Last November, when actor Larry Hagman died at age 81, I went looking for a particular monthly publication I’d remembered saving: the September 1980 edition of Panorama, a short-lived (17 issues only!) features magazine about television produced by TV Guide’s then parent company, Triangle Publications. It was the only issue of Panorama that made it into my long-term storage, the others having been jettisoned as I went through the years and moved from one residence to the next.
What interested me most about that edition of Panorama was a piece, tucked into the middle of its 112 pages, in which several prominent crime-fictionists of the
time speculated on who had
shot J.R. Ewing, Hagman’s manipulative oil baron character on the popular
CBS-TV nighttime soaper, Dallas. That shooting took place at the conclusion of the March 21, 1980, season finale episode of the series, and a resolution to the crime would not be delivered until the November 21, 1980, episode. In the meantime, Panorama editors enlisted an all-star panel of “experts” to figure out whodunit: P.D. James, Nan and Ivan Lyons (Someone Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe), John D. MacDonald, Emma Lathen, and Collin Wilcox.
Of course, when I searched for that issue of Panorama in late November, I couldn’t find it. There were simply too many boxes of old magazines stuffed away in the corners of my basement. I finally abandoned my quest, fearing I’d lost the magazine.
This last (hot!) weekend, though, I decided to clear out some of my storage. And wouldn’t you know it, I just stumbled across that Panorama I’d been seeking. It proved to be an entertaining reminder of what the American TV landscape was like 32 years ago, with stories about “Why You Can’t Always Trust 60 Minutes Reporting,” the rise of women executives in the broadcasting business, the chances that cable-TV news might overtake conventional network news shows, and an odd breed of programming called “reality TV.”
But the centerpiece of that magazine for me, still, is its collection of five short essays headlined “Dallas and the Smoking Gun: Revealing Who Pulled the Trigger.” I can tell you right now that none of the authors who contributed their speculations to Panorama got the answer right. Yet there’s fun to be had in seeing what reasons they came up with for getting the murderer’s identity wrong.
Click here to view scans of those Panorama pages. And if you don’t remember who actually drew the gun on J.R., the answer is here.