Is It Larry Hagman or J.R. Ewing We’ll Remember Most? [VIDEO]
Make no mistake, I think Larry Hagman was a terrific actor. His performances in S.O.B. and Primary Colors proved that to me. And he had a very successful run on I Dream of Jeannie in the 1960s.
But it’s hardly surprising that it’s his legendary and iconic J.R. Ewing from Dallas that’s dominating the conversation in the wake of his death Friday night, at the age of 81, after a long battle with cancer. Like Carroll O’Connor and Archie Bunker, it’s Hagman’s most famous role that will never be forgotten when his career comes to mind. And based on interviews I’ve seen with the actor, he’d be just fine with that.
In fact, I’d argue that J.R. Ewing sits high on a list, alongside Archie Bunker, of the most famous television characters of all time. Shamefully, Hagman never won an Emmy for his portrayal of, arguably, the greatest TV villain we’ve ever seen.
When Dallas premiered in 1978, the concept of the “nighttime soap” wasn’t even really a concept. It’s just what Dallas was. But at the end of the second season, when we’d all been completely shocked for two years at the machinations of J.R. Ewing, it came as a bolt from the blue when someone walked into Ewing’s dark office and shot him in that legendary 1980 season finale.
Suddenly, J.R. Ewing became immortal. The television cliffhanger was born. The “nighttime soap” became a completely viable genre. Dallas became a ratings juggernaut. And Larry Hagman had a legacy.
Can you imagine anyone else playing J.R. Ewing? Name anyone, and it would never have worked. No, J.R. had no superpowers, unless manipulation counts, but a more powerful villain has never existed on the small screen.
He’s the only reason I watched the Dallas reboot last summer. And, trust me, the TNT series suffered when it was left in the hands of the younger generation and Hagman wasn’t on screen. I’ll not watch any more episodes when it returns this summer. J.R. won’t be there.
There’s been no word, yet, about how the series will continue. But, I’m afraid it will continue without me. And I might not be the only one who looks elsewhere for summer entertainment. Dallas isn’t Dallas without J.R. Ewing.
I bet Larry Hagman would agree.