Mommy Has the Pen: Goodbye to the best bad guy ever

Dec. 01, 2012 @ 05:30 AM

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m wearing black for the rest of the year. Larry Hagman has died and with him, the greatest villain in television history.

JR Ewing was a conniving rogue who ran his own brother out of Texas, packed his wife off to a sanitarium after driving her crazy, and sent countless other people to their ruin — all with a twinkling smirk. God help me, I loved him.

So did millions of others. On Nov. 21, 1980, 53 percent of all American households tuned in to find out Who Shot JR. And after we found out – Kristin! Of course! – we kept tuning in to see how JR would exact his revenge.

Because that’s what we loved most about JR Ewing: he always got back the upper hand. Always. Say what you will, but it’s a trait Americans enthusiastically admire.

Oh sure, in the years leading up to Dallas we dutifully sat down each week for a lesson in frugal perseverance from the Waltons. We sympathized with the struggles of Alice the waitress, and we sincerely rooted for Florida and James Evans to eke out some good times in the projects.

But let’s face it. By the tail end of the seventies, everyone was ready for some unabashed, in-your-face capitalism.

To my mother’s great disgust, that included her 9 year old daughter.

Under no circumstances, she railed, would she allow my young mind to be corrupted by Dallas’s shameless glorification of rampant greed and excess. However, I kicked up such a fuss she eventually caved in and let me stay up late on Friday nights to watch it.

When I demonstrated to her my carefully practiced (and if I may say, perfect) imitation of Sue Ellen Ewing, she told me I was a very strange child.

She was probably right. But to this day, I still know how to arch a single eyebrow and say with a quivering lower lip, “JR, you are a despicable man.”

Poor Sue Ellen. She put up with so much. Who could blame her for fleeing into Dusty’s arms (and Ray’s and Cliff’s and Peter’s and Nicholas’s)? And yet, I could never wait for her to get back with JR.

They say that Larry Hagman was just as larger than life as JR Ewing. That he brought cases of champagne to the set, and lavished the cast and crew with gifts. I guess you’d have to be a flamboyant personality to carry such a show, to embody such a character for well over a decade.

Do we have any JRs on TV today? I don’t think so. The closest I’ve seen was the live telecast of JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon being summoned to the United States Senate to explain the company’s shady financial deals. The man headed straight for the raised dais where our senators were sitting and, to their obvious embarrassment, proceeded to vigorously shake each one’s hand. I honestly thought he was about to pass out brandy and cigars.

Unfortunately, when he actually opened his mouth to speak, he sounded like Joey the New Jersey Car Detailer. Nope, not the next JR.

It’s probably just as well. I don’t think America’s in the mood right now for a bad guy.

And even if we were, no one will ever be as good at it as JR Ewing was.


Stephanie Janard is a mother and full-time copywriter. She lives in Spindale. To reach Stephanie, email