Order Dallas – Season 6 on DVD
Order The Waltons – Season 4 on DVD

In recent years I’ve learned something rather disturbing about myself that has become even more apparent since I signed onto this lovely gig: I hate wholesomeness. Loathe it, despise it, can’t sit through it, even if I had a gun and one bullet with my cranium’s name on it. The term “family values” turns my stomach. Family entertainment is the devil’s handiwork. I’ve had to admit to myself that I need a certain level of debauchery just to get through my day. Teletubbies…God help me. Guy dressed up as Tinky Winky laying the pipe to some hot piece of twentysomething quiff in a homemade porn…okay, not necessarily my bag either, but I’ll at least check it out. So when I’m given two season box sets about two families, one a paragon of the American family unit, with loving parents and forthright, upstanding offspring, and the other the Ewings of Texas led by probably the biggest cad in TV history, well folks, this is just screaming for a showdown. Welcome to another installment of DVD Battle, where two titles enter, one title leaves.

"You know Liv, I’m a thinkin’ that if Ma and Pa and the kids had an ‘accident’, we could take the insurance money and blow this shithole…"

The Combatants

Hailing out of the 1930s Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains, The Waltons are a Depression era clan struggling to make ends meet on their eponymous mountain while also trying to keep Nielsenville entertained. Papa John Walton (Ralph Waite) and his wife, Olivia (Michael learner) had eight kids, including a couple with the hillbilly monikers of Jim-Bob and the legendary John-Boy (Richard Thomas). Together, they make their way through the good times and the bad, the WWII, weddings, births and deaths, for nine seasons.

And hailing from Dallas, Texas is the Ewing clan: a family of backstabbing, infighting, scheming, manipulative, lying, cheating oil tycoons (as if there’s any other kind). Heading this family is J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman), the crookedest polecat businessman ever to sport a Stetson. His less than evil brother, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) is the upstanding member of the family and the local beefcake. Their mother is Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes), who tries to keep both brothers from tearing each other apart. Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) is J.R.’s long-suffering wife, and Pam (Victoria Principal) is Bobby’s hot young wife who had the most friggin’ elaborate dream in TV history…

"You know Sue Ellen, I’ve got this little Arabian number I want you to try on tonight. And from here on out you can call me ‘Master’…"

The Seasons

Both of these box sets are well into the runs of both shows: Season 4 for The Waltons and Season 6 for Dallas. This season for Waltons is much like any other you’d see. The standard episode is opened with a narration by an adult John-Boy, as the show was told from his point of view. He goes through some sort of life lesson, we see how life is on the mountain, there’s family values, Christian fellowship, chores, schoolwork, general wholesomeness, blah blah blah. Then the family gets ready for bed, says good night to each other, the light goes out, queue the theme music.

"Father, I’ve had these…urges lately."
"Well that’s normal, John-Boy."
"Even urges for sheep?"
"Oh sure, I like a little mutton very once in a while myself. Especially barbecued."
"I don’t mean urges for food."
"Well then what – oh you sick little bastard! Get out of here with that shit…"

Some of the episodes of this particular season include The Sermon, where John-Boy has to take over the weekly sermon for the local reverend (John Ritter), who is getting married, while Olivia takes over the classes for the local schoolmarm, who is the reverend’s soon to be wife. In another episode, The Genius, John-Boy is asked to take care of a teenage genius for a weekend. Then, in The Breakdown, Jason has musical ambitions that have to take a back seat to his daily obligations. In The Fledgling, John-Boy is eager to start printing his own newspaper, but first he has to buy a printing press. And finally, in The Collision, John-Boy is off to cover the Spanish Civil War as a young journalist.

"Larry, you sure your bottle of scotch is down there? I didn’t see it."
"For the love of GOD man keep looking!!!!"

Dallas’ season starts off with a shakeup to the status quo, as J.R. is voted out of running Ewing Oil by the family, leaving Bobby to take over; Cliff Barnes had tried to commit suicide, Sue Ellen and J.R. were in the midst of reconciling, Lucy learned she was pregnant, and Bobby found out that Christopher was not J.R.’s son by the late Kristen, which J.R. used to try to blackmail Bobby for risk of taking Christopher away from him and Pam. From there, it’s just the typical Ewing family machinations and shenanigans: J.R. takes over running a competitor’s oil company, Lucy has an abortion, Miss Ellie has Jock declared legally dead and his will is read. In it, Jock divides the company up between Bobby and J.R. and spurs them on to run their half of the business for one year. At the end of that time, whoever is the bigger success will be given controlling interest in the company permanently. This begins a battle for the company between the brothers that lasts the rest of the season. And J.R. had not yet begun to scheme as he seeks to sabotage Bobby at every turn in order to insure his own success. But eventually, Bobby and J.R. will unite against Miss Ellie as she seeks to contest Jock’s will as it’s destroying the family. Eventually, the season ends with a fire that’s started between Ray and J.R. fighting and threatens to destroy the ranch and kill all those trapped within it.

"Grandpa, I hope I can find a good Christian woman like Grandma and spend my whole life with her."
"Don’t be in a such a hurry, boy. Go out and shag a Colored or two before ya do…"

The Decision

Despite the inherent differences between the two families, The Waltons and the Ewings, both clans did share a similarity or two, the chief being that they all lived together, either on Waltons Mountain or on South Fork Ranch. But where the Waltons always worked to overcome things together, the Ewings struggled just to keep things from boiling over, usually through the doings of J.R. The “Who Shot J.R.?” plot thread is legendary in the annals of TV and only a show like Dallas could come up with something so tantalizing. The Waltons’ biggest doings never seemed to be more than cooking candy for a bake sale or fixing a tractor or going to church. On a personal note, I watched Dallas faithfully for years, along with millions of Americans. It was a sign of the times, the prosperous and gaudy 1980s rather than the more down home, hardship 1930s. Despite my own predilections against the wholesomeness of shows like The Waltons, you take any couple of episodes of Dallas and you’ll find more than any entire season of Waltons, the show was that layered and that complex. As for special features, with the Waltons you get nada, and Dallas has a quickie featurette, Power and Influence: The Dallas Legacy, about the show in general. So all in all, this ain’t much of a contest.

Dallas: 7.2 out of 10
The Waltons: 5.1 out of 10