Larry Hagman died last week. He was 81 and, by all accounts, was as nice a person as his alter-ego, J.R. Ewing, was nasty.
Coincidentally, also last week, my dad bought a new TV to replace the old one he had in his basement. Now, when I say old, I don’t mean 10 years old, I mean 1975 old! This was the very first color TV our family ever owned. We got it when I was in junior high. It only got the first 12 channels because there were only 12 buttons next to the screen. (You had to get your butt up off the couch if you wanted to change the channel.) But that was OK if you were living in New Brunswick in the 1970’s, because we only got two channels.
Every Friday night, my family (Mom, Dad, little bro, the beagle and me) would gather in our tiny family room to watch TV. We would break open the one bag of chips and the one bottle of pop. It was my mother’s job to divide the chips evenly into 4 plastic bowls – one for each of us. We couldn’t just share a bowl. That was crazy talk. And we’d each have a small glass of pop. I think we shared the same amount of pop among the four of us that I got at the movie theatre the other night for myself. (Hellooooo? people? When did we forget about portion size?)
Like I said, we only got two channels and for some reason unknown to anyone with a clue, the great programming gods of the day decided to put the two most popular shows of the time on opposite each other. So, every Friday night we had a dilemma.
Dukes or Dallas?
Usually we opted for fairness and equality. One week Dukes, one week Dallas. But remember, this was before DVRs, YouTube and even VCRs. If you missed a show, you missed it, unless somehow you were lucky enough to catch a repeat of the show months later and by then it didn’t matter. You already knew what happened.
Mom and I were already fans of Dallas, thanks to the casting of Patrick Duffy – the Man from Atlantis. (He was so cute with those little webbed feet.)
My brother and father were big fans of the Duke boys and their crazy uncle, the evil Boss Hogg and, of course, Daisy Duke in her little jean shorts. (The dog was good either way. She was just happy to be inside, on the couch, with her peeps.)
(Sorry guys, no short shorts, but at least you can see the car!)
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t hate it when we had to watch D.O.H. Them Duke boys was awful cute and the show was funny, in a hillbilly sort of way. They were the original Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo family.
But I loved Dallas. I loved the theme music and the fact that everyone was so rich and beautiful. J.R. was the man you loved to hate. He said the most vile things with a smile on his face. And he was funny – wickedly funny. When J.R. was shot in Season 9, we spent months waiting and debating with the rest of the world about Who Shot J.R.? On November 21, 1980 we gathered in our little family with our chips and pop and watched, with the 350 million other people who tuned in, to see who the culprit was. (In case you were living in a cave during that time, it was his mistress, Kristen. No wonder. He was really, really mean to her.)
Dallas started when I was 12, a dorky girl with a pageboy boy haircut, and wrapped it’s finally episode when I was 25, a married woman juggling a job, a husband and a house full of pets. Dallas was a part of my growing up.
“I know what I want on JR’s tombstone,” Hagman once said. “It should say: ‘Here lies upright citizen JR Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.'”
Rest in Peace, J.R.
If you only had two channels, which would you have picked? (Remember: you’re only 12. You got nothin’ else to do.)
Dukes of Hazzard opening sequence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxD0PqVlt5Q
The best of J.R. If you were a fan of Dallas or you just like funny stuff, check this out: