How Dallas Became a Hit Again

Despite the odds, the revival of the primetime soap opera Dallas is an undisputed hit. How did a show that was a huge hit on network television decades ago manage to win viewers again all these years later?

1. Advance buzz. They did a fine job of letting audiences know early on that Dallas was coming back.  Early pictures of the cast were released and constant reminders were on view through an effective preliminary campaign. Older fans anticipated the show a good year before the first new episode aired. I remember seeing early footage at movie theaters during "First Look" segments before the feature presentations and it boosted my interest. It all added up to new and old audiences eager and ready to see the drama when it debuted.

2. A good mix of the old and the new. This wasn't a reboot with new actors playing the original characters. Remember all the talk years ago about a movie version with Bruce Willis or John Travolta playing J.R. Ewing? Forget all that. This is a continuation of the stuff fans loved -- no reimagining of South Fork, this is some of the original actors reprising their roles and stepping right back into the familiar roles, just as it should be. Larry Hagman is brilliant and the highlight of the series, joined by the excellent Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing and Linda Gray as Sue Ellen. The younger actors are also very good -- Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, Julie Gonzalo, and Josh Henderson -- and both generations manage to go toe to toe with each other.

3. Social Media. Log on to Facebook and "Like" the Dallas page and you'll see frequent status updates by J.R. Ewing. It's an entertaining gimmick, drawing thousands of comments. It's the kind of marketing that seems genuine and fun, instead of the boring, uninspired branding traps into which others in the industry always seem to fall.

4. Today's TV landscape is very different from what it used to be. Let's make no mistake, the new Dallas isn't drawing the numbers the original show had when it was on CBS during the peak of the "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline, back when there were only a handful of channels to choose from for your viewing pleasure. Now plenty of other options compete for our leisure time on television and elsewhere, so the ratings Dallas needs to be considered a hit are substantially lower. Even though expectations were lower, it exceeded them. It's still a hit and will return for another season!

5. After all is said and done, it's a good show. The writing is fun and unpredictable. References to the original show are plentiful to delight oldtimers. The production values are terrific, arguably better in some regards than the earlier version.

If you haven't tuned in yet, give it a shot.  The moments with J.R. are enough to make it all worthwhile.