“What has shaken your little mind now, that makes you not believe me?”
It’s Christmas Eve 1970, and the tidings aren’t as comfortable or as joyful as you might wish. In-universe, Gerard Stiles, possessed by the will of the legendary warlock Judah Zachery, is himself in possession of the Collins family estate. If allowed to go unchallenged, this will result in the destruction of Collinwood, one way or another, which is a shame, because I’m not done looking at it yet. Out-of-universe, this is the last Christmas that Dark Shadows will ever see, because this trial storyline is ruining everything.
Quentin’s only been on trial for witchcraft for three weeks, but somehow it has drained the plot of all momentum; everything else has to slow down while the lead characters get foiled again and again. We spent most of this week concerned about a plot to get Daphne in trouble for dropping a note in an oak tree, and today it turns out they don’t even need that, because they have different, even more damning evidence. By the end of the episode, it looks like Quentin probably should be beheaded for witchcraft after all, and so should pretty much everybody on the show. I don’t know about you, but I am letting something me dismay, and I don’t care who knows it.
Continue reading Episode 1174/1175: Merrie Gentlemen
“We cannot love at will, any more than we could prevent our love.”
Oh, it was such a good idea at the time.
When Dark Shadows went to 1795, the show discovered that they could shake up the soap by traveling back into the past, using the existing cast but dressing them up in old-time costumes, and giving them new names and storylines. It was a spectacular way to move forward, interrupting a story that didn’t have anywhere to go, and breathing new life into the premise. While they were in the past, they figured out that you could have more than one monster on the show at the same time, and once they came back to the present, they started piling them up in heaps.
Problem is, they’re now doing time travel for the fourth time, and it turns out giving everybody a new character name every six months doesn’t automatically refresh the show; you also need to think up some new storylines. In fact, traveling to another time means that it’s possible to rehash the same plot points with a freshly neuralyzed set of family members, and there’s nobody around to say, wait a minute, this already happened, fifty-seven years from now.
Well, live and learn, I suppose, although on this show, it’s more like live and die and come back to life and then learn the same stuff over again.
Continue reading Episode 1169: This Wonderful Little Gathering
“You don’t know what it’s like, suddenly seeing yourself walk into a room.”
Everyone’s talking about it! Here’s what people are saying about Parallel Time, opening Friday:
“I can’t help but be fascinated by that room, and everything I’ve seen there!” — Barnabas Collins
“Somehow, we must discover the secret of this room!” — Roger Collins
“You must take me to that room immediately, I want to see this for myself!” — Professor T. Eliot Stokes
“There must be something very special in the east wing, because suddenly everyone’s so interested in it!” — Elizabeth Collins Stoddard
I will regret this, I’m sure. I will regret all of this. The upcoming Parallel Time storyline will fail in some spectacular way — like Adam did, like Nicholas Blair and Count Petofi, and all the other disappointing men in our lives — and I’ll end this period of the show trying to figure out how it all went wrong, as I always do.
But this feeling, right now, this tickle of heightened expectations? Give me this. Even if it’s only for a little while. Just give me this.
Continue reading Episode 977: Things That I Already Like About Parallel Time
“Why would you imagine dogs howling?”
It was the best of times.
“Mail for the show recently has been running to almost 6,000 letters a week since Barnabas soared to fame, with Frid himself receiving nearly 5,000 of that total.”
It’s late summer 1968, and Dark Shadows’ ratings have skyrocketed from 2.8 million viewers to 4.5 million, since Jonathan Frid debuted as reluctant vampire Barnabas Collins.
“Ben Cooper has licensed a line of masks and costumes based on the Dark Shadows theme and featuring Barnabas. Western Publishing is also on the way with a boxed board game, comic books and puzzles.”
Call it magic or genius or just being in the right place at the right time, but apparently what American housewives and teenagers want more than anything in the world is a vampire soap opera at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
“Several weeks ago, Frid appeared in three Stern Brothers stores in the New York City area as a guest at fashion shows displaying ‘Monster Shoes’ — the latest in girls’ and women’s footwear. Stern’s officials described his appearance as one of the biggest in memory.”
There’s just one problem: Barnabas Collins isn’t a vampire anymore. He used to be, once upon a time, but he was cured three months ago. Any viewers tuning in to see neck-biting will be sorely disappointed, and so will their 4.5 million friends. Continue reading Episode 554: Fresh Blood
“What gave you the idea that you had homicidal tendencies?”
Oh, great, a Dream Curse episode. Because we haven’t had enough of those lately.
If you’re joining us late, the Dream Curse is a magic spell that Angelique made up a couple weeks ago, and they’re trying to make it a thing. Maggie had a fairly tame nightmare that included Jeff; she told Jeff about it, and then he had the Dream. Jeff’s dream sequence included Dr. Lang; he told Lang the story, and then Lang had the Dream. It’s going to go on like this until it runs through the entire cast, which will take approximately forever.
You know, they say that there are no new ideas in Hollywood, but then somebody has one, and you kind of wish you’d never brought it up in the first place.
Continue reading Episode 487: Precious Moments
“I want you to come over immediately, and bring your medallion.”
Well, it’s another day in the Land of Shouty Men, where nothing changes, including the volume level.
Yesterday, Dr. Lang was planning to kill his lab assistant Jeff, so he could use Jeff’s head for the monster he’s been stitching together. But then Barnabas — who Dr. Lang is planning to suck the life force out of, to bring the Jeff-headed monster to life — says that he doesn’t even want Jeff’s head, and they have to let him go.
But Lang says that they can’t let Jeff go or he’ll tell everyone about the monster, so now Lang is going to kill Jeff anyway. And if Barnabas gets in the way of Lang killing Jeff, then Lang will kill Barnabas, and then Jeff, and then hopefully you and me, because honestly I don’t think I can explain this all again on Monday. It’s just not going to happen.
Continue reading Episode 480: One More Life
“I must insist, I think this is a great deal of nonsense.”
We’ve seen a remarkable change in Barnabas’ character this week — not necessarily a change in his core values and moral system, but certainly a change in the way that he’s being presented. But as striking as that change is — killer ghoul on Monday, perky party host by Friday — he actually isn’t the only villain-school dropout in the room.
In fact, all four of the male characters in today’s episode have played the heavy in past storylines. When Dark Shadows began, just a little over a year ago, Roger was an unsympathetic absent father and possible murderer, and Burke was a ruthless businessman intent on revenge against the Collins family. And it was only a few weeks ago that Vicki and Carolyn didn’t feel safe in the same house as Willie Loomis. And yet here they all are in today’s episode, chatting away, like a happy group of friends.
There’s actually a tendency over time for soap opera characters’ personalities to drift a bit, usually in the direction of becoming more like the actors who play them. This is partly a result of the hectic schedule of soap opera production, which requires a round-robin of writers and producers to keep the story going, sometimes over decades. After a while, the actor is the only person who’s consistently been paying attention to what their character is supposed to be like.
And in Barnabas’ case, nobody has any idea what his character is going to be. The original plan was that Dr. Woodard would rescue Maggie from the Old House weeks ago, banging a piece of wood through Barnabas’ undead heart along the way. But the vampire got a reprieve, thanks to the fan mail that’s been pouring in, so they’re just making it up as they go along.
This isn’t an arc. They don’t have a plan. There is literally not a single person on the Dark Shadows production staff who has any idea what’s going to happen next.
Continue reading Episode 280: Costume Drama