Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Dark Shadows Daybook: JANUARY 22


Taped on this date in 1970: Episode 947

Angelique can always depend on her hunky, new husband… to betray humanity! Sky Rumson: Geoffrey Scott. (Repeat. 30 min.)

Jeb and the werewolf tussle, and it’s a draw. After Barnabas checks on Angelique, she confides to her husband about her participation in the resistance. Unfortunately, we learn that this was the wrong choice when he goes to tattle to Jeb. Sky Rumson: publisher, husband, Leviathan.

Geoffrey Scott takes the prize for perhaps the most slighted actor from the series, and this is, in retrospect, totally unfair. In the past, I’ve been one of the detractors. Cards on the table -- Sky Rumson is simultaneously wooden and somehow inflatable. But that’s Sky Rumson. He’s written that way. It’s not Geoffrey Scott, and that’s a distinction which needs to be made when assessing the Dark Shadows ensemble. There’s a larger and deceptive trend and tendency with the media, but especially Dark Shadows, and it’s being undermined with Scott. Not necessarily for the first time, but very, very strikingly. Handsome people are nice people. Even the evil ones. But Sky manages to be handsome AND evil, and the show isn’t necessarily ready for that.

I’m being quantitative when I say that daytime soap operas are written -- certainly were written -- for women. Just as importantly, they were cast with a female audience in mind. Dark Shadows had an admirable record not only casting very good actors, but very handsome actors, as well. When your most beloved actor is also the most idiosyncratic looking, and he’s still on the cover of teen mags, you’re doing something right in casting. But the writing is also, well, handsome. Up to this point, even your most evil characters have had a strange charm to them. Dammit, Jason McGuire, for all your wickedness, I can’t help but like you. And Nicholas, Ghost of Quentin, Adam, etc. Sky Rumson is different, and as such, he is one of the show’s first realistic characters. In the worst way. He may exist in art, but he is a little too true, and that throws us off as fans and viewers. The guy is exactly what he appears to be -- the handsome, bland, successful, privileged, vapid, evil goon who lands the girl to an extent that, of course, she’ll betray the real hero.  Because she loves him. If you’ve ever interacted with humans, you know the type. The rules keep you from being too hard on Angelique for marrying this idiot, but you can dislike said idiot all you like. And Geoffrey Scott gets stuck playing him.

Yeah, he’s that guy. He’s just a hollow, good-looking bully because that’s how he came from the manufacturer. More importantly, we dislike him because he provides illumination for what Barnabas is not. Even Quentin isn’t guy. We need a Sky Rumson so that we can appreciate Quentin and wait for the day when he beats the aqua-velva outta the big hunk of cheddar, at last.

At least he’s brilliant publisher. Yes? No. Who are you kidding? He doesn’t come across as that smart because he doesn’t need to be. I'm sure his magazines have no shortage of pictures. Big fonts. USA Today would fail the Rumson test as too elitist. A cerebral Rumson would defeat the point. He’s got four bedrooms and 2.5 baths at the platinum end of the bell curve, and he never even had to put down a deposit. Nothing he says is authentic or believable, and so of course he’s in league with the apocalypse. He reassures us of our mistrust of “that guy,” and as such, is a gift from the writers. Because I don’t think Sam and Gordon had a fondness for “that guy,” either. He gets a 1969 model Angelique, and then trashes the opportunity within a few episodes. It's the closest Dark Shadows gets to Bewitched or I Dream of Jeannie, and it has to be the episode where Tony Nelson joins a cult. And Angelique had come so far.

We’ve spent all of 1897 building a begrudging trust with Angelique. Yes, she inadvertently drives Beth to suicide and ruins Quentin’s emotional life and shatters Jamison… but for understandable reasons. Now, we’re seeing that she’s cleaned up her act in the present. It’s like a vacation from evil. You can argue whether or not she deserves it, but at least she’s not making Barnabas’ life a living hell in the same way (and just for fun). Until, you know, she marries a blow-up Blofeld and spills the beans about how there’s a war going on for the future of existence, and she’s decided to be on the side of existence. He just can’t have that. He just can’t wait to tell his frat bruh Jeb all about it.

Even Burke Devlin had hard-earned sophistication. Joe Haskell may be a fisherman, but he’s gentle enough that Liz has no issues welcoming him into the family. Speaking of St. Joel Crothers, even Nathan Forbes has enough good manners to serve as a sounding board for Barnabas and sit at the dinner table with Joshua. And there is no mensh to equal Ben Stokes. But Sky is the worst. Sky Rumson has the most and disrespects everything he gets. He is exactly the weasel you think that guys like that will be. And there was never a huh-huh-huh, rapey fratboy vibe to the characters on the show until Sky and Jeb showed up. Even the man named Bruno disqualifies himself from that by wearing a fur coat and hilarious amounts of product. And Jeb slips out of the noose by turning around. But Sky? This is the show’s opportunity to confirm your suspicions about every chowderheaded sportsballer who steals the skeleton out of the Barnabas Collins game of life. Poor Geoffrey Scott is really good at playing this guy. It’s acting. He does it really, really well and never gets another character to redeem his Geoffosity from his Skyvianness.

But we stay with Jonathan Frid, who would never do that stuff.

We’re protective of Barnabas. We ARE Barnabas. And we know there are only two ways that things with Angelique can end happily: marrying her or sending her back to Hell screaming in fiery agony. Either way, it’s a good ending for Barnabas, and he needs the pleasure of doing one or the other. (And at various times in the show, he does both.) So, like a creepy stepfather, Sky is instantly to be mistrusted. His plastic vapidity is the point.

Sky’s insincere proclamations of love are as unbelievable as his half-hearted proclamations of evil. The perfection of his villainy resides in the fact that he’s too entitled to even NEED to revel in being a villain. He just decides to screw over the world because it’s there. Sky Rumson is the reason that Gillette makes sanctimonious commercials. Thanks, Sky. I have to put up with the apocalypse AND condescending razor ads. But like the razor ads, it all may be necessary for the mythos to move on and and stand as comprehensive.

Blame the writers. They took a break from presenting monsters so that they could present a monster.

This episode was broadcast Feb. 10, 1970.

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