WIDOW'S HILL NOTES TO DARK SHADOWS: Episodes 1-10
An Unauthorized "Dark Shadows" Episode Guide For People Who Don't Watch "Dark Shadows"
(Formerly titled "Dostoyevsky's Notes From 6 Feet Underground")
[A comedy soap opera guide in .mp3 format. No DVD or previous familiarity with Dark Shadows required]
Orphan Victoria Winters has grown up in a Foundling Home in New York (later retconned to Boston), always wondering who her real parents are. For years Vicki has gotten monthly checks from an unknown party in Bangor, Maine. Presumably the same unknown party who gave her the traditional Basket-on-the-Doorstep treatment in the first place.
On her 20th birthday Vicki gets a job offer from a complete stranger, in some jerkwater burg (as New Yorkers would call it) called Collinsport, Maine. Bangor and Collinsport are not exactly close to each other (although, since Collinsport is fictional, it's hard to tell), but they are in the same state, therefore Vicki reasons that there must be a connection. And even if there isn't, it's a paying job, which beats living on Ketchup Soup, and Mayonnaise Sandwiches without the bread.
The job offer comes from Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, a reclusive millionaire, who hasn't left her mansion in 18 years. Nobody knows why this is so, but frankly, it will be an enormous let-down if Mrs. Stoddard hasn't got some deep dark secret to guard. And if the secret isn't something totally stupid, like she was trying to find out whether a watched pot ever boils. Oh, and by the way, Elizabeth lives in a haunted house. Vicki isn't prejudiced, is she?
The job involves being a combination tutor and victim to David Collins, the son of Elizabeth's black sheep brother, Roger. And also to participate in whatever intrigue and mayhem may go on at the Collinwood mansion, as needed. Fortunately, there's plenty of that, because as time goes by, the 'Job Offer From A Complete Stranger' bit begins to seem less and less suspicious. The more you get to know them, the more you get the feeling that people who have never heard of them are the only kind of help the Collins family can get.
And so, at the same time that "That Girl" was leaving the boonies to start life in the Big Apple, Victoria Winters was leaving the Big Apple to start life in the boonies. (The Big Apple came out ahead on the trade.) But, although Vicki may not have Marlo Thomas' famous father, or wacky next-door neighbors, or even a show that's in colour, she has got... well, I'm not sure actually, but maybe we'll find out in the upcoming episodes.
Dark Shadows was a daytime soap about nighttime creatures, that ran from 1966-1971. The idea was that by airing it during the day, the undead wouldn't see the show and take reprisals against the production crew. The invention of the VCR completely ruined this plan, and surviving cast members now live in nightly fear of their lives, armed to the gills with silver bullets, garlic and wolfsbane.
Everybody remembers Dark Shadows as 'The show with Barnabas Collins, and.... some other people.' This is completely unfair, as the show should more properly be remembered as 'The Show With Some Other People, and Barnabas Collins' (in THAT order)! With its odd combination of Horror and Soap Opera plotting (or is that 'plodding'?), and a seamless blending of the sublime and the schlocky, the show managed to be funny long before Barnabas Collins showed his face (and even longer before he showed it in a mirror).
Widows Hill Notes are a kind of Cliff Notes-style Episode Guide to the early, Monster-Lite days of the series, (the so-called 'Pre-Barnabas Episodes') but written in a Fractured Fairy Tales style, in order to accentuate the show's natural quirkiness. Widow's Hill Notes tell the story of the series, episode by episode, and scene by scene. Events are described… more or less as they actually happened onscreen. That is, in the same kind of way that American History as told by Bugs Bunny to his nephew Clyde was "more or less" like it really happened.
Each Rifftrack in the series will cover 10 half hour episodes, for an eventual total of 191. These will be the first Rifftrax .mp3's that do not need to be synched with the DVD for use. In fact, neither ownership nor any previous familiarity whatsoever with the Dark Shadows series is required. Like Cliff Notes, these notes are intended as a substitute rather than an aid for doing your homework. (And every college student knows there'd be no point in using Cliff Notes if they didn't save you from having to read the book.) Since the DVD is not required, you can listen to these notes while jogging, skydiving, in the car, or on the lam. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd almost think we had invented the Book on Tape.
A Facebook discussion group can be found at facebook.com/groups/darkshadowscaptions/. As for what Dark Shadows Captions is and are, we'll explain that some other time.