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Without Vision You Perish

Discussion in 'Dallas - The Original Series' started by Kenny Coyote, Dec 27, 2019.

  1. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    I live by the motto: Without vision you perish. I can clearly see where the executives in charge of Dallas both lost vision for the direction of the show and then failed to remain true to what vision they had left for Dallas in its later years. Their failure to remain true to their vision for how the show would proceed is evident to me in how they handled the departures of Patrick Duffy and Victoria Principal.

    Both departures were equally big losses for the show. Bobby and Pam were both incredibly vital and popular characters. The only character more vital and popular was JR Ewing. I'm sure the executives at the show hated to see Patrick Duffy leave and hated to see Victoria Principal leave just as much. You can negotiate with people to try to get them stay, and I'm sure they did, but at some point when the actor or actress says: "It doesn't matter what you offer me; I'm still leaving" then you've got to make sure they know if they leave then they're leaving for good, if that's your vision for how to best proceed with the show.

    I've heard many times about how in show business it can be hard to trust people to keep their word, but in this case, the executives in charge of running the show couldn't trust themselves to stick to their word! After they realized they didn't have the discipline to stick to their own decision, after they brought Patrick Duffy back even though the audience had seen Bobby die, they must have known how indecisive they were. That's why they didn't have Pam die in the car wreck. They were afraid that they might bring Victoria Principal back anyway, even if Pam died onscreen. They'd resurrected Bobby, they'd more or less resurrected Mark Graison, they toyed with resurrecting Jock, so they might have figured: What's one more resurrection?

    So since they couldn't trust themselves to stay true to their vision of how to proceed with the show, they didn't have Pam die. They were still thinking they might bring Victoria Principal back anyway, no matter what she'd told them and no matter what they'd told her. It doesn't look to me like any of them could trust anyone else to stay true to their word; they couldn't even trust themselves to do it. Well, when they can't have a character die when the actor or actress leaves because they might change their minds and want to come back, and the executives would be foolish enough to bring them back even though the audience had seen the character die onscreen, then the people in charge of running the show are too indecisive to be able to commit to anything. So it's no wonder that the writing got worse in the later years. How can someone write a good story when he keeps changing his mind about what he wants to write, and then even after he writes a story, he might later write another story that says the first story didn't happen?

    At some point you've got to commit to going in one direction and then do it. Without being able to commit to any long range plan, you don't know in what direction you're taking your show. You have no vision for how you want your characters to evolve or where your story is going. The characters don't evolve in any meaningful way and the story goes in all sorts of random directions that make little or no sense. That's what we saw happen to Dallas. Without vision you perish.
     
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  2. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member EXP: 11 Years

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    Very insightful post, Kenny.

    They started out with some very interesting long term story arcs. Ray finding out he is Jock's son. Jock's will setting up the battle between brothers for Ewing Oil. These were seasons where you couldn't wait for the following episode to see what would happen next.

    But after this, we had a revolving door of characters who came and went, and none of them moved the plot forward.

    As you said, without vision you perish.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2019
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  3. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star EXP: 3 Years

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    With a series like Dallas and its enormous popularity around the world it's now clear their were some inflated ego's behind the scenes. As it's been said in other threads. Those creative types allowed their one-upmanship to spill over to what we witnessed on-screen.

    This is the real shame with a series like Dallas. Initially the critiques were dismissive of Dallas as being too lowbrow for their tastes but after a number of seasons it had transformed into something else. It not only became compulsive viewing but Dallas showcased to the world hushed whispers of topics we dare not speak; Breast Cancer, Mental Health after the tragic loss of a miscarriage, alcoholism, homosexuality, the right to die with dignity (Mickey), the discovery you're pregnant with a Down Syndrome baby.

    But the rot began to creep in. The idea of recasting such a prominent role like Miss Ellie proved to be disastrous, both onscreen and off, when the simple answer was to listen to Barbara Bel Geddes requests and find a working solution, not the knee-jerk reaction we were all witness to.

    Then there was the big one. Bobby. His death could - and should - have been the catalyst for something new and exciting. His death was the seismic shift Dallas needed to project it forward, to tell new stories and display those remaining in a new light. But someone was missing him (Larry) and no matter the consequences to the integrity to Dallas and it's proven track record of thoughtful and intelligent stories everything was tossed out the window, first the baby, then the bath water.

    His return (in hindsight) proves no vision was in action and when he did spin in the shower and announce, "Good morning," well, all bets were off. Meaningful character stories were gone. A rush of attractive younglings who wouldn't even pass a daytime soap audition were thrust into the Ewing world.

    Those who dare challenge the hierarchy were shipped off to Washington. For others it was a case of "We can no longer afford you." Ray, a cowboy, in Europe? What genius thought that was a good idea?

    Sadly the series which had amassed a global following was languishing. Today Dallas is remembered for 2 things: "Who Shot JR?," an event which thrust the series into the stratosphere and the Dream Season resolution which sent the series spiraling into the graveyard that is television.

    Late edit.

    One could argue "Who shot JR?," and the Dream Season resolution bookended what was good and bad with Dallas.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
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  4. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    Thank you, Lastkid. After all these years after Dallas ended, and all these years we've all discussed it, sometimes I wonder if there's anything new to say about it. This time I decided to go back to something and take a look it it from a new perspective. That's getting hard to do after everything that's already been said, ha ha! So, I took a look at what were some turning points for Dallas and identified what I believe is the key factor that was missing in the executives in charge of running the show when those events took place. I'm glad you found some value in what I wrote. It's always nice to be acknowledged.

    Yes! These long term story arcs are what made the stories meaningful. They were taking the characters in specific directions, and that can only be done when you know where you want to take your characters. That requires having a specific vision for the show, committing to it, and executing the plan thoughtfully.

    You'd hope they would have thought: "OK, we’ve learned from how we handled Patrick Duffy’s departure - instead of committing to the vision we had in mind for the show, that Bobby is killed by Katherine while saving Pam’s life, we brought him back with the explanation that it was all a dream, which none of the audience bought. The “dream explanation” became a joke! We also wiped out a whole season of our show in the process. So let’s not do that again! Victoria Principal is leaving, so let’s use that in the most meaningful, impactful way we can. Pam will die an a car accident and the result will be devastating, especially to Bobby. There’s a great story we can tell with that.”

    Since Pam didn’t actually die from the accident, she just disappeared, it had nowhere near the impact on the audience or on the characters of the show that it could have had. Just think of what could have been if they'd been decisive enough to have Pam die in her car accident. Watching Bobby react to losing Pam, watching Cliff's reaction, would have had a dramatic impact they never came close to getting from what they did decide to do, but they were afraid to commit - to make a decision to handle Victoria Principal's departure from the show in the way that would make the most powerful story possible. Pam dying could have had long term implications for storylines similar to the how Jock's death did.

    They wrote Jock's death was an event that had a tremendous dramatic impact. The story of how the family reacted to Jock's death was incredibly well acted by the cast. Jock's death and the implications Jock’s will had on the whole show were felt for seasons and seasons to come. They got one of their best storylines out of that - the contest for Ewing Oil. Jock's death changed the course of the whole show in a way that was fascinating.

    They could have had something equally powerful but since they didn't entirely believe Victoria Principal when she said she was leaving permanently, and they couldn't trust themselves to not bring her back in case she changed her mind, they sacrificed what should have been fascinating television. When they should have acted definitively and said: "This is our vision for how to best proceed with the show" they couldn't commit to one specific vision. Their idea of having vision for the future of the show was: Let's leave our options open. Let's not create a story so decisive that we can't undo it if we change our minds.

    They went half-way with it instead of going all-out, and as a result they delivered a half-assed story that was received poorly by the fans.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
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  5. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    Thanks for bringing that up, Rove. Inflated egos often come with enormous success in the entertainment industry. When the inflated egos are among the talent - the actors - that's when it's great to have someone in a management position who is capable of reigning in those egos. There's got to be a captain of the ship. If he can't reign in those egos and establish a sense of order, then the ship needs a new captain who can and will do what's needed to keep everything running the way it's supposed to run.
     
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  6. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    Hey, @Rove here's the rest of my reply to you that I didn't have time for yesterday. I posted the reply I did to acknowledge I did see it and planned to get to the rest of it later.

    Did it really feel like such a disaster to you? I mean, did it really bother you that much? I thought it was unfortunate, and sure it would have been ideal if Barbara Bel Geddes hadn't had a health problem and hadn't missed any of Dallas. It was only a year though, and they at least got a well respected actress with some good credentials for the temporary recast; it's not like they just threw anyone into it. I'm against recasts too. I'm against them on principle, but that being said, besides the recast, I thought season 8 kicked ass! I especially enjoyed the story of JR, Bobby and Ray joining forces to fight the claim from Clif and Jamie that they deserved to own two-thirds of Ewing Oil. I loved that we finally got a definitive explanation for what happened between Jock and Digger and an answer to to question: "Did Jock steal Digger's share of Ewing Oil"? I've got to give them credit - they made us wait for that! It was worth the wait.

    Another thing I especially enjoyed about that storyline in season 8 is that Ray was getting so much flack from Donna about joining forces with his brothers to clear his father's name and how he responded to it. Donna kept questioning Ray about why he would join forces with JR to help clear Jock's name, to uphold Jock's reputation (as if that's not motivation enough to help his brothers) and she never once acknowledged that he was joining to help Bobby every bit as much or more than JR. Donna kept on ignoring that Bobby was every bit as much a part of it as JR was. She kept saying Ray would get hurt, Ray would get in trouble, Ray would get in over his head, nag, nag, nag, and then Ray finally manned up and basically told her: "It doesn't matter what you say; I'm gonna do what I want to do." Hell yeah! Ray showed some backbone this time and didn't let Donna belittle his capabilities and keep Ray "in his place." Ray moved forward decisively, he did it like a man, and together the three Ewing brothers got the job done.


    I agree that Bobby's death could have been the catalyst for something new and exciting. I don't agree that "it was the seismic shift Dallas needed to project it forward, to tell new stories and display those remaining in a new light." It was a shift they could have used to do that, but if you're running the show and the creative department tells you: "The only way we can move forward and keep this show is exciting is to have one of the three most popular characters on the show to get killed" wouldn't you have some serious questions about their creative ability? I don't think you ever want to lose one of your most popular characters. Those highly popular characters are keeping people tuning in to watch the show! The actors portraying those characters as only they can, has, over the time period the show has been on the air, have created an emotional investment within the members of the audience for those characters and that's what makes them so valuable. A big part of the reason people keep watching the show because they're so emotionally invested in those characters that they can't wait to see what they do next or what happens to them next.

    Since Patrick Duffy told them he was leaving permanently, they didn't have the choice to either have Bobby die or continue on the show, or so we thought. They actually did both! That's ludicrous. How can you tell your audience to forget about everything they've seen for the past year, that Bobby didn't really die because it was just a dream that Pam had? How is anything they do from then on going to have any significant impact when the audience knows that they show can just undo whatever they want? It kills all credibility.

    Is the implication here that it was Larry Hagman's fault that Patrick Duffy got rehired by the show? That's how it looks to me, but @Rove if you meant something else please let me know.

    I don't blame Larry Hagman for missing his friend, but I do blame the person who made the decision to rehire him. I don't see anything wrong with actors giving suggestions to the people who run the show because sometimes they may come up with an idea that can be put to good use. They can make suggestions, but ultimately, whoever is in a position of authority - the captain of their ship - has to be able to discern between good suggestions and bad suggestions. If he can't tell the difference between a good suggestion and a bad suggestion, I blame him! You can't have two people navigating, each one with a different destination in mind. There's got to be one person who has the authority to make the final decision and with that authority comes an equally great amount of responsibility. That's the person who has to be able to reign those big egos in, to tell Larry Hagman: "No we're not going to rehire your friend. Don't tell me you're gonna walk away from the show if you don't get your way. You're gonna walk away from the highest paying job on TV? Your gonna try to put all the rest of your friends here on the show out of work by quitting the show? No you're not. I'm not falling for your bluff. That's all there is to it."
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2019
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  7. Rove

    Rove Soap Chat Star EXP: 3 Years

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    YES!


    YES!
     
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  8. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    Congratulations for all your opinions! I wish I were so articulate in English as you all are.

    I myself always loved the show because it was kind of "Tales of the Unexpected" for a saga. In the golden years, anything could happen at the end of the episode, and anyone (even Lucy!) could get the freeze-frame. Besides, we all were virgins re primetime soaps (I didn´t even know daytime soaps!) and everything was brand new. But as with the formulas for some products, they put in some ingredients not for improving it but for making it more like "that other one who was selling more" (here obviously meaning all the other supersoaps). And of course, it was vision that was lost.

    No vision, no perspective, no originality, and eventually, a saturation of the genre that was the beginning of the end. Sometimes I think that even without Miss Ellie´s recasting, the dream resolution or VP leaving, the show would have faced big problems sooner or later. It was a matter of time, but keeping a better vision (as in most "Knots Landing"), the essence is not lost. You can get some dull plots or characters but the overall vision is safe.
     
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  9. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    Alcoholism is always fun, but I'm not sure how much I enjoyed the other topics. Social commentary doesn't always enhance a soap, imho.
     
  10. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    Nice post @Piggy It's Kermit Outside! I'm glad you've been enjoying the discussion. I think you're more articulate in English than you think. Your writing looks good to me!

    I had never seen any type of soap either. I had seen just bits and pieces of daytime soaps while turning the dial on the TV set. Remember when there were no remote controls and TVs actually had a dial? The daytime soaps didn't look anything like Dallas, from what little I remember. They all looked like they were filmed indoors, for one thing. So when I first saw Dallas, I didn't know it was considered a soap opera. To me, it looked like a drama with some elements of westerns. I still consider early Dallas a modern day western saga.

    Then I noticed there were ads on TV for other shows that all looked at least a little like Dallas. Some were probably more similar to Dallas than others. The one thing they all had in common was they were shows with stories that continued from week to week. I think that's why the media started calling them "primetime soaps." They all were told in a serial format, which was unique at the time.

    Dallas had both a lot of originality and a lot of vision in its early days. The originality was what I remember the most vividly - I had never seen a TV show even a little bit like this show! It was captivating. I couldn't wait for the next Friday night to see what would happen next.

    Another thing I remember is at some point, the network started airing Falcon Crest immediately after Dallas. I thought it looked kind of interesting, but if I started watching it, I'd feel obligated to watch it every week. I had a lot of other things going on at the time and I couldn't justify starting something else where I'd have to watch every week to follow the story. Remember, back then other TV shows were all episodic, so you could watch one episode, see a full story told, then not watch it again for several weeks or months and it didn't matter.

    Excellent point! When you're the innovator, and Dallas was the innovator of the 80s primetime soap, and you're having the tremendous success Dallas was having, then stay the innovator! Why would you want to copy someone who is copying you?

    That's another excellent point and very appropriate to the topic. When the vision is lost, it's over, unless you can regain that vision. Sadly, Dallas never regained their vision for what they wanted to accomplish with their characters and storylines.

    If you at least have a definite, clear vision for your show, then even if that vision isn't ideal and you get some dull plots or characters once in a while, at least you know where you're going with your show and you don't get lost. Having vision allows you to move forward in a logical way with a purpose.
     
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  11. stevew

    stevew Soap Chat TV Fanatic EXP: 8 Years

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    “I agree that Bobby's death could have been the catalyst for something new and exciting.”

    This has always been my point - a missed opportunity. I liked the Dream season in pieces, especially a new direction with Ray and Donna. But JR, the main focus was more of the same. No growth, no change, replace Bobby with part Jack and part Pam and add a bit of Dynasty and there you go. Instead JR should have destroyed the Barnes family - Katherine not dead but facing murder trail, JR using her to bankrupt Pam and Cliff with Herbert’s original will, stealing from her (legally) only to turn on her and watch her finally go into death row for Bobby’s murder. Pam and Cliff are back to who they were in the original, JR is back on top. Move JR into Jock’s role, a kind of Vito Corleone heading up his family. If you’re going to add characters stick to JR like HL Hunt and give him a hidden family with now adult children, a younger generation of quality actors to take on JR’s role of trouble starters. Thus should be seen as Dallas next not Dallas post Dream.
     
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  12. stevew

    stevew Soap Chat TV Fanatic EXP: 8 Years

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    I disagree, I believe it always did.
     
  13. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    Wow. I don't quite know what to make of that type of reply. In "internet-speak" all caps is "shouting" and the exclamation marks at the end of your all capital letter, one word responses, seem to reinforce the idea that you're shouting. Apparently you're angry with me. OK, do you mind telling me why? I think I replied to your post in a polite, thoughtful manner. I acknowledged where I agreed with you, and where I disagreed with you I backed up my point of view with reasonably thorough explanations. I put the time and effort into my reply to you that I did for the purpose of having an interesting, fun discussion.

    I don't think shouting back one word responses is very conducive to having an enjoyable, interesting discussion. I don't mind that you disagreed with what I wrote, but for example, if you disagree with my explanation of the blame for rehiring Patrick Duffy belonging to whom it does, and why it belongs to that person, would you mind elaborating a bit on what about that explanation you disagree with and why?
     
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  14. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    But sometimes you have to make these things happen in order to create that big game changer. It's something they always hinted at in their spectacular season finales, eventhough it rarely happened (because they survived everything).
    I agree, we don't want to lose our favourite characters, and that's why they usually introduced new characters to create new stories. And it wasn't always very interesting.
    So why not create a big drama by removing one of the popular characters?

    And it's not that different from the loss of a family company. But if you watch drama then you should expect dramatic stuff, even if it's difficult to deal with.
     
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  15. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    I agree that a death of a popular character is certainly a big game changer, and how it is handled makes a massive difference in whether it's a positive or a negative game changer. Jock's death was handled expertly. What a loss to lose the head of the family - the man whose sons idolized him. The man without whom there would be no Ewing Oil. They made the absolute best out of a terrible situation. Since Jim Davis died, they had no choice but to have Jock die, but it could have been handled poorly in the hands of less talented people. Instead they got some great drama out of it, the storyline of Miss Ellie's denial, and the legendary contest for Ewing Oil - my favorite Dallas storyline ever. "Who Shot JR" is the most famous one, but the contest for Ewing Oil is still a great one too.

    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on if it's ever necessary to choose to kill off a popular character. I think there are always more great stories to tell with those characters. As you said, the new characters weren't always very interesting. So when you have finally succeeded in creating a character who has great value to the show, and built that character up over a period of years I don't know why it would ever be seen as a good idea to choose to lose that character.

    Sometimes there is no choice because an actor quits or an actor dies. When that happens, hopefully they put the kind of thought and care into the ramifications of that character's death as they did with Jock's death. I think they handled that remarkably well. As good as the ensuing storylines were, I think that if Jim Davis hadn't died, they'd have kept him on the show for the value his character provided. Who knows what great stories might have been told if Jim Davis had lived longer?
     
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  16. Willie Oleson

    Willie Oleson SoapLand Battles Moderator

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    Good timing has something to do with it too, of course it should be a creative decision and the writers need to feel when it's time to do something different.
    This is a perfect example of a character that should have been killed off even if the actor hadn't died. But not necessarily at that exact point in the story.

    Btw, there's nothing wrong with missing a favourite character, that's also part of the experience. Sometimes their story arcs are complete, even if you want more.
     
  17. Kenny Coyote

    Kenny Coyote Soap Chat Dream Maker EXP: 12 Years

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    That's very well said. I like it.

    As for Jock, his death provided such great drama and took the story in such an exciting direction, that yes, at some point it would have made sense to kill off the character. If Jim Davis had lived longer and it had just been a matter of him retiring, I think he had some more good years on the show before he did that. There were still some great stories to be told as well as a few things I would have liked to have seen them get into in some more depth before they went ahead and killed off the character.

    One of those great stories they never got to do that I can imagine them doing would have included some confrontations between Jock and Wendell. That would have made for some great TV.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2019
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  18. Lastkidpicked

    Lastkidpicked Soap Chat Well-Known Member EXP: 11 Years

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    And the problem was that by now, the writers had cried wolf once to often.

    Mark Graison died and came back, but then died again. And they really dragged it out, HINTING that he wasn't dead with scenes such as Pam seeing his car drive by.

    Jock died, and they dipped a toe in the water to see if the fans would want his part recast through Wes Parmalee. Then they dropped that idea.

    And Bobby, well we all know about that.

    So this ploy of "Is Pam really dead?" had already been played out once too often and it lost its effect. Kenny is right-- it would have been more impactful to made the final decision that Pam died in the car wreck.
     
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  19. Toni

    Toni Soap Chat Mega Star EXP: 18 Years

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    It´s not only all those instances you mention: let´s remember that Dusty and Garrison were presumed dead too (and weren´t), and also Rebecca came back from the dead. If we add to that all the people who also resurrected (and/or died again) because of the dream solution, like Jamie, Ben Stivers or maybe Sue Ellen, it was a matter of living vs. dead almost (how many of each were going around by them...?), lol. Only Kristin stayed dead permanently, but "Conundrum" changed that a bit, too... (also for Nick Pearce, by the way!)

    [​IMG]

    Gone but not forgotten, sweet little Kris and "uncle" Jock...
    upload_2019-12-31_0-58-37.jpeg

    ...Meanwhile, in a parallel universe, Kristin has an affair
    with a Wes Parmalee...Can you imagine this on "Dallas"?
    (I mean Kristin sleeping with Jock in an alternate timeline...)​
     
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  20. Billy Wall

    Billy Wall Soap Chat Active Member EXP: 1 Year

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    Yeah, but the last thing anybody wants is an unhappy star of the show.
     

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