The Wayback Machine: Dark Shadows (1966)



With the Wayback Machine, M.E. Byron Brewer takes us “way back” with a look at various television series and their respective characters from years past.


[[wysiwyg_imageupload:901:]]When I was young, I remember watching soaps As the World Turns and Another World in the rocking chair with my grandmother. I continued to watch ATWT until it died an unkind death on CBS a couple years ago, but that is another tale.

What my grandmother did not watch in the afternoons was my favorite soap, one that my cousin Jennifer turned me onto. She said one day, “Hey, you like The Addams Family, right? You should watch Dark Shadows. It’s way cool.” (Yes, she did talk like that.)

And so I did, and became – well, maybe after Johnny Depp – the biggest Barnabas Collins fan ever. Much of that love today is reflected in certain ways in Cosmic Book News‘ prose comic, The Wonder Worlock. Again, another tale.

Anyhoo, with Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows movie ready to hit theatres May 11th, and with the trailer premiering today at 4pm ET, let’s take a ride in The Wayback Machine to 1966, daytime on ABC —

Dark Shadows, what folks now describe as a “gothic soap opera,” ran weekdays from June 27, 1966, to April 2, 1971. Although originally the supernatural was not mentioned, it set a precedent when ghosts were introduced into storylines six months after its launch.

The series gained its greatest popularity, especially among youngsters and neo-teens like me, when vampire Barnabas Collins first appeared a year into its run. The soap also featured werewolves, zombies, man-made monsters, witches, warlocks (!), time travel and a parallel universe.

A small company of actors played dozens of roles, which varied as actors came and went.

[[wysiwyg_imageupload:902:]]Dark Shadows was distinguished by its melodramatic performances, great atmospheric interiors, adventurous storylines, unexpected plot twists, and a fantastic and moody music score. Now regarded as something of a camp horror/sci-fi classic, it continues to enjoy an intense cult following. (Witness the May movie.)

Although the original series ran for only five years, its scheduling as a daily daytime drama allowed it to amass more single episodes during its run (1,225) than most other science-fiction/fantasy genre series produced for TV, including Doctor Who and the entire Star Trek TV franchise. Only the paranormal soap Passions, with a total of 2,231 episodes, has more.

For years, the show was rerun on SYFY. Unlike previous networks, SYFY had the entire run of 1,225 episodes to show. The network stopped airing Dark Shadows in December 2003, only two weeks short of completing the series. All 1,225 episodes in the series were shown at various times between 1992 and 2003.

I am hoping SYFY might dust off these episodes and rebroadcast them in a non-daytime programming block. I also pray Mr. Burton is true to the creepy, campy nature of the departed soap.

And knowing his work, I believe he will be.