What To Do With J.R. Ewing?
Larry Hagman’s sudden passing cannot be underscored enough as a loss to television fans. Hagman delighted audiences for decades, and his death has inspired heartfelt tributes by both the people who knew him personally as well as millions who did not. His demise has also posed a problem to the writers and producers of TNT’s new Dallas series. J.R. Ewing is one of the most iconic television characters ever created. Hagman shot six episodes of Season 2, but what to do with episode 7? This is no longer just a question for Star Wars fans. We have a few ideas….
- The Bullet Finally Got Him
The 54th Episode of the original Dallas series was not only one of the most famous episodes of the series -- "A House Divided" is one of the most famous episodes of any show of all time. This is the episode that kicked off the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" craze. "Who Shot J.R.?" was a pop culture phenomenon that went beyond television. There were actually "Who Shot J.R.?" pins that people wore on shirts, jackets and purses. J.R. lived, but there is the possibility that a small bullet fragment remained. Bullet fragments can travel slowly in the body over the course of decades. Given J.R.'s age and other possible health complications, it's not entirely unreasonable that the bullet finally got him.
- Shower Scene Part 2
In one of the most controversial turns in the original series, Bobby Ewing was killed off at the end of the 1985 season in a car accident. Actor Patrick Duffy actually stayed away through the entire 1985-1986 season (which proved to be a disaster for ratings). Larry Hagman convinced Duffy to return to the character of Bobby Ewing. However, there had now been an entire season without him. Eventually, Bobby emerges from a shower alive and the whole 1985-1986 season is revealed to be the longest dream sequence this side of Newhart.
The scene was parodied everywhere up to and including the 1999 episode of Family Guy entitled "Da Boom." The infamous shower scene is also where many consider the original series jumped the shark. However, these are desperate times and Dallas always did ridiculousness on a massive level. Bobby visiting a mausoleum where J.R. is buried commenting, "I wonder what would have happened if you had lived," would basically invalidate the first season of the new series. Of course, this is the only show in history where there is actually precedent for this.
- The Devil Actually Got J.R.
In the original series' finale, J.R. faces an extended temptation to kill himself by a demonic presence named Adam. The final scene showed Adam in the mirror screaming at J.R. to "Do it!" and end his miserable life. A shot is indeed fired and Bobby appears. All you see is Bobby looking dejected and saying "Oh My God." You never actually see what happened.
In a 1996 made for TV movie, it is revealed that J.R. shot the mirror and not himself. However, actor Joel Grey (who played Adam) is still alive. A cameo could be filmed with Grey explaining that J.R. did in fact kill himself. The first season of the new series was a glimpse of J.R.'s soul in purgatory. The series is rebooted with the returning characters, and Adam or his derivatives are now a sinister background force plaguing the Ewing family. Again, this is no more ridiculous than some of the things attempted on the series.
- Open Episode With The Funeral
Sadly, people (even J.R. Ewing) die unexpectedly. Obviously, the death of J.R. would be a major turning point in the series and dominate the rest of the second season. Make the whole thing as sudden and dramatic as it actually was. Larry Hagman grew up as the son of Mary Martin. Hagman was around the theater all his life. If anyone knew "The show must go on," it was Hagman (and Alan Rickman's character Alex in Galaxy Quest). Commission a wax figure of J.R. to put in a casket and show the aftermath. The episode would not only be a dedication to the character of J.R. Ewing, but to the giant in acting circles that Larry Hagman was himself.
- The Disappearance of J.R. Ewing
In 1982, the producers of the Pink Panther movies attempted to continue the franchise. The problem? The actor who played Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) died in 1980. The movie was built around a reporter trying to determine what happened to Clouseau while being pursued by a mobster herself. Peter Sellers was used throughout the film in archival footage. In the TV series M*A*S*H, Henry Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan.
There have been entire series such as Gilligan's Island and Lost built around the concept of a lost vessel. The sudden disappearance of J.R. (as well as the possible nefarious motives) can allow the character to become an integral part of the show while building a plot line. Anything can happen with a lost plane or ship. There is also the possibility of J.R. simply not being there any more. Without A Trace is structured completely around that premise.
- Call Jon Lovitz
All we are saying is that if you absolutely have to replace the character of J.R. Ewing, at least match the bad idea for an actor to the bad idea of recasting them. Jon Lovitz with gray hair would be the perfect albatross around the neck of the new series if you decided to actually recast the character of J.R. Ewing. Lovitz gets something of a pass for stepping into the last season of NewsRadio. While he may seem like a vulture for doing so, Lovitz was a friend of Phil Hartman and they were always giving each other jobs. Lovitz was simply trying to live up to the image of his friend. The rest of his post-Saturday Night Live career? Yeah, this bad of an idea would actually deserve Lovitz acting like there was no change at all. If anyone pointed it out, he could simply scream "ACTING!!!"