.. April 1978 was the first time our nation turned its lonely eyes to Southfork Ranch, the winningly diabolical genius of J.R. Ewing (as played by Larry Hagman) and Victoria Principal's high-waisted pantsuits. It was the booze-and-sex-soaked caricature of free enterprise and executive lifestyles that proved irresistible not just to stagflation-weary Americans but viewers from France to the Soviet Union to Ceausescu's Romania.
Joseph Stalin is said to have screened the 1940 movie "The Grapes of Wrath" in the Soviet Union to showcase the depredations of life under capitalism. Russian audiences watched the final scenes of the Okies' westward trek aboard overladen, broken-down jalopies -- and marveled that in the United States, even poor people had cars. "Dallas" functioned similarly.
"I think we were directly or indirectly responsible for the fall of the [Soviet] empire," Hagman told the Associated Press a decade ago. "They would see the wealthy Ewings and say, 'Hey, we don't have all this stuff.' I think it was good old-fashioned greed that got them to question their authority."
.. the show provided a luxuriant alternative to a communism that was forcing people to wait more than a decade to buy the most rattletrap Romanian car.