Sunday, July 22, 2018

Stan Against Evil goes full Collinsport in season 3

The teaser for season three of STAN AGAINST EVIL debuted Saturday at Comic-Con, with the cast and crew on-hand to give fans an idea of what to expect when the series returns to IFC on Oct. 31. I'm too busy to dive deep into this trailer at the moment, but needless to say: Familiar imagery abounds! If you get a DARK SHADOWS vibe from the vampire elements (such as that screencap of series MVP Janet Varney at the top of this post) that's by design. Series creator Dana Gould has spent a lot of time in Collinsport and knows his way around town. I'll have more to say about all of this later, but for now enjoy some images from DARK SHADOWS that are some obvious touchstones for STAN AGAINST EVIL. (Bonus points of you spot the reference to KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER in the teaser.) You can should watch the trailer for season three at the bottom of this post.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

►The Dark Shadows Daybook dwells on the sadness of 1967, specifically the specter of a dead child looking for a playmate on the grounds of Collinwood in episode 292. Patrick McCray says: "Despite all of her talents, Sarah is a prisoner to the Collins estate, as are so many others for so many reasons, most of which boil down to relationships." Read the entire essay HERE.

►Dark Shadows Before I Die arrives at episode 539. This part of of John and Christine's summary should have been the published TV Guide summary: "I'm having a hard time believing that the kid who was able to figure out how to remove a bleeder valve from his dad's car to make the brakes fail when he was two years younger is now having difficulty working a tape recorder. Or that he would go to his evil stepmother for help with it. Where's his governess and why isn't she doing her job?" Read the entire post HERE.

►OK, this one's not new, but it's new to me: a cocktail named after our very own Joan Bennett. This one's been around for a while, according to Difford's Guide, which explains:
"Adapted from a Tiki drink featured in Jeff Berry's 'Intoxica' and originally created in 1932 at Sloppy Joe's Bar, Havana, Cuba. Named after Hollywood ingénue, Joan Bennett, who in the same year starred in Fox's Careless Lady. Years later she hit the news when her husband, producer Walter Wanger, shot her agent in the crotch after catching them in bed together."
You can get the drink recipe at Difford's HERE. And a shout-out to @joanbennettfan on Instagram for bringing this one to my attention. Also note "Served in a Collins glass."

►This Amazon fail is self explanatory.

►Below is a video from Instagram. I made this and feel deeply embarassed by it. I also kind of love it. It's awful. And it's getting buried at the bottom of this post in hopes that fewer people see it. Don't judge me.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 19


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 292

Woodard confronts Julia about Maggie’s extended stay at Windcliff, and she reveals the connection to the supernatural, convincing to continue covering for her. Outside the Old House, Sarah bemoans the fact that she can’t find the very much alive Maggie. David takes the story of Maggie’s survival back to Collinwood, and Vicki reveals to Burke that she’s become strangely smitten with a new house by the sea.

Let’s hear it for Gordon Russell and his first episode. Over the next four years, he will become DARK SHADOWS’ most prolific writer. In it, we see his one of his great strengths: writing relationships with truth, twists, and surprises. Grayson Hall is particularly adept at pulling off his verbal labyrinths. In the first scene with Woodard, Julia actually talks the hard-headed generalist into receptiveness toward her vision of science’s conquest of the supernatural. She evades, warns, bullies, and eventually flirts her way into his trust. Her coming out as what has become a mad scientist is done with both credibility and wit. DARK SHADOWS has expanded its redefinition of the soap opera universe as one in which the supernatural is seen as something absolutely real… and one in which we humans have a fighting chance. By selling Woodard on it, she further sells the audience. So often, supernatural stories -- from DRACULA to the world of Lovecraft -- posit a universe where terror exists because it cannot be understood.  Her quest to do so isn’t folly at all, and it further roots one of the key concepts of the series. These things have limits and origins, just like we do. Moreover, they have accessible weaknesses. This isn’t man vs. the omnipotent. The seemingly “omnipotent” have challenges and foibles of their own. The story shifts from drama to horror, then back to what DARK SHADOWS truly is: drama involving horror. The power that people like Barnabas wield makes their vulnerabilities all the more poignant. And doesn’t DARK SHADOWS begin that way? Despite all of their sway, the Collins family cannot escape guilt and fear.

We see further limits with the next scene, involving David and Sarah.  Sarah, a ghost who can materialize at will, has lost Maggie. As the scene went on, I wondered what the show would be like if Sarah had simply followed Maggie to Windlciff and encouraged her to escape. Just as interesting, but probably shorter. There is a natural sadness to the scene. Despite all of her talents, Sarah is a prisoner to the Collins estate, as are so many others for so many reasons, most of which boil down to relationships.

Russell curiously juxtaposes this with the next scene involving Burke and Victoria. Vicki is a human empowered by knowledge of the paranormal, and credits it with helping her discover Seaview, a house beyond, to which she’s inexplicably drawn.Escape from Collinwood may be possible after all.  So, what is the supernatural in so many of these cases but love? It’s an extraordinary power to some and an imprisoning imposition to others. Instead of referencing it literally, DARK SHADOWS accomplishes the same thing figuratively. It’s all the business of the daytime genre, but by using the supernatural as a metaphor, Russell gives the idea an even greater universality. Not only that, he opens up a world in which both love and the occult can be examined with fresh, occasionally jaundiced, and ultimately optimistic eyes.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 8, 1967.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Between you and me, the whole "Dark Shadows Lives!" thing was an experiment, one meant to illustrate that the series has an active, vibrant fanbase despite having been off the air since Nixon was president. There were some nagging doubts that this feature would blow up in my face Looney Tunes-style after a few days. Instead, I've been struggling to keep you with you all. Here's a roundup of today's activities:

The Dark Shadows Daybook reaches peak Barnabas/Julia with episode 291.It's an episode that Patrick McCray thinks is a prime example of everything the series does well. "Some episodes are more fun. Some are cleverer. And some are more pivotal to the canon. But you know what? Not many. 291 is neither an origin nor a resolution, but a key moment of change and evolution for some of our main characters." Read the entire piece HERE.

Barnabas and Adam are trapped in a coffin together over at Dark Shadows Before I Die. Only one of them is physically in the coffin, but that doesn't matter much given the spiritual bond they unwillingly share. Abstract: "Sadly, the events of today seem to seal Adam's fate. As long as he lives, Barnabas will be free of the vampire curse. And that can't last forever. We'll see how long it takes for Angelique to find out, at which time we can expect she will have a new target." Read the entire piece HERE.

The poster for HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS is the topic of discussion at the MoviePosterPorn subreddit HERE. For some users it's their first time learning of the film. The post is scoring well, but there's not much in the way of commentary attached to it.

DARK SHADOWS "peg people" by Michael J. Pribbenow, courtesy of his Instagram account @mikeysimagination. DARK SHADOWS was "campy, kooky 60's madness at its best," he says. You can get individual looks at these creations on his Instagram feed. He also has an Etsy store HERE.

Remember @lunettarose from yesterday's "Dark Shadows Lives?" Well, that's not her in the photo below, but that's her artwork on the shirt.

OK, Anna Bowden. You have my attention.

Dark Shadows was never a soap opera


More than 50 years after its debut on television, DARK SHADOWS remains a show that's difficult to quantify.

As far as the mainstream media is concerned, DARK SHADOWS is "that soap opera about a vampire." It's thumbnail sketch of the series drawn primarily by people who hadn't actually seen it, journalists tasked with writing an authoritative exploration of America's latest cultural phenomenon despite their lack of experience with it. As is generally the case with American media, these stories were almost always told from the outside looking in. They're not stories of "us" but of "you," the author immune to the charms of whatever nonsense is currently holding the peasantry in thrall. Bitter? Maybe a little. But living though several decades of "Pow! Bam! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!" story ledes will do that to a person.

When it debuted back in 1966, DARK SHADOWS got as aggressive a media push as ABC could muster for an afternoon drama. You can read many of those stories in our archives, but they are of two varieties: general announcements that there's a new show on the way, and short feature pieces on the individual cast members. After that initial blitz the media took little notice of the program again for more than a year. Even the audacious move of adding a vampire to the cast in 1967 wasn't enough to make any immediate waves. Jonathan Frid's introduction to DARK SHADOWS was roundly ignored by those who should have been paying attention. It would take another year before the entertainment press was forced to acknowledge a cultural phenomenon, and you can feel the resentment in the collective voice of the gatekeepers when pens were finally put to paper. Too many write-ups focused on such things as "plastic bats" and Joan Bennett's status as a fallen diva. If there was anything lower on the pop culture stratum than a soap opera it was a horror. And here were both in the same program, making the beast with two backs Monday through Friday on network television for all to see. It was unseemly.

Another year went by (1968, if you're keeping score) before TV Guide, Time Magazine, Tiger Beat and Famous Monsters of Filmland finally took notice of what has happening on DARK SHADOWS. The variety of those publications and their hesitant response suggests that none of them knew who this show "belonged" to. By all rights, Famous Monsters should have been first on the scene, but it's possible they overlooked the program as something made for the "housewife set." Its first feature story on DARK SHADOWS was titled "Video Vampire Number One" and avoided use the term "soap opera." (The term "vampire opera" was used in one of the captions, though.) TV Guide published a few women's fashion pieces about the show in 1967, while the writers for Tiger Beat and Time were likely deeply confused when they found their readership overlapping. But hesitate they all did until 1968. By this point Frid was already pulling in thousands of fans during stops on his promotional tours of the nation, bringing in crowds larger than Richard Nixon's campaign stops (which is a weird metric, but one actually used Time Magazine.)

And this is how DARK SHADOWS received the logline that it was a "soap opera about a vampire." It was not meant with love. It was a code used by writers to tell editors that there were more important things they could be doing with their time than discussing (ugh) daytime television.

And you might want to sit down for my next assertion: DARK SHADOWS was never a soap opera.

This isn’t a matter of genre snobbery on my part. (At least, not entirely.) DARK SHADOWS was certainly constructed to meet the programming requirements of a soap opera, but it differed from its counterparts in a very significant way: It had a premise.

A soap opera isn’t automatically defined as “serialized entertainment,” the same way that serialized entertainment is not automatically a “soap opera.” The presence of melodrama in a serial doesn’t automatically make something a soap. If it did, programs like MAD MEN would better qualify as a soap than DARK SHADOWS does. Hell, TWIN PEAKS was as overt a soap opera as there's ever been (and even parodied its own soapy elements in the show-within-a-show, "Invitation to Love") yet neither PEAKS nor MAD have been corralled into the soap opera ghetto.

Comic books and professional wrestling are other forms of serialized entertainment with elements of melodrama. While it's occasionally argued they sometimes resemble soap operas, nobody seriously considers them as such. Marvel's "Fantastic Four" comic, the 19th century penny dreadful "Varney the Vampire," Stephen King's "The Green Mile," THE SOPRANOS and DARK SHADOWS are all serialized and share elements of melodrama ... but they also have premises.

Soap operas do not have premises. I dare you to tell me what RYAN'S HOPE or DAYS OF OUR LIVES is about. These programs are Venn diagrams of conflict, but there's no "there" there. When asked, people will tell you about the big moments, such as the time Luke and Laura got married ... but that's not a premise, is it? It's not even a story. If pressed, most fans of GENERAL HOSPITAL would probably have to submit that the series is about nothing more than a bunch of assholes hanging around a hospital.

From the very beginning, DARK SHADOWS had a premise, however abstract, that informed the series until the very end despite its many changes in between. There’s a reason we’re still talking about this show 50 years later and that’s because there’s something to talk about. You can actually spot the moments when rot began to take hold of DARK SHADOWS, because those were the moments when writers began to lean on soap opera cliches as substitutes for story. Nobody really cared if Quentin got custody of his kid from Samantha, or if Bramwell Collins  knocked up Catherine Harridge. More importantly, even the writers by this point didn't care. DARK SHADOWS devoured stories at an alarming rate and its appetite was insatiable. By 1971 it had already burned through "Dracula," "Frankenstein," "Jane Eyre" (twice!), "The Turn of the Screw" (twice!), "The Lottery," a bunch of random H.P. Lovecraft elements, "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and Daphne du Maurier's "Rebecca" ...  not to mention parallel timelines, alternate futures and even (gasp!) alternate pasts. Many of these tales and tropes, even the gothic ones, were actually science fiction. And that's not even mentioning the witches, werewolves, zombies and other phantoms that called Collinsport home.

Let's do the time warp again.
DARK SHADOWS was a fantasy program that was built to occupy available real estate, which happened to be a block of afternoon programming previously inhabited by a soap opera. In 1966 ABC asserted the series was part of it's "continuing effort to bring fresh new forms of entertainment to daytime television." Comparisons to PEYTON PLACE aside, I think ABC was successful in creating something very different in DARK SHADOWS. During the first year the program was teased as a "suspense serial." By the next year that term had become a "mystery narrative" and "romantic suspense series." But the show's descriptions became more dismissive as it grew in popularity. A 1968 newspaper story published in Indianapolis said "Housewives, and the mico-boppers who can rush home from school in time, love it." DARK SHADOWS was an illegitimate phenomenon because its fanbase was illegitimate. Or, you know, predominantly female. This wasn't a huge problem when nobody was watching it, but once it exploded onto the cultural landscape ... well, some people needed to be reminded of their places. If you think this attitude has changed much in the last 40+ years, go back and read some of the coverage of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT series, which committed the cardinal sin of appealing to women. Granted, TWILIGHT is awful ... but we give a great many awful thing in this country a pass as long as they're entertaining. Nobody seems all that put out by the toxic masculinity on display on THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, but those movies are candy for dudebros. And dudebros get whatever they want, or else. (Which is a pretty good summary of the F&F movies, to be honest.)

And this, my friends, is how we arrived at the "soap opera about a vampire" logline. It's one that got trotted out every few years as DARK SHADOWS migrated into syndication and cable television and has been more difficult to shake than the term "Trekkie." Neither were designed to be terms of endearment.

Because of marketing demands, though, I guess you have to call DARK SHADOWS something. But to call it a soap is to confuse structure with content. And the latter is much more important when defining the identity of the series. Admittedly, the structure of DARK SHADOWS contributes to much of its charm. It gave the show room to live and breathe in a way later adaptions of the material have not enjoyed. But there's the rub: When that first "Barnabas Collins" story was ported over to theaters as HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS in 1970, it created something that nobody would ever confuse with a soap opera. And the 1991 "revival" series leaned slightly on motifs from evening dramas of its day, but was also not tagged as a soap. Tim Burton's 2012 feature film tried to force soapy elements into the narrative (particularly the rivalry between the two local canneries) but they didn't amount to much. Four years later the film has become a programming staple on Freeform's "13 Nights of Halloween" marathon.

To my knowledge there's never been an effort made to bring a new version of DARK SHADOWS back to its original daytime address. There might be a reason for that. But you could also make a strong argument that DARK SHADOWS has not exactly thrived when transplanted to other environments. Perhaps the concept demands an extremely complex ecosystem in order to survive.

Again, please don’t interpret this argument as “Dark Shadows isn’t a soap opera because soap operas suck.” That’s not what I’m saying. It's just that DARK SHADOWS has little in common with other soaps except a structure.  With its superficial qualities stripped away,  DARK SHADOWS sits comfortably on the shelf with contemporary programs like STAR TREK, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, WILD WILD WEST and even BATMAN. All of these programs share a dedication to unique ethos which remained the same no matter how their respective casts or stories changed. THE TWILIGHT ZONE had unmistakable themes, motifs and obsessions that always held true no matter how the individual stories were presented, and DARK SHADOWS was no different.

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 18


Taped on this date in 1967: Episode 291

Barnabas attempts to kill Julia at Collinwood, only to find that he’s been duped by a dummy. Julia emerges from the shadows and reveals that she knows his secrets, is a doctor, has a fascination with him as the link between life and death, and then wants to cure him. This fascinates Barnabas enough that he provides room for her at Collinwood while semi-secretly planning to kill her. When she reveals that Maggie lives -- and that she controls her amnesia -- Barnabas has no choice but to delay his plans to ensure that the doctor is out.

“Show me an episode of DARK SHADOWS.”

That prized and dreaded question from someone curious about what you’re into.

It’s somewhere between flattering and petrifying. Where do you begin? What can sum it up, show it off, move it out, Rawhide? Before I go on about that problem, let me say that 291 is your answer.

Some episodes are more fun. Some are cleverer. And some are more pivotal to the canon. But you know what? Not many. 291 is neither an origin nor a resolution, but a key moment of change and evolution for some of our main characters. It’s early enough that they’re still dropping exposition bombs on new audience members to catch them up. As for the present, this episode introduces and explains the strange and long-running relationship of Barnabas and Julia, which will mellow and evolve for the next three years. It is the longest running partnership on the show. But what is that relationship? With two unlikely stars playing even unlikelier characters, it’s not exactly enemies -- except when they’re trying to kill each other. It’s not always friends -- because they’re sometimes trying to kill each other. And we can’t really call it romantic, except that Julia often acts out of love. Even though Barnabas probably doesn’t reciprocate it, he’s aware that her motives become romantic. He plays up a counterfeit interest when necessary, but that’s an act he drops when it becomes clear that she’ll remain loyal to him anyway.

They’ve already met, so we can’t call this an origin story. But this is where she explains her fascination with life, death, and her desire to cure Barnabas in the name of SCIENCE! Oh, she also comes out of the closet as a doctor. Few characters establish themselves as so admirably formidable. When she lays her trap for Barnabas, she does so with no mirror, cross, impending sunrise, nor wooden stake at the ready. All she has are the revelations that she’s a doctor... who suspects his secrets... and has a living Maggie Evans as a patient she can control absolutely! That’s a lot of exposition to get out, so it’s a good thing that Barnabas is a very patient strangler.

We think of Julia as the mercurial one in the relationship, being so constantly in love with Barnabas that she schemes to get him exposed, hideously aged, and generally on edge for nearly the first year they know each other. And yes, that is the quintessence of the mixed bag, but when it comes to mixed bags, Barnabas doesn’t just have a bag… he has a Harrod’s. Willie (who also gets reintroduced enough in the episode that we learn who he is all over again) is so baffled by Barnabas in 291 that if this were the poster to a Dean Jones movie for Disney, he would be at the center of it, arms crossed, pointing in either direction with a perplexed expression… and maybe a cat paw print on his forehead. First, Barnabas moves her in, then he announces he’ll kill her, then he insists she stay even longer. Then he tries to kill her again. In the same scene with no real prompting to shift tactic! Which is it? I’m glad that she says that she has Maggie’s memory in her control. It buys us all some time. I know that men are loathe to commit, but this is outrageous!

And it’s just the beginning.

This episode hit the airwaves Aug. 7, 1967.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

The world lost Thayer David on this day in 1978 at the age of 51. David was the utility infielder for DARK SHADOWS, dealing easily with any job thrown at him. The Winchester, Massachusetts native played more roles on the show than any other actor. On July 17, 1970, he taped an episode of DS that took place in a future he'd never see: 1995. "It makes an episode like this incredibly poignant, showing the actor at an “old age” (68) that he never reached, Patrick McCray recalls in The Dark Shadows Daybook episode installment for #1065. "Anyone familiar with the daybook knows that Mr. David is the real star of the show and this column. A touch of that is camp, but it’s a sincere camp, sincerely inspired. Chris Pennock considered David to perhaps be the program’s finest actor." You can read the entire piece HERE.

Speaking of Christoper Pennock, he might be the only man on the internet that hates Donald Trump more than me. In between his (totally on-point) rants about Orange Twitler he let slip an important detail: he's going to be part of the cast of the upcoming DARK SHADOWS: BLOODLINE. Who's he playing? I don't know! But if you've heard his recent appearances in the Big Finish audios it's not difficult to make an educated guess. You can bask in his righteous rage at @ButtockPennock.

Dark Shadows Every Day arrives at Episode 1149, described by blogger Danny Horne as the climax of the epic tragedy of Barnabas Collins and Roxanne Drew. "He’s followed her through three layers of paradox to arrive at this choice slice of cliffhanging: the zenith of all his mistakes, piled up on top of each other and ready to topple." Read today's installment HERE.

Dark Shadows Before I Die reaches one of the many peaks in the Barnabas/Julia/Angelique/FILL IN THE BLANK love quadrangle with episode 537. Abstract: "Julia's feelings have been on the table, the wall, the floor...pretty much everywhere for a long time. I loved her comeback when Cassandra accused her of being in love with Barnabas." Read it all HERE.

Of all my fake internet friends, @lunettarose is among my favorites. She's a smart, funny and talented artist who also reached a sort of milestone today with DARK SHADOWS. Below is the first tweet in a thread that's worth reading.

How about some Barnabas Collins pixel art?

I sometimes forget that Tim Burton's DARK SHADOWS movie was a thing. (Just kidding. I'm gonna take that grudge with me to the grave.) My monolithic quibbles with the movie aside, it was a gorgeous production ... which is reflected in this "makeup test" by @Fernanda Andrade.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

David Selby won the internet this week with the most popular DARK SHADOWS-related post in ages. It's the real thing.

Posted by David Selby on Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook is back! Patrick McCray returned from his break today with a look at episode 804, taped on this date in 1969. Here's an abstract: "t’s taken three years for the mind-switch episode of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND to infiltrate daytime soaps, but it finally arrives in high style in episode 804. The result is another slice of wackiness that, if it weren’t for the specter of Quentin’s lost child and murdered brother, would deserve a laugh track." You can read the full piece HERE.

Dark Shadows Before I Die visits episode 536, broadcast July 15, 1968, which finds Barnabas, Willie and Julia having predictably bad days. Abstract: "So Barnabas asks Julia to promise to stake him, and while she does promise him, when the time comes she doesn't do it. Instead, they bury him, underground this time, so he'll be undead AND underground. Such a pal." You can read the full piece HERE.

This isn't the first time Argyle Goolsby and Shadows Windhawk have been mentioned at the CHS and it probably won't be the last. Both are DARK SHADOWS fans and have written songs about the Collins clan, so it shouldn't be surprising that both recently found themselves on the grounds of Seaview Terrace, the "real life" Collinwood. "Checked another off my Bucket List yesterday," SW wrote in an Instagram post. "Behind me is the exterior location for Collinwood from the original Dark Shadows TV series. DS is very close to my heart, I grew up watching it on VHS with my Dad." You can see them together in the photo below from Goolsby's account. Meanwhile, catch them on tour with Michael Graves. Find the tour dates HERE.

Becca seems like good people.

Meanwhile, the HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS Facebook page is nearing 500 "likes." Pay it a visit!

Trivia: Actress Nancy Barrett donated her fangs used in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS to the 2016 Dark Shadows Festival charity auction.
Posted by House of Dark Shadows on Sunday, July 15, 2018

The Dark Shadows Daybook: July 16


Taped on this date in 1969: Episode 804

Edward encounters Jamison, now possessed by Petofi, and is rewarded for ripping off the lad’s now-artificial hand by being transformed into a doddering butler. Petofi, on a mission to force the family to return his hand, continues to terrorize Collinwood by transforming Charity Trask into Pansy Faye, a lowbrow music hall singer. It’s part of the Count’s plan to reveal the inner selves of all at Collinwood. Charles Delaware Tate arrives to ostensibly paint Edith’s portrait. Finding that she has died, he insists upon painting Quentin. Barnabas and Quentin discuss the latter’s loss of a child and his newfound sense of morality and purpose. After Charity’s psychic trance suggests that Quentin murdered Carl, Barnabas kidnaps the bewitched Jamison.

It’s taken three years for the mind-switch episode of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND to infiltrate daytime soaps, but it finally arrives in high style in episode 804. The result is another slice of wackiness that, if it weren’t for the specter of Quentin’s lost child and murdered brother, would deserve a laugh track. Quite purposefully. This was arguably the apex of the show’s popularity, with market saturation that went far beyond the bored and distracted hausfrau for which the soap medium was designed. The writers had a chance to write, not just write repetitive exposition. DARK SHADOWS was finally a show, and the writers were determined to get the most from the opportunity. Nothing else describes the freedom to explore the wild heights of drama, humor, imagination, and creativity that they display here. Successfully! Why didn’t the entire medium go here as the rule, not the exception? The fact that they did not is a fact that should shame DARK SHADOWS’ contemporaries and descendants. Yes, sometimes we would get the exception with a program, but it was just an exception, not the rule. But beyond content creators, we should shame audiences who were so dull and unimaginative that they spent decades to come lapping up water instead of champagne. And I make no apologies; DARK SHADOWS 804 is Dom Perignon. It’s fun, light, constantly inventive, never boring, and has just enough of a thoughtful kick that you remember the experience.

In the midst of this, it leaves puzzling questions and implications. My favorite is at the beginning; what happened to Jamison’s hand? Is it on Petofi’s stump? Is Petofi wandering around with a boy’s hand on his meaty wrist? Is that more shameful than a wooden hand? And where did Jamison get the little, wooden hand that Edward pulls off? Did Petofi leave it under his pillow?

David Selby bests a wonderful challenge 804, going from saucy cad, an easy part to play, to a normative voice of morality and reason. In other words, the downer. He does this and still keeps the character consistent. Entertainingly following that arc is a true test of an actor, and the transformation is completely successful. Frid did it as well, as did Lara Parker and even John Karlen, before. With Quentin, the shift is the least gradual and is rooted in the most inner pain. We see it happen before us, but the character never loses his edge. If anything, Quentin’s lines echo with the knowledge that caused so much of this. Rarely does a drunk remember the night that forged his hangover. Quentin vividly recalls the choices that earned all of Collinsport the hangover he now shares with them.

Also intriguing is the concept of people revealing their inner selves. Pansy Faye is easy -- from prim, religious schoolmarm to an outrageous flirt. Edward is a tad stranger. To whom does he so wish to be subservient that he transforms into a sycophantic butler? His form of indulging is to serve. In the age of 50 SHADES awareness, the implications are a little kooky. Of course, Louis Edmonds adds to this subliminal kinkiness. When he says that there should be a place at Collinwood for a man willing to do “anything,” Edmonds rolls his eyes at Selby in a manner just not quick enough for today’s widescreen televisions to sell as anything but the fractional leer that it is. It makes me wonder what Quentin and Barnabas would have become, if anything, had their inner sides been unleashed. Back to Pansy Faye, Nancy Barrett finally discovers the role that will give her so much fun and be such a perfect match that she kinda-sorta plays it in 1840, as well. We also have Barrett and the show’s most reliable earworm, “I Wanna Dance with You” paired together, and she’ll sing it only slightly more than Ginger Grant sang, “I Wanna Be Loved by You.” Which is a lot.

And it brings us back to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND, as well it should. The circle is now complete. 

This episode hit the airwaves July 24, 1969.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

Dark Shadows Before I Die visits July 12, 1968, the date of broadcast for episode 535 of DARK SHADOWS. If you've seen the episode you probably know this episode best for its notorious witch slap. Abstract: "I would have liked to have seen Vicki rip off her wig and stomp on it. It's mystifying that Cassandra continues her pretense that she's not Angelique to the characters who all know that she is, even in Barnabas' dream! I wonder what she'll do now that she's finally satisfied her thirst for revenge." You can read the full piece HERE.

The News Sentinal has published a retrospective on the Three Rivers Festival in Fort Wayne, Indiana, featuring a slideshow of photos from the festival's history. Among them is an image from 1969 showing the year's grand marshals Jonathan Frid and John Banner ("Sergeant Schultz" from HOGAN'S HEROES.) You can read the story HERE.


Fangoria: Dark Shadows Revisited, 1982

Everybody's pretty excited about the return of Fangoria. The world has been slowly sliding into an intangible, indescribable Lovecraftian horror in recent years, so the resurrection of Fangoria as a print(!) publication seems like an omen of sanguine portent. A sign that the world's apocalyptic trend is reversible. That maybe ... just maybe ... tomorrow will suck a little less than yesterday. As a great man once said, "We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives."

A one-year subscription to Fangoria is available online for $60 plus shipping & handling. That’s about 25 percent off the cover price of $19.79. The new magazine will be a hundred-page permabound book, printed on collectible-grade quality stock and presented with limited advertising. You can learn more about subscriptions (and the upcoming release of the first new issue) at

I mention all of that for two reasons. First, it's incredibly cool that Fangoria is making a comeback. It might be the first good thing to happen in 2018. Second, all of this sincere flattery might sooth a few ruffled feathers because I'm stealing some of their shit. Specifically, a feature piece about DARK SHADOWS that was published in issue #17 of Fangoria way back in 1982. The story is a perfect timecapsule of DARK SHADOWS at the time, and written by someone who (gasp! choke!) has seen more than three episodes of the series. Enjoy!

Dark Shadows Revisited 
Return with us to the 1960's – when 
soapy horror dominated the afternoon airwaves! 

By Randy Vest 

From FANGORIA #17, Feb. 1982

Traditional viewers of television’s daytime dramas were treated to quite a shock one afternoon in the spring of 1967 Those watchers who were tuned into ABC-TVs failing soap opera Dark Shadows were suddenly confronted With the unexpeeted sight of a leering vampire lunging at the pretty neck of a young herofne-in-distress. Wait! Could this really be happening on daytime television? Curious viewers tuned in again the next day to be sure ...

The vampire turned out to be one Barnabas Collins and his dastardly deeds were tar-ranging. He was 175 years old and had been unleashed upon the wealthy and unsuspecting Collins family by a greedy young hoodlum attempting to rob the family crypt of its jewelry But instead of gems, he found the present-day Collins family’s long-undead ancestor Barnabas and was promptly bitten and put under his power. Within the next few weeks Barnabas began sampling the blood supply of the village of Collinsport which in turn rechanneled fresh blood into the show’s weak ratings. In just a few short weeks the low-rated soap became one of the top programs in the daytime television lineup.

Dark Shadows, which debuted on ABC-TV on June 27, 1966, actually began as a gothic-style romance. The plot centered around Victoria Winters (Alexandra Moltke), a young woman who had accepted a position as governess with the wealthy Collins family in the village of Collinsport on the coast of Maine. Her charge was young David Collins (David Henesy), a spofled little boy prone to playing practical jokes and seeing ghosts (real or imagined?) all about the house. Also involved were David’s surly father Roger (Louis Edmonds), Roger’s sister Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Hollywood star Joan Bennett!) and her daughter Carolyn (Nancy Barrett). The show plodded along for its first eight or nine months with a gothic and supernatural tones. Even then it was not a ‘”typical” soap in that there were no pregnancies, extra-marital affairs or the inevitable coffee-in-the-kitchen scenes that abounded on other soaps at that time. But the show didn’t seem to be catching on, so in April of 1967, with cancellation lurking in the wings, producer Dan Curtis ordered the writers to pull out all the stops and introduce a vampire into the storyline. Not having an inkling of the tremendous response that was in store. it was decided that Barnabas would be quickly written out after a few weeks (which Was considered sufficient time to pump up the ratings). In casting the role of Barnabas, Curtis chose a Canadian actor whose background was largely on the classical stage and who had appeared only briefly on an earlier soap. Little did anyone know that the name of Jonathan Frid was soon to become a household word.

Barnabas, as portrayed by Frid, soon became what several writers phrased “the man you love to hate.” His evil actions included holding young ingenue Maggie Evans (Kathryn Leigh Scott) prisoner in a secret room the family mausoleum in hopes of making her his vampire bride, attempting to strangle Dr. Julia Hoffman (Grayson Hall) when she first discovered his secret, forcing her to murder her asssociate Dr. Dave Woodard when he found out the goings-on and any number of other disreputable doings. But in the same way as the current-day ‘J.R.’ character of TVs Dallas affects viewers, Frid’s Barnabas soon became a heart-throb for literally millions of viewers. Frid’s fan mail was overflowing with pleas for him to bite viewers on the neck and included many requests of an even more provocative nature. Barnabas had suddenly become a teen idol and, as his character became sympathetic and likeable, he graduated to hero figure.

During this hectic time in his career Jonathan Frid was more than cooperative. He did endless interviews, personal appearances and the like. His face saturated the pages of teen magazines and his volume of fan mail was mountainous. Merchandising items began to appear – bubble gum cards, comic books, a short-lived newspaper strip, dozens of paperback novels, records, board games – all bearing Frid’s likeness. For Jonathan Frid as Barnabas Collins had suddenly become the nucleus of Dark Shadows and was to consistently remain the show’s most popular character throughout its run.

Viewers figured that a centuries-old vampire must have a very interesting background, and the writers gratified their curiosity by taking them on a journey into the past to discover how Barnabas’ affliction came about. Via a seance, the family governess Victoria was transported back through time to the year 1795 where she encountered not only a youthful Barnabas, but other members of the Collins family who looked exactly like their modern-day descendants. The entire cast of regulars had been recast into new roles, some of them changing rather drastically. Mild-mannered lawyer Tony Peterson (Jerry Lacy) now appeared in the form of fanatical witch-hunter Reverend Trask. Maggie’s boyfriend Joe Haskell (Joel Crothers) became the scheming opportunist Lt. Nathan Forbes and housekeeper Mrs. Johnson (Clarice Blackburn) was the prudist and suspicion-laden Abigail Collins. Victoria was accepted into the household  (again as a governess) and Barnabas’ story began to unfold. Along with the aforementioned characters, a beautifulblonde witch named Angelique (Lara Parker) was introduced and soon became another of the show’s most applauded evil-doers.

The 1795 excursion stretched out over a period of four-and-a-half months. This plot idea was something new, unique and exciting and these episodes (along with those just after Barnabas’ arrival in and the episodes for the major part of were certainly the “golden days” of Dark Shadows.

Dan Curtis knew that adding more supernatural beings to his storylines could only make an already successful formula potent. Upon Vicky’s turn to the present (where time had been suspended) new menace-makersfollowed in quick succession. Angelique reappeared (in the guise of Cassandra Collins) followed by mad Dr. Eric Lang (Addison Powell), his man-made creation Adam (Robert Rodan), Adam’s mate Eve (Marie Wallace), warlock Nicholas Blair (Humbert Allen Astredo), vampire Tom Jennings (Don Briscoe) and his werewolf brother Chris (also Briscoe). Plots were largely being ‘borrowed’ from the classic Universal films of the 1930s and 40s, and viewers delighted in each one.

The show zipped along at a fairly rapid rate until the final months of 1968 when Dan Curtis decided that a major new character should be brought into the show. The new addition was Quentin Collins, a malevolent spirit who, along with female ghost Beth Chavez (Terry Crawford), was taking possession of young David and his friend Amy (Denise Nickerson). The Turn of the Screw by Henry lames was the writers’ inspiration this time around, and their evil Quentin was portrayed by a tall young actor named David Selby. A new heart-throb was born and Quentin soon became the focal point of the story. No doubt Jonathan Frid was pleased with this change as some of the work load would be removed from his caped shoulders. It wasn’t long before another journey into the past (1897) was taking place and Quentin’s background was told in detail.

The 1897 storyline had a lengthy run of approximately seven months. During this time the cast was doing double-duty by appearing in the first full-length movie version of the show which was being filmed simultaneously by Dan Curtis Productions in associa-tion with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The Lyndhurst mansion and estate in Tarrytown, New York became “Collinwood” for the film and most of the regular cast were used in their original roles. Titled House of Dark Shadows, it was basically a slightly reworked version of the initial Barnabas plot from the series and was highly successful.

By the time the daily 1897 sequences were drawing to a close, the show’s popularity had waned just a bit. The dally episodes were not too involved and moved at such a breakneck pace that unless one was watching each and every day, the story was impossible to follow. Actors were ‘killed off’ as one character and brought back in the same week as another. Plot inconsistencies abounded, and even the most devoted fans were sometimes thoroughly confused.

A change for the better wasn’t immediately forthcoming when, upon the story’s return to the present (now late 1969), the writers introduced a ridiculous plot about a supernatural race of blob-like creatures called “Leviathans” who could take on human form. The writers had been successful with their reworkings of the classic horror films of the 1930s and 40s but werenow drawing upon a kind of 1950s science-fiction element that just didn’t work in the realm of Shadows. Even with the addition of another potential young heartthrob (Christopher Pennock) the show was becoming difficult to watch. Plot inconsistencies and complicated storylines could be forgiven, but out-and-out boredom could not.

After what seemed an eternity the “Leviathan” story was wrapped up and the writers’ next step was a jaunt into “parallel time.” It was discovered that one of the rooms in the deserted west wing of the house contained a mysterious time running parallel to 1970. The people seen inside the room when these chan es occurred all looked physically like their regular 1970 counterparts but their personalities and relationships were entirely differenl. This new premise was intriguing but what initially began as a promising new direction (“Jekyll and Hyde” and “Rebeccca”- influenced plots were introduced, among others) soon became another confused shambles.

When it came time to leave parallel time 1970, Barnabas and Julia attempted to return home, but landed instead in the future years of 1995, where they found the Collinwood mansion in ruins. So, after a brief stop back in the present, the two traveled to 1840 to try to prevent the death and destruction that would befall Collinwood and its residents unless history could be changed.

With the introduction of 1840 the show continued an already steady decline, A new villain Gerard Stiles (James Storm) was introduced, along with a new ingenue Daphne Harridge (future “Angel” Kate Jackson), but neither struck the spark that would grab viewer interest. Most of the more popular regulars were back in various new guises, but somehow the goings-on were becoming stale. By late 1970 the show was in serious ratings trouble and, sensing the impending doom, several mainstays of the cast departed including Kathryn Leigh Scott and Jerry Lacy.

The final phase of the show took place in parallel time 1840 and was certainly the most dismal of all cycles the show had gone through. David Selby had exited to star in the second Shadows movie and. while he was always a close second to Frid in popularity, his departure from the show dealt it a major blow. The storyline now concerned an annual lottery the family participated in to send some unlucky member to spend the night in a haunted room in one of the deserted wings of the house. Something evil lurked there and persons had been known to go insane or die inside it.

Other than this supernatural element the rest of the plot was a Wuthering Heights-type romance centering around Bramwell and Catherine, portrayed by Jonathan Frid and Lara Parker. For the first time in Shadows history these two former arch-enemies were now cast as lovers. This fatal mistake, along with the addition of several lack-lustre new cast members and an attempt to slant the feel of the show toward romance rather than the supernatural, were the final factors in the show’s ultimate demise. The dreaded cancellation was forthcoming and Dark Shadows broadcast its final episode on April 2, 1971.

The second film version, Night of Dark Shadows had been filmed during the last months of the show’s run and featured David Selby and Kate Jackson as newlyweds Quentin and Tracy Collins. Also on hand were John Karlen and Nancy Barrett as their writer friends Aiex and Claire Jenkins, Grayson Hall as housekeeper Carlotta Drake, James Storm as handyman Gerard Stiles and Lara Parker as the evil spirit of Angelique Collins. The film was a beautifully photographed mood piece and was technically superior to House Dark Shadows but was marred by several editing cuts before its release. This, along with the tact that the TV show had already the airwaves before Night’s release, spelled box-office disappointment and put an end to any plans Curtis and MGM might have had for further sequels.

Today, having been off the air 10 years, the show’s loyal fans remain and a whole new generation of Shadows fans sprung up a years ago when Worldvision Enterprises syndicated reruns of the show to various stations around the Country. Unfortunately there were major problems of an undisclosed nature between the syndicators and local stations, and the re-runs are seen in very few (if any) markets today. Nevertheless, continued interest remains as evidenced by the tact that there is a yearly convention for the show held in California, along with fan clubs and publications that still abound throughout the country.

Since its demise there has always been speculation if the show could ever be revived, but it seems that prospects for the success of a new version of the show would be slim. Dark Shadows was a success largely due to the climate of the country at the time of its run. The show was Something new, different and fun. It’s form of escapism took us through the Vietnam war, the hippie movement, long hot summers of racial unrest, and more. Today the exploits of Barnabas and the Collins clan might seem ludicrous and laughable. As it stands now, Dark Shadows is and must remain a memory of the distant past.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Dark Shadows Lives!

For a television show cancelled in 1971, there are a lot of people talking about DARK SHADOWS today. Here's a roundup:

Dark Shadows Before I Die visits July 11, 1968, the date of broadcast for episode 534 of DARK SHADOWS. Any episodes that features Barnabas, Julia, Adam and Victoria is going to be a little tense, but Carolyn aims to turn over the whole creepy apple cart. Here's a sample from DSBID assessment: "You're saying Adam is better than Joe or Buzz? Or are you referring to her sick relationship with her cousin Barnabas? Is Carolyn now having some kind of Frankenfantasy date with Adam? This girl is messed up!" You can read it HERE.

Speaking of July 11, 1968, the episode taped that day was #545. Here's what Patrick McCray had to say about that episode in THE DARK SHADOWS DAYBOOK installment from two years ago: "Nicholas Blair. No one else could pull Adam onto his side by seemingly quoting from TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Meanwhile, Angelique’s plan to off the Promethean by using an ax, instead of black magic, seems hilariously misguided. So, yeah, Nicholas won’t suspect a thing if it’s just a simple ax in Adam’s head." You can read the day's summary HERE.

Here's the cutest Barnabas Collins you're gonna see all day, courtesy of Michael Pribbenow.

Meanwhile, DARK SHADOWS was shut out of the Emmys again this year. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

How to watch The Prisoner the Patrick McGoohan way


Good morning! Good morning! Rise and shine, Number One….

It’s been fifty years since its initial broadcast, but I suspect you may have recently had a conversation or two about Patrick McGoohan’s 1968 television series, THE PRISONER. (The fact that it’s streaming on Amazon Prime is cause for celebration, alone.) Completely of the Sixties and yet, ahead of OUR time, THE PRISONER plays like a deeply sober speculation of Ayn Rand on acid as told by Steve Ditko. On vacation. You don’t just watch this adventure in individualism, you even get to choose how to watch its seventeen episodes. This is thanks to a very special ordering confusion that existed within the series from the get-go. The order in which they were shown in the UK is not what was shown in America, and, with most of its life now spent as single-shots on home video, it can and is watched in myriad orders and permutations.

Turns out that some permutations may be more equal than others, because none of the broadcast orders relate to what the creator of the show ever intended.

I assume you’re familiar with the basic premise, and I assume that you have theories of your own. Similar to the episodic experiences of the man I’ll call Drake (aka, “The Prisoner” or “Number Six” — a proper name that he’s kinda-referred to in “The Girl who was Death”), the show is a delightful and maddening series of deeply personal and impenetrable mysteries. If you have an increasingly confident perspective on the show after you’ve seen it, we’re watching different programs.

As with any good manual of mystery and contemplation, THE PRISONER has various strengths and weaknesses depending on how you watch it. The American order of CBS broadcast. The UK broadcast order. Various fan orders. It’s a bit like the Catholic take on the Bible. Most Catholics I know are baffled at the insistence by some Protestants to read the Bible linearly, like a novel. Because, you know, it wasn’t written that way. Approach it different ways and get different results; it’s still the Bible. Go front to back rather than topically, and a few loopholes may or may not appear. Use common sense and proper eyewear, always.

McGoohan was notoriously coy (or blunt, depending on what you read and when) about the true meaning of THE PRISONER. In a show devoted to individualism, it’s fitting that we are given such a gift of personal interpretation. However, McGoohan also provided the order of episodes that he intended and preferred. Watching it through his eyes is a rare treat, and part of that treat is yet another puzzle -- why did he choose this sequence?

The good news is that there are only seven episodes for McGoohan, and you can watch them in an afternoon if you’re feeling athletic. They are what McGoohan initially proposed when creating the show, and it’s a proper English season. (Actually, I think he -- appropriately -- only proposed six, thinking the show was finished after the first finale of “Once Upon a Time.”) It was only commercial pressure that cajoled him into filming ten more, making it appealing to sell in countries used to longer runs. The other, non-filler episodes form what I call “the McGoohan Seven.” In order:

1  Arrival
2  Free for All
3  Dance of the Dead
4  Checkmate
5  The Chimes of Big Ben
6  Once Upon a Time
7  Fall Out 

Whether you see those episodes as the core of THE PRISONER, they are the show as its creator intended. Is it the most fun collection? Maybe not. But it’s probably the most rigorous and intense. Drake follows a clear arc in the Village. He begins as a surly, openly resistant malcontent. He has a lingering faith in the institutions of civilization while believing that he can outsmart The System. Clearing those pipes of preconception is a nihilistic move, but the show isn’t nihilistic. Freed from them, Drake can only rely on one truth: his own.

In “Arrival,” the pilot episode, we find a furious Drake who paces like a tiger, makes loud noises, and hits people. He relies on his Secret Agent Man skills to escape the Village. Well, not really. The tricks of his speculated trade will not help him here, eliminating the institution of career. What’s next? Maybe a democratic republic? Good, old-fashioned government by the people, for the people, etc. In what may be the funniest and most cynical episode of the series, “Free for All” shows an election where a candidate can only succeed by surrendering to the mind control of the state. Just like, it seems, his constituents. Drake’s ego can’t stand the idea that, even though it’s probably a sham, he can’t succeed in an election. That and morbid curiosity teach him that he has no place in the Official Power Structure, so now neither career nor traditional government will provide any solace. “Dance of the Dead” may be the show’s most poetic episode, where the institution of justice is skewered. Job, Government, Justice… institutions, but composed of compromised, corrupt people. (Probably.) Untrustworthy, lying, manipulative, secretive people.

What happened to McGoohan in real life to create a show so viciously on the attack? Whatever it was, I’m grateful. As much as we applaud the morality of the plots, there is also a charming misanthropy running through the show. A fun side-note: in “Dance of the Dead,” you can hear Josette’s original music box theme early in the program as we pass a group of women in appropriately 18th century gowns.

The fourth episode, “Checkmate,” is the fulcrum for the arc of the McGoohan Seven. Drake believes that he can outguess the Village and determine the identities of resisting prisoners from loyal citizens. His litmus test may be a success, but in the words of Captain Kirk, the game is “Not chess. Poker.” His game of sending and reading bluffs with Village loyalists backfires when other dissidents use the same logic on him, and read HIS cues as suspect. Maybe — maybe — he had a chance of escape, but the institutions of hope and optimism in people fail Drake, and he learns that, in desperate circumstances, even friends cannot be trusted, nor will they trust. In a sense, the Village has cursed Drake with his own cynicism and paranoia by spreading it to others.

It will get to a guy.

Does he capitulate? No. He simply changes his expectations based on one understanding; he is more important to the Village than they are to him. With that assuredness, Drake lets go of his anger and makes a game of it -- beginning literally with chess metaphors in “Checkmate.” The Village spent four episodes punishing him for his overconfidence. It’s only polite that he do the same. Their self-importance makes a grand target, as we see in his smart assed treatment of Leo McKern’s alchemically grand Number Two. (He makes a great sail.)

In McKern’s first episode, “Chimes of Big Ben,” the Village deals one more blow. If you watch all seventeen episodes, it feels like Drake is constantly escaping, only to be dragged back. In the McGoohan Seven, it happens only once, showing that even his former employers cannot -- as he dreaded and suspected -- be trusted.

Going into the two-part finale, he has nothing to rely upon except loyalty to his own identity, which is the series’ most hallowed virtue. That and a furious, Zen, mirthfully detached sense of trollism. He’ll need it. Those episodes, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out,” are easy candidates for television’s most surreal hours, and I have no idea how they made it to the air in the age of BONANZA. If you’re a real sadist, introduce an enemy to the show by convincing them that they are the two-part pilot. Watch their reactions.

Initially, “Fall Out” didn’t exist, but McGoohan was pressed for increasingly literal explanations, and so he created one obtuse enough to show the vox populi that they didn’t really want what they thought they did. It’s an often shrill hour of television following the heated-yet-poetic (and strangely touching) two-hander duel of memory and bravado, “Once Upon a Time.” McGoohan somewhat spitefully undoes McKern’s heartbreaking, yet well-deserved, death and then proceeds with absolute mayhem. For all of its noise and nonsense, “Fall Out” has a kind of drunken and giddy charm suitable for leaving a prison, and the sentimentality (toward McKern) that we think we lost in the wacky rewinding and ressurective haircut for McKern’s Two is restored by McGoohan. With a twist.

And that’s the McGoohan Seven. I first saw them in the form over an amazing afternoon in 2009, and it was like a PRISONER walkabout. This was helped by the six-hour long preparation and near-consumption of a lethal bean recipe that a sadistic relative would force on others. It’s a family curse, given to my grandparents by Melvin Belli, the Zodiac killer’s favorite lawyer and also the STAR TREK villain, “The Gorgon” in “And the Children Shall Lead.” Morbid curiosity won me over. I can only say that the beans were an astoundingly inedible biohazard, and a testament to the improvement in culinary standards. Mission Control is a great friend who basically served as both architect and pit crew for my comprehensive DARK SHADOWS viewings. He also only knows slightly more about THE PRISONER than Patrick McGoohan. He joined me that day, and we found ourselves prisoners to the beans. The sight. The aroma. Eventually, the taste. No questions about Number Two.

Give Mission Control a hand. With the dogged determination of Drake, he finished his bowl.

My experience watching the McGoohan Seven, even when not poisoning myself, is that it is an exhausting, fulfilling sequence best watched at once, if you can. And what of the other episodes? The other episodes are a dessert and somewhat like Easter eggs for me. They often lean far more toward science fiction than the psychodramatic political plays of The Seven, and many of them have tight, well-acted plots that are (sometimes) some of the easiest and most enjoyable to follow. And as with the western episode, “Living in Harmony,” sometimes not. Are they apocrypha? Maybe. In the light of the Seven, I can’t help but see them that way.

Saying that, there’s no such thing as a bad PRISONER episode. Some are just better than others. I enjoy even the ones I’m not supposed to, according to fans. “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling,” where Drake is played by another actor, is a sentimental fave. “A. B. and C.” is an intriguing glimpse into Drake’s past, while “Hammer into Anvil” is a nasty revenge story wrapped up in a comedy of paranoia that probably makes it the program’s most passive aggressive hour. Which is saying a lot.

Try the McGoohan Seven... and then try your own order. Do you leave them all in? What do you keep? What do you eliminate? It’s all THE PRISONER. By selecting how to see it, we celebrate choice and the ownership of our own narrative. As long as we have abilities like that, maybe the Village isn’t quite as near as social media and smart devices make it seem. I’ll resist the urge to give you that sign off. We may all, as McKern’s Number Two suggests, be “lifers,” but the title of Prisoner is a choice.

By the way, like spreading the Dream Curse, here is the bean recipe. Craft at your own risk. But read it. Imagine a world in which that passed for normal.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...