“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
“There comes a moment when one loses control of one’s own life.”
Prince of Fire, I call upon the flame to summon you. I call up all the dark creatures of nature to summon you here to me.
I summon you in the name of the charred and blackened stars that reigned at my beginnings, to rise out of the darkness of the earth.
In the name of every evil spirit, I invoke you! Appear to me now!
Back at it again with the white Vans!
Continue reading Episode 1183: Damn Daniel
“He only remained a few nights and then vanished mysteriously with his manservant.”
It’s fall 1970, and the question on everyone’s mind is: what are we supposed to do with Quentin Collins? We’ve rebooted him, and jailed him, and sent him mysterious love notes, and still he remains as moody and Byronic as before, and as far as I know, nobody requested a Byronic Quentin. Moody and Byronic people are annoying and difficult to manage; even Byron was a pain in the ass.
It’s all the weddings, I think. Just this year, Quentin has been married to Angelique, Maggie and Samantha, a mixed assortment of nuts who keep hitching and unhitching themselves to him, dragging him down and saddling him with young sons that he hardly notices. He keeps struggling to separate himself from these crazy broads any way he knows how — strangle Angelique, chase Maggie out of the house, tell Samantha that he despises her — but then they keep living in the house with him for one reason or another, piling up in untidy heaps. What he needs is a good hard divorce, and one that sticks this time, and actually gets the wife all the way out of the house.
So it’s time for Quentin to get back to his woman chasing roots, and that’s why we’re spending the day reading another goddamn Paperback Library novel.
Continue reading Episode 1159: This First Unhappy Experience
“I must not allow him to be let loose in the world again!”
This was supposed to be simple. All Gerard had to do was wangle an invite to his friend Quentin’s house, get the family’s governess to fall in love with him, make sure that he died along with the governess and the two children in the house, wait a hundred and thirty years until there was a pair of descendants who looked exactly like the dead kids, fill their bedrooms with haunted hypnoclothes, force them to perform a ritual in their bedroom that brings the governess back to life, and then force all three of them to perform another ritual, which will bring Gerard back to life. Easy-peasy, mes amis.
But there’s a teensy snagette in this plan, namely: what if Willie Loomis comes in at the last minute and interrupts the second ritual? It turns out even the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley; maybe we need to get a couple more mice up in here.
Continue reading Episode 1100: Gang Aft Agley
“It is difficult to rechannel my thoughts after three years of thinking about nothing but you.”
So it’s not the late 60s anymore, is what I’m saying, and eventually a show that’s as adamantly late 60s as Dark Shadows is going to run into trouble when it tries to outlive its environment.
As you know, the difference between the 1960s and the 1970s is that in the 70s, America discovered the concepts of responsibility and safety. In late 1969, the innocent flower children of Woodstock met the lawless, murderous Hells Angels of Altamont, and the good trip became a bad one, to our lasting disadvantage.
At that point, the American people decided that maybe giving their children exposed metal hot plates as toys wasn’t such a great idea, and maybe we should try wearing seat belts, and using child-proof caps, and not letting the Manson Family stay in the guest house. You know, the whole actions have consequences, gravity is real, sometimes people are assholes thing that ruins so many promising utopias.
Continue reading Episode 995: I’ll Bite Anything
“Coming back from the dead is not a trick, Bruno!”
Okay, everybody gather round the table; it’s seance time again. Our hands must touch, obviously. Everybody knows about the hands. You can’t get anything done unless your hands touch.
Today, we’re making contact with my friend Randall Jessup, who’s going to confer with me on several subjects of great importance, specifically: what’s wrong with Sabrina, the dubious value of re-enacting things, what’s wrong with Parallel Time, what’s wrong with Sabrina (again, at length), and finally, a foolproof plan for what’s going to happen in the final year of this blog.
Continue reading Episode 990: Let It Burn
“I’m not just a little boy in every room in this house!”
Right now, I’m writing these words, and right now, you’re reading them, and those cannot possibly be the same “right now,” and so there is a time distortion in everything that we know about each other.
On Dark Shadows, it’s January 1970. For me, at the moment, it’s September 2016. For you, it’s some impossible-to-predict time in the future — a couple hundred of you today, and a couple thousand of you this week, and then who knows how many, in the long tail of tomorrows to come.
Continue reading Episode 927: A Limited Number of Tomorrows
“Are you trying to make us doubt our senses? We saw you fling a man over the sea cliffs!”
So that’s where we find ourselves, halfway through this special feature on the 1971 Dark Shadows comic strip — on the knife edge of a story untelling itself. Starting just a few weeks before the television show jumped into a gypsy caravan and drove off into the night, the daily comic strip stayed behind, performing a dark ritual of — well, what’s the opposite of summoning? Cause that’s what the comic strip is doing.
Distilled down to three characters and a house, the Dark Shadows comic strip was the remains of a party, after most of the guests have gone home. Gee, look at the time, they all said, glancing at the calendar. See you all next week, on Ryan’s Hope. Then they were gone, chased off by the dreadful chimes of the church bell tolling April Third, April Third.
Now, only Barnabas is left, accompanied by the pale shadows of Elizabeth and Carolyn, performing his dark ritual of dispersing.
Continue reading Dark Shadows Comic Strip, part 6: The Thousand-Year War
“Dorcas Trilling, you are a great comfort to me.”
This is the first time we meet Dorcas Trilling, sycophant and instructress at Reverend Trask’s sleepaway punishment school for inconvenient children, and within seconds, she’s working our last nerve.
Continue reading Episode 751: Day of the Dorcas
“And there it was… a MYSTERY BODY!”
The story so far: I began writing this blog two Labor Day weekends ago, starting with Barnabas emerging from the mystery box in episode 210. Now it’s Labor Day weekend again, and by some cruel trick of time, my journey into the past has reached the halfway mark.
This is the midpoint between episode 210 and the end of this uncertain and frightening television show, and to mark the occasion, I should probably say something profound and clever about this episode that sums up what these last two years have taught us about vampires and storytelling and character development and natural selection and chromakey and why you should never give a gun to an actor, even an unloaded prop gun, because honestly, they will find a way to hurt themselves.
Unfortunately, it turns out that I don’t have very much to say about today’s episode, except that this is the one where, for one tantalizing moment, it looks like Quentin and Barnabas are about to kiss.
Continue reading Episode 720: Halfway