“I can see Collinwood — but not the Collinwood of today!”
As we careen toward the conclusion of this rattletrap of a television show, I’ve been peering into David Collins’ crystal ball, which now happens to be in my personal possession for reasons that I’ll tell you about later, and I’ve been looking forward into the future of Dark Shadows, to see what happens to this story, once the story is over. This is the War for Dark Shadows, the battle to determine what this story becomes in the decades ahead.
As we all know, the organizing principle of Dark Shadows is Oh my god, what are we going to do next, the agonized heartcry of a team of writers and producers trying desperately to stay ahead of the audience. The only way to do this is to triangulate based on what the viewers are currently responding to, and then steer towards the next surprise.
Continue reading Episode 1216: Return to Return to Collinwood
“He hasn’t kidnapped anybody, otherwise he wouldn’t be bothering me like he does!”
Carolyn and Maggie are away from home, filming House of Dark Shadows. Josette and Rachel and Kitty are dead, Millicent and Pansy are mad, and Vicki is long gone. Beth jumped off a cliff, Amanda never existed, Phyllis is trapped in the Stopping-Off Place with Schrödinger’s cat, and Sabrina is Sabrina.
Instead, we present the continuing adventures of Buffie Harrington, our temp soap opera heroine, who’s here on contract while we’re waiting for the more appealing, Ohrbach’s-approved heroines to come back from vacation.
She doesn’t get benefits, and she needs somebody to sign her timecard, but she’s here. If we need a girl to get groped on camera, then Buffie is the next available representative.
Continue reading Episode 997: Fifty Shaves
“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
“Aren’t you about to be recommitted to the underworld?”
So it turns out Julia can’t cure vampirism after all, just like she can’t cure lycanthropy or Frankenstein Syndrome or acute-onset Creature of the Black Lagoonism. I’m afraid that universal health care for Universal Monsters is still just a dream.
Now Barnabas is reacting to her anti-vamp treatments by becoming even more of a vampire than he was in the first place, which puts the kibosh on the Nobel Prize for sure. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences does not want to hear your excuses. They want results.
And sadly, the result here is that we had Megan as the sleepy co-dependent vampire blood slave a couple weeks ago, and now we’ve got Sabrina in the same role, which means I’m supposed to watch Sabrina urging Barnabas to drink her blood, and consider that entertainment. Well, I’m not having it. The show has refused to provide me with a single reason to like Sabrina, and if she wants to die from blood loss and neck trauma, then she should go and do it on her own time. This window is closed.
So instead of watching that, let’s go — for the very last time, I’m afraid — and look at a new form of Dark Shadows merchandise.
Continue reading Episode 978: What’s Cooking
“Listen carefully, and you’ll hear my dream.”
Charity Trask dreams of sexy scoundrel Quentin Collins, just like everybody else in the summer of ’69. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. She replies, “I feel so lonely when you’re not here.” This isn’t the part of the dream where he closes his eyes while she gets murdered by a werewolf. This is the other part.
Charity’s father has suddenly decided that she should marry Quentin, for reasons that are mostly product placement-related. The Dark Shadows soundtrack album dropped on Friday, and today’s episode serves up a full-length music video of the feature single, “Shadows of the Night (Quentin’s Theme)”. By music video, I mean that they play the whole song while Quentin and Charity pose and make thoughtful facial expressions. It’s 1969; they haven’t figured out how music videos work yet.
Continue reading Episode 786: The Blog Post About The Original Music From Dark Shadows with The Robert Cobert Orchestra & Featuring Jonathan (Barnabas) Frid and David (Quentin) Selby
“What is your blood type?”
It’s tricky sometimes, in this postmodern lit-crit racket of mine, to fully explain why one pop culture artifact was embraced by the populace at large while another was not.
Why was Star Trek cancelled for low ratings in its original run and then become a seminal science-fiction classic, while Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea was popular at the time and is now utterly forgotten? Why did the Pac-Man cartoon click, while Rubik the Amazing Cube was a step too far? Did you know that America’s Best Dance Crew is still on the air, currently in its eighth season? It’s difficult to fully account for the vagaries of public taste.
Except in the case of the 1969 ABC game show The Generation Gap, obviously, which failed because it was terrible, and that’s all there is to it.
Continue reading Episode 716: The Generation Gap
“In 25 words or less, complete this sentence: I WANT A DATE WITH JONATHAN FRID BECAUSE…”
Every now and then, I like to break out of the usual dull routine of actually watching and writing about a Dark Shadows episode, in order to check in with some of the developments going on outside the walls of ABC Studio 16.
To really understand what’s happening on the show, especially as it’s ramping up in popularity, you need to look at the other sources of Dark Shadows knowledge that the audience absorbed by just living in America in 1968. Magazine articles, TV appearances, the View-Master reels, the gum cards, how annoyed your mother looked when you mentioned the show — in pretentious lit-crit circles, we call this paratextual information. I don’t know what the rest of you call it.
The merchandise and promotion are becoming increasingly important as we stumble towards the new year. 1969 was the peak of Dark Shadows’ popularity, and there’s a lot of extra material that we’re going to have to keep track of.
For example, if the phrase “the Charles Randolph Grean Sounde” means exactly nothing in your life, then I will make it my business to correct that situation. Mr. Grean is pivotal, and so is his Sounde.
Continue reading Episode 638: Win a Date with Jonathan Frid
“I don’t know what to believe. Everyone tells me the sensible thing to do is the crazy thing to do.”
Okay, let’s review the rap sheet.
Mon, Oct 21 : Breaking and entering (Barnabas sneaks into Nicholas’ house), attempted murder (Barnabas tries to kill Eve), first degree assault (Angelique bites Barnabas).
Tues, Oct 22 : Attempted suicide (Joe, with a letter opener).
Wed, Oct 23 : Attempted murder, conspiracy (Angelique tells Barnabas to take Joe into the woods and kill him).
Mon, Oct 28 : Conspiracy to commit murder (Nicholas gives Harry poison to kill Joe).
Tues, Oct 29 : Breaking and entering (Harry sneaks into the Old House), attempted murder (Harry puts poison in Joe’s medicine), first degree assault (Angelique bites Barnabas), conspiracy to commit murder (Angelique tells Barnabas to kill Joe), attempted murder (Barnabas gives poison medicine to Joe).
Wed, Oct 30 : Attempted murder (Joe tries to kill Barnabas with a curtain tie).
So we’ve reached the point where they’re averaging one major felony an episode. Dark Shadows might have more murder per hour than How to Get Away with Murder.
Continue reading Episode 614: Curtains, Foiled Again
“The trouble, I guess, is that soaps are rather subterranean.”
Here’s a story that isn’t true:
In some ways the situation wasn’t unusual for a soap opera. A girl and an older man, in the process of eloping, had been hurt in an auto accident. However, the condition of the still-unconscious male patient baffled the examining doctors at the hospital. Although he had suffered only a minor head wound and was breathing normally, his veins were almost empty of blood and no heartbeat or pulse could be detected.
The treatment — massive transfusions — was already underway when the patient’s personal physician and a friend arrived at the emergency ward. “What do you think will happen to him?” asked the friend in a desperate whisper. “Who can tell?” was the M.D.’s equally tense reply. “After all, no one’s ever given massive blood transfusions to a vampire before.”
And then “a burst of eerie music is followed by a denture-adhesive commercial, and one more episode of Dark Shadows comes to a cliff-hanging conclusion,” except it didn’t happen that way.
Continue reading Episode 612: Reflections on the Golden Eye
“You were convinced that I was dead — and I was, for a while! I was actually dead!”
Hey, you know how Elizabeth has been telling everyone for weeks that she’s going to lose consciousness, and everyone’s going to think that she’s dead? Well, guess what: it happened! And she’s still upset about it. I guess there’s no pleasing some people.
Continue reading Episode 604: The Sedating Game