Give credit then to libertarians Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie: where we behold only a pathetic scene, they see a market opportunity, and following the Time-Life method of repackaging old crap for new profits seek to re-sell the old crapcom "Dallas" as the Le nozze di Figaro of the Reagan Revolution.
"Dallas" wasn't simply a television show. It was an atmosphere-altering cultural force. Lasting nearly as long as recovering alcoholic Larry Hagman's second liver, it helped define the 1980s as a glorious "decade of greed," ushering in an era in which capitalism became cool, even though weighted with manifold moral quandaries...I have no trouble believing that the gangster brand of capitalism practiced in much of the old Soviet bloc is inspired by shitty old TV shows. It takes nerve to brag about it, though.
After a long hip parade of unironic countercultural icons such as Luke of "Cool Hand Luke" and Randle Patrick McMurphy of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," "Dallas" created a new archetype of the anti-hero we loved to hate and hated to love: an establishment tycoon who's always controlling politicians, cheating on his boozy wife and scheming against his own stubbornly loyal family. But no matter how evil various translators tried to make J.R. and his milieu... viewers in the nearly 100 countries that gobbled up the show, including in the Warsaw Pact nations, came to believe that they, too, deserved cars as big as boats and a swimming pool the size of a small mansion.
For obvious reasons I prefer to think of these things as diversions rather than as a cultural signposts. Maybe in years to come we'll look back at "The Sopranos" as part of a magical time when we all decided, the hell with it, America's really just a large criminal enterprise so let's get ours while the getting's good. And at "American Idol" as when American popular music began to really, really suck. Maybe that explains our culture in general these days: the cynicism of the audience has caught up with that of the advertisers.