For 8 months in 1980, TV's biggest mystery, 'Who Shot J.R.?' on 'Dallas', was the most talked-about secret in the United States. "To keep the secret safe," Associated Press reported, "scripts were kept under lock and key." It started in January 1980 when producers and writers were trying to wrap up the TV season. Philip Capice recounted, "We said let's have something happen to J.R., something to hold interest over the summer. CBS ordered 2 more episodes and that gave us some room to play around." 

March Equinox (Latin for equal night), also known as the spring vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere. It was the time when the length of night and day were supposed to be near equal (12 hours) around the world because the sun was shining directly on the equator. It was also the time "the cliffhanger of the (20th) century" went on air (March 21, 1980). Originally fans were only meant to be kept in suspense for 6 months or until the September Equinox (the fall equinox in the northern hemisphere). However a 10-week actors strike almost derailed a "carefully controlled campaign". The goal was to surpass the record set by 'The Fugitive' on August 29 1967. That program attracted 49.5% rating and 71.9% share.

On reflection, Leonard Katzman conceded, "It does seem a bit silly to be guarding this like a state secret. But we hope to keep people on the edges of their chairs . . . We hope to get the largest possible audience for the first show in the fall." Larry Hagman faced some 200 reporters, photographers and publicists to discuss the TV phenomenon to make sure the train had gone back on track. Art Lewis told the press, "Once we shoot the episode where it's revealed, and the crew knows and it goes through the hands of editors it's going to be hard to keep quiet. But we're going to do our best." 

Newspapers reported the event "as if it were a presidential election." Larry made the comment, "If nominated I will run; if elected I will serve. But first, Congress has to raise the salary to $5 million a year." In July 1980, Jimmy Carter went to Texas to attend a fund-raiser. He told 300 guests who paid $5000-a-couple to attend, "I came here to help the Democratic Committee and all the members of it. But primarily, I came here to find out who shot J.R.?" There was laughter. "And if any of you could let me know that, I could finance the whole campaign this fall." 

'The Evening Standard' in Britain decried, "Is it conceivable that 10 or even 3 years ago (between 1971 and 1978) a duty editor in a BBC newsroom would have allowed as a story in his 9:00pm news bulletin the mythical shooting of a mythical hero of a mythical schlock of an American soap opera?" Money were said changed hands as English bookmakers and Las Vegas gamblers took bets on 'Who Shot J.R.?' In London, about $235,000 was reportedly wagered on one month. It was understood one firm of bookies paid out $360,000 over one weekend. Leonard insisted, "We will not bring someone in from left field. It is someone the audience either saw or heard of in the last episode." The final episode shown in March was shown on May 22 1980 in Great Britain. At the time, 'United Press International' noted, "All radio news broadcasts reported it right through the morning rush hour." According to the bookmakers, "In Scotland, our switchboards were literally jammed. The bets were regarded as just a gimmick, but we have already taken over 50,000 pounds (about $117,000)." 

Larry told 'People' magazine, "Something like this happens every 10 or 20 years in an actor's life – and I mean to cash in on it." Len acknowledged, "In all honesty, I think there are a whole lot of people who wouldn’t want to watch the show without J.R., and Larry Hagman knows he's benefiting from the show, too." Larry reportedly signed a new contract with Lorimar Productions after 'A House Divided' episode which saw his $25,000-a-week salary increased to $55,000-a-week. Lee Rich declared, "After we find out who shot J.R., then the excitement really starts, I'm delighted at the excitement we've created and I hope we can beat the record for viewers for any episodic television show in the past.”

After 3 curtain-raiser episodes, the main event took place on November 21, 1980. To everyone delight, 'Dallas' did beat the record attracting 53.3% rating (or 41,467,400 households with TV sets were counted watching) and 76% of the audience (or three-quarters of all the TV sets in use on the night the episode went on air were tuned in to 'Dallas'). Sponsors reportedly paid about $500,000 per minute. At the time, 'Dallas' became the most-watched program in TV history. Art Lewis mentioned, "I think it was the kind of show that came along at the right time. People are having money problems. And I think watching the wealthy struggling with their problems gives them a sense of satisfaction."

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