Tag Archives: mansplaining

Episode 1073: Steer the Stars

“It’s different here. I don’t have to imagine things.”

Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is perturbed, and for good reason. Her houseguests vanished into a dimensional fissure they discovered in a closed-off wing of the house, and when they returned, months later, limping and gasping and covered in space dust, they issued dire portents of calamities to come.

The house of Collins will fall, they say, collapsing into each other’s arms and weeping deliriously, and when you ask them for details, they fall to pieces. We don’t know, they say, keening. Nobody would tell us anything. The future is super cliquey.

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Episode 1037: The Things That Have Been Happening

“I’ve just been thinking about the things that have been happening around here — not just to me, but to everyone!”

The audience applauds, as Kermit the Frog takes the stage. “Tonight, we’ve got a real treat for you,” he promises, “because our very special guest stars are that world-famous knife-throwing act, Lesley and Warren!”

Then a woman walks onstage to correct him, and the penny drops.

“Wait a minute,” says the frog, “you’re not Lesley and Warren, you’re Lesley Ann Warren — the actor, the dancer, the singer!”

She smiles. “Yes, thank you.”

“So, how come you’re doing a dumb knife-throwing act?”

Lesley shakes her head. “You know, Kermit, I thought you were the one person on this show who wasn’t crazy.”

“Me, not crazy?” asks Kermit. “I hired the others!”

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Episode 1032: The Curse of Blinovitch

“I must go back to that time!”

For the last two and a half months, eccentric millionaire Actual Barnabas Collins has been time-tossed and unbound, falling backwards downstairs into a non-canonical dimension ruled by parallel people who don’t really count.

This is nothing new for Dark Shadows, of course; like all licensed properties, it’s spawned a sprawling network of untidy un-verses, just piling up on the store shelves. There’s Gold Key Collinwood, where Barnabas’ greatest foe is the Collinsport fire marshal; there’s Comic Strip Collinwood, where Barnabas is the reincarnation of the Egyptian god Osiris; there’s Paperback Library Collinwood, where Barnabas lights mummies on fire; and there’s View-Master Collinwood, which is pretty much the same as the regular kind, except shorter and in 3-D.

But all of those alternate dimensions have their own Barnabas, one apiece, as it should be. And then there’s Parallel Time, which was too lazy to create their own Barnabas, so they stole ours.

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Episode 1000: Back From the Death

“I never once believed that she could survive death — until tonight!”

It always starts with a box.

You try your best. You bury the dead. The evil twin dies, and you say thank goodness that’s over with, and then you put her in a box and plant it in the dirt. You figure it’s a one-way trip, no refunds and no returns. At that point, it’s someone else’s problem.

It always starts with a box. It often ends with one, too. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell beginnings and endings apart.

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Episode 932: The Gates of Heck

“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?

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Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

“We can only hold ourselves to the secret dreads and confessed fear of an evil soul seeking to control a saddened heart!”

But enough foolishness; let’s get down to business. We’re taking a break from Dark Shadows this week, to watch the opening episodes of the contemporary Canadian knock-off Strange Paradise. This daily supernatural soap opera aired for ten months in 1969-1970, to progressively smaller audiences.

It’s easy to imagine why a production company in fall 1969 would look at Dark Shadows, and want to take a crack at trying their own version. DS is at the height of its popularity during this period, and they’re making it look easy. Five or six characters per episode on a limited number of sets, taped as a stage play without retakes or editing, and using a mix of Freshman Lit and Universal Monsters for story ideas. That seems doable.

And if you’re a busy professional in 1969, you’re probably not watching Dark Shadows very closely. They didn’t have VCRs back then, to tape episodes and watch them at a more convenient time. You had to sit down in front of a television at 4 in the afternoon every day, which is a lot easier for housewives and teenagers than it is for people working on a medium-to-low-budget daily TV show in Ottowa, where I’m not even sure DS was being broadcast.

So it would be easy to miss Dark Shadows’ insanely detailed narrative complexity during this period. There’s probably a dozen overlapping story threads on the show right now, and the writers are expecting the audience to remember complicated plot points from more than six months ago.

Barnabas explains to Julia that Chris Jennings is stuck as a werewolf, locked in the secret room of the mausoleum, because he’s the grandson of Quentin’s infant daughter Lenore, who’s being raised in town by Mrs. Fillmore because Quentin’s wife Jenny went mad and couldn’t take care of them, and Quentin’s werewolf curse is being passed down to the male children of each generation — and four out of five of those characters haven’t even been on the show for months. We haven’t seen Chris since late February, and it’s currently mid-September and counting. For a daily soap opera in late 1969, the required cognitive load on the audience is staggering.

In other words: Sure, try and make your own Dark Shadows. Good luck with that.

So I’m not spending a week looking at Strange Paradise just because I want to have a new set of things to make fun of. I mean, that’s part of it, obviously. But I also want to know what a failed version of Dark Shadows looks like right now, to see what we can learn about why the actual show is currently a smash hit.

If you’re just joining us mid-week, here’s the other Strange Paradise posts, and if you’d like to watch along, there’s a YouTube channel with all of the episodes. I’m not saying that you should do that, necessarily. But it’s your life, and you can waste it however you want. Now that I think about it, that’s actually the motto of this blog. “It’s your life, and you can waste it however you want” T-shirts are now available in the Dark Shadows Every Day store, which does not exist.

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 3: Church and Estate

Episode 839: The Gods Laugh Sometimes

“It’s all right. You’re here with us, in the past.”

Good news, everyone! Eccentric millionaire Barnabas Collins has pulled off another daring rescue mission, reaching all the way back into the late 19th century, to prevent angry ancestor Quentin from turning into a broken telephone. This heroic customer service call lasted six months, with time out to pick fights with grandmothers and fire demons and lawyers and crazy ex-girlfriends. Naturally, it all came down to a miraculous last-second save, which Barnabas had nothing to do with and doesn’t even know about yet.

Quentin has passed through the ill-fated tenth of September and come out the other side, releasing the Collins family of 1969 from his terrible vengeance. Today is the first day of the rest of his life, which means we can all go home and celebrate by moving back into Collinwood, and finding a new monster to tangle with.

Except we’re not going to, because the 1897 storyline is so much fun that we’re going to stick around for weeks. So now we have to face the question that always haunts long-running serialized narrative, namely: What happens to a story, when the story is over?

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Episode 686: The Case of the Lifted Ledger

“Curious, so many hearts should stop in this house.”

Okay, new game: Why is it difficult to host a murder mystery dinner party when the main suspect is actually a ghost?

Well, ghosts can walk through walls, for one thing, so you can’t really do a locked room mystery. They don’t have fingerprints, or leave any physical evidence, really, except maybe the faint smell of jasmine or whatever. The victims all die of heart failure, including the one who fell all the way down the stairs and smacked her head on the hardwood. Also, there’s not much you can do with a ghost once you’ve caught him, and now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure they don’t even exist.

In fact, I’d say it’s impossible to attempt a murder mystery story about ghosts. And yet, here we are.

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Episode 577: Artificial Intelligence

“We’re not going to solve my mother’s problems by talking about them.”

You know, I like Carolyn Stoddard a lot. She’s a great soap heroine — she’s pretty and funny and feisty, she’s got a smart mouth, she falls in love with all the wrong men, and she’s got this little catch in her voice when she’s sad that makes you want to go out and rescue a cat from a tree or something. I think she’s fantastic.

But I don’t think she’s very good at planning ahead. That’s where Carolyn and I part ways. She’s got this enormous Frankenstein that she keeps in an abandoned wing of the house, and she comes by every once in a while to bring him food and books and a clean turtleneck, and I don’t think she has the slightest idea what’s supposed to happen next. The writers don’t, either. Bad planning is kind of an epidemic around here.

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