Episode 468: The Odd Couple

“You keep talking about secret rooms, and guns. It bothers me for some reason.”

And now, another tableau from our pageant of Great Moments in Fictional Health Care.

Victoria Winters was in a car accident the other day, and escaped entirely unharmed. But she’s been cooped up in a hospital bed for episode after episode, and she doesn’t even have a magazine.

She says to her doctor, “You are going to release me today, aren’t you?” The doctor smirks, and says, “Now, why be in such a hurry?”

So apparently this hospital encourages able-bodied patients to stay longer. Even for a vampire soap opera, that requires more suspension of disbelief than anything else on the show. I thought we were back in the 20th century.

468 dark shadows watch vicki lang

Also, it’s never a good idea to begin your television show with a shot of a character staring at his watch. I know he’s taking her pulse, but it sets a bad precedent.

This is Dr. Eric Lang, by the way. He’s a brand new character this week, and he’s terrible, just shouty and off-putting, and he’s played by The Worst Actor Who Ever Appeared on Dark Shadows. Apparently, he wants to keep Vicki in the hospital so that he can feed her to his pet vampire. Or something. I don’t really pay attention to Vicki scenes.

468 dark shadows right vicki jeff

But in the next scene, she’s packing a suitcase, so I guess they’ve realized that they can’t detain her forever without a warrant.

Then Jeff Clark stops by. He’s another new character who looks just like Peter, the summer-break boyfriend that she met on a recent trip to the 18th century. Jeff also talks like Peter and scowls like Peter, and — not to put too fine a point on it — actually is Peter.

The show seems to be under the impression that this situation will hold the audience spellbound. But if Jeff isn’t secretly Peter, then there’s absolutely no reason for him to be standing in the middle of our television show, so this non-mystery is pure horseradish. I know I’ve complained about this plot point every day this week, but I’ll stop talking about it when they do. They started it.

468 dark shadows suitcase vicki peter

So now we have to watch people say things like this.

Jeff:  You know, when I left here the other day, I thought to myself: Maybe I am Peter Bradford. Who knows? But if I were, I’m sure I’d remember you.

I just don’t know what to do with a line like that. I was under the impression that the characters on this show were supposed to be human beings.

468 dark shadows tense lang jeff

Jeff offers to drive Vicki home, but then Dr. Lang strolls in, because apparently doctors have all the time in the world to chat with perfectly healthy people who are trying to fight their way out of the damn hospital.

Vicki introduces Jeff to the doctor, but a tension hook starts up that indicates these two already know each other. Lang tells Vicki that Barnabas would like to see her before she goes, so Vicki hurries off to the other room.

468 dark shadows awkward lang jeff

This begins one of the world’s awkward conversations.

Lang:  What are you doing here? I don’t want you hanging around the hospital. I want you to get back to work.

Peter:  I’m taking her home.

Lang:  You are NOT going to take her home.

Peter:  You have no right to tell me who I see, or who I don’t see. You know, I’m more of a prisoner with you than I was —

Lang:  Than when you were where?

468 dark shadows not jeff clark

Jeff turns away. This is actually very good, compact exposition, so you might as well have more of it.

Jeff:  Listen — let me just do this. She needs me. She thinks I’m someone else. Not Jeff Clark.

Lang:  Oh? Who does she think you were?

Jeff:  Somebody named Peter Bradford.

Lang:  Does that name mean anything to you?

Jeff:  No. But it may not just be coincidence. I may be able to find out something.

Lang:  Well, not from her.

Jeff:  Oh? Why not?

Lang:  Oh, why, why, WHY! Do you have any idea how many times you ask that question, and how IRRITATING it is!

468 dark shadows sparks jeff lang

So it’s kind of a confusing moment. Apparently, the situation that they’re setting up is that Lang is a villain, and Jeff is his uneasy henchman. But they’re not very good actors, and they’re both determined to be super intense about everything, so they’re sending off the wrong signals.

That last line — “oh, why, why, WHY!” — that’s not super-villain; it’s henpecked husband. I think we may have stumbled on the hospital’s summer stock production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff.

468 dark shadows close lang jeff

Jeff:  I don’t see why I can’t have friends.

Lang:  All you need is someone who doesn’t think you’re Jeff Clark.  I may have plans of my own for Miss Winters.

Jeff:  What kind of plans?

Lang:  You know, I don’t think I like your tone of voice.

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Why don’t you kiss him, instead of talking him to death?

468 dark shadows block vicki lang

So this is what happens when an actor doesn’t understand subtext. Look at the way he’s standing here, compared to his body language in the last scene.

At least he’s making it clear that he doesn’t have any romantic interest in Vicki; he’s just doc-blocking Jeff.

468 dark shadows question lang vicki

Having chased Jeff away, Lang offers to drive Vicki home, and then enages in some light interrogation.

Lang:  So if you can just wait a few moments while I make out this report, and then you can tell me about yourself.

Vicki:  I can never think of anything to say when someone asks me that.

Really? Cause you were raised in an orphanage, you were mysteriously summoned to Collinsport to work for a family you’d never heard of, your fiancee died in a plane crash in Brazil, and you were recently tried and hanged as a witch. I feel like there’s at least a couple decent anecdotes in there somewhere.

468 dark shadows honest vicki lang

But that’s the problem right now — the show isn’t really investing emotionally in this set of characters. They just spent four months examining the secret history and motivations of the vampire, and the supernatural-aware characters like Angelique and Julia are well thought out, if bonkers. But nobody really cares who Vicki is; there’s no coherent sense of an interior life.

There’s actually a nice, quiet moment — which is super rare when Dr. Loud is around — when she has a second to reflect.

Vicki:  Of course, now I have the Collinses, and they’re very kind to me, but they won’t be needing me always. David is growing up, and one day he’ll go away to school.

Lang:  Mm hmm. And what will you do then?

Vicki stops short, and her voice catches a little.

Vicki:  I… don’t know.

There’s a piece of truth in there, an anxiety that should be a living part of Vicki’s personality, but then the scene ends and she just forgets about it. She’s confused and upset about her recent experiences in the past, but she doesn’t really think about her future, except when she has some dialogue that specifically addresses it. Most of the time, she acts perfectly cheerful and content, no more worried about her future than rich-girl Carolyn is.

468 dark shadows know jeff vicki

Anyway, once she gets home, she decides that she needs to go to the Collins family mausoleum, to look for proof that she really was in the 18th century. She and Peter hid out in the mausoleum’s secret room after their daring jailbreak, and she wants to confirm that she didn’t imagine the whole thing.

And who do they run into but Mr. I’m-Not-Peter-Bradford.

468 dark shadows mausoleum jeff vicki

He’s got a pretty thin explanation, too.

Vicki:  Peter!

Jeff:  I frightened you, I’m sorry.

Julia:  Vicki, who is this?

Jeff:  I’m Jeff Clark. I shouldn’t be here. I don’t know why I am. I was taking a walk. It started to storm.

And then he just keeps on sleepwalking through the scene.

468 dark shadows sorry jeff vicki

It’s funny — yesterday, I talked about how unbelievably fast the Barnabas story was moving, with Dr. Lang discovering a cure for vampirism in about ten minutes. But this is the B-story, and they’re apparently determined to stretch it out beyond human endurance.

I read an interview with a soap opera writer once, where he said that the hardest thing about his job is figuring out why characters stay in rooms. You have to write a scene where two people stand around on a set and talk for five minutes, when there is no earthly reason why they don’t just leave and go do something else.

That’s what’s happening here, and it’s fairly baffling. We just learned a few scenes ago that Jeff has amnesia. Vicki keeps calling him Peter, so this seems like the perfect opportunity for him to admit that his background is a little hazy.

But I guess we’re saving that for tomorrow, or next week, or whenever, so instead we get a vague “I don’t know why I’m here,” which is not dramatically compelling.

468 dark shadows late jeff

And honestly, this is the last thing that Vicki needs right now. She desperately needs to connect with something on the show, to ground her character and give her something to play. Pairing her off with an emotional void is not helpful. Stay tuned for more of the same.

Tomorrow: Dr. No.


Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:

At the end of the teaser, when Lang says, “A miracle of sorts,” there’s a bunch of offstage studio noise.

Jeff tells Vicki, “You know, you were very convincing, too. And when I left here the other day, and I started to, where I stay, I –” Vicki interrupts with “Where do you stay?” which is a relief, because otherwise he was going to choke himself on sentence fragments.

Tomorrow: Dr. No.

468 dark shadows mausoleum coffin

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

32 thoughts on “Episode 468: The Odd Couple

  1. I think I can tolerate Lang much more than Jeff/Peter because underneath his lunatic portrayal of Lang, Addison Powell seems to come across as a decent guy. However not so with Roger Davis, I can easily see him use that scowling smirk in real life. It makes me want to punch that attitude off his face, or better yet chop off his head….

    1. Now I have a problem of how Dr. Lang could suddenly have a cure for Barnabas. What…did he just happen to have a drug of some sort in the back of the closet? Hmmm…

  2. Gotta say I love Lang. Now Jeff Clark is a whole other subject. In 1995 I was at a DS convention and Roger Davis was hitting on my Mom in line for autographs. Very creepy.

    1. I mentioned before about Roger Davis coming off like a real d·Bag on some extras video from the late 80·S. And he is BORING!, both in interviews and in Dark Shadows
      -Addison Powell should be in a parody. He is the worst actor because he is actively ACTING! But Danny I am not sure he is the worst actor. We need a scene against scene vote off between all the dubious contenders. Harry, sky, Morgan, dr Lang, eve, eve s husband during levanthian time, aristede a one note actor if I ever met one, and dear Philadelphia Sara. And Adam. Have I left anybody out?

      1. There are a few others who deserve honorable mention, like associate producer Ken McEwen’s Larry Chase, who “warms up” to Angelique after three episodes in 1970 PT. From the 1966 episodes there’s Conrad Fowkes’ Frank Garner, who I nickname “Hubcap” because his big round face looks like something off the wheels of a Ford Model T or A and whose golly-gee ever-present smile just oozes the sort of Apple Pie Norman Rockwell would approve of and who never says a single memorable thing in any of the scenes he’s in and who simply slips off of the show without notice… like one of those hubcaps that roll off its wheel while you’re out driving and you don’t even notice it’s missing until days later. Also from the 1966/67 shows, while Burke is waging his vendetta and is actively trying to drive Liz out of business by inviting her four main employees from the cannery to his hotel room to entice them to join the outfit he just bought in Logansport, there is one older, rotund, marble-mouthed actor who looks like he spends his time down at the gym as a boxing coach. He’s the main spokesman for the other three and he shows up at Collinwood in a later scene to warn Liz and Roger about Burke’s latest move. Now, what was his name?

        As for Dr. Shang-A-Lang, love the character, and I am always amused and entertained by Addison Powell’s animated B-movie enthusiasm. He may be over the top and down the other side, but it is worth mentioning that director Lela Swift seems to have done nothing to rein him in. Before they recorded the final filmed take in the late afternoon, there had been several run-throughs of the scenes he was in, first to block it before the cameras, then a run-through on camera, then a dress rehearsal, and then the final tape. It seems that at no point during the day’s work, from morning blocking of the script and subsequent run-throughs to afternoon final taping, did the director say, “Addison, could you not make those insane faces? Just play it as though there’s a mild headache coming on”, “Addison, could you please lower your voice when doing your lines–and also, could you not gesture with those eyeglasses when speaking? It’s very annoying.” Powell’s Lang is pure schlock, but it’s lovable schlock. There’s an earnest sense of fun about Powell’s approach, as if he wants the audience to enjoy the character, whereas with Roger Davis there’s a self-absorption at work and he seems to be saying that he’s not about to let a character portrayal get in the way of the fact that Roger Davis is there for the viewer to see and hear, for his own enjoyment and whatever off-stage benefits he may derive from this.

        1. Could you possibly be talking about Amos Fitch as the Collins Cannery employee? He reminded me of the the character ‘Harvey’ in the episode of the Honeymooners who challenged Ralph to a fight after scuffling over the use of a pool table…

        2. Exactly what I was thinking about the rehearsals, but in the opposite ‘direction’;

          “Uh, could you have Dr Lang go bigger with that headache moment? Remember this is a supernatural power attacking you. And could you bring your volume up? We don’t want the boom mike getting into shot.”

      2. Opinions vary, of course, but I thought the actors you mentioned — excluding Harry — were all fine, especially for a daytime soap opera (I’m not dismissing the genre but just acknowledging its limitations).

        Addison Powell, I’d agree with Danny, is the WORST actor because his performance is like something from a MST3K B-movie. It’s not at all appropriate for the show in which he was cast. Yes, Geoffrey Rumson was stiff and bland and Craig Slocum was… well, aspiring to be stiff and bland but I’ve seen similar efforts on other soap operas. Powell is entirely different and also, I believe, entirely responsible for DARK SHADOWS’s reputation as a “campy” series.

        1. I will say that Anthony George did a serviceable job in One Life To Live and seemingly was liked on Search for Tomorrow. I watched OLTL but not SFT so I can only comment on his Will Vernon. I do think his big problem was he simply wasn’t right for Burke Devlin. For all his problems, Mitch Ryan had charisma in spades. Anthony George was a fast recast in response to losing MR and it showed. This also applies to Dr. Woodard #2. He was so different from Robert Gearinger that his acting flaws were accentuated. He was another on the fly recast and they not only had to get someone quickly, but also someone willing to cross the picket lines. They probably figured he wasn’t going to be around too much longer, so they took who they had and moved on. It is possible if he had been a permanent recast and more long term recast he would have settled into his role.

          1. I wonder if Ryan had avoided termination for just a few months would they have bothered recasting Burke Devlin at all. He was basically the leading man. It was a major role but at a certain point, Barnabas was the series leading man and it was going to be either Burke or Barnabas.

            That is, of course, what the storyline seems to be building toward — Barnabas is after Vicki, who loves Burke. Even his apparent off-screen death could have resulted in a dramatic “return” (very soap opera) to save Vicki from Barnabas. Anthony George was still in the picture, after all, because he appeared as Jeremiah in the 1795 flashback.

            Anyway, I liked Anthony George, especially as Jeremiah. He was poorly cast as Burke — about a decade older than Ryan, which didn’t help in the scenes with Vicki. And when George came on the show, Burke was spiraling into irrelevance.

            Geringer’s recasting is forever painful. It feels like someone recasting a major character during the climax of a movie. It’s a punch in the narrative gut.

            1. It would depend on how long he held on. Certainly the introduction of Peter/Jeff shows that they did not intend for Barnabas to win Vickie in the long run. Lord knows the Vicki/Jeff stuff went on forever. It actually amuses me. The audience had all of 1795 to believe that Vicki got over Burke and found a new love of her life. The people at Collinwood should have been concerned about Vicki suddenly being in love with a man who died in 1795, but they pretty much just went with the flow.

              If Ryan had managed to hold on long enough for them to write him out via the plane crash, they could have cast Jeremiah with someone who had chemistry with Alexandra Moltke’s Viki then had Burke found in Brazil having had plastic surgery and looking just like Jeremiah. They might even have been able to make Josette;s story line up with the family history more i.e. have her die before Jeremiah, have Jeremiah take over the doomed defense of Vicki and have him be one of the last victims of Angelique’s curse, instead of dying before. Basically, we might have lost Roger Smith which would not have been a big loss.

    2. Jayson…lol…Jeff Clark is just not appealing whatsoever. I know your mom probably looked him up and down thinking…”no this fool aint trying to hit on me…”

    3. Apparently Roger Davis was a creeper with all of the women who were cast opposite him..and none of the actresses wanted to work with him. He made them ALL feel uncomfortable. So..I’m not surprised to hear that he was hitting on your Mom at a DS convention. Par for the course I guess.

  3. VERY good/bad choices., Thankyou percytown 🙂 It amazes me, yet again, that dark shadows can hire fantastic talented actors, and total dogs, And not much in between. Perhaps this disparity helps cultivate the camp legacy.

    1. Prisoner of the night, NICE read Thankyou 🙂 I don’t remember any of the characters you mentioned, but I sure as heck going to go back and check out the hubcap and Normans smiling apple pie! maybe Lela like Addison because he kept her awake through all the run throughs.

  4. I also wanted to add how dramatically the series has taken a weird turn. Even when we found Burke and Vicki dull, we knew they were the “good” guys or the characters for whom we should root, while Barnabas and Julia, at the time, were the “bad” guys although we found them far more entertaining. Their individual actions, for the most part, supported this.

    Yet, let’s pretend we don’t know what’s to come in the story: Lang has been presented in an inconsistent manner. Is he the daring surgeon who is going to cure Barnabas through a risky procedure? Why, that should make him someone we like, right? (And later Stokes will serve the role of the “unconventional” thinker) . Yet, he’s in an antagonistic relationship with Jeff Clark, who we should like because Vicki loves him. Whether this falls apart because of the writing or the inability to like any character Roger Davis plays (I say this as someone who has no personal grudge against the actor and sometimes feel sorry that he is so often cast in unsympathetic roles).

    Lang will later be revealed to be mostly bonkers* but arguably that was simply to provide an antagonist obstacle for Jeff Clark, which is a shame, because an unconventional yet otherwise benign Lang would not be too much of a stretch — sure, he’s creating a Frankenstein monster but we all have odd quirks — and it makes him a clearer victim of Angelique.

    *The point when Lang tries to cut off Clark’s head and place it on his creation seems to come out of nowhere. Previously, his greatest sin is robbing graves. That won’t make you friends at a cocktail party but it’s not murder. It’s creative recycling.

    1. Stephen I still think there is such a disparity between the talent on the show, and I am curious to know WHY, the casting director who chose Jonathan Frid or John Karlen chose the people we gleefully eviscerate 40 odd years later. I feel like a mean girl. But I love the opinions and insights and snark. And I LOVE the show, 97.% of the time… dream curse! And this arc…..

      1. I think this is true of many series: Marcia Cross was amazing on MELROSE PLACE but they also hired Lisa Rinna. Also, some actors, especially early in their careers, might bomb in a role but go on to better things: Kristin Davis (SEX AND THE CITY) on MELROSE is an example.

        Also, I think theater actors do better on the soap format but many won’t stay long if they get their big break elsewhere.

        Also, there’s a lot of personal taste involved: I like Michael Stroka and Marie Wallace, for instance.

        Now, the lady who played Leona Eltridge is generally considered terrible. julianka sleepwalks through her performance but was later cast in a Woody allen film.

        Show biz, kids.

        1. Thankyou Stephen. As someone who knows little to nothing about the mechanics of casting directing acting writing it , you get the picture, any insight is informative and fascinating for me 🙂

    2. Huh? Julia wasn’t a bad guy. Not at all. Julia was always the good guy–she came onto the show trying to stop Barnabas from hurting people, then she went on to stop Angelique, Adam, Nicholas and others from hurting people. Yes, she had to do things like hypnotize abduction victims into forgetting who’d kidnapped them, and that’s pretty shitty, but she was never a villain, nor was she intended to be. She was the show’s unsung hero, because no one had any idea how often she risked her life to save the entire cast of characters. If not for her, Maggie, Vicki and so many others would have been murdered.

  5. I read somewhere that Roger Davis, of all people, was in real life married to Jaclyn Smith from about 1968-1978! (They may have lived together during part of that time.) Dan Curtis allegedly met Jaclyn and begged her to come on DS, but she wouldn’t do it. Just think of what that would have meant? Two of three “Charlie’s Angels” getting their start on DS, as we all know that the great Kate Jackson later got her start there! Anyhow, I bring this up because, despite being married to arguably one of the most beautiful women in the whole world (Jaclyn), I also read somewhere online that most of Roger’s DS female co-stars were very unhappy when the storyline dictated a romantic pairing. Roger allegedly hit on every female on the show, despite being married to Jaclyn. He never really came across as that likeable, both on and off screen apparently.

  6. I’m wondering if Roger Sterling from “Mad Men” was moonlighting as Dr. Lang on DS…did anyone else notice, especially when he had glasses on they looked like the exact same person? And I’m into this aspect of Dr. Lang being a villain. I hope next episode Julia and Vicky lock Peter Bradford in the secret mausoleum room and forget about him…but I suppose we won’t be so lucky.

  7. I’ll jump on the bandwagon and stand up for Addison Powell here. He’s not nearly as bad as I expected him to be and is even (shudder) good at times. Yes, he yells too much and those crazy “pain” mannerisms speak for themselves but in the latter case at least he’s no worse than Grayson Hall. Now, Powell and Davis in the same scene…that’s another matter.

    It would be fun to believe that Dr. Lang is Sam Hall’s way of spoofing all those Steve Hardy/Tom Horton/Matt Powers soap opera medical patriarchs, but I very much doubt that was actually the case.

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