Jock and Miss Ellie Ewing had three sons: J.R., Gary, and Bobby. These were the Ewings. Their lifelong enemies were Digger Barnes, his son Cliff, and the Barnes family. So, of course, Bobby Ewing married Pamela Barnes. Okay, it’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet, but it made for an immensely popular soap opera that became a ratings juggernaut during the 1980s.
Dallas initially hit the airwaves as a five-part miniseries in 1978. CBS liked it well enough to make it a regular part of its lineup, a decision which paid off handsomely. America loved to hate J.R., swooned over Bobby, and eagerly followed the love lives of Sue Ellen (Mrs. J.R.) and Pam (Mrs. Bobby). Naturally, in a sprawling soap opera as big as Texas, the cast expanded over the years. We met ranch foreman Ray Krebs, niece Lucy Ewing, Bobby’s first love Jenna Wade (Priscilla Presley), and lots of barons who got rich in the “awl bidness.”
One of the devices Dallas became known for was the season-ending cliffhanger. The most popular of all was the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode in 1980, which TV Guide ranked as number 69 in TV’s Top Episodes of All Time. When it aired, it was the most-watched TV program of all time. The most controversial came in season eight. The final episode of season seven found Bobby Ewing killed when he was hit by a car. Then in the last episode of the next season, doggone if Pam doesn’t go into the shower to find Bobby alive and well. It was all a dream, ta da!
Dallas’s audience peaked between seasons 3 and 7, when it was the number one show three times, and number two twice. Although it never won a major Emmy award, Time magazine called it one of the Best 100 TV Shows of All-TIME.