Thursday, August 31, 2017

Today is a good day to get an Amazon Prime membership


For months now, Amazon has been teasing us with DARK SHADOWS offerings on its Prime service. During the summer, the company added four scattered DVD collections of the series to Prime Video, as well as the two "best of" collections, "Dark Shadows: The Haunting of Collinwood" and "Dark Shadows: The Vampire Curse." They were welcome additions to Amazon's catalog, to be sure. But was it enough to justify a Prime membership? Probably not.

That might have just changed. Now streaming on Amazon Prime are the first 17 DVD collections of the series, as well as two collections of "Dark Shadows: The Beginning," taken from the first 200 "Pre-Barnabas" episodes of the series. All told, this represents more than 750 episodes of DARK SHADOWS, taking you from the introduction of Jonathan Frid as "Barnabas Collins," right up through the entire 1897 story arc and David Selby as "Quentin Collins." (The collection even touches a little on "The Leviathans" arc.) Unless I've missed something during the last few years, the is the single biggest catalog of DARK SHADOWS videos that's ever been offered (legally) online.

Take a look for yourself at Amazon's Prime listings for DARK SHADOWS right HERE. Try not to cry with joy.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 30



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 578

Tony visits Collinwood to revise Liz’s will as her new attorney. Carolyn takes advantage of his visit to explore her romantic feelings for him, but when Adam sees this, he later attacks Tony. This moves Carolyn to again explain to Adam that she only wants to be friends. Worried about Adam, she hires Harry Johnson to babysit Adam for $100 a day. The sight of Harry Johnson drives Adam into a slow-burning rage. He writes a goodbye note, breaks down the door, and escapes. Meanwhile, Roger reports that Liz will keep the family in her will only if they agree to support her new mausoleum. It’s equipped with a button that will allow her to escape if she should ever be buried alive. Roger feels that she should be sent back to Windcliff immediately.

It’s Earth 2 Carolyn! Another actress plays Carolyn in this one, and it’s a little like having a substitute teacher. Refreshing, but it makes you appreciate the real deal, too. Louis Edmonds sounds thoroughly disgusted when he informs viewers in a voiceover that “the part of Carolyn will be played by Diana Walker.” So, Nancy took a sick day. So what, Louis? Not Diana’s fault. There’s an especially odd sequence where you have the substitute Carolyn speaking with Harry, who’s like the substitute Willie. If only Betsy Durkin had been in this one, I think we all would have been sucked into Parallel Time. Diana is, you know, fine. But she really makes you appreciate the talent of Nancy Barrett, whose acting is so marvelously honest and seemingly effortless. Diana Walker was a capable soap actress, who also appeared on AS THE WORLD TURNS and WHERE THE HEART IS. On stage, her career was more interesting. She appeared with future nighttime TV hunk, Bea Arthur, in the original cast of MAME and also co-starred with Jerry Lacy (also in this episode) in PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM.

As for the episode? Whether it’s PC to invoke the phrase or not, one thing is true; don’t friendzone Adam.

On this day in history, we celebrate the one-year anniversary of Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court as well as the birthday of, more-or-less, Adam creator, Mary Shelley. So, go watch GOTHIC!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 29



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 836

David hangs at the brink of death, forcing Julia into the abandoned Collinwood. There, the ghost of Beth appears to her and describes the events that led to Quentin’s death. In 1897, Angelique relishes telling her of Quentin’s change in affections and of their subsequent engagement. Jamison finds Beth distraught at the news, and when he confronts Quentin, the argument boils into his total rejection of his uncle. Quentin is heartbroken. Later, when Beth and Quentin finally speak, their row ends with her shooting her former lover. This, we learn, is followed by her suicide. Thus, Quentin’s obsession with claiming David into the realm of the dead. David reminds him of Jamison, and by taking him with him into death, it is his only way for them to be together. Quentin’s ghost appears, delighted with David’s demise. When he dematerializes, David dies. Stokes arrives, and it’s clear that Julia must venture into the past to alter events and save the lives of Quentin, Beth, and David.

Powerful, driving love stories needn’t be romantic, and it’s touching and mature that the love story that has driven Quentin is about Jamison. After hinting around at the secret for so long, it’s generous for the series to simply lay out the truth, and it also makes for a clever way to sneak an 1897 episode in the midst of one in 1969. We’re also reminded of Quentin’s mystery and rage. After maturing him so beautifully in 1897, this is a great callback to what got us started on that storyline. I know I keep coming up with reasons to marvel at the inventiveness of the show’s storytelling, but after wading through The Turgid Year of 1966, it’s so heartening to see the writers find newer and increasingly exciting ways to throw out the rules.

This episode is a little gem and a genre watershed, not to be overlooked. Seeing the story from two different centuries shows how gutsy the writers had become. Terry Crawford is especially strong in this, and watching the ghosts shift back and forth into their pre-noncorporeal, human lives gives her a great variety to play, and gives us a new reason to appreciate her with David Selby. She also plays Beth’s despair with a wholly credible intensity that makes David Henesy’s job very, very easy. On the other end of that is Angelique, who once more puts a plan into motion to rid herself of the local “good girl.” Her psychological sabotage of Beth comes off as one part planned, one part surprising. With only the flicker of a smile, Parker managers to say, “I knew it would work, but I had no idea it would work this well.”

This episode was shot on a quiet day, so let me get ahead of myself to the day it aired, Sept. 8. That’s also the birthday of actor, Alan Feinstein. Alan appears as the clapping guy in the striped shirt who’s digging Carolyn’s moves the very first time we visit the Blue Whale. Alan is a marvelous actor, still teaching in LA. Not only was Alan on, I think, every single series shot between 1975 and 2000 (including a recurring role on FALCON CREST as ‘Malcolm Sinclair’), he was also a busy actor in New York, notably appearing as the lead in AS IS. I got to work with Alan in a mondo gigante production of AMADEUS where he played Salieri in 1993. He was thrilled that anyone still knew of DARK SHADOWS, and was (and is) a fantastically generous teacher. He had just finished playing Mitch Ryan’s son in LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT, and the resemblance is eerie.

Speaking of birthdays, Aug. 29 is a humdinger. Ingmar Bergman, William Friedkin, Michael Jackson, Charlie Parker, Sir Richard Attenborough, Elliott Gould, Robin Leach and most vitally, Deborah Van Valkenburgh. She was one of the honeys on TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT as well as appearing in the classic DEEP SPACE NINE episode, “Past Tense,” and as William Shatner’s squeeze in FREE ENTERPRISE. Oh, and she was in THE WARRIORS and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS. (Editor's Note: And let's not forget STREETS OF FIRE, Patrick. Jim Steinman! Diane Lane! Sledge hammer fights!)

Monday, August 28, 2017

TCM to air both "Dark Shadows" features in October




Happy Halloween! On Oct. 28, Turner Classic Movies will air 1970's HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and 1971's NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS back to back.

This marks the first time in many years that either film has been shown on TCM at any time other than the wee hours of the morning, so maybe folks will get to see it this time. HOUSE begins at 4:15 p.m. EST, with NIGHT following at 6 p.m. Even better, Oct. 28 is a Saturday, greatly boosting out chances to turn this into a Twitter event that day. Stay tuned for details.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 28



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1098

When Carolyn fulfills another part of the prophecy by singing “her song,” it becomes clear that she and the children are possessed. Barnabas and Julia confront Quentin, who is lost in an angry funk. After vehemently denying it, Quentin admits to aiding the ghost of Daphne. As penance, he attempts an exorcism as the children try a conjuring of their own. Quentin fails, but the children are met with an ominous knock on the door.

But before that….

August 28. One of the ultimate “DARK SHADOWS DAYS” is also one of the least emblematic. And yet, the best. It’s a day that’s all about DS, is representative of none of DS, reflects the finest of DS… it’s a lot of feels.

On Aug. 28, 1970, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS opened on its second screen as it methodically (in an Escheresque sense) unfolded across the country. First in NYC, then at the Diane Drive-In in Gastonia, N.C., and other Southern towns. The film has been covered extensively on the site, and I’ll add that, because of casting and creators, it is the Platonic ideal of the DARK SHADOWS motion picture. Of course, it’s also nothing like DARK SHADOWS, and this must have given some viewers, somewhere, pause. What do I mean? If you average together all of the Jonathan Frid episodes of the TV show, I’d wager he spends most of his time as the hero. Conflicted. Duped. Often driven by self-interest, sure. But if you stack up 1967 against 1968, 1969, and the beginning of 1970 (we’ll give him the Leviathan storyline since he was both mind-controlled and threatened with Josette’s life… I think), you have over two thirds of his time on the series (up to the shooting of the film) with Barnabas as your pal. We’d just finished the highly successful 1897 storyline. My gauge for any series’ tone comes from this question, “What was the show like for the longest sustained period of high ratings?” So, even if it spiked for a week at a certain point, that doesn’t count as much as a steady, high plateau that lasted for several years. I look at the plateau. That’s when the most people liked something the longest. For that period, the core family survived the storylines and Barnabas was the good guy. Kind of. So, when he’s a lethal drinking machine, unconcerned by guilt, conflicted fealty, a sense of family, or Angelique, I just… don’t know who this guy is. It’s a bleak, nihilistic movie that I would argue killed the franchise. Hey, when 90% of the beloved characters are dead at the end, and the other 10% have no reason to be recruited because of it, your chances of a film dynasty are nil. Canceling a show is just canceling a show. It doesn’t negate the continuation of the characters’ adventures. Look at STAR TREK. But killing your beloved ensemble and marking your cinematic turf by demonizing the lead? Good luck with that.

And yet, it’s a fun, engaging, crisp movie. It looks great, and audiences have a solid time with it. It gives you lots of DARK SHADOWS stuff… just DARK SHADOWS in a really dark mood.

At the same time, I imagine people tuning in a bit down the road to see the episode that was shot today in 1970. Statistically, some of them had to be first-timers. They’d seen the books and comics. The kids are talking about that movie. And they just couldn’t get “I’ll Be with You Always,” out of their minds after having heard it on a kid’s LP player eight jillion times. They picked up the fanciful viewmaster reel… and then they saw episode 1098.

My hope is that they’d be thrilled. It doesn’t have the onus of being the distillation of the series. It is, instead, the next step of its evolution. But just as HODS is not a representation of the average DS episode, neither is 1098. In this case, that’s a good thing.

Precious little has been written about this time in the series. Reportedly, it was a kind of desperate madness. The major classics had been pilfered. People associated intimately with the show were uncertain of the plot. Story events were speeding up and turning almost as nihilistic as the movie they’d just released. This was a post-Manson, post-1968 assassinations, post-Vietnam-wakeup-call DARK SHADOWS.

Yet, out of darkness and chaos comes a fixating brilliance. The stakes, dizzyingly high, Frid’s performance as Barnabas is as strong as any moment he’s delivered. He seems acutely focused, as does the rest of the cast. Barnabas-as-detective is a bit of a chess player in 1897 and 1970PT. He has no time for that now, and Frid’s ocular twinkle has been replaced with some legitimate steel. The performances across the episode are uniformly no-nonsense and committed. Nancy Barrett has a particularly disturbed hypno-madness behind her eyes, Stockholmed to the core by Gerard. David Henesy is especially determined. His -- and his character’s -- evolution is one of Wanting to be Taken Seriously, and it works. (He shows great spite with Barnabas when asked details about David’s life.) Take a bright and bratty kid, let him see the world, and then set him loose with newfound gravitas. He’s too old for games, ensnared in one anyway, and resentful of adults from two centuries. Kathy Cody, as his co-possessed teen companion, is given the same one-note to play that she is always given. It’s a variation on Julia’s, “Oh, Barnabas, what are we going to do?” However, it gets expanded with a strange, melancholy sense of nostalgia as she, possessed by a ghost from the dawn of Victoriana and trapped in the 20th century, misses the beauty that was the aesthetic norm of the world 130 years earlier. Add to this David Selby’s depiction of a Quentin eaten away at last by guilt over betrayals committed for a lover’s promise he knew would never be fulfilled. That’s as complex a psychological brew as the show would serve, and Selby explores an entire arc of responses in twenty minutes. The show jumps headlong from Romanticism into Modernism as the haunting no longer threatens lives. Gerard’s haunting creates crises of purpose and identity throughout Collinwood. If Gerard didn’t destroy it, the house would most likely collapse from sheer despair.

With evocative and desperate occult imagery and a simple, chilling knock, the episode also serves up a genuine sense of fear and doom.

On this day in 1970, the Jackson 5 released “I’ll Be There.” You could do a music video on YouTube with footage from today’s episode accompanied by that song, but I’ll buy you a pony if you don’t.

What a minute ... when did HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS open?


People like anniversaries. A solid date gives us something on which to hang our history and heritage, but neither of those concepts lend themselves well to fixed schedules. The milestones we love to recognize are often, in the words of Charlotte Brontë, "categorical horseshit."

Such is the case with the release date of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Yesterday, I marked the 45th anniversary of the film's release, using Sept. 9, 1970, as the date of its officially sanction debut. This is the date that IMDB prefers, citing a "premiere" that day in Detroit, Michigan, of all places. It specifies a broader roll out closer to Halloween.


While I don't know when (or even "if") HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS received a formal premiere, movies operated much differently in 1970 than they do today. Back then, little emphasis was placed on opening weekend grosses ... because there was rarely ever anything resembling an opening weekend. Movies were rolled out slowly, sometimes taking months to gain a proper toehold in theaters. Today, a motion picture will make as much as 50 percent of its total gross during the first three days of release. During the 1970s, though, you could expect a film to stay in theaters for months at a time. For example, John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN officially opened Oct. 25, 1978 in Kansas City, Missouri ... but didn't arrive in theaters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, until the end of the following November.

Aug. 28, 1970.
So, the Sept. 9, 1970 "debut" of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS? It's absolutely wrong. In fact HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS started screening to audiences as early as August of that year.

On Aug. 28, 1970, the film opened at the Diane Drive-In in Gastonia, North Carolina. It was paired with Hammer's HORROR OF DRACULA from 1958 as the B-picture. To give you an idea of what kind of movies generally played at the Diane in 1970, the movies playing on these screens during the previous week were THE CHRISTINE JORGENSEN STORY and the 1968 Frank Sinatra thriller, THE DETECTIVE.

From there, HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS trickled out to theaters around the country. While it got a boost from the Halloween holiday that year (which probably led to the myth of its October 28 release date) the film was in wide release by the end of September.

If you're looking for a date to recognize as the "official" opening for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, Sept. 9, 1970, is as good as any. As with most anniversaries, though, the truth is a lot more complicated.


UPDATE: Film archivist and DARK SHADOWS fan Darren Gross found an even earlier showing of HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. He sent me a scan of a newspaper ad (which you can see above) for a preview of the film that took place Aug. 24, 1970, at The DeMille Theater in Manhattan. He says the October 28 date often referenced is when HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS opened in New York City and Los Angeles.

Note: The DeMille, following a few name changes, closed in 2007. The building was remodeled and served at the site of Famous Dave’s BBQ Restaurant, which closed in 2013. The building was demolished earlier this year.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Aug 21-25 Recap



If you were a member of the DARK SHADOWS cast, the week of Aug.21-25 was a tough one, no matter what year it was (literally or narratively.) If you were Quentin Collins, for example, you were looking down the barrel of a werewolf curse while simultaneously dodging the ill intentions of a Hungarian warlock. David Selby had the equally tough job of trying to convey all of this to the audience, forced to act out something that's un-act-able (to coin my own word.) He comes through unscathed, never again needing to prove his courage in the face of adversity.

Here's how the week went:

Aug. 21, 1968, Episode 568
"Jonathan Frid begins the episode with surprising command and conviction when detailing why Eve must be created. The tiger in Barnabas’ tank was always an edged uncertainty, and to see him in a position of absolute certainty is a reassuring reminder of his Shakespearean chops."  LINK

Aug. 23, 1968, Episode 570
"This may be the closest that Barnabas has come to admitting affection for Julia. Jonathan Frid seems more engaged in the material, as is John Karlen, his Jiminy Cricket. Both men are reaping the benefits that can only come from acting in the longform medium of the soap." LINK

Aug. 25, 1969, Episode 832
"It is a roller coaster for Quentin Collins. Trapped in a cell, he goes from certainty that Trask will see him transform to delighted cockiness that he mysteriously… doesn’t." LINK



Meanwhile, we also unearthed some clippings related to a rare, full-color poster that was published in 1968 by The Philadelphia Inquirer. Was this a big deal? Well, the newspaper seemed to think so. They even provided a "U.S. DECLARES WAR" sized headline on the front page to tease the supplement. You can see the gallery HERE.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Dark Shadows is metal as f*k



If you follow the social media accounts of the CHS, you'll be subjected to some occasional weirdness. This website is, more or less, the official "face" of the CHS, but our Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram accounts have taken on lives of their own. Some of this is out of desire to make these accounts uniquely interesting. Instagram gets a lot of weird images, for example, while Twitter is where I come out of my spider hole to occasionally interact with the outside world. Meanwhile, the more detailed commentary appears here, where we can explore things in more than 128 characters.

If you're not following those other accounts, you're missing out. Maybe. It depends on your tolerance for the kind of stuff I find amusing ... such as these DARK SHADOWS/heavy metal mashups that appeared on Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr back in March.

The whole thing started on a whim. A few years ago I noted a similarity between the Black Sabbath's "Heaven and Hell" cover and the composition of a promotional image of DARK SHADOWS the cast. It wasn't until March of this year that it occurred to me to merge the two, creating a faux CD of mashup. I chased this rabbit down the hole for about a week or so, adding Humbert Allen Astredo/Nicholas Blair to the cover for Blue Oyster Cult's "Agents of Fortune," Jonathan Frid/Barnabas Collins to the first, self-titled Sabbath album, and Frid again (this time from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS) to Sabbath's "Vol. 4." After that, it was time to go all INCEPTION and dunk these images into secondary environments because I don't know when to quit.

Here's the weird thing: While doing this, I learned that the cover art for both "Agents of Fortune" and "Heaven and Hell" were created by artist Lynn Curlee. And his art was, in a sense, already a kind of mashup using vintage photos. Curlee's art for "Heaven and Hell" was inspired by a photo from the 1920s of women dressed as angels, taking a smoke break backstage during a college pageant. The cover of "Agents" was a riff on a vintage promotional image of Boston illusionist W. D. Leroy. At the time, I didn't know any of this. (The connection was probably Sandy Pearlman, who was managing BOC and Sabbath by 1980.)

These were fun to build, but probably had limited appeal to DARK SHADOWS fans beyond their short lifespans on social media. Sure, Blue Oyster Cult has a lot of weird connections to DARK SHADOWS (actor Chris Pennock and the band's vocalist, Eric Bloom, went to college together, for example) but the Collinsport crew never struck me as especially receptive to classic metal. And then I realized this is my website and I can do what I want.

So, for archival purposes, here's the full collection of "Metal Shadows" album covers. There's also a bonus punk visual, which I only mention so that nobody sends me an e-mail informing me the Misfits weren't/aren't metal.

- Wallace





The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 25



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1969: Episode 832

It is a rollercoaster for Quentin Collins. Trapped in a cell, he goes from certainty that Trask will see him transform to delighted cockiness that he mysteriously… doesn’t. Released, he encounters Petofi, who gloats that Quentin is still very much part of his master plan. Meanwhile, in the B plot, Tim Shaw and Amanda Harris plot against Trask. Quentin learns that his portrait is aging and transforming into the wolf for him, leaving him physically perfect but saddled with a bizarre and incriminating piece of evidence. His infatuation with Amanda Harris, however, is a worthy distraction.

Watching David Selby perform in this episode is like seeing Acting from the Future. In general, the acting on DARK SHADOWS represents a style that was both incredibly advanced and somewhat primitive. So many of these performers are stage actors unloosed on screen rather than screen actors on their native turf. They are used to larger performances because they need to communicate seemingly-tiny nuances to thousands of people in what might be a cavernous theater. Not that they lack sincerity. Their sense of truth and seriousness comes from being the first generation to train as actors under the evolving Stanislavski system. It’s realism, but realism for Ibsen and Chekhov, designed by those still steeped in a fairly grand tradition of performance. It’s a strange mix of broad and surgical, traditional and raw. And then there’s Selby.

To praise Selby’s uniqueness is a precarious thing to do. He has several age peers on the show, and their training is impressive. I’m thinking, specifically, of Christopher Pennock. But I hesitate to make any substantive comparison because Pennock was asked to play far more heightened characters. Selby had to create Quentin to be as subtle and ‘human’ as possible so the werewolf would be a greater contrast.

832 is a marvelous resume for Selby because it allows him to show joy, pain, bravado, fear, strength, weakness, gravitas and gaiety. Watch Selby and you’ll see all of those things projected with seemingly no effort to speak of. With everyone else on DARK SHADOWS, I’m seeing acting. Good acting! With Selby at his best, which is frequent, I’m seeing a guy named Quentin Collins simply being. His acting is so sincere and unaffected that the Captain Kirk-like gyrations of lycanthropic pain he shows stand out as even more ludicrous than they would on a lesser performer. As awkward as they can be to witness, though, we still buy them as real.

Selby also has fun as an actor, and that’s something often lost with easy naturalism. Watch him nimbly work around Trask and match wits with Petofi here and you’ll see what I mean. We accept Selby’s level of performance excellence as a given in today’s acting. But compare him with many of his co-stars, and you’ll see that he was hardly in the majority in tv of 1969, and that makes his turn on DARK SHADOWS all the more fascinating. Rarely do we get to see an entire artform change before our eyes. Thanks to the work of David Selby, we do.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Jonathan Frid's Mona Lisa moment

This post is going to be big on photos and short on text. Which is OK, because it concerns a really big photo published in 1968 by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lest history forget just how big a star Jonathan Frid was in the late '60s, here is all the photographic evidence you'll even need of his celebrity. On July 28, 1968, the Inquirer published a full-page color poster of Frid. It was a Sunday edition and had been teased during the previous weeks by the newspaper in a series of house ads. To put things into perspective, the color photo of Frid, in full Barnabas Collins drag, was preceded in the previous Sunday edition by a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."



And the hype didn't stop there. The July 28, 1968 edition was also accompanied by a banner across the front page proudly advertising the post, with Frid's name in a point size usually reserved for political scandals and wars.






Curiously, almost 50 years later, this image remains pretty rare. It's a great, moody piece of work by photographer Paul Wilson, and would have looked at home on any of MPI Home Video's many DVD releases ... yet I don't recall seeing it anywhere other than this poster. A similar photo, almost certainly from the same shoot, was used that same week with a TV Guide profile of Frid. A few years back, a reader suggested the photos were taken in April, 1968, possibly during the production of episode 476. That splash of blue across the top of the knot appears to be the same, anyway. I wonder what was used as a backdrop?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 23



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 570

Julia is in the thrall of Tom Jennings as Barnabas continues his dogged search. After another excursion is fruitless, Willie cajoles Barnabas to admit that his determination to find Jennings is actually powered by his affection for Julia. Liz, wandering around in a paranoid daze, wanders into the building holding both Tom’s coffin and Julia. When Liz shows up at the Old House, Barnabas and Willie extract Julia’s location. After the rescue her, Barnabas returns to destroy Jennings. They grapple as the episode ends, and it appears as if Barnabas will be bitten.

Growth and dynamism are dangerous things in soap operas. The stories are supposed to move glacially so that nothing is missed when you’re out freshening junior, glazing the diaper, or putting tonight’s ham down for its nap. Or some arrangement of those activities. But while you’re up to your elbows in freshness, glaze, and sleeping hams, episode 570 is (sometimes) quietly hurling all of its characters out of their comfort zones and allowing the actors to either really act or at least have new things to indicate. Nary a scene goes by without characters having to make choices fundamentally different than those we ever would have imagined when we met them. Either that, or in the case of Liz, they finally fulfill what we’ve suspected all along. Honestly, the level of crazy that she shows in this episode is the ultimate fulfillment of what we’ve imagined was lurking since we first met her. I don’t think a curse caused this. I think a curse removed whatever veil of counterfeit sanity that Liz draped over herself. The fascinating thing is that Joan Bennett’s acting is no different. Liz still specializes in forlorned statements in a voice that sounds like Tara by way of Connecticut Lockjaw. But in this case, the character’s statements are far more dire. I’ll give Joan this; she’s consistent, classic Hollywood. Versatile? No. Grand? You bet.

Jonathan Frid has far more to do, too. This may be the closest that Barnabas has come to admitting affection for Julia. Frid seems more engaged in the material, as is John Karlen, his Jiminy Cricket. Both men are reaping the benefits that can only come from acting in the longform medium of the soap. Usually, actors in plays and films only get a few pages of a glimpse into the characters; they have to extrapolate and invent the rest. Acting in a soap poses the opposite challenge; remembering, rather than manufacturing, scores of hours of character work. It might have been overwhelming. Neither Frid nor Karlen have the grip on the lines that I think they’d like. However, as I’ve often contended, this just makes it more realistic. (I forget my “lines” in life all the time.) The episode concludes with a struggle between Barnabas and Jennings, and is far more visceral and high stakes than we’re used to.

The show is giving us a tremendous setup for new character dynamics. Willie has Barnabas’ number on every level. Barnabas has admitted to feeling something more than professional courtesy for Julia. And once Liz is better, the entire ensemble of good WASPs will be forced to pretend that nothing happened. Topping this off is the sight of television’s first and most emotionally complex vampire becoming perhaps its first vampire hunter. Given Barnabas’ track record of seeking cures and compassion, why would violence be his first resort with Jennings? My theory is that Barnabas knows exactly how dangerous another vampire can be. If Jennings finds a cure before Barnabas finds him, bully. But Jennings seems to savor his power, making that unlikely and Barnabas’ mission imminently reasonable.

I keep a small list of above average episodes where worlds change and you can actually show the program to doubting friends. 570 is an easy addition.

On this day in 1968, Ringo Starr temporarily left the Beatles, driving his desperate and hapless backup performers (McCartney, Lennon, and Harrison) to creative bankruptcy without his aggressive, driving, demanding influence. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 21



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 568

Barnabas explains to Jeff the stakes behind creating a female promethean. Jeff eventually agrees to help, given that life is at stake. Roger arrives, demanding Julia’s help; Liz has escaped Windcliff. Julia, stricken by the crimson rapture of Tom Jennings’ control, demurs. That night, Barnabas lays a trap to lure Jennings in with Julia, and then shoot him with silver bullets. Julia is compelled to defend Jennings, and in the resulting fray, vanishes with him.

Jonathan Frid begins the episode with surprising command and conviction when detailing why Eve must be created. The tiger in Barnabas’ tank was always an edged uncertainty, and to see him in a position of absolute certainty is a reassuring reminder of his Shakespearean chops. In his opening scene with Clark, he shows a confidence worthy of a Universal Monsters villain, with just a twist of Thesiger behind his smile. Quickly, though, the mid-line hesitations and occasional blank expressions add up, and that sense of confidence leaves with it. What we are left with is Barnabas as we know him, but the gamesman’s finesse has been replaced with autopiloted line readings. I say this cognizant of what an impossible job Frid faced. Roger Davis handles his lines with a nimble sense of fun, perhaps because he simply had fewer of them to learn. It works to a strange advantage. His character is the most difficult to persuade, and so the fire he displays shows a worthy challenge. We admire Barnabas all the more for winning it.

Grayson Hall is also placed in an unenviable position by the episode. She’s under the deep whammy of Tom Jennings, and so she meekly swoons in every scene. They tell writers to “write what you know.” To a certain extent, that goes for actors. Grayson, the second person to be given Dr. Erskine’s Super Soldier formula, was not a meek swooner by all reports. These are the heavy blinking, o-mouthed, head vacillating performances that critics of Hall use against her. I don’t call it bad acting… there’s only so much you can do with a cartoon. But seeing Julia like that is always evidence of a questionable match.

By comparison, Louis Edmonds was the picture of assurance as Roger panicked, out of control of his sister. Don Briscoe’s compact virility and comfort with the animal side of the vampire makes his turn as one perhaps the series’ most frightening.

On this day in 1968, the Chicago Democratic Convention opened. Gore and Bill were just getting warmed up. It’s also the birthday of actor Don Crabtree, who played the ill-fated Sheriff of Collinsport in 1995.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Aug 14-18 Recap



This week's Daybook entries cut a wide swath through the history of Collinsport. The week began in 1970 as, appropriately enough, Quentin and Julia discover the secrets of time travel. From there, the series begins to skip like a rock across a pond to 1795, 1968 and 1967. The tie that binds these episodes together this week is actress Grayson Hall, which should come as no surprise. With 475 episodes of  DARK SHADOWS under her belt, only one other actor managed to make more appearances: Jonathan Frid.

Unlike Frid, though, Hall got to relax and let her hair down once in a while. While she played at least six characters on DARK SHADOWS (more if we count the two feature films), we only  see two of them in this week's recap. Luckily, they're her best roles: Julua Hoffman and Magda Rakosi. A word of caution before you proceed: If you visit all five links to this week's write ups, don't be surprised if you wind of with the song "Pleasant Valley Sunday" stuck in your head. Don't say we didn't warn you.

Aug. 14, 1970, Episode 1085
"At the heart of what is so often the most dismissed and unpopular section of the series is a story that is the quintessence of DARK SHADOWS and, in many ways, brazenly defiant of its shopworn conventions. Perhaps more than any other storyline, this one is devoted -- with a very tight focus -- to the supernatural." LINK

Aug. 15, 1969, Episode 826
"With a cast of nine, 826 is packed with both players and excitement. And yet, it has a strange intimacy; the only speaking parts are Johnny, Magada, and Szandor. Interesting to note that many of the gypsies should seem familiar." LINK

Aug. 16, 1968, Episode 565
"It’s also a good opportunity to contrast Vicki and Julia. Because of Julia’s age, angularity, and more than occasional severity, we discount her too easily for the show’s leading lady. No, the story does not revolve around her, but it is through her mortal eyes that we see much of the action unfold. Her sense of heroism is unlocked by the story. Her moral compass, realigned by it." LINK

Aug. 17, 1970, Episode 1084
"There are so many metrics for change in DARK SHADOWS (and the culture) in a four year span, and 1084 is as vivid as any of them. The 1966 show begins with sweaty businessmen, Brill-creamed and boozing, in skinny ties, holding court over missing pens in the drawing room. From there, we wind up with a darkly flirtatious Julia Hoffman, at Collinwood irrespective of Barnabas, confronting a leather tunic-wearing, long-haired astrologer about music from the future. And they’re the stars of the show right now! If there is any better argument against entropy, this is it. " LINK

Aug. 18, 1967, Episode 306
"This episode shows us Julia in one of her earliest forms. Although she doesn't stay this way for the duration of the show, it's easy to think of her almost exclusively in the mode she occupies in this episode. And why not? In her, Barnabas has both a close friend and a deadly enemy. It takes a vampire soap opera to give us a "real world" example of Inspector Clouseau and Kato in their never ending battle of loyalty and distanced disregard." LINK

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 18



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1967: Episode 306

When Julia questions Barnabas' plans for Victoria, he brings up her long list of inadequacies, in self-defense. He will deal with Victoria and Devlin as he sees fit. Meanwhile, Sarah takes David to the mausoleum and shows him the secret room and the empty coffin within. Barnabas confides to Vicki that Burke is having him investigated.  She promises to address it, and is none too pleased with her fiancĂ©. Later, Barnabas finds himself in pursuit of Sarah, and is again left in frustrated emptiness.  

This episode shows us Julia in one of her earliest forms. Although she doesn't stay this way for the duration of the show, it's easy to think of her almost exclusively in the mode she occupies in this episode. And why not? In her, Barnabas has both a close friend and a deadly enemy. It takes a vampire soap opera to give us a "real world" example of Inspector Clouseau and Kato in their never ending battle of loyalty and distanced disregard.

The scorecard for Barnabas and women at this point is a strange one. But it always is. No wonder he wants Sarah back, just for her approval. Julia is either trying to help him or kill him. It just depends. He occasionally thinks he's killed Maggie. When he doesn't think that, he's just hoping she won't remember him, which is a tough responsibility to take on when she looks just like the woman he was going to marry a mere and a subjective  year or two ago. Victoria has goo goo eyes for a nouveau riche lout who looks just like his uncle. His best relationship with a woman is (or is going to be) with Carolyn, and I think that’s creepy even for Barnabas. Sarah. Someone from home who doesn't want to kill him or run off with the equivalent of a stable boy who won the lottery.

On this day in 1967, The Monkees’ “Pleasant Valley Sunday” peaked on the charts at number three. While the band's contributions to their early recordings are notoriously slight, all four managed to appear on "Sunday." Mickey Dolenz, of course, provides vocals, while Mike Nesmith plays a bit of guitar, Peter Tork is on piano, and Davy Jones ... um, would you believe maracas?  (Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote the song, if you're interested.)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 17



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1970: Episode 1084

David and Hallie come to grips with the haunting by writing down their entire narrative in a notebook. Meanwhile, Sebastian Shaw visits Collinwood and is asked to sense what he can of the ghostly entities there. He has visions of Rose Cottage and haunting music, but he keeps them to himself, a fact that frustrates Julia after she hears him playing the tune she heard in 1995. Shortly after finishing their notebook, the children are shocked to find that it has vanished, leading them on a hunt that ends at the playroom. Throwing the doors open, they see it being read by their 1840 equivalents, Tad and Carrie.

There are so many metrics for change in DARK SHADOWS (and the culture) in a four year span, and 1084 is as vivid as any of them. The 1966 show begins with sweaty businessmen, Brill-creamed and boozing, in skinny ties, holding court over missing pens in the drawing room. From there, we wind up with a darkly flirtatious Julia Hoffman, at Collinwood irrespective of Barnabas, confronting a leather tunic-wearing, long-haired astrologer about music from the future. And they’re the stars of the show right now! If there is any better argument against entropy, this is it.

After Jeb and Cyrus/Yaeger, Chris Pennock was unsure if he’d appear on DARK SHADOWS again. The words “hippie astrologer” were ones he didn’t have to hear twice. He found a darker, more vulnerable and secretive approach to take, differentiating Sebastian from Jeb. This is complimented by a heavier brow and more recessed eyes. With these subtle choices, he deftly avoided creating a “Pennock-type,” instead furthering a truly individualized roster of unique characters. It takes a delicate touch that pays off. Sebastian’s ambiguity is just palpable enough in this episode that he can get away with almost any story while accumulating just enough suspicion from the audience.

Julia, with great purpose, strides further and further into the position of unofficial, heroic lead, now with Stokes as her sidekick. It’s a shame that the proper breakdown of DARK SHADOWS and its various storylines is absent from much of pop media. Everyone’s losing it for the new, female Dr. Who, citing this as some kind of watershed, which it really isn’t. Over two decades ago, STAR TREK VOYAGER was a franchise tentpole with a female lead hero. And over twenty years before that? I give you Dr. Julia Hoffman… at least at this point on the show. She even passes the Bechdel Test, which measures female protagonists by their independence from romantic involvement.

On this day in 1970, we had a partial lunar eclipse and the American space probe, Venera 7, soft landed on Venus.

Louis Edmonds: The Country Gentleman of Collinsport, 1969



LOUIS EDMONDS 
The Country Gentleman of Collinsport 

From "Afternoon TV" #9, 1969

by Jay Edwards

"Right now—especially when we go into the past—I always hope I can be a tyrant, or very selfish, or anything unattractive. Bad people are much more fun to play."

That terribly proper, terribly English, terribly dignified aristocrat who has been a star of Dark Shadows right from the beginning —that Louis Edmonds — had a teen age ambition that may come as a surprise to you.

"When I was a teenager I always wanted to play the villain in a cowboy picture," he said recently.

There's another interesting thing you discover in talking to him—he would probably still love to play the villain in a cowboy picture. You realize this when he starts talking in the present tense, saying "Actually, I could save them a lot of money, since they wouldn't have to hire a stuntman. I could do my own riding; I can even jump — moderately but not extravagantly."

Louis Edmonds, today, is a star. But the teen-age dream is still there.

There is also no reason to doubt that he could do it since he not only plays a country gentleman as Roger Collins— Louis Edmonds is a country gentleman. As a child (he was born in Baton Rouge on Sept. 24) he grew up on a sugar plantation near a levee on the Mississippi River, visiting his grandfather's farm in upstate New York during the summers.

"I was always around open spaces without really being conscious of it," he said. "I was very active in outdoor sports — not competitive things like football; I mean sports like riding and swimming. I did all the things little boys do when they grow up in the country."

That part of Louis Edmonds really hasn't changed as much as you might assume, considering that he is now a successful New York actor with two movies, several Broadway plays and almost three years of Dark Shadows to his credit. He doesn't live in an over-priced, noisy, hectic, uncomfortable Manhattan apartment. Louis Edmonds is still a country gentleman.

"About four years ago I realized that New York was changing," he said, "and I didn't like the city anymore. I still have an apartment here, where I stay when I'm in town, but I live now in a little New England-style farmhouse on Long Island, where I have maximum privacy."

Louis (pronounced Louie by his friends) was obviously reacting to his Southern boyhood when he withdrew from the hustle of the city, but the house itself is not necessarily done in a Southern style.

"When I was up in Cape Cod (Mass.) I saw lots of little farmhouses like mine painted in a pure blue with no green in it — there it's called Puritan Blue; in Virginia it's called Williamsburg Blue; some places it's called Dutch Blue — with white trim and bottle-green shutters. I liked it so much I decided to have my house done that way."

Somewhere between leaving the countryside of Louisiana and settling in the countryside of New York Louis Edmonds lost — obviously—the Southern accent that comes with a Louisiana childhood. Even when he is not playing Roger Collins he still has the sound and rhythm that has made English actors think he is English, too.

"It's not unusual for Southern people to do an English accent easily," he said, "but it has been a problem. As an actor I get typed as anything but an American — and that's not good.

"I can get back into a Southern sound if I need to, and I played a German in a movie once. I think I was blessed with a good ear for the way people talk; the only sound that's very difficult for me is the Midwestern or the Madison Avenue sort of businessman."



Acting—which certainly contributed to his present very correct English diction—has been the most important thing in Louis Edmonds' life. "I wasn't a very good student in high school," he said, " but I made the Honors List when I started studying acting at Carnegie Tech because expressing myself made me interested in learning. I didn't become aware of me until I started acting."

After he discovered himself as an actor in college he was off to the navy (he started as a pilot then became a Communications Officer in Panama), after which he wound up in New York (where he was once a doorman at Radio City Music Hall), then did a series of plays that finally led to Dark Shadows.

"l started out as a villain on the show, which was great fun, but they made me nicer as time went along. Right now — especially when we go into the past — I always hope I can be a tyrant, or very selfish, or anything unattractive. Bad people are much more fun to play."

Again the word villain, so unlikely coming from this gentle, flawlessly dressed country gentleman (he was wearing a terribly British brown jacket with short lapels which the wardrobe mistress had originally brought in for Roger Collins, gray pin-striped slacks, a brown pullover shirt, suede walking boots and one of those short-brimmed British caps made famous here by singers such as Donovan and Bob Dylan).

The fact is that Louis Edmonds requires challenge — like playing roles from Shakespeare to the musical version of Candide—and he most enjoys playing eerie, evil roles; roles unlike himself.

But his life does — unlikely as it may seem—include one thing very much in keeping with the foggy, mysterious world of Dark Shadows.

Louis Edmonds, in the comfort of his quiet, dignified farmhouse, really does live right across the street from a graveyard. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 16



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 565

Barnabas is tortured over the plight he suspects is being experienced by Collinsport’s new vampire. In between excursions to search for him, Barnabas returns the ring Vicki allegedly lost in the woods. This incites a skeptical Jeff to search the Old House, where he finds Lang’s notebook before being escorted out. Shortly thereafter, Tom Jennings attacks Julia in the basement lab.

I think this episode was written by Plato, in that it is an ideal example of the show at… if not its best, then its most entertainingly durable. There are multiple storylines that all crisscross through Nicholas Blair. We see characters evolving in unexpected ways, such as Barnabas mustering maturity about Vicki. At its worst, the ratio of exposition to new information is woefully slanted toward covering old ground. In the case of 565, I feel as if the show’s story is very deliberately advanced with each scene. Best of all, the characters show appropriate doubt in themselves, allowing them to contemplate aloud where they’ve been and where they’re going with cerebral eloquence.

It’s also a good opportunity to contrast Vicki and Julia. Because of Julia’s age, angularity, and more than occasional severity, we discount her too easily for the show’s leading lady. No, the story does not revolve around her, but it is through her mortal eyes that we see much of the action unfold. Her sense of heroism is unlocked by the story. Her moral compass, realigned by it. She is not a Collins, but she gives her all for that house, nonetheless. Like Vicki, she is something of an orphaned stranger at Collinwood, but Julia is a catalytic agent of action. For all of her moments of frightened “Barnabaswhatarewegoingtodo?” she’s just as likely to issue orders of the day. I like Vicki, but I often get tired of her baffled timidity. (In fact, the version of Victoria seen in the 2004 pilot is the only one I can really get behind.) Things happen to her. She is too often the object and too rarely the subject. Julia’s the opposite. And Julia has an arc, too, from shrill villain to brassy defender, with lots of steps in between. Often, Vicki’s arc is frustratingly restricted to going from, “I just don’t understand,” to, “I understand a little more than I once did, but that may not be saying much.”

Not only does Julia seemingly do more and make it through the entire show, her episode count is only two shy of Vicki’s. Vicki appeared in 347 episodes before vanishing. Julia? 345, returning from the past on her own two feet. (These numbers soar above Carolyn at 267, Liz at 264, Maggie at 203, and Angelique at 175.)

She’s also a Jackie Gleason fan. “Love is Here to Stay,” from the 1953 album "Music for Lovers Only," is heard playing as rare source music in her lab as she labors on the mate for Barnabas’ sake. The song says a lot about Julia, and is an Easter egg is useful insight.

In other news, it was the birthday of Gordon Russell. Born in Salem, MA, Russell is one of the two finest writers on the show. Christopher Pennock noted him as the man behind the show’s most sparkling dialogue. Sam Hall was about the gravitas. Russell was pure elan.

Twelve years prior, in 1956, the world said goodbye to Bela Lugosi. It wasn’t ready to, though, and I hope it will never be.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 15


By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 826

Gypsies take Magda to the secret room in the crypt where she is to stand trial. Johnny announces that her jury will be comprised of dead murderers. She asks for a gypsy witness. Szandor appears, but as she tries to question him, she is constantly interrupted by King Johnny. She is sentenced to die. Johnny announces that her method of death is a game called ‘hunt the weasel,’ and she is the weasel. She battles various phantom gypsies, and once more, Szandor appears to her. She says he belongs to the dead and tearfully banishes him from the earth. The cliff of Widow’s Hill behind her, Johnny stalks Magda, forcing her toward the edge.

With a cast of nine, 826 is packed with both players and excitement. And yet, it has a strange intimacy; the only speaking parts are Johnny, Magada, and Szandor. Interesting to note that many of the gypsies should seem familiar. Henry Baker, who plays Istvan the mute soldier, can be seen as Jackal the Giant, towering over Jonathan Frid in Oliver Stone’s 1974 comedy, SEIZURE. Another, Joseph Della Sorte, was one of the “Buttons” that Joe Spinell witnesses about in THE GODFATHER PART II. (He was also on CAGNEY AND LACEY, with John Karlen.) Another gypsy, John LaMotta, also appeared on that show, as well as playing sweaty wife-beater model, Trevor Ochmonek, on NBC’s prequel to THE X-FILES, the science-fiction thriller, ALF. Additionally, he was Jake LaMotta’s nephew. Yet another gypsy, Victor Mohica, appeared in many of the same series as the others. I think they all appeared on that sophisticated comedy-of-manners, AIRWOLF. Norman Riggins, yet another gypsy, was a man of mystery. Know him by his subsequent appearance in THE ALIEN DEAD. As far as the final gypsy, Andreas, goes, we have feud on our hands. iMDB credits Joe Van Orden. But Craig Hamrick’s BARNABAS AND COMPANY, as well as THE DARK SHADOWS ALMANAC, cite the part as played by Ray Van Orden. Will any of us sleep? Joe only has one credit on iMDB, and it’s the episode. Nothing for a Ray van Orden. I can’t solve every mystery. I had a crush on Joan van Ark from KNOTS LANDING, if that helps.

On this day in 1969, the Woodstock music festival opened in Bethel, New York. A dream to some. A nightmare to others. It would be the basis for Colonel Robert Neville’s favorite documentary. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Ratings Battle: Dark Shadows Vs Twin Peaks, 1991



By WALLACE McBRIDE

Before FIREFLY came along, TWIN PEAKS was the poster child for great television shows cancelled too soon. The David Lynch/Mark Frost joint debuted to stellar ratings in the spring of 1989, but had lost much of its audience during the following 12 months. A television series hadn't lost its luster so quickly since BATMAN in the 1960s.

But there was another television show cancelled in 1991 that managed to hold a grip on its audience long after it left the airwaves: Dan Curtis' reboot of DARK SHADOWS. If you were to compose murder ballads for DARK SHADOWS (1991) and TWIN PEAKS, the verses would be almost identical. Both had incredibly strong openings, but fell victim to network uncertainty, shuffled schedules and multiple preemptions by news coverage of the Gulf War. Each production fought like hell to keep their audiences engaged, but were foiled by the inability of their respective networks (NBC for DARK SHADOWS, ABC for TWIN PEAKS) to provide them with ideal timeslots.

Those ballads, however simplified, are also accurate representations of what happened ... more or less. After reviewing the ratings for both programs, though, I was shocked to see that DARK SHADOWS, the little television show that could, had consistently stronger ratings in 1991 than its spiritual counterpart, TWIN PEAKS.

(Before I go on, let me stress that this is merely an amateur comparison of the ratings of two television shows. None of this is meant to suggest that these ratings make either show better or worse than the other. Good ratings do not automatically equal quality. In other words, there's no reason to fight.)

From the very start, the DARK SHADOWS "revival," as it would come to be called, was being compared to TWIN PEAKS, a show that arguably owed a debt of gratitude to the original 1960s gothic soap.

"NBC is expending a large amount of its attention on promoting 'Dark Shadows,'clearly hoping it can be the 'talked about' show this winter, the "Twin Peaks" of 1991, wrote Bill Carter for The New York Times in January, 1991. "Even the show's own producer, Dan Curtis, described it as a 'gimmick' show."

Unfortunately for TWIN PEAKS, though, when it broadcast its first episode of 1991, the series was already hip-deep in its creative nadir. "The Black Widow" aired Jan. 12 to approximately 10.3 million viewers, which is among the lowest ratings of any show broadcast that night. The following evening, DARK SHADOWS aired the first of its three-part debut, with 23.6 million people turning in. (A "thank you" to tvaholics.blogspot.com for providing a terrific archive of A.C. Nielsen ratings for 1991.)



Now, it's not entirely fair to compare a series premiere to a random installment of an established television series. But it's worth noting that TWIN PEAKS began the year on already unstable footing. And this footing would become more precarious throughout the rest of the season as it was shifted to different days and times before finally getting axed after its June 10 finale. By June, DARK SHADOWS had already been mothballed, having aired its last episode March 22 ... despite pulling in ratings consistently better than TWIN PEAKS.

A look at the ratings for both shows illustrates just how far TWIN PEAKS had fallen. NBC killed DARK SHADOWS after two months of episodes averaging a viewership of 12.5 million people. During its final months, TWIN PEAKS failed to reach even 10 million people, bottoming out for two consecutive weeks in 1991 with 7.4 million. The lowest-rated episode of DARK SHADOWS fared better than the highest rated episode of TWIN PEAKS.

So, when ABC brought TWIN PEAKS back from the dead for one week in June to air its final two episodes, its was an act of kindness. Even though the Lynch-directed finale was an amazing piece of work (and one of the best episodes of the entire series) it was incredibly unlikely that ABC would bring the show back for a third season. After all, at least once in April, TWIN PEAKS was the lowest-rated show broadcast by any network that night (April 18, 1991.) It finished out the year #100 on a list of 134 shows.

Below is a chart comparing the ratings between DARK SHADOWS and TWIN PEAKS during 1991. I've tried to group these episodes by their closest weekly counterparts, but schedule changes made that a challenge. Also, none of these ratings identify which episodes were preempted by news alerts.



KEY: A ratings point represents 921,000 TV households. Shares are the percentage of sets in use. Number of viewers is in millions.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: August 14



By PATRICK McCRAY

Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 1085

Daphne slowly seeds the path of the children with further opportunities to identify with their past doppelgangers, Tad and Carrie. Meanwhile, Julia and Quentin investigate the family history of the 1840’s and find the journal of Quentin Collins I, who discusses his theories on time travel and outlines his plans to build a staircase through time in the west wing around the spot of the playroom. Upon investigation, it’s nothing but a linen closet. Quentin later struggles to gain freedom his fascination with Daphne as the ghosts of Tad and Carrie continue to beckon to David and Hallie.

At the heart of what is so often the most dismissed and unpopular section of the series is a story that is the quintessence of DARK SHADOWS and, in many ways, brazenly defiant of its shopworn conventions. Perhaps more than any other storyline, this one is devoted -- with a very tight focus -- to the supernatural. No potboiler elements are simmering elsewhere. Discounting the Roxanne storyline, it’s right up there with Parallel Time in its extremely tight emphasis on one major threat that consumes all of the characters to the exclusion of subplots.

In middle of this emerges a post-Barnabas romance Julia Hoffman, arguably the hero of this arc. She contrasts interestingly with Quentin, and it’s a good example of the writers knowing on which side of the bread they’ve spread the butter of audience vicarious identification. A largely middle-aged, female audience is finally given a strong, middle-aged female hero. Grayson Hall carries the show effortlessly as she plows through the Collins history to get to the origin of these particular shadows of the past. It’s gently nostalgic to see Julia with longer hair going through the family history in the drawing room, just as she did when we met her, but now it’s no longer as a cover story. It’s to save an adopted family… adopted in the same way that the audience has. Not a Collins, either, she makes for the ultimate surrogate.

Contrast this with Quentin. By the time 1897 winds down, the writers have no idea what to do with this invulnerable immortal. Instead of making him a Man of Action, they leave that to the unlikely Julia as Quentin slides into hopelessly impotent lovesickness, once the domain of the good Doctor H. By this point, having been scared shishaless by Collinwood over and over, Julia has seasoned into a dogged adventurer before the audience’s eyes. If DARK SHADOWS is a story about finding and transforming into your true self, few do it quite like Julia.

On this day in 1970, Stephen Stills was arrested for drug possession.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: Aug 8-11 Recap


If you've been paying attention to the Dark Shadows Daybook, you already know this was a weird week at the ABC studios in Manhatten back in 1967. When you live in Collinsport, it's reasonable to expect a timeslip or two. In New York City this week, though, something happened with the production that forced them to shoot episodes of DARK SHADOWS out of order.

If you've been following along at home, this might have made for a confusing experience this week at the Collinsport Historical Society. Patrick McCray has been chronicling these episodes as they were taped, which meant (for this week, at least) that episode 302 came before episode 300. It also meant that episode 304 came before episode 301. (Maddeningly, episode 303 was not taped until Aug. 14!?) So keep this in mind the next time you pester your favorite cast member about their experiences with the series. Odds are they were deeply confused and just trying to get through the workday with their skins intact.

Here are some highlights from the week that was, featured below in their proper narrative order:

Aug. 8, 1967, Episode 300
"Dark Shadows was not really genre television. It was a soap opera aired in the late afternoon for housewives, designed to sell canned hams and pantyhose. That makes the subversive moments enjoyed by the show even craftier." LINK

Aug. 10, 1967, Episode 301
"The centerpiece of this episode of Dark Shadows may be the series’ most famous verbal battle… that doesn’t result in gunplay, witchcraft, or a hurled brandy glass. It's also actor Jonathan Frid's favorite scene from the series." LINK

Aug. 7, 1967, Episode 302
"This episode is a special treat for fans of Grayson Hall. Is she at her most athletic in it? No. People looking for pursed lips, eyelashes the size of palm fronds, and sandpapery shrieks will have to wait. No one watching this episode could cite Hall for anything outside of insightful, shrewd, witty, subtle, and urbane gamesmanship." LINK

Aug. 9, 1967, Episode 304
"Do you want the Rosetta Stone for Dark Shadows? Okay, here it is; these people aren’t the sharpest stakes in the hunter’s bag. They can’t be. In fact, no main character on a soap can be. From a writer’s perspective, that makes for a helluva challenge. The characters on Dark Shadows are seemingly about as bright as they are allowed to be." LINK

On Friday, Patrick did the time warp to 1897 and found himself ankle deep in the battle of wills between County Petofi and Barnabas Collins. It's just a jump to the left.

Aug. 11, 1969, Episode 821
"Leave it to 1897 to deliver a wacky, splashy comic book of gypsy lore, threats, torches, and monologuing. And, in fine DARK SHADOWS tradition, it manages to turn five minutes of plot progression into twenty-two minutes of show." LINK

Friday, August 11, 2017

The first color episode of "Dark Shadows" turns 50


"Good news! This program, Dark Shadows, is now being presented in color!"

Those were the words that greeted audiences during the upgraded opening credits for DARK SHADOWS 50 years ago today. Granted, anyone with a color television set would have figured that out, having already seen a dazed Maggie Evans wander into the Blue Whale during the cold open. Still, it was a not-so-subtle reminder that audiences still watching their old black and white sets needed to get with the program.

The first color episode, #295, was taped July 31, 1967, following a week-long break to allow the production to make whatever technical changes were necessary. Sadly, the show's second color episode has been lost, and has been replaced in syndication and home video with a B&W Kinescope copy.
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