29 Years Ago: Who Shot J. R.?

Who shot J. R. Ewing? Anyone who was around in 1980 and above the age of about six remembers that question and the speculation that it raised.

Dallas, a slick soap opera about the private lives and public shenanigans of the dysfunctional, oil-rich Ewing family,  was America’s hottest prime time series in 1980.  Jock Ewing, the family patriarch, had two sons, J. R. and Bobby.  J. R. was the character millions of viewers loved to hate — a charming and unscrupulous Texas oilman who didn’t let little things like morality or the law get in his way of acquiring whatever he wanted.

An unidentified gunman shot the scheming J. R. in the final episode of the show’s second season, but Dallas fans had to wait nearly eight months to find out who fired the shot.  First there was a summer of reruns, followed by a seven-week actors’ strike.  The first three episodes of the third season were filled with false leads about the identify of the shooter, but on November 21, 1980, the truth was revealed.  The shooter was J. R.’s sister-in-law and mistress, who shot him in a fit of anger.  This show earned the biggest audience share in television history up to that point — 41 million of the nearly 78 million households in the U. S. watched the show.

The huge ratings generated by the Who Shot J. R.? stunt helped popularize the practice of ending a television season with a cliffhanger.

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12 Responses to “29 Years Ago: Who Shot J. R.?”

  1. Fishing Guy Says:

    George: I was part of the 200 million who didn’t care.

  2. Mary Says:

    I remember the question, but never got interested in watching the show 🙂

  3. NCMountainwoman Says:

    I never watched the show, but my mother was absolutely addicted to it.

  4. busy bee suz Says:

    What a great post George. I remember all the craziness surrounding this show and incident…but I was not a Dallas fan. I was a bit young at the time, still watching sesame street. 🙂

  5. Cheryl Says:

    I loved this show! I faithfully watched every episode. And I do remember the cliffhanger episode, having to wait so long to find out who the shooter was.

  6. Janie of Utah Says:

    We actually met Larry Hagman at a movie opening in 1980, when we lived in L.A.. (Proceeds went to cancer research, and Steve was an oncology fellow. We were NOT jet-setters, by any means!) The funny thing was, we never watched TV and had never see Dallas. He was wearing his white cowboy hat and modestly explained his presence – I play in a little TV show called Dallas. I’m sure we were the only folks there who didn’t know who the guy was!

  7. imac Says:

    I used to like watching Lucy.lol.

  8. Becky Says:

    Sue Ellen, his wife….

  9. MaryBeth Says:

    A show I never watched–even through all the hoop-la. MB

  10. Karen Says:

    I missed all the action. I was living in Puerto Rico at the time.

  11. Rose Says:

    I did watch, but mainly cause we didn’t have but a couple channels to watch. It is one of those shows I look back and can’t believe I watched.

  12. Karin Says:

    I can’t believe it but I, too, belong with all the folks who didn’t watch it! I thought I was alone, lol! But I do know where I was and what I was doing when JFK got shot on Nov. 22/1963!! I was still a teen!

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