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September 2, 2014

Top 'Dallas' Moments: Who Shot JR, Bobby in the Shower and More

by Sharon Knolle, posted Mar 17th 2010 5:00PM
Who Shot JR on DallasIt was the daddy of all cliffhangers: Who Shot J.R?

On March 21, 1980, 'Dallas' viewers gasped as an unknown assailant shot J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the ultra-manipulative, double-dealing womanizer we loved to hate. The Texas oil baron had so many enemies, anybody could have pulled the trigger. Was it his bitter alcoholic wife Sue Ellen? His upright but resentful brother Bobby? His arch-enemy Cliff Barnes, who blamed him for stealing his daddy's oil business? Or any number of other relatives, business associates, mistresses (or their angry husbands), who had ample motive for revenge?

It was an unprecedented pop culture moment with "Who Shot J.R.?" T-shirts and Vegas laying odds about who the culprit would be. Ninety million people tuned in the next fall to find out that the shooter was Kristin, J.R.s sister-in-law whom he'd also been sleeping with.

The show never again reached such ratings heights, but the cliffhanger craze was born. Over the next 12 seasons, we were treated to crashes, fires and all kinds of bite-your-nails finales that left nearly every character's life on the line at some point. In honor of the 30th anniversary of that fateful shot, we count down 'Dallas's top 10 most memorable moments.Who Shot JR on DallasIt was the daddy of all cliffhangers: Who Shot J.R?

On March 21, 1980, 'Dallas' viewers gasped as an unknown assailant shot J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the ultra-manipulative, double-dealing womanizer we loved to hate. The Texas oil baron had so many enemies, anybody could have pulled the trigger. Was it his bitter alcoholic wife Sue Ellen? His upright but resentful brother Bobby? His arch-enemy Cliff Barnes, who blamed him for stealing his daddy's oil business? Or any number of other relatives, business associates, mistresses (or their angry husbands), who had ample motive for revenge?

It was an unprecedented pop culture moment with "Who Shot J.R.?" T-shirts and Vegas laying odds about who the culprit would be. Ninety million people tuned in the next fall to find out that the shooter was Kristin, J.R.s sister-in-law whom he'd also been sleeping with.

The show never again reached such ratings heights, but the cliffhanger craze was born. Over the next 12 seasons, we were treated to crashes, fires and all kinds of bite-your-nails finales that left nearly every character's life on the line at some point. In honor of the 30th anniversary of that fateful shot, we count down 'Dallas's top 10 most memorable moments.

10. Sue Ellen's Pregnant: Who's the Father?
J.R's philandering was nothing new for long-suffering wife Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), even in the first season. So we had to cheer when she told him that the child she was carrying might not be his. "I've been just as faithful to our marriage vows as you have, darlin,'" she tells him. "Chances are it's yours, JR., and if it isn't, what are you gonna do about it?" The child, John Ross, was indeed fathered by J.R. and not rival Cliff Barnes, but we found that out (in the season 1 cliffhanger) in which both men waited to see if Sue Ellen lived or died.

9. J.R. Has Sue Ellen Committed
No rehab for alcoholic Sue Ellen: J.R. dragged his pregnant wife to the loony bin when she couldn't control her drinking. He tells her it's for the safety of the baby, but he's also honest enough to say, "I can't trust you to keep your mouth shut when you've been drinking. We both have too many secrets." She screams, "Don't leave me here," as she's led away. Her vow, "I'll get back at you somehow," was probably said by just about the entire cast at one point.

8. A Body in the Pool!
Things didn't look good for J.R. in the season 3 finale when Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval) finds the body of Kristin Shepherd (Mary Crosby) -- J.R.'s former mistress, who so famously shot him the previous season -- floating in the pool. Especially with J.R. standing on a balcony, looking over a broken railing! "She's dead, you bastard!" shouts Cliff. We know J.R. was bad but was he really capable of murder? (The pool scene begins at 1:29.)

7. The End of the Series ... and J.R.?
The very last episode of 'Dallas' found J.R. alone and broke, after having finally been out-swindled for control of Ewing Oil and having driven off everyone he used to order around. Alone in his study, he pours a drink, pulls out a gun and (at the urging of a sinister, imaginary Joel Grey), fires a shot! The series ended with the audience in the dark about J.R.'s fate, which wasn't revealed until a reunion special five years later. (The old scoundrel was fine, having shot a mirror instead of himself.)

6. Fire at Southfork
In the season 6 finale, Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly), Southfork's ranch foreman and J.R.'s illegitimate half-brother, swears to kill J.R., blaming him for putting his cousin Mickey in the hospital. Their ensuing mega-brawl results in a fire that threatens the life of everyone on the ranch.

5. Jock Ewing Dies
The salty, larger-than-life patriarch Jock Ewing was the kind of guy who didn't suffer fools, even if it meant dressing down his own son in public (like this famous fight with Bobby). But with the death of the actor playing him, Jim Davis, Jock's time had come as well. His plane went missing, and Bobby (Patrick Duffy) and J.R. put aside their differences to try to find their daddy. In this clip (you'll get the drift, even if it is dubbed in Hungarian), Miss Ellie gets the phone call she's been dreading: Jock isn't coming home.

4. Miss Ellie (The Real One) Returns
No offense to the more-famous Donna Reed, but she just couldn't fill the shoes of Barbara Bel Geddes as the tough but loving mother of the cantankerous Ewing clan. Bel Geddes was just as tough in real-life, staying on the show despite breast cancer and double mastectomy: A struggle she relived on-screen, earning her an Emmy. After undergoing quadruple bypass surgery, however, the producers opted to recast the role for the 1984-5 season, a move that never sat well with fans. Bel Geddes returned for the ninth season, just when the Ewings needed her most -- after Bobby's tragic death.

3. Bobby is Run Over!
Bobby! Nooooo! One of primetime's most shocking deaths played out in slo-mo as Bobby shoved wife Pam (Victoria Principal) out of the way of a speeding car. The driver was Pam's crazy half-sister Katherine Wentworth, who was obsessively in love with Bobby and had previously shot him (if at first you don't succeed ...). Duffy wanted off the show, but the movie career he'd planned failed to take off, and before you could say, "Who's that in the shower?" Bobby was back.

2. It Was All a Dream ...
Pam wakes to hear water running. Who could that be in the shower? Why, it's Bobby! Who isn't dead after all, silly. It was all just a very bad dream of Pam's. In possibly the most infamous plot twist in television history, an entire Bobby-less season was dismissed as "just a dream" and life went back to normal. (Backstory: The show's ratings were down, Duffy was eager to return and they were eager to have him.) More than one season has copied 'Dallas' "dream season." (If this is 'Lost's' final twist, there will be riots and society may implode.)

1. Who Shot J.R.?
It really was the shot heard round the world. In the 'Dallas' moment that launched a thousand copycat plots -- including our favorite, 'The Simpsons' "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" -- J.R. hears a noise, gets up to investigate and is felled by a single gunshot. (In the clip above, at 2:23.) After this legendary twist, cliffhangers have become so much a part of series television, we're almost shocked when a season ends without one.

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