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'Dallas' Returns With J.R. Ewing's Final Schemes

By FRAZIER MOORE

NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ J.R. Ewing wouldn't hesitate to cheat his fellow man. He also famously cheated death.

In the second-season finale of "Dallas" back in 1980, he was shot by an unknown assailant in his office and left for dead. But he recovered nicely, and the cliffhanger question that gripped the nation (Who shot J.R.?) was answered that November in an episode seen by 80 million viewers.

This time, J.R. won't get off so easy. During the second season of TNT's rebooted "Dallas," J.R. cashes in his chips and goes to his reward ... wherever that may be.

Meanwhile, viewers, however braced they are for J.R.'s demise, will have to reckon with the loss of arguably TV's greatest villain, and bid farewell to the actor who portrayed him so indelibly and also cheated death for years. Larry Hagman, who died of cancer at 81 the day after Thanksgiving, was diagnosed in 1992 with cirrhosis of the liver from a life of heavy drinking and, three years later, when a malignant tumor was discovered on his liver, successfully underwent a transplant.

This double loss would be a burden for any show to bear. "Dallas," returning at 9 p.m. EST Monday, comes fully loaded.

"I think viewers want closure," said Linda Gray, who plays J.R.'s long-suffering ex-wife, Sue Ellen. "They want to mourn Larry Hagman and J.R. Ewing. They want to know they can grieve the fact he won't be around."

But all that comes later. With its two-hour season premiere, "Dallas" carries on in familiar fashion, with the expected two-timing, squabbles, a kidnapping revealed, a stolen identity and assorted other mischief.

And never fear: J.R., though visibly frail, continues his reign as a scheming oilman and rascally Ewing patriarch.

"I came over to deliver some muffins to the pretty little secretaries," he announces on making an unannounced visit to Ewing Energies headquarters before he laments, "Who could have guessed so many would turn out to be MEN? Where's the sport in THAT?"

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