Dallas-The Complete First and Second Season (1978)

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Released 19-Oct-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Audio Commentary-Creator & Cast - Digger's Daughter, Reunion Parts 1 & 2
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1978
Running Time ?
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Sided
Multi Disc Set (5)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Robert Day
Irving J. Moore
Alex March
Corey Allen
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Barbara Bel Geddes
Jim Davis
Patrick Duffy
Linda Gray
Larry Hagman
Steve Kanaly
Victoria Principal
Charlene Tilton
Ken Kercheval
David Wayne
Keenan Wynn
Tina Louise
Case ?
RPI $69.95 Music Jerrold Immel
John Parker


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Dutch
Danish
Swedish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     For those too young to remember the 1980s, Dallas was the “super-soap” which defined the era – at least in terms of US primetime TV programming. It ran 13 or 14 seasons, depending on which count you use (more on that in a moment), and was most famous for its end-of-season cliffhanger in which lead character J.R. Ewing was shot by an unseen assailant. The question “Who Shot J.R.?” would not be answered until well into the following season, but in the meantime Dallas shot to the top of the ratings, and stayed there – bringing for its leading man Larry Hagman a hefty payrise, a trend which quickly spread to all its title-billed castmembers, hence spawning the era of the very costly primetime soap.

     But all that was in the future when Dallas premiered in the US in 1978, initially as a five episode miniseries. Those first five episodes have now been labelled “season 1” for this DVD release, and the following 24 episodes which comprised its first full season are now delineated as “season 2”. So although this release claims to be The Complete Seasons 1 and 2, it is in fact the original five episode miniseries followed by the first complete season, all of which first aired during 1978-1979.

     Given that Dallas did in fact become the first “primetime soap” to hit the US airwaves since Peyton Place in the 1960s, it may perhaps come as a surprise to see that it was not originally a soap opera (i.e. continuing drama). In fact, the early episodes are self-contained episodic stories typical of US primetime dramas of the period. It’s only when J.R.’s wife Sue Ellen becomes pregnant during the season and doesn’t know who the father is that the series takes its first steps into becoming a fully-fledged continuing drama. This process, however, isn’t complete until right near the end of season 3.

     For viewers more familiar with Dallas in its prime (seasons 4-8), it’s fun to see how the program and characters developed from the groundwork set in these early episodes. Immediately noticeable is the grittiness of the location footage, which was soon discarded in favour of endless interior scenes set in offices and restaurants, and the fact that the story originally focuses on newlyweds Bobby and Pam as the lead characters. J.R. Ewing, who as played by Larry Hagman steals the show very quickly, is originally a supporting character, and his wife Sue Ellen, capably played by Linda Gray, is so much of a supporting character that she doesn’t even make the opening credits in the original miniseries.

     What made Dallas work so well, right from the start, was a combination of clever storylines and a great cast which included some truly beautiful women. By far the best actor on the show, the wonderfully inventive Ken Kercheval, is here relegated to “co-starring” status and appears less frequently than he will in seasons to come, when he develops into J.R.’s arch-rival. But even in this first season he has some terrific moments – watch the end of the Election episode to see Kercheval laying the groundwork for his unforgettable characterisation of Cliff Barnes, self-proclaimed “world’s biggest loser”.

     For those viewers utterly unfamiliar with the series, there’s no better place to start than by watching these DVDs. We begin with youngest son of the Ewing Oil Empire, Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) bringing his bride Pam Barnes (Victoria Principal) home to meet the folks. Unfortunately, Pam is the daughter of Digger Barnes (David Wayne), who is the former friend, now arch-enemy of Ewing patriarch Jock Ewing (Jim Davis). To make matters worse, Pam’s brother Cliff (Ken Kercheval), at this stage legal counsel to a US Senate Committee, is investigating the Ewings and determined to bring them down. Which may explain why Bobby’s brother J.R. (Larry Hagman) hates Pam from the start and tries to buy her off about ten minutes into the first episode. Yes folks, it’s Romeo and Juliet in Dallas, Texas – at least that was the original idea with Bobby and Pam as the lead characters, but the huge popularity of J.R. as “the man everyone loves to hate” soon took over the show.

     If you start watching from episode one and keep going, by the time you get to episode 29 I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Presented in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (and thus not 16x9 enhanced), the prints used for this transfer are much cleaner than those used for the original Australian broadcast back in 1979. However, quality varies considerably from episode to episode, and there doesn’t appear to have been any clean-up work done from the prints which went to air on Foxtel about five years ago. There are innumerable film artefacts, dirt, grain (varying from episode to episode), washed-out colour, and so on. However, this is likely to be as good as these episodes are ever going to look.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The DVD release uses the original mono sound, representative of TV programming of the era. There are no problems with audibility of dialogue. However, Dallas always employed a lot of ADR especially for the location footage shot in Texas, and the syncing of this is never perfect -- consequently, it's usually quite noticeable.

     For these first two seasons we’re treated to no less than three different arrangements of the Dallas theme music, all of which sound disappointingly muddy (but trust me, that’s how they sounded as broadcast).

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The Dallas theme, of course, overlaid on a static menu.

Audio Commentary - Digger's Daughter (episode 1) with creator David Jacobs, and actors Larry Hagman and Charlene Tilton

     This is the first of two commentary tracks featuring series creator and writer of episode one, David Jacobs accompanied by Larry Hagman and Charlene Tilton.

     While Hagman is an obvious choice for the commentary, Tilton is a rather odd choice, given that her character of Ewing niece Lucy was the token sex kitten and really had very little depth. However, it’s nice to have her comments.

     David Jacobs makes some interesting comments on the origins of the concept and the behind the scenes work on the first five episodes. However, what’s sorely lacking is a commentary from the real brains behind the series, producer Leonard Katzman. As Katzman died in 1994, this is unavoidable, but it’s just such a shame he didn’t live to participate in this celebration of what was the crowning achievement of his career.

     In both this and the later commentary, Hagman appears obsessed by what he terms “big hair”, the fashion of the era, mentioning it several times! He also trots out a few of his favourite Dallas anecdote, especially the now-laboured point about the fact that the filthy rich Ewing family all choose to live in one little ranchhouse – with one phone in the foyer!

     For diehard Dallas fans, there are also some interesting comments about the progress of the Dallas movie which is now in pre-production under David Jacobs’ guidance – can you imagine Bruce Willis as J.R.? It could happen …

Audio Commentary - Reunion Part 1 (episode 6, i.e. episode 1 of first full season) with creator David Jacobs, and actors Larry Hagman and Charlene Tilton

     This second commentary runs along very similar lines to the first and is in fact a little repetitive. The participants’ fondness for the program comes across nicely. Both commentaries are fairly chatty rather than particularly informative.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Well, oddly enough, the Region 4 DVD packaging lists an extra that’s available – but not listed – only on the Region 1 DVD!

     The Region 1 release includes a bonus featurette, the Dallas Soaptalk Reunion, which was shot around 2001 and brings cast members including Hagman, Duffy and Gray before a studio audience to reminisce over the series and answer a few questions. It’s not particularly exciting, but completists would no doubt prefer it had been included on the Region 2 and 4 releases (which are identical).

     And something very odd – the opening titles of episode one on the Region 4 release have a dirty brown discolouration on the top half of the screen which lasts throughout the whole title sequence. This appears to be either print damage or a flaw in the telecine transfer. However, this discolouration is NOT present on the Region 1 release.

     Therefore, I would recommend Region 1 as the superior release.

Summary

    Dallas fans will love this release of the program's original five episode miniseries and first full season on DVD, and viewers new to the series will quickly come to understand why J.R. Ewing is "the man you love to hate"! An acceptable though unrestored presentation of classic 1980s primetime TV drama.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Alex Paige (read my bio)
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-2200 (NTSC/PAL Progessive), using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-76PW60. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to Amplifier.
AmplificationSony STR-DB940
SpeakersFronts: B&W DM309; Rears: B&W DM303; Centre: B&W LCR3; Subwoofer: B&W ASW300.

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A review of Season 3, please? -