Is ‘Who Shot J.R.’ more famous than who shot JFK?

Today is the 47th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.

And it seems conspiracy theories are popular as ever. Leonardo DiCaprio announced last week he’s making a JFK conspiracy theory film.  Five former Secret Service agents who served Kennedy at the time are speaking out against conspiracy theories and are set to be the focus of a Discovery Channel Documentary.

This year also marks another milestone for Dallas: the 30th anniversary of the media phenomenon known as “Who Shot J.R.?” The “Dallas” episode “Who Done It?”, wherein we learned that J.R.’s mistress Kristen Shepard (and not Sue Ellen), done it, aired on Nov. 21, 1980.

I never realized those dates were back-to-back, and they are destined to be adjacent in bland run-downs of this week in history:

Nov. 21, 1980: Millions tune in to find out who shot J.R. on “Dallas”; Nov. 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas.

Katie Couric interviewed Larry Hagman, who played J.R. Ewing, about the episode for “CBS Sunday Morning”.

Before the season premiere episode that would end the cliffhanger, Hagman had the show’s producers by the bolo tie.  He was imperative to the “Who Shot J.R.?” storyline, and he spent the show’s off-season in London, holding out for more money. Couric’s story includes footage of Hagman at that time, wearing a full-length, hooded mink coat.

No matter what happens in Dallas, we’ll always be know for those two shootings, one a national tragedy, one a soap opera cliff-hanger. It is even possible that the legacy of J.R. Ewing reaches farther than that of the young president. A friend who grew up in Siberia once told me “Dallas” was the most popular TV show of her childhood. And when another friend visited from Berlin this past summer, she had no interest in the Grassy Knoll, but she wanted to see Southfork Ranch.


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