“Barnabas Collins knows how to handle a man like Willie.”
It’s a new day at Collinwood, and darn it if Vicki and Liz aren’t playing another round of Where’s Willie. They’ve got to get more organized about this, maybe put out a newsletter or something.
The fun new twist is that now it sounds like they’re saying that Barnabas and Willie are dating. Liz says, “Barnabas Collins knows how to handle a man like Willie.” And Vicki replies, “No, that’s just it! Willie is staying there — living there! He’s moved into the Old House with him!”
But this is 1967, so obviously they don’t mean that the way that it sounds.
Maybe. I don’t think they do.
But Liz is going to put a stop to this. She says, “I’d better go down and talk to Mr. Collins, and tell him what kind of a man Willie is.”
Maybe they do mean it that way. It’s actually kind of hard to tell.
So now we get a nice slow pan across the Old House drawing room. Nobody answers when Liz knocks, so she just walks right in and starts looking around.
This goes on for a full minute and a half of network television, just Liz strolling around the room and helping herself to some decor.
Sometimes they seriously act like they have all the time in the world to show characters quietly puttering around in empty rooms.
Somebody finally throws young David into the scene, just to give Liz something to do. The Old House is David’s favorite place to play, and he’s upset that Barnabas is fixing it up. This is kind of like an episode of Extreme Home Makeover from the mirror universe, where you just clean up a little bit, and then children come in and scold you.
It’s not a gripping scene, is what I’m saying, and it doesn’t help that David is groping for his lines like a drowning man.
“It’s changed,” he says. “It’s so different!”
That’s not quite right, so he walks to a different spot and tries it the other way around: “It’s so different! It has changed!”
Liz says, “Don’t be ridiculous, David,” which is no help at all. What kind of a cue is that supposed to be? If they’re going to keep turning the show into an improv comedy routine, then Liz needs to say, “Yes, and”.
But David’s no quitter; he’s still in there swinging.
“The only change there is…” he says, “is a change that you can’t see! A change that you can feel!”
And then he claims that even the air has changed. Do we really need to sit here and watch a ten-year-old boy complain about the air?
We cut back to Collinwood, where Vicki and Burke are having the same damn conversation about Willie all over again.
And then the most amazing thing happens. The grandfather clock strikes the hour — and Burke stops, looks at the clock, and sets his watch.
That actually happens. As I said: network television. We just stopped in the middle of a scene so that a character can set his wristwatch. This isn’t foreshadowing or a plot point or anything. It’s just a thing that happens on TV.
To be fair, the cast is taping six days a week right now, and they look exhausted. AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Employees) went on strike in April 1967 to push for a wage proposal for news personnel, and the Dark Shadows actors honored the strike. They couldn’t tape any episodes for a week and a half. They usually recorded the show two weeks ahead of the air date, but by the time they came back from the strike, they were only two days ahead.
To catch up, they worked six days a week, from Sunday to Friday, for ten weeks. They would have worked seven days a week, but on Saturdays, ABC’s Wide World of Sports used their cameras, which is adorable.
This episode was taped on Friday, at the end of their second six-day week. You can tell that they really want to go home.
And, by the way — yes, I own a book that lists the taping dates for every episode of Dark Shadows. I have several, actually. That’s a Dark Shadows fan thing; part of the fun is knowing all the production details.
Fun for me, obviously. Not for you. I’m aware of the me/you fun gap, and I’m holding back on a lot of the nerdery.
Burke and Liz go to the library for some quality time with the lamp. I’d tell you what they’re talking about, but it doesn’t matter. Burke can’t remember his lines either.
Burke: Can I tell you what my hunch is?
Liz: No, you may not.
Burke: Because you think they might be true. And right.
Okay, whatever. Then Burke goes and has a scene with David, who’s still chattering about how things are different at the Old House. Ohh, this is painful. It actually makes my head hurt to watch it. I can’t even make jokes about it — it’s not ridiculous, it’s just boring.
I’d like to say that this isn’t what the show is like, but sometimes it just is. This doesn’t happen very often once they really commit to the supernatural storylines, but even at the height of the craziness, every once in a while you get a time-filler like this. It’s just part of how soap operas are.
So David goes back to the Old House, and all of a sudden he hears dogs howling. He cries out, “Josette — I think I’m afraid!” The dognoise gets louder, and David cringes against the door.
That’s actually not a bad cliffhanger compared to some that we’ve had recently. And now everyone can go home.
Tomorrow: The Late Shift.
More Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
When Liz walks into the empty Old House, a stagehand’s shadow can be seen moving around on the left side of the screen.
At the Old House, Liz shows David the new portrait, and says: “This is Barnabas’ house, and I think this is the photograph — painting that will hang there from now on.”
Tomorrow: The Late Shift.
— Danny Horn