Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ranch Fence Goes Up, The Wall Comes Down

It was a strange coincidence the other day when, conscious that we were approaching today's 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, I was researching a piece for CBS Watch! magazine, and came across an interesting anecdote. I was interviewing Guido Meyer, who, Frank and I discovered on a press trip to Florida with the handsome German journalist last fall, is an expert on all things Dallas.

As Guido explains, one Stuttgart-based Dallas fan club, of which he is a member, is currently planning to build a replica of the Ewing family’s Southfork Ranch as a tourist attraction in
Bavaria. "Germans have always had a thing for Westerns, for Texas, and for cowboys," he says.

But the lingering affection for the series, he notes, also arises in part from the fact that for some of his countrymen, the show was particularly inspiring. Even though Dallas was never aired by the state-owned broadcasters in the communist former East Germany, viewers there were able to receive the show via West German signals. “For the people in Eastern Europe, Dallas was the West,” Guido explains. “Rich people, driving fancy cars, living on a luxurious ranch. They saw this lifestyle, and wanted it for themselves.”

I checked into his theory, and found that in his 2001 memoir Hello Darlin’, the series’ star Larry Hagman agreed. “I watched CNN’s coverage of the Berlin Wall being torn down and realized that Dallas had impacted that side of the world,” Hagman wrote. “I honestly believe that as Dallas crossed the borders into Soviet-controlled countries, it played a big part in the downfall of the Soviet empire. When people from the Eastern bloc countries saw what they were missing, they realized what a farce communism was.”

It just goes to prove: never doubt the power of television!

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