Category Archives: May 1968

Episode 505: The Sinking Detective

“You might as well prepare yourself for an ordeal.”

It’s a tough job, I get that. Police officers on Dark Shadows combine the inadequacy of soap opera cops with the inadequacy of monster movie cops. Police officer characters can do very well, if they stay in their own genres, but when they stray too far from home, they start competing with characters that are automatically way more interesting.

The outbreak of lawlessness that Sheriff George Patterson is currently investigating centers around Adam, the patchwork Frankenstein monster. If they catch him, they’re planning to charge him with being brought to life without a license, which I don’t think is even a misdemeanor.

So you’ve got to feel bad for the Sheriff, unless you forget all about him the moment he’s off the screen, like everybody else does.

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Episode 504: The Ladykiller

“It is tragic that your Greta is so deformed, for she really could play the role of Josette to perfection.”

It’s a Ron Sproat script today, which means that Carolyn’s still stuck in the root cellar, and so are we. So I’m going to invoke my executive privilege to ignore a filler episode, and talk about something else instead.

It’s time to start looking at the Dark Shadows merchandise, because this is the period where it becomes a real factor in the audience’s experience of the show. While this episode was being taped, Jonathan Frid was on a completely insane ten-city publicity tour, where he was besieged by literally thousands of screaming teenagers who were desperate to get closer to Barnabas, and the show. Recognizing that these kids have allowances, ABC started to tap into that market, with some success.

The first piece of Barnabas-related merchandise was released in May 1968, just in time for the publicity tour. It’s a 155-page book called The Curse of Collinwood, and it’s the fifth in the series of Dark Shadows-inspired romance novels published by Paperback Library. The Curse of Collinwood has a picture of Barnabas on the cover, and it sells spectacularly well.

Unfortunately, Barnabas isn’t actually in The Curse of Collinwood, which is about Vicki and therefore not worth discussing, so we’re going to talk about the next book instead.

Continue reading Episode 504: The Ladykiller

Episode 503: Lock Her Up

“I promise, no harm will come to you.”

Sproat: Threat, or menace? That is the question on the table.

Ron Sproat is part of the Dark Shadows writing team, and unfortunately, he’s not the good part. He’s the guy who thinks it’s okay to not do anything interesting on Wednesday, so you can save up the plot movement for Friday — and if not this Friday, then maybe next Friday.

Sproat’s other noticeable failing is his obsession with locking women and children up in a room and then just leaving them there. Just in the last year, he’s confined Maggie and Vicki for several months each, plus Josette for a few days and David for a week.

At the moment, we’ve got Adam, our new Frankenstein monster, who’s closed his first official rampage by kidnapping Carolyn and bringing her to an abandoned root cellar somewhere in the woods.

Yesterday, Sam Hall wrote the episode that brought Carolyn to the root cellar, and then who leaves her there for two days? Mr. Ron “I Never Met a Lock I Didn’t Like” Sproat.

Continue reading Episode 503: Lock Her Up

Episode 502: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

“I don’t know you, and you don’t know me. Why do you want to kill me? Are you insane?”

Okay, here’s the meet-cute scenario: Adam, our enormous new Frankenstein monster, was running away from home after getting a savage beating from Barnabas, who we might as well call his dad.

Alone, afraid, and with only a slight vocabulary advantage over Chewbacca, Adam stumbled into Collinwood, where he demanded the only two things he knows how to ask for — music and food.

Then Barnabas rushed in with a gun, so Adam picked up the closest thing he could grab, which happened to be Carolyn Stoddard, and carried her away. Oh, like you’ve never had a weird first date.

Continue reading Episode 502: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Episode 501: Say My Name

“Barnabas, Barnabas, please don’t go. Barnabas!”

Well, what’s the point of even having a Frankenstein monster, if he’s not going to go on a rampage every once in a while? You can’t keep him locked up in the basement forever. He’s a metaphor for the limits of human power, the unintended consequences of mankind’s sins made flesh and set loose upon the world. Now get out of the way, and let him do his goddamn job.

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Episode 500: Really Big Brother

“If you’re gonna believe that thing who can’t even talk before you believe me, I don’t have to stay here.”

Willie Loomis: World traveler, grave robber, handyman, mental patient — and always a survivor. He’s been bitten, beaten, shot in the back and thrown under the bus. And now he faces his greatest challenge: Babysitter of the Damned.

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Episode 499: A Senior Moment

“There will not be time to make you understand!”

Angelique is outside in the garden at night, wearing a cloak with the hood pulled up over her head.

“I have not been able to hear you,” she cries, apparently to her own portrait. “I must find you, and get to you!”

It’s not super clear why Angelique thinks that she should be able to hear an oil painting that’s several miles away. I mean, I don’t think that she’d be able to hear an oil painting anyway, even if it was two feet in front of her, but the distance can’t be helping. But there’s a lot I don’t know about fine art.

“Oh, try and speak to me,” she begs. “Try! TRY!”

This doesn’t seem to be a super effective communication strategy, but Angelique has suddenly aged to about seventy years old, so we should cut her some slack. Maybe she needs her grandchildren to come over and show her how to use her smartphone.

Continue reading Episode 499: A Senior Moment

Episode 498: Diff’rent Strokes

“Either she controls the portrait, or the portrait controls her.”

Hey, have I mentioned the Dream Curse yet? There’s this Dream Curse. It’s a spell that Angelique cast about a month ago, and for some reason, it’s still part of my life.

Here’s a quick rundown: Angelique is currently living in Collinwood, posing as Roger’s young wife, Cassandra. Barnabas has recently been released from her vampire curse, and she’s not having it, so she’s decided to bring the curse back to him through the most convoluted possible route. She’s initiated a long series of dreams, which pass from one character to another, and eventually the chain is going to reach Barnabas, and then he’ll die, or turn back into a vampire, or whatever.

This is a slow, grinding disappointment. Back in the 1795 storyline, where she came from, Angelique was the driving force of the entire show, moving people around like puppets, and sending the entire Collins family into a spiral of self-destruction. Now, frankly, she’s just coasting. It’s possible that 1968 is her retirement home.

Continue reading Episode 498: Diff’rent Strokes

Episode 497: Frid’s Big Week

“Here they were, with these thousands of kids, and this idiot on top of this hearse with fangs, and what was going on, you know? What’s happened to America?”

A year ago, Jonathan Frid stepped out of the mystery box for a limited 13-week run as a villain on a struggling soap opera. Now it’s May 1968, and by some strange magic, Barnabas Collins is the most popular character on the hottest show on daytime TV. The ratings have jumped from 9 million viewers to 16 million, and they haven’t peaked yet. As “America’s cool ghoul”, Jonathan Frid is suddenly at the center of a pop culture sensation.

That’s good news for ABC, obviously, and the most exciting part is that Dark Shadows has caught on with teenagers, whose daily lives are the original social media.

Traditionally, soaps were watched by housewives, recluses and the unemployed. These are people with a fairly limited amount of social interaction, and word-of-mouth doesn’t spread that far. But high school and college students talk to and influence a huge number of friends and acquaintances, and they have lots of free social time when they can evangelize about their new favorite show. Plus, they’ll buy spin-off merchandise, which brings in revenue and continues to spread awareness of the show to potential new viewers. In a couple months, ABC is going to move Dark Shadows from 3:30 to 4:00, to make sure that kids can get home after school to watch the show.

And this week, they’re sending Jonathan Frid on a week-long whistle-stop national tour, traveling to 10 cities in a private Lear jet. Frid’s job for this week is to show up at airports and supermarkets dressed as Barnabas — complete with cape, cane and fangs — and tell children what it’s like to be a vampire. P.S. Jonathan Frid is a grown man.

Continue reading Episode 497: Frid’s Big Week

Episode 496: Father of the Year

“Well, never mind about that now. David was very nearly killed this evening.”

It’s a tough job, don’t let anyone tell you different. It must be one of the toughest jobs in television — writing the script for a daily soap opera. It’s not the long-term planning, which has got to be kind of fun. The brutal part is the scene breakdown.

The problem goes like this: We have a plot point to establish, and it requires these three characters to be on this set, in this kind of mood. Go make that happen. And sometimes there’s just no logical reason why that particular group of people would even be talking to each other. This is why you don’t see a lot of jolly soap opera writers.

Of course, on some days, you figure out a clever twist that solves the problem, and the world is full of sunshine, and that’s a good day. Gordon Russell is not having a good day.

Continue reading Episode 496: Father of the Year