Tuesday, February 19, 2008

All Hail Barnabas Collins

Between the ages of four and six, my absolute favorite TV show was Dark Shadows. What child didn't love Dark Shadows? It had it all: werewolves, ghosts, time travel, trippy music, even a character (David Collins) who was himself a child. Of course, the real reason I loved the show was because I loved Barnabas Collins so much I wanted to be him. My prized possession was a plastic ring that came out of a cereal box, worn always on my index finger, just like Barnabas. I wanted to be a vampire, pining to be human again. I wanted to live in a gloomy mansion full of secrets.

I have General Hospital to thank for my discovery of Dark Shadows. My mother was hooked on GH, and every day at 3 PM I'd sit with her and watch it. In those days the entire soap took place on the 7th Floor Nurses' Station of a hospital in an unnamed city, the drama revolving around the sexual tension between doctors and nurses. In 1967, Dark Shadows came on immediately after, at 3:30. Although I sat through all the trials and tribulations of Jessie Brewer and Dr. Steve Hardy, my mother had no interest in Collinswood, and abandoned the TV to me.

I was extremely upset at the prospect of going off to kindergarten, not because I wanted to be at home with my mother all day, but because I was afraid I'd get home too late to see Dark Shadows. I remember my mother joyfully telling me that the schedule had been changed, and my show would be running at 4 PM. In fact, this late-day scheduling was the key to the show's success. By 4 PM mothers all over the country had left their seats in front of the TV to begin preparing dinner; during its entire run (1966-1971), Dark Shadows was the most popular daytime program with people under the age of 25.

I eventually matured, as will happen. The Brady Bunch became my favorite show, and I began wearing rings on my ring finger. Looking back, my childhood love for Barnabas is easy to understand. The human world, filled with drama and tears and the sexual tension of the 7th Floor Nurses' Station, was impossible for me to fully comprehend and was a world I observed from the outside. I also pined to be human, and didn't know how I would ever accomplish that goal.

Until the day she died, my mother's favorite entertainments involved doctors having affairs with nurses. I now realize that my love of Interview With the Vampire is just an extension of my love for Barnabas. The story is the same: a scorned lover makes someone a vampire, and then that person spends eternity wishing for nothing more than the human touch. My favorite entertainments haven't changed because every time I think I've accomplished my goal, every time I think I've entered the adult world, I suddenly notice a ring on my index finger and know that I still haven't unlocked all the secrets hidden in this gloomy mansion.

3 comments:

Just Asking said...

Well I commented on Barnabas on some other story, oops, my vision fowls me again. BTW Although Jesse and Steve are dead, even in real life-or death as it were- Audrey, the scorned wife of Steve still makes appearances on GH, many face lifts later no doubt. I also watched the show with Grandma, who talked about the characters as if they were her friends. It is one of my addictions that I can't shake. Oh, and the name of the hospital is GENERAL Hospital silly. I am sorry that I didn't know Barnabas, maybe my mom didn't let me watch him. Should we request a rerun? I'm Just Asking

TW said...

I loved Barnabas too; it was my elementary school afternoon TV addiction. What was it about that character? The actor wasn't attractive, though Angelique certainly seemed to have a thing for him. It must be the vampire archetype, as you alluded to. I, too, have always fallen in love with TV vampires.

By the way, that was a beautiful piece of writing.

Elucidator said...

Yeah, I meant that it was an unnamed city; the city wasn't called anything until the 70s, when they decided it was set in Port Charles, NY. I'll fix that sentence...