TITLE: DALLAS - THE EIGHTH SEASON
DVD Release Date: February 12, 2008 (Warner Home Video)
Number of discs: 5 (double sided)
Number of episodes: 30
Running Time: 1421 minutes
Languages and Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Special Features: "Dallas Makeover: Travilla Style”
The eighth season of Dallas is now available on DVD! And by the eighth season, I really mean the seventh season. Warner insisted on branding the Miniseries as Season 1, but as far as I’m concerned, the 1978-79 season is season 1, making this season seven. However, for the purposes of the review, I will simply refer to it as season eight from here onward to avoid confusing people -- namely myself.
I will be perfectly honest -- this season, the “eighth,” is where I start to get a little disinterested by some of Dallas’ goings on. Most of the show is still fairly solid, but there are some moments that are surreal even by the standards of 1980’s soaps. It has its uneven moments, but it’s still largely a good show episode to episode.
The biggest news for the season, cast-wise, was the replacement of Barbara Bel Geddes in the role of Miss Ellie by longtime actress Donna Reed. Reaction to this change has always been considered mixed at best. Personally, as I’ll no doubt mention a couple more times, I wasn’t a fan. Your mileage may vary. Otherwise, the principal cast remains largely unchanged.
Credited in the opening for season eight are, in alphabetical order: Patrick Duffy as Bobby, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen, Larry Hagman as JR, Susan Howard as Donna, Steve Kanaly as Ray, Howard Keel as Clayton, Ken Kercheval as Cliff, Priscilla Presley as Jenna, Victoria Principal as Pam, Donna Reed as Miss Ellie, and Charlene Tilton as Lucy (Donna Reed was added to the opening credits mid-season).
Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:
The season opens with the continuation of the “Who Shot Bobby?” cliffhanger. This always smacked of an attempt to duplicate the success of “Who Shot JR?” only this time shooting a more likable character. While producing good television, however, the stunt didn’t deliver nearly the ratings of the original JR cliffhanger. Over the course of the season, thanks in part to the shooting, Bobby comes to realize that he still loves Pam, and does his best to reconcile with her. Pam, meanwhile, is hunting for Mark. JR once again tries to make Sue Ellen go away, while Miss Ellie undergoes a completely ignored personality change due to the change in actresses. I admit upfront, I’ve never been a fan of her portrayal of the character. I generally appreciate her work otherwise, but I just can’t get behind Donna’s Ellie. Unfortunately, Ms. Reed would pass away several months after the end of this season.
The season ultimately concludes with the aptly titled “Swan Song,” as the next season began the downward trend of the show in ratings and popularity (That is what happens when you make viewers invest 12 months of emotion into something, then tell them it did not happen). The part of this show that everyone remembers and talks about to this very day is the part that didn’t actually happen in the show’s continuity. Bobby gets run over, and dies. Patrick Duffy had decided to leave the show, and this was their way of killing him off. Except that after a year it was mutually decided that they wanted him back, and he wanted to come back. Therefore, they concocted one of the most...discussed...solutions in TV history. But that’s for next season’s review.
The part of Dallas that makes it a bit difficult to write the guest stars section is differentiating the guest stars from the recurring characters from the main cast. As far as regular and recurring cast goes, the primary addition this season is of Jenilee Harrison (Three’s Company) as Jamie Ewing. As far as guest cast: a good faith effort to document the guests would start in the season premiere, “Killer at Large.” Dennis Haysbert (better known as President David Palmer from 24 and the star of The Unit) plays the Dr. Forbes character. Continuing the 24 references, James Cromwell (who played Jack’s estranged father in the sixth season -- not to mention his other TV and film roles) plays the character Gerald Kane in the episodes “Déjà vu,” “Lockup in Laredo,” and “Bail Out.” Marj Dusay, who to readers at this site is probably most remembered for her recurring role on The Facts of Life as Blair’s mother, is in the episode “Sentences” as the character Bernice Billings. Finally, Yet another 24 cast member in Gregory Itzin (who played President Charles Logan on the show after Dennis Haysbert left) appears in the episode “Deeds and Misdeeds.”
Larry Hagman’s photo on the front cover of this set has been shrunk compared to last season’s set. This time he only occupies the left third of the center strip containing the images. Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray split the right third. In the center are Victoria Principal, Steve Kanaly, and Donna Reed.
There are three slim cases, as used since Season 5’s release. As you might expect, disc 1 occupies the first case solo. Discs two and three occupy the second case. Discs four and five.
The problem with releasing 30 episodes of an hour-long TV program is that by necessity you either have to release eight or nine discs, or use fewer discs but use the double-sided models. Warner has once again opted for the latter. All 5 discs are two-sided.
Disc 1; Side A contains episodes 1-3 while side B contains episodes 4-6. Disc 2; Side A contains episodes 7-9 while side B contains episodes 10-12. Disc 3; Side A contains episodes 13-15 while side B contains episodes 16-18. Disc 4; Side A contains episodes 19-21 while side B contains 22-24. Disc 5; Side A contains episodes 25-27 while side B contains episodes 28-30 and the special feature.
Menu Design and Navigation:
You should be extremely familiar with the menu system by now -- similar design as the front box art, in the same color scheme. A looping version of this season’s instrumentation of the theme plays in the background. The layout scheme of the menu remains entirely unchanged from previous releases.
Video and Audio Quality:
The good thing about Dallas is that by the mid-80’s, the show was shooting on better stock, and as a result the video quality shot upward. This video is extremely nice, particularly given its age. There are no defects that I can find. Colors are balanced well, and there appears to be no compression artifacting, significant noise, or other problems with the video that I can detect. Audio is well balanced, with the music and vocals blending together well. Chapter stops are appropriately placed within the episode. The episodes all appear to be unedited, which is a relief.
The only special feature on the DVD set is an...interesting...one. I can’t really say this is my cup of tea by any stretch of the imagination, but I guess Warner just thought there was a market for this. "Dallas Makeover: Travilla Style” is a featurette exploring the new looks brought to the show this season by bringing in a fashion designer I’ve never heard of to handle fashions I could care less about. I know I’m not the show’s target demographic, but nonetheless I do watch the show. I’d like a feature that appeals to me. Blooper reels, or possibly deleted scenes if you can find them, or interviews by cast on other shows...something besides...this.
I love this show, and after some time and technical constraints that delayed the review, I am thrilled to finally be able to review the season of the show. Unfortunately, I think season eight is where the show began to falter a bit. The season was...inconsistent. While it had some genuinely good television, there were elements that I just didn’t care for. I’m sorry, but I just think Donna Reed as Miss Ellie was a complete mismatch. Her portrayal of the character has its fans, but I’d have to consider myself a detractor. I just didn’t care for it.
The funny thing about a long-running show like Dallas is that this is the eighth season and the run of the show is just a bit over half over. But, ultimately, if you want the final six seasons of the product on store shelves, the current product needs to move. Otherwise, it is left on the back burner like my favorite of the ‘80s primetime soaps, Knots Landing. And I certainly don’t want that. No show deserves that kind of treatment.
Here’s hoping for Dallas Season 9 -- and Knots Landing Season 2 soon. Dallas Season 8, meanwhile, is RECOMMENDED.
Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)
Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 1/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 5/5
-- Reviewed by Seth Thrasher on 02/22/08
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