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"Dallas" keeps it unabashedly soapy and JR makes it fun

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Some folks try to gussy up their night-time soaps, aiming to posit them as sophisticated talky modern dramas. (Yes, I'm talking to you, Shonda Rhimes),

Thankfully, the folks who've reignited "Dallas" (9-11 p.m. Wednesday, TNT) didn't go that route. They're giving us straight soap opera -- ridiculous, over-the-top, piling up the plot lines so each episode is fatter than a double-stuffed Oreo. And boy is it fun.

This "Dallas" presents the new generation with the same issues. JR's son John Ross (Josh Henderson) is all grown up, as is Bobby's son Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe). But they're on opposing teams. John Ross secretly discovers oil on Southfork, while Christopher is exploring alternative fuels. Christopher is engaged to be married to pretty sweet Rebecca (Julie Gonzalo), while John Ross has hooked up with Elena (Jordana Brewster), the help's daughter to whom Christopher was once engaged.

Meanwhile, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is running Southfork and has remarried; his wife Ann (Brenda Strong) is devoted. Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is sober and successful, perhaps the state's next governor. And JR (Larry Hagman), at least as first, is sitting in a home, broken by a deep depression.

Everybody has a secret -- EVERYBODY. The show, in some ways, seems to be exploring the temptation of John Ross. Will he succumb to his dark, evil, manipulating genes from Daddy? Meanwhile, the family still fights over who is a real Ewing and what the Ewing legacy is. Family squabbling never gets old.

And neither does the powerful allure, the wink-wink charms of Larry Hagman. The young cast can't touch him when it comes to devilishness; I don't think there'd be a show without him. He's back at 80, having a blast and that makes it fun for the viewer too. There's a scene when JR says to his son, "Watch and learn." It's good advice to his young co-stars, out of character.

With JR back to his shenanigans, implausible character actions or plot lines don't matter. We know we're here for a good time. And there's no need for rat-a-tat, overlapping conversations. Folks here take it Southern, sweet tea syrupy slow -- with a hint of bitters. And that's mighty refreshing.

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About the blogger

Adrienne Johnson Martin would like to have her life turned into an animated cartoon. E-mail Adrienne.