'Dallas' and the Aftermath of J.R.'s Death: Bobby's a New Man, Sue Ellen Falls Into Old Habits
What was your favorite part of "J.R.'s Masterpiece," the satisfying send off to the late Larry Hagman's iconic J.R. Ewing character on "Dallas"?
Was it the return of Ewing kin like Lucy, Ray, and Gary? Was it the conversation ex-wife Sue Ellen had with J.R.'s former lover Mandy Winger or his other ex-wife, Cally?
Was it a loud-mouthed Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) crashing the memorial, and his daughter (who's kinda sorta in love with John Ross) having to beg him to take his embarrassing butt home? Or the special "Dallas" opening credits that honored Hagman?
Was it the trio of famous Dallas residents -- Mark Cuban, Jerry Jones, and Mike Rawlings -- who showed up to pay homage to the fictional, but still larger than life character?
Or was it the emotional impact J.R.'s death had on John Ross, Sue Ellen, and little bro Bobby that had you reaching for the tissues and praising the "Dallas" writers who crafted the fitting storyline?
We feel pretty safe in speaking for most fans of the classic series and the TNT reboot and saying the answer is: all of the above.
First, about those guest stars: The returning cast members were a good mix of blasts from the past, with Ewing niece Lucy (Charlene Tilton), half-brother Ray (Steve Kanaly), and black sheep brother Gary (Ted Shackelford) representing those who showed up to honor J.R. even though they'd been on the receiving end of more than their fair share of his, ahem, orneriness, while Deborah Shelton as J.R. fling Mandy Winger and Cathy Podewell as Cally represented the ladies in J.R.'s life.
Their little chat with Sue Ellen, in which they attempted to bond over the tomcattin' oilman? A little bizarre, but totally appropriate. Oh, and all those returning stars? They looked good. It's a little jarring to see bratty teen Lucy Ewing as a middle-aged woman, but none of the returning crew looked worse for the wear of having dealt with ol' J.R. all those years.
And then there were J.R.'s famous friends, local Dallas pro sports teams owners Mark Cuban (the Mavericks) and Jerry Jones (the Cowboys), and the mayor of Dallas, Mike Rawlings.
And yes, he really is the mayor of the city of Dallas. How did producers cull from their large pool of potential guest stars for this very special episode?
"We were trying to think about who should be at the wake. We asked a lot of different people if they could come. Everybody wanted to, and those that could, did," executive producer Mike Robin, who directed "J.R.'s Masterpiece," told Yahoo! TV. "And then we thought about who would be appropriate in the world of 'Dallas,' and we reached out to Jerry Jones, and we reached out to Mark Cuban, and then the actual mayor of Dallas, and they all changed their schedules to be with us, both to honor Larry, and [because] it was just right to be there. Those are the kind of friends J.R. would have had. They got it, and they were really great to come do it."
The episode, which Patrick Duffy called the "pinnacle of 'Dallas' writing" during the cast and producers' PaleyFest session on Sunday, also set just the right tone with the main characters' reactions to J.R.'s death.
Bobby (Duffy) was angry at the loss of his brother, who, as he acknowledged, played the bad guy so well that it made it easy for him to be the good guy. It was an especially touching moment because it circled back to last season's finale, when J.R. visited Bobby at the hospital -- where Bobby was in a coma following brain surgery -- and told him, "I don't know who I'd be without you."
"Throughout my life, it's pretty much been easy for me to do good, because I could always count on J.R. to do bad," Bobby shared with the small gathering at the funeral ceremony for J.R. "A lot of times, those bad things were necessary … maybe more often than I care to admit. I don't want it to be true, but it is: My brother is dead. And so now I have to figure out just what it is I'm supposed to do in this grand scheme of things."
[Related: Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy Talk Paying Tribute to Larry Hagman and J.R. Ewing]
It's an important speech, says "Dallas" executive producer Cynthia Cidre -- who wrote the episode -- and it's one that almost didn't happen.
"Oddly enough, when I wrote the episode, I didn't have Bobby speaking, because he had nothing to say about his brother," Cidre tells Yahoo! TV. "And enough people told us that he should say something, that the audience would feel cheated if Bobby didn't speak at the funeral … because I was saving his emotion for the last scene, and I thought that would rob it. But there's a saying, from Groucho Marx, that if enough people tell you you're drunk, you should sit down, so when enough people said that, we sat down.
"And I said, 'What would Bobby say?' I had forgotten J.R. had said that in the [original series], but it just seemed like that's the only thing [Bobby] could say to acknowledge that, you know, it's easy to be good when somebody else is doing all the bad."
It's also a speech, Cidre hints, that will reshape Bobby's character, at least for a while.
"That speech becomes a launch pad for the character," she says.
[Related: Is Pamela Barnes Ewing Really Alive?!]
J.R.'s death will also continue to impact a very shaken John Ross (Josh Henderson), who'd finally just gotten approval from his daddy before those fatal gunshots did J.R. in. And then there's Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), whose alcoholism was one of the main storylines throughout many seasons on the original series, and a weapon that J.R. used against her again and again.
"I fell madly, passionately, hopelessly in love with the most infuriating, charming scoundrel I think I've ever known," Sue Ellen shared at the funeral. "It's enough to drive a girl to drink."
And it did, again, in "J.R.'s Masterpiece," as Sue Ellen visited J.R.'s bedroom and couldn't resist the bottle of his favorite drink, bourbon, that sat on a table in the room.
Robin says the drinking, tossed off as a joke by Sue Ellen at the funeral, will be a much more serious issue for J.R.'s ex throughout the rest of the season.
"Dallas" airs Mondays at 9 PM on TNT.