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Tuning in to TV

- - Monday, December 12, 2011

'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.

Missing 'Doctor Who' from 1960s found

Two classic 1960s episodes of the BBC science fiction series "Doctor Who," thought lost forever, have been found, the British Film Institute said Monday.

The missing episodes, dating from 1965 and 1967 and starring William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton respectively in the title role, were bought at a village fete in southern England in the mid-1980s, the film institute said.

The copies are thought to have originated from the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The British Film Institute said the copies had been in the private collection of a former TV engineer. They now have been given to the BBC archives.

"Doctor Who," which ran from 1963 to 1989 and was revived in 2005, is one of BBC television's top entertainment programs.

More than 100 episodes dating from 1964 to 1969 are missing from the BBC archives because of a tape-wiping policy in place for much of the 1960s and 1970s.

Videotape was expensive at the time, so transmission tapes were wiped in order to be reused.

"Doctor Who" was sold around the world during the 1960s. Top BBC programs were transferred onto film for foreign broadcasters, the corporation said, and the British Film Institute sometimes manages to recover these copies.

CBS expanding Sunday talk show to an hour

The CBS Sunday political talk show "Face the Nation" will soon match its rivals in length.

Anchor Bob Schieffer said Sunday that the show will become an hour long in April. It currently airs for a half-hour.

Its main competitors, NBC's "Meet the Press" and ABC's "This Week," are already an hour in length. CBS is making the change while "Face the Nation" is doing well in the ratings.

Mr. Schieffer didn't mention it, but it's not certain that the change will be permanent. CBS News President David Rhodes says the extended length will last at least through the political conventions next summer, and then be evaluated.

Ernie, Cindy claim big prize on 'Race'

"The Amazing Race" took its final three teams on a frantic scramble through Atlanta during Sunday's conclusion of the CBS competition show.

In the end, it was Ernie Halvorsen and his fiancee, Cindy Chiang, both from Chicago, who crossed the finish line at Atlanta's historic Swan House to win the $1 million prize.

In second place were Californians Jeremy Cline and Sandy Draghi. In third place were former NFL player Marcus Pollard and his wife, Amani, from Pine Mountain, Ga.

During this last leg of the round-the-world race, the couples were required to land a jetliner in a flight simulator, find "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell's home and plot their 40,000-mile odyssey on a giant world map erected high above the parking lot at Turner Field.

Interviewed after the broadcast, the winners said their most unnerving moment was the basic task of getting a cab at Atlanta's airport.

"Nobody wanted to take us," Mr. Halvorsen said. "That was the most stressful thing as we saw the other teams departing."

Perrette: Goth's go-to gal on CBS drama 'NCIS'

It figures that Pauley Perrette would excel playing forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, the Goth lab rat on CBS' crime procedural "NCIS."

On the job in her high-tech lair, Abby is an information magnet and a bloodhound for clues to help crack the latest case with a link to the Navy or Marine Corps. In the process, she is brainy, beautiful, charmingly quirky and totally gung-ho - which is to say, a lot like Pauley Perrette.

In its ninth season, "NCIS" (which airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EST) remains a smash hit, averaging 20 million viewers a week. Even among its crazy-popular ensemble (including Mark Harmon, Michael Weatherly, Cote de Pablo, Sean Murray, David McCallum and Rocky Carroll), Miss Perrette is a standout, having landed at the top of a recent Q Score roster measuring TV stars' fame and likability among viewers.

As herself, Miss Perrette can upstage her performance as Abby. Hear her jazzed accounts of a life that led from her Atlanta upbringing to a role on one of TV's hottest shows:

She describes her early aspirations: "to work with animals, be in a rock 'n' roll band or be an FBI agent."

She recounts her scramble in New York, where she moved to study at John Jay School of Criminal Science but worked several jobs at once to make ends meet: "Not only was I bartending in the club-kids scene, with a bra and combat boots and a white Mohawk, but I wore a sandwich board on roller skates passing out fliers for Taco Bell in the Diamond District, and I worked on one of these boats that go around Manhattan - way down in the galley, knee-deep in fish water, cooking food for the rich people upstairs."

She thinks back on the days of her own hard partying and substance abuse: "I've done everything. Everything! I can't believe I survived it."

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.