Season Three of Dallas is the one that leads up to the most famous cliffhanger in television history: Who shot J.R.? But only die-hard fans remember that Season Two of Dallas (the first full season, since Season One was a 5-episode mini-series) also ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. At the conclusion of Season Two, J.R.'s wife, Sue Ellen, had been rushed to the hospital after a car accident for the premature delivery of a baby that may or may not belong to J.R. The health of both Sue Ellen and little John Ross Ewing III is resolved rather quickly in Season Three's opening episode – but the question of who the real father is…J.R. or his arch nemesis Cliff Barnes…is a story thread that runs through the majority of the season.
You heard right…the "Who Shot J.R." cliffhanger wasn't really even supposed to happen. CBS was so happy with the ratings for Dallas that they ordered up four more episodes…extending Season Three from 21 shows to 25. The result was that the producers of the show now had to come up with a new season-ender, and the decision was made just to "shoot the son of a bitch" (meaning J.R. Ewing) and figure out the rest next season.
First, a word about the DVD packaging. The set is quite similar to the way the Season 1 & 2 sets were packaged, with a few exceptions – the most notable being that instead of having just one disc on each of the fold-out sections, the discs are doubled-up – one on top of the other – in the same way that has been done on releases like The Pink Panther set, Lois & Clark: Season One and Sliders: Season Two to name just a few. The first four DVDs in the set are "flippers," with three episodes on each side of the DVD. The final fifth disc is the only single sided DVD in the set, and because it's the odd number in the set, it's also packaged on a fold-out section all by itself.
The first release also had episode descriptions printed as part of the fold-out that the DVDs were contained in. This time around, Warner Bros. has included a color booklet that lists all the episodes and a short description of each.
I should also point out that, oddly, there's a glitch on the episode "Jenna's Return". When you start the episode from the main menu, it starts at the first scene of the show, skipping the teaser and the opening credits. Viewers who use their remotes to scan back (or simply chapter jump backwards) will be able to watch the entire show...I'm not sure why quality control at Warner Bros. missed this glitch.
Dallas was shot on film, and the transfer shows a lot of dirt and grain from the age of these episodes. In fact, while the quality of the transfer is roughly the same with the Season 1 & 2 sets, I think overall there are more instances of dirt and defects on the prints than there were with those first two season transfers. Each episode is shown in its original full-frame format. Each show still has a very "soft" look to the video, but these are still the best the shows have looked since their initial airing.
Once again the audio is in Dolby Mono, but the shows still sound very good. Because Dallas is primarily a dialogue-heavy show, viewers should hardly notice the difference between this audio and a 2.0 track. While a digitally remastered soundtrack might be nice, for a show like Dallas, I think it's ultimately unnecessary.
On the first release, Larry Hagman, Charlene Tilton and creator David Jacobs offered commentary on two episodes. This time around, it's Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray who share their thoughts on two episodes: "Sue Ellen's Choice," where she asks for a divorce from J.R.; and "A House Divided," which is the Season Three cliffhanger. Duffy and Gray's commentary isn't as much informative as it is just plain fun…like two old friends getting together and reminiscing about the past.
One word of warning though, for those who may be watching Dallas for the very first time on DVD: DO NOT listen to the commentary tracks or watch the featurette if you don't want to know who shot J.R. until the Season Four set comes out. Yes, you may be the only person in the world who doesn't know who did it…but it would really spoil the fun of watching future episodes if you didn't know yet…so consider this a fair warning!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Few shows that are this old hold up over time, but Dallas is certainly one of them. I think what sets it apart from so many other nighttime soap operas (other than the fact that it was one of the first) is that the actors were so good in their roles, the show wasn't about "glitz and glamour" as much as it was about family drama; and it's one of the few successful nighttime soaps where the majority of the main characters (except for young Lucy, of course) were over the age of 30…how many soaps (daytime or nighttime) can you say that about these days?
But the bottom line is that Dallas is just fun to watch. View and episode or two and you'll be hooked…even if you already know who pulled the trigger on ol' J.R.!