To the Cold War generation, there is one particular question that resonates more deeply than any other. It places them in a specific moment of time (within a specific period of history) where everyday it seemed like the very fiber of life hung in the balance. It wasn’t inconceivable to think that the foundation of everything you’ve always known could be rocked to its very core in the blink of an eye. So, what was that question?
“Who shot J.R.?”
That’s right. On this day, November 21st, in 1980, over 350 million members of our illustrious planet tuned in to learn the answer to that iconic query. In a time of gathering Cold War angst and existence-threatening brinkmanship, we united as the People of Earth, grabbed a cold beer, and plunked ourselves down in front of our big clunky 1970’s televisions to see just who it was that put a bullet into the Ewing clan’s unabashedly womanizing scoundrel.
Here in America? Talk about a national conversation. People were riveted. This was a cultural phenomenon, a tidal wave on the airwaves that washed over everyone and everything in its path. Don’t forget that this long predated the Internet, or even the idea of “Must See TV.” Even the Super Bowl had yet to evolve into the absolute eyeball-sucking media behemoth that it is today.
Furthermore, it was a moment that was experienced in crowds and groups. Families and friends sat and watched together, at the same time. There were no Internet spoilers or opportunities to skip it in favor of catching up on NetFlix or your DVR later on. No, to take part in the conversation, you had to actually take part in the moment. This created an unbreakable, breath-taking cohesion in the audience, all of whom had waited months for the cliffhanger’s resolution.
So today, over 30 long years after we found out that it was (*SPOILER ALERT*) Kristin Shepard who shot the bastard, let’s raise our glasses to the idea of a good whodunit. Let’s salute the memory of a moment that helped usher in the idea of a “water cooler conversation.” Let’s give due credence to a moment in television history that united people, if only for a moment, across all manner of artificial boundaries. Rich or poor, black or white, craft beer drinker or macro guy…everyone had a point of connection.
Taking some celebratory sips to remember the time that everyone had the same question…and got the same answer? Now THAT’S a reason to drink!