02 January 2008

Who shot J. R.? Do you know? Honestly?

Speaking of TV of yesteryear…

While talking to my co-worker Martha this morning, she mentioned an actress on Dallas. Hearing the name of this most legendary of all prime time soaps forced me to ask, almost spontaneously, the question:

“Who shot J. R.?”

Martha didn’t know. I didn't know. It is perhaps the most famous question asked in the history of television (with “When are they going to put on new episodes of Moonlighting?” and “Why did they cancel Battlestar Galactica?” running close), but I had no idea who had actually shot J. R.

Admittedly, I was only seven when the cliffhanger and its resolution aired in 1980, so I wasn’t paying any attention at the time. But with such a crucial pop-culture moment, you would think I would know who was actually unveiled as the shooter who felled J. R. Ewing.

Now I was curious. I went through the office and asked everyone “Who shot J. R.?” Nobody knew. Nobody had any idea. One person unhelpfully suggested “Larry Hagman.” Which would make for a wonderfully trippy resolution: the actor who played J. R. shot J. R.! (The later “it was all a dream!” cliffhanger would instead win the Psychedelic Prize and seal the series’ fate.)

So, it seems that even though the phrase “Who Shot J. R.?” is a pop-culture monolith, the actual perp got away scot-free… because no one remembers who he/she/it is.

For the record, it was Sue Ellen’s sister and J. R.’s mistress Kristen Shepard (played by Mary Crosby). I had to look that up. It didn’t ring any bells. So from now on, IÆm going to claim that Jimmy Hoffa shot J. R. and see if anybody believes me.