Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

“Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.”

“Mr. Collins, are you there?” calls Lamar Trask, talking to a brick wall. He’s excited, this is his first murder.

Trask has walled up the trans-temporal eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins in a basement alcove, for vengeance purposes. First he thought that Barnabas murdered his father, the Reverend Trask, fifty years ago. Now he knows that Barnabas isn’t a vampire, but he still thinks that Barnabas is responsible for his father’s death. Or maybe it was Barnabas’ father who was responsible. It’s not clear to me what Trask thinks. I suppose it doesn’t really matter, one way or another.

“Mr. Collins, something has occurred to me,” he continues. “Something I think you might find interesting. Shall I tell you?” From behind the wall, Barnabas says yes. Apparently he’s still taking calls.

“Good,” Trask smirks. “You’re not dead yet. Linger, my friend, while I tell you my fascinating thoughts.” Which kind of sounds like what I’m saying, at this point in the blog.

Continue reading Episode 1178: The Mary Sue

Episode 1177: The Unfinished Dream

“Then we shall simply have to change the course of history, and find him.”

Let’s face it: 1840 has been letting us down on the visual spectacle. There used to be a monster in this storyline, split into two parts: the Head glowering in a glass case, and the Body roaming the woods like a murderous pantomime horse. There used to be vampires, feeding on the blood of the innocent. There used to be a guy in a wheelchair, which isn’t a monster but at least it’s something to look at. Now the only monster is a smooth-talking warlock, who rigs court cases, and casts spells that make governesses fall asleep.

These days, the show is dominated by people wearing old-fashioned clothes, gossiping with each other about who’s responsible for what. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have a zombie, or a skeleton, or even a severed hand flying around the room. Think back: isn’t everything better when there’s a mischievous, floating severed hand?

Continue reading Episode 1177: The Unfinished Dream

Episode 1176: The Week Between

“I dream about her only because I hate her!”

Cockney mentalist Leticia Faye dashes into the drawing room of the sumptuously-appointed Rose Cottage, making a beeline for Flora with a bulletin from the courthouse.

“Oh, Flora!” she sobs, plunging into the woman’s arms.

Startled, Flora cries, “Tell me what’s happened!”

Leticia tries to pull herself together. “It’s Desmond!”

“What about my son?” Flora asks, and that’s how you know it’s Christmas.

Continue reading Episode 1176: The Week Between

Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

“Less talk, more crowbar!”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A man walks into a crypt, looking for buried treasure. He crowbars his way into a mystery box, and what does he find? A pain in the neck.

Today is Christmas Day 1970, happy holidays by the way, and the show is taking the day off. On pre-emption days, the blog is visited by the Ghost of Dark Shadows Yet to Come, often to our great and lasting regret. During previous pre-emptions, we watched the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows, the 1971 movie Night of Dark Shadows, and the 12 episodes of the 1991 NBC revival. The short version is that they weren’t very good, because trying to catch lightning in a bottle is difficult, especially when you’ve already used that bottle a couple of times. Lightning’s funny that way.

Today, we’re taking a look at the next chapter of that story: the 2004 pilot for a new prime-time Dark Shadows, prepared for and rejected by the WB, which used to be a television network.

You see, Dan Curtis — Dark Shadows’ creator and executive producer — never gave up on Dark Shadows, except while he was making it, when he definitely did. Having tasted the thrill of unexpected success in 1968 and 1969 as the show’s popularity reached its peak, he decided to make a movie version, using the same cast, crew and writers, while the television show was still on the air. That left the show coasting for months on ABC-TV with the B-squad characters, and when Dan finally came back to the series, all he really wanted to do was make another movie, and that’s why the show came to a gradual, disappointing end.

In 1991, Dan decided to try again, making a 12-part prime-time series for NBC that used a lot of ideas from House of Dark Shadows, and it didn’t work out, for lightning/bottle reasons. And then he just kept on trying to remake the remake for the next 12 years, finally managing to convince the WB to spend five million dollars on a pilot that nobody liked.

I asked you to stop me if you’ve heard this before, but frankly, it’s no use trying. The only way that Dan could stop retelling the story of Dark Shadows was to die, and even then, I bet he’s up in Heaven, pitching Saint Peter on another series. I’m kidding, of course; executive producers don’t go to Heaven.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

Episode 1174/1175: Merrie Gentlemen

“What has shaken your little mind now, that makes you not believe me?”

It’s Christmas Eve 1970, and the tidings aren’t as comfortable or as joyful as you might wish. In-universe, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the will of the legendary warlock Judah Zachery, is himself in possession of the Collins family estate. If allowed to go unchallenged, this will result in the destruction of Collinwood, one way or another, which is a shame, because I’m not done looking at it yet. Out-of-universe, this is the last Christmas that Dark Shadows will ever see, because this trial storyline is ruining everything.

Quentin’s only been on trial for witchcraft for three weeks, but somehow it has drained the plot of all momentum; everything else has to slow down while the lead characters get foiled again and again. We spent most of this week concerned about a plot to get Daphne in trouble for dropping a note in an oak tree, and today it turns out they don’t even need that, because they have different, even more damning evidence. By the end of the episode, it looks like Quentin probably should be beheaded for witchcraft after all, and so should pretty much everybody on the show. I don’t know about you, but I am letting something me dismay, and I don’t care who knows it.

Continue reading Episode 1174/1175: Merrie Gentlemen

Episode 1173: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

“I will be your ghost tonight. I will be your ghost twice.”

“Oh, Julia, if you could have seen his face yesterday,” Angelique breathes.

“I did.”

Angelique whirls around. “And his eyes?”

Julia doesn’t respond, so I assume she’s thinking, You know what? I saw his face, but I totally forgot to look at his eyes. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Continue reading Episode 1173: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

Episode 1172: The Deck Chairs

“Slow agonizing death is the worst kind, you know!”

It’s three days till Christmas 1970, and here we are in the dying days of Dark Shadows, a show that has specialized almost exclusively in dying days since its ratings peak in October 1969. Don’t tell the 1970 audience, but between you and me, the show only has 15 weeks left to run, which means, if my recent posting schedule is any guide, that this blog will shudder to a stop somewhere around the middle of 2075.

So we should get back to The War for Dark Shadows, the ongoing struggle to define what kind of story Dark Shadows becomes when it’s not a half-hour daytime soap opera anymore. This battle has been raging for decades in books, movies, comic books and the hearts of children, and there’s a lot of it, so we’d better buckle down and start taking this seriously. I mean, those deck chairs aren’t going to rearrange themselves.

Continue reading Episode 1172: The Deck Chairs

Episode 1171: He Schemes, He Scores

“But you don’t deny that you would have sent those messages to Daphne!”

Samantha’s first mistake, as she was looming, dagger in hand, and saw that the figure in the bed was Gerard and not Daphne, as she’d expected, was that she didn’t just stab and stab and stab anyway, because there are only two possible outcomes when finding oneself in an enclosed space with Gerard; you’re either going to kill him, or kiss him. She chose not to kill him. A rookie mistake, really, and not in keeping with CDC guidelines.

Continue reading Episode 1171: He Schemes, He Scores

Episode 1170: This Place Is Not a Place of Honor

“Spirits don’t usually attack people.”

This place is a message…  and part of a system of messages…  pay attention to it!

Sending this message was important to us. We considered ourselves to be a powerful culture.

This place is not a place of honor. No highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.

What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

Continue reading Episode 1170: This Place Is Not a Place of Honor

Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering

“We cannot love at will, any more than we could prevent our love.”

Oh, it was such a good idea at the time.

When Dark Shadows went to 1795, the show discovered that they could shake up the soap by traveling back into the past, using the existing cast but dressing them up in old-time costumes, and giving them new names and storylines. It was a spectacular way to move forward, interrupting a story that didn’t have anywhere to go, and breathing new life into the premise. While they were in the past, they figured out that you could have more than one monster on the show at the same time, and once they came back to the present, they started piling them up in heaps.

Problem is, they’re now doing time travel for the fourth time, and it turns out giving everybody a new character name every six months doesn’t automatically refresh the show; you also need to think up some new storylines. In fact, traveling to another time means that it’s possible to rehash the same plot points with a freshly neuralyzed set of family members, and there’s nobody around to say, wait a minute, this already happened, fifty-seven years from now.

Well, live and learn, I suppose, although on this show, it’s more like live and die and come back to life and then learn the same stuff over again.

Continue reading Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering