Monday, April 23, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: April 23


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 218

Barnabas asks for the Old House from Roger and Liz. The former seems enthusiastic, but the matriarch is undecided. Meanwhile, Jason threatens Liz to not ask too many questions about the missing Willie. He and Barnabas meet.

Roger inaugurates the episode by dismissing Jason and Willie as a “couple of sea tramps,” as if he were living in a 1930’s cartoon. Which is a pretty likely, apt description of Roger’s later world now that I ponder it. I wondered why Roger was so likable in this episode, and it made me realize the profound impact of Barnabas on this world. Roger is a consummate snob at the top of Collinsport’s food chain. It humanizes everyone else to have him as society’s unfair and out-of-touch judge and jury. But after the many hours that a soap opera forces you to spend with a character, either general affection or Stockholm Syndrome is bound to kick in. It's natural to develop a fondness for them, even if they start out open (and remain) something of a villain. This is certainly the case with Roger. To whom can he look to find a superior? Absolutely no one, and that's the point. (And I'm not counting his sister in this case.  Joan Bennett is more of a deity then a human.) In fact, Roger doesn't even really have an equal. In a world without that social Swiss army knife, Professor Stokes, Collinsport is a lonely place to be for the most important man in it. Until Barnabas. Not only does he become the main bad guy for a time, but he also tops Roger in the social savoir-faire department. Instead of having to implicitly or explicitly passed judgment on everyone else, Roger can simply relax, have a brandy, and get down to some old-fashioned banter with another confirmed Bachelor. No wonder he wants him in the Old House nearby. It's clear the writers enjoy it, and so does Louis Edmonds. Everyone gets to lighten up a little bit with the character who was destined to be lovable.

On DARK SHADOWS, the aristocracy may be in charge and they may pass judgment on everyone else, but all of that judgment goes both ways. We may dream of being (or at least having the wealth and maneuverability) of a Collins, but we also get to be one of the gang at the Blue Whale, makin’ fun ‘o those fat cats in the spooky joint on the hill. At least, until Barnabas comes along. Then, as the show shifts so that he is our focus, rather than being on Vicky or Burke, and it becomes less and less important to see the aristocracy as pitiful. They are neither pitiful nor laudable. They simply are.

If the characters on DARK SHADOWS speak any language, it is fluent implication. Usually, it's Roger, and it's usually when he's trying to weasel out of something. In this, the war of words is between Jason and Barnabas. Jason spends most of his time making veiled threats. He’s no match for Barnabas, and Barnabas knows it, and Jason knows that Barnabas knows it, and Barnabas knows that Jason knows that he knows it. The result is that Jonathan Frid smiled as Barnabas, an event so rare that, when he saw it, it meant six more weeks of Parallel Time.

Barnabas more-or-less gets the Old House. 1795 wasn’t even a glint in Dan’s eye, but he could not have set up the mythos more perfectly. Of course, Barnabas wouldn’t want Collinwood. The Old House was his home; Collinwood was the retirement village for mom and dad. What kind of show spends nearly a year setting up the location for a protagonist they don’t even mention for nine months or so? This one.

This episode hit the airwaves April 27, 1967.

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