5 Things You Probably Didn't Know About "Dallas"

On November 21, 1980, 350 million people around the world tuned in to television’s popular prime-time drama “Dallas” to find out who shot J.R. Ewing, the character fans loved to hate. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the hit television show “Dallas.”

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J.R Was Never Meant To Be The Starring Character Believe it or not, Larry Hagman’s J.R. Ewing was never meant to the main character in Dallas. The star of the show was actually meant to be Pam, played by Victoria Principal. However, Hagman’s portrayal of J.R was so good that the producers made him the star of the show instead. In fact he appeared in every episode and was the only actor to do so – that’s 357 episodes in all!

Dallas Was Almost Houston When first creating the show, David Jacobs wrote only about a family involved in the oil business and not one specifically in Dallas. At that time, Dallas wasn't actually known for oil at all. It was known for banking, money, and unfortunately, the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It was Houston that was the big oil town, and Jacobs told Texas Monthly that he realized he'd really been writing about Houston. However, Michael Filerman, a Lorimar executive, changed the name of the show to Dallas. He said, ‘Dallas sounds better than Houston.’” 

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Larry Hagman Based J.R. on Someone He Knew Larry Hagman grew up in Texas and spent summers working for an actual oil baron west of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro area. The work he did was manual, like digging a hole for a swimming pool, but it gave him a chance to observe how the family interacted and what happened when the patriarch, H.L. Hunt, died. Hagman said there was a fight for control of the business, with the son, Ray Lee Hunt, winning. Hagman based J.R. Ewing on Ray Lee Hunt.

A Video Game Was Made Based On The Television Show The Dallas Quest was a video game released by Datasoft in 1984 and was based on the television show. The premise of the game is that Sue Ellen summons the player to Southfork and tells them she wants them to find a map of an oil field and return it to her. If the player is able to thwart J.R. and return the map, they’ll receive $2 million.  Along the way, the player had to fight off the Ewings, angry cattle, and monkeys.

J.R. Almost Didn't Survive That Cliffhanger Shooting Hagman’s contract for the show determined whether J.R. lived or died. After the character J.R. was shot in the infamous cliffhanger, whether Hagman returned to the role depended on his demand for an increase in salary.  His contract was up, and he faced a very weird situation. On one hand, his popularity gave him some negotiating power to ask for more money. On the other hand, producers could easily replace Hagman with another actor and devise some way to explain the change (one actual rumor had J.R. possibly being trapped in the ambulance as it caught on fire, leading to plastic surgery). Hagman decided the producers wouldn't want to lose him, and he was right. Hagman received his raise in salary and a percentage of the series, so he stayed on the show.