Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Serious Business: Who Shot J.R.?

It was the question that permeated pop culture during the summer of 1980- “Who Shot J.R.?” Referring to the shooting of J.R. Ewing, the villainous lead of the blockbuster drama Dallas, the storyline that would captivate the world was actually created to deal with a contract dispute with the character’s portrayer- Larry Hagman.

Originally hired as a supporting player, Larry’s character had turned into the centerpiece of the show and Hagman wanted his salary to reflect his importance to the show. CBS initially balked at his demands and ordered a cliffhanger in which JR Ewing would be shot, his survival in doubt. As the negotiations continued, the important question wasn’t really who shot the character, but whether he would survive. CBS eventually came to terms with Hagman while the storyline became a phenomenon. A writer’s strike further delayed the reveal of the assassin until November 23, 1980, when a then record audience of over 80 million viewers turned in to find out that Kristin Shepard, J.R’s mistress, had shot him. It almost seemed anti-climactic.