“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“The screaming was unbelievable.”
There is another world.
There is a better world.
“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.
“Well, at least there’ll be no more murders.”
Angelique returned from the dead to destroy her ex-husband Quentin, and between you and me, she’s done a kick-ass job. Quentin’s on the run from the law, accused of several murders that he’s only partially responsible for, all of his friends are dead, and a minute from now, either he’s going to murder his second wife or she’s going to murder him. This is about as destroyed as a person needs to be.
We’re down to the last week of the Parallel Time storyline; there’s just a few more people to kill, and then Barnabas and Julia can go back to their own dimension, satisfied with a job well done. Everything Must Go, says the sign in the front window, and here it is: everything. Let’s see how it goes.
Angelique herself is only seconds from destruction — her vitality depends on sucking the life force out of a woman named Roxanne, and if the mysterious Claude North can get Roxanne to speak, then it’s lights out for Angelique.
But Barnabas offers the witch one last shot at redemption, handing her a confession to sign that would clear Quentin’s name. She won’t even touch it. Screw you, she says, if you people don’t appreciate me, then I’ll go down, and I’ll take the whole goddamn show down with me.
Then Roxanne speaks — and Angelique dies with a curse on her lips, as Angeliques should. Really, at the core, she’s saying: I don’t want to live in a world where Roxanne has dialogue. You’ve got to admit she has a point.
“Barnabas never ceases to be exciting.”
My husband opens the doors to the drawing room, and finds me deep in thought, puzzling over an old book. I’m reading carefully, and transcribing some of the more difficult passages.
As he makes his way to the drinks cabinet, he asks, “Is that for the blog?” I tell him it is, and I show him the cover. He asks why I’m writing about this now, and I say that the book just came out.
“But that looks old,” he says.
“Yeah, it just came out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m in January 1970. This was published in December 1969.”
“Oh, I see,” he says. “You were meanwhiling.” This is why our marriage works.
“It is my fervent hope that this letter will somehow survive time.”
Meanwhile, on Dark Shadows: Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has been time traveling for almost a year now, in one direction or another. He’s been slipping back and forth through the centuries, popping his consciousness in and out of his own body and sticking post-it notes all over his five hundred year diary. At this point, I think we’re up to three simultaneous Barnabi, but I’m not an expert at counting Draculas.
“Who are ‘they’, Mrs. Trask?”
Let’s start at the middle, and work backwards from there.
Mrs. Minerva Trask — devoted wife and helpmeet of the celebrated Reverend Gregory Trask of Worthington Hall — arrives at Collinwood with a jar of damson plum preserves, and proceeds to make herself comfortable — or, at least, as comfortable as Mrs. Trask ever allows herself to get.
She’s come over to give the preserves to Judith Collins, because that’s what you give to a multi-millionaire who lets you operate a for-profit business in her back yard rent-free. But instead, she ends up talking to Judith’s dissolute brother Quentin, who’s currently dissolving in the drawing room.
“If you marry me, it’ll be like marrying a corpse.”
Ladies, I get it. The dating scene is hard. Sometimes, it feels like a guy is stringing you along, and maybe the relationship isn’t going anywhere, but it’s hard to know when it’s time to just cut your losses and move on.
Jeff: Oh, Vicki. I wish I had your faith. We’ve got so little time together.
Vicki: Don’t say that!
Jeff: But it’s true. Even though you can see me and touch me, and I can hold you in my arms — I don’t exist, here and now.
That, right there? That’s your cue to re-evaluate, before you wind up as another chapter in He’s Just Not That Into Time Traveling With You.
I mean, there has to be a guy out there who, at the very least, has a better excuse.
“The powers you have, they give you a certain amount of control over time and space.”
Once upon a time, there was a little lost princess…
“I’m beginning to feel that there’s no answer, except to submit to the dream.”
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
“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.