I am fortunate to have befriended Wallace McBride and the excellent people who have curated The Collinsport Historical Society, an awesome blog dedicated to the show. I have even contributed an article over there previously.
When that article appeared a few days ago it got me to thinking… people really did love that episode guide. I did actually get a couple of emails about it. They were nice and cordial.
Long story short. I am giving the guide an overhaul and bringing it back. It’ll take a few days but it’ll get there. I have already started work.
Recently I decided it was time to close down the Dark Shadows Episode Guide I had curated on the internet for almost two decades. At the time I was a member of the alt.tv.dark_shadows newsgroup after just discovering the reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel.
There posted just about every day were summaries of the episodes as well as the tape date and air date of the shows. I expanded on this slightly adding in the ABC numbering of the episodes (which is a very weird-ass system to this day) and, where applicable, the Worldvision rerun numbers used when the show was in syndication from 1975-1990.
It never needed updating as pretty much all of the information was there.
So, why did I take it down?
It was feeling really outdated to me. I may bring it back in the future in another form. Who knows. It was just that I didn’t want something online to appear so dated and I don’t have the time currently to give it the makeover it deserves. After all, there are some exciting times ahead in life for me and Greg.
So, the guide is gone from my website for now. It’s in the internet archive preserved for those who want to see it. Just go to nickbrobeck.com/darkshadows and it’ll redirect you there after a few seconds.
As we continue this journey into this dark mystery we actually start to get some really good performances this week. Here are my very brief thoughts on this week’s episodes. Remember of course that we are still one episode behind due to the unplanned preemption back on November 24th.
Episode 894/895 – Monday 12/1/69
David is still mucking around with that book, hiding it in a puzzle box that has been spray painted to remove the brand names. Evil Barnabas somehow finds out… or rather is clued in to the fact that David has the book.
Also, the baby is now ill. I know these are evil spirits and all but it astounds me that a being who was just created out of thin air can also be just as susceptible to normal human ailments. Greg offered a thought whilst I was writing this that the fever was related to the book being missing, however it was very poorly explained in the plot. I think this a very good explanation as to why I am confused… probably along with the majority of the audience in 1969.
Barnabas takes Philip to the Leviathan altar to try to knock sense into him, more or less.
Marie Wallace excels at characters who are very unnerved, and poor Megan Todd is just getting started. Behold some great acting!
Episode 896 – Tuesday 12/2/69
Dr. Hoffman to the rescue — maybe. One important thing that she is meant to see here is a strange birthmark on the baby. Megan of course doesn’t want her to see the baby. It’s like the evil spirits know who she is all too well, don’t they?
David wants to burn the book. Amy Jennings tries to talk him out of it… but the book, or someone, has other plans. It just happens to open to that freaking Naga symbol!
He reads the book and understands it. He’s come a long way from that crystal ball he had back in the early days of the show, hasn’t he?
Now we come to a scene that I thought was good and bad all at the same time. Julia is supposed to meet a Mr. Corey. To her surprise, it’s not a Mr., but a lady, Olivia Corey. After a few awkward lines back and forth about each other’s interest in Tate paintings I think the viewer is convinced that this should really be the modern version of Amanda Harris from the 1897 storyline. (If you didn’t add 2+2 to equal 4 immediately, you probably shouldn’t be watching this show at all.)
My apologies if the end of that last paragraph seemed a bit condescending, please don’t think it too harsh.
So, David is a Leviathan now. I am not shocked the writers are doing this with his character. I mean, a kid who took a bleeder valve off his car trying to off his own father of course is going to become a Leviathan!
Episode 897 – Wednesday 12/3/69
Now, this episode has it all for me. Multiple characters and that great level of spooky that only Dark Shadows could do well.
Let’s start with Chris being visited by Crazy Jenny. Marie Wallace is on record as having said that Jenny was her favorite character that she played on the show. You can tell here that she was loving every scene-chewing moment.
To that fact, the Chris Jennings story, continued from before the 1897 flashback, is still the best thing the show has going right now. Admittedly it’s being treated as a kind of B plot with the Leviathans around, but still…
Barnabas has Philip in the secret room brainwashing him with a Barnabas speech on tape. This is the best tape recorder gimmick since Dr. Lang!
The end of the show is a testament to the creepy factor that Dark Shadows could only do so well. Just go and watch the whole end of Act III with Megan constantly being frightened by things in the antique shop. The lack of music, or any regular sounds for that matter, is what makes this scene. I know, there is a studio light visible here and there, but that is always the charming and endearing this about this show.
Oh, and watch out for the stagehand at the beginning of the credits pouring more dry ice into the cauldron.
Episode 898 – Thursday 12/4/69
Before I summarize this episode it is important to point out that we are one day behind on the intended airdates. The unplanned preemption on Monday November 24th will not be made up until January. The reason I point that out will become very obvious.
Julia decides to hold a seance to try and contact Quentin. I don’t understand why she asks David to be a part of it. I know that David had his beef with the ghost of Quentin months ago, but why would Dr. Hoffman want to put him in that kind of danger again? It just doesn’t click with me.
Now, here is why I pointed out that date above. Paul Stoddard inexplicably picks up a pen and circles a day on the calendar…
That’s right, December 4th! Keep in mind that this episode was originally supposed to air on December 3rd. OK, back to the seance.
Jamison Collins speaks through David at the seance and tells everyone that Quentin cannot be reached. It’s one of the shorter seances on the show and definitely the calmest.
Paul gets a letter from Megan at the antique store…
Great, another reminder of the airdate that should have been, lol. Maybe Paul should have paid? (I know, obvious statement.) But, look, he’s got a new tattoo!
That damn Naga symbol again! Curses!
Episode 899 – Friday 12/5/69
The inevitable confrontation between Paul and Elizabeth finally happens in this show. It’s time to play the Family Feud… 7 years before it debuted on ABC! The scene here was very well written. However, the dialouge and the emotions were so hot and heavy that we have quite a few line flubs and desperate looks for a teleprompter. Again, that is the charming aspect of the production method of live-to-tape that I love so much.
Later, we are at the Blue Whale with a tune of varying pitch on the jukebox. Paul meets this day player Sailor. Greg instantly recognized the actor, Ken McMillan. He is more well known for playing the minister in the famous Chuckles the Clown episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” However, this plot is no laughing matter at all.
So this sailor has told Paul to draw a huge pentagram on the floor of his room and sit in it to be protected from the Leviathans. We’ll see if this will work… or will Dark Shadows not play by the rules of evil doings. Anything is possible! We end with a knock on the door and a turn of the doorknob. This Thursday cliffhanger sure makes a good Friday cliffhanger as well!
Overall, I think we are moving very good with some good elements of the storyline. However, I can’t help thinking that the viewer is still confused as heck over just who and what the Leviathans are and what they mean to do.
Dark Shadows was preempted for ABC coverage of the Apollo 12 splashdown. Coverage was slated to run from 3:30-5:30pm Eastern time. The splashdown occurred at 3:58pm Eastern Time. I am guessing that this preemption was not planned for because for the next several weeks the episode numbers will be off by one. More on this in a later article.
Episode 891 – Tuesday 11/25/69
Are we surprised that the Todds were at the door? I wasn’t the first time I saw this plot in the late 90’s on the SciFi Channel. And oh my, what a charming locket indeed.
So if the audience paid attention to the closing credits last week they already know this mysterious guy hanging around Collinsport is Paul Stoddard. Guess nobody thought to keep the surprise a secret, did they? He calls Collinwood, asks Maggie Evans for Elizabeth, then hangs up. Looks like a standard soap plot to me at this point.
Barnabas decides to give the Leviathan box to the Todds. Just you wait until you see what you bargained for!
Paul Stoddard shows up at an empty Evans cottage and talks to Maggie about what is going on at Collinwood. This is a really creepy scene to me because he keeps dodging questions about who he is. It’s also sad because this is the last time we see the Evans cottage set in the whole series. It’s one of the original sets from the earliest days of the show’s life (it first appeared way back in Episode 3.)
Back to the Antique Shop and everybody is stepping over each other’s lines! That is part of the charm of this show.
So would you do what the Todds do at the end of this episode? Want to open a mysterious box so badly that you just happen to find the key in an envelope? Neither would I.
Episode 892 – Wednesday 11/27/69
So there is a scroll inside the box with a mysterious message. The Todds naturally think its weird but then have a debate about having spaghetti for dinner for like the umpteenth night in a row. Such unusual dialogue for Dark Shadows!
Then Barnabas shows up in a dream of Megan Todd and says that the room she’s in must be prepared for something. I can just see all the Barnabas fans in the audience throwing things at their TV sets in protest of our favorite vampire being 150% evil now. Oh, and Phillip had the same dream and walks in with lumber to board up the windows.
Let’s be clear here, both Greg and me are sitting here watching this unfolding and thinking that the audience needs a lot more of a clear explanation as to why Barnabas has turned so so so evil. I think the plot background of the mysterious happenings at that altar are insufficient. Remember when I said miss an episode miss a lot? Oh people who haven’t been watching are way way behind now!
So there’s this cradle…
If I’m not mistaken, this was the same cradle one of Quentin’s children was in back in 1897. But now it will be the recipient of a child you don’t want to mess with.
So Maggie is in the Blue Whale with Carolyn trying to pressure her to have another drink and Paul Stoddard shows up again and decides to properly introduce himself at long last. If only his name wasn’t in the credits five episodes ago it might have been a bigger surprise!
Thursday 11/27/69 – Thanksgiving Day
Dark Shadows was again preempted, this time it was planned for the Thanksgiving holiday. Starting at 2pm that afternoon, ABC Sports carried coverage of a College Football game: Texas Tech at Arkansas. A very big matchup indeed since Arkansas was ranked #2 in the coaches poll at this time. Arkansas won the game 33-0.
Friday 11/28/69 – Episode 893
So we end up with a really soapy scene in which we get lots of plot recap from way back in the summer of 1967. I don’t think a majority of the audience would have remembered the Jason McGuire blackmail plot going on during the early Barnabas days. It’s not a bad idea to get the audience up to speed on it.
I must say, why is Carolyn skeptical for only a brief second then all too trusting?
Unseen baby alert! The Todds have some kind of child now.
Another soapy scene at the front door of Collinwood. Who should be skulking about but David Collins himself, listening at the door. Guess his new lease on life is full of his usual garbage.
So the baby has a name now, Joseph, pulled out of thin air! And who else should come in but Amy Jennings and David and then Paul shows up. Paul is acting mighty weird and now it starts to connect a bit to all the other weird stuff going on already. On a side note, I am loving all of the mysterious cues from the first music cue package that haven’t been heard for a while on the show.
So David in his usual bumbling ways accidentally tore a page in the Leviathan book and then has to steal it. Only he didn’t have it in his hands in the previous scene when he was shooed out of the antique shop. I know, reader, I know, suspend your disbelief. But it is an egregious continuity error.
Megan goes evil/shocked/evil and vows to kill whomever stole the book. This leaves us with a Wednesday cliffhanger pushed back to Friday. I guess it works!?
So, we are one-ish weeks into the story. It’s moving pretty fast, but like I said, I feel some fans are left behind if they didn’t catch the first few episodes. I hate to be in ABC’s network correspondence during the month of December 1969.
So the Countess duPres shows up just in time and stops Josette from jumping. Fair enough.
Barnabas bites the Countess. OK.
Barnabas convinces Josette to meet him at the old house. Alrighty.
Barnabas discovers an altar. Oh boy. Here we go. A bunch of nonsense dialog from these two white ashen beings in black robes, Oberon and Haza, are doing something to our hero. And that in a nutshell is the beginning of this tragic tale.
Episode 886 – Tuesday 11/18/69
So after a strange ceremony on this altar, Barnabas arises and is 100% pure evil… or so it seems. He’s being referred to as Master and gets this thing called the Leviathan Box.
Remember this box well kids, it will annoy you so much as the weeks go on.
We are now back in the present, to the day, with Dr. Hoffman reading a journal entry. Oh how we missed the great plot expositor that is Julia! Oh, and what’s this, a mysterious man!? Do go on.
I keep trying to put myself in the shoes of the viewers in 1969 who have no idea what in the hell is going on here.
Carolyn is wrapping a Christmas present for her mother. This is a rare reference to the time of year on the show. Believe me, it almost never happens. We also get our first mention of this bloody antique shop. More on that later. Feelings of doom and gloom are permeating this conversation. This is even further driven home when Julia starts hearing voices. I love how Lela Swift uses fast cutting between the portraits of Barnabas and Josette to drive the terror factor up to the max. Add to that the great skill of Grayson Hall as an actor and this is one of the better scenes of the week.
So now we have this old man skulking about. He finds the altar. He is in the old house. Then Julia happens to intercept him. Wuh-oh!
The plot seems good enough at this point. I sincerely think that if someone has missed this episode, they missed some very essential plot points. On your typical soap you could miss one, two, maybe even three episodes and still not miss essential points to understand what has been going on. Not on a show paced like Dark Shadows. Miss an episode and miss a lot!
Episode 888 – Wednesday 11/19/69
So the man has a face and a voice. But the audience still hasn’t a clue as to who he is. (Well, the end credits of this episode will spoil that!)
Antiquing-we-go! Say hello to the Todds, Phillip and Megan. Greg quipped “Oh look, it’s the antique shop ran by Eve and Alan Spaulding!”
It’s great to see Marie Wallace back on the show. The seem normal enough at first. Julia makes a big deal out of a Charles Delaware Tate painting, paying $300 for it (in 2017 money it would be worth $2,003!) OK, so I can grant Julia a pass on this, she is as she explains after the portrait of Quentin.
Alas, Carolyn meets the strange man and verbally kicks him off the property. Forget that the Leviathan altar is there just as a point.
The Todds turn weird towards the end of the episode. Just what do they mean here? And why is that altar splitting apart all of a sudden?
Episode 889 – Thursday 11/20/69
Barnabas appears all of sudden with that box again in the latest edition of Chromakey Theater. Somehow the effect is better utilized here than other times.
Professor Stokes is back and he’s seeing Sabrina Stuart – the victim of Chris Jennings.
Julia and Barnabas are reunited. The box is there, of course. He is acting all strange. Oh yeah, and the box is very old.
So Sabrina is talking all of a sudden and wants to see Carolyn. She warns her that Chris Jennings will try to kill her. There is a device in soap operas called SORAS… Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome. I think we need to come up with some other version of that for people that make miraculous recoveries for the convenience of the plot. There are more crazy examples of this in later years on other soaps.
At the end, Julia wants to open that damn box. We are treated to the first of many times of having just some random person (probably a stagehand) breathe into the boom mic. Are you frightened at 4:26 in the afternoon?
Episode 890 – Friday 11/21/69
Of course Barnabas shows up to prevent Julia from opening the box. I think everyone in the audience knew that was going to happen.
So a mysterious Corey is interested in buying Tate paintings as well. Julia thinks it’s Quentin. That is too easy and such a naive solution, way out of her character. But she can’t stop fawning over how much Barnabas is out of his usual self. The audience is just as confused and mystified. Remember when I said that if you miss a show you miss a lot? It’s been said that people starting writing in when Barnabas went back to evil ways in this plot in protest. I can certainly understand why they did so. Imagine Star Trek fans doing the same should Mr. Spock or Captain Kirk do the same thing. Fans are a strange breed, you never can predict what they are going to do or how they are going to react. Maybe someday I will dig through local newspapers of the period to see if there were a lot of letters to TV mailbags complaining about this.
Oh look, a pentagram!
Barnabas wants guidance from Oberon on how he is to know who the chosen ones are. And, of course, right at the Friday cliffhanger, they are at the door!
So, after one week of this plot where do we stand? I think the massive ticking off of the audience has well and truly started. It’s only going to get worse from here. I don’t know if anything could save the course the writers and producers have went on at this point. There was definitely no turning back.
Those who know me know I have loved the classic Gothic soaper “Dark Shadows” for many years. Me and Greg have been watching the show on DVD over the years. As of the night of this writing, we have reached the end of the series, which aired on April 2, 1971. Our intention is to go back to the beginning again. Back to June 1966.
I’ve always been fascinated with how TV is made and accomplished. That’s the big reason why I studied, trained, and now work in TV. It was a difficult show with witches, vampires, spirits and such. The show constantly needed special effects that was difficult to achieve given the equipment of the period. Just as equally fascinating is looking at where the show was actually recorded, the studios where all the magic happened.
“Dark Shadows” utilized two studios over the course of its run of almost five years. The first was ABC TV-2 near ABC’s headquarters at 77 West 66th Street. (The studio is actually located on 67th Street)
DS taped its first 11 weeks here (through episode 55.) This studio is still in use today, currently it is the home of “The Chew”. There is great info about the modern look and equipment the studio offers at this link.
I have a pretty good feeling that TV-2 was only a temporary home for the series. At this time, ABC was renovating a former lumber yard in another part of Manhattan.
This is ABC TV-16 at 433 West 53rd Street. DS moved here during a one-week taping break in August 1966. It must have been nice to be the new tenants of a newly renovated studio. The situation reminds me of when we converted from SD to HD at my station. New equipment, new challenges. The show had a great run here, with all the ghosts and ghouls and wonderful writing, acting and production filling the stage. Oh how it must have been fun to work on a series like this! All good things must come to an end however, and the show did so on April 2, 1971. DS remains a legendary show to this day. The studio itself however would have more legendary shows to come. It would later house the popular ABC soap “Ryan’s Hope” for the first 10 years of its run, from 1975-1985.
The picture above is from our first trip to New York City in April 2014. I made it a point to visit this location. And I’m glad I did, because it won’t be there for much longer.
That’s right, the famous studio which was home to all those great shows is about to become just another group of way-too-expensive condos. Oh well, time marches on. But the memories will remain. Forever.