Dark Shadows was the only daytime TV drama with a supernatural slant ever to air. Although it has become a cult classic and was named number 19 in TV Guide’s list of TV cult classics it did attract a fairly strong mainstream audience as well and aired for five seasons. For the time period when it ran in the mid-60s it was revolutionary television because at that time no station would air shows with supernatural characters or themes during the daytime. For the first season Dark Shadows stayed away from including any supernatural characters or themes but after the first season there were witches and vampires playing main roles in the series along with werewolves and ghosts.
As a daytime drama it racked up more episodes than many other science fiction and fantasy shows like Star Trek and Doctor Who. The characters in Dark Shadows, like vampire Barnabas Collins, have become cult classics as well and are consistently popular at Halloween. A lot of the writers, actors and other staff members are today’s darker TV shows like True Blood and Vampire Diaries are fans of the original Dark Shadows. The series was rebooted in the 90s and given a sleek and edgy appearance that defined a lot of the 90s films and TVs like Kindred, Millenium, the X Files, American Gothic and the Crow movies. Despite the high production values the series was never as popular as the original and soon faded from TV.
In 2012 director Tim Burton released a Dark Shadows feature film starring his long time collaborator Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins, the most loved and well known character from the original TV series. Many of the actors that Tim Burton likes to work with including his longtime companion Helena Bonham Carter appeared in the cast which made it an immediate draw for fans of Tim Burton films. Burton’s unique style and quirky sense of art direction were well suited to remake Dark Shadows but even with a great cast and a good story the movie fell flat with audiences. Many audience members felt that the film was more of Tim Burton’s tribute to the original series than an independent story and the movie was full of inside jokes and references that only a true Dark Shadows fan would get. The move did well at the box office but not as well as some of the other films Burton has made. The film had a Beetlejuice style look and Burton’s signature hard edged caricature of a caricature style that fans either love or hate with really no middle ground.
Since the original Dark Shadows was also unique and found its footing as a cult classic it’s very possible that the Dark Shadows film, like so many of Tim Burton’s movies, will also find a niche as a cult classic film instead of counting on mainstream box office appeal or huge receipts at the box office as a measure of success. To the fans who love Dark Shadows the stories and families at the heart of Dark Shadows will always be classics.