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Episode 575: Crazy Talk

“I think it’s time you knew how revolting and disgusting you really are.”

And now we have come to another installment where I honestly do not have the power to adequately describe how thoroughly certifiable this television show has become. It has broken free from its keepers, and is, at press time, rampaging through the streets, barking and snapping and uncoiling reality as it goes.

My only recourse as a commentator is to use William S. Burroughs’ cut-up technique, because I don’t have access to the acres of marijuana that the 1968 teenage audience was smoking at the time.

Continue reading Episode 575: Crazy Talk

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Episode 574: Trade Secrets

“Life force? What does that mean?”

So it’s late 1968, and you’re, let’s say, fourteen. You started watching Dark Shadows on and off in the spring, and during the summer you became completely obsessed with it. You love the characters, you love the crazy stories, and you love that weird, intense connection you have with your friends when you talk about it.

You even know some kids who swear that they actually saw the episode when Barnabas shot Angelique through the heart — and with her dying breath, she turned herself into a bat and bit him on the neck.

But that’s the thing about afternoon TV in 1968 — it only happens once. They’ll run episodes of Bewitched or Gomer Pyle or The Carol Burnett Show a couple of times, but Dark Shadows is a paper-thin phantom that shimmers seductively for half an hour, and then disappears into the void, leaving a stunned audience of teenage thrill-seekers to rub their eyes and grope their way back into the daylight, talking about the wonders they’ve seen, and lording it over the unfortunate few who couldn’t get home in time to witness it for themselves.

You can’t catch Dark Shadows in your hands. It’s like the wind, or like a dream that you try to hold onto when you wake up. It’s like a ghost.

And then one day you get the chance to hold some precious fragments of the Dark Shadows life force, plus a stick of bubble gum.

Continue reading Episode 574: Trade Secrets

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Episode 573: This Strange Way That You’ve Been Behaving

“This house has some hold over you, and I want you to resist it!”

This entry is a couple of days late, I’m afraid. The blog is called Dark Shadows Every Day, but to be honest, sometimes it’s more like Dark Shadows Five Times a Week at Irregular Intervals. But Dark Shadows Every Day is easier to fit on a T-shirt, if I ever had time to make T-shirts, which apparently I don’t.

I’d like to explain to you why this entry is so late, but I can’t. All I can say is that there’s some force trying to control me, to make me do things I shouldn’t do, make me go places that I shouldn’t go. I know that’s hard for you to accept, but I want you to try.

Continue reading Episode 573: This Strange Way That You’ve Been Behaving

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Episode 572: Junior Detectives

“But it isn’t possible, Julia! He exists by day!”

Tom Jennings — local handyman, vampire, and one of the cutest guys on Dark Shadows — died yesterday, following a brief struggle with a main character. He was 28 years old, not counting the last two weeks.

Now, Tom was a fun character, with family and friends and an entertaining story point and several attractive hairstyles, so we would be well within our rights as members of the Dark Shadows audience to mourn his passing, but it’s just not possible right now.

Barnabas and Julia are as happy as could be, and so am I, because Tom’s destruction means that they get to play Junior Detectives again.

Continue reading Episode 572: Junior Detectives

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Episode 571: Raising the Stakes

“Did someone ever look at me, as I now look at you? No… or I would not be alive now.”

We open the week with a fight to the death between the already-dead, as ex-vampire Barnabas Collins battles with still-vampire Tom Jennings, in order to free Barnabas’ best friend, Julia, from Tom’s hypnotic spell.

It’s a crucial step in Barnabas’ development from villain to hero, a Jungian transformation of the psyche. Barnabas is both prince and dragon here — wrestling with his own demons, confronting and rejecting the darkness in his own soul. It’s also one of the goofiest things you’ll ever see on television.

Continue reading Episode 571: Raising the Stakes

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The British Invasion (Bloodlust, eps 2-3)

“If my social life ground to a halt every time my mom was investigating a murder, I’d be a nun.”

Okay, here are some further thoughts about Dark Shadows: Bloodlust, because I have some and you might as well hear about them.

Bloodlust is a new 13-part miniseries by Big Finish, a UK audio-drama production company that is determined to fill up the world with things that we don’t strictly need. They’ve been at it for decades, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to stop them, so here we are. I wrote about episode 1 last week, and today I’m looking at episodes 2 and 3.

Now, the question that every DS spin-off has to answer is: What is the purpose of bringing more Dark Shadows into the world?

Because history is not on the side of people who think that they have Dark Shadows stories worth telling. The original excuse for making Dark Shadows in the first place was that the producers didn’t realize what kind of show they were making until it suddenly became a hit, and by then it was too late to do something more sensible. Everybody following them can only dream of having an alibi that strong.

Forty years later, we’ve seen movie adaptations and prime-time revivals, novels and comic books and View-Master reels. But Bloodlust poses a question that nobody’s ever asked before, namely: What happens if we let British people try it?

Continue reading The British Invasion (Bloodlust, eps 2-3)

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Episode 569: Liz Misérables

“What is this place? Whose coffin is this? Is it mine?”

Well, I guess summer break can’t last forever, so here’s Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, reporting back to work for another day of standing around with a glazed expression. Joan Bennett used to be a movie star back in the day, so she gets an extended summer vacation from Dark Shadows.

Her break was even longer than usual this year — it’s actually been ten weeks since Liz was packed off to Windcliff Sanitarium, following a witch-induced nervous breakdown. I don’t know what she did this summer, but she’s tan, rested and ready to die.

Continue reading Episode 569: Liz Misérables

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Episode 568: Do You Want Vicki to Die

“Yes, Mr. Clark. We’re going to create another one.”

It’s currently 5:00am on Thursday as I’m writing these words. I woke up early, because I still have to write Wednesday’s entry. Last night, I was just sitting here looking at this episode, and I couldn’t think of a damn thing to say about it. But that’s the challenge that I created for myself on this blog — a four-year-long series of daily deadlines, mostly just to see if I could manage it. Apparently I could, until today.

The real problem with writing to a deadline is that as the time approaches, it’s hard to think about anything except that ticking clock. I think this is why there are so many movies and television show episodes where the climax is defusing a time bomb — the countdown to a deadline is the scariest thing that a writer can think of.

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Episode 567: The Show Goes On

“Why, you –“

I was going to talk about free will today. I had it all planned out.

I’ve been reading up on determinism lately, and I’ve got a theory — you would’ve loved this theory, if I had the time to tell you about it — using the concept of a mad scientist as a metaphor to talk about whether moral choices are even possible, if mental phenomena are reducible to neurological materialism. Seriously, it would have blown your mind, literally and figuratively.

But that’s going to have to wait, because there’s a breaking news story that I need to cover: this is the episode where Roger Davis bumps his head.

Continue reading Episode 567: The Show Goes On