Driving Engagement In-Between Episode Airings
Television audiences met Southfork Ranch’s Ewing family for the first time on Sunday, April 2, 1978 while watching a five-part miniseries called Dallas that was broadcast on CBS.1 In the end, however, there was nothing “mini” about the series; Dallas ended its 357-episode run exactly 13 years, one month, and a day later.
The now-famed TV show dramatized the extravagant, complicated, and shady lives of a fictitious eight-member dynasty who got their wealth from the family oil business started by patriarch John “Jock” Ewing Senior. His eldest son, John “J. R.” Ewing Junior—Ewing Oil’s hardnosed CEO—quickly became the series’ main focal point, and for good reason: His character was brilliantly written in a way such that viewers could not help but love and hate him at the same time.
The end of Dallas’ second season (or third, if you count the miniseries) would go on to set the stage for a major moment in television history. The episode, entitled “A House Divided,” was broadcast on Friday, March 21, 1980—the same day that President Jimmy Carter announced a US boycott of the Moscow Summer Olympics.2 It soon became clear that the buzz around a fictitious TV narrative would trump a current real-world event among the general public.
In the final 112 seconds of that infamous season finale, audiences find J. R. working late at his office high-rise. Except for the spot illumination of a bankers’ desk lamp, it is otherwise ...