On November 21, 1980, an estimated 83 million viewers tuned in to discover that it was Kristin Shepard (Mary Crosby) who shot J.R. on the CBS drama “Dallas.”
“Who shot J.R.?” was a question that haunted viewers for eight months, after the third season’s shocking finale in March 1980 — in which J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) was shot twice by an unknown assailant. The mystery became a U.S. phenomenon, generating betting pools, pop culture references, and even mentions in the 1980 presidential election.
Season 4’s “Who Done It?” became the highest-rated television episode in U.S. history at the time. Its massive success helped to popularize the technique of ending a TV episodes and seasons with dramatic cliffhangers.