In another scene, J.R. shares sly counsel with his son, John Ross, on double-crossing other members of the family: "Love, hate, jealousy: Mix 'em up and they make a mean martini. And when we take over Ewing Energies, you'll slake your thirst â¿¿ with a twist!"

The new "Dallas," which debuted last June, is stocked with a troupe of young regulars (including Josh Henderson, who plays John Ross), as well as veterans of the original CBS series, notably Gray and Patrick Duffy as J.R.'s ever-upright brother, Bobby. J.R. will appear in a minimum of five or as many as seven of the season's episodes before he meets his fate.

After that, can "Dallas" survive the dual deaths of its central character and legendary star?

"Larry being gone doesn't eliminate the influence of the character of J.R.," Duffy pointed out. Who knows what land mines J.R. will have left behind? "We can find business deals he did or schemes he started that now are coming home to roost, and they can turn up for years to come."

"Whatever will happen on the show, we will be talking about J.R. Ewing and he will have done things that have a ripple effect," Gray agreed. "He will always be there."

"There's a lot of driving forces on the show â¿¿ not just J.R.," added "Dallas" executive producer Cynthia Cidre, who, interviewed by phone a couple of weeks ago, was parked outside a posh Dallas social club where the wake for J.R. was about to be filmed.

She said this season she tried to use Hagman sparingly.

"He was the most delightful man and a total professional," she said, "but he wasn't well and we didn't want to overtax him."

Now, with his passing, "we want to give J.R., and Larry, the proper send-off."

But she insisted there had been no contingency plan for how to plot J.R.'s demise in the event Hagman died in mid-season.

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