For years, Hollywood had been trying to reboot the classic primetime soap "Dallas," most notably in a big-screen movie that would have starred John Travolta as wily Texas oilman J.R. Ewing, Shirley MacLaine as Miss Ellie, Luke Wilson as Bobby, and Jennifer Lopez as J.R.'s alcoholic former beauty queen wife, Sue Ellen.
At one point, after Travolta parted ways with the production, the movie was even replanned as a comedy with Ben Stiller playing J.R.
But last year, TNT proved that the original format -- with, of course, original cast members -- was the best way to reboot the Ewing family saga, and fans can now catch up on the new drama with the release of "Dallas: The Complete First Season" on DVD (Warner Home Video).
The reboot, or sequel if you prefer, once again focuses on the action at Southfork Ranch, where Bobby Ewing (original cast member Patrick Duffy) and his wife, Ann (Brenda Strong), run the show. J.R. (the late, great Larry Hagman) has suffered a breakdown and lives in a sanitarium, and the next generation of Ewing family battles centers around Bobby's son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) and J.R.'s son John Ross (Josh Henderson), who have very different ideas about how their family's business legacy should live on.
And therein lies the main reason the new "Dallas" works: producers wisely focused on the "old." Not just with the original cast members (it is a pure delight to see Hagman, ornery as ever, back in primetime sporting that trademark Stetson), but also with the storyline again revolving around Ewing family squabbles.
[Related: How Larry Hagman created TV's best villain]
Christopher and John Ross are rivals not only for the family business and Southfork, but for a woman they both love and for the approval of their families. Throughout Season 1's 10 episodes, they will also be forced to team up against common enemies (though, as the season ends, they're most definitely enemies again).
The Season 1 box set is, unfortunately, not offered in a Blu-ray version -- a shame because Southfork would certainly hold up well on that format -- but the collection does include all 10 episodes, as well as bonus featurettes on the Ewing family, the "Southfork Legacy," and the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" storyline of the original series, as well as deleted scenes and commentary on the pilot episode.
The Season 1 set is wonderfully marked by the presence of Hagman, who died unexpectedly in November, in the episodes and the bonus features, and will make fans both happy and a little sad that we'll get to enjoy his performance as J.R. for only a handful of episodes in Season 2, which premieres on TNT on Jan. 28.
Watch an exclusive clip from the DVD box set:
Other noteworthy TV DVD releases this week:
"Archer: The Complete Season 3" on Blu-ray (Fox Home Entertainment)
There's an international space station crisis, Archer's dead fiancée turns up very much alive, and Bryan Cranston guest stars in the two-part season finale, but the best episode of an altogether fantastic Season 3 is "The Man From Jupiter," in which Sterling meets his hero, Burt Reynolds (who guest stars), only to find out that his man crush is dating Mama Archer. Bonus materials on the Blu-ray set include audio commentaries, the "Archer" cast at Comic-Con, and a "Cooking with Archer" featurette.
"Episodes: The Complete First and Second Seasons" (Paramount)
A couple of bonus materials would have been nice for this double set of "Episodes," uh, episodes, but the collection is still worth picking up, especially if you haven't seen "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc's Golden Globe-winning performance as an over-the-top version of himself in the Showtime comedy.
"Anger Management: Season 1" on Blu-ray (Lionsgate)
The FX series looks fantastic on Blu-ray, and if you're a Charlie Sheen fan, it's a must-own. If you're not … you might like that "Archer" set.
"Smash: Season 1" (Universal)
Season 2 premieres on Feb. 5, with newbie cast member Jennifer Hudson, guest star Liza Minnelli, and star Debra Messing's "Will & Grace" pal Sean Hayes, so this Season 1 set is your chance to catch up on the soapy series about the behind-the-scenes efforts to create a Broadway show. Bonus materials include deleted and extended scenes, a gag reel, a never-before-seen musical performance, and a featurette on creating the show's song-and-dance numbers.
"Enlightened: The Complete First Season" on Blu-ray (HBO)
Another not-for-everyone series, the dramedy "Enlightened" stars Laura Dern as fortysomething Amy, an exec who melts down after an affair with her boss ends. After spending time at a holistic treatment center, Amy returns to the corporate world determined to change and change those around her, which makes for an interesting story if you're patient enough to watch it unfold.
"Doctor Who -- Story #109: Shada" (BBC Home Entertainment)
Douglas Adams wrote this unaired 1980 "Who" serial, about the lost planet of Shada, where Time Lords built a prison to house the worst wannabe universe destroyers. The storyline was left unfinished because of a BBC strike, though a 1992 VHS version was released with Tom Baker providing narration to accompany the footage that had been shot before the strike. That version hits DVD for the first time, in digitally remastered form, along with featurettes like the 1993 special "More Than 30 Years in the TARDIS" and the making-of feature "Taken Out of Time."
"3rd Rock From the Sun" Seasons 5 and 6 (Mill Creek)
The final two seasons of the Emmy-winning John Lithgow alien comedy -- the one that also helped launch the career of big-screen hotshot Joseph Gordon-Levitt -- hit DVD with blooper featurettes, an alternate ending for the series finale, and guest appearances by Elvis Costello, Megan Mullally, John Cleese, and David Hasselhoff (as a plastic surgeon).
"The Goode Family: The Complete Series" (Shout! Factory)
All 13 episodes of the Mike Judge-produced 2009 'toon that spoofed the uber-politically correct Goodes are featured in the box set, which also includes cast commentaries and unaired scripts.
"Hearts Afire: The Complete Series" (Mill Creek)
John Ritter, Markie Post, Ed Asner, and Billy Bob Thornton starred in this 1992-95 CBS comedy about a conservative senator (Ritter) and the liberal reporter (Post) he butts heads with and then falls in love with and marries. The show, created by "Designing Women" producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason, was also known for cameo appearances by the likes of Hillary Clinton's father, Hugh Rodham, and Rush Limbaugh, and all 54 episodes of the show, including the unaired series finale, are included in the box set.
- Arts & Entertainment
- John Travolta
- Larry Hagman
- Bobby Ewing