much class Gray brought to this series, and so it’s something of shame that she doesn’t get a stronger exit. As the season moves forward, she meets a screenwriter/director named Don Lockwood (Ian McShane), and hatches a plan that involves bringing the details of her sordid marriage to J.R. to the big screen. (She describes it as Citizen Kane in Texas.) The aim is to produce a work that will humble and humiliate J.R. for good. This entire idea probably seemed a great deal cleverer back when it first aired, but in this day and age it feels awfully quaint, and worst of all, what little we see of the resulting movie makes it looks like a disastrous picture that nobody would ever want to sit through. And to top it all off, J.R.’s viewing of the movie provides Season Twelve with its cliffhanger – surely one of the most anticlimactic this series ever produced.
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