Tag Archives: t of the s

Episode 1077: The Scent of Lilacs

“I know it’s wrong to love the dead.”

This is what we currently know about Daphne Harridge:

She’s pretty.

She doesn’t speak.

She died 130 years ago.

She’s a governess.

She smells like lilacs.

Her hobby is encouraging living children to wear dead children’s clothes.

And she is partly responsible for killing everyone that Quentin knows.

So you can see why Quentin likes her so much, she’s a real catch. And it’s not like there’s anyone else who would want to date Quentin, except for one hundred percent of the population of the world.

Continue reading Episode 1077: The Scent of Lilacs

Episode 1076: Say Yes to the Dress

“You know, it might be the ghost of a room.”

Hallie is enchanted, in the sense that she’s delighted. She’s also enchanted, in the sense that someone has cast an enchantment on her.

“What does it matter?” she chirps. “We wanted to find the room, and we have!”

Hallie and David have opened the door to the playroom, a magical portal of the kind that you typically see in wardrobes and police boxes, leading to looking-glass worlds with silver-leafed trees and marmalade skies. Cue the enchantment.

“It’s the most marvelous place there is,” she smiles. Hallie isn’t Hallie right now, which is fine with me, and it’s even more fine with Hallie. Nobody is happier about Hallie not being Hallie than Hallie is.

“Look!” she coos, bending down to appreciate the twirling toy carousel. “There’s Dapple, and Charger, and Jewel, and all the others! Running a race that no one will ever win.”

“Who are Dapple and Charger?” David grouses.

“The horses, silly!”

And there they go, Dapple, and Charger, and Jewel, and all the others, revolving in an endless circle, just like this storyline is starting to. It’s only been a week, and already it feels like we’ve been listening to this tinkly music box tune for most of our lives. That’s always how it feels when Dark Shadows tries to stretch a three-week story into six to eight weeks, like they’re about to. Hallie is smiling, and soon she’ll be whining, and then she’ll start smiling again, twirling in a graceful circle as the audience drifts away.

Still, I bet Dapple is in the lead. I know, they’re all chasing each other, but Dapple be Dapple. You know what I mean? The rest of you need to step out of the way.

Continue reading Episode 1076: Say Yes to the Dress

Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise

“You don’t understand the enormities of your problems!”

It’s not really about the future, of course. If it was, they wouldn’t be doing Turn of the Screw II: The Returning. 

Dark Shadows has a future, of sorts, in reboots and reruns and spinoffs, but right now, they’re running out of energy and ideas. They spent the spring making House of Dark Shadows, a feature film that explicitly rejects the idea that Dark Shadows is a continuing story, and kills off every character that you could possibly be interested in, just to make sure that there won’t be a sequel. (They make a sequel anyway.) Now they’re back to making a daily TV show, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult to imagine a future that runs as far as the next six months.

But for two weeks, at least, they’ve managed to put together a tight, emotionally engaging mini-storyline set in 1995, which focuses on exactly the right characters and manages to turn the familiar sets into an alienating nightmare landscape. Today’s episode is essentially the season finale, with Barnabas directly challenging the Big Bad, and daytime soaps don’t even do season finales. My argument, based on this episode, is that they should.

Continue reading Episode 1070: Gangsta’s Paradise

Episode 1067: No More I Love You’s

“The only sedative I need is to get my hands around Stokes’ neck.”

Julia Hoffman follows the ghost of a young girl from the Old House to Collinwood and all the way upstairs to the mysterious playroom, where it turns out maybe don’t follow ghosts all over the place.

There, she comes face-to-face with the demonic supernatural force responsible for the destruction of everything she knows and loves; according to the credits, its name is Gerard. He’s a dark-haired scowling guy in his late 20s, plus however long it’s been since he died.

He glares at her from across the room, and takes a step forward. “Don’t come any closer,” she warns, looking around for an escape route, but she’s glued to the spot. “Stop looking at me that way!” she cries. “Please, stop!” He keeps on looking at her that way; looking at her that way is his entire strategy. She looks back, and then there she is, a wholly owned subsidiary of Gerard, LLC RIP.

Which raises the most important question of the 1995 storyline: Is Gerard hot?

Continue reading Episode 1067: No More I Love You’s

Episode 1064: Here Comes the Hotstepper

“A shadow, yes — a shadow that fell over all of our lives!”

Barnabas and Julia have been thrust into the far-off space year of 1995, which means they’ve already missed three seasons of Melrose Place and they’re not going to understand what anybody at the office is talking about. They’d better stay away from watercoolers altogether; you can’t be too careful.

But the time-tossed twosome have other things on their minds, like for example that their house got destroyed twenty-five years ago, killing most of their friends and driving the survivors out of their everloving minds. So Barnabas and Julia are snooping around, trying to find out what caused the catastrophe. I’d suggest taking a close look at Dr. Kimberley Shaw, who’s recently developed an interest in detonating apartment complexes, but they wouldn’t have any idea what I mean. You see what happens when you don’t watch Melrose Place? Let this be a lesson.

Continue reading Episode 1064: Here Comes the Hotstepper

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 697: The Young and the Restless

“It seems that when there is a full moon, legend has it that possessed children are extremely restless.”

On this night, the great house of Collinwood stands deserted, more or less. The Collins family has fled the premises, driven away by the spirit of Quentin Collins, an ancestor with an attitude problem. Now they’re all crashing at Barnabas’ place, as Quentin lures them back to Collinwood one by one, for some hypnotically-enforced steampunk cosplay.

I’ll give you a for instance. Barnabas is currently on a recon mission in the spooky old mansion, looking for young David. He opens up the drawing room doors — and there’s Maggie, the Collins family governess, wearing a complicated Victorian dress and an even more complicated Gibson girl hairstyle. She’s sitting alone in the dark room, posing decoratively on a chair and doing needlepoint, just Gibsoning away.

When she sees Barnabas enter the room, she’s startled, and acts like she doesn’t know who he is. “I know no one named Barnabas,” she says, “now please leave here at once!” He insists, “Maggie, I know what’s happened to you,” which says a lot about how Barnabas’ mind works.

She says that’s not her name, but when she tries to remember who she is, she gets confused, shrieks, and crumples delicately to the floor.

When she regains consciousness, Maggie is herself again, and she has no idea what happened. “These clothes,” she gasps, “where did they come from? And my hair! Barnabas — why don’t I remember?” This must have been a pretty action-packed evening for her; you don’t forget a hairstyle like that in a hurry.

So it turns out that Quentin is really, really good at this. He must have a master’s degree in whatever the hell this is.

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Episode 669: My Boyfriend’s Back

“I’d like to meet the man that invented supermarkets, and wring his neck.”

We’ve talked a lot lately about the failure of the 1968 storylines, and I think it’s high time we move on, and talk about the failure of the 1969 storylines. You can’t live in the past forever, except for Angelique, apparently, and I don’t think I’ll ever figure out how she manages it.

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Episode 647: The Wire

“I fear the séance didn’t put an end to what’s been happening here.”

The Turn of the Screw opens with a group of devoted thrill-seekers at a week-long house party, entertaining each other with ghost stories. Griffin has just finished telling the story of a young boy waking his mother up in the middle of the night, because a dreadful apparition had materialized in the bedroom, and he wanted her to see it. That is the beginning and end of that story, as I understand it, but it sounds like it was the hit of the evening, so hooray for low standards.

Unable to cope with his seething jealousy of the master raconteur, a guest named Douglas tries a bit of casual oneupmanship:

Before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.

“I quite agree — in regard to Griffin’s ghost, or whatever it was — that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to TWO children — ?”

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

Obviously, this is setting a bad precedent. It’s only a matter of time before Griffin comes up with a ghost story involving four children, and then Douglas ups the ante to a half dozen, until finally there’s a story about thirty-five children, each with his or her own personalized specter, and the bottom falls out of the ghost story market. This is not a scaleable business model.

Continue reading Episode 647: The Wire

Episode 646: The Turning

“What we did was bury Quentin’s bones. His spirit is still alive, isn’t it?”

There are eight turning points in the history of Dark Shadows — moments where the focus and direction of the show changes permanently. You can’t really talk about the development of the show without these eight pivotal events.

Four of the turning points are character introductions, and four of them are backstage developments. In order, they are:

  • the introduction of Barnabas,
  • Julia’s offer to cure Barnabas,
  • writer Sam Hall joins the show,
  • the introduction of Angelique,
  • Jonathan Frid’s ten-city publicity tour,
  • writer Ron Sproat leaves the show,
  • the introduction of Quentin,
  • and MGM greenlights House of Dark Shadows.

Today isn’t one of them, by the way. I just thought I’d mention it.

Continue reading Episode 646: The Turning