Let us now pause in somber tribute to the 30th anniversary of a momentous -- and shockingly unremembered -- turning point in the long twilight struggle between communism and capitalism. An event every bit as important as the Nixon-Khrushchev Kitchen Debate, Ronald Reagan's "Tear Down this Wall" speech and Yakov Smirnoff's defection to the West.
We write, of course, about the debut of "Dallas," the 13-year soap opera that shook the world.
Yes, April 1978 was the first time our nation turned its lonely eyes to Southfork Ranch, the winningly diabolical genius of J.R. Ewing (as played by Larry Hagman) and Victoria Principal's high-waisted pantsuits. It was the booze-and-sex-soaked caricature of free enterprise and executive lifestyles that proved irresistible not just to stagflation-weary Americans but viewers from France to the Soviet Union to Ceausescu's Romania.
"Dallas" wasn't simply a television show. It was an atmosphere-altering cultural force. Lasting nearly as long as recovering alcoholic Larry Hagman's second liver, it helped define the 1980s as a glorious "decade of greed," ushering in an era in which capitalism became cool, even though weighted with manifold moral quandaries. Beginning with the famous "Who Shot J.R.?" cliffhanger at the end of Season Two, "Dallas" was either the highest or second-highest rated show in the United States for a half-decade, showing up in Abba songs and Ozzy Osbourne videos, spinning off the mega-hit "Knots Landing" and inspiring such book-length academic analysis as French academic Florence Dupont's "Homère et 'Dallas': Introduction à une Critique Anthropologique."