Tag Archives: muppets

Episode 981: The Clone Wars

“You see, I came to this time hoping desperately to escape what I am.”

And now it’s this! Hooray! The dreadful Leviathans are now and evermore squeegeed from our lives, scrubbed from the world and leaving only the laundry-fresh scent of pine, because here in soapland, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed by a good all-temperature detergent.

Continue reading Episode 981: The Clone Wars

Episode 881: Sunny Day

“Death seldom shows us at our best.”

As we head into the last week of the popular 1897 storyline, we find Dark Shadows in a surprisingly perilous position. The show hit its all-time ratings peak just a couple weeks ago, but we’re already accumulating suspects in the ongoing “Who Killed Dark Shadows” murder mystery dinner theater.

The situation on the ground at ABC Studio 16 is a bit of a mess. They’ve recently sped up production to six days a week, so that they can build a larger backlog of episodes before they start filming the House of Dark Shadows movie. That’s running everyone ragged, including the three-person writing team, just at the point where they’re finishing this epic storyline, and they need to come up with a new one.

But the show also faces external threats — and today, on November 10th, 1969, another suspect emerges. He’s eight foot two, yellow, and he doesn’t know how to count.

Continue reading Episode 881: Sunny Day

Episode 721: Dead Again

“If he stays dead now, then the course of history will be changed.”

Well, that didn’t last long, did it? They just let Quentin show up alive five weeks ago, and now he’s flat on his back, dead all over again. It looks like we’ve solved the big mystery of how Quentin died. It was the wife with a knife in the cottage.

We didn’t actually witness the stabbing, but Jenny came straight home and told Beth all about it, case closed. So this isn’t a whodunnit as much as a what are we gonna do about it.

Continue reading Episode 721: Dead Again

Episode 703: The Problem of Beth

“The problem with you, Judith, is that you hate the fraudulence of gypsies.”

Okay, let’s review what it means to be a “couple” in fiction.

The mistake that people sometimes make is that they think that a couple needs to be romantic. Obviously, there are lots of love stories with a romantic pairing at the center, but there’s a deeper definition that’s more useful if you’re trying to figure out how stories work.

A couple is two people that you want to see on stage at the same time, because they have chemistry together. A scene with both of them is funnier, or more exciting, or more romantic, or more interesting, or the plot moves faster. It doesn’t matter exactly why that pairing makes the scene better, as long as the structure of the story bends around putting them together.

Sulley and Mike from Monsters, Inc. are a couple. Bertie and Jeeves are a couple. Holmes and Watson, Starsky and Hutch, Laverne and Shirley, the Doctor and Amy Pond, basically any two characters who are best known as “X and Y”.

In fact, sometimes giving one member a love interest can be a distraction. Buzz Lightyear has a romantic subplot with Jessie in Toy Story 3, but the main story beats are Woody/Buzz, because a Woody/Buzz scene is more interesting than a Buzz/Jessie scene. (Except for the Spanish dancing scene, obviously, but that’s an outlier.)

This is why a “will they/won’t they” relationship can be so compelling — Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, Sam and Diane, Jim and Pam, Clark and Lois, Kermit and Miss Piggy. It’s an evergreen structure, because it’s fun watching those characters interact, whether they happen to be officially “together” or not.

If the couple doesn’t appear on screen together very much — because they’re separated, let’s say, and they’re trying to find their way back to each other — then they don’t really count as a couple. In the lit crit biz, we call that a “Princess Peach” — a kiss at the end of a story that wasn’t really about the kiss after all. You can always tell what the important relationships in a story are, even if the characters pretend otherwise. The important characters are the ones they point the camera at.

This goes double for Dark Shadows, because it’s a soap opera that’s not really about romance most of the time. They don’t have time for the common soap tropes like weddings and babies — instead, they use ideas and plot structures borrowed from a mix of genres, including gothic romance, monster movie, film noir, door-slamming farce, avant-garde black box theater and the Doors’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

So the idea of a romantic couple on Dark Shadows is almost irrelevant. The couple that everybody talks about on the show is Barnabas and Josette, but they hardly appear together, even during that brief window when Josette is alive. Most of the action in 1795 centers around Barnabas and Angelique; Josette’s love is just the MacGuffin that they play for.

But the most important relationship in Dark Shadows is Barnabas and Julia, who are paired together because they’re just fascinating to look at. Their chemistry is so powerful that it even works when Julia puts on brown makeup, and pretends to be somebody else.

Continue reading Episode 703: The Problem of Beth

Episode 508: Dream Beater

“Why am I not opening your doors?”

What, when you get right down to it, is magic?

In the context of a story, anyone can have magic powers, and there really aren’t any hard and fast rules about how they work. Take Angelique, for example — a ladies’ maid from Martinique with reality-warping abilities, apparently granted to her by Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies.

Angelique started out with some rather modest household voodoo, choking a toy soldier to make Barnabas gasp for breath. But pretty soon, she was raising zombies from their graves, and turning people into cats, and generally wiping the floor with the Collins family.

By this point, she has a baffling assortment of abilities, including the power of getting really super old when somebody paints over her portrait. She doesn’t use that one very much, because it’s hard to weaponize.

Continue reading Episode 508: Dream Beater

Episode 473: The Twin Dilemma

“I think explanations are so absurd, don’t you?”

“Barnabas, why do these things keep happening?” Vicki says. Barnabas sighs, and says, “One mistake can multiply into a thousand,” which is not that much of an answer.

But things certainly do keep happening, if by “things” you mean time travel and blood transfusions and dream sequences and harpoon attacks. And why would you ever mean anything else?

Continue reading Episode 473: The Twin Dilemma

Episode 319: This Maniac

“I’ll have a man behind every bush and tree, if you give the word.”

Well, the Collinsport Star had to break out the 84-point type again. Another Girl Attacked! You have to admit, it makes for a compelling headline.

Underneath that, the sub-head says “Police Baffled”, about which quelle surprise. I’ve seen the Collinsport police. “Baffled” is actually a pretty good day for them.

Continue reading Episode 319: This Maniac

Episode 213: I’m Upset About Something

“We weren’t having an argument. We were simply discussing something.”

It’s morning at Collinwood, which means it’s time for Liz and Jason to stand around in the drawing room with the door open, and rehash their secret blackmail storyline at the top of their lungs. Looks like it’s going to be one of those days, by which I mean it’ll be night again by the start of act two.

Continue reading Episode 213: I’m Upset About Something