Patrick Duffy on the Return of ‘Dallas’ During an Election Year

On the eve of the all new Dallas, we asked Patrick Duffy to compare and contrast the Dallas of his youth and today’s show. He obliged.

Compared to the new Dallas, which premieres on Wednesday on TNT, the pacing of the original was lethargic. It was a 13-year shaggy dog story, stringing the plot lines along in real time. There used to be an “Oh my God!” moment every three episodes. Now it’s every commercial break.

When Dallas first aired on CBS, it seemed there was no end in sight for the American oil boom. The conflict wasn’t one of natural resources, but of geopolitics and, of course, the internecine war waged between J.R., played by my friend Larry Hagman, and my character, Bobby Ewing. The show premiered in 1978 and the Iran oil embargo began two years later.

Now, if you talk to any oil company, they’ll say we have another 100 years left, maximum. Alternative energy is no longer a hippie pie-in-the-sky concept. It’s economically feasible. On the new show, you’ll see this as the dichotomy between old school and new school: J.R. and his son want to drill and find new oil, and my son Christopher and I want to secure a reasonable way to find alternative energy. One fights for the status quo; one fights for the future. Though we never explicitly state the political affiliations of the characters, I’d say Bobby is a Democrat and J.R. is a Republican. Time has only deepened each character’s sense of his own righteousness and allowed him to engrain it into his now-grown children. With the primary season and the presidential election heating up, the show couldn’t come back at a more perfect time.

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