Monthly Archives: May 2014

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Episode 405: Ever After

“You will never rest, Barnabas… and you will never be able to love anyone… for whoever loves you will die!”

Angelique’s eyes flash, and she says, “You have made a great mistake, Barnabas!” and then the world turns upside down.

Because today is Curse Day! We’ve been on this uncertain and frightening journey into the past for two months, and it’s all been leading up to this. Which is weird, because Dark Shadows is a soap opera, and soap operas aren’t supposed to have “leading up to” moments.

Continue reading Episode 405: Ever After

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Episode 404: Oh My God, Vicki Is an Idiot

“Miss Winters has come from Boston, and she was found — she was brought up in a foundling home.”

Phew, we made it! It’s been a long four hundred and four episodes, but we’re here at last. Our long national nightmare is over. Victoria Winters, girl governess, is finally behind bars where she belongs.

Continue reading Episode 404: Oh My God, Vicki Is an Idiot

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Episode 403: But I Loved You, and Other Excuses

“I will hate you until I end your life, and I will end it.”

Man, did you ever have one of those days where nothing goes right? Meet Barnabas Collins. He’s experiencing an epic, unbroken string of days like that, which is a real shame, because he doesn’t have a whole lot of days left. As the saying goes: Life sucks, and then you die. And then things start to go seriously downhill from there.

Continue reading Episode 403: But I Loved You, and Other Excuses

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Episode 402: Plan A

“It’s like some nightmare. Such things just don’t happen.”

Don’t believe them! They tell you lies, nothing but lies. And worse than that — they’re boring lies, which make the world less interesting, and that is something I can never forgive.

They say that the point of the 1795 storyline is to make Barnabas a “sympathetic” character, which is some brand of vague applesauce that presumably means that we should “like” him, and agree with his goals. If we like Barnabas, according to this point of view, then we’ll be more likely to root for him, and we’ll want him to succeed.

This is entirely false, in every way that matters.

For one thing, we were all rooting for Barnabas pretty much from day one. Obviously, by “rooting for him” I don’t mean that we want to watch him murder small children. We just want to watch him.

We want Barnabas on the screen as much as possible, because he does improbable and surprising things. The show is more interesting when he’s around, for reasons that have nothing to do with whether you’d want to invite him over for a cookout.

Barnabas is a mess. He makes nothing but bad choices. He’s got a gorgeous, rich fiancee coming over to America to marry him, and what does he do five minutes before Josette walks into the house? He makes out with the maid.

And once he gets Angelique all worked up, he pulls away and says they have to pretend that this never happened, and she needs to be totally supportive of his upcoming marriage to the woman she works for. That’s the level of emotional intelligence we’re dealing with here.

It’s impossible to “sympathize” with Barnabas when he talks about his romantic future; it’s like rooting for a sea lion who wants to work on a space station. Yeah, he’s applied to graduate school. That’s fantastic. It’s not gonna happen.

Continue reading Episode 402: Plan A

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Episode 401: Bewitched

“I used to be a rational man, but things have been happening here that do not have a rational explanation.”

So here’s a puzzling question: Why is Angelique white?

I mean, you can follow the chain of associations that led Dark Shadows writer Sam Hall to the French Caribbean. In Hall’s second episode on the show, it’s revealed that Barnabas visited Barbados, where an Indian taught him the secret magic number of the universe, giving him the power to “unlock all the rules that bind you mortals to your daily, dull lives.”

Then, a few weeks later, when the writers decided to explore the story of how Barnabas became a vampire, it’s easy to chart the course to Martinique. The vampire curse is the result of a magic spell, and Hall’s already been thinking about the association between spells and the Caribbean. But Barbados was colonized by the English, and Josette Du Prés is French, so the backstory moves to Martinique, a French colony.

But Angelique doesn’t mess around with European magic — all that “eye of newt, toe of frog” stuff. She doesn’t fly on a broomstick, or live in a gingerbread house. Her magic has a strong Bayou flavor — she uses voodoo dolls, love potions and zombies, which are all associated with Haitian magic. So, following that thought to its logical conclusion, Angelique should be Haitian, or Island Carib, or pretty much anything besides blonde and blue-eyed.

But if she’s supposed to marry Barnabas, then that’s problematic, because it’s January 1968, and America be crazy.

The first interracial romance on daytime TV was on One Life to Live, starting in October 1968 — a relationship between an Italian woman, Carla Benari, and an African-American intern, Dr. Price Trainor. ABC received some angry letters about this, and the show was boycotted by some affiliates in the Southern states. About six months in, it was revealed that “Carla” was actually Clara Gray, an African-American woman who’d been passing for white.

Other things that people made a big deal about in 1968: a Petula Clark variety special where Clark touched Harry Belafonte on the arm, and a Star Trek episode where Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura were forced to kiss by telekenesis.

So a major storyline about Barnabas Collins marrying a Haitian voodoo priestess is seriously not going to happen. Instead, Dark Shadows has the hapless mortal marry a pretty blonde, who’s secretly a practicing witch. I wonder where they got that idea from?

Continue reading Episode 401: Bewitched

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Episode 400: Playing with Fire

“Victoria Winters, your name is now known to fire!”

So here’s a way that you could open your TV show: start with a long scene of a witch chatting with her homemade tarot deck, as she assembles a house of cards in real time.

“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it,” Angelique says, “since I’ve had work for you. You must see each other face to face, and watch that each of you obeys my least command.”

She’s always giving little pep talks to her props like this. It’s sweet, and it encourages them to stay engaged in the process. Also, she doesn’t have any friends.

Continue reading Episode 400: Playing with Fire

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Episode 399: Hide and Seek

“Please, allow this man to come here and perform his mumbo-jumbo, so that we can keep peace in this family.”

Yesterday, witch-vixen Angelique sent her unwilling henchman, Ben, to steal a hair ribbon from Abigail Collins, the twisted spinster who’s pretty much the last person you want to get caught stealing a hair ribbon from, if you plan on experiencing a single quiet moment in the next twelve months. So guess what happened.

Now, Ben doesn’t appear in today’s episode, so we can’t see what’s happening to him. Instead, we’ve got Angelique standing in the Old House drawing room, staring into space. “They caught Ben,” she reports. “He hasn’t completed my mission. He almost said my name.”

She shudders, and adds, “But he did say one word before I could stop him… Witch.” Ben is apparently live tweeting his interrogation.

Continue reading Episode 399: Hide and Seek

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Episode 398: No Rest for the Wicked

“Strange things have begun to happen in this house, things that even I can’t explain.”

A seance has been held at Dark Shadows Every Day, which has suspended time and space, and sent one writer on an uncertain and frightening journey into taking the day off. Danny is playing Phyllis Wick for today, and in his place you’ll find writer, lyricist and recent Dark Shadows convert Charlie Mason

Since I am but a guest here — and have no intention of painting a target on my back like that simpering Miss Winters — before beginning to write this blog entry, I traded my immodest modern garb into something more period-appropriate. Unfortunately, since I can scarcely tell 1795 from 1975, I still may have made a misstep with my choice of bell-bottoms and a Lee Majors T-shirt. Perhaps none of you will notice…

We begin this episode with what I believe is customary — a voiceover, and some still photos from a Collinsport Board of Tourism brochure. (Its title would probably be “Fancy Places… After Dark.”)

At Barnabas’ house, Angelique is downstairs pacing. At first, it appears that she’s trying to figure out which weighs more — her hair, which is voluminous (though I guess no more so than usual, for her or Lady Bunny) or her nightgown, which has the same flow as those lead vests that they make you wear at doctors’ offices during X-rays. But then, helpfully, she think-speaks about her befuddlement over Jeremiah’s haunting.

“Why did he turn on me?” she wonders.

Sadly, no one think-suggests, “Maybe because you magically got him interested in Josette and then, almost as bad, got him shot to death.” She can’t be bothered to think about it, much less think-speak about it, for too long, anyway. She has bigger problems — like getting some shut-eye.

Continue reading Episode 398: No Rest for the Wicked

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Episode 397: Lord of the Flies

“This isn’t champagne! It’s blood!”

War is coming to Collinsport, one of those big mythological ones where everybody dies, and it takes a couple centuries before you figure out it was all a metaphor for something else. The big dance is going to kick off next week, so this week is about defining who the main combatants are.

Yesterday, we were introduced to “the dead”, who are running on the incoherent but passionately expressed platform that you have disturbed my rest, my rest has been disturbed, you must be punished for disturbing my rest, and so on.

Don’t worry about following that line of reasoning too closely; you don’t need to understand it. It’s a “the dead” thing.

Today, we’re going to take a look at Angelique, another major player in the saga, and we’ll ask: Where do her powers come from, anyway?

Continue reading Episode 397: Lord of the Flies

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Episode 396: Dialogue of the Dead

“I do not need you now! Can’t you understand? Go back to your grave!”

Last week, Angelique needed yet another stick to hit her rival Josette with, so she called poor dead Jeremiah from his grave, and sent him off to haunt his widow. Now, he’s showing up at the house when Angelique doesn’t want him, like a stray cat that somebody fed once, and now it comes by every day to beg for scraps.

The witch tries to send Jeremiah away, saying that she doesn’t need him now. But he just laughs, and stumbles toward her.

Which brings us to today’s topic: How does “the dead” work?

Continue reading Episode 396: Dialogue of the Dead