Dallas has been called both a drama and a soap opera. Dallas started out as a moderate success in its five episode first season, became a phenomenon and ended after becoming something barely recognizable. Finding its direction helped lead to the tidal wave of popularity Dallas was riding in the early 80s. Losing its direction led to Dallas drowning in its excess. When you see an episode of Dallas from the first 7 years and compare it to episodes of that last 7 years of the series, it's quite noticeable that they had taken the show in a different direction. They apparently felt the need to try to make everything more glamorous, more spectacular, and to try to tell stories on the biggest scale imaginable. Where they once had a fairly good sense of realism, the arbiter of what they considered good television had decided realism had become expendable. "The audience will never expect this" seemed to be what they used to justify any story they aired, no matter how outlandish or unbelievable. When it started, Dallas wasn't a soap opera at all. The episodes were made up of stories that for the most part began and ended within that episode. I'd describe how it was then as a drama that had the style of a modern day western. Then they began having each episode continue where the last one left off. At that time, the only other TV shows that did that were all soap operas and then people started referring to Dallas as "a primetime soap." Today it's hard to find a primetime TV drama that doesn't use that serial style and I don't think they're all called "soaps." Dallas has had such a huge impact on the style in which primetime dramas tell their stories that I'm sure there plenty of people that don't even know that Dallas was the inspiration for all the primetime TV shows which later used that same style where each episode picks up where the last one ended. They might think that's the way it was always done, but before Dallas started doing that, all the other primetime TV dramas had self-contained episodes. The stories began and ended within that same hour. That serial style was so different for the time that there was nothing to compare that to except for soap opera. Using a serialized format was a brilliant decision for them. It was a risk too because nobody had ever been highly successful in primetime with it before. Peyton Place used it from 1964 to 1969 to some success but when it ended in 1969, nobody even tried it again until Dallas. It was a huge part of what made Dallas what it was during most of its best years. They took a big risk and it paid off for them extremely well. It's the other change they made, which is also associated with soap opera that was so costly. They tried to make their stories on a bigger scale, more spectacular, and more shocking. Unfortunately when that started to cost them viewers, their answer was to go even further in the same direction. When the show was in its earlier years, they could make a good story like Pam leaving Bobby because she was torn between her loyalty to her brother and her loyalty to her husband. She moved in with a friend who had been a call girl. JR used that situation to do something to try to keep Bobby and Pam apart for good but it backfired. It had the unintended consequence of reuniting them. It's not the most talked about storyline they ever did but its an example of what they did so well back then. They could tell a story without having to make it something spectacular. They kept things on a scale where people could relate to the characters in their stories. Their problems were mostly either with each other or with people in their community. It was, for a TV show, fairly realistic. The stories they told connected with their audience because they emphasized quality as opposed to emphasizing flashy, spectacular content. By season nine, they had to have international intrigue. The Ewings were dealing with some Greek billionaire we'd never heard of before, and who just happened to look exactly like Jack. He also just happened to be dead. The season after that JR payed BD Calhoun to blow up oil fields in Saudi Arabia. That direction they'd chosen cost them quite a large portion of their audience. Instead of going back to what had made them the phenomenon they'd been in their glory days, instead of listening to their audience they pushed back against the audience. They pushed further in that same direction which had been costing them so heavily. It was a risk that I don't even know they realized they were taking. They decided they knew what their audience wanted better than the audience did. Arrogance sometimes comes with becoming a star. A certain lifestyle almost always goes along with becoming a star. It's hard to make good decisions when you have so much liquor and coke in you that you feel invincible. When you become so infatuated with your own success, you begin to believe you can do no wrong. Dallas had a story where the Ewings possibly had made a terrible mistake five years earlier when they determined that their father had died when his helicopter crashed into a lake. There was a man who arrived at Southfork who looked nothing at all like Jock but claimed to be their father. He explained that by saying he'd been burned so badly that the plastic surgeons had to construct a whole new face for him. He didn't have a scar on him and looked to be about ten years younger with a completely different build but nobody seems to notice any of that. They lost their perspective. By the end The Ewings were dealing with a German man who turned out to be offering to buy their oil in a deal which was a front for OPEC. This put them in a quandary. What do they do when they found out about that? Naturally they go to the Soviet Union and get advice from the Russians. If they were thinking "The audience will never expect this" they were right. They were wrong on the matter of "Would the audience believe this or even want to see this." When anyone tries to use that strategy, it can't work for more than a short period of time. How do you surprise and shock the audience after that? How could they keep getting bigger and bigger after JR and Bobby are involved in a story involving OPEC and the Soviet Union? You reach a point where you can't keep topping yourself and when they did, what had been the most successful TV series of the 1980s wasn't pulling a rating anymore that even justified airing the show anymore. That's a sad epitaph for what had once been a show that 90 million Americans and 360 million people worldwide watched to find out "Who Shot JR." Dallas had not yet found its direction when it began. It was a show that was off to an interesting start. They told good stories. They had a western feel to it with the ranch, the horses, the barroom brawls, the beer, the liquor and the guns. Then they decided to make the stories continue from week to week and the stories got better and better. They had what was TV's most beloved couple: Bobby and Pamela Ewing. They had all that going for them and one more thing too. They had learned they hadn't quite realized what they had. When they did, when they learned how to fully utilize Larry Hagman in the character of J.R. Ewing, people got hooked on Dallas! Dallas was a show that you could not stand to miss. Dallas would make you stay home, even on a Friday night. It was the hottest thing on TV. People would have parties where they'd all get together to watch Dallas. As @Lastkidpicked likes to say "Dallas was one helluva ride"! Dallas had all of that. They had all those things going for them but nothing can burn that hot for too long without burning out and Dallas did. Being the highest rated show on TV is a high place from which to fall. In a fall as spectacular as any of its wildest storylines, Dallas ended its 14th year as only the sixty first highest rated show on TV. Dallas lost its direction, Dallas lost lots of the actors in its original man cast, and Dallas lost its perspective. There is something very appropriate about it though: Dallas was a show about people who had tremendous things in their lives, who took tremendous risks which payed off a lot of the time, and who didn't realize just how good they had it. Until they lost it. Only then did they realize what they'd had. They realized it too late and found themselves left in the stillness of remembering of what they had....and what they lost. What they had...and what they lost.