Category Archives: January 1969

Episode 670: Small World

“What do you have against other people?”

Attention all bachelors: Carolyn Stoddard — the young and beautiful heiress of the Collins family fortune — is back on the market, looking for another dangerous serial killer to sweep her off her feet.

I don’t know what it is about Carolyn, but practically everyone that she’s ever dated is responsible for at least an attempted murder or two. Her first boyfriend, Joe, tried to strangle Barnabas, Burke went to prison for manslaughter, Tony poisoned Professor Stokes’ sherry, and Adam threatened to assassinate Carolyn’s entire family, up to and including Carolyn.

Seriously, the only good guy that she’s ever been out with is Buzz Hackett, the motorcycle beatnik. I wonder what Buzz is up to, these days.

Today, Carolyn is passing the time in the Collinwood drawing room with her latest butchering boyfriend, Christopher Jennings. Chris is one of those quiet loners that you hear about on the news, who everyone agrees is a fine young man, if you don’t count the monthly murder sprees.

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Episode 669: My Boyfriend’s Back

“I’d like to meet the man that invented supermarkets, and wring his neck.”

We’ve talked a lot lately about the failure of the 1968 storylines, and I think it’s high time we move on, and talk about the failure of the 1969 storylines. You can’t live in the past forever, except for Angelique, apparently, and I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how she manages it.

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Episode 668: The Aristocrats

“Sometimes I get scared to like people, because I’m afraid.”

There are five more Ron Sproat episodes, and then, I swear to you, he is out of my life for good.

To catch up the uncaught: Over the last three months on Dark Shadows, there’s been a behind the scenes tug-of-war between two of the writers, Ron Sproat and Sam Hall. Ron’s been on the show since November 1966, and he lkes to slow things down and take his time. He writes a lot of recap scenes, and a whole week can go by without anything really happening. Sam joined the show in November 1967, and he’s the opposite. He’s smart, fearless and easily bored, and he wants to make the show faster, funnier, and more interesting.

Ron and Sam have been out of synch for a long time, and their disagreements are getting worse. That’s why the last few months have been a patchwork of exciting episodes and boring episodes, even more than usual.

By now, Sam has won, and Ron is on his way out. There’s only a handful of Sproat episodes left — and based on today’s episode, it sounds like he’s already cleaned out his desk.

Honestly, he’s not even trying anymore. I mean, he never really tried that hard in the first place, but now he’s not even trying to look like he’s trying.

Continue reading Episode 668: The Aristocrats

Episode 667: Take the Actors, Please

“And once you’ve seen that action, you will look back on that dialogue as manna from heaven combined with the balm of Gilead.”

One year ago on Dark Shadows, a man shot his wife in the drawing room, in the shoulder, and in the middle of ABC-TV’s afternoon programming lineup.

As she lay there, weltering in gore, she set a terrible curse upon his house, which summoned a marionette bat from the gates of Hell. The bat swooped at the man’s throat as he screamed and screamed and screamed, and I think you could make a good case that this was the moment when sensible grown-ups should have intervened.

And yet it runs on, this perpetual bad-influence machine disguised as a harmless daytime soap opera, because normal working adults in 1969 have exactly zero interest in what the housewives and teenagers of America are doing at four o’clock in the afternoon. As long as everyone’s mopped up the blood and erased the chalk pentagram on the floor by the time Dad comes home, there are no further questions.

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Episode 666: The Second Coming

“I know what I’m saying, Julia, he’s out there, Barnabas is out in the mausoleum, and he’s alive! He’s alive!”

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

Or, to put it another way:

“If you believe,” he shouted, “clap your hands! Don’t let Tink die.”

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Episode 665: Vicki Ruins Everything (Reprise)

“She did have to undergo the hanging, yes.”

Victoria Winters is dead!

Sorry, spoiler alert. I always forget to say that. Sorry!

Still, this hardly counts as a news item anymore. VDub has tried to leave the show twice now, and they keep on dragging her back on screen. A few weeks ago, she disappeared from Collinwood, traveling back to 1796 to reunite with her husband Peter “Jeff” Bradford-Clark. Then she found out the authorities still wanted to execute her for witchcraft, so Barnabas had to cross the barrier of space and time in order to save her.

Unfortunately, Barnabas arrived too late to stop the execution, which makes you wonder why he chose to shatter causality just to show up at the last minute. And now here’s Vicki, freshly hanged and laid out to dry.

Today, the sorcerous soap vixen Angelique stands over the body, and says a bunch of words about putting Vicki under a spell, and now Vicki’s going to be buried alive. Angelique is super into burying people alive these days, even though it sounds like a damp fizzle of a story point. It’s like an annoying song that’s stuck in her head, and she can’t shake it.

And hey, you know what would be great to see right now? David Selby.

Continue reading Episode 665: Vicki Ruins Everything (Reprise)

Episode 664: Sproat’s Last Stand

“Don’t ask questions. Now, you mustn’t panic, or ask — or be afraid, or ask questions, because something unexpected may happen. And you mustn’t panic! Do you understand?”

So where do I even start with this? Barnabas Collins has handwaved himself back into his own history, where girl governess Victoria Winters is still awaiting execution for witchcraft. You’d think the statute of limitations would run out after 170 years, plus she’s already been hanged for this, so it’s double jeopardy. Also, it’s not even the real Vicki.

But Barnabas is doing what the Collins family does best, namely: rewrite their family history with a black magic marker, powered by authentic black magic.

This is the start of a challenging run of episodes, because Sam Hall and Gordon Russell — also known as the good Dark Shadows writers — are taking a week off to figure out what they’re going to do with the show following this little cul-de-sac in story progression.

So the next five episodes are all written by Ron Sproat, who’s not a very good writer, and directed by Dan Curtis, who’s not a very good director, and it’s smack in the middle of nine consecutive episodes featuring Jonathan Frid, who’s not very good at remembering his lines. It’s like the perfect storm of barely adequate television production.

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Episode 663: Being This Way Again

“I had forgotten how overwhelming this urge for blood could be, and how helpless I would be to resist it.”

Last year, Dark Shadows took a bold leap, spending four months in a detailed flashback to the 18th century. This risky endeavor turned out to be a huge win, a creative high point for the series.

When the time travel story ended in April, the question was: after an ambitious and successful storyline like that, what do you do for an encore? And then they spent the rest of the year not really coming up with a coherent answer to that question.

Instead, they stumbled their way into a set of tangled story threads involving a mad doctor, a Frankenstein monster, a time-traveling witch with dream powers, a demonic crime boss, an occult expert, a root cellar, two new vampires, multiple kidnappings, a brick wall, an anagram, the French Revolution, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Jim Morrison and a View-Master reel.

It’s not easy to tie that all up and have it make sense, so they didn’t bother. They just threw a werewolf at us, which kept us entertained while they quietly directed the surplus characters to the exit.

But now the production team is doing a bit of soul-searching, trying to figure out where it all went wrong. And since there are clearly no rules about what qualifies as acceptable afternoon programming anymore, they might as well take us along on their annual review.

This week, they’re doing it all over again. Dark Shadows is going back to going back in time.

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Episode 662: This Is the Night

“I am not dead, as you can plainly see.”

Aunt Em had just come out of the house to water the cabbages when she looked up and saw Dorothy running toward her.

“My darling child!” she cried, folding the little girl in her arms and covering her face with kisses. “Where in the world did you come from?”

“From the Land of Oz,” said Dorothy gravely. “And here is Toto, too. And oh, Aunt Em! I’m so glad to be at home again!”

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Episode 661: Greatest Hits

“Then you’ll be dead, and he will have changed the course of history.”

Barnabas looks grave. But he’s in a graveyard, so that’s appropriate.

“What did happen on that night?” Julia asks.

Barnabas says, “It was the most tragic night I have ever experienced,” and coming from him, that means a lot. This is a guy with a lot of candidates for most tragic night.

Continue reading Episode 661: Greatest Hits