Tag Archives: long-overdue national conversation

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Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience

“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.

Continue reading Episode 922: To My Fans, the Audience

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Strange Paradise, Episode 4: The Cryonic Woman

“I do believe you need me, to jack you up by the bootstraps.”

“Place it there, please,” says the man from the Cryonics Institute. He’s addressing three hulking men, who are lugging a heavy coffin-sized piece of science down into the ancestral basement crypt of the cursed Desmond family, here on this tropical island paradise where we, as you know, currently are.

The man from the Cryonics Institute is directing two underlings — large, late middle-aged balding men in turtlenecks — plus Quito, the silent man-brute who lifts all the heavy things around here. I don’t know what the Cryonics Institute would have done if the Desmonds didn’t already have a third large late middle-aged strongman on the premises. They’d probably have to pop somebody out of the freezer to pitch in. That’s the nice thing about working at the Cryonics Institute, you’ve always got another pair of hands if you need it.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 4: The Cryonic Woman

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Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns

“Mr. Desmond, please! Has the Devil taken your SOUL?”

Dreamed in darkness and filmed in Canada, the Shadow of Shadows was dragged from the earth. The creatures scratched at the well-worked soil, pulling what little they could from the oft-defiled graves. Look! A rag, and a bone, and a hank of hair. Isn’t it beautiful, they said. We have given it a name.

In the fall of 1969, a show called Strange Paradise shambled onto the air — a Canadian soap opera with supernatural themes, conceived at the height of Dark Shadows’ popularity. The daily show premiered in America in September, with the Canadian debut six weeks later.

In the US, Strange Paradise aired around 7pm on local stations owned by Metromedia and Kaiser Broadcasting, but not for long. A month after its debut, Metromedia pulled the low-rated show from New York and Los Angeles, and Kaiser stations moved it to the early afternoon.

In an attempt to save the show, the production company replaced the producer and writer after the ninth week of production. When they finished the first 13 week cycle, the show was extensively retooled, ditching most of the cast and moving the setting from the Caribbean island of Maljardin to the Desmond family’s ancestral home in North America. It didn’t work. They managed to scrape through another 26 weeks, and then gave up.

Strange Paradise enthusiasts talk about the show’s “three 13-week arcs,” but that’s just a fancy way of saying that it was cancelled after ten months. In Dark Shadows years, that’s just at the moment that they would have hired Jonathan Frid, and saved the show.

As a Dark Shadows fan, I’ve seen Strange Paradise mentioned in books occasionally, and I always thought it was a DS clone created by ex-Shadows staffers. That’s not actually how it happened. The creators were Jerry Layton, a producer who’d mostly done crime dramas before moving into romance, and Ian Martin, a soap writer who’d worked on Search for Tomorrow, Young Doctor Malone and The Nurses. The pair had worked together on the successful NBC soap The Doctors, before being hired for Strange Paradise.

The Dark Shadows people were brought in later, following the Metromedia and Kaiser disaster. Producer Robert Costello was brought in to replace Layton at week 9, and Ron Sproat joined the writing team for the second 13-week cycle, with occasional scripts by Joe Caldwell.

So this is a weird footnote in the history of Dark Shadows, and since the show started during this period, I’m going to watch the first week with you, to see what people do when they think they’re making Dark Shadows. All of the episodes have been posted on YouTube, so you can watch along, if you like.

I figure it’ll be fun — we’ll take a week’s vacation from Dark Shadows, and see what it’s like on the other side. What could possibly go wrong?

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns

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Episode 821: The Big Switch

“We borrowed a good citizen’s hand. His spirit is understandably restless and disturbed.”

I know, I’ve been hammering on this forever, but including a major subplot about gypsies in a television show based in Maine is a source of constant amusement to me, and I refuse to grow up and get over it.

Several months ago, free spirit Magda Rakosi liberated a rare and valuable magical talisman from her tribe, and the gypsies have had enough. I don’t think she’s been doing her weekly three hours of mandatory tambourine-shaking, either. The gypsy community is a lot more law-and-order than people think.

Now, Johnny Romana — King of the Gypsies! — has swung by in person, to take the suspect into custody. Magda asks what’s going to happen, and King Johnny announces, “We’re going to go — back to Boston!” Magda looks terrified, but I bet she’s also wondering if they could swing by Filene’s Basement on the way to the tribunal.

Continue reading Episode 821: The Big Switch

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Episode 792: Dances with Wolves

“I would laugh, if there was any laughing left in me!”

Quentin Collins returns to the Old House on the Collins estate, empty-handed in several senses of the word. Earlier in the evening, he went to his friend Evan’s house to retrieve the legendary Hand of Count Petofi, a magical artifact that may have the power to release him from a terrible curse. But he returns without it, and his gypsy friend Magda is crushed. She was the one who put the terrible curse on him in the first place, but they’ve made peace with each other, and now they’re bonded together in a way that only two people who wear too much makeup can be.

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Episode 789: My Wife and My Dead Wife

“In effect, we are going to create — a thing!”

Reverend Trask has only been married to his new wife Judith for three days, and already she’s defective. She seems to have picked up the idea that she’s actually Trask’s first wife, Minerva, and she’s determined to punish the people responsible for her murder, namely: Trask and his associate, Evan Hanley. This is not the kind of reliability that Reverend Trask expected; I hope he remembers where he put the warranty.

Continue reading Episode 789: My Wife and My Dead Wife

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Episode 750: Gypsy Ascendant

“I want to stay here, and watch them be destroyed one by one.”

So the lesson, I suppose, is don’t murder your wife, because it could turn out that she’s secretly a gypsy, and her siblings will trick you into drinking a magic potion. I mean, there are probably other reasons not to murder your wife, but that’s the one that comes to mind at the moment.

Continue reading Episode 750: Gypsy Ascendant

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Episode 719: Haunt You

“Anyone who believes in voodoo must believe in me!”

Let’s talk for a moment about the tremendous advantages of having a gypsy on your television show.

Number one, obviously, ethnic, which means there’s all kinds of comic value just sitting there for the taking.

Number two, ethnic, which means you can always kickstart a plot point by showing her something that she wants to steal.

And number three, ethnic, which means that if you can’t think of an exciting way to end an episode, then she can just run into the room, point at a cast member, and scream The MARK! The mark of DEATH! Soon! SOON! You will DIE! and then you superimpose a Chromakey skull over the guy’s face.

And yet I can’t think of a single other show that has a gypsy. I swear, it’s like people don’t even want to make good television.

Continue reading Episode 719: Haunt You

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Episode 713: The Staff Meeting

“Perhaps I have an innate fondness for gypsies who’ve fallen by hard times.”

Frankly, it’s dawn; it was dawn four scenes ago. But Barnabas saunters downstairs to the basement, where Magda is tapping her foot and shooting meaningful glances at her wristwatch. Then he takes the time to give her a full briefing before he gets into his coffin, because apparently today is casual day in the crypt.

Continue reading Episode 713: The Staff Meeting

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Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back

“Don’t touch me! Your grandmother knows how easily I bruise.”

It always starts with a box.

The malicious spirit of Quentin Collins has taken over present-day Collinwood, and he’s in the process of slowly murdering young David. Desperate to save the boy and unable to think of anything else, Barnabas turns to the I Ching, an ancient Chinese secret that has transported his soul back to the late 19th century. There, his astral body meets up with his physical body, which is trapped in a chained-up coffin.

And like any travel experience, it takes forever, there’s hardly any leg room, there’s nothing to eat, and he doesn’t even know where he’s landed. This is why you should never try to check yourself in as luggage.

Continue reading Episode 702: The Vampire Strikes Back