Is America ready for a new “Dallas” (8 p.m., TNT)? Does it want one?
The original debuted in 1978 and all but defined an era of prime-time soap operas that featured over-the-top stories of family betrayal and celebrated conspicuous wealth. And with its “Who Shot J.R.?” story line, “Dallas” went into the TV record books for having one of the most anticipated cliffhanger episodes in network TV history. At the time, it was the most watched episode of any show, winning a whopping 76 percent of the TV audience in the spring of 1980. But that, as they say, was a long time ago.
Proof that remakes can be sad affairs arrives early in this new “Dallas.” Stars and characters from the old series appear, if only to pass the torch to the next generation of troublemakers. Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) gets a cancer diagnosis. J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) sits silently in a wheelchair in a nursing home, unresponsive and depressed.
Maybe he’s bummed that his son, John Ross Ewing III (Josh Henderson), is such a meager chip off the old block. He’s first seen operating an oil rig on the Southfork Ranch. (As if nobody would notice.) John Ross seems more impulsive than smart. Good thing he’s got Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster) around to help. She’s the daughter of a Southfork maid and the former fiancee of John Ross’ cousin and rival, Christopher Ewing (Jesse Metcalfe), Bobby’s adopted son. Elena’s also a geological genius, having taught the aggressive John Ross that there could be “billions” of gallons of oil underneath the family compound. Isn’t that convenient?
The first “Dallas” was hardly a novel idea. In many ways it was a prime-time version of a daytime soap, lifting story lines from 1950s movies such as “Giant” and “Written on the Wind.” Bobby and J.R. were originals, in an obvious, cheesy way. Let them (and “Dallas” viewers) live with their memories. This new version is not so much terrible as forgettable.
Tonight’s other highlights
• Slobber barons on “Dogs in the City” (7 p.m., CBS).
• Hopefuls vie for a ticket to Las Vegas on “So You Think You Can Dance” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A crisis at chess camp on “Royal Pains” (8 p.m., USA).
• Proteges and mentors sing party songs on “Duets” (8:30 p.m., ABC).
• "Through the Wormhole With Morgan Freeman” (9 p.m., Science) questions whether the universe itself is a living entity.