Thursday, 3 February 2011

Well oil be damned

Does anyone really believe in the concept of 'too much of a good thing'? Surely, if something's great, then our appetite should be insatiable?

Take American TV drama, for instance. In recent years, cinema's once-poor relation has evolved into the number one destination for discerning viewers. The Sopranos, Dexter, Mad Men, The Closer, Breaking Bad, True Blood - all these shows have helped to establish the small screen as the place to find incisive writing, great performances and compelling story-lines. But are we starting to get burned out by all this quality viewing? Don't we sometimes long for something a little, well, trashy?

It's not so long ago that serial drama meant something very different. Plots that could be recapped in the time it took to play the opening theme music, characters who could swap allegiances quicker than they changed their outfits, and a sense of familiar repetition that ensured the status quo was never really upset. Simpler times.

So if you've ever worried that you need study notes to make it through an episode of The Wire, there's some good news. Plans are afoot to resurrect two of the world's most popular and iconic shows - titles that required very little thinking, just plenty of gawping in disbelief.

For almost a decade, Dallas was the most popular TV show in the world, thanks to a heady combination of deceit, deception and double-dealing. In an average day, any member of the Ewing family could find themselves forging a will, staging a corporate takeover and escaping a house fire, whilst still finding time for two different hairstyles and a love triangle.

Focusing on the internecine rivalries between two feuding oil families in Texas, the long-running series was really about the battle of the sexes. Whilst the men postured and pontificated in hats large enough to create their own micro-climate, the women struggled to assert their independence in an alpha-male world. And when it all got too much, there was always a handsome stable-hand or bottle of vodka to help soften the blows.

Whereas British dramas preferred to depict alcoholics as park bench-dwelling destitutes, swigging from a brown paper bag, Dallas managed to make chronic drink dependency look positively glamorous. Sue Ellen would always remember to take off her clip-on earrings before making short work of a crystal decanter full of burgundy.

In their own way, Dallas and its tawdry doppelganger Dynasty were just as fantastical as Star Trek or Battlestar Galactica, they just had fewer spaceships. No-one ever tuned in for searing sociological insight. They wanted to see glasses of champagne thrown in people's faces, or two ballgown-clad matriarchs duking it out in a conveniently placed swimming pool.

So we should be waving our stetsons triumphantly in the air at the news that both shows are currently being lined up for 'reimagining'. Finally, a chance to return to the opulence, escapism and shoulderpads of yesteryear.

Although Dynasty is being talked up as a prequel of sorts, hoping to appropriate some of Mad Men's alluring sixties ambience, Dallas is heading back to the small screen with some of its original characters still in place.

Larry Hagman, Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy are being courted to reprise their iconic roles as the Ewing clan. And the PR machine promises 'a mix of old and new faces' (in some cases, on the same head), as the cast is padded out with the next generation of oil-hungry ne'er-do-wells. TNT boss Michael Wright told the press: "This is not a remake as much as a continuation. It takes the next generation of Ewings and continues the battle."

Writing in the Guardian yesterday, Hadley Freeman expressed concern that the show's obsession with conspicuous wealth might seem distasteful in "the recession-heavy 21st century". But if there's one thing that both Dynasty and Dallas managed to prove, time and time again, it's that money doesn't buy you happiness. In this age of austerity, maybe that's a moral we could all benefit from.

1 comment:

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