Tag Archives: magazines

Episode 658: Did He Fall, or Was He Pushed?

“I don’t want to sleep! The dreams! The dreams are awful!”

It all started with Nicholas Blair, that scheming mastermind who wanted to steal Maggie away. Nicholas arranged for his pet vampire to keep Maggie’s fiancee occupied, and then Joe Haskell just stood there and watched, as his whole life slipped out of his grasp.

He lost his job, he lost Maggie, and somewhere along the way, he lost his soul. It’s hard to say exactly where, but the night that he helped Angelique kill his cousin probably had a lot to do with it.

Joe tried to commit suicide, and then he tried to kill Barnabas, and then he tried to shoot a werewolf that used to be his cousin. Not the dead cousin, another one. It’s been a bad year for cousins.

And now, look at him. He’s wearing a turtleneck.

Oh, Joe. What have they done to you?

Continue reading Episode 658: Did He Fall, or Was He Pushed?

Episode 655: Accidentally Yours

“If she realizes that her feelings were right about Amy, what about her feelings about herself?”

Weekly To-Do list, from the Desk of Barnabas Collins (deceased):

Tell Elizabeth that she’s not going to die. Take her upstairs, and put her to bed. Take a phone message for Julia. Consult with Julia about Liz’s condition. Blame Cassandra for everything.

Lose track of where Elizabeth is. Lose track of where Amy is. Find Elizabeth and Amy at the mausoleum. Bring them home.

Put Elizabeth back to bed. Tell her that she’s not going to die. Offer a sedative. Tell her that it’s all in her mind. Discuss hiring plans for a new governess. Scold Amy for going outside without permission.

Brief Maggie and Joe on the recent disturbances. Bring Maggie upstairs for her job interview. Go through the onboarding checklist with her. Make sure she has a keycard.

Drive to Maggie’s house to see if Joe’s okay. Scoop up the remains, and drive it back to Collinwood. Deposit blood-stained trauma victim on the drawing room couch.

Insist that Joe stay the night. Prepare a bedroom for him. If you get a chance: ask him what it’s like to have a real storyline.

Continue reading Episode 655: Accidentally Yours

Episode 638: Win a Date with Jonathan Frid

“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

Episode 612: Reflections on the Golden Eye

“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

Episode 334: All Those Dead People

“I’m sure that you can recognize the difference between a cellar with a coffin, and a cellar without a coffin.”

In 1948, James Thurber wrote a five-part series of articles for The New Yorker called “Soapland”, an in-depth look at the world of radio soap operas. One of the many strange things that he learned was that some listeners apparently had a hard time understanding that the shows were fictional. When a popular heroine on Just Plain Bill was going to have her first child, listeners sent hundreds of baby gifts to their local network stations, and when the child died, the stations received stacks of sympathy cards.

That stereotype of the half-deranged soap audience lasted for a long time, and every Dark Shadows-era interview with Jonathan Frid would include at least one paragraph on the weird mail Frid received from female fans, begging for a bite.

But from what I’ve seen, soap opera fans are exactly the opposite of that stereotype. There are currently two weekly magazines on newsstands that are exclusively devoted to documenting the behind-the-scenes mechanics of daytime television production, where producers and head writers are expected to explain and justify every single storyline and casting decision. Following a daily soap opera is like getting a graduate degree in Open-Ended Serialized Narrative in Theory and Practice.

This means that we’re constantly analyzing the soaps we enjoy, measuring the current state of the show against what we’d like it to be. We’re an audience of active backseat drivers. When a favorite character dies, we don’t send sympathy cards — we write letters and emails and furious tweets, actively campaigning to bring the dead back to life.

It’s not just that we don’t believe the characters are real. We barely believe that the show is real.

Continue reading Episode 334: All Those Dead People