It's good to be back to live blogging, as opposed to the pre-recorded (so to speak) pieces you've been reading for the last few weeks. It's still going to take awhile for everything to find its place, but I think we've found ours.
The picture at the left is from the iconic opening to Dallas. I have to admit I was never much of a fan of that show (although Victoria Principal always provided a couple of good reasons to tune in). There's no question, though, that Dallas was one of the landmark shows in TV history - it brought back the successful prime-time serial circa Peyton Place, created one of the most memorable television characters ever (J.R.), and with his shooting provided us with one of the great cliffhanger endings of all time, against which all future cliffhangers would be measured. Not only in its greatness but in its campiness (Bobby in the shower), Dallas left its fingerprints all over the television landscape. Judith Crist once wrote of the movie Shane that it was "the original source for many of the cliches of subsequent Westerns," and the same could be said of Dallas; anyone viewing the series for the first time (through DVD or reruns) might find it littered with TV cliches, but they should remember these weren't cliches back then - they were new.
One thing I can tell you is that the city of Dallas has changed somewhat since those opening credits. For one thing, there's a lot more concrete - the freeway overpasses form an almost beautiful tapestry of concrete ribbon. The skyline has filled in, Texas Stadium (in Irving, not far from where we now live) has long since been replaced by Jerryworld in Arlington, and fashions have changed with the times. But a lot of it remains pertinent, none more so than the overwhelming sense of the vastness of Texas, a place unlike any other part of the United States. Texas is many things, but to me it feels like home.
There's a lot to be said for home - Rod Dreher, in his new book The Little Way of Ruthie Learning, speaks of home as a place and a people, someplace to which you're inevitably drawn. Television is the same way - to me it represents both a chronological and a metaphorical time and place, one that reminds me of a time and place in my own history. Some people might take issue with that description, their eyebrows may be raised by my putting fictional people on celluloid on a par with real communities full of real people, but there's no denying the fact that television (or movies) can create that sense of place, and I oftentimes find myself far more at home in that world than in the world of today. The past is never what we remember it to be; nevertheless, the essays you read on this blog are often my attempts to return to a past that I lived in but was not old enough to be a part of. In that sense, it could be said that these journeys are my attempt to return to my own past, much as people might attempt a return to an old love, applying what they know now to what they wish they'd known then. In a way, television provides us all with that sense of comfort, of home cooking.
And just as television draws us to our past, Texas has drawn us to our future. It should, in fact, be an interesting experience.