'Dallas' preview: New, but not improved

(USA Today) -- TNT hasn't so much revived Dallas (*1/2 out of four, TNT, Wednesday, 9 p.m.) as exhumed it.

Forget Dallas; they should have called it Thebes. You can find mummies who look fresher than this mold-encrusted relic, and who have newer ideas in their empty, embalmed heads. Not, of course, that this embarrassing throwback has any idea to offer beyond a desire to cash in on the standard-setting success of the CBS original in the 1980s.

PHOTOS| Linda Gray, Jon Rossvisit 11Alive

Which explains, by the way, the decision to bring Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray back to Southfork as J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing, in pretty much the only wise decision the show's re-creators have made.

Years have passed, times have changed, but Duffy remains the epitome of the easily duped nice guy while Gray still exudes damage and delusion.

Then there's Hagman, who is, as he always was, in a class by himself (and sometimes, it seems, in a show by himself). In a dramatic TV landscape dominated by fine actors who subsume themselves in their roles (think Jon Hamm in Mad Men or Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad), Hagman offers a wry return to the days of old-fashioned, self-aware, look-at-me star turns - one done with a light in his eye that seems to flash, "Damn, I'm good."

And so he is. Would that he were not alone.

Alas, the sad truth that TNT might rather you didn't know is that Hagman, Duffy and Gray are merely supporting stars in a reboot that puts its main focus on a younger Ewing generation. If while surfing for summer entertainment you stumble upon an even duller group of characters, performers or stories, feel free to avoid them as well.

The theme here is that family history repeats itself, which is convenient, as it allows the writers to simply recycle old plots and tropes. And so Bobby's equally sweet and dupable son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe) clashes with J.R.'s snake-in-the-making son John Ross (Josh Henderson, who is overestimating the sex appeal of petulance).

They both want Southfork. And they both want their now-grown childhood companion Elena (Jordana Brewster), which is going to be tough for Christopher as he just married Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo).

Schemes and double-crosses abound, mixed in with the fistfights, longing looks and slamming doors the genre seems to require. And don't fear getting lost, as the characters periodically stop to explain what they've done and what they want, usually to someone who would clearly have no need for the explanation.

There will no doubt be some out there who so loved the original Dallas, they'll still find this little "D" enchanting. There will be others who come for the camp value alone, from the wooden performances to the often risible dialogue.

As for the rest of us, we can be grateful that a busy TV summer offers plenty of other choices.

And livelier ones at that.


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