“I’ll be meeting you on the back road to salvation.”
Hey! Tim Shaw’s back in town, and he has a hand and a top hat and a whole new lady. Just try to ignore him, he’s only doing it for attention.
The story so far: There’s this thing called the Legendary Hand of Count Petofi. It’s an actual hand, cut off an actual guy named Count Petofi. It doesn’t decompose or anything; it just sits there in its carved inlaid box, and plots your destruction. That’s because Count Petofi is such a powerful dark wizard that even his discarded body parts pulse with power; this is a guy who has to be careful about how he disposes of his toenail clippings, so they don’t burst into flames and burn the house down.
Everyone’s been chasing around after the Hand for as long as I can remember, mostly because it’s supposed to be the cure for werewolves, and you know how useful that could be in a tight spot.
But the Hand ended up in the possession of Tim Shaw, who ran off to New York with it a few weeks ago, leaving everyone in Collinsport to stand around and talk about how desperate they are to get it back. Nobody actually took a step in the direction of New York, of course, because if you wanted to do a scene there, you’d have to put up an establishing shot of 1897 New York, and who even knows what that looks like? At this point, the only establishing shots that they have are Collinwood, the Old House, the Blue Whale, the Collinsport Inn and the moon, so they can’t go very far outside their corridor.
Tim used to be a fussy schoolmaster and clueless fall guy, who taught at Reverend Trask’s boarding school and was hypnotized into killing Trask’s wife. He was going through a rough patch storyline-wise, because his girlfriend was killed, he didn’t have a job, and nobody was interested in putting a gypsy curse on him, so he didn’t really have anything to do. In fact, I don’t think he’s even on the show anymore.
Except here he is, back from New York, with a new haircut and a bad-boy attitude. While he was away, he figured out how to use the Hand to his advantage, something that nobody else seems to have the knack for. He’s got fancy new clothes on and he’s staying in a fairly opulent hotel suite, so the implication is that the Hand helped him to get rich somehow. Tim Shaw must be a level six chaotic neutral magic-user.
But Tim’s got another new toy to play with, namely: Amanda Harris, a beautiful and theatrical young woman of no fixed abode. Amanda is played by Donna McKechnie, a Broadway musical comedy actress. Tim opens the door, and Amanda walks straight to center stage, rolling her eyes and exclaiming, “May I ask why I had to wait in the lobby for five minutes before I was allowed to come up?” She concludes the line by pointedly unfurling her wrap and putting her hands on her hips, a vision of musical comedy impatience. She is fantastic.
Donna McKechnie will be famous someday, in that weird “Broadway star” version of famous that means practically nobody knows who you are. So far, she’s had a chorus role in the original Broadway production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, and she’s danced on the TV variety show Hullabaloo. At the moment she’s in Promises, Promises, a Neil Simon/Burt Bacharach musical which also happens to be about succeeding in business without really trying. People were super into that theme in the 1960s.
In Promises, Promises, Donna played Vivien Della Hoya, one of the secretaries at the insurance company. She doesn’t have a tremendous amount to do in the show, except for “Turkey Lurkey Time,” a number at the end of act one with the three secretaries performing at the office Christmas party.
Here’s a video of Donna performing “Turkey Lurkey Time,” and you should watch it, if you have a spare moment and a pair of headphones. Donna is the star attraction, and she really gets a chance to shine. They really choreographed the hell out of this number; I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much choreography in one place.
This is actually relevant to our purposes today, because this is the performance that got her cast as Amanda. Producer Dan Curtis went to see Promises, Promises, and “Turkey Lurkey” made such an impression on him that he asked Donna to audition for Dark Shadows. This isn’t the first time Dan’s gone shopping like this; earlier this year, he saw Jerry Lacy in Play It Again, Sam, and asked Jerry to come back to the show as another Reverend Trask. Dan apparently thought of a Broadway show as a long series of auditions for Dark Shadows.
Still, I wouldn’t get too attached to Amanda. These days, the average lifespan for a new female character is half an episode; they keep getting killed by vampires and werewolves. In fact, that’s why they’re introducing a bunch of new characters lately, because they killed about half the cast, and then realized that it’s hard to fill up a half-hour of television without people.
But they appear to be investing in the new girl, announcing that she’s got some mysterious plot points hidden under that hat. They establish a whole backstory very economically in this scene.
Amanda: You have more secrets than any man I’ve ever known!
Tim: Are you saying that as a comment on me, or a boast about yourself?
Amanda: It’s just a fact.
Tim: But you have known many, many men, haven’t you?
Amanda: Ah — you’re forgetting our agreement. The past, beyond two weeks ago, is a closed book. No questions asked.
Amanda: But what about now? How long are we going to be in this dreary little town?
Tim: Well, if you’ve become bored with our little game, you can go back to New York at any point. In fact, there’s a train leaving in an hour.
Amanda: All right. I’ll stay.
Tim: Now, don’t look so sad! After all, the last two weeks have been very profitable for you, haven’t they? New, expensive clothes, furs, jewelry… That’s what you wanted, isn’t it?
Tim: And it’s not as though your services are coming to me cheaply. You’re being paid quite well, and I think you’re going to be worth every single penny of it.
You see what I mean about the economical writing? They’re getting a lot done, in a brief scene.
Amanda: What is it you’re eventually planning to do to this man?
Tim: No more questions, Amanda.
Amanda: Well, I’m not just being curious. I’m concerned about you.
Tim: Oh! We wouldn’t want to lose the meal ticket, would we?
And unfortunately, that kind of does it for my interest in Tim Shaw’s new personality. I don’t know what it is about this character that just repels me. I was so in love with Don Briscoe when he was sexy misunderstood werewolf boy Chris, but Tim Shaw gets on my goddamn nerves, every time. They’ve even given him a slightly improved hairstyle, and it’s not helping. And now apparently he’s paying for sex.
Amanda: Have you always been that cynical?
Tim: Cynical is not the word, Amanda. I think the more appropriate word would be practical. We have a very practical relationship. (He kisses her on the cheek, and they embrace.) And let’s keep it that way.
And you know, they do keep it that way — this is about as far as these two ever get. Tim and Amanda are being introduced as a strangely awkward couple here. They kiss a couple times in this scene, and they put their hands on each other quite a bit, but it doesn’t feel passionate. They’re both clearly thinking about something else the whole time.
Now that I think of it, that may be my real problem with Tim. He’s paired with three different women in 1897 — Rachel, Charity and now Amanda — and he has zero chemistry with any of them. Charity was an arranged marriage type situation, but Tim and Rachel were supposed to be childhood sweethearts, and that never really showed up on screen.
And here — when he’s returning to Collinsport as a new man, ready to take charge of a storyline — they explicitly inform us that this woman is being paid to hang out with him. Paid well, too — with furs, and jewelry. It doesn’t reflect well on Tim’s charisma.
I mean, you wouldn’t have to pay a girl to date Chris Jennings. Practically his entire storyline is about women throwing themselves at him, and becoming werewolf chow. But Tim is so chemistry-free that he has to remind his girlfriend on an hourly basis of the extravagant amount of money that he spends on her, just to get her to cheer up. I hope he’s enjoying these awkward clinches with Turkey Lurkey, because my prediction is that eventually she’s going to want a better scene partner.
Tomorrow: Happy Haunts.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
Something gets stuck in Quentin’s throat during the choking scene; he continues to cough occasionally over the next couple scenes.
In Tim’s first scene with Amanda, he completely blows one of his lines. He says, “And –” and stops. Then there’s a long pause for a teleprompter break before he continues, “– it’s not as though your services are coming to me cheaply.”
Amanda takes several looks at the teleprompter as well, but she disguises them as eye rolls, so it doesn’t look quite as bad.
Behind the Scenes:
Tim’s room at the Collinsport Inn is a commonly-used bachelor pad set. We’ve seen it before as Burke’s suite at the Inn, Tony’s apartment and Joe’s apartment.
Prop-spotter PrisoneroftheNight points out, “In Tim’s room, resting atop the bookshelf against the left part of the back wall is a clock that we’ve seen before. Though the sloping black sides of the clock are obscured by a figurine and a row of box plants, it strongly resembles the one in Vicki’s room in 1966 to 1968 and the one in the Collinwood (new house) study of 1796.
“A minor props note: In Tim Shaw’s room there’s a green antique lamp identical to the one first seen at the Evans cottage in episode 7 back in 1966; we see also as Quentin watches from the lobby while Tim and Amanda go upstairs that the green lamp in Tim’s room has an identical twin resting on the front desk downstairs. These two scenes must have been filmed concurrently, which means they must have at least two of every lamp they’ve had on the show. Except for the Ralston-Purina lamp, which is without doubt unique. I think that this is the first time where we see two separate lamps that are exactly identical down to every last detail, the green lamp with the oil barrel on the side that was the very first type of green lamp ever shown on the series.”
And as long as we’re prop-spotting, Nora’s also got her anachronistic Raggedy Ann doll today; we last saw it in March.
Today’s show aired on the day of a blood drive organized by the Actors Fund of America, and Jonathan Frid recorded a commercial for it: “Blood is my business. I wouldn’t be Barnabas of Dark Shadows if it weren’t. But, really, blood should be everyone’s concern, and Tuesday August 5th is Actors Fund Blood Donor Day at Shubert Alley. Do come. Meet the stars. Give blood right on a Broadway stage and get two free tickets to a Broadway show. You must have an appointment. Call (212) 799-8290. Thank you.”
Tomorrow: Happy Haunts.
— Danny Horn