Death of Iconic Star Creates Challenge for ‘Dallas’ Producers

Larry Hagman (left) and Patrick Duffy in a scene from the new "Dallas" on TNT (Photo: TNT)

The writers and producers of TNT’s “Dallas” now face the challenge of creating a storyline that will do justice to the iconic status of their star, Larry Hagman, and the legendary character he played, J.R. Ewing.

Hagman, 81, died Friday afternoon in a Dallas hospital. At the time of his death, he was on the TNT series playing the role that made him world famous three decades ago — J.R. on the original “Dallas” on CBS. Season One of the new “Dallas” aired last summer on TNT, and the first six episodes of Season Two have already been filmed, with Hagman, according to this story on the Hollywood Reporter Web site.

Season Two is scheduled to premiere Jan. 28, THR said.

The challenge for the show’s writers: How do they explain J.R.’s sudden absence? And even more importantly, how do they craft a send-off for J.R. and Hagman that will be equal to the character, the actor and the show?

The THR story suggests that the show’s producers may have been “caught off-guard” by Hagman’s death — which may mean they had no inkling that his cancer had progressed past the critical stage. In fact, none of the accounts of Hagman’s death Saturday morning contain details about how he died, such as how long he’d been hospitalized.


The show’s executive producers, Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin, issued a statement about Hagman’s death that gave no indication of what they may be doing to handle his death in upcoming “Dallas” episodes that have yet to be written. “Larry Hagman was a giant, a larger-than-life personality whose iconic performance as J.R. Ewing will endure as one of the most indelible in entertainment history,” the statement said, according to this story. “He truly loved portraying this globally recognized character, and he leaves a legacy of entertainment, generosity and grace. Everyone at Warner Bros. and in the Dallas family is deeply saddened by Larry’s passing, and our thoughts are with his family and dear friends during this difficult time.”

We can’t resist giving you our own take on that statement: It seems highly impersonal, and likely crafted by a corporate p.r. person. We hope these producers will get together to write a more heart-felt send-off for Hagman on “Dallas” than this cold statement would indicate they’re capable of. We’re just sayin’ … But having said that, we acknowledge that it’s also possible these producers have not had time to get their heads around the sad news of Hagman’s death, particularly since it fell in the middle of the holiday weekend.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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