It was 30 years ago that America finally discovered the answer to TV’s greatest soapie riddle: “Who Shot J.R.”
On November 21st 1980 the mystery to the March cliffhanger was solved.
The new season of Dallas, delayed by a Writers Guild strike, opened with a staggering 76 percent share of the viewing audience tuning in to learn that Texas oilman J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman).
Even today, that 1980-81 opener is the third most-watched show of all time after last February’s Super Bowl and, at No. 2, the 1983 series finale of MASH.
The cliffhanger had kept audiences dangling about which Dallas character had shot J.R., with several having been invested with every good reason to take him out. With the show’s popularity, many fake endings for episodes were filmed, just to keep actors and crew in the dark, in the hope of avoiding media leaks.
The correct one wasn’t tacked on the finished episode until 2 a.m. the Wednesday before the Friday airing, just before it was sent by courier to New York, where it was placed in a vault. Commercials weren’t inserted until a few hours before airtime.
The cliffhanger episode was parodied famously by “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” on The Simpsons as well as “Who’s Cartman’s Mom?” on South Park.
For the record, J.R. had been shot by Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby), his sister-in-law and former mistress.
Source: Chicago Tribune