The modern day iteration of the classic primetime soap opera keeps on pumpin’ as Dallas: The Complete Second Season arrives on DVD. The release, which hit store shelves in mid February, is designed to complement the premiere of the TNT series’ 3rd season. The show continues to star a mostly young, attractive cast and features extensive appearances by three key members of the original cast: Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray and the final ones by the late Larry Hagman. The Season Two set comes with all 15 episodes of the second year, along with a commentary on a crucial episode about JR, a good excerpt from the cast’s appearance at Paley Fest, a brace of deleted scenes, some fashion spotlights from the TNT website and a few featurettes on the third disc. Given the fun of the series, and given the special features on the final discs, this season set is Recommended for purchase by fans of either version of the series.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 10 Hrs. 36 Min.
Package Includes: DVD
Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/11/2014
Dallas continues the guilty pleasures with plenty of soapy twists for its second season in its new form on TNT. Encouraged by the success of the 2012 reboot, TNT has expanded the episode order from 10 to 15, thus allowing the writers to develop more complications and deeper conflicts. As established going back over 35 years now, the basic story follows the Ewing oil family, as currently represented by young guns John Ross (Josh Henderson) and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). The normal pattern is for John Ross to scheme against Christopher for control of the family home and business until outside antagonists force the family to work together. And then once the outsiders are vanquished, as Patrick Duffy has properly phrased it, “we go back to scheming and screwing each other again.” This story goes back to the original television series, which aired on CBS for over 10 years throughout the 1980s. In the current form, Cynthia Cidre has continued the original storyline, filling the cast with the next generation of characters but continuing to find plenty of material for original characters Bobby (Duffy), Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) and of course, the unrepentantly wicked J.R. (Larry Hagman).
The Production Rating: 3/5
One would think the second season would be smooth sailing for the show, but reality has a way of intruding just when you think things are settled. In this case, the series was dealt a significant blow by the death of Larry Hagman in November 2012, after the show had only completed a few episodes of the new season. This forced Cidre and the writing staff to almost completely scrap their plan for the year and generate a new plot that could accommodate the loss of J.R. from the series. In a sense, this is a bit similar to what occurred back in 1980 when the CBS series producers generated the “Who Shot J.R.?” cliffhanger out of frantic necessity. In the current situation, Cidre fashioned what initially appears to be an extremely complicated mystery – but which winds up being a lot simpler and more traditional to Dallas history by the end of the season. For the uninitiated, I can only say that diving in during the second season will likely be a bit overwhelming, but it is possible to catch yourself up in short order, just as you could with any other soap opera. For the longtime Dallas fan, the second season is loaded with references to classic series material, and there are payoffs to stories that go all the way back to the 1980s.
SOME SPOILERS HERE – DON’T READ UNLESS YOU DON’T MIND HEARING SOME PLOT DETAILS ABOUT THIS SEASON: The second season of the new show picks up right where the first year left off. The Ewings are struggling within themselves for control over their conglomerate, Ewing Energies – in much the same way that J.R. and Bobby used to fight over Ewing Oil. The complication today is that Christopher is pushing the company toward methane with the support of Bobby, while J.R. and John Ross are staying on the oil train. Sue Ellen is still running for Governor, although this comes to grief before the end of the first segment. Bobby’s wife Ann reveals what she knows about her grown daughter Emma (newcomer Emma Bell), who was apparently kidnapped as a baby and is now being used by her evil ex Harris Ryland (Mitch Pileggi) for blackmail purposes. Throwing everyone for a loop is the massive revelation that Christopher’s duplicitous wife from last year, Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), reveals herself to actually be Pamela Rebecca Barnes – the daughter of Cliff (Ken Kercheval) and Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers). And this is just how the games begin. Before long, we’ll be introduced to Drew Ramos (Kuno Becker), the troubled brother of Christopher’s love Elena (Jordana Brewster), as well as Ryland’s evil mother Judith (Judith Light), and the schemes will begin to multiply themselves. Within three episodes, Ann will be pushed over the edge by Ryland and the show will wind up in a courtroom drama for a spell.
MORE SPOILERS: I should note that the casting of Judith Light is a bit odd – she’s only three years older than the man playing her son. Granted, the original series had Barbara Bel Geddes playing Hagman’s mother when she was only 10 years older. But this situation really pushes it a bit far. On the other hand, if you take soap opera logic into the equation, you can squint your eyes and go with it. Initially, the new cast is certainly more at ease with their characters than in the first season – particularly as shown by Josh Henderson’s brash line readings as J.R.’s scheming son. Within the opening moments of the new season, John Ross seduces the engaged daughter of a trucking magnate and blackmails the father with the evidence. When he’s confronted in human terms with the notion that the young girl is in love, Henderson clearly enjoys sneering back “Love is for pussies”. This is a bit more direct than J.R. would have handled things back in 1980, but on the other hand I remember J.R. saying some pretty outrageous things himself… For the first few episodes, the new season really plays up the internal conflict at Ewing Energies, with Sue Ellen siding with her son against Bobby and Christopher and with some deft moves coming from J.R. as he seems to be manipulating the chess pieces himself. Also in play are the remaining threads from the first season, including Pamela’s killing of former partner Tommy – which gets wrapped up in fairly short order by having a supporting character take the fall for it.
EVEN MORE SPOILERS: All of this gets thrown up in the air by the sudden murder of J.R. in Mexico, which throws the characters into just as much of a spin as Hagman’s death threw the writers. In traditional Ewing fashion, the family pulls together to find out what happened and who killed J.R. while hostile forces circle around them. The wake for J.R. sees the return of many familiar faces, including a chance for Cliff Barnes to openly gloat about the situation. This moment is actually a bit more crucial than it may appear – as the reconfigured back half of the season features Cliff as the main villain of the story, along with Ryland. (And as is usual for the Ewings, the younger men wind up in a brawl before the gathering can be concluded…) The story goes to a much darker place as Cliff sets up an explosion on a Ewing methane rig that kills Pamela’s unborn children and could potentially ruin the Ewing family business. Things get even more twisted as Cliff and Ryland continue to scheme and the Ewings band together to fight back. The final pair of episodes plays out the major plot details, including an eleventh hour bid by Christopher to find out what happened to the original Pamela Barnes Ewing back in the 1980s. Consistent with what was established back in the CBS series, the TNT show clarifies that Bobby’s first wife in fact died more than 20 years ago, leaving her shares in Cliff’s company to Christopher. (There were plenty of people who were hoping that this story idea would make it possible for Victoria Principal to make an appearance on the new series, but my understanding is that this was never the intention. The producers instead wanted to find closure for both Christopher and the audience – and this plot device also gives Christopher enough shares in Cliff Barnes’ company to help tip the balance of power in the final episode) As the season draws to a close, both Cliff and Ryland find themselves in unhappily changed circumstances, the Ewings are back in power, and several new avenues of scheming and in-fighting have been established. I should note that in a refreshing change from the current trend of answering one mystery with five more (See Lost for reference…), Dallas plays fair with the audience and indeed discloses exactly what happened to J.R., what Bobby’s been up to all year, and how it all fits together. The moment comes near the end of the last episode, but they do take the moment and it’s both moving and appropriate.
FINAL SPOILERS: All of this begs the question of how effective the series is in its current form on TNT, as well as whether the wilder plots can continue to be believed. The answer is that it’s a mixed bag. The series continues to embrace plot twists that are practically science fiction at times. Ann gets away with attempted murder, Ann’s daughter Emma seems to change character between episodes and even between scenes, and all sides seem to have a never-ending ability to plant evidence and fingerprints at will. The characters of Cliff and Bobby seem to take the worst of it this year. Bobby is forced by the plot’s necessity to act in a fairly duplicitous manner – and the ultimate scheme by J.R. winds up being something one can’t imagine Bobby doing under any circumstances. There’s a qualifier that Cliff certainly seems to deserve it – but at the time Bobby sets everything in motion, he would have no way of knowing that. At the same time, Cliff has gone from being a petulant underachiever (as seen in the CBS series) to being an evil tycoon willing to sacrifice his own daughter. The Cliff Barnes we know from the original series would never have risked his daughter or even contemplated the stunt on the rig. There are also some cameos from original characters that actually beg more questions than they answer. Ted Shackleford makes a couple of appearances as Gary Ewing around the time of J.R.’s demise – but that just opens a giant plot hole. It’s nice to see both Shackleford and Joan Van Ark back in Dallas, but there’s simply no way that their characters would be able to play a scene with Bobby Ewing without noting that he died back in 1985. (Their series, Knot’s Landing, made a plot issue out of the death of Bobby on the original series, but never undid that when the original show decided the whole thing was a dream. Hence, Bobby was at once alive in Dallas and dead in California!) On the other hand, Audrey Landers has a field day with her appearance as Afton in the aftermath of the rig disaster. One can only hope she’ll be tasked to appear again in the new season. (And I understand she will, as it turns out.) Further, the younger cast members have a more interesting time of it this go-round. So as we noted last year, this isn’t Masterpiece Theater or even The Sopranos, but there’s still some fun to be had with the adventures of the Ewings. We’ll just have to see how things go in the new season, now that the mantle of J.R. has been passed along. AND THAT IS THE END OF THE SPOILERS FOR TODAY…
Just in time for the show’s 3rd season premiere this month, fans are being offered this 4-disc season set. Included here are all 15 episodes of the second season. Most of the episodes have a few minutes of deleted scenes thrown on the discs for good measure, and each disc has a brief website promo on the various episodes’ costumes. The key episode on J.R.’s death gets special treatment. An extended version of the episode is available, which has an optional commentary track with Cynthia Cidre and producer/director Michael Robin. The third disc includes 30 minutes from the show’s presentation at Paley Fest last year. The fourth disc includes a series of featurettes, including an overview of the season, a brief assembly of cast remembrances of Larry Hagman and finally a collection of Hagman’s answers to questions that were posed to him at the start of the new series in early 2012. The packaging includes an episode and disc guide.
Dallas: The Complete Second Season is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer that feels like an accurate representation of the intended look of the show. As with the first season, the high definition cameras used to shoot the series reveal a fair amount of detail in the sets and locations, not to mention on the faces of the cast
Video Rating: 3/5 3D Rating: NA
Dallas: The Complete Second Season is presented in an English Digital 5.1 Dolby Digital Mix (@ 384 kbps) which mostly lives in the front channels but which gets the usual punch from the music in the surrounds. Some racing sequences in early episodes are quite lively in the mix. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, which is crucial in the later episodes of the season where the heavy plotting goes into overdrive.
Audio Rating: 3/5
As I have done with earlier TV season sets, I’ll break down the ingredients on a disc by disc basis. Most episodes run approximately 42 minutes long. The only exception here is the key episode concerning J.R.’s death, which runs 44:13 in its aired version and 51:30 I the extended version. Deleted scenes are presented separately from the various episodes, although all deleted scenes on any disc may be viewed together as a group of their own.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Battle Lines – The new season begins with a series of bombshells that wrap up the plot from the first year and set up the conflicts to come. The fun here includes the revelation of Ann’s daughter, which has an immediate and unfortunate effect on Sue Ellen’s campaign. And there’s the big moment of Pamela, formerly known as Rebecca, revealing herself to the Ewings. Several deleted scenes (6:37) are available for separate viewing.
Venomous Creatures – The second episode introduces Judith Light as Ryland’s vicious mother, while showing the depths John Ross and J.R. are willing to go to get control of Ewing Energies. A deleted scene (1:51) is available as well.
Sins of the Father – Things come to a head on multiple fronts, including an examination of what exactly happened to Pamela’s “brother” Tommy last year... The episode ends with yet another demonstration of why the Ewings really shouldn’t be allowed to have firearms in the house. Two deleted scenes (2:40) is available for viewing.
False Confessions – Bobby predictably takes the fall for someone else, while Cliff Barnes gets someone else to pursue a similar idea to help out his daughter. One deleted scene (1:47) is included on the disc with the episode.
Dallas Fashion Files: (Anamorphic) Ep 201 (2:55), Eps 202-203 (2:36) - These are web featurettes originally shot for the TNT website for the series. They feature series costumer Rachel Sage Kunin and Jordana Brewster, showing off the various dresses and fashions presented on the listed episodes. For the season opener, they get into the jewelry as well.
Trial and Error – Ann goes on trial for her behavior. Several deleted scenes (5:35) are included on the disc.
Blame Game – During the sentencing portion of Ann’s trial, the Ewing’s old “friend” Vincente drops by the ranch for fun and games. Someone really should have warned this guy about what happens to people who take on the Ewings in their own home. A deleted scene (1:06) is included here for viewing.
The Furious and The Fast – Having disposed of Vincente, the family gets back to good old fashioned in-family infighting. Joining the squabble is Gary Ewing (Ted Shackleford), just in from California to side with Bobby, who he seems to have forgotten he’s been mourning for the past 25 years… A deleted scene (1:45) is included on the disc.
J.R.’s Masterpiece – This is the big one for the season. The family gathers to mourn the loss of J.R., and to start to follow a plan J.R. himself set in motion before his death. There are no deleted scenes for this episode because a special, longer cut of the episode is available on the disc. This version, running 51:30 (essentially a full act longer), can be viewed either with 2.0 sound or with a commentary by Cynthia Cidre and Michael Robin. The commentary gets into some interesting areas about how the company shoots at Southfork Ranch. Some of the rooms of the Ranch are actually set aside as museum spaces to preserve the look of the ranch as it was during the original 1980s run of the series. Cidre talks at length about how the writers were forced to rebreak the second half of the season to deal with what had happened. The original plan, which would have had J.R. taking over Ewing Energies himself and possibly even remarrying Sue Ellen along the way, was scrapped. Robin talks about working with Ken Kercheval, who found himself with a much larger role than anticipated as the new plan took hold.
Dallas Fashion Files: Eps 204-206 (2:52, Anamorphic) – This is another of the web featurettes from the TNT website, with Jordana Brewster and Rachel Sage Kunin continuing to enjoy the dresses.
Ewings Unite! – Sue Ellen tries to play off Gary by bringing Valene (Joan Van Ark) in from California. Appropriately, Charlene Tilton also drops by as their daughter Lucy – which may mark the first time the characters have been together onscreen in over 30 years. By the end of this episode, the main characters are right where Cliff Barnes wants them – out on a methane rig where who knows what could happen… Deleted scenes (4:37) are included on the disc.
Guilt & Innocence – In the aftermath of the event on the rig, the family tries to pull together. There may be more than one casualty – not only is Christopher’s technology threatened but so is the family fortune, and, just to make things interesting, Pamela’s unborn children. Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers) shows up to brace everyone and support her daughter. (Landers’ appearance is probably the best one by an original series guest character in the new series to date.)
Let Me In – It becomes clear that some familiar faces are going after the Ewing family, using the pretext of the methane rig disaster. This in turn plays right into that plan of J.R.’s that Bobby and the family are still following. A pair of deleted scenes (2:50) are also included for viewing.
A Call to Arms – As the Ewings prepare to do battle with Cliff and Ryland, various other plots begin to spiral – including Christopher’s search for the original Pamela Barnes Ewing.
The third disc also includes the following special features:
Dallas at Paley Fest 2013 (30:05, Anamorphic) – This is about 30 minutes of the Paley Fest event last year where Cynthia Cidre and most of the cast appeared to discuss the series and Larry Hagman’s passing. As this event took place in the middle of the season’s airing, Cidre and the cast only tease about what the eventual revelation will be, saying “You’ll have to keep watching.” Cidre does acknowledge that the only cast member to know the secret early on was Patrick Duffy, as his scenes were predicated on him knowing the truth and acting on it. The cast also has fun reading mock scenes from the original series, with Patrick Duffy and Jesse Metcalfe playing a scene between Bobby and a 3 year old Christopher at the ranch.
Dallas Fashion Files: Eps 207-209 (3:04, Anamorphic) – Rachel Sage Kunin continues the display of the dresses and fashions to be featured on the respective episodes.
Love and Family – Proving that it is indeed possible to make a complicated situation even wilder, John Ross and Pamela combine forces in a manner that gives John Ross a piece of Cliff’s company and a lot more of his daughter. Elena’s brother Drew reveals his complicity in the rig disaster. Emma confronts her father over his involvement.
Guilt By Innocence – As things spool up for the season finale, Christopher goes looking for his adoptive mother in Europe. Bobby, John Ross and Pamela continue following what Bobby says are the leads in J.R.’s master plan – which includes accessing Cliff Barnes’ safe deposit box. They find something interesting as relates to Christopher, and add something special to complicate Cliff’s life. A deleted scene (1:55) is included on the disc.
Legacies – The second season finale finds the Ewings in both open and covert warfare against Cliff Barnes and Ryland. In the space of this episode, the conflict will play out and the viewers will finally learn the answer to the mystery of the year. And as usual a series of plot strands are introduced that should play out over the third season – including a whole new mission for Elena. A deleted scene (1:53) is also included for viewing.
The fourth disc also includes the following special features:
Behind the Scenes: The Battle for Ewing Energies (11:42, Anamorphic) – This featurette gives an overview of the season, showing the basics of how the stories play out. Patrick Duffy provides the great quote about how the family always pulls together to fight outsiders and then goes back to backstabbing each other.
Memories of Larry Hagman (9:41, Anamorphic) – All the cast offer their thoughts about Larry Hagman in the wake of his passing.
One Last Conversation with Larry Hagman (7:03, Anamorphic) – This is an assembly of the interview answers Larry Hagman did in early 2012 to promote the new iteration of the series. Much of this material has already been seen on the first season set, but his answers are included here in full.
Dallas Fashion Files: (Anamorphic) Eps 210-215 (4:21), Overview (4:01) – Rachel Sage Kunin and Laurel Ripley conclude the display of the dresses and fashion featured on the second season.
Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and French for the episodes. Each episode can be viewed separately or via a “Play All” function. The episodes have internal chapters but there is no menu for them. Also, the deleted scenes can be viewed on their own per episode or via a “Play All” function as well.
The packaging includes a guide with summaries of every episode and pertinent information on an insert booklet.
Dallas continues its return to television with the second season’s fifteen episodes. Longtime fans of the series will no doubt enjoy seeing many old friends over the course of the year. Newer fans may enjoy the younger cast. Soap opera fans in general will enjoy the frothy material. It gets a bit outlandish at times, but there is a strong, confident through line to the season. If the series can continue to deliver stories this fun, it may yet have several years to add to the saga. The DVD set provides all fifteen episodes in fine video and audio quality. The Paley Fest excerpt and the commentary on the crucial funeral episode both add plenty of information and insight into the way the new series is being handled. This set is Recommended to fans of both iterations of the series.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Kevin EK
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