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A 'Dallas' Childhood -- in Malaysia

June 13, 2012|By Aida Ahmad
  • Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing, and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in a scene from "Dallas."
Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing, and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing in a scene… (Zade Rosenthal )

Growing up in the '80s in Malaysia, I looked forward to Thursday nights to watching"Dallas." Rich American families plagued by sex scandals, murder, mayhem, family squabbles and manipulation fascinated me. The seedier the plot, the better. Don’t get me started on "The Bold and the Beautiful."

"Dallas" was the biggest hit in my family and I watched religiously with my parents and two older sisters. (I can still hum the theme song). But all the nighttime dramas, including "Dynasty," "The Colbys," "Falcon Crest" and the "Dallas" spin-off "Knots Landing" had a fan base within my immediate and extended family alone. It was a pleasurable escape from our uninteresting lives to watch the heroines with their perfectly coiffed hair and the heroes in their Stetsons float across the TV screen for an hour in the evening.

Not missing an episode of "Dallas" took some planning. If I wanted to watch it, I had to make sure I finished all my homework, ate my dinner, and freshened up in my PJs. Social gatherings outside our home would be cut short to allow us time to get back and plunk ourselves down in front of the TV. If we couldn't be at home, we relied upon VHS tapes. Our worst nightmare was running out of tape or, worse– a broken VCR. 

J.R. Ewing, the scheming, Scotch-chugging oil baron played by Larry Hagman, was the pinnacle of all villains in the eyes "Dallas" fans in Malaysia. My mother even took a picture next to J.R.’s image at Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London. This was after the famous Season Three finale cliffhanger, “Who Shot J.R.?” As a precocious 9-year-old, I almost believed that America was full of wealthy oil tycoons walking around causing trouble in their three-piece suits and living in palatial mansions like Southfork.  

I can laugh now at the nail-biting and gasping every time the camera closed in on the characters being cryptic or suspicious. It was cheesy, but so much fun! The history of who-married-who-and-is-the-half-sister-of-who was convoluted, but the twisted Ewing family tree and their messed-up alcoholic lives had us glued. 

After 13 seasons, three "Dallas" reunion movies and 21 years, the Ewings are here again to entertain us Wednesday night on TNT with the premier of the "Dallas" re-boot. Larry Hagman is back, and now J.R. and Bobby Ewing’s sons – John Ross and Christopher (played by Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe, respectively) – will resurrect history with freshly minted plots of power struggles and family feuds.

I am glad that I am here in Los Angeles to catch it. I am feeling anticipation and a hint of nostalgia, and I can't wait to see if the new series is just as good as the original one.

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