Having proven itself as a viewer magnet during its five-episode trial in the spring of 1978, the multi-plotted prime-time serial Dallas launched its second season (and its first "full" one) in the fall of that same year, though it would not be until the series was moved from Saturday to Friday night that it would begin its rapid upward climb in the ratings. Already established as the series' antihero is the charming but thoroughly untrustworthy J.R. Ewing, eldest son of Texas oil millionaire Jock Ewing (Jim Davis) and his wife, Miss Ellie (Barbara Bel Geddes). Throughout the second season, J.R. carries on a two-pronged battle, not only feuding with the politically ambitious Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), the son of Jock's hated rival Digger Barnes (played briefly by David Wayne before the role is taken over by Keenan Wynn), but also engaging in a fierce power struggle over control of Ewing Oil with his honest younger brother, Bobby (Patrick Duffy) -- who happens to be married to Cliff's sister, Pam (Victoria Principal). This season marks the first appearance by J.R. and Bobby's other brother, Gary, played in the first three episodes of the year by David Ackroyd, who would be replaced by Ted Shackelford when it was decided to spin Gary and his wife, Valene (Joan Van Ark), into their own series, Knots Landing.
Perceiving Gary as a threat, J.R. connives to get Gary's daughter Lucy (Charlene Tilton) to move out of the family mansion, Southfork; however, many of his schemes come a cropper, such as his plan to marry off Lucy to millionaire Kit Mainwaring (Mark Wheeler) -- who turns out to be gay. J.R. also does his best to undermine Bobby by trying to break up his marriage to Pamela. This may not be too difficult, inasmuch as Bobby is considerably put out when he discovers that Pam was married before, to Vietnam veteran Ed Haynes (Robin Clarke). Meanwhile, J.R.'s troubled wife, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray), worried that Pam will bear a child before she will, embarks upon a "conception race" with her sister-in-law. Also, the viewer is introduced to Pam's mother, Patricia (Martha Scott), and her younger sister Kristin, played in two episodes this season by Colleen Camp (the role would be taken over on a permanent basis by Mary Crosby in season three). Almost immediately upon arrival, Kristin makes a play for Bobby -- which of course delights the devious J.R. In other developments, Morgan Fairchild makes her one and only appearance as Bobby's old flame Jenna Wade, a role that would ultimately be played, as a "regular," by Priscilla Presley. Miss Ellie faces a crisis when her presumed-dead brother, Garrison (Gene Evans), shows up, insisting that he is rightful owner of Southfork; Susan Howard is introduced as the politically well-connected Donna Culver, who proceeds to cheat on her husband with Southfork's sullen and secretive manager, Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanaly); and after facing political ruin at the hands of J.R., Cliff Barnes steps up his vendetta against the "man you love to hate." As the season rushes to a close, a pregnant Sue Ellen is rushed to the hospital to bear a son, John Ross Ewing III -- but J.R., who doesn't trust his wife any farther than he can throw her (he's already tried to have her locked away in a sanitarium), is convinced that his rival Cliff is the baby's father! ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
- Larry Hagman, Patrick Duffy, (more)