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Patrick Duffy still swims between 'Atlantis,' 'Dallas'

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

Actor Patrick Duffy says his charmed professional life seems to be “going back in reverse.”

Duffy’s first series, the almost forgotten 13-episode Man From Atlantis, has just been reborn via DVD-on-demand. His second series — the iconic, 13-season Dallas, which he landed seven days after Atlantis got canceled — will soon return from the dead, just as Duffy’s character, Bobby Ewing, once did.

“It’s one of those shows that qualifies in the [Screen Actor’s Guild] contract: ‘throughout the universe for all eternity,’” said Duffy, who will again play Bobby when the new Dallas debuts in 2012 with fellow original cast members Larry Hagman (J.R.) and Linda Gray (Sue Ellen).

Duffy promises that he, Hagman and Gray will have intense storylines like in the old days, when the serial ran from 1978-91. “We’re not hood ornaments,” Duffy told The Miami Herald. “We’re intimately involved.”

Dallas was the No. 1 U.S. television series for three years in the early ’80s. In 1980, reportedly about 360 million viewers worldwide tuned in to watch “Who Shot J.R.” It remains internationally TV’s most-watched episode.

The show has never been out of syndication, and this year the entire series became available on DVD.

Man From Atlantis didn’t have such a glorious past. It began with a 1977 feature-length pilot and three TV movies about a man with webbed hands and feet who could live underwater and swim faster than a dolphin. Thirteen weekly episodes aired during the 1977-78 TV season, establishing a cult following mostly among teenagers of the era.

“The Atlantis thing is even more phenomenal [than Dallas] because it was such a short-lived experience,” Duffy says.

In the past, such brief TV shows would never be heard from again. This week, Warner Archive Collection will release the entire series, plus the four Atlantis films, through its DVD-on-demand system, in which the studio only creates discs that have been pre-purchased online by consumers.

“It’s a perfect way of doing business in this age,” Duffy says. “We don’t spend any money, after remastering, until someone orders it.” The discs look identical to store-bought DVDs, with jacket art and chapter stops.

Duffy, who filmed most of Atlantis in tight yellow swim trunks, says stunt men helped him with the swimming scenes and that in his prime he could hold his breath underwater for “3 minutes, 15 seconds.”

Jokes the 62-year-old Duffy: “I couldn’t do the 15 seconds now.”

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Hats off to Duffy's courage. Hope I can also have the courage to swim. I don't know to swim even in a pond.

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