It’s the Third Week of Inktober 2023 and just about time for a vampire.
On a summer afternoon in 1966, ABC premiered a brand new soap opera. Based on a dream by creator Dan Curtis and fleshed out by TV writer Art Wallace, Dark Shadows hit the airwaves to mediocre reception. It was a stilted depiction of the Collins family of fictional Collinsport, Maine and it was nothing special…
…until Dan Curtis introduced Barnabas Collins ten months into its run. Barnabas, a 175-year old vampire arrived in Collinsport in search of his beloved Josette, as well as the unsuspecting necks of the innocent townsfolks. Along with Barnabas, storylines involving werewolves, zombies, witches, time travel and parallel universes were introduced. Moving into its new timeslot of 4 PM, Dark Shadows‘ popularity took off, becoming a ratings juggernaut and rocketing Canadian stage actor Jonathan Frid to the show’s forefront. Originally proposed as a limited character, Barnabas became the main focus of the series and attracted a younger audience. Teens across the country would rush home from school and park themselves in front of the TV for 30 minutes (later a full hour) every weekday afternoon. Dark Shadows was a frequent topic of discussion among teenage viewers. During its run, Dark Shadows spawned two theatrical films and a plethora of books, board games, magazines and other promotional merchandise. However, with the release of House of Dark Shadows, coupled with a disappointing storyline, Dark Shadows mighty grip on the public’s attention began to wane. Its ratings dropped and by April of 1971, Barnabas Collins’ familiar afternoon timeslot was now occupied by the far more friendly Allen Ludden hosting a new version of the popular game show Password.
In 1991, NBC attempted a revival of the series, but it only lasted three months. Producer/director Tim Burton cast his perennial muse Johnny Depp in the role of Barnabas Collins in a 2012 big-screen adaptation of Dark Shadows. The film, with a $150 million budget, was a box-office disappointment, with critics and viewers confused by its comedy/horror hybrid.