About 3 million viewers a week are watching this third season of Dallas on cable's TNT, according to ratings estimates. But with any more episodes like this week's, those numbers could start to slide.
This week's installment, titled "Playing Chicken," was marred by scrambled writing in a script by Gail Gilchriest. It featured too many abrupt U-turns in the continuing plotlines and none of the creepy fun of last week's return of actress Judith Light as well-coiffed battle axe Judith Brown Ryland.
Watching Light snort cocaine in that episode was the season's best watercooler moment thus far. She should do it regularly and make her reaction from episode two into her character's catchphrase: "Mama like."
Instead of dirty fun, Dallas has started to fall into the dull patterns of storytelling that killed off the daytime soaps.
Instead of that kind of dirty fun, Dallas has started to fall into the dull patterns of storytelling that killed off the daytime soaps: too much talk of "cartels," "drug lords" and CIA ops, too little hot-and-heavy smooch-fu.
Would it kill them to let Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) have a little kiss-and-cuddle with his pretty wife Annie (Brenda Strong)? Right now, Bobby's relegated to a few short moments per week, riding up in his white truck to whisper-shout at nephew John Ross (J.R.'s boy, played by Josh Henderson) for the squillionth time that "Southfork is a cattle ranch, not an oil field."
Change the name of the ranch to Reata, and that's a line right out of Edna Ferber's Giant.
See, John Ross wants to drill-baby-drill on the family spread, which he half owns, thanks to the generosity of his dead grandma, Miss Ellie. But Bobby's so determined to stop his nephew from frackin' up the land, he wines and dines the Texas railroad commissioner, asking that John Ross' request for a drilling permit be denied. No can do, says the commish, unless there's some kind of environmental reason, like maybe an endangered species clucking around Southfork. (Oh, just wait.)
Oily hair and stubbly beards are all the rage on Dallas right now, and the oiliest, stubbliest new character is Nicolas Trevino, played by Argentine-born Spanish TV soap star Juan Pablo Di Pace. Here's where the scriptwriters have got things really balled up.
Nicolas grew up in the same house as Southfork sexpot Elena (Jordana Brewster), and Elena's mom, it's been mentioned, worked for the Ewings. Christopher, Bobby's adopted kid (played by stubbly Jesse Metcalfe), knew Elena as a child, so he must've known Nicolas. But nobody around the 'fork these days seems to recognize Nicolas. And his isn't a face you'd easily forget.
More than a year after Larry Hagman's death, they're still trying to play the "Who shot J.R.?" game. That plotline is more threadbare than the upholstery at Southfork.
What gets weirder is that Elena and Nicolas greeted each other like brother and sister last week and this week ended the hour rolling around half-nekkid, exploring each other's tonsils. That's the kind of sexy hijinks that just confuses everybody.
Christopher was sent out of town to investigate Nicolas, whom Bobby and Christopher think might have had something to do with the murder of old J.R. Nicolas now is in cahoots with incarcerated Ewing nemesis Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval, also stubbly but not in a good way), who has given young Nicolas proxy voting rights for the Barnes' shares in Ewing Global.
Yeah, all that is just as boring to type as it is to watch.
More than a year after Larry Hagman's death, they're still trying to play the "Who shot J.R.?" game again on this show. It isn't working. That plotline is more threadbare than the upholstery at Southfork.
Speaking of the big house — the one at the ranch, that is — there's not enough square footage in that rundown mini-manse for John Ross to keep boinking his new wife Pamela (Julie Gonzalo) and his sorta-cousin-by-marriage Emma (Emma Bell, playing Annie's long-lost daughter by Harris Ryland). Their rooms are right across the hall from each other. And whenever John Ross and Pamela are canoodling in the tiny kitchen over pancakes and canned whipped cream, Emma makes a point to slink by in a tiny red swimsuit.
Sue Ellen (Linda Gray, being given nothing great to do yet this year) is onto John Ross' tricks, and it's driving her to drink. He's his big bad daddy all over again, cheatin' and lyin and smirkin'.
One more new character appeared in this week's Dallas: a lesser prairie chicken. Bobby brought one out to John Ross' oil-drilling spot. "It's a species native to this area right here," Bobby whispered. With that little feathered friend present, all drilling has to stop.
Why do I think the next time we see that bird he'll be turning on a rotisserie covered in barbecue sauce?
Coming up next week: John Ross and Pamela get married again (they eloped but now will get the major ceremony because the show needs them to). The nuptials will bring back vintage characters Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers ) and Lucy Ewing (Charlene Tilton) as wedding guests. Pretty please, let them sneak out to the barn with Judith Light to snort some Peruvian marching powder off the smooth abs of a hot ranch hand.
Catch full episodes of Dallas on TNT online. New episodes air at 8 pm CST every Monday, with a rerun right after.