Dallas: The Complete Eighth Season
R1 - America - Warner Home Video
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (8th March 2008).
The Show

Larry Hagman's claim to fame is having played the shifty and ruthless oil and cattle baron John Ross 'J.R.' Ewing, Jr. in no less than 357 episodes of the evening soap opera "Dallas" (1978-1991). Dallas became a pop culture sensation when at the end of Season 2, J.R. was shot by an unknown assailant. Many of his associates had reason to hate him, and many of them were planning revenge against J.R. at the time of his shooting. Thus, on March 21, 1980, the question "Who shot J.R.?" was uttered for the first time. It was not long before the catch phrase appeared on t-shirts, bumper stickers, and magazine covers. Speculation raged all summer and into the autumn. It took until November 7, 1980 for answers to start emerging. The first episode of the following season offered no clues as to the identity of the killer, but viewers did learn that J.R. Ewing had survived. By November 21, Thanksgiving week, the fourth episode of the fourth season had come and gone, J. R.'s killer had been revealed, and "Dallas" was now rendered - as seen through the lens of history - as a topic of conversation that was no longer relevant.
Nevertheless, the evening soap opera managed to stay on the air for ten more years. The producers of the show knew that they had struck gold with their series finale cliffhanger, and they continued to end each broadcst year with a hook designed to keep the viewer amped all summer until the new episodes were unveiled the following autumn. For the seventh season, the cliffhanger that viewers were left with had to have been the result of either a complete lack of inspiration or else a sad case of unintended self-parody. An unknown assailant strides into J.R.'s office (scene of the prior J.R. shooting) and fires into the back of the man in the office. See you next fall for season eight! The only problem was that the catch phrase "Who Shot J.R.?" had already been used, and this time few people cared.
Unlike viewers in the 1980's, you won't have to wait to find out who apparently shot J.R. the second time. The DVD set of the eighth season has just been released. As the season unfolds, the cast (which also includes Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Victoria Principal as Pamela Barnes Ewing, Priscilla Presley as Jenna Wade, Morgan Brittany as Katherine Wentworth, and Martin E. Brooks as Edgar Randolph) go through an endless series of double crosses, heartache, and power struggles in their quest for riches and personal wealth. Turns out, by the way, that J.R. was not shot at the end of the previous season - it was Bobby.
Thirty episodes later, Bobby (now fully recovered from his wounds) and his ex-wife Pamela decides to get remarried. Katherine decides to run over Pamela with her car, and Bobby ends up getting killed while saving Pamela. Patrick Duffy left the show after that point (after all his character was apparently dead - again), but wanted to return for the tenth season. When Duffy came back, it was decided that the ninth season - the whole season - was just someone's dream! Talk about both Deus Ex Machina and a jumping of the shark, all at the same time!
The fans at the time seem to have agreed: seasons two through eight were all ranked on the Neilsen ratings at no worse than number six at the time of their broadcast, and often at number one. With season nine, "Dallas" fell out of the top ten, and it never returned.
The DVD set of "Dallas" The Complete Eighth Season contains five double-sided DVDs. Please note that the commonly used season numbering for "Dallas" fans does not count the original mini-series as Season 1, but the DVD reissue program does. This means that the DVD of season 8 actually contains the material that has been traditionally thought of as season 7 (I have used DVD season numbering throughout this review).

Video

The DVDs are presented in the original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 (or 4:3). The picture is definitely a bit grainy and occasionally rather soft. It is not the best transfer of a television program from its era that I have seen, but it is far from the worst.

Audio

The soundtrack for the series is presented in the original English Dolby Digital 1.0 mono, with English subtitles. For twenty-some year old television audio, the sound is fine. Dialogue is clear enough if occasionally a bit ambient during some of the material recorded on soundstages.

Extras

The only extra on the set is "Dallas Makeover - Travilla Style" a featurette that runs for 9 minutes 50 seconds about the Emmy award winning costumes of the show. The man known as Travilla did costumes for 81 movies between 1942 and 1970, including a bunch of Marilyn Monroe films, and spent the last years of his life working on television shows, culminating in "Dallas", his final gig. His fashions for the ladies of "Dallas" - shoulder pads, bold colors, big hair - were defining looks for the 1980's.

Overall

The Show: C Video: C+ Audio: B Extras: C- Overall: C

 


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