American Icons: Television's Dallas

Email a Friend
From and

This is the American dream in a ten-gallon hat.

Remember the prime-time soap opera from the 1980s about a wealthy Texas family in the oil business? Dallas has been off the air for 20 years but it's still considered one of the most successful television shows in history. Studio 360 listener Laura Detre nominated Dallas on our American Icons website, and we liked her idea so much, we sent Julia Barton to Southfork Ranch (and beyond) to understand how Dallas changed the way the world sees America.





Bonus Track: Dallas Behind the Iron Curtain

Documentary film director Jaak Kilmi remembers watching Dallas in Soviet Estonia as an escape, but also as a source of frustration.


Slideshow: Southfork, At Home and Abroad

Music Playlist

  1. Dallas Theme Song

    Artist: City of Prague Philharmonic
    Album: 100 Greatest TV Themes
    Label: Silva America
  2. Dallas

    Artist: Michel Salva
    Album: Dallas (Générique du Feuilleton TV)
    Label: CBS
  3. Dallas

    Artist: Jimmie Dale Gilmore and the Flatlanders
    Album: More a Legend than a Band
    Label: Rounder / Umgd
  4. Dallas

    Artist: Silver Jews
    Album: Natural Bridge
    Label: Drag City

The television series Dallas told a glamorized story of America in the 1980s. But compared to the McMansions in the neighborhood these days, the modest size of the real Southfork Ranch (which is north of Dallas) doesn’t quite match the romance of the story.

( Julia Barton )

Southfork is now a tourist destination and museum, giving 11 tours a day. Although the television show Dallas did not film inside the house, its bedrooms are decorated in the style of various characters. This is Sue Ellen's room (with producer Julia Barton visible in Sue Ellen’s mirror).

( Julia Barton )

Careful camera work was necessary to transform the tiny pool at the Southfork Ranch into the huge one seen on television.

( Julia Barton )

The American Dream depicted in Dallas still draws tourists to Southfork.  These visitors from the Democratic Republic of Congo are checking out the decor.

( Julia Barton )

The allure of the American Dream depicted in Dallas crossed the Iron Curtain, where it gained traction in the old Eastern Bloc of nations. The owner of "Hotel Dallas" at Parcul Vacante Hermes in Slobozia, Romania, tried to copy the Southfork Ranch he saw on television.

( Julia Barton )

The Romanian "Hotel Dallas" doesn’t quite match the high-wattage glamor of the televised version.

( Scott Morfitt )

The gate to Romanian Southfork. The hotel and ranch complex was built on empty farmland by the local business tycoon Ilie Alexandru, who wanted to be the “JR of Romania.”  The name “Hermes” is a nod to the Greek god of commerce and business.

( Julia Barton )

Rodica Florea (right), the manager of Parcul Vacante Hermes in Romania, with producer Julia Barton (center), and interpreter Natalia Petrea (left).

( Scott Morfitt )

The offices at Parcul Vacante Hermes take the cowboy motif even further.

( Scott Morfitt )