A Shot Heard Around The World

When I was 14 years old there was a shooting that occurred late on Friday night that affected not only my life, but had reverberations across the country and the globe. It was front page news for days, no weeks, no months. The fate of the victim was left unanswered for months and the whole world wanted to know who had fired the gun that fateful night in an office building in Dallas, Texas.


It was March 21, 1980 and I was at home watching one of my favorite shows on TV. I like so many other people watching television that night could tell that something big was about to happen, but I had no idea how big it was. The villain of the show had made so many people angry. His alcoholic ex-wife had been driven back to drink. His brother was so fed up with him that he had decided to leave town. His mistress, who was also his ex-sister-in-law had been betrayed for the last time. His arch rival had been cheated one time too many. His niece had been pushed around by him too many times too count. All of his business associates had finally figured out his double-crossing ways. Even his momma was ready to kick him out of the family home. And as he sat at his desk gloating over his latest dirty deal, a person entered his office, slowly opened his office door, carefully aimed a pistol, and fired three shots into the back of his chair. And J.R. Ewing had been shot!


The next day everyone wanted to know who shot JR. It was headlines not only in America, but over seas. It was all anyone could talk about. Well, okay I’m sure I’m exaggerating when I say “everyone”, but I guarantee you that it was without a doubt the most asked question of the summer. Fifty two American diplomats and citizens were being held hostage in Iran. A presidential election was taking place. America was boycotting the Olympics.  However, the most important thing we needed to know was whether or not the victim was going to survive and who shot J.R.

Up until that night Dallas had been slowly climbing in the ratings. It had originally started as a family drama, a cross between Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Othello with a southern flair. It featured two aging stars of the silver screen, Jim Davis and Barbara Bel Geddes, as the parents of two warring children, Major Nelson from I Dream of Jeanie and the Man from Atlantis (Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy). After the first season was a bust in the ratings, the show was surprisingly picked up for a season 2, and with their life on the line, the Ewings turned up the heat and the nighttime soap opera was reborn. And oh was it reborn. Over the next 13 years the Ewings experienced it all. Corporate intrigue, bedroom shenanigans, murders, kidnappings, explosions, blackmail, fires, crashes, and of course a dream. And by dream, I mean dream season, as in a whole season was a dream. But the dream ratings started with the question of who shot J.R.


The Ewings of Dallas led the way for the Carringtons of Denver, the Channings of Napa Valley and even the Ewings of Knots Landing, the Dallas spinoff that was actually the original scripted show. Even the soaps of this era such as Revenge, Nashville, and so many others owe a debt of gratitude to that fateful shooting on that night, because that is when the whole genre took off. With the question of who shot J.R.


Now I have to admit, I was hooked with the show long before that night. But wow, after that night I, like everyone else read every news story that came out that summer. Was Larry Hagman returning to Dallas, or were they going to kill him off, or were they going to recast him and have one of the fateful shots force plastic surgery. Hagman was apparently in a contract dispute with the powers that be. I kept track on all of the odds being given in Las Vegas on who was the shooter. And, I like so many others was devastated when all of the actors in Hollywood went on strike during the summer of 1980 and the big reveal was pushed back until November. And I needed to know who shot J.R.

A few years ago TNT rebooted the show and brought back J.R., Bobby, Sue Ellen and their children. The show stayed true to the history of the original and tried to recapture the thrill, but it could never quite do it. And then during their second season, Larry Hagman passed away. Unfortunately the show didn’t last past their third season, but how could it without goo old J.R. If you’re curious how they got rid of J.R. after Hagman’s death, I’ll give you one guess. Yep, they killed him off by shooting him. And of course the fans had to know, who shot J.R.?

Nighttime soaps are my guilty pleasure. Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcons Crest, Flamingo Road, Dynasty, TheColbys, Melrose Place, Models Inc., Desperate Housewives, Revenge, Nashville, and even Empire. I’m hooked, but I’ll never be hooked as much as I was with the question of, who shot J.R?

Kristen Sheppard, J.R.'s mistress, sister-in-law, and shooter!

Kristen Sheppard, J.R.’s mistress, sister-in-law, and shooter!

This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “When I was fourteen. . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Kerrie from Diagnosed and Still Okay, and Dana from Kiss My List. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!


8 thoughts on “A Shot Heard Around The World

  1. I remember that night too. I was spending the night at a friend’s house, and her mother actually screamed out in the living room when J.R. was shot. My friend and I went running out there in a panic to see what was wrong, and of course, we were really annoyed when we found out what the fuss was all about.

    I don’t think any TV cliffhanger will ever grab the viewers in quite the same way. If they tried to do that again, I’m sure somebody would blow it by revealing the answer online somewhere.


  2. OMG I so remember the “Who shot JR?” debate and that there were bumper stickers, signs around town in Denver! OMG such a great way to remember 14.


  3. I wasn’t watching Dallas at that time, but I totally remember the social phenomenon that Who Shot JR? was. I started watching the show a few years later – remember the shower scene with Bobby, when we found out the whole past season was a dream?


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