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Warner Bros. to give new ‘Dallas’ series overseas TV audience

By Aida Ahmad, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — Top brass at Warner Bros. International Television Distribution have unveiled plans to capitalize on the instant popularity of the studio’s updated “Dallas” series.

With nearly 7 million viewers tuning in for Wednesday night’s U.S. premiere on TNT — the best in its time slot — Warner will roll out the new version of the classic soap opera to 170 countries around the world, many of them where the original series was hugely popular during its 1978-91 run.

Britain will be the first overseas market to get the show, in September.

Jeffrey R. Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, said the studio expects a warm reception from today’s younger generation, as well as from the loyal fans of the original series.

“There is a wider reach now as there are more countries today compared to when the original series was shown on television,” Schlesinger said. “In those days there were no multi-channel TV providers. The show was sold to either public or private networks in different countries all over the world.”

The reincarnation of “Dallas” has been highly anticipated. The new cast was put together with the idea of appealing to the “current generation of viewers and demographics,” Schlesinger said.

The new take on CBS’ original series, produced by Lorimar Telepictures Corp., introduces the scions of the Ewing clan — Josh Henderson and Jesse Metcalfe as cousins John Ross and Christopher Ewing, respectively. It puts those characters alongside original cast members Larry Hagman as the conniving J.R., Patrick Duffy as brother Bobby and Linda Gray as J.R.’s long-suffering alcoholic wife, Sue Ellen.

Wednesday’s debut drew 1.9 million adults ages 18 to 49 — the advertiser-coveted demographic — though a good chunk of the viewers, 2.5 million, were ages 25 to 54. While noteworthy in today’s fractured media landscape, it’s a far cry from the numbers the original show generated during its original run on CBS.

The first series’ finale, which aired in 1991, brought in 33 million viewers. Even that was down significantly from the 1980 cliffhanger “Who Shot J.R.?” which remains one of the most-watched episodes on TV with more than 41 million viewers.

Highly rated U.S.-produced series are particularly important to overseas networks, said Schlesinger, because many local channels don’t have the capability to produce big-budget fiction programming.

Warner Communications, the former parent of Warner Bros., inherited the “Dallas” series in 1988 after acquiring Lorimar for about $700 million in stock.

Schlesinger believes the new “Dallas” will easily catch on around the globe, where some cable channels still air reruns of the classic episodes.

“It is because of the historic and iconic nature of the show,” he said.

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