On March 21, 1980, 90 million TV viewers tuned in to see what was long anticipated to happen: J.R. Ewing was shot! On the #1 primetime drama, Dallas!
The late 70’s and early 80’s had a preponderance of prime time, serialized drama, with shows like Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, and Dynasty. Dallas was one of the most successful ones ever made. From 1978 until 1991, 357 episodes were filmed along with four made for television movies. Dallas was a huge ratings hit on the CBS Television Network as well as a hit internationally. The reasons for its success were: strong characters, conflicts dealing with money and power, and lots and lots of sex! And local stations loved it because it was their lead-in into their late local news!
Other than the normal cast-Larry Hagman (who many people remembered as Major Anthony Nelson in I Dream Of Jeannie), Victoria Principal, Barbara Bel Geddes, some of many famous stars of screen and TV included David Wayne, Keenan Wynn, Linda Gray, Donna Reed, Tina Louise (Gilligan’s Island), Anne Francis (Honey West), Craig Stevens (Peter Gunn), Howard Keel, Priscilla Presley, Alejandro Rey (The Flying Nun), Howard Duff, Susan Lucci (All My Children), Barbara Eden (I Dream Of Jeannie), and many, many more.
After the airing of the episode where J.R. is shot, there were no more original episodes airing until the fall of 1980. Viewers had to wait all summer long to learn the answer to the most burning question of the day, “Who Shot J.R.?”. Finally, on November 21, 1980, during the critical November “Sweeps” period, it was revealed that Kristin (played by actress Mary Crosby) was the one who pulled the trigger!
Reruns of Dallas were sold into syndication by the old Lorimar TV syndication group. In the Dallas/Fort Worth, WFAA Channel 8 had purchased the rights to air the show between 3pm and 5pm. Channel 8 had run a 3pm movie for a number of years but with KTVT as an independent back then that bought movies and, along with KXTX, KTXA, KDAF, and KDFI, the demand for movies was huge and as a result the cost of movies from programming suppliers skyrocketed. But Channel 8 only aired one year worth of Dallas episodes, most likely because of two things: 1. Serialized dramas do not always repeat very well (although Channel 8’s ratings were good); 2. They were paving the way to make room for what was to be one of the most successful daytime talk shows in TV history: The Oprah Winfrey Show. After Channel 8 aired one year’s worth of reruns, KDAF Channel 33 took over the reruns and aired them at 6pm but did not enjoyed the ratings success that Channel 8 did.
Dallas will certainly be remembered as one of the most successful and “bigger than life” prime time dramas that ever aired on television. Because in Texas, everything’s bigger!!
See you next time.