Breakfast of Champions: 1/11


Turns out the most Tornado-tastic site in the state is in Minneapolis, and Jeff Severns Guntzel offers up some notes and videos related to the topic. Plus, check out the point to avoid on Google Maps.

Severns Guntzel continues by analyzing Gov. Pawlenty's new (sorta) immigration proposal, in a post laden with interesting links. The post impressed me so much I think its author should take over coaching the Gopher football team, as I note on Balls.

The Minnesota Wild had an ownership change, but apparently this won't affect staffing or operations.

Matt Snyders gives voice to blogosphere whispers about voting irregularities in New Hampshire. Discussion ensues.

Mike Gravel was upset with Keith Olbermann a week ago for erroneously reporting that Gravel had withdrawn from the presidential race. Finally, Paul Demko finds a media figure that notices his candidacy. Sort of.


Currently in development: a feature-length motion picture based on the long-running nighttime soap Dallas. The movie is supposed to be a comedy version of the show, with John Travolta in the J.R. Ewing role.

This is sacrilege. It's an affront to the sleaziest, most seductive and surreal drama of my youth. Let's take this time to remember.

What most people remember Dallas for is the "dream season," where an entire year of plot is explained away as a dream by Bobby Ewing's wife, Pamela. The Pam dream season is hardly the weirdest thing in Dallas (or the show's surrounding mythology), I assure you.

The early days, though, set the standard for over-the-top plotting with an ever-spreading web of characters. Dallas gave us the rare condition where most everyone -- even those suspicious of the greedy capitalist oil man archetype -- rooted for the charismatic villain, J.R. Ewing, over this milquetoast brother, Bobby and the interchangeable complement of lesser rivals.

This was mostly due to the incomparable Larry Hagman, whose broad grin and plain enjoyment of the charming and amoral character brought him larger-than-life into our living rooms. As a result, Dallas gave us the most unifying TV event of its era, the mystery of who shot J.R., and the least satisfying payoff of same until the Simpsons lifted the gimmick and applied it to Mr. Burns.

(And to think when Hagman tried to use the cliffhanger as leverage during contract negotiations, they considered replacing him with Robert Culp. Robert Culp! This could have been Dick York/Dick Sargent all over, but with people caring)

Meanwhile, in the real world, dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu showed episodes of the show in the hopes it would convince people of capitalism's corruption. Some think it had the opposite effect, as Romanians came to crave slick suits and ranches with Texas-sized pools. One businessman even created a replica of the Southfork Ranch to venerate the show for its anti-communist effects. It's true. Read about it on this page of Hagman's memoir.

Where this next anecdote from the real world stands on the weirdness scale is up to you. In 1986, Ozzy Osbourne, made a music video for his song "The Ultimate Sin" which placed himself in the J.R. Ewing role. Consider this: the cultural reach of Dallas extended both to a Romanian dictator and a world-famous metal singer.

In the video -- which you must watch in its entirety -- our favorite Black Sabbath singer runs "Ozzy Oil." Ozzy Osbourne - The Ultimate Sin

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My favorite parts of the video that can be enumerated in easy bullet points:

* Ozzy looks like he is a) having so much fun and b) coked out of his gourd. * He has sadly mixed up Boss Hogg's ride with J.R.'s Mercedes, but any white limo with horns suits Ozzy. * Even dressed as J.R., he still has eyeliner on. That's ... not Texan. * Ozzy's demon woman is, naturally, dressed in red. And she gets hers at the end -- there is no comeuppance like in-the-water comeuppance.

Ozzy is like God in that, if he did not exist, we would have to invent him.

Back to Dallas proper. Plot-wise, the show degenerated from fairly standard if pulpy soap into near-surrealist fiction. You can stroll down memory lane with the plot summaries from all seasons at Wikipedia, and you may be able to pinpoint the exact point at which the writing goes off the rails.

I had forgotten the series end, which is acid-flashback weird. Satan sends this guy to ... convince JR to kill himself ... by showing him random hypotheticals in the style of "It's a Wonderful Life"? What? And then the audience is led to believe the Devil has succeeded -- until the coup de grace comes in the post-series movie, "J.R. Returns." The end is summarized thusly:

To set [J.R.'s plan] in motion, he fakes his own death in a car accident with help from several people, and has his attorney "accidentally" put the shares in his name, instead of his son's. Thinking that J.R. really has died, Bobby holds a memorial service at Southfork, with John Ross and Sue Ellen attending (where Sue Ellen realizes that she still loves J.R., and always will) and Cliff in quiet celebration, where he believes he's won the ultimate victory over J.R....until J.R. suddenly comes back during the service on the back of a pick-up full of hogs!

Just as there is no comeuppance like in-the-water comeuppance, there is no victory like that whereupon one crashes a funeral on the back of a porcine pick-up. A victory that could only be crowned in full with the smile of Larry Hagman.

Travolta. Right.

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