Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The end of Dark Shadows: A Cautionary Tale

Patrick McCray is nearing the end of his marathon viewing of Dark Shadows. He’s brainstorming ways to celebrate the end of his run, but I thought I’d take a moment to share with him this cautionary tale.

Late last year, I wrapped my own less-than-rigorous marathon of Dark Shadows. While Patrick is mainlining the show on a terrifying 40-day plan, I stretched my own viewing habits over the course of 18 months. When I reached the end of the show, I was working from home, one computer on my desk to handle business affairs, a laptop at my left playing episodes of Dark Shadows. If it wasn't for all the work it would have been my dream job.

It was my second go-round with Dark Shadows. The first was in the early 1990s, when the Sci-Fi Channel aired two episodes a day during the week. I’d watched the series from the first episode, but when I left home for college it became more difficult to catch. My mother recorded the week’s episodes and sent me cassette each weekend, but other things eventually took precedence. Of the show’s original 1,225 episodes, I guessed I’d missed the final 200 or so.

Dark Shadows reportedly didn’t end on a high note, so missing those episodes didn’t trouble me much. I’d heard (mistakenly) that the series ended with unresolved plot threads, which I assumed meant that show had been cancelled in the middle of a story arc. So, when I decided to revisit the show on DVD a few years ago, I braced myself for the eventual end.

That day came a little earlier than I thought.

Nobody appears to care that much for Bramwell Collins and his Parallel Time relatives. Some members of the cast have forgotten they’d even taken part in the story, probably because they've been asked about it so infrequently over the years. And it's not good. The final story is often tedious, the romance forced and unbelievable. The many continuity errors suggest Dan Curtis and his writers had lost interest in Dark Shadows. The show had jumped time streams so often that it had lost track of its central characters.

When it ended, Dark Shadows was no longer about anything or anyone.

But I enjoyed watching the cast do their thing one last time. I was on the third disc of the final collection of DVDs when I noticed a lot of plot threads were being briskly tied up. I thought there was still another disc of stories left to go when Dark Shadows came to a crashing halt, and the following monologue was read by Thayer David:
There was no vampire loose on the great estate. For the first time at Collinwood the marks on the neck were indeed those of an animal. Melanie soon recovered and went to live in Boston with her beloved Kendrick. There, they prospered and had three children. Bramwell and Catherine were soon married and, at Flora's insistence, stayed on at Collinwood where Bramwell assumed control of the Collins business interests. Their love became a living legend. And, for as long as they lived, the dark shadows at Collinwood were but a memory of the distant past.
Dark Shadows was over. And I’d barely been paying attention when it happened.

So, Patrick: Don’t be like me. Try to enjoy the final episodes of the series, because there’s still some good work being done by the cast. It’s highly likely you’ll never revisit the Bramwell Collins/Parallel Time story again, so stop and smell the fake roses.

1 comment:

retzev said...

Great post.

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