Tag Archives: televisual literacy

Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

“Less talk, more crowbar!”

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A man walks into a crypt, looking for buried treasure. He crowbars his way into a mystery box, and what does he find? A pain in the neck.

Today is Christmas Day 1970, happy holidays by the way, and the show is taking the day off. On pre-emption days, the blog is visited by the Ghost of Dark Shadows Yet to Come, often to our great and lasting regret. During previous pre-emptions, we watched the 1970 movie House of Dark Shadows, the 1971 movie Night of Dark Shadows, and the 12 episodes of the 1991 NBC revival. The short version is that they weren’t very good, because trying to catch lightning in a bottle is difficult, especially when you’ve already used that bottle a couple of times. Lightning’s funny that way.

Today, we’re taking a look at the next chapter of that story: the 2004 pilot for a new prime-time Dark Shadows, prepared for and rejected by the WB, which used to be a television network.

You see, Dan Curtis — Dark Shadows’ creator and executive producer — never gave up on Dark Shadows, except while he was making it, when he definitely did. Having tasted the thrill of unexpected success in 1968 and 1969 as the show’s popularity reached its peak, he decided to make a movie version, using the same cast, crew and writers, while the television show was still on the air. That left the show coasting for months on ABC-TV with the B-squad characters, and when Dan finally came back to the series, all he really wanted to do was make another movie, and that’s why the show came to a gradual, disappointing end.

In 1991, Dan decided to try again, making a 12-part prime-time series for NBC that used a lot of ideas from House of Dark Shadows, and it didn’t work out, for lightning/bottle reasons. And then he just kept on trying to remake the remake for the next 12 years, finally managing to convince the WB to spend five million dollars on a pilot that nobody liked.

I asked you to stop me if you’ve heard this before, but frankly, it’s no use trying. The only way that Dan could stop retelling the story of Dark Shadows was to die, and even then, I bet he’s up in Heaven, pitching Saint Peter on another series. I’m kidding, of course; executive producers don’t go to Heaven.

Continue reading Time Travel, part 13: Total Blood Volume

Episode 999: The Dead Wife

“What would you do if that woman upstairs is your dead wife?”

It’s been three weeks since Alexis Stokes came into our lives, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned in all that time, it’s that she’s actually her twin sister Angelique, unless she isn’t. The evidence for Team Alexis is that Angelique died six months ago and was buried in a crypt, with a funeral and everything, and if she was still alive, then they probably would have noticed.

The evidence for Team Angelique is: What if someone could come back from the dead? It’s tough to answer a what-if like that, because whatever you say, the other person can still say, Yeah, but what if they could? A conversation like that could go on indefinitely, and we’ve only got 22 minutes a day, not counting the occasional sales pitch for Spic and Span.

Continue reading Episode 999: The Dead Wife

Episode 985: The Cassandra Complex

“Twins usually do resemble each other, or haven’t you heard?”

Except it’s not Angelique, obviously. How could it be? She’s dead, probably.

Although Angeliques do have a habit of making post-mortem comebacks; they’re a tenacious people. It doesn’t matter how often you strangle them, exorcise them, shoot them in the shoulder, set them on fire, burn their portraits, or dump buckets of water over them and dissolve them into a well-dressed puddle. They always return, with fresh schemes. What a world, what a world!

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Episode 984: What We Know

“How can I fight a presence?”

Angelique was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. Actually, there is some doubt about it, so I guess the story is, like, eighty-five percent wonderful.

Continue reading Episode 984: What We Know

Episode 924: Pretty Woman

“We became friends in the past. Please, let us be friends now.”

Mrs. Rumson arrives at her palatial beach mansion on Little Windward Island, and greets her husband of six months, the handsome publishing magnate. She’s found peace at last, after so many years of struggles and schemes. She’s going to go straight, she said, and everyone laughed. But she’s on the level, this time. The dead past will bury its dead.

But nothing ever stays dead, not on this show. At least, not with Dr. Julia Hoffman around.

Continue reading Episode 924: Pretty Woman

Episode 905: Waiting for Quentin

“The room will undergo a change.”

And then the door opens, and a wristwatch walks in.

See, there’s this mystery man in town who we’re not sure who it is, but he’s tall and dark-haired and possibly sideburned and it’s supposed to be Quentin. Last week, we saw him — or parts of him, anyway — watching Megan and Carolyn through the antique shop window, and then sneaking into Collinwood to silently check out the furnishings. We got a hint of sideburns when he was looking in the window, but the rest of the time, we just saw his trenchcoat, his shoes and his watch. I can’t explain the watch.

So it’s time-tossed werewolf vagabond Quentin Collins, of course, the reckless idol of American youth, who we last saw three weeks ago, at the tail end of the 1897 time-travel storyline. Quentin left Collinsport to search the world for the magical portrait that keeps him alive and young, and now that Barnabas and Julia are back in the present day, obviously he needs to join them again, and resume his leading role on the show.

When we saw the mystery man last week, they made a big deal about his wristwatch for some reason. He kept putting his wrist next to things — a portrait, a doorknob — and holding it there, while the camera zoomed in for a close-up. Quentin was never particularly attached to timepieces, as far as I recall, but I suppose he’s had seven decades to pick up a new hobby.

In Friday’s episode, the silent mystery man walked into the antique shop, and the first thing he did was hoist his wrist up in an awkward position, and leave it there so the camera could give us another thrilling wristwatch shot. I don’t know, maybe it’s a metaphor for something.

Continue reading Episode 905: Waiting for Quentin

Episode 897: You’re the Worst

“I’m a monster! I have no choice but to kill!”

Megan is alone, on the display floor of her antique shop. Her husband left to buy cigarettes a few moments ago. The room is dim, and cluttered with scattered relics.

Megan is worried. Earlier today, she was suddenly overcome with the unshakeable feeling that someone is coming to kill her. She’s correct; somebody is actually coming to kill her. It’s been a weird day.

What follows is a five-minute solo spaz attack of epic proportions. When I was younger and less discerning, I thought of this as The Worst Scene In Dark Shadows. I’m not sure what I think about it now. I’m still trying to work that out.

Continue reading Episode 897: You’re the Worst

Episode 882: The Don’t Sleepover

“You drift away, love, you’ll drift back sadly changed.”

And then sometimes everything comes together, and they make all the right choices, and I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it lately but Dark Shadows is my favorite television show.

Continue reading Episode 882: The Don’t Sleepover

Episode 867: Nothing Up My Sleeve

“I know that vampires sleep very fitfully.”

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to show you a little game called Find the Vampire. It starts out very simple, all I need you to do is remember this card — Barnabas Collins.

Simple enough, what card do you have again? Okay. You can turn it over, take one last look. Now Barnabas Collins is right here in this coffin — let’s say it’s in a cave, all right? Barnabas Collins, in a cave, in a coffin, with a stake through his heart. That’s a dead vampire. He’s not going anywhere.

Great, now it gets a little tougher; we’re going to add another card into the game. This one is a mysterious presence at the rectory, Julia was left behind to take care of something when Barnabas was destroyed — that’s Barnabas, in the cave. This is a different card, over here, something in the rectory.

Now, I’m going to add one more card to the game, make sure you’re still — which card was yours again? The vampire, right, keep your eye on the vampire. Julia leaves the game, and then Angelique takes over, there’s a switch, and now we’ve got another mysterious presence, in the cove at Shipwreck Point. That’s a cove, not a cave. Don’t get those mixed up. The vampire’s in the cave, there’s something in the cove, one, two, three, and if I ask you, find Barnabas Collins, which card would you choose?

Continue reading Episode 867: Nothing Up My Sleeve

Episode 866: The Briar Patch

“Would you like to try and resist this hand again, my dear?”

The story so far: Count Andreas Petofi, magical gangster from the Boston Carpathians, is engaged in a tense low-speed chase with a pack of howling vengeance gypsies. For all his bluster, all Petofi really wants to do is run away and hide — in somebody else’s body, living in somebody else’s house, and traveling to somebody else’s time zone. It’s not much to ask, really, and so far it’s been going pretty well.

But as the poet said, the best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley, and this one is drifting in an agley direction. It turns out he’s not the only mouse in town.

Continue reading Episode 866: The Briar Patch