Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Barnabas Collins rises again

OK, so it's a guilty pleasure.

The writing is pretty bad. The acting is worse. The sets fall down. The whole thing looks cheap.

But, boy, is "Dark Shadows" a lot of fun.

The campy supernatural "soap opera" ran on ABC daytime from 1966 to 1971. After starting its run as a more or less straight soap, creator/executive producer Dan Curtis decided to put a ghost on the show to boost ratings. It worked.

So Curtis put another ghost on the show. And a phoenix. And finally a vampire.

The guilt-ridden Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) was just the spark the show needed. It caught fire. At its peak, the show attracted 20 million viewers a week. It was silly, pretty campy. But it was definitely original.

"Dark Shadows" aired regularly on the Sci-Fi Channel for about a decade beginning in 1992. I watched the show on and off during the period, but it was often difficult to keep up with the rigors of what once was a daily serial. Having to watch a show every day in the days before TiVo was a chore. Even VCRs didn't help when you're talking more than 1,000 episodes.

I noticed that Netflix offers the programs as part of its catalog and put the first disc of the series on my rental list. It was a delight. I had forgotten how addictive that silly stuff can be. Before I knew it, it was nearly midnight and I had watched the entire 10 episodes on the disc.

Watching the show as an adult, it's easy to see the program's appeal. For all of its silliness and less than stellar production values, "Dark Shadows" stirred the imagination like few programs do -- especially daytime shows. And it was unique. For better or worse, there has never been another show quite like it.

And it's touching now to see the naivete behind the censorship of the period. Barnabas' "victims" looked like they tangled with a rosebush.

The intellectual in me feels like I am wasting time watching such fare. Perhaps. But as a smart sage once said, "A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men."

Good advice indeed. Everybody needs a little mindless fun from time to time.


Blogger Dewayne said...



9:54 PM  

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