TV lost one of its most iconic actors over the weekend as "Dallas" star Larry Hagman died Friday due to cancer. He was 81.
If someone ever does a list of the Top 10 greatest TV characters, there's absolutely no doubt that Hagman's J.R. Ewing would not only be on the list, but also very high on it. J.R. was the epitome of '80s wealth and decadence, and the "Dallas" cliffhanger "Who Shot J.R.?" remains one of TV's best-ever season-ending episodes.
It was the involvement of Hagman, as well as co-stars Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy, that made the current TNT "Dallas" spinoff so successful, bringing in many of the old fans and helping to establish the new generation of characters.
Hagman had filmed six of the 15 episodes of Season 2, so it's unclear yet as to how his death will affect the show's direction. On Monday, producers vowed to give Hagman a fitting sendoff. "Dallas" returns at the end of January.
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It will be interesting to see how "Dallas" fares without him. While the new series is geared toward a younger generation of viewers, it was the older "Dallas" actors that gave the series some heft and raised its profile. Without J.R. to stir the pot, the show could face some struggles after a very successful first season.
It's not without precedent that actors have died during the filming of series, and some shows have fared better than others in the wake of their death. "Cheers" survived the passing of Coach (Nicholas Colasanto), Sam's mentor who served as a supporting character.
"8 Simple Rules" managed an extra season after the death of star John Ritter early in Season 2, but in the end Ritter's loss was too profound for the show to go on.
Hagman, the son of actress Mary Martin, had a long career in TV and movies, getting his big break on "I Dream of Jeannie." He had a memorable turn as a presidential candidate in "Primary Colors."
But he'll always be remembered most for J.R. Ewing, with that devilish glint in his eye where he managed to go after his enemies with a knowing smile.
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