Tag Archives: worst actor

strange paradise 1 logo

Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns

“Mr. Desmond, please! Has the Devil taken your SOUL?”

Dreamed in darkness and filmed in Canada, the Shadow of Shadows was dragged from the earth. The creatures scratched at the well-worked soil, pulling what little they could from the oft-defiled graves. Look! A rag, and a bone, and a hank of hair. Isn’t it beautiful, they said. We have given it a name.

In the fall of 1969, a show called Strange Paradise shambled onto the air — a Canadian soap opera with supernatural themes, conceived at the height of Dark Shadows’ popularity. The daily show premiered in America in September, with the Canadian debut six weeks later.

In the US, Strange Paradise aired around 7pm on local stations owned by Metromedia and Kaiser Broadcasting, but not for long. A month after its debut, Metromedia pulled the low-rated show from New York and Los Angeles, and Kaiser stations moved it to the early afternoon.

In an attempt to save the show, the production company replaced the producer and writer after the ninth week of production. When they finished the first 13 week cycle, the show was extensively retooled, ditching most of the cast and moving the setting from the Caribbean island of Maljardin to the Desmond family’s ancestral home in North America. It didn’t work. They managed to scrape through another 26 weeks, and then gave up.

Strange Paradise enthusiasts talk about the show’s “three 13-week arcs,” but that’s just a fancy way of saying that it was cancelled after ten months. In Dark Shadows years, that’s just at the moment that they would have hired Jonathan Frid, and saved the show.

As a Dark Shadows fan, I’ve seen Strange Paradise mentioned in books occasionally, and I always thought it was a DS clone created by ex-Shadows staffers. That’s not actually how it happened. The creators were Jerry Layton, a producer who’d mostly done crime dramas before moving into romance, and Ian Martin, a soap writer who’d worked on Search for Tomorrow, Young Doctor Malone and The Nurses. The pair had worked together on the successful NBC soap The Doctors, before being hired for Strange Paradise.

The Dark Shadows people were brought in later, following the Metromedia and Kaiser disaster. Producer Robert Costello was brought in to replace Layton at week 9, and Ron Sproat joined the writing team for the second 13-week cycle, with occasional scripts by Joe Caldwell.

So this is a weird footnote in the history of Dark Shadows, and since the show started during this period, I’m going to watch the first week with you, to see what people do when they think they’re making Dark Shadows. All of the episodes have been posted on YouTube, so you can watch along, if you like.

I figure it’ll be fun — we’ll take a week’s vacation from Dark Shadows, and see what it’s like on the other side. What could possibly go wrong?

Continue reading Strange Paradise, Episode 1: Dry Ice Burns

485 dark shadows huge naked dead guy

Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

“How odd it is that I should feel this urge on this night.”

I hope everybody’s excited, because today’s the day that we’ve all been waiting for. It’s Experiment Day!

Yes, after weeks of build-up, we’ve finally reached this historic episode — the day that Barnabas regenerates.

Continue reading Episode 485: A Huge Naked Dead Guy

484 dark shadows talent lang

Episode 484: Chekhov’s Gun

“Julia! Why am I leaving the room, Julia?”

So it’s been a rough ride, this returning to the present day. Deciding to do a lengthy 18th-century time travel story was a leap into the unknown, but once they’d started, they had a general outline to work from. They needed to turn Barnabas into a vampire, get Josette to jump off a cliff, kill pretty much everybody else in the cast, and hang Vicki as a witch. That was a plan that they could execute, if you’ll pardon the expression.

But returning to 1968, the writers face another weird challenge. They’ve decided to pretty much reboot every ongoing storyline that they had — hastily wrapping up, reversing or straight-up ignoring all of the old story threads.

This is a very unusual move for a soap opera. These last five weeks have basically been the equivalent of a season premiere, a narrative structure that even night-time shows weren’t doing in the late 60s. Dark Shadows has changed some core relationships, introduced new characters, and brought back Angelique as this season’s Big Bad. Structurally, this is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but thirty years early and from the monsters’ point of view.

Continue reading Episode 484: Chekhov’s Gun

482 dark shadows dream jeff

Episode 482: Witches Be Crazy

“I should go to Collinwood, and drag her from the house, and BURN her!”

So, what do you do with a guy who just refuses to understand what kind of story he’s in?

I’m not talking about a Mulder-Scully dynamic, where the tension between belief and skepticism is the whole point of the series. I’m talking about a guy who’s standing smack in the middle of a spook show, and he can’t get his mind around the fact that there’s a witch who’s trying to kill him, even though she’s already openly attacked him using her magic powers. I’m talking about a guy who needs to have the situation explained to him over and over, plus he’s obnoxious and a terrible actor and he shouts all the time.

All right, it’s Lang. I’m talking about Dr. Eric Lang. He’s driving me crazy, and he’s got to be stopped.

Continue reading Episode 482: Witches Be Crazy

481 dark shadows quickly julia

Episode 481: Remember Someone

“He will not be a monster then — unless, of course, you consider me one. I’m sure you do.”

Julia Hoffman has seen too much.

Yesterday, Julia went into Dr. Lang’s secret murder lab without permission, and found the monster that he’s been assembling out of corpses and bits of string. She knows that the monster still needs a head, which means one more person has to die to finish the project. This is dangerous knowledge. Julia must be stopped.

Now she’s locked herself in Lang’s parlor, and she’s calling the police. She’s also screaming and sobbing quite a bit. Barnabas and Lang are banging on the door, desperate to stop her. Lang has pulled his gun — he’ll kill to protect his experiment, if he has to.

In a last desperate bid to halt this disastrous chain of consequences, Barnabas shouts through the locked door to his hysterical friend.

“Julia, remember!” he cries. “Remember someone!”

Continue reading Episode 481: Remember Someone

468 dark shadows voice lang jeff

Episode 468: The Odd Couple

“You keep talking about secret rooms, and guns. It bothers me for some reason.”

And now, another tableau from our pageant of Great Moments in Fictional Health Care.

Victoria Winters was in a car accident the other day, and escaped entirely unharmed. But she’s been cooped up in a hospital bed for episode after episode, and she doesn’t even have a magazine.

She says to her doctor, “You are going to release me today, aren’t you?” The doctor smirks, and says, “Now, why be in such a hurry?”

So apparently this hospital encourages able-bodied patients to stay longer. Even for a vampire soap opera, that requires more suspension of disbelief than anything else on the show. I thought we were back in the 20th century.

Continue reading Episode 468: The Odd Couple

467 dark shadows scream lang

Episode 467: Physician, **** Thyself

“Perhaps — in the mastery of science, in the mastery of modern medicine — you will find your best hiding place!”

Previously, on Dark Shadows — Barnabas Collins, knocked unconscious in a car accident, was brought to the Collinsport Hospital, and is now under the care of Dr. Eric Lang. Observing the patient’s lack of pulse and impossibly low blood count, noting the presence of two puncture wounds in Vicki’s neck, and blessed with the unique ability to add two and two, Dr. Lang identified Barnabas as a vampire, halfway through yesterday’s episode.

Dr. Lang confronted Julia with his conclusions, and insisted that they work together to treat Barnabas’ condition — and by the end of the episode, Lang surprised Barnabas by whipping open the heavy curtains and exposing his panic-stricken patient to the late-afternoon sunlight.

And now Barnabas is fine.

Continue reading Episode 467: Physician, **** Thyself

466 dark shadows drive barnabas vicki

Episode 466: Welcome to the Hellmouth

“Doctor, may I see your neck, please?”

We closed our first week back in the 1960s with a tremendous car accident, which is either a metaphor for the chaotic process of change and renewal, or just another example of Victoria Winters destroying every single thing that she touches.

Continue reading Episode 466: Welcome to the Hellmouth