On this day in 1980, TV overtakes reality as more than 83 million Americans tune in to “Dallas” to finally find out who shot J.R. The November 21 episode solved the mystery, identifying Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s wife’s sister and his former mistress, as the culprit.
CBS television debuted the first five-episode pilot season of “Dallas” in 1978; it was a smash and went on a mind-numbing 12-year run. Some of those critics willing to actually screen the show noted it was just like Texas; big, loud and stupid. The first show of its kind, “Dallas” was dubbed a “prime-time soap opera” for its serial plots and dramatic tales of amoral excess.
The show revolved around the relations of two Texas oil families: the wealthy, successful Ewing family and the perpetually down-on-their-luck Barnes family. The thrust of the original story line was Romeo and Juliet retold–two young people from the opposing families fall in love. Playing against type, Larry Hagman’s character, J.R. Ewing, was a greedy, conniving, womanizing scoundrel worming his way to the head of the wealthy Ewing’s table.
Tele-porting back to the future, reality TV overtook reason in November 2016, when nearly 63 million Americans voted for their next President while millions more around the world tuned in; a man some critics noted was “big, loud, stupid . . . a greedy, conniving, womanizing scoundrel.”