"Dallas" is starting its new season in a way it never has before, in either its initial or current versions ... without J.R. Ewing.
The iconic character's death echoed the passing of his portrayer, Larry Hagman, but both their shadows continued to loom large over the rest of Season 2 of the TNT reboot. The legacy of J.R. remains a big factor as the third season starts Monday, even as others try to fill his shoes and new characters pose fresh complications for the residents of Southfork Ranch. And their allies. And their enemies.
As Hagman did, Patrick Duffy and Linda Gray -- who also starred in the 1978-91 CBS incarnation -- remain pivotal to "Dallas" as J.R.'s brother Bobby and ex-wife Sue Ellen. The saga picks up 12 hours after it left off, so Duffy feels it's appropriate for J.R. still to be invoked from the get-go, with the first scene showing Bobby at the family grave site ruminating over the fact that he's "the only one left."
Starting up again without Hagman was "not that difficult," maintains Duffy, who was a close friend. "We, in fact, had a half-season without him last time. Those first few episodes were strange, in that his presence was always so felt. It wasn't a sad thing; it was more like part of the energy was missing because he provided so much of it.
"By the time we got to the end of the season, the entire cast and crew had made that adjustment, I think," Duffy adds, "so coming back for this year, we were all refreshed."
Now as before, there's always room in "Dallas" for newcomers. Last season included the introductions of Emma Bell as the also-named Emma -- who was taken from her mother, Bobby's present wife, Ann (Brenda Strong), as a baby and is now John Ross' extramarital fling -- and Drew (Kuno Becker), the trouble-prone brother of Elena Ramos (Jordana Brewster), who's the ex-flame of both John Ross and Christopher (Jesse Metcalfe), Bobby's adopted son.
The new round brings in Juan Pablo Di Pace ("Camp") as charismatic, cunning billionaire Nicolas Trevino and "90210" alum AnnaLynne McCord as Heather, a Southfork ranch hand whose beauty and strong will immediately attract Christopher.
When: 9 p.m. Monday