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RIP Larry Hagman: To the Top and Back Again

In TV terms, Larry Hagman died with his boots on.

Reports that the “Dallas” star died Friday at the age of 81 are especially sad given the resurgence he was enjoying as part of the “Dallas” reboot. Even as an octogenarian who had survived plenty — including his own tussle with alcoholism — Hagman managed to steal every scene he was in.

As I noted over the summer, one of the things that made TNT’s new version of “Dallas” such a kick was the manner in which it embraced its original characters — turning Hagman into an improbable Entertainment Weekly cover boy — as opposed to just treating them like window dressing. The down side, in this case, is that Hagman’s death leaves an enormous void in the show, since J.R.’s treachery was such an integral part of the action.

Usually, such programs focus on the younger characters, driven by a desire to appeal to those demos. The makers of “Dallas” had the good sense to recognize what the first-generation players brought to the party — even if that meant the risk of something like this happening.

The show will go on — they almost always find a way to — but there’s no way around the fact Hagman’s death is a Texas-sized loss. And while I wasn’t really the right age to appreciate “Dallas” in its Reagan-era run — that was the kind of stuff my mom watched — damned if J.R. didn’t catch up with me and make me a fan over the long haul.

Turns out the guy who started in “I Dream of Jeannie” conjured up a little magic of his own.

Well done, pardner.

 

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