Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Brief DALLAS Interlude Part 10 of 12: JOCK'S WILL


Episode Title: Jock’s Will

Season 06, Episode 05

Written by David Paulsen

Directed by Michael Preece

Original Airdate: Friday, October 29th, 1982

The Plot (Courtesy of Jock's will reveals the fate of Ewing Oil; Ray invites Mickey to Southfork; Pam wants to get Lucy working again; J.R. and Sue Ellen decide on a wedding date.

                Welcome back to A Brief Dallas Interlude, our first one in nearly a year (you’ll recall that our last one was for the episode Five Dollars A Barrel, airing December 4th, 1981) as well as our last one for nearly three years (our next Interlude will be when Bobby, um, dies, and Gary goes to his funeral in The Family Ewing, airing September 27th, 1985).  This may be our most interesting Brief Dallas Interlude, in my opinion, as well as the most directly linked that the two series, parent series Dallas to spinoff series KL, ever get.

                I feel like the 1982-1983 season was the year to be a nighttime soap fan, because all of the big four soaps were in the top twenty that year.  We had KL coming in at #20 (even though, rightfully, it should have been #1, but I’ve already given my feelings on the lack of synchronicity between ratings and quality), Falcon Crest at #8, Dynasty at #5, and Dallas at #2.  And if 1982-1983 was the year to be a nighttime soap fan, then Friday, October 29th, 1982, was the night to be a Dallas/KL fan because, for the one and only time in the history of both series, they aired a Dallas with a special guest appearance by Ted Shackelford and then immediately followed it with a KL that continued the storyline from the Dallas ep and featured crossover appearances from Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy. 

                I’ve been legit looking forward to this Interlude because I was very curious to see how it played out and how the two shows linked when put side by side like this.  If you’ll recall our last two Interludes, I was very underwhelmed because they were absolutely and completely Dallas episodes which just happened to feature a very small appearance by Gary (well, he had a bit more material to work with in Five Dollars A Barrel, but he and Val both got about five seconds worth of footage in The Split).  I sat through those two Interludes feeling bored and fidgety, wanting to get back to the cul-de-sac and out of the Texas sun, wondering if I was just being an anal retentive weirdo for insisting that we include all Dallas eps featuring Gary/Val, no matter how small their material was.  In the case of this, though, I knew that the storylines involving the reading of Jock Ewing’s will as presented on Dallas would then bleed over and heavily influence the stories over on KL.  Also, knowing that we wouldn’t have another Interlude for three years and that, in total, we only have two more Interludes left altogether, I was definitely feeling good as My Beloved Grammy and I gathered together and popped this episode in for a viewing.

                One thing that makes Jock’s Will similar to so many of our previous Brief Dallas Interludes is that, for the majority of the episode runtime, we don’t get to see Gary or Val (Val does not appear in this ep, by the way, but I was referring to her appearances in earlier Interludes).  Back with The Split, we got that five second appearance from them right near the middle of the ep, if I’m remembering correctly, and with Five Dollars A Barrel, I believe Gary only hung around for the first quarter of the episode and was completely gone after the first commercial break.  With this ep, we don’t get to see Gary at all until the last fifteen minutes of the ep, so we spend most of the runtime with the usual Dallas characters.  As with before, I’m not particularly interested in writing about what’s going on in the Dallas storylines, so I’ll just kinda glaze over it.

                However, the reading of Jock’s will is the main plot of this episode, and it actually flowed surprisingly well jumping into this Dallas after so many KL eps in a row, because for the first five episodes of this season, so many of the KL characters have been discussing Jock Ewing’s death and how Gary is going to visit Texas soon to hear the will.  We had J.R. crossing over a few weeks back in Daniel and informing Abby that, “Gary’s coming into money, a lot of money, and Valene doesn’t have anything to do with it.”  We also had Gary inviting Val to come to Texas with him and her angrily declining.  Plus, I just think that the general anger that Gary’s been displaying lately (remember that hilariously goofy fight he had with Rusty back in A Brand New Day?) is due to his confusion and grief at losing his father.  Even if he and Jock didn’t see eye to eye and didn’t really get along very well, he is still his daddy and it’s always difficult to lose a family member. 

                So anyway, while I’m gonna glaze over or flat out ignore many parts of this ep, like Donna and Ray’s trip to Kansas to see Aunt Lil and meet Mickey Trotter, or J.R. and Sue Ellen’s renewed courtship and plans for a second marriage, or Cliff Barnes taking everyone out to dinner and talking about how he’s going to destroy J.R. (oh wait, but that is the plot of every damn episode of Dallas), I will give some attention to the whole will storyline, so let’s dive right in.

                Jock’s will cannot be read until Jock is officially declared legally dead.  For those who are strictly KL fans and didn’t watch a lot of Dallas, basically Jock Ewing disappeared in South America during the 1981-1982 season when his helicopter crashed into a lake, or something, and he’s never seen nor heard from again.  So yes, spoiler alert for events that happened on Dallas decades ago, but Jock Ewing really is dead and, despite a few annoying flirtations with him being alive later in the series, this is never changed or retconned.  As we begin Jock’s Will, we are at Southfork during the cocktail hour (which, I remind you, lasts from 12:00AM to 11:59PM and then refreshes once again at 12:00AM every single day) while the Ewing lawyer, Harv Smithfield, has a chat with Miss Ellie, Bobby, and J.R.  We learn that since Jock’s body has not been officially found (and it never is, if I remember correctly), they may face a tough time having him declared legally dead and may have to wait a full seven years (1989!) before they can open and read the will.  I guess Jock had special measures taken with his will to insure it would stay sealed and private, so we know it must have some pretty juicy stuff in it.

                Basically the Ewings go to a Texas courthouse and, about five minutes later, Jock is declared legally dead.  J.R. flies in some witness from South America to attest that he saw Jock’s helicopter crash and then they present a big gaudy medallion that Jock was fond of wearing, which they discovered at the bottom of the lake.  This is good enough for the judge, so he’s like, “Yup, Jock is dead, let’s all get the hell out of here,” bangs his gavel, Miss Ellie cries for awhile (since that’s all she ever does) and then we move on to another scene.

                Now that Jock is dead, it’s time for the reading of the will.  We don’t get to actually see Bobby calling Gary in California to talk to him, although I wish we had.  I always get a little KL boner when we get a glimpse of the cul-de-sac in a Dallas ep (and I think that only happens three times, once with Return Engagements, once with No More Mister Nice Guy: Part One, and once with The Split).  In this instance, Bobby just comes walking into a room and is like, “Well, I just spoke to Gary in California over in the far better show, and he’ll be coming to Texas tomorrow.”  I liked this scene because we get another bit of J.R.’s strong distaste for Gary.  He says something like, “Nothing like the promise of an inheritance to get that loser to come running,” and then Lucy says a line I wanna spend seventeen minutes over-analyzing: “He’d have been here a lot more if it weren’t for you.”

                Remember way back in season one of KL when we discussed Home Is For Healing?  You’ll recall that was the one and only time that Lucy came to cross over into KL, and I spent that ep discussing how I felt her character would be much happier and get much better material to work with if she had been transported over to the spinoff series.  Well, this line kinda reminded me of that, and it also makes me annoyed and frustrated with the characters while recognizing that, of course, these characters are created by writers and don’t always necessarily behave in a way that makes sense.  Allow me to elaborate.

                I feel like there are a bunch of Dallas eps where Lucy is like, “Oh, I never get to see my parents cuz J.R. is so evil, Bob Loblaw,” where she bitches and moans about her fractured family while sitting beside the Southfork swimming pool.  However, logically speaking, Lucy is a Ewing and has plenty of money (she inherits five million dollars in this damn episode, after all) and she could easily go out to California to visit Gary and Val whenever the hell she wants, but she never does (except, of course, for Home Is For Healing).  So I just find it amusing and strange that in this episode Lucy spends the entire running time sitting around and being boring and making comments about how J.R. treated Gary when she could, you know, move to California and get some interesting storylines and be able to be with her folks.  But alas, I digress.

                We get a super quick scene at the Texas airport where Miss Ellie and Bobby meet Gary as he gets off his plane, and I actually had myself a little flashback to some years back when My Beloved Grammy and I were tackling the fourteen seasons of Dallas and I smiled to myself, thinking of how far we have come.  I specifically remember watching this episode of Dallas with her and when Gary arrived at the airport, My Beloved Grammy asked, “Where’s that cute little wife of his?” and I told her that they were now split up at this point in KL and I said, “We’ll watch that one day and see everything that happens.”  Well, now that day is here and I couldn’t be happier.  It is also just interesting to note how you can watch the same episode of television from a different point of view.  Back when we were watching Dallas, an appearance from Gary or Val would be like, “Oh, there’s that Ewing brother we barely ever get to see and his wife,” but now when I watch these Interludes, I’m only focusing on what Gary does in the story and I’m ignoring the majority of the Dallas shenanigans.

                Okay, anyway, this ep is almost over, so we power into our final scene, which takes place at Southfork in the family room.  Everyone is gathered to hear what the will says, and this is where my ears really perked up and I really started to pay attention, mostly because I wanted to see if the details of Jock’s will maintained continuity from Dallas to KL.  I had never watched these episodes back to back like this, so I wanted to see if there would be any contradiction from one show to the next.  Anyway, the gist of it is that Lucy gets to inherit five million dollars, like I already mentioned, while the four Ewing sons (that’d be Bobby, J.R., Ray, and Gary) get to inherit ten million dollars.  However, Gary’s inheritance has a little caveat added, one that we can tell he does not like because we get a closeup of his face and he looks glum and insulted.  I found this detail a bit confusing and had to pause and ask My Beloved Grammy for clarification, but basically while Gary still gets to inherit ten million dollars, he doesn’t get it handed to him all at once like the other three boys; rather, Jock has added a provision that Gary’s use of the inheritance be limited for the first four years to the use of interest.  Honestly, if this happened to me I’d be fine with it; Gary still gets the ten million dollars, just not as quickly as the others.  However, I also understand why Gary is upset by this.  Jock is basically reaching out from beyond the grave to remind Gary that he thinks he’s a loser.  He is saying that while he trusts the other three boys (even Ray, for God’s sake!) to handle the money responsibly, he is afraid Gary will do something stupid with it like, I dunno, gamble all of it away or turn it into ten million dollars worth of booze, something like that.  So yes, Gary has the right to be offended, yet at the same time he has a pretty crummy track record and he’s not exactly a self-actualized human being at this juncture in time, so I also understand why Jock Ewing would do things this way.

                The very last part of the ep doesn’t really pertain to anything on KL; in fact, I don’t think it’s even mentioned on that series, but I’ll still discuss it here and a bit more in the next ep since I think it could be interpreted as the two series failing to synch up properly together.  See, rather than just give the control of Ewing Oil over to either Bobby or J.R., Jock has decided that a great arc for this season of Dallas would be Bobby and J.R. fighting to make more money for the company and, once the year is up, whoever has made more profit gets to be the president of the company.  So basically the battle is on and Bobby and J.R. glare at eachother as the camera zooms into that ever-present painting of Jock on the matle, and that’s the conclusion of this particular Dallas ep.  Now, be patient because I’m gonna save my thoughts on this exact plot development until I talk about our next KL ep, okay?  But don’t worry; I won’t forget (and I'm also posting that next ep on the same day as this one, so you can pretty much hop on over and read my thoughts right away).

                In a way, watching this as it originally aired by immediately following it with the KL ep New Beginnings kinda creates this fascinating double-episode in which the two shows cross-mojinate with each other.  But, since it’s going to be so long until we discuss another Dallas ep, I do wanna take a moment to mention some of my thoughts and feelings on how Dallas is looking to me now that I’m back in the wonderful world of KL.  Basically, and I don’t mean to sound blasé, but Dallas has really fallen in my eyes.  I can remember a time when me and my brother just adored Dallas, and I think I will always have a special love for it in my heart because of that time and those memories.  I also, of course, still believe that Hagman’s performance as J.R. Ewing is one of television’s greatest characters and creations, and I’ll never stop believing that, but I have to say, whenever I’ve tackled an Interlude during Knots Blogging, I really just find myself getting fidgety and, quite frankly, kinda bored, wanting to return to the cul-de-sac as quickly as possible.  There’s just something so repetitive and so dull about Dallas, even at its peak years (and, for the record, I do remember thinking that the 1982-1983 season was one of the very best for Dallas). 

                It’s difficult to put it completely into words, but 48 minutes of KL just zoom by.  There are usually five KL eps per disk on my bootlegged copies, so that’s the amount My Beloved Grammy and I generally watch per visit, yet I’m never bored.  Watching five Dallas eps in a row, however, would definitely be a tall order for me and pretty hard to sit through.  It’s something about that repetition, about the way that Dallas just jumps from scene to scene but tends to keep covering the same bases over and over again over the course of fourteen seasons.  How many Dallas eps end with J.R. making some bold declaration and then grinning at the camera?  How many Dallas eps feature Cliff Barnes declaring war on the Ewing family or saying how he’s going to take down Ewing Oil?  How many Dallas eps feature Sue Ellen yet again returning to the bottle and going on some big, over-the-top alcoholic bender?  How many Dallas episodes concern themselves with some sort of custody battle about John Ross fought between J.R. and Sue Ellen?  Over the course of 357 episodes, it just seemed like Dallas sorta went over the same tracks again and again and again, never really advancing all that much.  Meanwhile, over on KL, I feel like the show was constantly reinventing itself and staying fresh and I also felt like the characters were allowed to grow and change and evolve in a very natural and realistic way.  Also, there’s just such a warmth to KL that makes me feel comfortable and at home.  Dallas feels so stuffy with so many scenes of people in fancy restaurants or in bland boardrooms, always talking about money and big business deals.  As I watched this ep, I just found myself yearning to get back to Karen and Mack and the whole gang over in Seaview Circle, you know? 

                I’m not bringing all this up to insult Dallas, being that it’s always going to have a special place in my heart (I have “I SHOT J.R.” inscribed as a fucking tattoo on the flesh of my right arm, for Heaven’s sake), but only to demonstrate how much better KL is by comparison.  I’m even gonna get really bold here and say that, before beginning this rewatch alongside My Beloved Grammy, if you had asked me, from 1979 to 1982, which series was better, I would absolutely have said Dallas, no hesitation.  However, now, having rewatched those first three seasons of KL, I have changed my opinion.  If you gave me the choice between seasons one, two, and three of KL versus seasons three, four, and five of Dallas, I’m now gonna go with KL.  Yeah, there were some lesser eps contained within that first three years, but I think right off the bat is was just a better, more interesting, and more mature series than Dallas.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Leave some comments and let me know! 

                Oh yeah, the one last thing I wanna bring up before moving into KL again is that this particular Dallas ep was written by David Paulsen.  I noted that immediately because I believe he is going to become an important part of KL further down the road, serving as the supervising producer for season seven, the 1985-1986 year.  This strikes me as interesting because I believe this is the same season that KL’s Peter Dunne moved over to serve as supervising producer on Dallas, and we all remember how that season played out (to use shorthand: It Sucked).  While I don’t know how season seven of KL ranks with fans, I remember it as one of my favorites, so I was interested to see David Paulsen, producer of that particular season, listed as the writer of Jock’s Will.  I kinda smiled to myself knowing that he will get to graduate and work on the better series in just a few short years (although then he ditched the better series and went back to the sinking ship for a few more seasons).

                Okay, while this Brief Dallas Interlude was really not brief at all, I think I covered some interesting stuff and made some decent observations, don’t you?  However, we’re not quite done; we’ve gotta see how this story continues and plays out in our next KL ep, our very last instance of Dallas characters crossing over into the spinoff series, with the episode entitled New Beginnings.  


1 comment:

  1. Totally agree on the Knots/Dallas comparison. When watching Dallas, it was like I was watching a play and looking in from the outside. With Knots, I felt like I was down there among the families and could have fit in that cul-de-sac.