PROBLEM: A popular actor has opted to return to the now-flagging franchise that shot him to stardom. There’s just one setback – his original departure was explained by killing off his signature character.
CASE STUDY: Patrick Duffy, Dallas
After 8 seasons of playing Bobby Ewing on the hit series Dallas, Patrick Duffy was ready to hang up his cowboy hat for good. To mark his exit, Bobby became the victim of a fatal hit-and-run. The following season saw Dallas slip from the top of the ratings for the first time in 5 years, so the producers (along with some extra arm-twisting from co-star Larry Hagman) convinced Duffy to return the show and help lure back the vanishing viewers. But how could they bring Bobby back from the dead – especially when a season’s worth of ongoing storylines had been spun out of the fallout of his death?
SOLUTION: It’s was quite simple, actually – it was all a dream!
Yes, the writers decided the best way to explain Bobby’s reappearance was to say that his death and everything that happened in the ensuing 31 episodes was all just one big, incredibly detailed and melodramatic dream had by Bobby’s estranged wife, Pam.
RESULT: Infamous failure. The “it was all a dream” episode that opened Season 10 marked the moment that Dallas jumped the shark. Critics howled at the absurdity of the plot twist and even the most die-hard fans found it hard to accept that the previous season was simply being wiped from the slate.
Bobby’s return may have been so mishandled that it did more damage to Dallas than good. Season 10 saw the show lose even more viewers and slip out of the Top Ten. The ratings continued to decline steadily over the years until it was finally sent to that sprawling ranch in the sky, and cancelled after Season 14.