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'Dallas' returns to city it once made famous

J.R. Ewing has returned to Dallas.

With Larry Hagman reprising his role as the conniving Texas oilman, taping is under way at locations all over the city for TNT’s new television series “Dallas,” which also will return Patrick Duffy as J.R.’s brother Bobby and Linda Gray as J.R.’s ex-wife Sue Ellen, along with a new generation of Ewings.

Of course, the spotlight also returns to the city itself, with its distinctive skyline rising from the prairie.

“We’re trying to give the show a real sense of place, and Dallas has a real personality,” said location manager John Patterson. “It’s a city that does things in a big way. That’s part of J.R. and part of what we try to give the show - a sense of the city, which is big, very well done, shiny, new and looking toward the future.”

TNT has ordered 10 episodes of the series, set to air in the summer. Taping for the series, shot entirely in Dallas, began in mid-October and is expected to wrap in late January.

“There was just no way we were going to film anywhere else,” said executive producer Cynthia Cidre, who also wrote the pilot for the new series, a “mix of the old world and the new world.”

The original series, which aired from 1978 to 1991, enjoyed popularity around the world as viewers tuned in to watch the scheming Ewing family. As the plot twisted and turned season after season, the series contributed to some of TV’s most memorable moments. After Bobby died in a season cliffhanger in 1985 after being hit by a car, the entire next season was revealed to have been a prolonged dream sequence when his former wife, with whom he had reconciled, wakes up to find him alive and taking a shower. The 1986-87 season then mark’s Mr. Duffy’s return to the cast after a yearlong absence.

Of course, there was the cliffhanger in 1980 that left the whole world in suspense. The catchphrase “Who shot J.R.?” became part of the common vernacular as viewers waited to find out who had fired on J.R. When viewers tuned in for the answer on Nov. 21, 1980, the shooter was revealed to be J.R.’s vengeful mistress, who was also his sister-in-law. That episode was seen by more people than any other TV program in history until that time.

“That phrase, I don’t think there’s a country in this world that you could find someone who doesn’t know what that is. And it all goes back to 'Dallas,' ” said Josh Henderson, who plays J.R. and Sue Ellen’s son, John Ross.

Mr. Henderson, who was born in Dallas and spent part of his childhood there, said that working with Mr. Hagman has been surreal.

“I find myself sometimes just looking at him sometimes going, ‘Wow, this is really happening. This is really 'Dallas' again and I’m really kind of family and kin,” Mr. Henderson said.

Mr. Hagman said that returning to Dallas to produce the show has been like “coming home” and that the plots are even more complicated this time.

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