By 1990, the ‘80s nighttime power soaps were on the way out, and new types of soapy television, like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place, were either on the air or on the horizon. Dynasty and Falcon Crest were gone, Knots Landing only had a couple seasons left in it, and the one that started them all, Dallas, was kicking off its final season. What on earth was there left for this show to do that it hadn’t done in the 13 seasons previous? Having successfully revamped the show in the previous year (at least artistically, even if not commercially), the producers now had to find a way to end it all. The core cast had dwindled down to only three characters that had been there since the start: J.R., Bobby and Cliff. And yet, if you’ve got those three guys, you’ve still got quite a bit to work with, and while the final season is never going to go down as a Dallas highpoint, at least it doesn’t go out like a bruised, whimpering puppy with its tail between its legs. Well, not quite.
When last we saw J.R. (Larry Hagman), thanks to his son James (Sasha Mitchell), he was being hauled off back into the looney bin where he’d been conducting some unsavory deeds. In this season, that story continues on for another five or so episodes, as he finds himself sinking deeper and deeper into an unhealthy state, although for perhaps the first time in his life, J.R. finds himself making actual friends. Meanwhile, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and April (Sheree J. Wilson) are honeymooning in Paris, and no sooner than they get off the plane than they run into Susan Lucci. Now, it’s a shame that soap characters are forced to live in a bubble, because as a viewer you’re yelling at the screen, “That’s Susan fucking Lucci! She’s evil!! No good can come from this. Stay away from her, Bobby and April!!!” Of course, they do not, and terrible, terrible things happen, but since the production has moved to Paris for an extended shoot, at least the proceedings look nice.
Back in Dallas, Cliff (Ken Kercheval) is angling for a government position as Energy Czar of the U.S., while at the same time romancing Liz Adams (Barbara Stock), a lady with a few secrets of her own which revolve around a slick, macho blowhard named John Danzig, a.k.a. Johnny Dancer (Ramy Zada). Sooner, rather than later, Dancer ends up deceased. But who done it? Cliff? Liz? Carter McKay (George Kennedy)? Plenty of people had a motive, but everyone’s got an alibi. Also lurking on the sidelines is Michelle Stevens (Kimberly Foster), and she’s got some serious payback in mind for J.R. after he shipped her away last year. Enter Lee Ann De Le Vega played by none other than Hagman’s old I Dream of Jeannie co-star Barbara Eden. Stunt casting? Perhaps. I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt for the duration of the Lee Ann storyline which in the end fizzled out to at least some degree. Credit must be given to the writers for stifling the urge to work in any Jeannie references or in-jokes.
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