As I reach my thousandth episode, Cousin Barnabas wisely advised me to enjoy the trip. Quite right!
My thoughts in exchange….
Dear Cousin Barnabas,
Your cautionary concern warms me to no end. Although I happen to be in a section of the series that is less than glamorous–compared to the freewheeling, creative explosion that was 1897–I am still enjoying every minute of it. Does the experiment sometimes feel monotonous? Certainly. Unlike so many of the characters on the TV show, I am only human. But if you live in Hawaii, the beautiful view that you get every day is also monotonous. I remember when I lived in San Diego, and I found the lack of seasons and constant good weather to be likewise monotonous. There are some types of monotony which are pretty good. So, I cannot complain, nor will I.
As I stated in my earliest video entries, this project has been about a lot more than just watching Dark Shadows. It has been about rest. It has been about nostalgia. It has been about visiting childhood friends as an adult. (And, just as the cliché states, it is infuriating that I have aged and they have not… when did I get older than Quentin?) Most of all, for someone who never had or could even conceive of the traditional sense of a multi-generational “home” (except for a 1930’s, one screen, neighborhood movie theater that was more or less abandoned in 1998), it was about going home.
Of course, I have had feelings in my life that have come close to the warmth of the concept of “home.” And in those instances, I enjoyed going there, elements would eventually get on my nerves, but I was ultimately and always grateful. This visit Collinwood has been like that.
I do not know if I have ever mentioned what it was like to go to the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. But it is a good thing to mention. After you go through the museum section, you go through the big ride. And after you go through the big ride, it lets you out in a simulation of the promenade of Deep Space 9. What was most amazing to me was the fact that I was unimpressed. Believe it or not, I was unimpressed in the best way. For the most part, they got the details so right and I was so familiar with the show that it all felt like it logically should be. It was as impressive as entering my own living room. And by that, I mean that it felt familiar, personal, and comforting. I loved i. I felt completely at home. The only thing missing was my former boss at Babylon 5 shaking his head about his preference for the B5 design. That probably would have made it all perfect. But you cannot have everything.
My, but we live in a bizarre age where these artificial sets for television shows feel as real or more real than our own homes. I have about two significant relatives, and I do not get to see them very often. Once they go, that is it. So, the fact that this TV show takes place in and around 2 homes–essentially “your” home (Collinwood) and your grandparents home (the old house)–and deals with a dysfunctional family that bonds via adversity, tragedy, and tests of trust is probably more significant for me than its supernatural elements. Being with them every day has been a strange and unparalleled joy. And you know what I like best? Leaving the room for a few minutes. Because I do not turn the videos off in those cases. Rather, I leave the running. In real life, significant others and relatives keep talking, making noise, and simply living when you leave the room. So, then, should these.
Ostensibly, this is to keep me on schedule. And, of course, it has that effect. But what I have come to realize as the true joy in that, is just hearing their voices while I am in another room.
Granted, I always feel very sad when I think of elderly people and shut-ins who keep the television going on constantly so that there will be some noise in the background. I recently did a talk about Babylon 5 at a nursing home (they were totally unfamiliar with the show, and the person for whom I was coming to speak had checked out), and I ticked a bunch of them off, quite by accident, because I was interrupting a rerun of Walker: Texas Ranger. But it made me realize that this strange flood of noise and light was all they had. How very, very sad. And I wonder–or rather, I would wonder–if this were the same case for me. I would argue that it is not. This is been an active viewing process with friends in and out all the time, and when I do leave the room and am comforted by those continuing voices, I am comforted by the fact that it is a limited group of voices all of which have unique and identifiable identities. In other words, it is not generic noise for the sake of noise or television for the sake of television.
You are absolutely correct to issue a cautionary snapshot from your own omega point with the show. It is a point that I have dreaded from the very beginning. Why else would I have created Dark Shadows: The Next Generation? Yes, I enjoy of the camp quality, but it means more than that for me. It is a genuine mental exercise in keeping a beloved relative alive past their time.
I love this relative so much that the Tim Burton movie and its memory is genuinely painful to me. Now, before anyone exhorts me to “get a life,” I need to point out that I often have more “life” then I know what to do with, running 5 different meetup.com groups, writing comic books, directing 3 plays a year, and interacting with so many friends that I rarely have time to stop and catch my breath. That does not mean that I do not love this “relative.” Quite deeply. Dark Shadows was taken from us before it should have been. Dan Curtis gave it a hell of a go in 1991 but was defeated by the Gulf War and fickle executives leaving me to wish that he had produced the show at Fox, where probably would have been allowed to run for a decade or more. But we have yet to have our equivalent of Star Trek: TNG or Wrath of Khan. The kind of project that not only revives the relative, but puts them on display with their best qualities highlighted, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, “in terms so plain and clear as to command their assent.”
Thank you, 1776… a show that I came to for the DS cast members, ended up directing twice.
If it can be done with Batman, it can be done here with a grand mythos..
Keep in mind that this is an open letter, not an essay. So my rambling is just that. Rambling. Luckily, when this is all over, I go straight into a slew of other projects. So, while I will miss the show, I will also have an immediate set of new challenges and adventures. My only wish is that the people who are following this blog could or would somehow continue to follow me here. Because there is much more to say about so many other things.
As for now, and those final episodes, the more that people who read and follow this blog and twitter feed connect and share their own memories and experiences, the more those final episodes will count.
Well, good sir, that about wraps this up. And guess what I am about to start? Episode 1000. I just have to step back and marvel at that. And, I am about to start episode 1000. Okay, okay, I know that it is only in the mid-19 hundreds. But it might as well be 1000, and I will technically ship the thousands episode sometime later today. As for now, let the games begin!
All the best,