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Warner Home Video presents
Dallas: The Complete First and Second Seasons (1978-1979)

"All that matters is winning."
- J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman)

Review By: Jeff Rosado  
Published: December 14, 2004

Stars: Patrick Duffy, Larry Hagman, Victoria Principal, Linda Gray, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jim, Charlene Tilton
Other Stars: Ken Kercheval, Steve Kanaly, Susan Howard, Tina Louise, Joan Van Ark, Brian Dennehy, David Wayne, David Ackroyd, Morgan Fairchild, Barbara Babcock, Greg Evigan, Meg Gallagher, Trey Wilson, Kate Mulgrew, Martha Scott, Colleen Camp, Fern Fitzgerald, John Ashton, Veronica Hamel
Director: Various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language, sexual situations, alcohol abuse, mild violence, lots o' cheatin')
Run Time: 24h:00m:00s
Release Date: August 24, 2004
UPC: 085393358129
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+B-B B

DVD Review

With an average of one to two serialized dramas on the prime time schedule on any given night, it's hard to believe that there once was an era with practically none beyond the confines of the daytime soaps.

Save for the heyday of Peyton Place back in the 1960s, programs with ongoing storylines were few and far between... and then came the Ewings.

Originally conceived as an experimental 5-week mini-series, Dallas became the surprise hit of CBS' 1978 crop of midseason replacements, earning a full season order for the fall. Although it's return was plagued by surprisingly middling ratings caused by a move to Saturday evenings, the Tiffany network correctly sensed that the saga of the rich Texas family had only begun to reach its full potential. So following a brief return to the Sunday night time slot where it originally prospered, Friday nights and the Ewings were a perfect fit for 12 years (let's see, that's about three times as long as the lifespan of a typical marriage on the show).

With a wave of Southfork Ranch nostalgia in bloom thanks to high ratings of past episodes on cable's Soapnet, the successful CBS reunion special (Return To Southfork) and talk of a feature film spinoff (with big names like Brad Pitt and Bruce Willis being bandied about as potential cast members), what a perfect time to revisit the early days of the granddaddy of prime-time soaps via Warner Home Video's recent release of Dallas: The Complete First and Second Seasons.

For those just moseying in onto the planet of television pop culture, our story begins as Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy), the good guy son of the bunch, is homeward bound with a new bride to surprise the family: The former Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal), a striking and equally good-hearted person who under normal circumstances would be welcomed with open arms. Instead, the reception is colder than a blizzard from Dairy Queen. For you see, Pam is the daughter of Digger Barnes (David Wayne), the former best friend and business partner of Jock Ewing (Jim Davis), the Big Daddy of the clan who did more than screw his best friend out of riches—he also stole his gal Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), and the blood's been boiling ever since.

To make matters worse, there's the rest of the family to deal with: Lucy (Charlene Tilton), Jock's spoiled jailbait granddaughter who's hunger for doing the nasty with any available man in sight rivals her taste for the good things in life; Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), her snippy, emotionally needy new sister-in-law, married to a man who will become Pam's worst nightmare: John Ross, better known as J.R. (Larry Hagman), a ruthless, conniving, morality-out-the-window head of Ewing Oil. In his world, the word losing just doesn't exist, darlin', and heaven help those that get in the way. Just ask Pam's poor brother Cliff (Ken Kercheval), a former Senatorial candidate who made the mistake of trying to go toe-to-toe with the oil baron (as you'll find out in succeeding episodes).

Unlike many series that live and die on the acceptance of a single pilot installment, Dallas had the rare luxury of a five week period to fully establish its foundation, basic format and characters, so when the show returned for its first full length season and began incorporating the two to three ongoing storylines that really played to the strengths of the amazing cast (particularly Gray, Kercheval and the indomitable Hagman in a mid-career renaissance of a role), it became the epitome of appointment television.

You might think that advances in creative freedom and the loosening of standards in recent times might dim the effectiveness of a series whose first episodes are nearing their 30th anniversary. But the acceptance of the show by a new generation is more than enough proof that Dallas (even in its formative stages showcased here) has aged just as well as the vintage wine in J.R.'s liquor cabinet.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: 1970s-era television has a spotty track record at times; these transfers fall into that category. Sharpness is extremely lacking and some episodes (especially a couple of the mini-season installments) look like they were mastered utilizing materials a couple of generations down (with faded colors and wince inducing screen-length dancing lines/scratches to match). But matters improve slightly from episodes 6 on up with more consistent, natural colors and a touch more detail.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: Although some of the early episodes suffer from location related-gremlins (particularly in scenes based in the den at Soutfork with a lot of echo-y give and take amongst family members), the Dolby Digital mono is fine as can be considering the limitations of the time of origination. Like its visual counterpart, it improves somewhat in the sophomore outings (the wonders of a bigger budget), but this is pretty much your standard late 70s television soundtrack.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 174 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Co-stars Larry Hagman, Charlene Tilton, Dallas Creator David Jacobs on Pilot Episode and Reunion, Parts 1 and 2
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
5 Discs
9-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Soap Talk's Dallas Reunion with Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and Charlene Tilton
Extras Review: Although many will be lured in by the Soap Talk reunion gathering Hagman, Duffy, Gray and Tilton, the end result is a pretty lame (even by daytime TV standards) talkfest with the usual dumb questions, vapid hosts, and an easily entertained studio audience that sounds like they all just graduated from the Ron Popeil School Of Oooohing and Ahhing.

Far better are the three extremely entertaining commentary tracks that pair series creator David Jacobs with Hagman and Tilton. Though the trio gets off to a slow start on the pilot episode, once Jacob's encyclopedic recall of all things Ewing asserts itself, things really get humming, setting the stage for Reunion, the two-parter that ushered in the show's sophomore season. Among the nifty nuggets of backstage information: Jacob's revelation that he pitched Knots Landing first instead of Dallas, Tilton's intense campaigning for her role and Hagman's eccentric sense of humor (carrying a portable hand fan around to thwart off any traces of airbound nicotine, amongst other bits of set wackiness). But it's Jacob's enthusiasm that really drives these tracks, prompting a stunned Hagman to exclaim "I don't even remember that!" at one point.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

The legendary prime-time soap that launched dozens of spin-offs returns with a multi-disc DVD debut that would even make Jock crack a smile. Re-live the cheatin', double crossin', back-stabbin', seasonal cliffhangin' magic that commenced in Dallas: The Complete First and Second Seasons.


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