Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap


Today’s episode of Dark Shadows did not air on July 21st, 1969, because over the weekend, a couple of crazy kids from the Kennedy Space Center went and landed a rocket ship on the entire moon. This amazing stunt was picked up by the press somehow — I guess they had viral videos back then — and there was continuous commercial-free coverage of the event on all three networks for 34 straight hours.

The Eagle landed on the moon on Sunday afternoon Eastern time, and on Sunday night, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon on Monday afternoon, and at the time that Dark Shadows would have been on the air, the Eagle was approaching Command Module Columbia to prepare for the return trip to Earth.

ABC got hammered, by the way. All three networks were showing basically the same thing, but CBS had Walter Cronkite, who was that most elusive of creatures, a respected television news anchor. They also had a scale model of the lunar module, and a seven foot long conveyer belt so they could simulate what it would look like for the astronauts orbiting the moon. But mostly they had Cronkite, for 32 of the 34 hours of coverage. Apparently his keepers at CBS wouldn’t let him sleep.

So CBS got a 45 share of the viewing public, NBC got a 34 share, and ABC had a 14 share. Each network invested 1.5 million dollars to broadcast the mission, and they couldn’t run commercials in case something blew up or they found a moon monster. So ABC lost a lot of money, and everybody was watching Cronkite anyway. They might as well have showed Dark Shadows.

I wonder, on that sunny Monday afternoon, if there were any kids staring at the scale models pretending to dock with each other, and thinking, Come onnnnnn! They just ripped off Count Petofi’s hand on Friday! Enough already with the moon! I probably would have thought that, but I’m bad at priorities.

1991 dark shadows barnabas sneer

Anyway, enough about mankind’s great achievements. On pre-emption days, we watch an episode of the 1991 NBC revival series, because I can’t just talk about Walter Cronkite all day.

The 1991 Dark Shadows is basically the opposite of the moon landing, in the sense that it fizzled on the launchpad and was watched by nobody. The only similarity between the two events is that some people believe that the ’91 Dark Shadows was an expensive hoax designed to confuse and mislead the American public. I am one of the people who believe that.

Today, we’re watching episode 6 — here are the previous 1991 posts, if you want to catch up. So far, we’ve seen Barnabas rise from the dead and kill several people, including a throwaway Collins cousin named Daphne. Barnabas has decided that he’s in love with governess Victoria Winters, because she looks like his lost love, Josette. That’s actually Maggie’s job in the original series, but the revival gives Vicki both the Maggie and Vicki roles, which frees up Maggie to be Professor Stokes.

Julia has been trying to cure Barnabas of his vampirism, but the experiments backfired, and turned Barnabas into a horrible old man. He regained his youthful appearance by biting Carolyn, and that’s basically everything that’s going on.

Julia is terrible, by the way, and Carolyn is terrible. A lot of people are terrible on this show.

1991 carolyn willie smolder

So here’s terrible Carolyn, being escorted back to Collinwood by terrible Willie, after she’s been bitten-on. This has not changed her performance in any way, except that she doesn’t have any lines, so she just stands there and quietly smolders. 1991 Carolyn’s performance is one hundred percent smoldering; she comes on to absolutely everything, and the attitude of the show appears to be that smoldery people should be given all the camera time. This episode is mostly about Carolyn. The last episode was, too. This is a serious problem that the producers apparently have no interest in correcting.

I have a lot of theories for why the casting was so bad in the revival. The current one I’m trying out is that the original Dark Shadows filmed in New York, and they cast mainly theater people, who are all pitching their performance at a super high level so that the people in the back row can hear them. The 1991 Dark Shadows cast is mostly made up of soap opera people, and not even the good ones.

Before playing Carolyn on Dark Shadows, Barbara Blackburn did a year of Ryan’s Hope, where she was the 4th recast of Siobhan, a revolving door role that was recast three times in three years. Ryan’s Hope just kept throwing Siobhans at people until they gave up and stopped watching. Barbara was the final Siobhan, and for all I know, she may have been the final straw that got the show cancelled. She’s certainly trying her best to get Dark Shadows cancelled, and she’s doing a very thorough job.

After Dark Shadows, Barbara Blackburn basically never did anything ever again, because she is terrible.

1991 dark shadows willie fine

Willie brings Carolyn to Collinwood’s back garden, and then lets her stumble her way toward the door. As she leaves, Willie says, “And don’t you worry, Carolyn! Everything is gonna be fine.” Then he stands there and repeats, “Everything’s gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine. Everything’s gonna be fine.” And he keeps on making uncomfortable facial expressions.

The producers, with a finger on the pulse of the American viewing public, have decided that their show should begin with a full minute of this. This was apparently their best shot at hanging on to the percentage of the Quantum Leap audience that had misplaced the remote control.

1991 dark shadows carolyn julia fine

Carolyn enters the house, kind of sleepy and smug and still smoldering away. Elizabeth asks where she’s been all day, and Carolyn rubs her hands together, stares into space and says, “I had things to do, Mother.” Liz doesn’t realize that anything’s wrong, because this is the way that Carolyn always acts.

Carolyn says that Barnabas will be attending tonight’s party, which surprises Julia — she thought Barnabas wasn’t feeling very well. Carolyn pouts and smirks and smolders, and says, “He’s doing fine.” Then she walks away. I am not actually going to describe every single thing that Carolyn does in this episode and then say that she’s terrible, but I could. I just don’t want to.

1991 dark shadows barnabas candles

It’s not actually that easy to come up with new things to say about this program, because we’re on hour six and they’ve settled into a pattern where nothing ever really has to happen. Barnabas lives in the Old House and he’s a vampire. Everybody else lives in Collinwood, and they do whatever they’re supposed to do. Pout, I guess, and throw costume parties, and not solve mysteries. And at this point, there’s no reason why that ever has to change.

Early on, Willie admits to Barnabas that he’s scared for Vicki. “And why is that, Willie?” Barnabas says, striking a number of austere poses.

“You know, Barnabas,” Willie stammers, “with everything that’s happened and all, and you being, y’know — y’know, like you used to be, again, and all that, and, uh, well, I don’t know. I guess I’m just — scared, that’s all.”

Barnabas says, “I understand, Willie,” which makes one of us. “And I want you to know that I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that she will not be harmed.”

That doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult thing for Barnabas to accomplish, since he’s the only person who plans on harming her, but Willie points out that every time he sees her, well, y’know, etcetera.

“I KNOW that, Willie!” Barnabas gets that bossy tone in his voice. “So I will find a way NOT TO SEE HER ANYMORE.”

Willie responds like this is one of the world’s all-time great plans, and it does seem pretty foolproof. Barnabas is only awake at night, and what with all the great TV shows on NBC’s primetime schedule, there isn’t that much time left for socializing. I mean, everybody does seem to have an open spot in their day planners on Friday after Quantum Leap, but still, you could just say you have a cold or something.

1991 dark shadows vicki barnabas spare time

And it’s not like the show is super invested in the Vicki/Barnabas relationship anyway. Vicki has a total of one scene with Barnabas in this episode, and he doesn’t even look at her for most of it. She just stands there and says you’ve been avoiding me lately, and he says, there’s something that I must tell you, and she says what, and he says this will make no sense to you, but — and then they get interrupted, and they never finish that conversation. I don’t even think Vicki has any lines after that; she’s in the background for a couple of scenes while other people are talking. Barnabas spends the rest of the episode glowering at Julia and having intense eye contact with Carolyn.

It’s honestly shocking how little attention they pay to Vicki on this show, considering how pivotal the Barnabas/Vicki romance is supposed to be. I know I say that every time, but I keep getting re-shocked by it. I wonder what Joanna Going was doing the whole time, while everybody else was making Dark Shadows.

1991 dark shadows vicki david costumes

They’re at a costume party, by the way; that’s why they’re dressed like that. This is the annual Collinwood costume dinner, where everybody dresses up in old clothes and then does exactly what they would have done anyway.

As you and I both know, because we are televisually literate people, there are two reasons to have a costume party on a television show. Reason number one is to reveal something about the characters based on their costumes, and reason number two is to set up a mistaken-identity plot point that kicks off either a comedy sequence or a murder mystery, depending on what kind of show you’re watching. Dark Shadows is doing none of those things.

1991 dark shadows sarah party

They’re just having a costume party because Dan Curtis remembers that they did a costume party episode in 1967, where Vicki caught a glimpse of the ghost of Sarah on the upstairs landing, looking down at the family. In ’67, this was a nice little atmospheric moment. Barnabas thought he was making progress with his governess-kidnapping plan, but Sarah was there — watching her big brother, and worrying about his victims.

In 1991, Sarah’s at the party too, but she’s a happy spectator, just hanging out and watching everyone having fun. She’s smiling like this is a big day for her, because Dan Curtis has a decent memory for the major incidents in the original story, but can’t quite remember what they actually meant.

So they do Dave Woodard’s death, and Barnabas as an old man, and Sarah watching the costume party, but they don’t actually remember what it’s supposed to mean, or how the audience is supposed to feel about it. There’s just a quick shot of Sarah watching the party, but nobody notices her, and the sequence continues until eventually they run into a commercial break.

1991 dark shadows carolyn joe blooper

Oh, and they also do something that proves that prime-time network shows can have bloopers too, if the actors are really dumb and the director doesn’t care. Carolyn is at the costume party with Joe, who used to be Daphne’s boyfriend and has now drifted into being Carolyn’s boyfriend, because otherwise there’s no reason for him to be on the show. Joe approaches Carolyn with a glass of champagne, but she’s so distracted looking out for Barnabas that she hardly notices him.

So he says, “Caroline? Caroline? Are you all right, are you feeling well?” And she says “I’m fine,” which I guess is Barbara Blackburn’s way of saying, Can we cut? Because he pronounced the name of my character wrong.

I know, this is a tiny nitpick for me to fixate on, but I can’t understand how that mistake could possibly happen. Joe’s entire job is to stand next to a Collins girl, which for the last three episodes means Carolyn. He hardly ever talks to anybody else. How can he not know how to pronounce her name? How can he say it right to her face, on camera? Did they rehearse this scene? And why didn’t they do another take? This bothers me a great deal. I might need to find something different to do on space-race related pre-emption days.

1991 dark shadows julia face

Oh, and Barnabas hates Julia now; that’s the other thing that happens in the costume party sequence. He’s angry because her experiments failed, and now he’s a vampire again.

On the original show, this plot point set up a week-long farce sequence where everybody chased each other around the foyer trying to get their hands on Julia’s notebook, and there was real suspense, because Julia was the most interesting character on the show, and it seemed like there was no way for her to stay, if Barnabas hated her.

In this version, Julia just kind of stands there, stunned, and then Barnabas walks away and they’re still at a costume party.

1991 dark shadows carolyn barnabas bite

Besides that, nothing much happens at the party, and the act closes with an upsetting hyper-sexualized vampire scene where Carolyn rips open Barnabas’ shirt and rubs her face against his chest until his eyes turn red and yellow, and then he bites her. There is so much terrible Carolyn in this episode.

1991 dark shadows carolyn joe car

So let’s do a quick rundown of the next act, and see how many Carolyn scenes they can do in a row before somebody makes them stop.

Scene #1: Carolyn tells Joe that she wants to go shopping for antiques.

1991 dark shadows carolyn joe window

Scene #2: Carolyn leads Joe around Collinsport for a while, looking in the store windows.

1991 dark shadows joe carolyn antiques

Scene #3: Carolyn finds an old apothecary case and makes Joe pay for it, even though she’s rich and I think he lives on a boat. The antiques dealer tells her to be careful, because the box is basically just packaging for an enormous bottle of arsenic. She says it’ll be fine.

1991 dark shadows carolyn mrs j

Scene #4: Carolyn offers to take the tea tray into the drawing room.

1991 dark shadows arsenic

Scene #5: Carolyn dumps a bunch of arsenic into Julia’s tea. Julia drinks it, and dies.

1991 dark shadows david carolyn hall

Scene #6: Oh, sorry, Julia doesn’t die, because David runs in and spills her tea on the floor, yelling that it’s poisoned. This saves Carolyn from committing a first-degree felony with so much physical evidence that she would definitely go to prison for a couple decades. Carolyn is not grateful. She walks David back to his room and snaps at him.

1991 dark shadows carolyn match

Scene #7: Julia tries to talk to Carolyn about her relationship with Barnabas. Carolyn lights a match. Then she says that Julia will be sorry, and she blows out the match. That is apparently now a thing that people do in the middle of a conversation, they light illustrative matches.

Okay, so that’s seven Carolyn scenes in a row, and we’ve hardly seen Vicki at all today. If somebody’s going to be catapulted into the 18th century by the end of the episode, then obviously it must be Carolyn, because she is now the main character of the show.

1991 dark shadows carolyn bed

Oh, sorry, we’re not done; there’s another two minutes of this. Scene #8: Barnabas stands on the patio and concentrates at Carolyn’s window, which wakes her up and gives her an idea for another murder plot that will absolutely put her in prison.

1991 dark shadows carolyn knife

Scene #9: Carolyn goes to the kitchen and selects an enormous knife.

1991 dark shadows carolyn kller

Scene #10: Carolyn walks into Julia’s bedroom with the knife and stabs the bed viciously four times. Julia isn’t actually in the bed, but apparently Carolyn can’t tell the difference between stabbing a live human being who screams and bleeds and stabbing some pillows. I mean, to be fair, she probably doesn’t have a lot of stabbing experience.

She leaves the knife sticking into the silent non-bleeding corpse that isn’t there, and walks calmly out of the room. On the way, she runs into Julia, who by the way is still living at Collinwood for some reason, and Julia sees the bite marks on Carolyn’s neck. Carolyn shrieks in frustrated rage, and flees the room. She probably runs straight to Amazon and starts shopping for crossbow bolts.

So there you go, a solid twelve minutes of Carolyn, who I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned is the worst actor on the show. If it helps, she doesn’t speak again for the rest of the episode, because that is how television doesn’t work.

1991 dark shadows barnabas faces

Now, Julia can’t just shrug off two murder attempts per episode, so she goes over to the Old House for a big shouty Barnabas scene.

He comes down the stairs at her like Norma Desmond with a raging hangover, getting louder as he descends. “You turned me into something even more loathsome than I was,” he observes. “What did Willie tell you the night I sent him to you?”

Julia says it was something about him not feeling very well.

“Rather a benign description of what was actually happening,” Barnabas spits. “I was turning into a two hundred year-old MAN, Julia! Sadly for Carolyn, she came calling at the WRONG TIME!” He’s really letting loose with the facial expressions at this point. Julia asks why he bit Carolyn, and he keeps yelling, over-emphasizing the last word in each sentence. “Because it was the only way I could reverse what was HAPPENING! And now she’s MINE — and you can thank yourself for THAT, TOO!”

1991 dark shadows barnabas shut up

Julia keeps on giving him lip, so he finally shrieks


And then I guess he kills Julia and that’s the end of the show.

1991 dark shadows barnabas sarah wait

Except then Sarah appears, and says that he shouldn’t hurt people. “Barnabas!” she cries. “No! You can’t do this!”

He turns and gets all moist and crackle-voiced as he approaches his dead sister.

She says, “Why can you not understand that some want to help you?” because ghosts are not allowed to use contractions. And it’s just unspeakably grim.

1991 dark shadows barnabas julia grim

So I think this episode is the strongest evidence I can find for the idea that Dark Shadows is a story that can only be told once. This episode is almost entirely made up of story beats from the original show, all of them from a period of the show that I like a lot. The failed experiment, Carolyn and Barnabas scheming to get Julia’s notebook, Sarah stepping in when Barnabas is about to kill Julia, the seance that sends Vicki to 1795 — they’re great episodes, and if you haven’t seen them, then you should.

But 1991 has terrible actors and lazy directors, and the producers have completely misunderstood the appeal of the show.

364 dark shadows sarah barnabas mouth

We didn’t fall in love with these plot points because they’re objectively brilliant. They’re not, they’re a mess. During this period in 1967, the show was desperately struggling to figure out who the show was about. They knew that Barnabas was at the center, obviously, but then there’s this constellation of women around him — Vicki, Julia, Carolyn, Maggie, Sarah and the long-lost Josette — and they had no idea how to make this settle down into a viable long-term story.

And they pulled it off, because they were inspired by whatever part-time discount muse looks out for the lunatic writers of vampire soap operas. They didn’t do it perfectly, by any means. There were lots of missteps and reverses and tedious periods when everybody had to walk in a circle because they couldn’t figure out what to do next.

But if you’re good at your job and you’re really, really lucky, the muse gives you a scene like this. Barnabas is about to kill Julia — his only friend, and the most interesting character on the show — and then Sarah appears, and tells him that he’s not a good person.

It doesn’t actually make narrative sense. Besides a brief flicker at the costume party four months earlier, they haven’t indicated that Sarah has been watching Barnabas, and judging his behavior. Most of the time, she just seems lost and confused. Her only real connection is to David, and he has nothing to do with this scene. Plus, why does she step in to save Julia? She liked Dr. Woodard — she says so, in this scene — but she didn’t stop Barnabas from killing him. She didn’t stop him from biting Carolyn either — or from killing Daphne, in the ’91 series.

The only reason why Sarah steps in at this particular moment is that the 1967 audience likes Julia more than anybody else. This scene comes at the end of a spectacular 20-episode run, four weeks where Julia was in every single episode, driving the entire plot, and the show doesn’t work without her anymore. We want somebody to step in and save Julia, because we love her, and she cannot be allowed to leave the show. Using this specific moment as a major turning point makes sense, and feels satisfying, but only because the show is doing what they know the audience wants.

This scene is not actually about Barnabas and Sarah. This scene is about saving Julia.

1991 dark shadows willie julia hands

But 1991 Julia is nothing special. She’s not funny, she doesn’t have anything interesting to say, and she hasn’t really taken an active role in the story. ’67 Julia was an impostor, who manipulated the entire family with a dazzling spark shower of ridiculous lies. But in 1991, everybody knows that Julia is a doctor, and her patient died four episodes ago, so she has nothing to do except to not drink poison tea.

1991 dark shadows seance

And at long last, Dark Shadows, why do you keep pretending that Vicki is a character on this show? At the end of the episode, they finally settle down into having a Collins family seance, which will transport the girl governess into the past. But why her?

Once they sit down at the table, Vicki has zero lines and zero close-ups, until suddenly she closes her eyes and starts speaking in a little-girl voice. Every other person at this table has had more lines than Vicki today.

In fact, Barnabas broke up with Vicki at the beginning of this episode, and it was such a minor event that they cut it short halfway through, and never actually finished the conversation. She didn’t even get a thirty-second scene where she thinks about Barnabas and has feelings. Then she sits down at the seance right next to him, and she doesn’t have any reaction to that.

If this story is supposed to be about the passionate romance between Barnabas and Vicki — and they keep saying that it is — then this is not competent television storytelling.

But Vicki’s off on her uncertain and frightening journey to the 18th century, where she will try to change Collins family history, because the entire point of this show is to relive the past, and get it all wrong.

651 dark shadows full moon

So they can put a man on the moon, but they can’t make a decent Dark Shadows revival. And it’s not like any of the others got it right, either. The movies are like this too, paying attention to all the wrong things.

The original Dark Shadows got to the moon in the summer of ’69 by showing up every single day and telling new stories. They made ridiculous choices and terrible mistakes, and it worked, because they showed the audience things that we’d never seen before, and could never see anywhere else.

And in 1991, Dan Curtis thought he could get to the same place by doing the opposite, showing people a blended mix of old plot points and not even bothering to explain them, because the audience will fill in the gaps with their memories of the original show. It’s like saying that you’re going to the moon by driving north on Interstate 95, and hoping that at some point you’ll reach escape velocity.

Meanwhile, in the past, the real Dark Shadows understands how you get to the moon. You go outside, and you start howling at it, as long and as loud as you can.

Tomorrow: You’re a Crook, Captain Hook.

Next pre-emption special:
Time Travel, part 7: Here We Go Again.

1991 dark shadows carolyn blow

Dark Shadows episode guide

— Danny Horn

31 thoughts on “Time Travel, part 6: One Giant Leap

  1. There are fans of the DS revival (they don’t judge my lifestyle, so I don’t judge theirs). One thing they focus on that astounds me is that the 1991 series has “better production values.” This seems to miss the point that the papier mache cave that Barnabas hides in is fundamentally ridiculous but still a great piece of live theater set design. I love the Old House parlor or the Collinwood drawing room. The 1991 revival (as did the 1970 movie) might have more expensive sets but they are also far more boring. Give me the Purina Ralston lamp any day.

    Curtis, as you point out, seems intent on just hitting plot beats, which is a problem when adapting a soap opera that is all about character beats. We watch soaps for the characters and if we love them enough, we’ll even enjoy them suddenly becoming possessed by Satan. The plots are what happens to the characters we love. There are no lovable or remotely interesting characters on the DS revival.

    Vicki has done nothing the entire series. She’s not made one important decision. The 1967 costume party is great because Barnabas himself is throwing it in an attempt to woo Vicki. He wants something from it. He also has a rival for her affections (Burke). And the party is also a sign of the enhanced role Barnabas will play on the show. Jason McGuire is gone, as is the blackmail storyline. Barnabas will no longer share the stage as the show’s primary focus.

    Anyway, the 1991 series is awful, so it’s not so much that I disagree with you when you say that DS can only be done once, it’s just that this series is not necessarily fair evidence of this. It’s like if someone said there could never be a basketball player as good as Michael Jordan and as evidence, they had me try to shoot a three pointer.

    I do agree that what is unique and perhaps impossible to replicate about DS are the performers and the writers and the “full steam ahead” aspect of the production, which led often by necessity to narrative “collisions.” It is great theater, though, and definitely benefits from theater-trained actors. I don’t know what Curtis thought his 1991 DS would be. If it’s a nighttime soap, it’s not even successful within that genre.

    1. I know what you mean. Just when you might be starting to think that it’s only a set, the director puts a camera “behind” the door to the cellar, and through the bars videotapes the actors walking through the front door into the house.

    2. Dan Curtis did not understand the contradiction of making a gothic story where it all goes towards a resolution with a soap opera format where no resolution can be final because you have to continue the story. Dan was fond of killing off characters in a big finale, but in a soap opera that is a no-no. You need your characters next week. Or next month. The panic produced in the original writers led to truly interesting choices like “we cannot kill off Barnabas, and we cannot let him kill off the rest of the cast, so let’s send Vicky into the past, and hope that when she comes back everyone has forgotten what went before” Pure brilliant lunacy.

      In the remake, well, the panic was not there, so they just dragged on the old plot points, not asking if they made sense in the new context.

      But Stephen is right. Anyone can make a better reboot than the 1991 revival. I humbly submit that my own efforts in that direction are way better.

      1. Absolutely correct.
        The storyline was foundering before the first Time Travel event. Barnabas was trying to kill Julia. He killed Doctor Woodard, who did NOT return as a vampire. And he didn’t dare kill David, so he was using his supernatural powers to make everyone think David was nuts, so he would be sent away. It was pretty disoriented, and going nowhere. And there was no background story given for Barnabas. It was only insinuated that he had been the lover of a married woman, and physically pursued her to her death as she ran from him, knowing what he had become. He also told Julia later on that she had been his “middle aged uncle’s wife” and spoke as if he never met her until his uncle brought her home as his aunt.

        The fact that the Time Travel period completely shattered all those plot leads in favor of Barnabas’ uncle stealing his wife from Barnabas, and his “middle-aged uncle” suddenly becoming the same age as Barnabas in life. The changes, regrettable as they were for continuity, do show that the writers had a genius for realizing what the story required and pulling it out of the drink.

        The revival seems to have been written by sleepwalkers barely aware of the themes and issues in the original, and simply trying to copy the events and timeline into a new story that had no deeper meaning. Many events were rewritten for convenience without understanding how the rewrite would destroy what tiny iota of literary quality that part of the story had to begin with.

    3. I’ve never been familiar with the ‘ 91 version, but I doubt that I would hate it (And I’ll keep on saying this – I can’t imagine Barbara Steele being bad in a horror story. Maybe IN a bad one, but not bad herself, period.)
      But I really agree with your first paragraph. A whole lot of the same people who complain about how everything is money and flashiness and so on in the entertainment world will turn around and get very enthusiastic about a big remake of something as soon as they hear about the big budget of it.

      1. Given you high esteem for Barbara Steele, I can’t recommend you watch the revival. She is lovely in it in that she is beautiful and has a sultry voice, but she has so little to do despite appearing so often. It’s a shame.

        1. I love Barbara Steele, but this isn’t her at anywhere near her best. She’s too stiff, too remote. Her performance seemed phoned in, and she and Ben Cross had no chemistry.

      2. All I can tell you is that I hate it. The hardened seafaring punk Willy is turned into an addled semi-retarded ne’er do well nephew of Mrs. Johnson. When the original Willy had his will subdued by the vampire’s power, the change was supernatural and frightening to the other characters who did not know what had happened, and to the viewers, who actually saw worse happening.. Willy in the revival was simply the village idiot, for lack of a better term.

        The only good things I have to say about the remake is that it added a brief sequence of the as-yet unseen Barnabas breaking open a secret drawer in the tomb and removing the hidden jewels (which later figure in the plot as the source of his income and support.) The other part was that the revival showed an enormous work crew rebuilding the Old House, whereas the original seemed to imply that Willy did it single-handedly, which is much more incredible than believing in vampires.

    4. I’m a fan of the 1991 series! Back in 1991 I was an 11 year old girl who had never heard of Dark Shadows. I fell in love with Barnabas and Vicki, and was entranced. During the run of the series TBS showed both DS movies one Saturday, which made me clue in to two things: HoDS was, in some parts, copied word for word by the series, and NoDS made me wonder who David Selby was. Not long after that Blockbuster started carrying the OS on VHS and I dutifully started making my way through it, completely confused by who Jason and Burke were, and why I was supposed to care. 1991 Vicki is criminally underwritten, and its a shame since Joanna Goings was the best member of the 20-something cast.

  2. » if the actors are really dumb and the director doesn’t care«
    I have so looked forward to the next pre-emption, mainly because you bring a humour to this dismal train wreck of a remake!

    Side note: Is it possible that in 1967 Sarah didn’t intervene on Woodard’s behalf because he intended to harm Barnabas? Of course not, per the writers, but it works as head-canon or back-cannon or whatever.

    Interesting also that ABC got whomped in the ratings race.

  3. This is the only 90s Dark Shadows episode I sought out, for one reason only, a scant few seconds represented in one of the screengrabs: Charles Lane, in the tiny part of the antique shop owner.

    Lane was a legendary character actor, specialist in bespectacled obstructive or dour bureaucrats, clerks, and other minor authority figures, a frequent presence in Frank Capra movies (a small part as one of Potter’s real estate agents in It’s a Wonderful Life, but I preferred him as the IRS man in You Can’t Take It With You). In the TV era, he was the dour, white-haired boss or client or lawyer or just cranky old guy on “Bewitched” (many of Darrin’s clients, with great boss names like Hotchkiss, Shotwell, and Cushman), “Twilight Zone,” “I Love Lucy,” “Petticoat Junction” (recurring as the railroad exec out to shut down the train), “The Andy Griffith Show” (a moonshining old farmer), and more than I can list here.

    In 1991, when this episode aired, Charles Lane was 86. He died in 2007, age 102. In other words, a much longer run and a better loved legacy than, oh, the 1991 “Dark Shadows.”

    1. I hadn’t really thought about it, but the antique shop owner is definitely the most likeable performance in the episode. As always, you come through with the amazing knowledge. 🙂

    2. The ubiquitous Charles Lane. I thought he was great.
      Whenever somebody needed a cranky old son-of-a-bitch in the 60’s, they called Charles Lane. Just saw him yesterday on The Beverly Hillbillies. The usually Zen Jed Clampett was ready to punch his lights out.

      Lane is also in one of my favorite movies, The Ghost And Mr Chicken, with the amazing Don Knotts, in 1966.

      I don’t know if they were ever in a film together, but Charles Lane could have played “brother” to Margaret Hamilton.

      Love those “boss names”.

    3. Wow! Charles Lane lived to be 102? He was more durable than the Cannonball train in Petticoat Junction. I’ve got the first two seasons on DVD and have been viewing those lately. Maybe all that exercise he got working the hand car to get to Hooterville really paid off. I saw him recently in a Bewitched episode as well. Wow again. 102? Good on him!

      1. I’ve seen instances where alcohol excess can lead to heart attack and death before 70, whereas other family members otherwise lived well into their eighties, but a good strong lineage certainly does confer an advantage toward longevity. The only troublesome thing for such a long life is the prospect of loneliness, where by 100 all your friends and contemporaries will have passed, and the world you once knew so well and lived so comfortably in will have vanished. It’s easy to imagine the sense of alienation that Barnabas would have known.

  4. The reason the 1991 DS revival exists, Danny, is so that 25 years later, you can write blog posts as hilarious as this. LSHIC (Laughed So Hard I Choked).

  5. On this subject of a revival series: I’ve sometimes wondered whether there would be a home for a revival of “Dark Shadows” or “Edge of Night” on Netflix or HBO or Showtime.

  6. This is how you remake Dark Shadows:

    Strip the premise to its barest essentials: a dysfunctional family who live in a spooky mansion are visited by a relative who turns out to be a 175-year-old vampire.

    Hire some writers who have never seen the original series, or better yet, who have never even heard of Dark Shadows. Forbid them from watching the original series or from watching or reading anything else called Dark Shadows.

    Then let them write whatever crazy shit they want, the crazier the better.

      1. Also, I am going repetitive, there was a DS remake in Canadian television, which took the sensible approach of making Barnabas and Vicky the same person. I am talking about “Lost Girl” As Vicky, the protagonist who moves into the same town meets strange people who turn out to be her own family and has weird happenings around her. She has her own Elizabeth (A dwarf bartender who is her grandfather), her own Burke Devlin, a shapeshifter, and even a mysterious journey into another dimension from where she returns with her own Peter Bradford/Jeff Clark. As Barnabas she is a reluctant vampire (a succubus) who has an Old House (a run down ruin that is lacking drywall), a Willie Loomis, Kensi, a petty thief sidekick, and a Julia Hoffman, a brilliant female doctor in love with her. And then she meets a different fae every week…

  7. I was in high school and had always heard about this cool soap opera called “Dark Shadows”. I was excited to watch the rival because I wanted to see what the fuss was all about and learn the basics of the story. I think I watched all the episodes that aired, but was very disappointed in it. Barnabas was stupid, the story ramble-y, but I vaguely remember liking Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but not enough that I recognized him in Third Rock from the Sun.

  8. I thought Burke was so boring when I caught DS in reruns. There were things in the ’91 version I liked more, but not enough for me to seek it out again.

  9. Another little incident had happened just a day or two before this.. the Barnabas of the Kennedy family, Teddy… took a young woman for a ride in a car a time a place called Cappaquidick… yep, 5e same weekend they landed on the moon.

  10. The last three paragraphs of this entry just might be the most beautiful epitaph the original Dark Shadows ever received. Brilliant.

    I suppose George Bush Sr. deserves the credit for axing this show; at least the Gulf War always gets blamed in what must be an attempt to save face by any of the creators or fans, should they exist, of this shamefully botched reboot.

    I personally blame Ben Cross. Yes, the acting and writing were wretched all around, and all the points Danny makes about the absence of quality are true. But really, an actor fitting the Barnabas legacy is hard to find. I don’t think people could accept this Cross (what an omen for an ill-fit) fellow as the real Barnabas. I know I couldn’t.

    You know who would make a great Barnabas? Johnny Depp. Except they ruined that with the ludicrous remake of 2012, by turning Jonathan Frid into Barry Allen.

    The only thing I liked about the 1991 “revival” was Joanna Goings. She made a beautiful Vicki, but was given almost nothing to work with.

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