Inspired by guess what television series, this made-for-TV movie traces the follies and fortunes of the Ewings and the Barneses all the way back to the 1930s. The familiar Dallas characters are played by unfamiliar (albeit very able) younger players: Miss Ellie, for example, isn't Barbara Bel Geddes (nor even Donna Reed) but the unknown Molly Hagan, while Jock Ewing is the slightly more recognizable Dale Midkiff. Larry Hagman, aka J.R. Ewing, appears long enough to introduce the film. As for J.R. himself, he shows up as an ominously nasty teenager, played by Kevin Wixted. Playing to fabulous ratings, Dallas: The Early Years debuted March 23, 1986.
by Hal Erickson synopsis