It was Miss Kristin in the bedroom with a gun!

On this day in 1980, millions — and I do mean millions — of people tuned into the evening soap opera Dalla to answer the fateful question that gnawed at them for months: “Who shot J.R.?”

But they would have to wait through quite a lot to get the answer…

In what many experts call “the biggest cliff-hanger in TV history,” the 1979-80 Dallas season closed with a mysterious, black-gloved hand holding a smoking pistol — and the show’s well-hated villain, J.R. Ewing, laying on the floor. Would he live? Would he die? And which of hismany enemies tried to do him in?

All summer long, Dallas fans compared notes, suggested theories, and bought “I shot J.R.” t-shirts. (Can you imagine what that would be like today with Facebook and YouTube? I’m not sure that I want to think about it!) Then a contract dispute erupted with Hagman, leaving the Dallas production schedule up in the air.

Once the contract was settled, Dallas fans breathed a sigh of relief, but the roller-coaster ride didn’t end there. To pile even more misery onto them, a Screen Actors Guild strike delayed the start of the 1980 TV season.

When the episode finally aired, 83 million people in the U.S. — 76% of all U.Ss TV sets — and a total of 350 million people around the world watched as we discovered that Kristin Shepard, J.R.’s wife’s sister and his former mistress, held the gun and pulled the trigger.

>So, what’s your favorite TV cliff-hanger?


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