Impossible! Outrageous! How in the name of feverish foofaraw will that devious Dallas gang bring Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy) back from the dead this Friday at 9 p.m. ? More than a year ago 300 million viewers in 98 countries saw Bobby get mowed down by a car—in an effort to save ex-wife Pam (Victoria Principal). So many viewers tuned in to Bobby’s hospital bedside that while the blips on his heart monitor flattened, the Nielsens peaked to a season high. Brother J.R. (Larry Hagman) even cried over his casket, and for once he didn’t seem to be shedding crocodile tears.
But then, in last May’s cliff-hanger, who should pop up in Pam’s shower but Bobby, buck-naked and chirping “Good morning”—and, get this, on the very day after Pam had married Mark Graison! Only a year before his Dallas reappearance Patrick Duffy had declared for the record: “Bobby is gone and can never come back. I appreciate my public and would never fool them.” So much for heartfelt declarations.
We weren’t sure whether we needed a detective or a spiritualist, but we were determined to find an explanation for the blatant resurrection of Bobby. We wrangled a visit to the tightly-sealed Dallas set to confront Duffy and his cohorts. (And, okay, to do a little snooping around too.) Sure enough, those in the know are loath to spell out everything, but the clues they drop are surprisingly satisfying. What follows is our sleuth’s report about what you’re likely to see on Dallas this year.
Playing detective means finding Stage 5 at MGM Studios in Culver City, where Lorimar-Telepictures films the interiors for Dallas, but these TV types are clever. There doesn’t seem to be a Stage 5. Carl the guard opens the gate, and two buildings loom ahead—Stage 4 and Stage 6. No Stage 5 in sight. The cast, including Duffy, is just back from nine weeks of location shooting near Dallas, Texas, site of the Ewings’ Southfork ranch. Now they are just a few minutes away from reporting to Stage 5 for an 8 a.m. call.
Then Duffy, dressed in jeans, scruffy black boots and a flannel shirt, shows up as if on cue. “It’s this way,” he says, ducking through an alley that leads to Stage 5, for which there is no direct access. The alley is lined with unmarked 8′ × 10′ dressing rooms. Duffy’s is the first on the right. He dodges the big question about Bobby’s return by claiming that he won’t even come clean with his two sons, Padraic, 11, and Conor, 6. “The parents of the kids at their school pressure their kids to pressure my kids to find out,” he says. “I tell the boys to treat it like a present. If we wanted you to know what was inside, we would have wrapped it in cellophane.”
Why are Duffy and the other cast members grinning so widely as they check in for work? “I wonder how much someone would pay me to find out about Bobby,” Larry Hagman teases. Linda Gray, Victoria Principal, Steve Kanaly all make jokes. But their effort seems forced; an attempt to throw the detective off the scent. “Only three people really know how Bobby comes back,” admits Duffy, before disappearing into his dressing room. “Me, my wife, Carlyn, and [executive producer] Leonard Katzman.”
The trail to truth narrows. Let’s check out Stage 5, a two-story, 19,000-square-foot building that houses all the upstairs rooms in Southfork. They are shooting a scene in the bedroom of J.R.’s wife, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), for the new season’s Episode 7. Standing on the set is Jenilee Harrison, who plays Jamie, Pam’s sister-in-law; in last May’s cliff-hanger her car was blown up by a bomb planted by J.R.’s Greek nemesis, Angelica Nero (Barbara Carrera). “I thought I was dead too,” Jenilee confides. At season’s end the producers let her go. A few weeks later she got a message saying, “Disregard previous telegram.”
The sight of Victoria Principal is another shocker. Just last year she had wed Mark Graison. (Hint: John Beck, who plays Graison, has not been signed for the new season.) Now Principal sweeps into the room wearing a stunning $2,300 wedding dress by designer Zandra Rhodes, and she and Harrison start running through lines about how wonderful Pam must feel about remarrying—gulp—Bobby!
It’s time to corner executive producer Leonard Katzman. White-haired and congenial, Katzman, 59, is the man with the answers, if they can be pried out of him. Before last year, when he followed Duffy’s example and left to pursue other interests (the failed Our Family Honor series), Katzman had been the glue that held Dallas together since it first aired in 1978.
Katzman remains blasé about Bobby’s return from the grave. “On a soap opera,” says Katzman, “anyone who dies off-camera has a 50-50 chance of coming back alive.” Katzman says you can forget the idea that the new Bobby is a hitherto unknown evil twin. Nor was Bobby kidnapped by his rotten brother. “J.R. would lie, cheat and steal,” explains Katzman, “but he would never hurt his mama by letting her think Bobby was dead if he wasn’t.” (Note that statement well.)
Katzman says he devised his “brilliant solution” to the Bobby puzzle shortly after Duffy agreed to return to the series in May. To maintain security, Katzman reverted to the secretive methods employed in the famed 1980 “Who Shot J.R.?” episode. This time he taped three alternate solutions at a cost of $25,000, just to mislead cast, crew and snooping reporters. Katzman is under orders not to divulge which of the three endings is to be seen this Friday. But here—for the first time anywhere—are excerpts from the scripts for the three endings and the sometimes overlapping events that follow in each case.
Solution # 1—Bobby Revived:
Returning to Southfork, J.R. is startled to see Bobby in the entryway. “But I saw them bury you!” cries J.R., grabbing a table for support. “It was someone else,” says Bobby, who explains that a hospital orderly saw his eyes flicker and revived him. “I couldn’t walk. I could barely talk. I’ve been in hiding for the last year in a private hospital.” Next:
•Pam admits that she had a vision (in the shower) that Bobby was alive. She wants to remarry him, but doesn’t want to be disloyal to Mark Graison.
•Graison tells Bobby he is no longer in remission from his incurable disease; nobly, he will step aside so that Bobby can rewed Pam.
•Angelica Nero stands trial for the bombings, which Sue Ellen and Jamie have survived. But a badly scarred Sue Ellen goes blind.
•Jenna Wade (Priscilla Presley), Bobby’s old flame, now rumored to be pregnant with his child, goes mad when she learns that Bobby is alive and has returned to Pam.
•Bobby and Pam remarry.
Solution #2—The Bogus Bobby:
A man sits on a hospital bed while a doctor removes bandages from his face. A mirror is held up. “Great!” he enthuses. “I look just like him.” The glass reveals the face of Bobby Ewing. Reaching for a phone, the man punches some numbers and says, “It’s me. It’s gone perfectly.” Next:
•The Bobby look-alike claims the same revival story that the real Bobby explains in Solution #1.
•Angelica escapes from jail on the eve of her trial; the blind Sue Ellen has risky surgery.
•J.R., annoyed at having once again to share control of Ewing Oil with his returned brother, hires detectives to check him out.
•The bogus Bobby and the unwitting Pam remarry.
Solution #3—The Dream Bobby:
After that famous shower, Bobby and Pam have breakfast together. She tells him of the premonition she just had of his death. “Now, now,” he says, comforting her. “It was just a bad dream.” Newly reconciled, the couple embraces, and Bobby drives off to tell Jenna the news. Next:
•No resurrection for Bobby, since he never died.
•No recovery for Sue Ellen, since the bombings never happened.
•No trial for Angelica, since she existed only in a dream.
•No annulment for Pam, since she never married Mark Graison, who’s either in Hong Kong or presumed dead.
•Bobby and Pam remarry.
Before all this can sink in—how, for instance, can Katzman really offer Solution #3, which tells the public they wasted their time on last year’s 31 one-hour episodes—attention shifts to the second scene being shot this morning.
The place is Bobby’s bedroom, where he is dressing for his wedding to Pam. A crew member adjusts a mirror for Duffy as he dons his bow tie. Suddenly Duffy, who can’t resist Bobby-ghost jokes, shrieks, “Oh, no, I can’t see my reflection!” Hagman is similarly cheery, admitting a preference for Solution #1. “I do hope that’s it,” he says cunningly. “I was terrific in that scene.”
Aha! Wishful thinking that sounds like a clue! Then Howard Keel appears to throw in his theory, which muddies the water again. Keel, who plays Miss Ellie’s husband, Clayton Farlow, votes for Solution #3. “It’s the dream,” figures Keel. His reasoning? “Last year was a real nightmare.”
He’s referring to the internecine warfare in Lorimar’s front office, and if he’s right about Solution #3 there would be a nice little irony at work. In last year’s bad dream for Dallas, the show plunged to seventh place. Morale plummeted in the absence of Duffy the prankster and Katzman the ombudsman. Without Katzman as a buffer between them, Hagman clashed dramatically with Phil Capice, the show’s executive producer for eight years. Capice’s abrasive, top-of-the-lungs management style enraged Hagman, as did the changes he made in the story line. “We have all this foreign glitter,” complained Hagman, who objected to the Angelica Nero subplot involving her takeover of a Greek shipping empire. “What people want from Dallas is a focus on the family.” Cast and crew felt the tension. By season’s end Hagman had publicly labeled Capice a “no-talent, obnoxious—” and accused him of forcing out Katzman, deemed by Hagman “the real brains behind the show.”
Hagman reportedly offered Capice $1 million to take a walk. Then he pressured Lorimar executives to can his rival. “They said it was impossible,” Hagman reports. Then, as the ratings started to sink, the impossible became eminently practical. “They finally realized it could cost them a hell of a lot,” says Hagman. By the end of the season, Capice had resigned, explaining that he wanted “to stop and smell the roses.” Capice’s parting shot at his adversary was, for him, a model of restraint: “I remain not very close to Larry Hagman.”
Katzman was swiftly brought back to replace Capice as executive producer. With Hagman’s encouragement, he proceeded to fire all Capice-regime writers and producers and brought back most of his old team. “Dallas had become a women’s show,” sneers Katzman, referring to the glitzy Dynasty. Katzman dismissed Travilla, who designed last season’s Dallas wardrobe, especially those elaborate numbers worn by Barbara Carrera’s Angelica. Carrera’s contract was not renewed either (hint), and Priscilla Presley’s is up in one year (hint, hint).
Hagman and Katzman’s grand scheme to put Dallas back on top lacked only one element: Bobby. Lorimar chairman Merv Adelson sent Hagman to talk his best friend and hunting-fishing-food-fight buddy into returning.
Over lunch in his cramped dressing room, Duffy recalls his first reaction to Hagman’s offer. “I said, ‘Larry, how the hell can I go back?’ I thought I was definitely, certainly, irrevocably gone. I did not expect to ever set foot on this set again.” Duffy, 37, had felt it was time to move on. “I want to do my risk-taking now, not when I’m 50 or 60,” he says. “A hit show like Dallas is for when I’m as old as Larry [he is 55]. I left to use the spirit of adventure in my life.”
The spirit had moved him into a cameo as a goat in Alice in Wonderland, a mediocre miniseries, undistinguished TV guest shots and a series of unpaid public service spots promoting seat belts. Duffy says the best offers he received during that period involved more TV series “that would have put me right back in the same position I was in on Dallas”—with no guarantee of similar success.
Duffy agreed to talk it over with his wife, Carlyn Rosser, now 47, the former ballet dancer he married in 1974. Duffy worried that if he rejoined Dallas, “People might think I couldn’t make it on the outside.” That concern was erased by dollar signs. “There was a chance we could make a bundle,” says Duffy. Raised from an estimated $40,000 to $75,000 per episode, Duffy—who signed for two more years and an option for a third—jokes that “I make more than Don Johnson” (though not more than Hagman, who gets $100,000). “Financial negotiations,” says Patrick, “were only to get attention. I needed to be valued for my contribution.”
The only real obstacle Duffy could see to returning was how to get Bobby back from video limbo without making his fans feel cheated. He and Carlyn joked about it. “One day,” reports Patrick, “she said, ‘I know it’s crazy but you can do thus and such.’ I laughed and told her it was outrageous but that I admired her imagination.” A week later, the couple heard Katzman’s idea for bringing Bobby back. “We just looked at each other,” says Duffy, “with the look used by people who have been married for years.” Katz-man had come up with Carlyn’s idea. That’s the one they’ll use this Friday.
Back on the set to finish the morning’s scenes, Hagman exudes his old bonhomie, mock-strangling Patrick with his bow tie for a perfect outtake to use at the annual cast party. “Last year,” Hagman says, waiting for the cameras to set up for the next take, “I was exhausted. Now I could go dancing. The ladies in the cast all feel better. We’ve gotten everything worked out. The spirit is back at Dallas.” In the background, Duffy cracks another Bobby-ghost joke to the crew and everyone laughs as if last year never happened. Everyone except for Steve Kanaly (who plays Bobby’s half-brother, Ray Krebbs). Kanaly deadpans, “I can’t wait for this thing to air so people can stop talking about it.”
To that—and to Bobby’s return to the sweet, placid life at Southfork—a humble Amen.