Monthly Archives: May 2014

Episode 395: Cleaning House

“What are you doing here? Why have you suddenly materialized now, in front of me?”

It’s been six weeks since we started our uncertain and frightening journey into the past, and I think it’s safe to say that the audience of 1967 must have been wondering if they were ever going to get back to the present. The promotional bumper that ABC ran in the week leading up to this storyline promised that we would learn the secret of the chained coffin, but we’re a month and a half in, and we haven’t even been near a coffin, chained or otherwise.

And here’s the really unbelievable thing — there’s 13 more weeks of 1795 episodes coming. This is going to go on for another three months.

Continue reading Episode 395: Cleaning House

Episode 394: Rules of Engagement

“You are either in league with Miss Winters and the Devil, or you’re just a schemer.”

Here’s a question that you probably haven’t given a lot of thought to: What do you do when you walk into a bedroom in your house and find that an avenging poltergeist who might be your recently deceased brother has trashed the place, shredding the appointments all the way down to a licked splinter?

Well, I’ll tell you what you’d do if you were Miss Abigail Collins. You’d walk into the middle of the room, and say, “What has happened here?” And then you’d walk over to the only chair in the room, pick it up and put it back on its feet.

This is why I love Abigail. She walks fearlessly into the bleeding heart of chaos and fury, sizes up the situation, and says to herself, I’m gonna need that chair in a minute.

Continue reading Episode 394: Rules of Engagement

Episode 393: Tell Them We Are Rising

“What do you suggest? Shall I open my own bottle of sherry, and see how much I have to drink before I begin to see hands appearing?”

Well, now they’ve done it. They’ve pierced the veil between the living and the dead; they’ve tampered in God’s domain; they’ve invented a whole new kind of monster, and they don’t even have a name for it yet.

Folks, this is Jeremiah Collins. He was shot in the face two weeks ago, and he died on Friday. But yesterday, Angelique decided that Barnabas and Josette were getting too cozy, so she’s brought Jeremiah back for an encore.

Wave hello to the folks, Jeremiah. That’s a good boy.

Continue reading Episode 393: Tell Them We Are Rising

Episode 392: Christmas Stalking

“All the things that we once shared together, I never thought that we would share remorse.”

The whole point of television is to surprise you. I’ve never understood why somebody would watch a boring TV show where it’s exactly the same thing every time, like a police procedural, or a cooking show, or the news. Your own life offers you plenty of opportunities to be bored; you put the mystery box in your living room because you want it to bring you something new.

So here we are on the day after Christmas, 1967, and we’re watching the gothic soap opera that gradually turned into a free-wheeling spook show. And just for today, it turns all the way back into a drama again. Who saw that one coming?

Continue reading Episode 392: Christmas Stalking

Time Travel, part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears

“Oh, God. Oh, God. Doc… please. Oh, God, doc. I’m beggin’ ya. I’m beggin’ ya. I’m beggin’ ya. Please, doc. Please. Oh, God. Oh, God. God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Doc. No. No. God. No.”

Merry Christmas! Today’s episode of Dark Shadows was pre-empted for Christmas Day 1967, because apparently people would rather watch football than 18th century vampires on Christmas, go figure. I want this blog to keep the Monday-to-Friday rhythm of the original broadcast, so we’re going to do some more time travel today, back to the year 1991, when NBC recklessly decided to give executive producer Dan Curtis another shot at making Dark Shadows all over again.

As we saw in the two-hour pilot episode, the Dark Shadows revival started with all the best intentions and all the worst ideas.

The main character is Victoria Winters, because after all these years we still think that’s a solid plan, but at least they did us the favor of not having her speak very much. I don’t think she has a single line in this entire episode.

We’ve also got a mentally challenged backwoods Willie Loomis, a sour-faced Julia with no sense of humor, a breathless Cinemax refugee who answers to the name of Carolyn, and don’t even get me started on Barnabas and the turtlenecks. On the plus side, we’ve got a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt as David, so at least there’s some star power on the set.

NBC aired the two-hour pilot on Sunday, January 13th, and then the second and third episodes together on the next night, and pretended it was some kind of exciting four-hour miniseries event. To be clear, we’re just watching episode 2 today. I’m only human, and besides, it’s Christmas.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 2: Blood, Sweat and Tears

Episode 390/391: The Princess

“Well, if you went to her and told her that, just told her that she wasn’t involved in any way.”

Okay, back to the writers’ room. Ever since we started this uncertain and frightening journey into the past, almost all of the episodes have been written by Sam Hall and Gordon Russell. I talked the other day about Russell’s recent game-upping, and obviously Hall is beautiful and perfect, so the show has been, on the whole, amazing.

And then along comes Ron Sproat, who’s my third favorite out of three.

Continue reading Episode 390/391: The Princess

Episode 389: It’s Complicated

“You see? I can be merciful. But next time, I will show you no mercy.”

Look out, everybody; Angelique’s mad at a toy again.

Yesterday, she thought she was making progress in her relationship with Barnabas, and by progress I mean they were kissing in a fairly serious way.

Barnabas promised to come to Angelique’s room later, but then he had kind of an emotional conversation with Josette, and all of a sudden, the relationship status updated again.

So Angelique is disappointed, and when she’s upset, she tends to say it with voodoo. Now she’s got Sarah’s doll, a handful of pins and a bottomless white-hot fury. You know, the Collins family really needs to stop leaving toys lying around; this is what happens.

Continue reading Episode 389: It’s Complicated

Episode 388: The Bad Ideas

“I may not know Miss Winters very well, but I can’t believe that she’s possessed by the Devil.”

Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of weeks for Barnabas. He was all set to marry his beautiful and affectionate fiancee, Josette, and then she left him at the altar to run off with his uncle and closest friend, Jeremiah. When they came back, Barnabas challenged Jeremiah to a duel, and then shot him in the face. Now he’s involved in hiding a runaway governess from a witch hunter. That’s a lot to handle.

So as we open today’s episode, he’s relaxing in his bedroom, while his ex-girlfriend Angelique rubs his temples. It’s very soothing, and he —

Wait. What?

Dude. Seriously. We’ve discussed this.

Continue reading Episode 388: The Bad Ideas

Episode 387: Truth or Dare

“Just how does one go about sensing an evil spirit? I’ve always been curious about that.”

We take you now live to the Old House drawing room, where an argument is already in progress.

Trask:  Miss Winters was bound securely to the tree. She could not possibly have freed herself. Someone must have untied those ropes for her.

Joshua:  Are you suggesting, Reverend, that it was a member of this family?

Trask:  I am saying that whoever helped her escape is also in league with the Devil, and that can mean only one thing. We are dealing with a coven of witches!

And that’s what Dark Shadows is like these days. Zero to sixty.

Continue reading Episode 387: Truth or Dare

Episode 386: Make Like a Tree

“I am defending the right of this girl to be judged innocent until she is proved innocent!”

In the Salem witch trials in 1692, the case for the prosecution mostly relied on what they called “spectral evidence”, which means basically that they believed whatever the screaming girls said. Other techniques included the “touch test” — i.e., having the witch touch a screaming girl, to see if she stops screaming — and looking for a “witch’s teat”, which is just as grim as it sounds.

But you know what they didn’t do in Salem, or in any other witch trial in history? They didn’t tie the accused witch to a tree and leave her there overnight, expecting that the tree would be dead by morning.

They didn’t use this technique for two reasons. For one thing, it’s pretty unlikely that the tree would hold up its end of the bargain. The other reason is that it’s a completely bonkers thing to do, even by the generally loose standards of witch trial sanity.

I’m bringing this up because Dark Shadows is a daytime soap opera, and so obviously a discussion of the Puritan justice system is going to come up at some point. Continue reading Episode 386: Make Like a Tree