Monday, November 6, 2017

The Dark Shadows Daybook: NOVEMBER 6


Taped on this day in 1968: Episode 623

In exchange for distracting Nicholas, Angelique sends Eve back in time to 1795. There, she visits her old lover Peter Bradford, who awaits execution for killin’ some guy. But he’s innocent. Because he’s Peter Bradford. She offers to help him escape, but he refuses. Her plan is to gather evidence to convince Jeff Clark that he’s really Peter Bradford. Meanwhile, Joshua orders Ben Stokes to destroy Vicki’s book of Collins history. Eve gets wind of this, and hoodwinks Ben into giving it up. Ultimately, she is unsuccessful in rescuing Peter, but she does get a note that he writes minutes before his execution, and she proclaims it to be exactly what she needs.

This is the kind of thing you could only get away with while the boss is in Tahiti. And yet, I have no evidence that Dan was in Tahiti. In fact, I could just as easily see him giggling like a demented toddler at the audacity of what the show was doing. Less than a year before, when 1795 began, I’m sure there was a mixture of excitement and “we’re doomed” at the ABC offices. Now, what the hell?  Let’s throw a 1960’s soap back to 1795 for a day. Why not? Better yet, why? The answer was simple. Sweeps. It’s when the Neilsen ratings really examine the books. Look at November, February, and May, and you’ll find shows doing things at their wackiest. In fact, around this time, 1795 was beginning for the 1967 year, they were doing another 1795 flashback in 1968… with another one coming in December, 1969 was introducing the Leviathans, and in 1970, the events leading to Quentin’s witchcraft trial are coming to a (severed) head (in a box). 

The episode itself is the kind of nutty, absurdist fun upon which Gordon Russell could always be relied. So often, his scripts feel like parodies of DARK SHADOWS that won’t quite come out and admit it. First, the patent lunacy of Peter Bradford being the end-all-be-all for both Vicki and, bafflingly, the most evil woman on earth, Danielle Roget, in Collinsport from France by way of the Yancy Street Gang. What was the attraction? Who throws a shoe? Honestly? If he has a shot, I do, too, and my dance card’s open. (Ahem, ahem, female DARK SHADOWS fans.) Then, Joshua gets so upset over his inability to avert Peter’s death that he orders a valuable book from the future to be burned. I guess it was cathartic. Danielle even tries to seduce the elderly gaol guard, who just seems weirded out by the whole thing, as if she has an unwholesome fetish with which he wants no part. It’s a lot of fun and an unofficial sequel to 1795 that makes me wish they’d checked back more frequently. Of course, Jeb Hawkes would also be anchored back here, making 1795 the Queen Mother of all jonbar hinges.

On this day in 1968, Richard Nixon defeated Washington beefcake and teen heartthrob, Hubert Humphrey, to become the 37th president of the United States. In many ways, his administrations would satisfy a conspicuous number of left-wing initiatives for a republican. If you want a smoking conspiracy gun, it’s that.

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