Revitalizing one of the most important television shows to air is a balancing act of blending the old series with a new one; with Dallas, it is taking decades of history and adding new characters to create a new show with a familiar universe. For that, it is largely successful, which is unsurprising given the first run's grand success.
The first great soap opera, the original carnation of Dallas began with intentions for a mini-series, but its popularity allowed Dallas to span 13 seasons, a few TV movies and now a revival, not a reboot. This means that we get to follow the adventures of the original Ewing dynasty and their latest attractive offspring.
Since the show's universe is well-established -- just involving some sex appeal, wealth and power struggles in Texas sets the most basic tone -- the 'pilot' introduces the younger generation. A generically attractive cast, their love triangle/quadrangle issues bring all of the Ewings and company together for the celebration of a wedding and for the age-old power struggles of the Ewing oil business.
I'm honestly not sure how to watch this show. I know that the revival is clutching at both young and older audiences to give into the cultural sensation that is Dallas but I know very little about the first run. I wasn't even alive; my youth is a disadvantage, but at the same time will hopefully make me a blank slate. I, like the rest of the country, know that Dallas was a soap opera that brought more Americans to participate in the phenomenon to find out "Who shot J.R.?" than it does for presidential elections (percentage-wise, at least).
And therein ends my knowledge other than what my parents, avid fans like the rest of America, tell me during commercials. A lot of people maybe tuning into watch J.R. wreak his havoc shtick and a lot of people may be first-time viewers while the rest could have a middle range of knowledge like myself. Regardless, this revival's pilot has the task of quite literally 'changing the guards' to the Ewing dynasty and fortune and legacy that is Dallas. It does not disappoint.
The younger cast does a decent job with maintaining soap opera goodness and generic attractiveness. John Ross, his father's little mini-me, is scheming to drill oil on the sacred Southfork Ranch. His nemesis, in a clear parallel from the original run, is his adopted cousin Christopher, who is trying to build an alternative energy empire in the heart of Texas. I do not want to comment on how successful this plotline isn't.
Of course, the two are not just competing for company assets and control of Ewing Oil but for a certain bland and brilliant childhood sweetheart, Elena Ramos, daughter of the Ewing family maid. Complications arise, however, because Christopher is getting married to Rebecca, a wholesome and good-natured outsider.
So those pieces of this show above could make it work. The cousin rivalry is neither intriguing nor insufferable for a show about power struggles. But the show really gains its spark when the original power struggle relations come into play as it examines brothers Bobby and J.R. The altruistic Bobby has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and prepares to sell the family ranch Southfork and ensure that the land never be drilled on. Meanwhile, the guy everyone loves to hate, the infamous J.R., is suffering from severe depression in his old age; perhaps he finally gained a conscience (though this later proves to be unlikely). It isn't until J.R. watches his son John Ross scheme his way into oil that J.R. is sort of awakened. That son of a gun.
A lot of things in this episode are great. Anything with Larry Hagman, for example. It falters with the environmental 'alternative's the future' message even if it is timely; this is a show about oil, after all. Also, the younger characters can't captivate the attention J.R. and Bobby can but they are the victims of being the new kids on the block.
The revival blends old with the new. The credits give respect to the original credits, but you also know this is the Dallas revival when it starts playing an Adele song somewhere along the way. It's a rare accomplishment; but so is the success of Dallas.