Terry Morrow: Remembering the late 'Dallas' star Larry Hagman

Larry Hagman

Larry Hagman

This has been a bad year for my childhood TV heroes.

In the spring, Jonathan Frid, who played the original Barnabas Collins on the 1960s supernatural drama "Dark Shadows," died a few weeks prior to the big-screen version starring Johnny Depp. Frid did have a chance to make a brief cameo in this year's feature film "Dark Shadows," bringing his career full circle by the end.

And now, Larry Hagman, who played astronaut Tony Nelson on NBC comedy "I Dream of Jeannie," passed around Thanksgiving. Later Hagman reinvented his career — from sitcom straightman to greedy oil man J.R. Ewing on CBS's legendary hit "Dallas." Like Frid, Hagman was ending his career in the role he was best known for.

TNT revived "Dallas" in a sequel of sorts, with J.R. Ewing stirring up trouble for his son and the next generation of Ewings. The new "Dallas" was one of the summer's biggest hits and was quickly picked up for another season, which begins in January. Hagman reportedly did six episodes for season two already.

How his death will be used in the new "Dallas" is now being ironed out. TNT could simply choose to end the show, but that's doubtful given its hit status.

A recast would be on the list, but who could possibly fill those Texas-sized boots of his?

Then there's the most logical scenario — killing off J.R. and seeing where "Dallas" can go.

I met Hagman once, and we chewed over his career. He was chipper, easy with a quip and respectful. He was everything I hoped he'd be.

"How many people do you know working at 80?" Hagman said almost a year ago about returning to "Dallas. "And doing a job that they love with the people he loves. Oh, yeah, I'm a very lucky man."

The son of the late screen and stage actress Mary Martin, Hagman started acting at a young age. "Jeannie" introduced him to a wide audience, playing an astronaut who found a genie on a deserted island and became the bane of his life while caring for her very much.

"Jeannie" ran for five years and also launched the career and a lifelong friendship with co-star Barbara Eden.

Nearly a decade later, Hagman went the opposite direction with a serious role on the primetime soap "Dallas," which ran for 13 years and set ratings records.

Off screen, Hagman had a life-saving liver transplant in 1995. He was also an alcoholic and supported the use of marijuana. He died from complications of throat cancer.

Terry Morrow may be reached at 865-342-6445 or morrowt@knoxville.com.

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