I've been a fan of Judith Light long before Tony Danza was hollering "Angela!" around the Bower household.
My mom would record ABC's daytime lineup (you know, back when there was a daytime lineup) from Ryan's Hope to General Hospital, so I became very familiar with One Life to Live. Light's portrayal of Karen Wolek -- a bored housewife who ventures into a life of prostitution -- was multifaceted and heartbreaking. I was way too young to be watching such serious fare, but her courtroom scenes were some of the few my mother didn't record over on our trusty Betamax, so I didn't watch them until I was in my tweens. But even watching them years later, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
On One Life, Who's the Boss?, Ugly Betty, Law & Order: SVU and loads of TV movies in between, Light has proved she's a force to be reckoned with. Sadly, though, even she's not good enough to sell her latest role on Dallas. Sorry, Ms. Light, but this has nothing to do with you; Dallas' casting department is entirely to blame.
Let me first say: I love Dallas. It's the perfect balance of drama and romance with hints of snark, and just the right amount of cheese thrown in. The few soaps that are still on the air should watch every episode and take notes because what executive producer Cynthia Cidre, her crew and cast are doing should be used as a model for the genre. I hadn't found anything wrong with the show thus far -- but the last five minutes of Monday's Season 2 premiere is asking a lot from its viewers.
Obviously Light joins the show in a recurring role, otherwise I wouldn't have gushed about her for two paragraphs. Her character? Judith Ryland. Ryland, Ryland, Ryland ... why does that sound familiar? Because she shares the same name as Mitch Pileggi's Harris Ryland, Ann's (Brenda Strong) ruthless and evil ex-husband. So, Light must be playing Pileggi's current wife, right? Nope. We're supposed to believe the actress is portraying -- spoiler alert! -- Harris' mother. Um...
After a quick hop over to IMDB, I learned Light was born on Feb. 9, 1949, while Pileggi arrived three years later, on April 5, 1952. This is not to knock either actor, but they both look their age. There are dozens of actresses who could have convincingly played Harris' mom and while I love Light, this is just too much. It's a little maddening that she would be miscast in such a way, but because Dallas is so good with the twists and turns, I'm hoping there'll be more to the character of Judith Ryland than what we learn in the season premiere. I mean, there's already the two-timing shenanigans, the reveal of a kidnapping, a stolen identity, a new dynamic duo and the usual Ewing in-fighting, so if Light ends up being Harris' wife, not his mother, it won't be too surprising. On the contrary, nothing would please me more.
Pileggi is now a Season 2 regular, while Emma Bell (The Walking Dead) joins the cast. Another thing I noticed in the credits is that in the first hour, Jesse Metcalfe (Christopher Ewing) received top billing, but in the second hour, Josh Henderson's (John Ross Ewing) name was first. (I don't know why I'm mentioning it, I just found it odd.) But what I'm looking forward to most this season are the returns of some of the oldies but goodies. We'll obviously see more of Cliff Barnes (Ken Kercheval), now that we know Rebecca's (Julie Gonzalo) -- or should I say Pamela's? -- true identity, but I really, really, really hope Gary and Val Ewing (Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark) turn up soon.
Perhaps in his last episodes, we'll see Light share some screen time with Larry Hagman. Since Hagman passed away during production of Season 2, Dallas will also have to deal with the death of J.R. Ewing -- with a "Who Killed J.R.?" mystery. Obviously. Hagman may be gone, but his presence will forever be felt, and that's probably just how he, and J.R., would want it.
Now, writers, right the Light situation and all will be forgiven.
The second season of Dallas premieres on Monday, January 28 at 9 p.m. EST on Bravo in Canada and TNT in the U.S.
In his first TV appearance ever, Hagman guest starred on "Decoy," the first American police series with a female protagonist.
Hagman appeared on the series premiere of "Diagnosis: Unkwown," which lasted only nine episodes. But it did leave a legacy: Thirty-three years after its cancellation on CBS, the network launched the successful "Diagnosis Murder," starring Dick and Barry Van Dyke, which went on for eight seasons.
Hagman popped up in three episodes of "Sea Hunt" as three different characters from 1958-1959.
Hagman's first major breakout role was as Astronaut Tony Nelson on "I Dream Of Jeannie." In the series debut, Tony opened Jeannie's bottle, becoming her master. By the end of the series, Tony and Jeannie married and in a TV special that took place 15 years after "I Dream Of Jeannie" ended, it was revealed that they had a son named T.J.
In this 1969 ABC made-for-TV movie, Hagman starred as a pilot whose wife Jessica (played by "Arrested Development" star Jessica Walter) disappeared and was presumed dead. When she appears seven years later, Hagman's character Jim has met and married Ann (E.J. Peaker). He doesn't tell them about one another and, of course, hilarity ensues.
This TV comedy, which lasted one season, portrayed two couples in their post-divorce lives. Hagman played Richard, who remarried Susan (Diane Baker), and lives near both his ex-wife and her ex-husband. "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star <a href="http://www.ebay.ca/itm/HERE-WE-GO-AGAIN-Press-Photo-LARRY-HAGMAN-Kim-Richards-DIANE-BAKER-Nita-Talbot-/370620610414#shId">Kim Richards played Hagman's character's adorable stepdaughter Jan</a>.
Hagman played greedy, scheming oil baron J.R. Ewing, donning the most legendary cowboy hat in TV history for a whopping 14 seasons. The series' 1980 "Who shot J.R.?" storyline has gone down as the biggest cliffhanger in TV history ... but there was more J.R. to come.
The CBS series that spun off of the legendary "Dallas" followed Gary, the middle son and black sheep of the Dallas-based Ewing family. Hagman played his villainous older brother J.R. on-and-off on the short-lived series.
Hagman returned to TV with a four-episode stint in the fourth season of "Nip/Tuck." He played Burt Landau, a wealthy medical venture capitalist who bought the plastic surgery firm McNamara/Troy. Burt may have been even more twisted than J.R., as this sex scene with his much younger wife and Christian Troy, would indicate.
In the seventh season of "Desperate Housewives," Hagman popped up as Lynette's mom Stella Wingfield's curmudgeonly, but loaded fourth husband.
Fourteen seasons of "Dallas" wasn't enough. In 2012, the show successfully returned on TNT and Hagman was back as J.R., the ruthless former president of Ewing Oil. Though when the show made its debut, J.R. was in a nursing home, being treated for clinical depression, he returned to Southfork, hungry for power as Season 1 went on. The season ended with J.R. and his son John Ross gaining control of Southfork and joining forces against Bobby. <a href="http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/larry-hagman-death-dallas-prepping-393767">Season 2 of "Dallas" is currently in production and the show's writers are reportedly working on giving J.R. -- and Hagman -- a proper send-off</a>, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Follow Denette Wilford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/DenetteWilford