Monday, May 2, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: MAY 2

May 2, 1967
Taped on this date: Episode 228

Jason and Liz again debate. Now he wants a position in the family business. He argues that it will protect the family name and reputation by explaining his presence, as well as doing things like opening Swiss bank accounts in his name. He eventually bullies her into appointing him Director of Public Relations.  Later, both Roger and Carolyn are stunned. Jason tells Carolyn it was at Liz’s request. Jason says it’s like old times, before she met Carolyn’s father. Later, Roger, Carolyn, and Vicki have a war council. Roger was at school when Liz was married to Paul, so he can’t corroborate Jason’s story. When Carolyn asks for any information on Paul, Roger says that she should ask her mother. As far as he knows, the only things Paul left behind are in the locked room in the basement. Carolyn knew nothing of this, but learns that Liz has the only key, and the objects in that room might lead to clues as her father’s current whereabouts. Liz refuses to give her the key and shuts down the conversation. Later, she apologizes to Vicki, and asks her to convince Carolyn that the room is of no importance. Vicki suggests that the room in central to what is bothering her. Liz is dauntless in her argument. Carolyn snoops through the study and finds a key in a box. Vicki discovers her and says that opening the room will hurt Liz. Carolyn says that Liz needn’t know. Vicki says that her father’s things may not be in the room. It could be something more painful. And it could be painful to Carolyn. Fearless, Carolyn continues her search.

When is a MacGuffin not just a MacGuffin? When both the audience and the characters are equally invested in it. Early DARK SHADOWS relied on MacGuffins several times, most notably The Pen and the Box in the Cellar. MacGuffin is a cine-literary term for a thing of great importance to the protagonists but little interest to the audience. They just want to see the characters pursuing it. The Lector in FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE is an example. The Pen was an earlier example, but who cares? When it comes to the trunk, we all do. And so much could have happened as a result of Jason taking an executive job. It’s THE OFFICE ’67.  When I was writing the Collins Chronicles, it inspired one of my favorite pieces ...

(Episode 221 aired on this date.)

Your Daily Dose of Historical Context

May 2, 1968
Taped on this date: Episode 488

Julia has given Adam the final injection of the fluid that keeps Adam alive. He has 24 hours left, and only Lang knew the formula. They have only a day to make the experiment a success. Julia must read everything of Lang’s to understand the process, but Barnabas is too desperate to wait. Julia loses control with fear, having suffered the dream. She says that she has a compulsion to tell Mrs. Johnson, her beckoner, but knows that it is a curse that will lead to Barnabas’ death. Barnabas says that his dream from Angelique indicated that another dream would lead him back to his curse. Researching, Julia suspects that increasing the voltage may work. But Lang also said, “listen.” They realize the answer is in the tape recorder. They play it, but only hear the Mozart. Barnabas gazes upon Adam, hoping that his good looks would woo Vicki. Julia says that looks would not matter to some women. Barnabas flusters her by expressing his appreciation. They leave the lab before Lang’s voice interrupts the music, explaining that both Adam and Barnabas must live to cure Barnabas. If Adam dies, Barnabas will again be a vampire. At the Evans cottage, Stokes introduces himself and asks Maggie to describe the dream to her, so that he might break the chain of dreams. She does so. He’s beginning to understand the curse. Stokes is on the scent! Later, he visits Lang’s study, searching for Dr. Hoffman but delighted to find Barnabas instead. Stokes believes that Barnabas knows the identity of the witch. Stokes can use the information to save the victim… if he knows who the witch is. Barnabas confesses that it’s Cassandra. With that information, Stokes speeds into the night on the trail of adventure. When he tells Julia, she fears that Stokes is too close to Cassandra. Barnabas wonders if Professor Stokes is under her power as was Ben. They underestimate the power of Eliot Stokes!

There is a Stokes Arc that begins here and climaxes in what I think is the most secretly (or not-so-secretly) enjoyed episodes ever. Stokes was a post-1795 invention, and gave Thayer David so much to do. He must have been a difficult character to write. He exists to move stories along when vital information is needed. But too much of that, and a soap opera, dependent on a slow pace, will run out of story. Stokes has so much potential as a character.  He enters with proud one-liners, and is the opposite of the quiet and conservative depiction of the lonely and desperate we met almost two years before. In college, Thayer David was apparently quite the rake. Although no one will confuse him for Doug McLure, when you watch the Stokes confidence, it becomes apparent why.

(Episode 488 aired on this date.)

May 2, 1969
Taped on this date: Episode 750

1897. Quentin knows that his life will forever change that night, thanks to Magda’s revenge-curse. Szandor wants to leave to avoid the consequences of the curse. Magda says they will be safe, unlike the Collinses. Judith hands Beth her walking papers now that Jenny is dead. Beth asks of the children, and Judith says that they will be safe in Collinsport with Mrs. Fillmore. The children should remain a secret from Quentin. Beth suspects that her scandalous interest in Quentin is the true cause of her dismissal. Quentin enters and tells her that he will be moving on. Magda enters to pick up her sister’s possessions. She laughs at Quentin’s plan to escape the curse by leaving Collinsport. Quentin has the gypsy’s money, and refuses to give it back to Judith. It’s his nest egg for his escape and Judith can sue him if she wants it. Some time later, Beth comes downstairs with Jenny’s babydoll twins. Quentin enters and states that Beth will be going with him, but she’s resistant. Quentin, after all, killed Jenny. Quentin suspects there is another reason. She does — the children — but remains silent.  Szandor arrives and Quentin offers him the $10,000 for him to enjoy alone, if he removes the curse. Szandor rejects the offer. As night comes on, Quentin prepares his departure. He visits Beth, proclaiming his love. She says that he wants her with him only because he can’t do anything alone. He just uses people, discarding them when he grows weary of their company. She will go anyway, after she does something in town. As night falls, Magda places the curse on Quentin and all his male descendants. In Beth’s room, Quentin is seized by the pain of his first transformation.

Let’s welcome Terry Crawford into the fold of episode narrators! She’s a serene woman to kick off such a wild roller coaster of an episode, and that’s what 1897 is known for. The episode also has an image that is chilling for its insinuations: Beth carries the twin baby dolls as she collects her possessions. Quentin remains a complex character, desperately self-involved unless events dictate otherwise. When I was a kid, it was difficult to discern the sentiments of the “real” Quentin Collins toward Beth.  Now, it’s impossible.

(Episode 745 aired on this date.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

The many time slots of Dark Shadows

Let's do the time warp again!


"I used to run home to watch Dark Shadows" is among the show's most popular myths.

That's not to suggest kids didn't run home to watch DARK SHADOWS. It had a huge following among children and teens, who were often at odds with their favorite show's scheduling. ABC and its local affiliates had a maddening habit of giving the show whatever time slots worked best for their own interests ... and those interests sometimes involved not airing DARK SHADOWS at all.

In 1971, a television station in Texas moved DARK SHADOWS to 3 p.m. after receiving complaints of children throwing themselves into traffic in their mad dash to get home to see the show. A 3 p.m. time slot effectively put the series out of reach of children, but a quick glance at national television listings shows that DARK SHADOWS tended to air whenever the hell the local affiliates felt like it should air. In April of 1969 (which was arguably the show's commercial peak) DARK SHADOWS hit the airwaves in half-hour time slots as early as 7 a.m. (in Akron, Ohio) and as late as 5:30 p.m. (in Salisbury, Maryland.)

Most affiliates opted to show DARK SHADOWS during the hours immediately after school ended, which seems like an obvious (and rational) method of hitting their demographic sweet spot. Depending on the market, though, there were mitigating factors behind the scenes affecting local schedules ... and these factors sometimes had nothing to do with meeting an audience's needs.

"The ghouls, goblins and, well, a couple of hams will be off the air for a little while," wrote Martin Hogan Jr., of The Cincinnati Enquirer, on Jan. 16, 1969. "Channel 12 is dropping 'Dark Shadows,' but negotiations are in progress between WXIX-TV, channel 19, and the American Broadcasting Co., for channel 19 to pick up the show in prime time."

WKRC-TV had opted to drop delayed telecasts of both DARK SHADOWS and ONE LIFE TO LIVE as of Jan. 27 that year because ABC prohibited the practice. ABC had been broadcasting DARK SHADOWS at 3:30 p.m., but the channel had been delaying the program until 9 a.m. the following day, a practice the network has problems with. While the idea sounded intriguing, DARK SHADOWS never made the leap in Ohio to prime time. ABC decided it didn't want its own programs competing against each other in the same time slot.

The delayed telecast was prompted because of the channel's long-term commitment to THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW, which had taken up residence in DARK SHADOWS' former time slot of 3:30 p.m.

"You should have killed me when you had the chance, Frid."
The station's management probably expected some kind of response, but weren't prepared for the quantity and quality of ire that can be generated by DARK SHADOWS fandom. The Cincinnati Enquirer received so many angry letters about the show's eternally precarious situation that in early 1971, Cincinnati Enquirer TV Radio Editor Steve Hoffman announced the paper would no longer be publishing letters about DARK SHADOWS. (By that point, the show had been taken off the air again by WKRC, replaced with re-runs of THE MUNSTERS. ABC's decision to axe the show a few months later made the decision permanent.)

By the tone of Hoffman's responses to the final batch of published letters, he was fed up with discussing DARK SHADOWS "Apparently, the 'faithful followers' aren't a large enough group to count because a high rating would reflect a multitude of 'faithful followers,'" he snarkily told one reader.

Hoffman's responses are hilariously trollish. I've posted his full discourse with DARK SHADOWS fans over at Tumblr for your amusement. You can read them HERE.

In early 1969, DARK SHADOWS was beginning to have trouble down South. WWAY-TV in Wilmington, N.C, moved the show to wildly differing time slots in hopes of finding a home for the troublesome Collins clan. First, the station shuffled DARK SHADOWS from 4 p.m. to its block of morning programming. This change lasted all of a week: The station was reportedly hit with 5,000 hand-written complaints (i.e. "letters") from viewers, prompting them to move the show to 5 p.m.

In Michigan that year, things were even more complicated. Once again, Mike Douglas was a factor in the decision by WXYZ-TV to move the show from 4:30 p.m. to the student-unfriendly 3:30 p.m. But Mike wasn't the only roadblock, explained exasperated syndicated columnist Bettelou Peterson.
"The biggest problem, as we've tried to explain, is that Michigan voted, by a narrow margin, to stay on standard time while the rest of the country went to daylight savings time," she wrote in May, 1969. "Detroit stations tape evening shows so that can be run an hour later in Detroit than on the network. It costs too much money to do the same for all daytime network shows. This is one case where you can't blame TV, blame standard time supporters."
As a consolation, WXYZ-TV made written synopses of DARK SHADOWS episodes available to fans. An initiative measure was passed by Michigan voters in 1972 that repealed the state's exemption statute, if you're interested in how that problem resolved itself.

Later in New York in 1969, Mike Douglas cannibalized the DARK SHADOWS time slot at WOKR, but this time it wasn't because of contractual reasons. WOKR had received complaints about the show's "morbid" nature and decided that "viewer composition for the show was not compatible with programming preceding and following." DARK SHADOWS was just too violent and scary.

Once Mike Douglas was moved into the former DARK SHADOWS time slot on WOKR, he was bracketed on either side by ONE LIFE TO LIFE and THE BIG VALLEY. There was some chatter about revisiting the decision to cancel the series, but I could find no evidence that the show ever returned to the station's schedule. DARK SHADOWS continued to air in 1969 on WNYS in Syracuse, N.Y., followed at 4:30 p.m. by STRANGE PARADISE, a Canadian DARK SHADOWS ripoff with a few creative ties to its "inspiration."

ABC's inability to reserve a consistent time slot for DARK SHADOWS is probably something to take into consideration in future discussions about the demise of the series. Television real estate is perennially expensive and, even as the producer of one of daytime's most popular shows, Dan Curtis lacked the clout with ABC to fend off these kinds of assaults.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

"My First Vampire," a 1968 interview with Vincent Loscalzo

For about two years, DARK SHADOWS was the hottest program on television … which is no small accomplishment for a show that aired at a time of day when most people were otherwise occupied. Because of this scheduling, soaps have traditionally been a safe place for actors to learn how to work in front of a camera, gain valuable experience and pay their bills. Very few people ever become celebrities while working on a soap, but between 1968 and 1969 almost everybody involved with DARK SHADOWS got their 15 minutes of fame.

Case in point: This 1968 interview with the show's make-up artist, Vincent Loscalzo. Part of being a make-up artist is having your work routinely taken for granted. When you do your job well, nobody should know you've done anything at all ... which makes a make-up artist one of the most valuable people on a set, as well as one of the most invisible.

Below is a syndicated newspaper interview with Loscalzo as it was presented in The Pittsburgh Press Sun. I've seen more truncated versions of the interview, all of which were probably tailored in some way to fit the needs of their readers. This is the longest version I could find and includes a startling revelation: DARK SHADOWS aired at 9 a.m. in this newspaper's market at the time of publication. Also, the apocryphal "Collins House," the original name for Collinwood during the pre-production of the show, was still being bandied about more than two years after its debut.

The feature is titled "Master of Ghouls Gallery" for reasons I don't get. It was accompanied by only one photo of Loscalzo working with actor Jonathan Frid, and that doesn't add up to much of a "gallery." I've included a collection of photos from the same shoot at the bottom of this post to make up (snort) for this oversight.

Master of Ghouls Gallery
Nov. 24, 1968


They are always there; leading I tormented lives, stalking the gloomy corridors of Collins House—the monsters of "Dark Shadows," ABC-TV's daytime suspense series (9 a.m., Channel 4). Although these ghoulish characters are the invention of imaginative writers, it falls on Vincent Loscalzo, the makeup man, to transfer them from the drawing board to the television screen. Vinnie, 38, is plump, balding, pleas-ant and likes to paint. He looks more like the nice little man who sells balloons to kids in the park than a creator of monsters. His schedule is so busy that instead of going out to lunch, he nibbles cheese and crackers. He keeps his supply of food in the makeup cabinet besides a bag full of bubble gum.

My First Vampire
"Barnabas was my first vampire," said Vinnie. "As the show started getting more eerie I began doing more and more monster makeup." Photographs of the supernatural creatures created by Vinnie are dis-played on the walls of his makeup room. Among these is a sequence showing Jonathan Frid being trans-formed into Barnabas, the 175-year-old vampire.

"The producer tells me what he wants in the way of a particular monster and then I'm on my own. What I usually do first is sketch the creature the way I think it should look," said Vinnie. "In order to create Barnabas I had to do some research on vampires. He wears bangs like the ones worn by men in the 18th Century. His eyes stand out because I've put dark shadows around them. His fangs were made by a dentist in Manhattan, who added to a plaster impression of Frid's teeth. I have Frid's makeup down pat so it only takes me 25 minutes to turn him into Barnabas, the vampire." Not all characters are as simple to make up. One of the most complicated is Cassandra Collins, played by a 20-year-old blonde, Lara Parker. Cassandra is really a 175-year-old witch called Angelique.

Lara Parker in "hag drag," Episode 499, May 23, 1968.
"Cassandra was gorgeous, but the show's resident warlock, Nicholas Blair (Humbert Allen Astredo), cast a spell on her and made her lose her looks because she was disobedient. It all happened gradually. First she aged 25 years, then 40 years and finally 95 years.

"I used special glue and cotton to form all the lines and jowls in the neck, chin and face. Then I covered her face with rubber liquid latex. I put dark makeup around her eyes to make them look sunken and formed all the character lines on her face with flesh-colored makeup. To say the least, Lara was quite shook up when she looked at herself in the mirror." Vinnie has been with the series since it began in June, 1966. Prior to that he did free-lance makeup work for "Confidential Woman,' an ABC-TV weekly series. (Note: I could find no reference to a television show called "Confidential Woman," but there was a short-lived ABC program in 1966 titled "Confidential for Women." It starred Darren McGavin and Jane Wyatt.)

Native New Yorker 
A native New Yorker, one of 11 children of Italian immigrants, Vinnie got into makeup work through acting. "I used to perform in neighborhood theater groups, and also worked as an extra in television programs and a few movies. One day, a girl friend of mine, who was working on a movie, invited me to do her makeup. I accepted and I liked it."

There was a knock on his door and Jonathan Frid entered. "Vinnie, I need some blood on my face," Frid announced. "Someone's supposed to botch me up. It's all a nightmare." Vinnie opened a cabinet, revealing shelves stuffed with an assortment of teeth, wigs, plaster heads, hands and of course, grease paints. He took out a jar of gory liquid and went to work.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dark Shadows audios nominated for Scribe awards

Congratulations to the gang at Big Finish for this year's SCRIBE nominations!

The 13-part serial "Dark Shadows: Bloodlust," by Alan Flanagan, Will Howells and Joseph Lidster, and "Dark Shadows: In the Twinkling of an Eye," by Penelope Faith, have been nominated this year in the "Best Audio" category.

The Scribe Awards are presented by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers to recognize licensed works that "tie in" with media such as television, movies, gaming, or comic books. Also nominated are:

The Scribe Award winners will be announced at ComicCon San Diego in July. Click HERE for a full list of nominees.

The last time a DARK SHADOWS audio won the "Best Audio" award was in 2013, for "Dark Shadows: The Eternal Actress," though the line has been nominated multiple times in this category over the last few years. While I won't throw shade on the other nominees, I've got a pretty good feeling about DARK SHADOWS' chances this year. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jonathan Frid in the 1966 National Shakespeare Festival

In 1966, just two months after DARK SHADOWS debuted on ABC, Jonathan Frid appeared in the annual National Shakespeare Festival at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre. That year’s festival straddled four months, beginning in June and ending in September, showcasing three of Shakespeare’s plays along the way: “The Tempest,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and “Romeo and Juliet.”

At the time, the Old Globe Theatre was home to an odd mix of professional and amateur performers. Many of the professionals appearing at the festival that year were on the cusp of stardom. Frid was not far from his break-out role in DARK SHADOWS in April, 1967, while the festival’s leading man, Jon Voight, was three years from his Academy Award nominated performance MIDNIGHT COWBOY.

Left,Jonathan Frid and Terrence O'Connor.. Right, Jon Voight and Lauri Peters.
Also part of the casts that year were Will Geer, Anthony Zerbe, Richard Lupino and Voight’s then-spouse, Lauri Peters.

Curiously, it was “Two Gentlemen of Verona” that was the best received of the three productions, at least by the press. William J. Nazzaro, a drama critic for the Arizona Republic in 1966, suggested it was the general familiarity of the other two plays that made “Verona” shine a little brighter by contrast. Nobody was prepared for how weird and funny the play could be.

“Both ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘The Tempest’ are respectfully competent,” he wrote in August that year, “but both seem earthbound after ‘Two Gentlemen.’”

Jonathan Frid and Lauri Peters in ROMEO AND JULIET, 1966
Frid had three roles in the festival: Caliban in “The Tempest,” The Duke of Milan in “Two Gentlemen of Verona” and Lord Capulet in “Romeo and Juliet.” It was the role of Caliban that won him his best notices, but the part almost went to another actor. Frid was originally cast as Prospero’s brother, Antonio, with Zerbe cast as Caliban. After a handful of rehearsals, the director opted to switch their roles, preferring the more imposing Frid as Prospero’s henchman.

Frid as Caliban, left, and the Duke in Milan.
“Frankly, Jonathan chewed the scenery as Caliban, which was no bad thing to do, as you can go in any direction with that part,” wrote actor Rand Bridges in the book, “Remembering Jonathan Frid.” Bridges also appeared in all three productions, the most notable role being Alonso in “The Tempest.”

“Jonathan Frid and Jon Voight as Caliban and Ariel are as different as daylight and dark,” wrote Marjorie Rogers, for the San Bernardino County Sun. “Caliban, the physical animal part of man, is hunched and smells of fish. He is deep and raspy voiced and moves heavily and clumsily. Ariel, an airy spirit, who represents men’s souls, looks absolutely transparent from top to toe. His voice sighs like the wind, especially when he sings.”

"Verona" was actually a musical, which gave Frid one of his rare opportunities to sing on stage. Conrad Susa, the theater’s composer in residence from 1959 to 1994, wrote new music for the production, which relied on Shakespeare’s own words for the lyrics. While it’s difficult for DARK SHADOWS fans to imagine Frid driving audiences into fits of laughter, that’s apparently what happened during “Verona.”

“Mirth builds as the indignant duke (Frid) begins to sing Valentine’s letter urging his daughters to elope, grows into a dud as a servant looks from the balcony, and smashes into a ludicrous trip with Valentine himself, horrified but helpless, joins in the song from memory,” wrote Rogers. Keep in mind that Zerbe – an actor not known for taking light-hearted roles – played Valentine.

“(Frid) had a wonderful sense of comedy, which I always liked,” remembers Bridges. “He would not go for the laughs – he just did the lines and the songs, which were pretty absurd. You couldn’t help but laugh at the way he played it – he was very funny.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

There's a new Dark Shadows DVD collection headed your way

Well, new-ish.

MPI Home Video is packaging six of its "best of" DARK SHADOWS DVDs into a single collection this summer. The set features the previously released Haunting of Collinwood, The Vampire Curse, Best of Barnabas, Best of Quentin, Best of Angelique and Fan Favorites. That's 19 hours of DARK SHADOWS spread out over six discs, though I have trouble picturing the intended audience. Generally, these sampler DVDs have been sold at modest price points to help nurture new fans. "Curious about DARK SHADOWS? Here are a handful of episodes about Barnabas Collins to help get you off the fence!" It's a strategy that's worked well in small doses, but bundling this many random episodes seems a little ... strange to me.

Anyhoo, the collection is due June 14, a few short weeks before this year's Dark Shadows Festival in Tarrytown, N.Y. Best But currently has it available for pre-order for $14.99, which is almost certainly an error.

Listen to the trailer for Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire

We found out earlier this week that "Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire" has a terrific cast. Now it has a trailer! The two-hour anniversary special is due in June and is already sporting the most impressive cast since "The Crimson Pearl." I have it on good authority that additional cast announcements will be made in coming months, so hang onto your collective butts.

You can hear the trailer for "Blood & Fire" below. And visit the Soundcloud page devoted to Big Finish audios HERE.

Dark Shadows is cancelled! Again!

Warning: I’m about to open a can of especially ugly worms.

The cancellation of DARK SHADOWS is a phenomenon that almost transcends generations. No matter their age, fans of the program have some variation of the “Where were you when DS was cancelled?” story to tell. Old school fans will tell this tale with the kind of reverence usually reserved for the Kennedy assassination, with later generations suffering varying degrees of heartache when the series was yanked from syndication, the Sci-Fi Channel, etc. Factor in the untimely demise of the 1991 “revival” series and the lack of sequels to Tim Burton’s 2012 feature film and you’ll find that DARK SHADOWS fans have a lot of shoulders on which to cry.

The show’s ugliest exit took place in 1986, when the New Jersey Network opted to pull the plug on DARK SHADOWS, as well as PEOPLE, PETS AND DR. MARK and the cult classic THE UNCLE FLOYD SHOW. The announcement was met with resistance from fans, who immediately went into action to keep these shows on the air.

Jonathan Frid hosts a televised fund raiser for DARK SHADOWS on the New Jersey Network.

Well, two of those shows, anyway. Nobody seemed to care much that PEOPLE, PETS AND DR. MARK were going the way of HELLO LARRY. But on May 1 that year, fans donated a small chunk of change in support of those other programs. DARK SHADOWS received $1,200 during a pledge drive that day, while Uncle Floyd collected a whopping $14,600. It wasn’t enough to save either show, though. In December, NJN announced neither would return to its programming schedule.

And the reason? The network’s governing board considered them “unsuitable for PBS.”

The decision to cancel these programs was apparently made by the politically appointed New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, the body tasked with oversight of the public television network. DARK SHADOWS and Uncle Floyd were added to the network’s schedule in 1983 by Hendrix Niemann, who resigned as the executive director of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority during the final weeks of 1985. Niemann claimed the office of Thomas Kean, then-governor of New Jersey, forced him out because it was unhappy with the network's news coverage of the administration.

Without Niemann’s support, both Barnabas’ and Floyd’s days were numbered. A network memorandum penned in 1986 expressed concerns that "prime- time programming of non-public broadcasting material" would tarnish the network’s image and distract the public “away from its basic public-broadcasting mission."

Shortly before his resignation, Niemann defended the inclusion of these programs on the NJN roster. “We’re in the most competitive market place in the county, if not the world,” he said in October, 1985. “We need shows like (DARK SHADOWS) to attract the kind of audience that will interest corporate underwriters in supporting our other programs.”

When the New Jersey Network began airing DARK SHADOWS in 1983, it had just 510 episodes available in its catalog. “New” episodes were added as the series progressed: By the time it was cancelled, it had bulked up its catalog, which stretched from the first appearance of Barnabas Collins until the start of the “Parallel Time” storyline. Many of these later episodes went unaired on the New Jersey Network because of the cancellation, though.

Now, the New Jersey Network was not obliged to continue to air DARK SHADOWS beyond its contract agreement. But the timing of the network’s decision to dump the Collins family proved to be problematic, if not outright unethical. NJN decided on June 25, 1986 to end its relationship with DARK SHADOWS. Curiously, they continued to solicit funds from viewers until June 27 — the 20th anniversary of the show’s ABC premiere.

Needless to say, fans were pissed. And it wasn’t just because their favorite programs had been taken away: During the televised pledge drive, it was implied that viewer donations would be used to help keep specific programs on the air. Network officials later insisted that donations were never earmarked for individual programs, and that the money collected would be used for the betterment of the entire network.

But that defense didn’t fly very far with DARK SHADOWS fans, who’d spent three years fighting to keep the show on the regional airwaves. At the time, the Dark Shadows Festival was essentially a fundraiser for the New Jersey Network. (The first festival was launched the year NJN began to air DARK SHADOWS, and those dates are not coincidental.) I’ve got a feeling the festival organizers weren’t under the impression they had been volunteering their time and labor to help PEOPLE, PETS AND DR. MARK pay their bills.

July, 1986: Fans protest the cancellation of DARK SHADOWS.
How much money was collected specifically from DARK SHADOWS fans in 1986 varied, depending on who was doing the talking. According to one news story from the period, a sum of $1,200 was collected from a single DARK SHADOWS television pledge drive, while a report in The Bernardsville News reports that a separate DARK SHADOWS-themed drive collected “a record $18,000.” And none of that take into account the money raised by the annual festival.

It also appears the cost of keeping some of these shows on the air would rise during the next fiscal year. For reference, the network's budget in 1986 was $11.1 million. The state of New Jersey provided $6.8 million, with the rest coming from federal grants, private contributors and other assorted fees. The renewal contract for Uncle Floyd would have been $104,000, which was $10,000 more than in the previous agreement. DARK SHADOWS would cost NJN $125,000 to renew its contract, but it's unclear if this sum represented a price hike. Added expenses were never cited as a reason for either show to be cancelled, though.

The New Jersey Network eventually concluded (with a little pressure from the Federal Communications Commission) that it had erred during the summer pledge drive. NJN became the first public television network forced to return money to its contributors. DARK SHADOWS aired its last show on the network Sept. 30, 1986. Uncle Floyd lived to fight another day, continuing to air on other networks until 1992.

(You can listen to David Bowie's eulogy for THE UNCLE FLOYD SHOW below.)

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