Larry Hagman, who as J.R. Ewing was famously shot but survived to finish 14 seasons and 357 episodes of "Dallas" and who rose again to lie and scheme in this year's successful revival, died Friday in Dallas, just down I-30 from Fort Worth, where he was born 81 years ago.
The son of musical-comedy star Mary Martin, Hagman worked on the New York stage through the 1950s, on and off-Broadway, then moved into movie and TV roles. But it was as the star of "I Dream of Jeannie" that he first became widely known, a good-looking, dark-haired leading man in the mold of contemporaries like Jim Hutton and James Garner.
A knockoff "Bewitched" in which Hagman played Maj. Anthony Nelson, a bachelor astronaut more or less cohabiting with curvaceous female genie Barbara Eden, who called him "Master," the series, which was risque in a way about to become outdated, ran from 1965 to 1970 -- its end, one might note, concurrent with the rise of the women's movement. But Hagman's easygoing approach made its weird power relationships palatable.
And then there was J.R. I can't swear, without spending some time in a library, that he was television's first antihero. Ralph Kramden might be, viewed from a certain angle, and daytime soap operas, of which Hagman was a veteran and "Dallas" a prime-time variant, were full of characters You Loved to Hate (yet really loved). But J.R. was the godfather, certainly, of Tony Soprano and Walter White, of Nucky Thompson and Al Swearengen -- and their better, one feels.