It's hard to imagine Dallas without J.R. — a sentiment shared by many when Larry Hagman passed away last Thanksgiving, midway through production of the rebooted soap's second season. Even harder not to contemplate that sad future while watching TNT's two-hour premiere (Monday, 9/8c), where once again the veterans wipe the floor with the young whippersnappers. None more gleefully than Hagman, whose gaunt frailty can't mask the devilish glint beneath those statuesque eyebrows.
Watch him stand up to his latest Barnes nemesis, the deceitful Pamela Rebecca Barnes (Julie Gonzalo), with a salvo that recalls the glory days when the scoundrel used to get under Bobby-&-Pam's thin skins. "I'm one for one on flushing out Pamelas," he warns her, deliciously. And when J.R. taunts her henchman, "How does it feel to be a poodle?" you want to cheer. Hagman may have lost his battle against cancer, but what a way to go out, stirring up trouble to the end. With a quick quip for every dirty trick he observes, J.R. is like the Dowager Cowboy of latter-day Dallas.
J.R. also gets a lovely moment of reconciliation with Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), a respite from the next generation's routine sniping and scheming as dull Christopher and smarmy John Ross battle over control of Ewing Energies with a distinct lack of emotive energy. Even when J.R.'s namesake (Josh Henderson) spits out a profanity in one of his blackmail gambits, it lacks shock value because there's so little zip in the delivery.
A maudlin subplot involving Bobby's weepy wife Ann (Brenda Strong) and her long-lost daughter only picks up steam toward the end of the second hour, when the mother of Ann's villainous ex-husband arrives on the scene: Judith Brown Ryland, played with venomous vigor by the reliably ferocious Judith Light. Gives one hope. If Dallas must continue without J.R., maybe a first-class Queen B---- is the answer.
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DRAG-STERS: The claws (possibly press-on) come out quickly in the fifth season of Logo's flamboyantly kicky RuPaul's Drag Race (9/8c). Turns out two of the competing drag queens have an unpleasant history from past pageantry: Alyssa Edwards, who refers to herself as the "Vanessa Williams of drag" for having lost her crown (where/what/how is unclear), possibly due to Coco Montrese, who trumpets her grand entrance with "The diva has arrived" to numerous "SHUT UPs!" from the rest of the crowd, which includes at least one narcoleptic contestant and the memorably named Penny Tration (who was selected to join this season by an online vote). This is a contest where "fishy" is seen as a compliment, and where guest judge Camille Grammer actually comes off as understated and normal. Let the catfights begin.
THE FOLLOW-UP: The second episode of Fox's shocker The Following (9/8c) doesn't try to top the outrageously perverse grisliness of the horrific premiere. Instead, the show goes deeper into the bizarre world of Joe Carroll's cult, exploring the relationship among the most visible soldiers in his army of evil: the three kidnappers of Joe's son (the nanny and the faux gays), their weird story adding an unsettling and unpredictable layer to the cat-and-mouse game between Ryan Hardy (Kevin Bacon) and the smugly sinister Carroll (James Purefoy). The latest round of manipulation, with the fate of Carroll's son in question, puts the killer's ex-wife — and Hardy's ex-lover — Claire (Natalie Zea) directly in the middle of the creepy intrigue. Joining the show, and most welcome: Annie Parisse as Hardy's tough new FBI partner, whose specialty in cults (a word she hates) is likely to come in very handy.
THE MONDAY GUIDE: Broadway babies will love this stunt casting: On ABC Family's Bunheads (9/8c), Michelle's brother Scotty comes to town after his latest busted marriage, and he's played by Sutton Foster's own brother Hunter, a Tony-nominated stage star himself. ... This could be awkward: On Fox's Bones (8/7c), Daisy Wick (Carla Gallo) is back among the "squints" for the first time since breaking up with Sweets (John Francis Daley). ... In what promises to be an illuminating chapter of Nickelodeon's Nick News With Linda Ellerbee, "Out of Sight: How Blind Kids See the World" (8/7c) features blind kids talking frankly about confronting prejudice, but also using technology to make their way through a "sighted" society. ... With CBS looking for any opportunity to promote this weekend's Super Bowl in New Orleans, the network sends The Talk (2 pm/1c) to the Big Easy for the week. Adding local flavor, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is the house band on their opening day. ... Oprah Winfrey scored her biggest ratings on OWN to date when she interviewed the late Whitney Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina. As the one-year anniversary of the death approaches, Oprah's Next Chapter (10/9c) brings the talk queen to the New Jersey home of the superstar's mother Cissy Houston for an interview that also includes remarks from Whitney's older brother Michael.