Quote of the Day: “Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?” — Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”
Those words, spoken from heartbroken mother to oil baron son, are the closing words of “Miss Ellie Saves the Day”, the twelfth episode of the third season of a show called Dallas. That was thirteen episodes before the infamous “A House Divided” episode, which closed the season with a bang, so to speak, and which is more commonly referred to as “Who Shot J.R.?” What Miss Ellie “may never forgive” JR for is mortgaging her beloved Southfork Ranch—the place she grew up, the place where she raised JR and his brothers—in order to fund an oil drilling compound off the shores of Southeast Asia. The subtext of Miss Ellie’s words actually seem to be “I’ll never forgive myself for this, JR”, because Miss Ellie, noble and nice and as salt-of-the-earth as an oil- and land-rich former heiress can be, partially blames herself for the shady, underhanded ways in which her oldest son conducts himself, in business and in life.
As I wrote in America last year, I watch Dallas reruns now and I find myself giggling—and I don’t mean at the show. I’m giggling because I’m happy, amazed to be watching something so, well, surprisingly good, awed by the sheer there-ness of the characters, the surprising ways that their words are illuminated by emotions realer than I remembered them being when I watched as an adolescent in the 80s.
Pulp fiction didn’t get much better than Dallas. And neither did the acting of Barbara Bel Geddes, who played Miss Ellie (except for that bizarre season when Donna Reed stepped in for her) with such old-school acting gravitas she gave the show real weight–and won an Emmy in the process. I was obsessed with her name when I was a kid—doesn’t “Bel Geddes” sound like something out of a Flannery O’Connor story? And I’ve been a fan forever—first because she was in Vertigo (one of my favorite flicks) and because she was the original Maggie in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (one of my favorite plays). Nice round-up of her life and career here.
Shave and a Haircut: Big ups to John Ridley for bringing Barbershop to the small screen with its heart and razors in tact. Starting this Sunday at 10pm, Showtime’s new comedy is a little sitcom-y in spots and some of the jokes ain’t as funny as the actors seem to think they are, but for the most part, the show works, and you gotta give dap to a TV show that tackles anger management, identity theft, abortion, and sex talk-as-foreplay lessons all in the pilot episode and still doesn’t feel like it’s shot its load for the season. Omar Gooding retains Ice Cube’s world-weary-soul brotha vibe nicely but rachets up the craziness—he seems to be one of the gang even as he has always remind cats that he runs the joint. Barry Shabaka Henley doesn’t have Cedric Tha Entertainer’s iconic irascibility (who could?) but he does have a way with a one-liner and there’s one joke in particular—aimed at a certain TV hostess—that ricochets across the screen so violently I almost fell off the couch when he says it. And Toni Trucks, as Terri (the Eve part), is a wonder, spunky and ferocious, almost stealing the show. But she can only do that with the words of Ridley, who brings his sophisticated fast-talking dialogue to the hood with his usual skill and edge and who’s cast the show with a talented, refreshing group of TV newcomers, even in the small roles . If you haven’t read Ridley’s stuff (or seen Three Kings or U-Turn or Undercover Brother or the underrated Cold Around the Heart) go find some of it right now. Ridley’s one of my idols; I think everybody should know his name.