Monthly Archives: December 2016

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Episode 977: Things That I Already Like About Parallel Time

“You don’t know what it’s like, suddenly seeing yourself walk into a room.”

Everyone’s talking about it! Here’s what people are saying about Parallel Time, opening Friday:

“I can’t help but be fascinated by that room, and everything I’ve seen there!” — Barnabas Collins

“Somehow, we must discover the secret of this room!” — Roger Collins

“You must take me to that room immediately, I want to see this for myself!” — Professor T. Eliot Stokes

“There must be something very special in the east wing, because suddenly everyone’s so interested in it!” — Elizabeth Collins Stoddard

I will regret this, I’m sure. I will regret all of this. The upcoming Parallel Time storyline will fail in some spectacular way — like Adam did, like Nicholas Blair and Count Petofi, and all the other disappointing men in our lives — and I’ll end this period of the show trying to figure out how it all went wrong, as I always do.

But this feeling, right now, this tickle of heightened expectations? Give me this. Even if it’s only for a little while. Just give me this.

Continue reading Episode 977: Things That I Already Like About Parallel Time

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Episode 976: Another Another World

“It’s impossible! I just saw him die!”

Today, Roger Collins opens a door in the east wing of Collinwood and discovers another world, filled with familiar people leading different lives at the exact same time. He’s fascinated by it, of course, and he spends the whole week talking about how desperate he is to see those exciting new stories. This turns out to be a tactical error.

Because there really is Another World — it airs on NBC at 3:00pm, and it’s doing so well that they’re creating a spinoff, which will compete directly with Dark Shadows.

Now, back in the good old days of September 1968, when Angelique was a vampire and Quentin was still a twinkle in Henry James’ eye, nobody would dare counter-program against Dark Shadows. It was a nationwide sensation, thirty minutes of thrills beamed every day to everyone who mattered.

The Columbia Broadcasting System was the big dog in the soap world, with chart-busters As the World Turns, Search for Tomorrow and Guiding Light at the top of the ratings for more than a decade. But in September ’68, CBS took stock of the situation and decided to turn tail and run, moving The Secret Storm from 4:00 to 3:00, where it was safer and the light was better anyway. They threw poor old Art Linkletter into the 4:00 spot, so the squares had something to do if they’d already finished their homework and folded all the socks. And so Art Linkletter’s House Party lived out the rest of its days, unwatched and unloved, a 25-year broadcasting giant felled by a show that at the time was mainly make-believe mad science experiments.

But Dark Shadows has spent the last four months telling a story that nobody really wanted to hear, and squandering the talents of their new werewolf superstar. There is movement in the shadows. The other wolves can smell weakness.

And next Monday, on March 30th — the same day that Barnabas changes channels to Parallel Time, and gives everybody who wasn’t excited about the Leviathans a natural jumping-off point — NBC premieres their brand new soap opera at 4:00pm. It’s not very good, and it doesn’t last that long, but it gets better ratings than Dark Shadows does, because sometimes the wrong people win.

Continue reading Episode 976: Another Another World

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Episode 974: Your Declining Days

“My mission here has been a failure.”

Normal soap: Angelique is a scheming gold-digger.
Vampire soap: Angelique is a two hundred year old blood-soaked sorceress.

Normal soap: Sky is an arrogant magazine publisher who’s in deep with the mob.
Vampire soap: Sky is an arrogant magazine publisher who’s in deep with a pack of disgruntled blasphemies from the past.

Normal soap: Sky divorces his errant wife, and strips her of her home, her furs, her jewelry, her chauffeur and her social circle.
Vampire soap: Sky tries to murder his errant wife with a burning torch.

Normal soap: Angelique gets her revenge on Sky by teaming up with his business rival, using inside information to destroy him.
Vampire soap: I haven’t the faintest idea. Won’t it be fun to find out?

Continue reading Episode 974: Your Declining Days

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Episode 973: Groundhog Day

“As each moment goes by, you have less and less existence!”

Here’s newlywed Jeb Hawkes, the world-crushing god-emperor and inspiration for a thousand terrible RPG modules, tiptoeing gingerly into his hotel room. He sets down the suitcases, looks left, right, and left again, and finally summons up the nerve to turn the lights on.

This is how far he’s fallen — the mighty murderous man-thing, triumphant at last, shaking off the shackles of his Elder Things upbringing, and running away with the girl he loves… but feeling no joy. Instead, we see a timid man, afraid of his own shadow. Not the shadow he casts, naturally, nobody fears that except groundhogs. Jeb is afraid of the shadow that’s been assigned to him.

Continue reading Episode 973: Groundhog Day

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Episode 972: Gold-Hatted Lover

“My guess is that the time band is always there, but one can only glimpse it through the warp.”

Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”

Continue reading Episode 972: Gold-Hatted Lover

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Episode 971: The Cleanup Crew

“Whatever it is that’s drawing you there, I hope it doesn’t harm you.”

Roger Collins wakes up, somewhat the worse for wear. He’s in a hallway, and his head hurts. He tries to take stock of his surroundings, but these particular surroundings are difficult to stock-take. Why is he on the floor?

A friend is standing nearby. He looks up at her, and moans, “Julia, what are you doing here?”

“Elizabeth said I could come and see the architecture in the east wing,” she chirps. “It’s very interesting.” Roger tries to assimiliate this information into his current worldview.

The problem is that he’s got a couple big holes punched in his memory card, one labeled Killer Octopus from Outer Space and the other Oh My God That Nice Woman from the Antiques Store Is a Vampire. Between them, that pretty much sums up everything that Roger’s experienced in the last couple of months; everything else is just make-believe visits to Bangor-on-Business, which is imaginary.

He tries to narrow down the problem, and lands on location. “The east wing?” he scowls. “Did you say the east wing?”

“Yes, Roger,” she says.

He shakes his head, and exclaims, “Well, what am I doing here?”

“Well, now, Roger, I’m sure you have a very sound reason,” Julia says, as she helps him to his feet, “but blows on the head have a way of making people forgetful.” Then she pats him on the arm, and encourages him to go talk about it somewhere else.

Continue reading Episode 971: The Cleanup Crew

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Episode 970: A Less Rational Explanation

“I have the feeling that perhaps all of us are leading a different life in that room.”

Yesterday, eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins had a strange and frightening experience, namely: watching an episode of Dark Shadows that he wasn’t in.

He was poking around in the deserted east wing of Collinwood, opening doors and closing doors and hunting for a coffin — you know, typical Dark Shadows stuff — when he suddenly came upon a room where Elizabeth and Julia were dressed up in other people’s clothes, and talking about other people’s problems.

We’re meant to be intrigued by this strange desert otherworld, so they made use of that great guarantor of television mystery: the unheralded pronoun.

“I’m cleaning out her clothes,” says Liz. “You will not touch her clothes,” says Julia. “It will be their room,” Liz proposes. “It is hers; it will always be hers,” Julia counters.

She is dead! She’ll be back! and back and forth they went, acting for all the world as if proper nouns were prohibited by law, and then they slammed the door and ran away into the night, giggling.

It’s a good gag, if you can pull it off. Other people have trolled Barnabas in the past — like all gloomy and self-involved people, he is particularly susceptible to trolling — but I don’t think anybody’s ever done it by just standing around in a room and pretending they don’t notice him. They’re breaking new ground in the field of Barnabas-bothering.

Continue reading Episode 970: A Less Rational Explanation

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Episode 969: PTED

“Quentin! Husband?”

The guy has a suit and a tie, and a shocked expression. He’s holding a flashlight for some reason. He’s got dark eye makeup, and bangs that have been arranged into four little spikes on his forehead, and I have no idea who he is.

The doors of Angelique’s suite just fly open, and suddenly this guy is standing there, mouth agape. It looks like he’s trying to step forward into the room, but he doesn’t.

“I can’t get in!” he says, and looks around in panic. “Why? WHY?”

I don’t know, dude. Who are you? Have you been helped?

Continue reading Episode 969: PTED

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Episode 968: The Only Weakness

“When the cairn blew up and the room burned, that should have been the end for you, too.”

So here we are at the tippy top of Widow’s Hill, waiting for teen gang leader Jeb Hawkes to drown his sorrows, and ours. Jeb is a Leviathan, which is a word you use when you’re not really sure what your monster is supposed to be. He used to be a hundred feet tall, with glittering teeth and eyes like opals, but he’s given it all up for love. And now we’re here, potentially ending it all.

The spirit of Peter Bradford blew into town yesterday, with a king-sized kick against Jeb that he’s been bottling up for a hundred and seventy-three years and counting. You remember young barrister Bradford, of course; he’s the lawyer who couldn’t win a witch trial, a hundred years after they’d stopped having witch trials.

But somehow — by luck or inspiration or lunatic plot contrivance — Peter Bradford figured out the Leviathans’ only weakness, which is drowning, and he figured it out by pushing a Leviathan off Widow’s Hill and into the water, where it drowned. Or maybe he found out some other way, like reading the Book, which has a whole chapter on what the Leviathans’ only weakness is. The Leviathans would apparently write down their only weakness in a handy reference guide and then leave it on display in an antiques store, because they’re a secret society that isn’t really very good at keeping secrets. They also wear jewelry with a four-headed snake on it, so you know who to drown.

The only way that Jeb can die is to fall from the top of Widow’s Hill to a messy death on the rocks below, like Josette and Beth did, which I believe means that they were both secret Leviathans the whole time. And then there’s the three widows from the old legend that Elizabeth got all worked up about; they were probably Leviathans too.

Oh, and then there was the other Jeb, the impossible Jeb, who lived in 1797 somehow, and died right here, impossibly, at Peter’s hand. Peter was annoyed with Jeb at the time because he’d lured Victoria Winters to these cliffs, and made her jump to her death, so I guess she was a Leviathan, too. Oh my god, you guys, I think Vicki was a Leviathan.

Continue reading Episode 968: The Only Weakness