Category Archives: Joe Caldwell

995-sesame-street-big-bird-snuffleupagus

Episode 995: I’ll Bite Anything

“It is difficult to rechannel my thoughts after three years of thinking about nothing but you.”

So it’s not the late 60s anymore, is what I’m saying, and eventually a show that’s as adamantly late 60s as Dark Shadows is going to run into trouble when it tries to outlive its environment.

As you know, the difference between the 1960s and the 1970s is that in the 70s, America discovered the concepts of responsibility and safety. In late 1969, the innocent flower children of Woodstock met the lawless, murderous Hells Angels of Altamont, and the good trip became a bad one, to our lasting disadvantage.

At that point, the American people decided that maybe giving their children exposed metal hot plates as toys wasn’t such a great idea, and maybe we should try wearing seat belts, and using child-proof caps, and not letting the Manson Family stay in the guest house. You know, the whole actions have consequences, gravity is real, sometimes people are assholes thing that ruins so many promising utopias.

Continue reading Episode 995: I’ll Bite Anything

994-dark-shadows-dameon-dead

Episode 994: Polterguest

“Blood in this room. Why? First the piano playing, then downstairs, the picture of Bruno in the drawer. Blood there, too. Then Dameon in the chair. And here again, blood. But why?”

We’ve been spending the last several weeks settling into this new Parallel Time storyline, which takes place in a separate universe where everything is the same, except that people have made different choices, including the choice of whether to make their soap opera make sense or not.

They’ve boxed up the vampire, the crossover character who is technically the only person in this storyline from ABC-TV’s Dark Shadows, and they’ve put him into cold storage while the actor scurries upstate to appear in the Dark Shadows movie, leaving us with a handful of pinch-hitters from the other side of the sun.

The A-story these days is about Angelique — what she was, how she died, and whether she’s come back as a ghost, or a twin sister, or not at all. There’s been a decent amount of forward progress in that story lately — so much, in fact, that yesterday they slipped some important story information in the middle of a conversation about something else, and then acted like they didn’t even notice. But there’s still quite a bit of time to kill, and they need to slow things down a bit.

So today, they unveil the exciting plot twist that nobody saw coming: Dameon Edwards is back!

Okay, clearly you didn’t hear me. I said, Dameon Edwards is back!!

Continue reading Episode 994: Polterguest

993-dark-shadows-quentin-alexis-piano

Episode 993: All I Know Is Danger

“You must try to expect nothing from me!”

Angelique Collins was murdered. We all agree on that, right? Stroke, no; murder, yes.

It’s not our Angelique, of course. I’m talking about the Parallel Time alt-universe Angelique, who was murdered six months ago, at a midnight seance in the drawing room. We know that she was murdered, because last week, they re-enacted the seance, and a ghost-possessed dental hygienist pointed at Angelique’s identical twin and shouted, She’s dying, she’s dying, murder, murder, murder. Apparently the spirit speaking through her was re-enacting too.

The other reason that we know Angelique was murdered is because of course she was murdered, this is a television show and they’ve been talking incessantly about her death for weeks. ABC Television isn’t funding this daily blastoff into the uncharted regions of tormented space just to tell the story of a woman who happened to die of a stroke.

After the seance, everybody did what people do in Collinwood after an accusation of murder; they went about their normal activities. If the Collins family stopped to investigate every single mysterious death that happens on their property, life as we know it would grind to a halt. When somebody dies, that means there’s one fewer person in the cast to have conversations with, and the survivors have even more on their plates.

So Quentin and Alexis have been going on as usual, grooming houseplants and making up excuses for things. In this version of reality, Quentin used to be Angelique’s husband, until she was murdered, and Alexis used to be her twin sister, until ditto, unless it turns out that Alexis actually is Angelique, back from the dead to reclaim her rightful place at Collinwood, which would mean that everybody needs to update their entries on Dark Shadows Wiki.

Continue reading Episode 993: All I Know Is Danger

992-dark-shadows-quentin-hannah-door

Episode 992: Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t

“Remember, the dead can return in many ways!”

Here’s Aunt Hannah, who we’ve never heard of before, and that’s a shame, because she’s crazy. She uses a sharp pencil to draw a rectangle on an astrology chart, and then she taps her overly bejeweled fingers, tap tap tap tap, like she’s waiting for the celestial bodies to bring her a corned beef sandwich. She’s sitting in a dark room, wearing dark makeup, and pretending that she knows what she’s talking about.

Bruno asks what she sees, and Aunt Hannah replies, “Stars in opposition, the heavens in turmoil… signs in disarray.” She shakes a finger at him. “You must beware,” she says. “Some alien force is at work against you.” She doesn’t sound super worked up about it. It’s not really a warning, more a general observation, like, if you were wondering what was at work against you? It’s an alien force. So keep that in mind.

Bruno leans forward. “Can this alien force be of the spiritual world?” he asks.

She leans back. “I can only conjecture,” she allows, “but my answer is: yes.” That’s a pretty cut and dried conjecture.

He presses her, and she says, “You want to know if it’s the spirit of my niece, Angelique, don’t you?” He does. She smiles. “You know as well as I do that the charts contain nothing of that meaning.”

In other words, the heavens have gone out of their way to put themselves in turmoil, just to make Bruno mildly suspicious, which he already was. That’s the thing that I don’t understand about astrology; it seems to be a lot of work on the celestial bodies’ part, for very thin results.

I mean, you’d think if astrology and tarot cards really worked, then the people who believed in them would be running the entire world by now, and yet they don’t. Weird, right?

Continue reading Episode 992: Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t

987-dark-shadows-bruno-alexis-truly-two

Episode 987: Truly Two

“I know that what he really wanted to do was to see if I was real!”

“With every day,” writes Dr. Jekyll, “and from both sides of my intelligence, the moral and the intellectual, I thus drew steadily nearer to that truth: that man is not truly one, but truly two.”

He doesn’t say anything about how many woman is, because it’s 1886 and not really his concern, but in this case, I think it’s safe to round up.

Continue reading Episode 987: Truly Two

986-dark-shadows-cyrus-apparatus

Episode 986: Down in the Science Dungeon

“Why? Why alter a human being?”

“Let me begin,” the doctor says, “by saying that man is chemical in his composition.” Oh boy, here we go.

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the simpering Dr. Cyrus Longworth: a man, a plan, an apparatus. That’s him back there, behind the equipment, workshopping his defense attorney’s closing arguments.

We’re in another weird basement science dungeon today, one of those makeshift conceptual sets made of equal parts brick, stone and middle school classroom. There are wire cages holding a rabbit and a guinea pig, quietly munching on carrots and wondering why they ever got into show business. The apparatus isn’t bubbling and nobody’s having their head removed yet, but give them time; they’re just getting started.

But I’m interrupting Dr. Longworth, who has a theory to expound that you may find difficult to swallow. Still, people used to believe that the sun was flat.

Continue reading Episode 986: Down in the Science Dungeon

348 dark shadows collinwood night header

Episode 348: Mission Accomplished

“I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t dead.”

Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood. You can tell, because they’ve got the establishing shot up, and it’s dark blue. They’re playing the sub-theme music cue, and somewhere in the studio, fading film star Joan Bennett is standing in front of a microphone.

“Dawn has not yet come to Collinwood,” Joan says, in a world-weary tone which indicates that she’s one sentence into a three-sentence introduction, and it’s not going to get a lot better from here. “The earth hovers between night and day, as though terrified to bring into being the days and nights that lie ahead.”

And it’s amazing, watching it now, to think that there was a time when it was okay to open a television show like this. They don’t take practice swings like this anymore. When your show starts, you start the show.

“But time is indifferent to terror,” says Joan, and you have to admit she has a point. “And the earth obeys the primal command creating nights and days, creating the moment when fear no longer stalks… but stops to strike.”

In other words: it’s October 1967, and you don’t have a remote control. If the earth obeying primal commands isn’t a stop-the-presses level event for you, then you’re going to have to get up, walk across the room and do something about it.

Continue reading Episode 348: Mission Accomplished

347 dark shadows julia machine header

Episode 347: Mad Science

“Did you ever try to find the exact center of a piece of fine crystal?”

The doctor is advising prudence. She asks the patient, “Are you sure you want it this way?”

“I am through arguing the point,” he sniffs. “The treatments must be accelerated without further comment.”

She reminds him that she will not accept responsibility for the consequences.

“If we don’t hurry,” the patient says, “it will soon be morning. Now, begin the treatment.”

And then she fastens the straps on his electric chair.

Continue reading Episode 347: Mad Science

346 vicki dream header

Episode 346: The Shipping News

“Enter Julia Hoffman, bearing flowers.”

INT. JOSETTE’S ROOM – DREAM.

Vicki, wearing a bride’s veil, is staring at herself in the mirror on the vanity in Josette’s room. Barnabas walks in, and tells her that she’ll be a beautiful bride.

Hesitantly, Vicki asks, “I will be a bride… won’t I, Barnabas?” He says that she will. She asks where Burke is, and Barnabas says, “He’s here, Vicki. Right here. Look on the bed.” She turns, and sees Burke’s corpse on the bed, covered in a shroud.

Which raises the question: What is the purpose of “love” in an open-ended narrative?

Continue reading Episode 346: The Shipping News

344 dark shadows sarah david header

Episode 344: Haunted

“Terrible things happen, and no one seems to do anything about them.”

At the top of today’s episode, the ghost of Sarah Collins appears in David’s bedroom, and tells him that Dr. Woodard was murdered.

Sarah says that she doesn’t know all the details, but it was horrible, and “it shouldn’t have happened the way it did.” David asks who killed him, and Sarah says that she can’t tell him. Then she disappears.

This is all standard operating procedure for Sarah, who is powered entirely by narrative convenience, and always gives David exactly enough information to set up the next scene. Usually, I would complain about that, except that the next scene is unbelievably sad and beautiful, and it makes me want to cry.

Continue reading Episode 344: Haunted