Later today we’ll have a post about some of our personal interactions with Larry Hagman, who died Friday. But who better to reflect on Hagman’s life and career than the people who covered it?
From Alan Sepinwall, former Newark Star-Ledger writer and current HitFix writer (widely regarded as the TV critic’s TV critic):
When news of Hagman’s death came down late on Friday night, a Twitter follower asked if I could think of a good modern equivalent of Hagman, and there really isn’t one. Other actors have had multiple hit TV series before, and some have even made the transition from comedy to drama. But Hagman’s second act would be like if Bryan Cranston went from “Malcolm in the Middle” to “Breaking Bad” and “Breaking Bad” became the most popular show in the world for half a decade.
It was that big, bold smile that made Hagman the TV star he was. TV rewards people with magnetic personalities that come across to the viewers at home, the sorts of actors who can transcend the smallness of the screen to project charisma into someone’s living room. By that standard, Hagman was one of the very best the box ever had, the kind of actor who could stab his fictional best friend in the back, then waggle his eyebrows at the camera, as if to ask viewers at home to pass the popcorn.
The producers of the new Dallas, which returns for a second season in January, said Hagman had already shot six of a scheduled 15 episodes, and that the character will die on the show and be given a grand send-off. Hagman may have already contributed a key image to the funeral episode. “I know what I want on J.R.’s tombstone,” he said in a 1988 interview. “It should say: ‘Here lies upright citizen J.R. Ewing. This is the only deal he ever lost.’”