“You may find that out in a frightening fashion.”
As we’re moving through these grim final weeks of Dark Shadows, I’ve been taking the opportunity to catch up on the spinoff media: the books and comics and audio plays and weird fan poetry that people have generated over the decades. Going into this period, I expected that I would like some of the stories and really very much not like others, but I wasn’t sure how that would play out. And now that I’m here, waist-deep in Dark Shadows apocrypha, I’m surprised to say that I’ve been looking forward to the Paperback Library posts.
I mean, Dan Ross’ Dark Shadows gothic novels are not good literature; they’re tepid, repetitive 156-page chill delivery devices with cardboard characters and nonsense plots, and there’s no good pretending that they’re anything else. They treat women as disposable objects — even the heroines, sometimes — and every character spends all of their time gossiping and complaining about everyone else.
And yet here we are, on the brink of Barnabas, Quentin and the Body Snatchers, and I am delighted. How do you account for a thing like that?
Continue reading Episode 1221: The Snatch
“The fact remains that every time there is a crisis involving Bramwell, you seem to have the most extraordinary emotional feeling!”
So here’s where we are: if you read yesterday’s post and it made any goddamn sense to you, then you’re aware that you and I are currently perched just outside the event horizon of the Great Unwinding, a long-prophesied series finale extinction event that threatens to erase Dark Shadows, and send us all tumbling back into the 4pm timeslot’s previous occupant, a dreary and unremembered soap opera called Never Too Young.
Never Too Young was a nine-month-long daytime soap flop about a group of rambunctious teenagers in Malibu Beach, aired every afternoon as a kind of eternal Beach Blanket Bingo. The show was told from the point of view of Alfy, who owned the local teen hangout, the High Dive. It included a lot of swinging music, both on the soundtrack and with frequent guest performers at the High Dive, including the Castaways and Paul Revere & the Raiders. The star of the show was Tony Dow (Wally from Leave It to Beaver), and his costar was the original kid from Lassie. Just thinking about Never Too Young is fairly grim, especially when you consider that this sun-and-fun beachside adventure was broadcast from September 1965 to June 1966, pretty much missing summer altogether.
And now we are threatened with the almost-certain obliteration of Dark Shadows from history, and an eternal plunge backwards into a timeline where there’s no such thing as a vampire soap opera. This will be a safer, sunnier, more predictable world, where late 1960s television was uniformly up-tempo and unsurprising, and it will be a hell on earth. The stakes could not be higher, and you know how vampires feel about stakes.
And this imminent, reality-crushing catastrophe has something to do with episode 1219, which does not, in fact, exist. So that’s a bit of a puzzle.
Continue reading Episode 1219: The Missing Step
“Someone must be destroyed, but it won’t be me.”
Alexis finds it hard to take a breath, which is a shame, because it’s one of her last and she should probably be enjoying it more.
“This can’t be happening!” she gasps. “It’s impossible!”
But this impossible thing that can’t be happening rises from the casket. It’s her twin sister, Angelique, who’s been dead for six months in a row, and doesn’t feel like doing it anymore. She opens her eyes, she breathes, she speaks, and — most disconcertingly of all — she smiles.
“But you’re dead!” Alexis chokes. “You’re dead!”
Then she frowns, frustrated. “The prompter is going three times faster than I would go,” she says. She gestures toward the studio. “He just zipped to my next line!” This is something that Dark Shadows characters have been wanting to say for years, but never had the guts.
Continue reading Episode 1001: Wife Swap
“My guess is that the time band is always there, but one can only glimpse it through the warp.”
Then wear the gold hat, if that will move her;
If you can bounce high, bounce for her too,
Till she cry “Lover, gold-hatted, high-bouncing lover,
I must have you!”
Continue reading Episode 972: Gold-Hatted Lover
“The book doesn’t say to like me, does it? “
A man is dead on Dark Shadows, which isn’t exactly stop-press news; over the last year, they’ve stacked up so many bodies that people had to come back to life as a new character, just to kill them all over again. Just last week, three characters died on screen, and only one of them even matters.
Here’s the roll call: Paul Stoddard was killed by a lot of noise in the other room, which rendered him inert and sticky; Amanda Harris died of being cast in a Stephen Sondheim musical; and Sheriff Davenport was murdered at the end of Friday’s episode by a Monster Point of View shot.
Now, when Amanda dies, they actually say that the half-life that she kind of lived over the last seventy years was erased from history, so that the only people who remember anything about her are Quentin and Julia. This was entirely unnecessary, because Quentin and Julia were the only people on the show who cared about her anyway. So it’s kind of rude to make a specific point of deleting her, but on the other hand, I can’t remember who we’re talking about, so whatever.
And then there’s Sheriff Davenport, who is so unmourned that when we see his grave later this week, it says “Sheriff Davenport” on it. He didn’t have a first name, apparently, and it’s too late to give him one now. I suppose he’s lucky he even got a gravestone of his own; they could have just used Jeremiah’s with a Post-It note stuck over it.
Continue reading Episode 936: The Dynamics
“I’m caught in something — a web!”
So Dark Shadows is pivoting, is the point, away from a weird story that nobody likes, and off into the uncharted territory of an even weirder story that nobody expects. And when Dark Shadows pivots, god damn, they pivot hard. Today, Fortune’s wheel takes a hairpin turn, directly into traffic.
There’s action and adventure today, up to and including frantic phone calls, rickety bridges, slammed doors, abrupt edits and giant fuck-off spiders, and if we’re not careful, we might lose a couple cast members before we’re done. And it’s only Wednesday, too. Nothing happens on Wednesdays, everybody knows that, but giant spiders don’t punch a timeclock. That’s a thing that you need to understand about giant spiders.
Continue reading Episode 933: King Kong vs Godzilla
“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
“You drift away, love, you’ll drift back sadly changed.”
And then sometimes everything comes together, and they make all the right choices, and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately but Dark Shadows is my favorite television show.
Continue reading Episode 882: The Don’t Sleepover
“We have no time for your gypsy feelings!”
Hey, do you remember that plot contrivance that you don’t remember from like six weeks ago, when Jamison had a prophetic dream about Quentin’s death? In the dream, the ghost of Quentin appeared to Jamison’s grandson David, and gave him a handful of story points.
“Three things happened,” the ghost said, in the imagined future. “If I could have changed any one of them — if I could have known what they meant, while they were happening — maybe I wouldn’t have died when I did.’
David asked what the three things were, because he has good manners, plus what else are you going to say.
“The first was the discovery of a silver bullet at Collinwood. And then the one person who could have helped me — who could have kept me alive — was murdered.”
“What was the third thing?”
“Ah. That — that was the worst. The one person in this world that I truly loved turned against me. After that happened, there was practically no time left for Quentin Collins.”
So that was extremely informative, as prophetic dreams go. It’s not the thing I would have done, if Quentin showed up in one of my dreams, but I suppose people have different priorities.
Continue reading Episode 797: Meanwhile, in the Present