By EW Staff
July 18, 2012 at 04:00 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Never bet against J.R. Ewing. Though that’s just what many industry insiders and Dallas nostalgists did when word got out that a revival of the iconic ’80s series was in the works. And yet the new Dallas, which premiered on June 13, has since emerged as cable’s No. 1 new drama and has also been picked up for a second season. The show has proven to be every bit as delicious as the original. Take it from Larry Hagman, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to unleash his incorrigible J.R. on a new generation. “This makes the old one look like milk toast in the morning with no cinnamon sugar,” he says with a laugh.

On this week’s cover, EW explores TV’s most improbable success story of the summer. “It’s almost dream-like,” laughs Duffy, who along with Hagman and Linda Gray, and newcomers Josh Henderson, Jesse Metcalfe, Jordana Brewster, and Julie Gonzalo, anchor the new incarnation. “And God if I wake up and find out I’m playing some gnarly grandpa in a sitcom somewhere, I’m going to be so pissed off,” Duffy adds. (And for those pissed off Bobby and Pam fans, executive producer Cynthia Cidre explains why she didn’t want to bring back Victoria Principal. “No, no, no, no,” she says. “What angle could I possibly play in the relationship?”)

The dream took a nightmarish turn two days before Hagman was due on set when he called his long-time best friend Duffy with news of his cancer. “I told him, ‘You bastard. I just got a good job and you’re going to bail on me,’” says Duffy. “The nerve of you dying at the apex of my career. Unacceptable.’” Hagman worked through his entire chemotherapy and radiation treatment, infusing J.R. with the same gleeful mischief audiences love to hate. Shortly before the show’s premiere, his doctor pronounced him cancer-free. “Hagman looked me in the eye and said ‘Whaddya think, 10 seasons?’” says TNT president Michael Wright.

For exclusive dish on the various twists and turns still in store for the embattled Ewing family, plus an interview with Hagman’s hard-working eyebrow wrangler, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday, June 20.

Araya Diaz/WireImage

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