Life works in mysterious ways: Thanks in part to the wonderful (sometimes maddening) world of ROKU and Amazon Prime, my wife and I have been bingeing some of the earliest episodes of the campy and thrilling Dark Shadows. I’ve long been a semi-fanatic of this show, plunking down the odd dollar here and there to buy a number of the DVD box sets, assorted comic book adaptations and even one or two of the better Making of and Behind the Scenes accountings in book format. “Wouldn’t it be neat,” I thought aloud to my wife one evening after watching a nail-biting game of one-upmanship between Burke Devlin and Roger Collins (delivered with delightfully Shakespearean seriousness by the two actors), “if this show could somehow return and retain all of its bizarre history and characters?”
From our friends over at Deadline comes the welcome news that the Dan Curtis soap opera masterpiece Dark Shadows will be rising from the dead courtesy of The CW and Warner Bros Television. Entitled Dark Shadows: Reincarnation, this new take will be an hour long continuing series. Intriguingly enough if the new show gets picked up for order by the networks it will return not as a full-fledged reboot but as an actual continuation of the beloved television show which ran from June 27, 1966 until April 2, 1971 on ABC. This move might prove to be a welcome one to fans of Dark Shadows who are rightfully weary of “re-imaginings” that have met with tepid to mixed results at the box office and on television with such ill-advised projects as director Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters or the recent Hellboy remake. Indeed, recent successful examples of a story being picked up with mostly new characters while still honoring all of the stories that went before in-continuity such as the new Star Wars trilogy, the Karate Kid ongoing television show Cobra Kai or the upcoming Bill and Ted movie could only have bolstered the writer’s and producer’s arguments for keeping Dark Shadows’ rich and macabre history intact in 2019.
To the uninitiated, Dark Shadows follows the supernatural and gothic tinged misadventures of the Collins family in Collinsport, Maine. Things go from slightly surreal to downright terrifying when a Collins ancestor Barnabas Collins returns from the grave as a vampire. Kooky stuff, even for – or perhaps especially because of – an era enmeshed in an unpopular war and huge upheaval on the home front.
This writer discovered the slightly campy thrill of Dark Shadows as a young boy spending the summer with my grandparents in rural Tennessee. Casting my murky mind back to that time, I can still remember the electric feeling that this show was truly something special as I strained to watch it with my grandmother on her huge mid-1960s Zenith television. The reception was in and out – my grandparents lived far out in the country where any electronic transmission was going to be weak, at best – and I had to jigger with the rabbit ears on top of the set, but what I saw was enough to make me a fan for life. What kid wouldn’t fall hopelessly in love with a beautiful governess and her charge in mortal battle with the undead? The fact that the show wasn’t even remotely like anything else on television at the time was mere icing on the cake to this convert: at the age of ten I was ready to apply for honorary citizenship to good old Collinsport, Maine.
Which is why the news about an honest-to-gosh resurrection of the show has me feeling positively giddy; I feel as if I’m reuniting with a long lost Pez dispenser or my long-missing early twenties waist line. The writer of the new show, Mark B. Perry (The Wonder Years, Revenge) feels the same way, I think. In a statement, Mark echoed many of our own sentiments, saying: “As a first-generation fan, it’s been a dream of mine to give Dark Shadows the Star Trek treatment since way back in the ‘80s when Next Generation was announced, so I’m beyond thrilled and humbled to be entrusted with this resurrection. And while I could never hope to fill Dan Curtis’ very large shoes, I do aspire to carry them a little further into the future. I also want to reassure fans of the original that this version will treat the show’s mythology with the same reverence given to Star Trek, but will also make the show accessible for audiences who aren’t yet familiar with the macabre world of the Collinses. My plan is to take as few liberties as possible with the Dark Shadows canon, while bearing in mind a quote from a 1970s episode delivered by the inimitable Oscar-nominee Grayson Hall as Dr. Julia Hoffman: ‘The Collins family history is not particularly famous for its accuracy.’”
Mark obviously knows his geek-speak, as words like “canon” “Dan Curtis” and “mythology” sends most of us Dark Shadows pop cultural obsessed fanboys into foaming at the mouth apoplectic shock.
Making this latest revival particularly sound and appealing is the addition of Tracy and Cathy Curtis as executive producers. Their father, the legendary Dan Curtis who, by the way created Dark Shadows, would be proud, I think.
As for me, a forever fan of the show, I’ll have to dig an old Zenith TV out of mothballs and fire up the old rabbit ears in anticipation of a new generation of Dark Shadows fun as I respectfully maintain an empty seat for my grandmother, long since passed, who took time out of her busy life to watch such an odd and strange show with her grandchild, proof positive that she knew a good thing when she saw it.