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Episode 932: The Gates of Heck

“I find most mortals difficult to understand.”

So I guess there’s no way around it; I have to write about the Quentin/Amanda/”Mr. Best” storyline. Two weeks ago, I got so exasperated with my Quentin/Amanda post that I didn’t even finish writing it. I got as far as Mr. Best showing up on the bridge, and I couldn’t go any further. I just stopped writing and hit Publish, and that was that. My thinking basically went like this: Some of my posts are heartbreaking and brilliant; some of them are not. I guess this is one of the ones that’s not.

But here I am, dragged back to the scene of the crime. The Quentin/Amanda story is wrapping up over the next two days, and I can’t just pretend it’s not happening. Can I?

Continue reading Episode 932: The Gates of Heck

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Episode 923: Probably Her

“If we can find more realities like that, maybe we can get him out of the mist.”

Okay, so do you remember how pretty much all of last year I was saying that the writers didn’t have a big master plan that connected Quentin’s haunting with Chris’ werewolf story, and that they had no idea that they were going to use Charles Delaware Tate’s magic portrait skills to cure Quentin and bring him to 1969 to reunite with his long-lost great-grandson? And everyone was like, no, they planned that all out, they knew the whole thing, like, totally in advance. And I was like, no, they’re just making it up as they go along.

Well, here we are, in Tate’s big dark mansion, with the culmination of this master narrative — Quentin, werewolf, Tate, portrait. So what’s the big payoff?

Nothing! Because they didn’t actually have a plan.

So everybody else was wrong and I was right, and that’s why I am the god emperor of understanding how Dark Shadows works.

Continue reading Episode 923: Probably Her

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Episode 883: The Tate Murders

“You know, I rather look forward to going to the future as Barnabas Collins.”

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Continue reading Episode 883: The Tate Murders

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Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

“We can only hold ourselves to the secret dreads and confessed fear of an evil soul seeking to control a saddened heart!”

But enough foolishness; let’s get down to business. We’re taking a break from Dark Shadows this week, to watch the opening episodes of the contemporary Canadian knock-off Strange Paradise. This daily supernatural soap opera aired for ten months in 1969-1970, to progressively smaller audiences.

It’s easy to imagine why a production company in fall 1969 would look at Dark Shadows, and want to take a crack at trying their own version. DS is at the height of its popularity during this period, and they’re making it look easy. Five or six characters per episode on a limited number of sets, taped as a stage play without retakes or editing, and using a mix of Freshman Lit and Universal Monsters for story ideas. That seems doable.

And if you’re a busy professional in 1969, you’re probably not watching Dark Shadows very closely. They didn’t have VCRs back then, to tape episodes and watch them at a more convenient time. You had to sit down in front of a television at 4 in the afternoon every day, which is a lot easier for housewives and teenagers than it is for people working on a medium-to-low-budget daily TV show in Ottowa, where I’m not even sure DS was being broadcast.

So it would be easy to miss Dark Shadows’ insanely detailed narrative complexity during this period. There’s probably a dozen overlapping story threads on the show right now, and the writers are expecting the audience to remember complicated plot points from more than six months ago.

Barnabas explains to Julia that Chris Jennings is stuck as a werewolf, locked in the secret room of the mausoleum, because he’s the grandson of Quentin’s infant daughter Lenore, who’s being raised in town by Mrs. Fillmore because Quentin’s wife Jenny went mad and couldn’t take care of them, and Quentin’s werewolf curse is being passed down to the male children of each generation — and four out of five of those characters haven’t even been on the show for months. We haven’t seen Chris since late February, and it’s currently mid-September and counting. For a daily soap opera in late 1969, the required cognitive load on the audience is staggering.

In other words: Sure, try and make your own Dark Shadows. Good luck with that.

So I’m not spending a week looking at Strange Paradise just because I want to have a new set of things to make fun of. I mean, that’s part of it, obviously. But I also want to know what a failed version of Dark Shadows looks like right now, to see what we can learn about why the actual show is currently a smash hit.

If you’re just joining us mid-week, here’s the other Strange Paradise posts, and if you’d like to watch along, there’s a YouTube channel with all of the episodes. I’m not saying that you should do that, necessarily. But it’s your life, and you can waste it however you want. Now that I think about it, that’s actually the motto of this blog. “It’s your life, and you can waste it however you want” T-shirts are now available in the Dark Shadows Every Day store, which does not exist.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

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Episode 755: This Means War

“I’m putting myself in charge!”

You know, it’s been a minute since we checked in with faux-Egyptian firestarter Laura Collins and her insane plan to burn to death with her children, and then take off for some strange desert otherworld where the sun is always shining and everyone gets their own pyramid. It’s lucky that we stopped by today, because she’s got a new made-up deadline that she just made up.

Her son Jamison has stopped by; he’s run away from his terrible school to spend time with his terrible mother. He’s worried that his father will send him back to school, and she busts out with, “If I go away, then you could come with me. I must go, Jamison, soon!” Unfortunately, it’s one of those soap opera soons where it could mean the end of the episode but is probably more like two weeks from now.

Continue reading Episode 755: This Means War