After the CW’s spotty record with soap reboots, expectations for “Dallas” weren’t particularly high. But TNT’s take on the classic primetime serial is exactly as it should be: Texas-sized, frothy and unwilling to settle for a double-cross when a triple can be executed. The show also does a deft job of wedding old and new, setting a fresh generation of Ewings at each other’s throats while credibly (enough for these purposes, anyway) incorporating the old guard. Audiences have seen plenty of Texas in recent years — from “Lone Star” to “G.C.B.” — but there’s no substitute for old-fashioned crude.
Redeveloped by Cynthia Cidre (who explored similar territory with CBS’ short-lived “Cane”) from David Jacobs’ creation, the new “Dallas” — beginning with the stirring strains of that familiar opening theme — manages to weave nostalgic elements into a modern tale of big money, greed and sex (naturally), casting the heirs to the original’s squabbling sons, J.R. (Larry Hagman) and Bobby (Patrick Duffy), in central roles.
Driving the action is J.R.’s ruthless progeny John Ross (Josh Henderson), who wants to drill on South Fork, unlocking untold riches in oil. Bobby’s kid Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), of course, is more respectable, involved in green technologies and about to marry his g.f., Rebecca (Julie Gonzolo), while his ex, Elena (Jordana Brewster), has taken up with John.
Bobby, meanwhile, is still a square-jawed do-gooder, even faced with health issues that leave him determined to resolve the ranch’s fate in a way that would have done his late momma proud. With so much money at stake, however, nothing is going to be simple, as the various Ewings play what amounts to Monopoly using real buildings, oil wells and bank dividends.
Later episodes yield some unavoidable moments of crazy camp, but once the ground rules are established, none of that seems particularly objectionable. Helpfully, the producers have also done an exceptionally good job casting the series not just in terms of regulars, but also in regards to guest roles, with Carlos Bernard (“24”) and Mitch Pileggi (“The X-Files”) showing up as the series progresses.
Granted, very little is subtle about “Dallas,” set in a Texas where gun racks are common, corruption is rife and dispute resolution often boils down to storming into somebody’s office and smacking them upside the head.
Still, it’s all executed earnestly enough — including nifty touches like setting some scenes in Dallas Stadium (with a cameo by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones) — that you can get drawn into the hijinks or simply chortle at them, take your pick.
“I don’t want them to be like us,” Bobby tells J.R. — as played by Hagman, still a wonderfully twisted figure, looking perhaps even more so underneath those bushy eyebrows — regarding their respective sons.
Like a lot of what gets said in “Dallas,” for the series to work, that’s going to be a lie as big as all of Texas.