Monday, April 2, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 2


Taped on this date in 1968: Episode 466

Barnabas and Victoria wind up in a hospital beset by strange visitors. She meets a double for Peter Bradford named Jeff Clark. He meets a doctor, Eric Lang, who claims to have cured him of vampirism. As the curtains are torn apart, Barnabas screams in the flood of sunlight.

Television relies on stasis; DARK SHADOWS rebels against it. How many ways did fate keep Gilligan on the island? How many chances to get home were fumbled or rejected by the crew of the USS Voyager? If you have a successful hook, logic dictates, hold onto it. DARK SHADOWS has no need for that. It’s a five-year tightrope walk that keeps topping itself. Today, they take away the net. Today, someone just cures Barnabas.

Yeah, the vampire. The vampire who is so vampiric, they devoted an entire flashback sequence to his origin. This show is back for only a week and he’s cured already, and the story’s stakes actually heighten. Now he’ll have to STAY cured, and accomplishing that will catalyze one of the show’s most interesting and consistently entertaining years. It is the bridge between Barnabas’ introduction/origin and the 1897 storyline. Although both of those sequences are perhaps the most famous and memorable periods of the show, 1968 (which is short for Adam, Eve, NIcholas & Cassandra) is what I get when I look for a core sample of DARK SHADOWS. It was off to the races on a track that could go anywhere.

It’s nothing but endearing that the man leading the charge was Dr. Eric Lang as played by Addison Powell, the program’s Leslie Nielsen. To say that Powell is, um, theatrical is a wild understatement. This is what the Vikings would have done had they switched gigs but kept the attitude. Overacting is one thing. It’s coarse and lacks sincerity. Powell’s stunningly energetic, committed turns have a practiced smoothness and honesty that elevates them beyond acting and into a manifesto on passion and expression. And his confident  intelligence makes his histrionics all the more hilarious and strangely compelling. I love this guy.

Only he could cock an eyebrow and stare down Julia Hoffman when she tried to smuggle Barnabas out of the hospital before sunrise. Only he could swagger as he accused Barnabas of being a vampire in less than fifteen minutes of screen time. And only he would fearlessly peel away the curtain on a sunny afternoon to let Barnabas know that it wasn’t four o’clock in the morning, but rather FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE AFTERNOON! With exactly that panache. Between Stokes, Lang, and the upcoming Nicholas Blair, the show is introducing characters who could have sliced through the first two year’s problems like a katana. The upcoming conflicts will need to be commensurately challenging.

On this day in three years, ABC would air the final episode of DARK SHADOWS. 

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