Thursday, October 11, 2012

Dark Shadows Diary: Footnotes

Yesterday's DARK SHADOWS DIARY entry represented the last episode of the first collection of DVDs. There's a lot going on with the show, and I didn't want to muddy the (already muddy) waters of yesterday's post to discuss trends and problems with the overall program.

Even though we're still dozens of episodes away, it's already clear why characters like Laura and Barnabas were needed to keep the show alive. The central mystery of Victoria Winters' heritage is important to the show, but too important to ever truly resolve. I think Dan Curtis understood something that David Lynch, Mark Frost and the other creative minds behind TWIN PEAKS never did: It takes more than a single hook to support a television show that is permanently grounded in one location. Drag the mystery out for too long and the audience gets bored and resentful; solve it too soon and you delete the premise of your entire program.

And DARK SHADOWS was going to need something more than David Collins to create and maintain dramatic tension. A television show can only last so long by endlessly talking about bleeder valves and missing fountain pens (which is coming up in the next story arc.) The show, as it stands at the end of episode 35, needs to become something more if it's going to survive.

What's interesting is that DARK SHADOWS has already built a pretty solid foundation for what it will become. These early episodes aren't as radically different from the post-Barnabas series as fans want to believe. It's a credit to Bob Colbert that most of the program's music was written for these early episodes, and never needed revision once vampires, werewolves, warlocks and zombies were added to the cast. DARK SHADOWS is a show that knew how to to a lot with a little, and none of what came later would have been possible without the work done during the show's first year. It always surprises me when I meet fans who've never seen these episodes, because I don't know how you can care about Roger, Burke, Maggie, David or even Victoria without having seen DARK SHADOWS when it was still about THEM.

It will become a more compelling show in later years, but I still think these episodes are required viewing for DARK SHADOWS fans. It's taken me about two months to watch the first collection of DVDs, mostly because I had to find the time after each episode to write about them. Oddly, it feels like the time has flown by ... despite my tendency to kvetch, I'm having a ball revisiting the series.

Tomorrow, I dive into the second volume of DARK SHADOWS: THE BEGINNING collection of DVDs.


retzev said...

Stuff like this is why CHS is a daily stop for me. I loved the comment about Cobert's music. I'm hoping these diary entries keep coming, through the entire series.

The Beginning sets are a bit shorter, but the post-Barnabas sets each contain exactly 2 months worth of original air dates. At the rate you're going, you'll complete the project in about 5 years, about the length of the original run. When the sets were first released, 1 every other month, I had to pace myself at 5 episodes per week so I didn't run out before the next set came out. Its a nice rythm.

A Friend of Judah Zachary said...

Totally agree. I love these early episodes. I can't imagine ever skipping them.

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