August 11, 2014 4:42 PM EDT

J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) took America from the 1970s to the 1980s. 1978, when Dallas appeared, was in the midst of the Iran crisis, on the heels of gas crunches, energy crises and Jimmy Carter in a cardigan telling us to dial back our thermostats: an oil baron as a primetime villain made perfect sense. And the summer of 1980, when the country caught Who Shot J.R.? fever, was when Ronald Reagan was about to begin the ’80s love affair with business and money. But current-events relevance was just the icing on Dallas‘ petroleum-soaked cake: it was the perfect primetime soap because of its timeless mix of sex, money, intrigue, family and lies. Plus a delightful, stetson-hatted villain whom everyone had a reason to kill—and whom, therefore, viewers wanted to live forever.

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