In an attempt to capitalize on the buzz surrounding Tim Burton’s take on Dark Shadows, the cult classic TV series is finally being made available in its entirety. While I cannot speak definitively on the Burton and Depp collaboration, which looks like Addams Family Redux, I can say with some certainty that those looking forward to the movie may not find much to love about the television series.
This isn’t to say that the TV series, or at least the collections I was able to view (The Best of Barnabas and Fan favorites) were unlike anything modern day television has to offer. While the series may warrant some comparisons to CW favorite The Vampire Diaries and the beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Shadows is uniquely its own.
It’s a rich world, full of complex characters and interwoven worlds that rivals most understandings of soap operas. Make no mistake, Dark Shadows is an occult soap opera, but there’s an indescribable sense of self that the show possesses. Maybe it is its well-known reputation in the nerdier social circles, which I tend to frequent, or maybe it is the show’s tumultuous history, but Dark Shadows never pretends to be anything that it’s not. The show creators seem to understand what fans want and they are more than happy to give it to them. For some, this includes tales of long lost loves and for others, the magnetic Jonathan Frid as tortured vampire Barnabas Collins is the main draw. Regardless of where your interest lies, Dark Shadows caters to every facet of fandom without pandering.
That being said, one should understand what s/he is getting into with this series. Since it is a soap opera, there are plenty of the negatives that go along with Dark Shadows. For starters, if you’ve ever been turned off by soap operas for their technical aspects, such as shoddy lighting and poorly constructed sets, Dark Shadows is bound to frustrate. I have never been a tremendous fan of the traditional soap operas, so viewing this was certainly an adjustment, but if you can forgive some of the more outrageous technical elements, Dark Shadows offers plenty of distractions with its almost overwhelming story lines.
Ultimately, that was the defining element of both Dark Shadows: Fan Favorites and Dark Shadows: The Best of Barnabas. They are merely collections. They are part of a much larger puzzle. For those seeking an introduction to the series, whether in preparation for the movie or just out of personal interest, these collections compile a great cross-section of episodes, but they do little tell much of the bigger picture. There is simply too much history and narrative complexity to a soap opera, that doesn’t really lend itself to a “Best Of” collection. Still, fans of drama, the occult, or a guilty pleasure or two, might enjoy what Dark Shadows has to offer. Some casual viewers may not find much worth savoring, but collectors will not be disappointed.