“Death seldom shows us at our best.”
As we head into the last week of the popular 1897 storyline, we find Dark Shadows in a surprisingly perilous position. The show hit its all-time ratings peak just a couple weeks ago, but we’re already accumulating suspects in the ongoing “Who Killed Dark Shadows” murder mystery dinner theater.
The situation on the ground at ABC Studio 16 is a bit of a mess. They’ve recently sped up production to six days a week, so that they can build a larger backlog of episodes before they start filming the House of Dark Shadows movie. That’s running everyone ragged, including the three-person writing team, just at the point where they’re finishing this epic storyline, and they need to come up with a new one.
But the show also faces external threats — and today, on November 10th, 1969, another suspect emerges. He’s eight foot two, yellow, and he doesn’t know how to count.
Daily soap operas are mostly aimed at housewives, but Dark Shadows has broadened its appeal to include thrill-seeking teenagers, who hurry home after school to catch the 4:00 broadcast. And their younger brothers and sisters are tuning in too, which is surprising for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the show is almost entirely about grown-ups yelling at each other, which you wouldn’t expect to be a big draw for the elementary crowd. More than that, though, it’s surprising that anyone would allow their children anywhere near this increasingly dark and violent show.
Just in the last week, the show has featured the following: a woman falling off a cliff, a man getting stabbed in the chest with a dagger, and a woman drugging her husband and then locking him up in a room to starve to death. Later on this week, somebody sets a house on fire, and burns it to the ground.
Today’s episode begins with a deranged prison guard grabbing a man, and choking him to death with a length of chain — the second on-screen death by strangulation in four episodes. Dark Shadows has always been irresponsible television, but the scares have usually been fantasy-based — magic spells, vampire bites, dream sequences and werewolf attacks. It is now a pageant of easily imitated felonies.
And yet, just a couple weeks ago, Barnabas Collins was invited to the White House for Tricia Nixon’s Halloween party, where he entertained a crowd of underprivileged under-twelves. There’s a whole line of merchandise that’s targeted directly at the young set — board games, Halloween costumes, View-Master reels, trading cards and joke books. People seem to believe that there’s a “Halloween haunted house” version of Dark Shadows that’s appropriate for young children, which bears almost no resemblance to what’s actually happening on screen.
A couple months ago, we talked about Action for Children’s Television, a grassroots organization founded in 1968 by a group of housewives who objected to the commercialism and violence on children’s television. This remarkably successful group managed in its first year to get Romper Room to tone down its sales appeals to the toddlers, and then they drove all of Hanna-Barbera’s violent superhero cartoons off the air. By fall 1969, The Herculoids, Space Ghost and Birdman were dropped from the Saturday morning schedules, and replaced with tame runarounds like Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Now, as far as I know, Action for Children’s Television never targeted Dark Shadows, despite its 4:00 timeslot and the kid-friendly merchandising. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anybody publicly objecting to the show as a bad influence for children. But this is a moment when people are starting to think more critically about the subject — and on November 10th, along comes the Children’s Television Workshop, actively constructing a new relationship between the Children and the Television.
Children’s Television Workshop is a non-profit group founded in 1968 by a gang of do-gooders and hippies and educators and geniuses, who wanted to use television to help prepare young children for school, especially in low-income families. Research showed that middle-class children tested substantially better in school-related skills than kids from low-income families, and that disparity continued even after they started school. CTW wanted to offer pre-school education to families who couldn’t afford it, by broadcasting educational content on television.
CTW didn’t invent the idea of using television as a substitute for pre-school; there was actually a tradition going back decades. There was a show called Ding Dong School which premiered in 1952, calling itself “the Nursery School of the Air”. At Ding Dong, cameras were all set at a child’s height, and the host, Miss Frances, would address the kids directly, as if she was having a conversation with them. “How was your weekend?” she would say. “Did you go for a ride in the car? Oh! You went to see grandmother.” It was interactive TV, minus the interaction.
But Ding Dong School was a commercial enterprise, which means it was essentially a half-hour sales pitch for breakfast cereal, vitamins and an extensive line of Ding Dong School branded merchandise, including books, records, wagons, bells and baby dolls.
More importantly, Ding Dong School didn’t have a curriculum, or a plan. The same is true for Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo and all the other kids’ TV of the 50s and 60s. The shows were generally informative and pro-social, but they were broadcasting educational material into the airwaves, with no way to know if the viewers were actually learning anything.
Children’s Television Workshop had a revolutionary approach to the problem. They were supported by grants, so there weren’t any sponsorship messages in their show, and they had a serious team of educators and researchers determining the curriculum. That plan was split up into 130 daily hour-long episodes, and they studied the educational impact of the individual segments and the show as a whole. This wasn’t just TV that wasn’t bad for kids; it was TV designed to make kids smarter.
Obviously, the show is Sesame Street, which premiered on public television in November 1969, and is currently airing its 46th season. It is brilliant, and important, and I love it beyond words.
While Ding Dong School and Captain Kangaroo acted like remote schoolrooms, Sesame Street used the form and language of television to create a totally new kind of educational experience. It mixed live actors, puppets, animation, music and short films to keep kids’ interest. There were fast parts and slow parts, funny parts and repetitive parts. It used the quick-cut style of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, communicating in the same visual language that kids were familiar with from other channels. Sesame Street was earnest and sincere; it was also cutting-edge and trendy.
One of the CTW team’s most important insights was that commercials were really effective at grabbing kids’ attention; children would sing the jingles and remember the products. So Sesame Street used short cartoons and films in the style of commercials, selling kids the letter J in the same way that another channel would sell them a candy bar. Then the research team would test the segments’ effectiveness, and replace the spots that didn’t work with new versions that did.
And it changed the way that people thought about TV. Time magazine featured Big Bird on the cover, with the banner Sesame Street — TV’s Gift to Children, in a November 1970 issue, after just one season on the air. Sesame Street became the gold standard of children’s television, and it happened almost immediately.
So two weeks ago, Barnabas Collins was hanging out with some underprivileged children, pretending that he was going to harm them. Today, Kermit the Frog is teaching them to recognize the letter W. It’s the difference between throwing kids a handful of junk food, and providing them with a nutritious diet.
Oh, and this was also the era when people started talking about kids and a nutritious diet. In this period — let’s say 1968 to 1973 — the way that America thought and talked about raising children changed in a significant way. Sesame Street is one example; here’s some more.
The Poison Prevention Packaging Act passed in 1970, requiring the use of child-proof caps on prescription drugs and household chemicals.
Another non-profit group called The Center for Science in the Public Interest was founded in 1971, advocating for safer and healthier food, especially in school lunch programs. One of the founders was Michael F. Jacobson, who’s credited with popularizing the term “junk food.”
There was also a growing sensitivity around unsafe toys. For example: Mattel’s “ThingMaker” line of plastic molding toys, which was launched in 1964 and included Creepie Crawlers, Fright Factory and Incredible Edibles. The kit was basically an exposed metal hot plate, and pretty much everybody who played with these admits that they got burned sometimes. Apparently, that was acceptable collateral damage in the 60s. In 1972, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Act, which shut that kind of nonsense down.
So there was this big-picture cultural shift in the way that parents thought about what their kids ate, and played with, and watched on television. There was a filter called “is this good for my kids”, and things that would have slipped through as “it’s probably fine” were suddenly registering as “keep that away from my child”.
I grew up in the 1970s, and by the time I was really aware of my surroundings — circa 1973 or so — Sesame Street had grown to fill the cultural space that Dark Shadows occupied for the young set. There were books and jigsaw puzzles and comics and View-Masters, just like Dark Shadows had — but the Sesame versions were intentionally designed to be educational. The jigsaw puzzles taught the seasons; the View-Master reels covered shapes and colors. Sesame Street taught the hell out of me. That’s why everybody from my generation is a genius.
By that time, even commercial television was in the business of child improvement. In 1973, ABC started airing Schoolhouse Rock! interstitials on Saturday morning, little Sesame-style lessons about grammar and history and civics. There were tons of little PSAs that aired on all the commercial stations — some of them animated, some with puppets — with helpful messages about nutritious food, and conserving electricity. The Better Business Bureau ran a series of ads in the mid-70s that used puppets to teach kids that they should always count their change before completing a cash transaction. That was an actual thing that I watched on television, enough times that I can remember it four decades later.
So here we are — November ’69 — and on the same day that Sesame Street started teaching kids to read and count, Dark Shadows was down at the other end of the moral seesaw, teaching them how to strangle people with chains. It’s incredible that both of these things were considered acceptable daytime TV, but that situtation didn’t last long, and Sesame Street won.
Now, I don’t think there was a specific day when the parents of America decided, “you know what, you should be watching Sesame Street instead of Dark Shadows,” and I don’t know if that caused a noticeable drop in the ratings. But a lot of things changed between 1968 and 1973. At the beginning of that period, you have Dark Shadows, and at the end of it, you don’t — and Sesame Street’s debut is a helpful dividing line that separates the TV environment where Dark Shadows thrived, and the environment where it sputtered and failed.
Tomorrow: The Don’t Sleepover.
Full disclosure: I’m even more of a hardcore Muppet fan than I am a Dark Shadows fan, and all of my online writing before this blog was for Muppet websites. I started ToughPigs.com back in 2001, which has news, reviews and snarky/loving commentary on everything Muppet, Sesame and so on. I don’t have time to write for it anymore, but my friends took it over and made it even better. You can find my old pieces in the archives — basically everything posted between 2001 and 2006 — and the current stuff is great too.
I also co-founded Muppet Wiki, a gorgeous, detailed and deeply strange encyclopedia of every possible thing that you’d want to know about the Muppets, Sesame Street and Jim Henson. At this point, it’s got almost 30,000 articles, including every character, song, sketch, episode, movie and book that you can think of, plus crazy surprises that you would never expect. Go and browse Muppet Wiki; it is guaranteed to make you smile.
Dark Shadows bloopers to watch out for:
In the teaser, Blackwood waits too long to cry, “Justice must be done!” He does it during the musical sting, which is clearly late.
Tate shoots at Blackwood six times — click, click, click — before there’s finally smoke and a proper gun sound.
Tomorrow: The Don’t Sleepover.
— Danny Horn
35 thoughts on “Episode 881: Sunny Day”
Fantastic post! I was 5 years old in 1969 and was at ground zero for this! I watched both Dark Shadows and Sesame Street (or more accurately, my babysitters watched Dark Shadows while I hid under the dining room table and watched from there). Dark Shadows scared the crap out of me, starting with the title music alone, and yet I wanted to keep watching it.
What’s funny is I never remembered much about the show except the most basic things, Barnabas was a Vampire and Quentin was a Werewolf and I remembered someone getting bricked up in a wall, (must have been from the last time they did that during 1840) but that’s it, that’s all I remembered for years until I started watching again in April of 1982 on NBC-TV in New York, and kept going with New Jersey Network, VHS and finally DVD’s.
I loved Sesame Street too, one of my favorite Christmas presents were Muppets of Cookie Monster and Bert & Ernie.
At my house, I trained to be a Happy Homemaker of the Future with an Incredible Edibles kit (they frankly tasted much like the inedible Creepy Crawlers my brothers and I also made) and a Pretzel Jetzel (you put the dough in the pretzel mold, held it under the (candle) heat, and watched it get . . . sorta gray and hard. My dad wouldn’t let me have an Easy Bake Oven, perhaps thinking it would emasculate me! How could I explain to him at ten years old that THAT ship had already sailed?!?
I remember when Sesame Street started, realizing quickly that this show was aimed at kids younger than me. I had been a huge fan of Captain Kangaroo, and while I don’t remember learning anything from that show, I was immensely entertained. I found the humor quite droll. The Captain was constantly victimized by Grandfather Clock, Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit, and he always got this great slow burn on his face as he was pummeled by ping pong balls. Mr. Green Jeans made me distinctly uncomfortable, so maybe I DID learn something about how to recognize a pedophile and steer clear of him.
Sorry, image didn’t post:
The Count, my favorite Sesame Street character, showed up in 1972.
Great post, Danny!
Let me address this aspect of DS:
“More than that, though, it’s surprising that anyone would allow their children anywhere near this increasingly dark and violent show.”
For me, it’s always been the hyper reality, the over-the-top theatricality of Dark Shadows that allowed for this to happen. Although there were method actors dedicated to realism on the show, the milieu itself was stylistically Melodrama. Not the train tracks Americana Snidely Whiplash kind (though it did reach that unintentional zenith/nadir a few times), but the kind that was the most popular theatrical entertainment of the latter half of the 19th century in major theaters from England to America. The king of this kind of theatre was a Dan Curtis-like writer/producer by the name of Dion Boucicault. He was Irish, and specialized in drama, bombast, and spectacle on a Ben Hur scale.
Dark Shadows is the literal embodiment of Melodrama (a play with music), and it’s spiritual inheritor. This separate energetic world in which DS lived made it obvious that although it was a kind of reality, it was a different reality that never needed to disturb the everyday world of its viewers To the contrary, it was a perfect escape, for everything from money problems to that test that needed studying for. Danny, if you have an email for me to send it to you, I have an undergraduate term paper that I wrote that goes into detail about both Melodrama, and Dark Shadows’ eventual link to it. It is in PDF, or I would reproduce it for you here. I am Alan James Gallant on Facebook if you care to PM me that way. Great work as usual!
There was also The Electric Company, which I was also a big fan of. I was later, I don’t know, let’s say, quite surprised to discover that the very same year The Electric Company went on the air Rita Moreno was also playing a prostitute in a scene with Jack Nicholson in the movie Carnal Knowledge. Apparently the CTW didn’t do background checks on who they hired for their children’s educational TV shows.
Regarding concerns over children and nutrition, if you watch the very first episode of Dark Shadows with the commercials, there’s one for One-A-Day Plus Iron showing a kid shooting hoops in a high school gym while the narrator stresses the importance of growing bodies needing twice the recommended daily iron.
As for the question of “Who Killed Dark Shadows”, I think it’s more a question of coming from within, as a novelty winding down and running out of gas (but mainly ideas), than one of forces and/or competition from without. After the first year they were just flying along on the seat of their pants, in the spirit of “What the hell, let’s do it, what’ve we got to lose” (when facing cancellation) to “Well, we’ve got to keep Barnabas alive, so let’s try this” (when becoming pure avant garde). The show was a shooting star, the brightest on daytime television in its time, but never meant to last too long.
Prisoner, I agree with you that internal reasons were probably the main reason, but I do think there were external factors, especially the changing TV landscape of the early 70s (which Danny has touched on). Dark Shadows definitely belongs in the age of Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, Star Trek, The Avengers, Wild Wild West, etc. An era where the supernatural and the bizarre were the norm on Prime Time TV and audiences didn’t immediately turn away from the fantastic.
Once shows like All in the Family and the grittier dramas (well, gritty for the 70s) took over, I would think Dark Shadows all of a sudden became one of the few exceptions. I imagine it would have taken more of an effort on the production side to keep the show vibrant and relevant – who knows, maybe it would have dispensed of much of its supernatural trappings and gone back to being a straight drama – and the desire simply wasn’t there anymore.
That age of Bewitched et al is my favorite — like Dark Shadows, I turn 50 this summer — and despite the newer stuff that I ate up all through the 1970s, I remained a fan of those shows as they played on in syndication, always kept looking at my Dark Shadows ViewMaster reels into my early teens, kept the horror mags from the early 1970s that would occasionally do a Dark Shadows feature, and was delighted when I could view the show when it was shown in syndication in my area in 1978 and 1979. That era 1964 to 1971 makes up the bulk of my television shows on DVD collection.
One aspect of keeping Dark Shadows going past its sell date that I thought of but didn’t touch upon in my post above concerns the Barnabas character. You couldn’t have kept Barnabas in vampire form for too long, because eventually Jonathan Frid would start showing his age (if you’ve seen the 1974 movie Seizure, you’ll see what I mean). Then again, Frid decided by 1971 that he would no longer play Barnabas, and those final months had him in the role of Bramwell. Also, there’s the fact that Dan Curtis became less involved in the last year, and in the final 6 months just didn’t want any part of it anymore.
The most important thing about Dark Shadows is that it’s simply one of a kind. It was created by a fish out of water, a man who had no clue about what went into the making of a proper soap opera, one who wasn’t afraid to take chances. And, most important, as he once explained at a cast appreciation gathering in 2001, “I just hired people I liked. I didn’t care if they could act. Some of ’em could, some of ’em couldn’t.”
The other shows you listed above, Pedro, worked on a basic formula, where a complete story was told in the space of a half hour or an hour, whereas Dark Shadows was an experiment of open-ended, often intertwined stories where, when begun, the writers and producers had no idea when and how they would end up. Another thing that dated all the other shows in your list — including All in the Family — was their topical, contemporary social issues oriented approach. Dark Shadows was a world unto itself.
The only time the 1960s intrudes is one episode in 1966 where there is a photo of President Johnson in the sheriff’s office — way in the back, above and to the left of the door where people come in, because that August as announcer Bob Lloyd reveals over the credits there would be ABC coverage of the wedding of Luci Johnson. In the next episode the photo of the president, as well as the topical 1960s wave it rode in on, will be gone from the show permanently. Sure, in a way it’s something of a time capsule, but never dated, always fresh.
But once the creator began to lose interest in his creation, the end would come sooner rather than later.
I’m with you there, I’m a huge fan of 60s TV, probably because it has a freshness and a willingness to experiment with different genres that I don’t think has ever been matched (and the advent of colour TV helped too I think). It’s also an era that’s unafraid to be silly (not stupid, which is something else). I was born in 1971, but grew up watching many of those shows in syndication. I was already in love with the decade by the time I stumbled upon Dark Shadows in my 20s, so it was an easy fit.
I guess my point was more, were audiences more willing to accept a show like Dark Shadows in the ’60s than they would have been in the ’70s, when similar shows had left the airwaves?
On the topic of Barnabas ageing, I just finished watching the Leviathan storyline. It’s interesting that when they turn him into a vampire, all of a sudden he looks far older, with a lot more grey in his hair. This was clearly a deliberate make-up choice, yet his older appearance is never referenced on the show (as far as I can remember). Nothing really to do with your comment, it just made me think of it : )
Yes, Barnabas has that skunk stripe running down one of his fang bangs and his temples are gray — I think this was his natural coloring at the time. Perhaps he just opted at one point to stop dyeing his hair for the show. But this was only temporary — no doubt at the behest of the producers, directors, and make-up people, who were thinking of the show’s younger viewers — because very soon after he is back to all dark hair. But if you look closely at episodes in 1967, 1968, and 1969, which is easy to spot because they’re in color, don’t Frid’s temples have a particularly unnatural coloring that doesn’t seem to suit him, doesn’t seem to match the rest of his hair? It’s very unusual for a man of 43, 44, 45, 46 to have not a single gray hair. Even with Mitch Ryan as Burke Devlin, who was in his late thirties, you can spot even in those black and white 1966 episodes an occasional spike of silver gleaming through. Barnabas’ hair, when fully colored, has that same flawless “shoe polish” dark brown as Dennis Patrick had as Jason McGuire in 1967 (and he was 49 at the time). And when Dennis Patrick returns in 1970, it is without hair dye and with a good deal of gray overall.
And would Dark Shadows, or a show like it, have been accepted in the 1970s? Yes, I think so. There has always been a place for the supernatural on television, though mainly in prime time. Dan Curtis had huge hits with the TV movies The Night Stalker (1972; which he produced) and The Night Strangler (1973; which he produced and directed), which led to the TV series with Darren McGavin in Kolchak: The Night Stalker, my favorite show when it aired Friday nights at 8 pm in 1974 and 1975. This show was a direct influence on The X-Files, with a huge following 20 years later — so much so that movies were made from it. I also recall the ABC Weekend Specials series (which first aired in 1977), which sometimes featured supernatural themes (season 1, episode 3 [My Dear Uncle Sherlock] has John Karlen playing a role). There was another show in a similar vein whose title I can’t recall where an old witch-like lady with hypnotic powers emerges from a crypt having just risen from the dead and cackling with laughter as she scares a group of kids away. That must have been from 1977, 1978. And this, too, whatever it was, was part of the daytime television lineup, and again probably an ABC production.
About the hair color: They probably kept dyeing it as usual, and just added spray-on “silver hair” on top of it. I don’t remember the brand name, but my mother had a little silver plastic squeeze bottle of temporary “silver hair” you could spray on, mainly for highlights or tips, etc. That was lots of fun, and it washed right off. No toxic smell.
They use a lot of it on Professor Stokes, to make Thayer David seem much older. It’s a basic part of a theatrical make-up kit. It’s funny, it actually makes hair an unnatural silver, not white.
With Dennis Patrick as Paul Stoddard, that is actual white hair, which has a much duller look.
Also, to stop dyeing would have taken too much time. With the spray-on, you can put it right where you want it, quick and easy. And there’s an almost glittery sparkle to it. I’m going to track down that episode and check to see if Barnabas is sparkling.
Sometimes that stuff sparkles because it contains, at least the theatrical stuff does- aluminum flake.
I think his grey is supposed to remind us of the first time Julia tried to cure Barnabas and he aged rapidly. I think this is meant to demonstrate that the cure isn’t working properly and Barnabas is aging, though more slowly. Part of his reason for going to 1970 parallel time is his hope to escape his vampirism.
Rita Moreno was already an Oscar-winning actress (for “West Side Story”) when she did “The Electric Company”. She would go on to win a Grammy, an Emmy and a Tony. “The Electric Company” was lucky to get her.
There was another absurdly irresponsible ‘hotplate’ toy, the Strange Change Machine. It had plastic dinosaurs that you heated up, crushed into little squares, and then reheated into dinosaurs again. Dunno what the miracle polymer they used there was, but it probably tasted better than Incredible Edibles did (if anyone actually ate one, please post!) Dang! How did we ever survive? Thingmakers, Jarts (the originals, the ones that could impale you), and don’t get me started on the concrete-and-steel playground in my schoolyard.
This was also the time when ‘SUGAR’ stopped being the largest-printed word on cereal boxes (Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, Sugar Crisp, Sug…well, you get the idea).
I was born in 1961 here, and I remember making and eating Incredible Edibles – it was sort of like a gummy bear as I recall, but also somewhat plasticky. I don’t remember ever getting burned on the hotplate, but I can see how it could have happened. I also remember making a plasticky rubbery black mustache thing, with these curly things at that top that you would insert in your nose to wear as a fake mustache. (The fake mustache was not meant to be eaten.) Maybe the fake mustache was a Creepy Crawlie thing? In academic year 1969-1970, I was in 2nd Grade. I certainly remember Sesame Street’s premiere, but feeling I was a little old for it at that time. I remember “Schoolhouse Rock” more from when I was in 4th grade, 1971-72 and forward — “Figure 8,” “The Good 11,” an animated song number about how a bill became a law (don’t remember the title of that one?). “Electric Company” with Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman (I think Morgan’s agent told him to do “Electric Company” to avoid the “blaxploitation” movies of that time) was big in that 1971-72 time and then fizzled unfortunately in just a few years. I was also probably “too old” for “Mr. Rogers,” but I still liked him too. I remember when Mr. Rogers did these big operas — all music, all singing, with drama and romance — in the Land of Make Believe, with the puppets and live actors singing. Sometimes Mr. Roger’s “operas” would just continue in multi-part episodes, and the trolley would just take us directly into the Land of Make Believe to continue with the opera. I do remember reading in one DS book that another theory regarding DS’s demise was that the movie “House of Dark Shadows” was too bloody and gory, more so than the actual show, and that somehow the movie turned some fans off from the TV show? Not sure on that theory. I only truly appreciated the show when I was older — and I only saw a few DS eps or parts of eps in the show ‘s initial run. All I had to do was hear the spooky music, and I turned the channel.
Mr. Rogers was such a gentle man. He was even a good sport about Eddie Murphy’s Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood skit on SNL. remember the theme song: “It’s a helluva day in the neighborhood a helluva day for a neighbor – would you be Mine?”
Grover was my favorite SS character – another gentle soul.
Danny – That’s so wonderful that you ended your blog post with a picture of Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street and one of the muppets. I was in a children’s museum and saw a moving tribute to the episode in which Mr. Hooper had died. (The actor had died in real life, and the show decided to have Mr. Hooper “die” off-screen on the show.) The whole episode centered around Big Bird, as through the eyes of a child, trying to understand and come to terms with Mr. Hooper’s death. This episode won all kinds of awards – it was beautifully and sensitively done, and I was just moved reading the tribute. Maybe I will see if this Sesame Street ep is on youtube. On another subject- Danny, I did regularly watch the first season of Saturday Night Live in 1975-76, and I heard that the Muppets were actually on SNL in the first season, something I don’t remember at all. Does your Muppet blogs address the SNL-Muppet connection? I seem to recall that Lorne Green did not like the Muppets, and they were not on SNL for that long.
Mating Rites of Planet Koosbain, and some other pieces, but almost unrecognizable as Muppets…not the cute critter ones.
Koozebane was not(?) on SNL, it was on TMS! See what happens when you comment before you Wiki?
Apropos of nothing here, I have reached the point in this blog that I THINK was the first DS episode I remember seeing, 820; the date seems right, and most of the events & characters (I left comments about that memorable day in the ‘ABOUT’ page, since that was where the ‘origin’ tales all seemed to be). The clincher was the Tennessee Williams brass bed, unless anyone remembers its appearance in another episode.
Yes, the Muppets sketches on SNL were called “The Land of Gorch” — a bleak alien landscape ruled by the blowhard King Ploobis and his repellent queen, Peuta. Ploobis’ right-hand creature was Scred, who also sang “I Got You Babe” with Lily Tomlin, and their all-knowing oracle was named The Mighty Favog.
They only appeared in the first season, and only sporadically. They’re fun sketches, but they didn’t really fit the SNL style, and the writers hated writing them. In fact, halfway through the season, they trashed the Gorch set, and the sketches were all about how they were afraid they didn’t belong on the show anymore. It got very meta after a while.
Anyway, there’s lots of info and pictures on Muppet Wiki: http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/The_Land_of_Gorch
Whatever Lorne Michaels (or Lorne Greene, for that matter) thought of the Muppets, it was in the Saturday Night Live writers room where the events that pushed them off the show began. Al Franken and Mr Mike O’Donoghue led a revolt against them, saying “We don’t write for felt.” Jim Henson had so many other irons in the fire in the mid-70s that it wasn’t worth his time to get into a battle to stay on the show, the Muppet segments were a strain on the budget, and Michaels couldn’t afford a showdown with his writing staff at that point, so off they went.
And let’s not forget the ties between DARK SHADOWS and CTW’s SESAME STREET and THE ELECTRIC COMPANY: Ramse Mostoller was the costumer for all three show, and Denise Nickerson (Amy, Nora) appeared on Season 2 of THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. There was also a DS inside joke on TEC when Morgan Freeman’s Mad Scientist character was planning a dinner party and was inviting Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein, and….Julia!
A local children’s TV host told me that there were two things that caused the cancellation of his afternoon TV show: 1. Action for Children’s Television and 2. Dark Shadows, which aired opposite of his show.
He’s eight foot two, yellow, and he doesn’t know how to count.
Christopher Pennock? Yeah he was rough at first but he found himself eventually.
The Muppet Wiki is one of my most frequently clicked bookmarks. Whether it’s Sesame St., the Muppet Show, or a movie, The Muppets never fail to make me laugh and cry, and I’ve learned so much about them from the wiki.
“The werewolf is stunt man Alex Stevens, who appears in 25 episodes over the next year and a half. In 1969, he’ll do some memorable stunt work for the first season of Sesame Street, playing the baker who sings, “Six chocolate cakes!” and then falls down the stairs.”
If memory serves, the pratfall baker had ten falls, one for each number and with a different number.
Yes, & it wasn’t his voice – it was Jim Henson’s!
Danny, I’ve been reading DS Every Day for quite a while, but I am months behind, and trying to read 3 per day to catch up. I really, really want to comment with everyone, but it’s months and seasons ago. In this episode, though, you crossed into my “area of expertise” (aka obsession). Over the last several years, I have put together a few documents. One of them lists every movie, TV show, miniseries, soap opera that anyone who was ever in DS in any way was in. It covers movies, by year, since 1913, and an alphabetical list of TV shows numbering over 1500 shows. Oh, and I also added all the Broadway shows I could find. I now have a word document 191 pages long. Anyway, I notice that people did mention Alex Stevens as the baker on Sesame Street. Dick Maitland is also a Sesame Street staple. He is sound effects editor on DS, and is in Sesame Street, where he is the rerecording mixer and also the voice of Slimey in the 2005 episode titled Cookie Moon. Here is my entry on Sesame Street: (entry 1236) SesameStreet(69-current)(children’s learning show):(69-2015) 663 episodes, sound effects editor, re-recording mixer, soundeffects, sound effects mixer, Dick Maitland; (69-88) 18 episodes, The Baker(Alex Stevens) 13 eps w/Dick; CookieMoon(2005) Slimey(voice)& rerecording mixer (Dick Maitland) 2 (663). I also have 7 Sesame Street movies listed, with Dick Maitland in all 7, and Dick Weiss (lighting director in 21 eps of DS) as lighting director in one. Just thought this might interest you. And I just LOVE reading your stuff!
Oh, that’s marvelous, thank you for sharing that!
Have you seen Dark Shadows Wiki? That might be something that you’d really enjoy — a place to publish all of your research. 🙂 It’s http://darkshadows.wikia.com — and if I can help with anything, my talk page is http://darkshadows.wikia.com/wiki/Message_Wall:Toughpigs
OK, now I’ve got this image in my head of Bunny Rabbit opening Barnabas’s coffin and burying him in a deluge of ping pong balls…
In the comments on Episode 804 I wrote back in February:
“I didn’t notice Tate’s initial pronunciation of “Aristeedy” the first time I saw this episode, and I probably didn’t the second time I saw it either, because my only recollection of it is when he addresses Aristede directly as such much later, when it almost seems as though they are becoming friends, and for this reason I took it as an affectionate diminutive at the time.”
Now, having watched Aristede die today, and being reasonably certain he’s not coming back, I just have to wonder with some measure of disappointment how I could remember things so incorrectly. Tate and Aristede were never anywhere near becoming friends, and unless I missed something, the only time Tate ever pronounces his name as “Aristeedy” is the first time, in episode 804, when Aristede isn’t even in the room.
My gf & I always referred to him as Aristeedy since.
Love this post because I’m a HUGE “Sesame Street” fan as well. It’s weird thinking that DS was on in the same time frame as SS. I also HIGHLY recommend the new documentary “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.”
A cautionary tale of illiteracy included the Poison Prevention Act in “My Father’s Hands”. http://www.mark.hagerman.name/website/MFH.html