Monday, December 26, 2016

BuffyLog Days 3 and 4: She, Buffy. You... Felon?


Covered -- Season 2, Episode 13-22. Season 3, Episode 1-14

So, this is what happened.

I became very wound up with what I thought was hypocrisy on the part of avowed feminist Mr. Whedon when Angel committed statutory rape with our heroine. If a law calls something ‘rape,’ I think it’s very dodgy for a show (starring someone who is a major role model for adolescent girls) to selectively depict that said rape law can be suspended... if the guy is hot enough. It sends just as bad a message to male viewers, “If I think myself hot enough, it’s not really statutory rape. Me, Angel. You, Buffy.”

No. She, Buffy. You, Felon. Even in 1997. In California.

I really tore Joss a new one on this in my first draft. Especially because the statutory issue isn’t really touched upon. Normally, artists aren’t really shackled with too many -- if any -- duties.  But the show relentless presents itself as a very political animal. I think it’s dirty pool to press pause on that when a moment is soapy enough. It’s the Cool Kid’s Prerogative, and I don’t like it. So there.

Paranoid that I was diving into a tar pit, I consulted everyone from lettered, feminist scholars to Satanists to vet the piece. I came through with flying colors. But it was becoming an epic that makes what I’ve written here look like a Burma Shave ad.

So, there. I pretty much said it. It’s out of my system again.

As I waited on the vetting, I kept watching. Not only did I still have a lot to say about a major day of developments, new ones were popping up all the time. I’ve lost count, which is a commentary right there. Christmas morning, an important relative died. Not geographically close, so there really wasn’t much I could do. I finished my viewing and am all caught up; it’s been a unique Christmas.

At present, the Mayor has begun his Hundred Days of Evil, and Buffy has a new Watcher. Inevitably, they took the easy route by making him a cowardly prig rather than someone who differs from Giles, but is effective. We missed out on a Captain Jellico, and that’s a shame. What if he'd shown backbone? What if he'd been made of stern stuff? Or had some other management style?

You know, all is well on the show. It is very solid television. I’m not sure it’s going to cure Bendii Syndrome, but it’s good. The reason I kind of damn it with faint praise is because of something my co-writer, David, said. He contends that when it’s good, there’s not much better. I can’t really say that, and that fact put things in perspective. Is it THE PRISONER? No. I, CLAUDIUS? No. SEINFELD? No. THE TWILIGHT ZONE? No. Doesn’t make it bad, but it does create a little relief. I think that statement is more about how humdrum genre television can get.

But it’s good. I’m even getting used to the sense of humor. The fans, I proffer, misled me in their zealous attempts to pull me into the flock for twenty years. All I heard about was its realism. A crock, methinks. Apologies. The show feels, more than anything, like a sitcom with serious and soapy moments. Heck, look at the title. Once I thought of it as a sitcom title rather than an exercise in twee irony, it worked fine.  

Okay, I’m going through an episode guide and free associating….

Evil Angel -- the character, not the studio -- is far more interesting than good Angel, and it’s nice to see the actor have fun. Both he, Marsters, and Landau really sell the show, and I’m very eager for the latter two to rejoin the cast.

The filler episodes come in two flavors -- dull (especially compared with ones that substantially contribute to the main story) and intensely interesting. As for the latter, “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered,” and “Band Candy,” are standouts. They take sitcom situations to points so extreme that we see the horror and chaos possible in them.

Naturally, I’m going to really enjoy, “The Dark Age,” which is about the most instructive episode possible for people who want to know about the past lives of teachers. Still, only in mid-Season 3 does Giles get his S1 mojo back. In Season 1, Head is doing is finest James Mason, and I liked the dignity of the character. Then, as with Willow, he seemed to be relegated to the broadest cliche possible. Well, by where I am now with the series, he’s finally stopped stammering. Although Willow is becoming increasingly strange as a character, her cliche is an adorable cliche, and so all is forgiven.

Faith is, um, fine I guess. Despite what Sam Harris says.

“GIngerbread,” “Helpless,” and “The Zeppo,” form a trio of episodes that show just how versatile the program can be and just how confident the writers are with inhabiting it. “The Wish,” which is their “Mirror, Mirror,” is an episode that I will absolutely rewatch.

Predictably, I’m nutty about The Mayor. For years, I’ve been hearing about him, never knowing what an all-powerful goof he is. So far, it’s a descent into nuttiness that is the show at its freshest.

Lastly, I really cherish how devoted the show is to the unadulterated wackiness of horror’s tropes. Scarred cultists! Hooded acolytes! Jackbooted guardians of hell! Not only does the show refuse to apologize for them, it celebrates them. This (along with the color palette of the fashions) reminds me of how we were before 9/11. I miss it. I miss opening theme credits. I miss beige. I miss the days when stories about the end of the world weren’t so damned literal.

For me, the sadly nostalgic part of BUFFY has nothing to do with what it brought to the air. I get nostalgic when I realize what we lost in the years after it left.

Friday, December 23, 2016

BuffyLog Day 2: John Ritter, Killer Android? Come and knock on my door!


Covered -- Season 2, episodes 1-12

John God Bless ‘Em Ritter.

If even one of the Buffians had told me that this was the kind of show that would cast John Ritter as a religiously-inclined killer android, I would have watched every episode decades ago. Yes, in the episode, “Ted,” it happens, and it’s just a sight to behold. My acting teacher hated John Ritter’s style, and I think it was because John secretly beat him out for the part of Jack Tripper. Well, the script marvelously creates an opportunity for Ritter to key up his nice guy image and then smash it with results almost as disturbing as John Lithgow on DEXTER. More evidence that Ritter was a finer actor than most realized, and seeing him here is a chance to celebrate that. For me, “Ted” is a personal highlight of the first half of this season.

(And a trip to the woodshed for any Whedonian friends who pitched the show to me without mentioning this. We have met, right?)

After the first episode, in which the show seems mired in the worst of its own cliches, things pick up. In some ways, the characterizations, especially Willow and Giles, are sliding into predictable cartoons that betray the nuance of the first season. Xander, however, continues to round out, as does Cordelia, and I’m both happy and baffled to see them together as a couple. This is in counterpoint to Buffy and Angel. Buffy is on a downward slide into becoming a dour and moody bully, and Angel has a flatness that induces yawns of considerable magnitude. Hardly winning anchors for the series, and I’m thankful to Xander and Cordelia for, surprisesurprise, delighting with their playful and unpredictable contributions to the show. It’s almost as if there’s a law of conservation of characterization, and Buffy, Angel, Giles, and Willow are sacrificed to spend wit and time on the vibrant newcomers, Oz, Spike, and Drusilla. These are dynamic, bright, intensely interesting characters, and it’s in them that we see the really clever writing: the crafting of characters who rise above tropes and cliches and stand out as “human,” even if two of them are not. They’re not just breaths of fresh air; they are sea-changing typhoons. Seth Green goes for miles with very little to work with. James Marsters knows precisely what he’s doing with a villain obviously crafted with room to grow. And Juliet Landau? I was largely familiar with her from ED WOOD, where she played a dislikable ditz, and was made up and lit to showcase the most unlikely of her parents’ features. On BUFFY, not only is she an unparalleled knockout, but she also believably inhabits one of the truly and wholly unique characters in TV. As a wan, psychic, mad-as-a-hatter vampire princess, she is by turns pitiful, frightening, and profoundly sexy.

Giles is a mess, however. A character who started out with some dignity has very little at this point, and I’m growing tired of the rut that the writers have cast him into. That’s ironic, because “his” episode, “The Dark Age,” is nonetheless a favorite of mine. Although I don’t like where the character seems to be going, he goes there with appreciable depth, and I like how they justify his present through his past. It gives us a chance to see him as something other than an exposition engine or a chance to go “ha-ha-look-how-square-grownups-are,” which seems to be where they’re sticking him. Let’s hope for more as the series goes on. I feel for him as he deals with the acrimony from Ms. Calendar. Look, you’re a “cyber-pagan.” You took the chance of getting possessed when you put on that uniform.

The look and feel of the show have scads more polish than in season 1, and I assume it has to do with more money in the budget. Authorially, the episodes feel as if I’m watching life unfold between dealing with the monster of the week than watching a monster of the week with life unfolding in the background. At the midseason point, Spike is down, Drusilla is up, and I suspect both will be keen to cause our heroes maximum trouble tomorrow. I can say that in the space of a day, I’m far more eager to see what happens.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

BuffyLog Day 1: Does the road to Damascus pass through Sunnydale?


Covered -- Season 1, all episodes.

I’m twelve episodes in. Because I’d never seen these before, unlike DARK SHADOWS, it was understandably exhausting toward the end, but I commend Joss Whedon in the firmness of his vision. While the stories were a tad formulaic (excluding “Angel” and “Prophecy Girl”), he showed an extremely strong vision for the characters. So far, they seem to be both consistent-yet-dynamic, and I enjoyed tuning in to see them. Cordelia had a predictably humanizing arc, which I might have done without, but the rest are relatable and winning. The stories of the first season didn’t really help this, nor did the dialogue. It’s the kind of self-aware snark that plagues Straczynski. It’s like in ANCHORMAN, when Ron Burgundy enthuses to his crew, “Hey everybody, come in here and see how great I look.” I get the feeling it’s what the BUFFY staff had to do in Joss’ office more than once. There’s snappy dialogue, much of which actually belonged to the first principal, but then there’s line after line that felt shoehorned in to get a laugh or make someone Look Clever. That kind of writing may be the most delicate to execute, and to see it handled well, get thee to the works of William Peter Blatty. In this case, it feels self-conscious and takes me out of the show.

My hope is that he’s developing a distinctive flavor for the series, and I think that’s where it will be if the fans are accurate. At it’s worst, it’s emblematic of the show’s strange relationship with realism. On one hand, he seems to want a realistic, personal, sympathetic portrayal of twentysomethings in high school. On the other hand, that kind of arch dialogic treatment of stressful moments feels wholly engineered and removes me from the immediacy of the moment. The other place where helpfully focusing realism is abandoned in the pursuit of flavor regards the piebald presence of adults in the school. Adults are all over the place in schools, and even twenty years ago, played an active role. Too many moments and events go by with passive or completely absent grownups (save Giles). As Mission Control pointed out, that’s a Disney Channel treatment of a seemingly kid-run school and betrays the complexity of the power and relationships in that environment. It’s not about adults, but adults are intrinsic to where it takes place.

Highlights? For emotional messiness, I was especially fond of the relationships in the finale and how they criss-crossed regarding Xander’s pursuit of a date to the dance. I look forward to more of that, and if Whedon can keep it real and not maudlin, I’ll be happy. Joss certainly knows how to cast women. Both Sarah Michelle Gellar and Alyson Hannigan anchor the show, and the relatably effete Anthony Stewart Head isn’t far behind. Unfortunately, I have no idea what his fascination is with slope-browed brunette men. Both Xander and Angel look like Malcolm Reynolds, and all three have a strangely neanderthalish quality that makes me dyin’ for some Seth Green. As an actor, Green has the sort of likably nerdy, Gilliganesque quality that Whedon seems to be going for with Xander. Unfortunately, all of the lighting in the world can’t keep this supposedly loveless nerd from looking about as square-jawed-male-modelish as Angel.

So, all I really know now is that the show gets better. And that’s saying a lot, because it wasn’t bad in this case. I put Whedon under a microscope, yes, but it’s commensurate with his reputation. I know he learns a lot about shaping snarky dialogue in tough situations; the well-honed dialogue in THE AVENGERS is proof of it. Onward!  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: A Roadmap to the Scars


I had issues in 1997 or so.

I’d just moved and was paying attention to a Real Job. I never had cable nor good reception. I was apathetic toward the BUFFY movie. And the title? Dreadful. Newsflash: it ain’t ironic. Irony involves a certain tweak of expectation that allows the audience to do some mental math, hence why it’s so satisfying. BUFFY: THE VAMPIRE SLAYER isn’t ironic to me. It’s twee. Call it SLAYER and let me find out the slayer’s name is Buffy. THAT’S ironic. Yeah, yeah, I’d been told that it was an incredibly realistic depiction of high school, and I give that a golf clap. It may be a great depiction of high school, but I work in a high school. I get that all the time.

I kept forgetting it was on the air. But it wouldn’t go away. It got especially bad when I was developing a series around an occult hero. I went for several poignant months where I was told that every idea I had was one already featured on BUFFY.

And then there was the DARK SHADOWS matter.

Prior to 2012, it felt to me like being a DARK SHADOWS fan didn’t even have the patina of geek chic. It was like wearing a “kick me” sign around other genre fans. Those fans needed the approval of Tim Burton (even if he did screw it up) to let them know it was cool to crave Collinwood. But before then, people would groan at the mention of it. It seemed like all of them were BUFFY fans, who’d found “the real thing.” It was like opening a second French Laundry restaurant and being told that it was but a stuffy and turgid relic compared to the West Town Mall food court.

With a title like BUFFY, from the stills I saw, on a fourth or fifth-string tv network, with the obligatory, PC, lesbian chic plot thread (inevitably involving the nerdy-cute Wiccan girl), etc, etc, it really felt like the food court with the kids and cliches gathering at my table after pouring out of Hot Topic and Spencer’s in equal measure. Horror used to be the last bastion for the academic to be the hero while characters named “Buffy” and “Spike” got killed in the second reel. What was this madness? Worse, from what I could tell, there had to be some DARK SHADOWS in its lineage, but it went unacknowledged. If I could just find Joss saying ONE nice thing about DS, maybe that would have gotten the SHADOWS haters off my back. No dice, Chicago.

So, fine. Be that way. I’ll just… do other things.

And it wouldn’t go away. Then I watched FIREFLY earlier this year. I finally got roped into it, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t like it. Yes, some of the jokes were awfully proud of themselves. All of the groundbreaking gender politics, etc, had been old hat fifteen years before the show was made, but the show doesn’t know that, so shhhhhhhhhhhh. But it was still (mostly) fast-moving, exciting, witty, and charming.

A month or two ago, Wallace mentioned that he’d been reluctant to see the show, but a friend once talked him into it. Yet another Buffy fan was born. I began kvetching a blue streak, and he remarked that it might be like the Dream Curse. If he passes it on, the fever will stop.

So, he’s passing it on, and now I need to stop twenty years of passing on it. If I’m going to write about these matters, this is a vacuum of cultural literacy that is inexcusable. Cultural literacy curiosity is one of these things that separates us from pandas, and this just won’t go away. And if no one else is going to try to make connections re: DARK SHADOWS’ influence, then I will! If it doesn’t exist? Well… it’ll be official.

It’s been years since I had a successful “XP” project, where I watch a sanity-endangering amount of one thing over a relatively short period of time. Nowadays, they call them ‘binges,’ but does a binge typically last 8.8 hours a day for twelve days? Exactly. I think not. I did the math, and with taking off Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day, I can fit everything in by the time the Christmas Break is over. Okay, Buffy. Do your worst. And by worst, I mean best. I’ll also be trying Penn Jillette’s strange, all-potato diet to get me back to my lean, 2013 fightin’ weight. We’ll know how that turned out by the 29th.

Want to follow along? The broadcasting day runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, sans the 24th and 1st, starting on December 21.

Wednesday, Dec. 21: Episodes 0-12 (season 1)
Thursday, Dec. 22: Episodes  13-24 (season 2)
Friday, Dec. 23: Episodes  25-36 (season 2 and 3)
Sunday, Dec. 25: Episodes  37-48 (season 3)

Monday, Dec. 26: Episodes  49-60 (season 3 and 4)
Tuesday, Dec. 27: Episodes  61-72 (season 4)
Wednesday, Dec. 28: Episodes  73-84 (season 4 and 5)
Thursday, Dec. 29: Episodes  85-96 (season 5)
Friday, Dec. 30: Episodes  97-108 (season 5 and 6)
Saturday, Dec. 31: Episodes  109-120 (season 6)

Monday, Jan. 2: Episodes  121-132 (season 6 and 7)
Tuesday, Jan. 3: Episodes  133-144 (season 7)

You can sync up your schedules, keeping in mind that I’ve calculated about a 44 minute running time, and I’ll be bounding ahead, one episode after the other, announcing progress on Twitter @theRealMcCray.

Check here and there for breathtaking details!

Monday, December 19, 2016

All roads lead to Collinsport

Believe it or not, Patrick McCray has never seen BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.

Admittedly, it took me a while to catch the series, which ran for seven seasons on The WB and the the late UPN. I had a friend who stopped short of twisting my arm to make we watch the series, which always seemed to be on television whenever I was visiting him. Having already endured the original movie, though, I resisted. "It's like this generation's DARK SHADOWS!" he argued, and still I resisted. When I finally decided to give Buffy her day in court, though, the sight of Seth Green running around high school hallways in what's arguably the worst werewolf costume ever didn't help matters.

Bit by bit, though, the show wore me down. What finally tipped the scales was the charming, idiosyncratic dialogue between Willow and her mother in the third season episode "Gingerbread." After that moment, I stopped seeing the rubber masks, lo-rent special effects and vampire fu, and started paying attention to the characters. From that point on, I was hooked.

Patrick will be taking a more direct, more aggressive route to Sunnydale. He's going to mainline the entire series over the holiday break, and plans to blog about his experiences here and on Twitter. There will probably be a few bumps along the road ... BUFFY crosses over with its spin-off ANGEL a few times, so you might need to fill him in on what he's missing in those episodes.

The fun begins on December 21. Stay tuned!

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 16


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1177

In Quentin’s lab, the Staircase roars to life. The door at the top flies open. In silhouette, cast against the primal forces of the supernatural, we see a muscled, masculine, defiant figure, arrogantly erect. Julia sniffs the musk in the air, feels herself swoon in an unmistakable way, and knows that only one force in the universe can have such a profound effect on the human female. In other words, T. Eliot Stokes has arrived. He had waited in the playroom until the staircase appeared, having read in Flora’s journal of Barnabas’ disappearance. Julia gives an in-depth description of the situation thus far. The cover story for the Professor is that he is Ben’s nephew, newly arrived in town. Angelique is made privy to the truth. They split up and agree for Stokes to publicly arrive at 9:30 that night. Waiting, Julia has a dream in which Roxanne appears to say that Barnabas is dying. Waking, she and Angelique go on a hunt that leads to Lamar’s. Meanwhile, Stokes arrives at Collinwood. Gerard, threatened both as a power and as a man, grills Professor Stokes. He must have Stokes’ secrets. With his eyebrow cocked insouciantly, T. Eliot Stokes bests him at every turn.

It’s not hyperbole when I say that this is the single funniest episode of DARK SHADOWS. Why? Grayson Hall clearly lost a bet to her husband Sam, who wrote it. At least half of the episode is devoted to Julia doing her best to recap the incredibly complicated storyline of 1840. It goes on and on like a Gilbert and Sullivan patter song, and I can only think of it as Sam’s revenge for some kind of domestic squabble.

When I wrote the Collins Chronicles, I knew how I wanted to handle the episode’s entry. I wrote it as a letter from Stokes to his affiliates in the notorious Hellfire Club. More than that… I wanted it to be a single sentence. When I wrote the live version for the 50th anniversary Festival and was asked to make it short and funny, I knew that a performance of it was the perfect stunt on which to end the show. Unfortunately, the events began to run over on the day of the performance, and I chose to cut the Stokes letter to keep the Festival as much on-schedule as possible.

Here’s “Stokes’ Letter”....
Here is the situation thus far:
Barnabas Collins has been missing for a week near Collinwood, whose master is now Gerard Stiles, but whose rightful master, Quentin Collins, is the subject of a witch trial where his cousin, Desmond Collins, served as advocate until being jailed for practicing the occult, himself, in a forced exposure probably engineered by Gerard, who suspects my friend Julia Hoffman rather than the witch, Angelique Bouchard, who has an obsession with Barnabas, a man once served by my ancestor Ben Stokes, who, when Julia first arrived, was one of the many live-on guests at Collinwood, along with the aforementioned Gerard Stiles who, at the time of Julia's arrival, was not the evil monster he would become but someone merely fabricating the details of the drowning of Tad Collins and Tad's father, Quentin, Gerard's best friend and husband of Samantha, a woman Gerard attempted to marry in the wake (ha-ha) of Quentin's alleged passing, and who would have done so, had it not been for the subsequent return of Tad and Quentin on their wedding day, causing interpersonal rifts which were furthered as Samantha chose the secretly gold-digging Gerard over Quentin, two men who later vied for the affections of Miss Daphne Harridge, a new governess to Collinwood, a house whose former master, Daniel, was dying at the time of the wedding, and who intended to bequeath all his wealth to Samantha, much to the consternation of Daniel's son (and Quentin's brother), Gabriel, an embittered malcontent in a wheelchair, who watched in glee as Quentin engineered strife between Gerard, his best friend, and Samantha, his estranged wife, by refusing to give up the son he had with her, Tad, a young man rendered helpless as Gerard moved to nearby Rose Cottage (with Flora Collins) but nonetheless maintained an odd friendship with Quentin, who still thought their friendship dear, while ignoring all of Gerard's bad qualities, such as his practice of witchcraft, a force insinuating itself into Collinwood in myriad ways such as the evil will of Judah Zachary, a powerful warlock decapitated centuries ago in Bedford, Massachusetts and the architect of mass chaos in Collinsport via the mental seizure of Quentin's cousin, Desmond (the man who brought the head to Collinsport as a gift for Quentin and who is now on trial for witchcraft), Letitia Faye (who has second sight and a keen singing voice), Dr. Julia Hoffman (a female physician who briefly attached the head to a body while under a hex), and now Gerard Stiles, supposed good friend to the one man Judah did not possess, Quentin Collins, despite allegations from the state that Quentin is carrying out Judah's grand design of revenge on the Collins family (whose patriarch, Amadeus, presided on the witchcraft trial that ended in his execution), and whose evil magic is powerful enough to overflow, causing strife with a neighbor whose cattle have died as well as a woman who perished with her forehead branded with the "mark of Satan" (hardly), which is a symbol also seen on the ring of Quentin Collins, a man later found kneeling over the body of his murdered brother-in-law, Randall Drew, a gentleman who resided in a cell managed by a sheriff whose wife was found dead outside its bars from occult means, a fact emphasized by Lamar Trask, a crazed mortician and the chief accuser of witchcraft, a citation he uses to hector his sworn enemy, Barnabas Collins, the alleged (and, as it turns out, true) murderer of Trask's father in 1795, the year when the elder Trask was walled up (for the public welfare) in the cellar of the Old House on the Collins estate, and the same house that Barnabas was leaving as he attempted to testify on Quentin's behalf, yet vanished in a manner as mysterious as the way in which governess, Daphne Harridge, changed her affections from Gerard to Quentin, a choice that made her sister to go mad after their infidelity some time ago.
Pardon me if I am late for brunch.

We will.

On this day in 1970, the Soviets were the first humans to land a vehicle on another planet… in this case, Venus. It’s time we went back, no?

UPDATE: The unsavory Jack Chick/Dark Shadows connection

It should come as no surprise to you that Jack Chick was not a fan of DARK SHADOWS.

The paranoid, hate-filled comics publisher died Oct. 23, 2016, at the age of 92, according to a Facebook post by Chick Publications. There are few people in America who have seen one of his tiny pamphlets, which tell violent parables in support of bigotry, fear and delusional myopia. Since 1961, Chick published more than 250 comics, tackling such crippling social problems as Dungeons & Dragons, rock music, homosexuality and Freemasonry. If it was the least bit fun, Jack Chick hated it.

Naturally, DARK SHADOWS was an easy target for him, though it's highly unlikely he ever watched an episode of the series. In 1972, not long after the ABC soap went off the air, Chick took a potshot at this show in his Chick Tract "Bewitched." Rumor has it story begins with Satan taking in an episode of DARK SHADOWS, it's distinctive gothic/serif font emblazoned on his television set.

"Why are these old re-runs so important, Master?" a nameless ghouls asks.

"Because, stupid, that show paved the way for our occult and vampire programming viewed by millions today," Satan answers dickishly.

And he's not wrong. Without Barnabas Collins, we wouldn't have THE NIGHT STALKER, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE and a host of lesser-known offspring. Chick takes a slightly dimmer view of DARK SHADOWS, though, using it as a springboard for his usual morality play about eternal damnation. In short, our protagonist, Debbie, does a bunch of acid before having her soul saved by the prayers of her grandmother. Awwww.

Again, some of this is just rumor. Later editions of "Bewitched" was revised: Debbie's name was changed to Ashley (why?) in later editions, and Satan's favorite TV show was altered to replace DARK SHADOWS with the credits for the sitcom BEWITCHED. (The curious reference to "vampire programming" remained.)

I've spent years casually searching for an original edition of "Bewitched," for no other reason than to satisfy my own curiosity. The 2015 book "The World of Jack Chick" includes a segment on "Bewitched" but does not mention DARK SHADOWS. For all we know, any appearance by the series in a Chick Tract  is myth.

UPDATE: Confirmation! 
A Mysterious Benefactor™ recently e-mailed me a scan of BEWITCHED as it was originally published. The legend of the DARK SHADOWS reference happens to be true. Below, you can see the titles of the series (in all its misspelled glory), as well as the revised artwork and text that had appeared in subsequent editions. Thank you, Mysterious Benefactor™!

We now return you to the original, unedited post ...

Chick has an even more interesting connection to DARK SHADOWS. But first, a word of warning: this post is going to go to some dark places.

One of Chick's associates was an evangelical Christian named John Todd, who first worked with Chick on "The Broken Cross," one of hsi company's magazine-sized "Crusaders" comics. "John is exposing Masonry which has infiltrated our churches," Chick wrote in 1978. "It’s an unseen enemy. John has given me valuable information on two new publications, 'Angel of Light' and 'Spellbound.' The latter on rock music will have a devastating effect on Christian rock music. I thank God John is risking his neck to warn us of the dangers and techniques used by the Illuminati."

Todd's narrative was that the Illuminati was actually a vast conspiracy of witches, a web that grew to include the KGB, Hollywood, the already mentioned Freemasons ... and the Collins family from DARK SHADOWS. Todd claimed his family was descended from Druids in Scotland, who fled the country after being persecuted as witches. His family name was "Kollyns," which was later changed to "Collins."

When he was a teenager, Todd claimed, he was asked to fly out to "Hollywood" with a diary he'd inherited from his great-grandmother. These diaries served as the basis of DARK SHADOWS, and his ancestor Lance William Collins -- a secretary for a coven that included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton -- inspired Barnabas Collins. (For the record, the DARK SHADOWS production was located in New York.)

Todd also claims DARK SHADOWS was "literally prayed off the television," which is the first time I've heard that particular explanation for the show's cancellation.

"I back John up 100 percent with all his faults," Chick said of Todd in a 1978 letter. "I know this brother is doing his best to advance the kingdom of God. We must keep one fact in mind. John is not a minister, but a Christian layman sharing what he knows about a very explosive subject."

Wikipedia politely describes Todd as a "conspiracy theorist," a tagline that omits a great many of the man's more sinister faults. Todd was a lunatic and conman, having gone by the names "Lance Collins," "Kris Sarayn Kollyns" and "Kollyns Christopher Sarayn" at various points of his dubious career. According to "The Occult World" by Christopher Partridge, Todd was convicted of incest in Kentucky in 1984, for which he received a probationary sentence. In 1988, Todd was convicted in South Carolina of raping a college student, and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. During that time, the once evangelical Christian filed a lawsuit against the state claiming he was not allowed to practice Wicca, and demanded "personal items" such as a pair of women's panties and some pornographic photos be returned to him.

Todd was released from prison into the care of the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, where he died in 2007. To this day, Todd has defenders who insist his arrests (and even his death) were the work of the Illuminati.Was Jack Chick among their numbers? We can only speculate. None of Todd's offenses were considered valid reasons by Chick Publications to discontinue any of the stories that involved John Todd. "The Broken Cross," which begins with Chick expressing his "deepest appreciation" to Todd, is still available for sale from the company.

Anyone else feel like they need a shower now?

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 15


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 923

Death, bearing the name of “Mr. Best,” arrives at Amanda’s flat to remind her that her contract for extended life is almost up. He grants her seven more days to persuade Quentin to declare his love for her. Later, Julia agrees to help by finding an image of Quentin that will jar his memory. Sabrina persuades Carolyn to visit Delaware-Tate’s home where a man was murdered that full-moon evening. Julia also arrives and when Sabrina suggests that she knows the identity of the killer, Julia slugs her and has Carolyn take her away. As they wait to go back to the hospital, Sabrina tells Carolyn that she is still in love with Chris. Meanwhile, Julia finds out from Amanda that the painting of Quentin now has another painting over it -- called “A View of South Wales.” Julia travels out to a secluded, Maine island to meet the owner, a publishing tycoon named Sky Rumson. He shows her the painting, and then he shows her a painting of his wife… the image is of Angelique.

In the last gasps of the creative boom of 1969, the writers send the year off in high style. Having met Satan (aka, “Diabolos”) and Elder Gods for Before Time Itself (Oberon and Haza), why not bring in Death, himself, as an antagonist? It always made me wonder about the hierarchy of evil in DARK SHADOWS. Arguments can be made for any of those big three as being the eldest. This is swift moving episode of high stakes (Amanda vs Death) and intrigue, with Julia traveling all over Maine to track down Quentin’s painting. That it should be capped off by the introduction of Geoffrey Scott as Sky Rumson? Well, let’s just say that it makes 923 memorable for whole new reasons. In all of DARK SHADOWS, no one actor has a style as memorably unique as Scott’s. His career is still chugging away, and he’s matured into his strengths, working with A-list directors like Ang Lee. Quite the athlete, he even recovered from having both legs crushed in a cycling accident. But the episode’s cliffhanger? One of DARK SHADOWS best zingers, and none too soon. December is a good time to be Lara Parker. She’s involved at this time of year in 1967, 1968, 1969, and 1970.

It’s a great time for movies. We’re only four days away from the world premier of ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE, arguably the best film in the James Bond series and one of the more faithful adaptations. 

Have yourself a scary little Christmas

During a feature about the #ShareKindness campaign this morning on THE TODAY SHOW, a piece of music closely associated with DARK SHADOWS made an awkward appearance: Josette's Theme. Yeah, it kinda/sorta sounds like Christmas music, but context is king. It's likely that many a DARK SHADOWS fan spit out their egg nog when they recognized the melody.

THE TODAY SHOW appeared to be Robert Farnon's version of the tune. This was a piece of stock music purchased by Dan Curtis Productions during the initial "Barnabas Collins" storyline in 1967, making its first appearance in Episode 236. Curtis later commissioned Robert Cobert to write an original composition, likely because it was cheaper than paying licensing fees in perpetuity. (Note: Farnon's melody was also used in an episode of THE PRISONER, "Dance of the Dead," later in 1967.)

You can watch THE TODAY SHOW segment below. The melody begins around the :45 mark.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 14


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1171

Gerard unmasks a hooded figure attempting to stab him. It’s Samantha. She reveals that she is leaving the “notes from Joanna” to torture Quentin and drive Daphne from the house. Quentin once had an affair with Joanna. When Samantha refused him a divorce, he went to sea. Much as with his namesake decades later, the woman left behind -- Joanna, in this case -- went mad. Confined to an asylum, she revealed the depth of her love for Quentin to Samantha. Shortly thereafter, Joanna escaped and died on the beach. After Quentin’s return, Samantha used Joanna’s unread letters to him as a means of torment. Once she learned that she could forge Joanna’s handwriting, the missives took their more sinister turn. Gerard and Samantha unite in their quest for Quentin’s downfall. Meanwhile, having been seen in the sun, Barnabas is seemingly innocent of charges of vampirism. This inflames Trask, who manipulates the course of a dinner party to convince Barnabas that Roxanne’s ghost is appearing in the basement of the Old House. Going there, Barnabas finds himself ambushed by Lamar, who forces him into the shackles in which his own father died.

Many parts of DARK SHADOWS are about having fun, but 1840 is not one of them. It’s not supposed to be, either. We’re down a King and a Kennedy since the show first went on the air, and Vietnam is not showing signs of improvement. There is a sense of quiet pain in the performances of James Storm, Virginia Vestoff, and Kate Jackson. 1897 had whimsy. 1795 had hopeless romance. They are the party; 1840 is the hangover. There is no redemption in sight for Gerard, the world’s worst best friend, and Samantha, the scorned wife from hell. Revenge and greed are their singular goals and motives. That makes them seem a bit one-note compared to introductions of other characters. Almost all of the other villains on the show were undone by ultimate and universal human traits. Not them. If you’re waiting for it, I’m sorry. Had the show continued, perhaps they would have been recycled in the present, and we would have seen more dimension to them. I think their presence is why 1840 can seem like a depressing storyline if taken in the wrong context. It’s important to remember that they are support characters, only. They just happen to be support characters given a lot of screen time. Cosmically, 1840 is a short storyline… certainly compared with 1897. Keep that in mind. There’s only so much change and redemption one storyline can hold, and although she’s been absent for a bit, this era belongs to Angelique. And Barnabas. That will be more than enough.

This is an episode of deep dish exposition with Traskian irony as a chaser. In fact, it’s one of two expository episodes. (Just wait until the doozy of 1177.) But sometimes those are necessary, and it’s a credit to the ambition of the writers that they would take it on.

It’s a few hundred years off, but on this day in 1640, Aphra Behn was born. Who was she? Just on the heels of Shakespeare’s age, she was one of the first noted female playwrights in history. (She wasn’t a very good one, but, hey, she was there first.) Her most famous play was THE ROVER and she was also -- like Christopher Marlowe before her -- a secret agent for His Majesty’s Secret Service. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The 2016 Dark Shadows Holiday Gift Guide

DARK SHADOWS has been off the air (more or less) since 1971, but that hasn't stopped its merchandise from periodically flooding the shelves. This year is no different: 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the show's debut on ABC, and folks have stepped up to mark the occasion in wasy both big and small. Big Finish continued to expand the Collinsport Universe with such landmark tales as "Blood & Fire" while also tinkering with the audio drama format, delivering an epic number of new spoken-word novellas this year. Original cast member Lara Parker has also published her fourth DARK SHADOWS novel, "Heiress of Collinwood," which ties together loose plot threads from the original series. It's been a pretty good year.

Below you'll find a collection of nifty DARK SHADOWS items available online. These range from the traditional (such as the "coffin-box" DVD collection) to some original art created by fans. Enjoy@

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood
By Lara Parker

Production description:
"An orphan with no knowledge of her origins, Victoria Winters first came to the great house of Collinwood as a Governess. It didn’t take long for the Collins family’s many buried secrets, haunted history, and rivalries with evil forces to catch up to Victoria and cast the newcomer adrift in time, trapped between life and death. At last returned to the present, Victoria is called back to Collinwood by a mysterious letter. Hoping to fill in the gaps of her memories by meeting with the people who knew her best, Victoria returns to the aging mansion. However, she soon discovers that the entire Collins family is missing―except for Barnabas Collins, a vampire whose own dark curse is well known. Victoria discovers that she has been named sole heir to the estate, if only she can prove her own identity. Beset by danger and dire warnings, Victoria must discover what dread fate has befallen Collinwood, even as she finally uncovers a shocking truth long hidden in the shadows ..."

Dark Shadows: Haunting Memories
From Big Finish

Product description:
"Four new tales of horror, romance and intrigue read by cast members from the original television series. Hell Wind by Marcy Robin: A young Josette Du Pres is terrified for her life as a deadly hurricane smashes into the island of Martinique. She rushes for shelter but she's not the only one fighting to survive. Communion by Adam Usden: 1861 and War rages across America. The preacher Elias Trask and his young son Gregory, are hiding from men who wish to kill them. But something else is already in their hiding place. The Ghost Ship by Lara Parker:The warlock Nicholas Blair has transformed the witch Angelique into a vampire to serve him. Her love for Barnabas Collins, though, will never die. A Face From The Past by Kay Stonham: Elizabeth Collins Stoddard is returning to her home town of Collinsport. But on the train, she is stunned to see the young man who was once the love of her life. Could he also have returned to the town that once tore them apart? The Dark Shadows story continues in these four original stories, based on the classic ABC-TV series with specially composed music and cinematic sound design. Actors from the series narrate four original stories. With Kathryn Leigh Scott, Jerry Lacy, Lara Parker & Marie Wallace."

Dark Shadows Collinwood Mansion Vintage style Keychain
From: Rosendale Retro

Product description:
"Barnabas has given you keys to the mansion. This is a high quality limited edition Dark Shadows Collingwood Mansion keychain. It measures 2" wide by 3.5" tall made of durable plastic just like the process in the 50's. Email me with any questions. Discount shipping on multiple items."
LINK: Etsy

Dark Shadows: 50th Anniversary Compilation
From MPI Home Video

Product description:
"This special 50th anniversary collection offers 38 complete TV episodes that are among the most popular in the history of DARK SHADOWS, serving as an ideal introduction to new fans as well as an enticing overview for longtime devotees.  Additionally, movie-length presentations of two of DARK SHADOWS' most popular stories are included. The Vampire Curse details how Angelique the witch caused Barnabas to become a creature of the night. The Haunting of Collinwood reveals how the children of Collinwood become possessed by the ghost of Quentin Collins.  Special Features include new episode introductions by David Selby (Quentin), Lara Parker (Angelique) and Kathryn Leigh Scott (Maggie), exclusive video interviews with Jonathan Frid & David Selby, and Dark Shadows promos."

Dark Shadows: Blood & Fire
From: Big Finish

Product description:
"A two-hour adventure celebrating 50 years of Dark Shadows! Some are born with magic, some acquire magic, and others have magic thrust upon them. The year is 1767 and young widow Laura Murdoch Stockbridge is to marry Joshua Collins, heir to the Collins fortune. Meanwhile, Joshua's sister Abigail is in love with disreputable sailor Abraham Harkaway. But the course of true love never did run smooth, especially when the witch Angelique Bouchard is around. For Angelique has been sent back in time and she has one mission - to destroy the Collins family forever. Featuring cast from the original television series, Blood and Fire is a special audio drama to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Dark Shadows with specially composed music and cinematic sound design. Dark Shadows at Big Finish covers a popular range of 50 individual stories, two special four-story seasons, and the acclaimed Dark Shadows - Bloodlust serial series, released twice-weekly over seven weeks in 2015. The original American TV series has been a cult hit for decades, and consists of over 1200 episodes, and a Tim Burton film in 2012 with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.Recorded in the US and UK, the Big Finish Dark Shadows range use significant casts to tell a wide range of stories. CAST: Lara Parker (Angelique Bouchard), Kathryn Leigh Scott (Patience Collins), Mitchell Ryan (Caleb Collins), Andrew Collins (Joshua Collins), Daisy Torme (Abigail Collins), James Storm (Abraham Harkaway) and Jerry Lacy (Malachi Sands) with John Karlen (Alfred Loomis), Lisa Richards (Euphemia Spencer Stockbridge) & Christopher Pennock (Uriah Spencer Stockbridge)."

Dark Shadows - Echoes of the Past
From: Big Finish

Product description:
"The Reverend Trask performs his first exorcism...Maggie Evans encounters a ghost...Quentin Collins battles a force in 1958 Los Angeles, and Angelique Bouchard is forced to write a confession for the rest of time...Four new stories read by cast members from the original television series. The Dark Shadows story continues in these four original stories, based on the classic ABC-TV series in an all new story with specially composed music and cinematic sound design. Actors from the series narrate four original stories. Read by Jerry Lacy, Kathryn Leigh Scott, Lara Parker & David Selby."

Dark Shadows: The Complete Original Series
Product description:
"This deluxe edition boxed set contains every eerie episode of the original Gothic suspense series DARK SHADOWS (1966-1971) plus a wealth of bonus interviews with the stars and creative members that made the supernatural thriller a cult favorite and an enduring television classic."

  • 131 DVDs with all 1,225 Complete Episodes
  • Commemorative large Coffin package (housing 22 amarays)
  • Deluxe booklet with episode summaries & photographs
  • Special Bloopers, Treasures & Behind The Scenes DVD s
  • Over 120 Bonus Cast & Crew Video Interviews 


Barnabas Collins Articulated Paper Doll
From: ArdentlyCrafted
Product description:
"Dark Shadows Barnabas Collins paper doll! Steal the show with this gothic soap opera bloodsucker. He comes with a removable paper cane that he can hold in his hand. A movable piece of art that makes a great gift for yourself or a loved one who love the TV show Dark Shadows. The original design is scanned and then laser printed on heavy 140# index paper (cardstock). He is cut and assembled by me with tiny brads to make him posable. He is about 13 inches tall and about 4 inches wide. He has 8 articulating joints and a removable cane he can hold in his hand."
LINK: Etsy

Painting of Josette DuPres from Dark Shadows
From: WoodhouseArts

Product description:
"This is a painting on a canvas board I did of Josette DuPres from Dark Shadows. She is in her bedroom looking at the black onyx ring given to her by her lover the vampire Barnabas Collins.
I've painted Josette mostly in artists quality water colours, which are very vibrant. I have used some acrylic paint pens and gel pens on her face and night dress.To add to the romance and beauty of Josette I've glued on a pretty crochet lace border and 4 metal embellishments ( the centre of which match the blue in the background). The lace suggests the lace on Josette's bed.The back of the board has been covered with pretty scrapbooking paper and signed. It measures approx 31 by 25 cms."

8-Bit Wonder - Dark Shadows PDF Cross-Stitch Pattern

From: CatLadyCrossStitch

Product description:
"This cross-stitch pattern comes with a full colour chart with floss legends in DMC. The digital file will be delivered INSTANTLY via download link once payment is processed. The pattern can also be accessed at any time through your "Purchases" folder. Due to the nature of digital files, no refunds can be given - thanks for understanding. You are responsible for downloading and printing the pattern - this is ONLY A DIGITAL FILE. This listing is for a PDF file of the pattern, not the finished product. You will need Adobe reader to open the files, which you can get free from"

Dark Shadows Retro Style Metal Lunchbox
From MPI Home Video

Product description:
"Full Color artwork with Barnabas, Angelique, Quentin and Collinwood. Dimensions: 10L x 5W x 6H."
Link: MPI Home Video

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 13


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 650

In the wake of Madame Findley’s death, Victoria fixates on Jeff’s watch. When it begins to tick, she knows that his spirit is active and capable of contact. This is bolstered when he actually appears to her, drawn by the power of love. After he vanishes, she becomes determined to return to him. After tearful and sincere goodbyes to Liz and Barnabas, a solitary Vicki sees Peter appear once more. When they join hands, both are drawn back to the past as Liz and Barnabas look on in astonishment.

Maybe it was the mood I was in. Maybe it was the ensemble at its best. Maybe it was the quietly dignified compassion shared between the characters. Maybe it was Ron Sproat’s sensitive, emotionally mature script. Or the passionate sincerity of the performances. Perhaps it was the result of these things combined, capping stories that have been years in the telling. But we said goodbye to Victoria Winters. I was transfixed, teared up, and felt both elated and terrible for everyone.

Betsy Durkin, in her final appearance on the show, again ably carries the episode, with a Victoria pushed beyond arguable madness and into an understanding of time and destiny known by very few. Her farewells to Liz and Barnabas are as credible as if she’d been essaying the part since 1966. Roger Davis puts in a performance both heartfelt and heightened, without ever straying into the hamfisted. The unsung hero of the episode is Jonathan Frid. In saying goodbye to Victoria, we see the character’s pain, his restraint, his compassion, and his wise dignity. Of course, for Barnabas, his knowledge of her is fresh. He’s known her maybe a year? That includes how they met in 1795. His feelings for her are fresher than we, the viewers, realize. No, they’re more than that. He’s seen the range of her bravery, going back nearly two centuries. She’s an extraordinary woman, and no one else there -- not even Peter Bradford -- appreciates it in quite the same way. His longing is so clearly articulated, but it’s punctuated by his decision to control when they part company. It’s the last and only position of self-respect. How much has he lost? How ruthless is he in the pursuit of his desires? We know what he’s capable of. Thus, his choice to move on shows a thoughtful self-command that can only be credibly crafted and appreciated in the daily storytelling of the soap. With their parting, she leaves, he stays, the baton is passed, and it becomes clear who the ultimate protagonist of DARK SHADOWS is destined to be. The show begins with one lost stranger coming to Collinwood only to find her destiny in the past. It continues and ends with a man of the past finding his fate in the future. Is Victoria, in her unblemished purity, the past that Collinwood needs? Is Barnabas the stabilizing voice of yesterday here to balance the moral scales of yesterday? They become bookends. Both finding meaning through devotion to families that aren’t really theirs. Both meeting their ends in trials.

Special kudos to Louis Edmonds, too. Everyone who thinks that Roger remains a heartless, condescending cretin needs to take a good look at his depiction in an episode like this. He is strength and sympathy in equal measure, and as with Barnabas, it’s a believable result of the character’s evolution. When he asks Barnabas to look after things in his absence, there’s a sincere warmth to the request, and again, it makes me realize how far both characters have come.

I am impressed by so many of the DARK SHADOWS installments, but few leave me as emotionally winded as this one. And yet, I can’t wait to watch it again.

On this day in 1968, the president of Brazil runs rampant over their constitution, but manages to stabilize the country. It’s unclear if a surviving Burke Devlin is involved.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 12


Taped on this date in 1966: Episode 126

Matthew intends to kill Vicki to satisfy the Widows. Meanwhile, David tells Burke and Roger where she is, leading the two men to break out the guns and go on a manhunt. As Matthew sharpens his axe, the ghost of Josette appears to Vicki to calm her nerves. Eventually, Bill Malloy’s ghost is joined by those of the Widows, who unite to kill Matthew by sheer fright. Or his diet high in saturated fat.

When we Collinsport Historical Society Irregulars did our “Ten Favorite DARK SHADOWS Episodes,” I’m not certain I’d yet re-re-re-reviewed this one. While it falls outside the essential Barnabas/Angelique narrative that I featured in my list, 126 is an unsurpassed twenty minutes of television, and it could be the most daring and important episode of the series -- even more so than 210 (or 211 or 212… whichever one introduces Barnabas in the way that works best for you). Episode 1 may be the premier of the show, but 126 is DARK SHADOWS’ first proper episode. If you get what I mean.

Okay, so what’s the big deal? This is not an episode that hints, teases, nor alludes to the supernatural. Rather, it blasts out out of the cathode cannon and right into the audience’s amygdala, ready or not. 126 establishes Collinwood as a place where the true and uncompromising residents are the ghosts, with humans as meddling short timers. This is not a program of mild supernatural innuendo, just delicate enough to leave sacrosanct the delicate sensibilities of those housewives who watch while putting the finishing touches on that ham loaf for the Wednesday church supper. This is not typical, thumb-twiddling, soap-opera time wasting. By God, Matthew’s got an axe, Burke and Roger have broken out the guns, and the ghosts of Bill Malloy and Josette team up to beat everyone to the punch. Patience? Bite it. Your day has come. On tonight’s DARK SHADOWS, we gotta rumble!

Episode 126 is also a taste of what I think Rob Zombie’s DARK SHADOWS would have been like. First of all, the story is told extremely well, with the actors hitting every note the writers set down.  Additionally, it’s raw, violent, and grimly funny, with Thayer David menacing and goofy as a deranged and deluded (down east) redneck killing machine.

History? It’s all over the place in this one. Kathryn Leigh Scott speaks as Josette, truly going from an apt-looking stand-in to inventing the role that would cement her as one of the series’ four or five most crucial actors. We bid farewell to Matthew Morgan, but with such panache that it was just a warm-up for Thayer David. Bill Malloy is seen once more… with a musical number! Short of some kind of Orbach’s engineered wardrobe malfunction, this is not only a great DARK SHADOWS episode, it’s also, as the ad copy for THE RIGHT STUFF declared, “where the future begins.”

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Dark Shadows Daybook: DECEMBER 8


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 384

When Josette learns of the duel, Angelique bolts from the room and Andre refuses to end the upcoming fight. However, each visits Barnabas later. Angelique gives him a charm to help him in the duel while Andre asks him to call the whole thing off. Even though Barnabas has never been in a duel, he refuses. Meanwhile, Josette tries to persuade Jeremiah to withdraw from the upcoming melee, but he refuses as well. Josette takes the blame for the situation, but it’s clear that he’s obsessed with self-destruction. Jeremiah and Barnabas finally meet, and Barnabas is convinced that Jeremiah has been plotting his end all along. They leave to duel… news that makes Josette faint. By the time she awakens gets to the Collinwood garden, Jeremiah has been fatally wounded.

1795 is easily the most mannered and stiff of the DARK SHADOWS time jaunts, and that’s fine with me. Each episode is like a little, well, trip through time, except I’m thinking more about performance style and dialogue. I feel like I’m watching Sheridan by way of Cotton Mather. No acting challenge on the show more distinctly separates one school of actors from another. They all -- well, mostly -- sound credible, but some come across as if that’s simply the only way to speak, and others sound as if they may be punished if they dare use a contraction. Jonathan Frid, of course, makes it sound as effortless as ordering a pizza. The 1795 syntax fits Louis Edmonds so well that his modern characters become the awkward ones. And David Ford was clearly getting his Hancock up and ready for 1776.

This episode is one two-hander after another, each heading toward the inevitable duel, each unfolding like a Japanese tea ceremony of protocol. The last of them is between Barnabas and his uncle. Jeremiah can’t deny his love for Josette, but that doesn’t mean he understands it. Hence, the scene and ensuing duel have a strange, bewildered sadness to them. Both Jeremiah and Barnabas prefer to remember the former as he once was, not as he is. So, you know, let’s shoot the present version.

It’s our last chance to see Anthony George on DARK SHADOWS. He lived in Mitch Ryan’s shadow, and although the writers changed the character… probably to favor George’s strengths… I don’t think he ever found a good fit in the DS universe. He’s an excessively earnest and stalwart gent, and DARK SHADOWS had a sarcastic edge that was far more on the 1970’s side of the 60’s, whereas George seems like he’s suited more for the 50’s. He went on to more soap success for five years on SEARCH FOR TOMORROW and then teamed up with many DS alums on ONE LIFE TO LIVE. He was good pals with Earl Holliman, one of my father’s least favorite actors. My father does a good Earl Holliman impression. If you want to hear him do it, contact me and I’ll arrange it.

On this day in 1967, The Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour” finally goes on sale. Everyone tries to enjoy as much of 1967 as they can before the year becomes 1968 and everything Officially Goes to Hell. But for now, Merry Christmas!  
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