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Who was the brains behind Dallas

01:00 Mon 15th Apr 2002 |

A.� Dallas started almost by accident. Lorimar Television had had the actress Linda Evans under contract for some time, and an untitled project to use her in some way was gathering dust. It was passed to David Jacobs, a New York writer of children's books, who'd moved to Los Angeles to be close to he teenage daughter and needed a stop-gap script-writing job. He came up with five episodes of Dallas - without ever having set foot in Texas.

Q.� Which year did it all start

A.� Dallas was launched in 1978. It was made on 35-millimetre film like a Hollywood movie, and was the glossiest soap opera to hit the screens. It began with the saga of the oil-rich Ewing family, their feud with Digger Barnes who'd originally found the oil and claimed he had been swindled, and the survival of Pamela, Digger's daughter who'd married Bobby, the favourite squeaky-clean Ewing. Larry Hagman, an actor known for comedy roles, particularly for the stammering astronaut in 'I Dream of Jeannie', was the black-hearted baddie. His character alone - with his malicious glee and corrupt chuckles helped put the absurd melodrama on the world's television map.

Q.� Who were the big names in the soap

A.� By 1979, the Ewing family, Jim Davis's Big Daddy Jock, Barbara Bel Geddes's wet-eyed matriarch Miss Ellie, Patrick Duffy's Bobby, Charlene Tilton's Lucy, Steve Kanaly's Ray Krebbs, were a familiar sight, taking breakfast on the patio of the Southfork Ranch, marrying and remarrying in the driveway, and living as one big unhappy rich family. The continuing crimes of JR made other villains seem tame - although the writers made sure he won as often as he lost.

In 1985 there were 'Dallas-style' manoeuvres off-camera. In the Great Dallas Robbery as it was called, Brain Cowgill of Thames Television gazumped the BBC's price to the Dallas distributors. He offered �54,500 an episode for the seven-year-old series instead of the �29,000 the BBc were paying. This infuriated BBC1 controller Michael Grade, who pulled the remaining episodes off air promising to run them in the autumn at the same time as the 'poached' new series. Ultimately Thames's overlords at the IBA put pressure on Cowgill to withdraw. He did so and the BBC won the new episodes at the old price, but Thames had to pay the difference between that and the price they's agreed.

In 1985, Patrick Duffy decided not to renew his contract and the writers killed him off. Ratings fell in the UK and America. In the following year, Duffy discovered there was no life without soap after all, but in the world of soap there proved to be life after death. The actor received a pay rise and Bobby came back from the dead by materialising in Pam's shower and all the events of the past season were written off as a bad dream by Pam. Surely the viewers would not stand for this cynical manipulation, said the critics. But they did and the show consistently topped the ratings in the following years.

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By Katharine MacColl

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