Hagman's luck seems as rich as a barrel of Texas crude. Dallas, which lassoed some of TV's highest ratings during its 13-year run (1978 – 91), could be a gusher again, with a 10-show season premiering June 13 on TNT. The reboot pairs original cast members Hagman (conniving J.R.), Patrick Duffy (his wholesome brother, Bobby) and Linda Gray (J.R.'s tipsy wife, Sue Ellen) with a new generation of scheming Ewings. Josh Henderson, as J.R.'s son John Ross, and Jesse Metcalfe, as Bobby's adopted son, Christopher, rekindle the family feud when ruthless John Ross challenges the last will and testament of his grandmother Miss Ellie.
"The turd doesn't fall far from the horse!" says Duffy, 63, who confesses he misses the show's original elders. "The hardest part is sitting at the head of the table at Southfork, because Jim [Davis, playing Jock Ewing] always occupied that place — and the plots revolved around making Daddy proud."
At its height, Dallas was the world's most popular show: Foreign fans based their view of the States on Southfork's decadent dramas, and the Smithsonian Institution displayed one of J.R.'s hats (custom-made, at $10,000 each). The show's resilience lies in its characters, particularly dastardly J.R., a beguiling blend of Hagman's dramatic and comedic chops. "My theory," says Hagman, 80, "is that everybody has a jerk like J.R. in the family, and they can identify with that."
"Let's be honest," says Duffy. "The only reason Dallas is being done now is because they can get J. R. back on the air. That character is as iconic as the ranch itself."
Linda Gray, 71, attributes the show's appeal to its frank treatment of social issues. Sue Ellen's alcoholic spiral, for example, occurred "as Betty Ford came out. We were ahead of what was happening in society."
The three actors remain close, championing one another's work and celebrating the arrival of grandchildren. When Hagman underwent cancer treatment recently, Duffy and Gray sat at his bedside. "I feel great!" Hagman insists. "My motto is, 'Don't worry, be happy.' " Or as John Ross says at the end of episode one, "The fun is just beginning."
You may also like: The A-Team.