Before Top 10 Tuesday became a thing here at Castle Blogferatu, I did a list like this called 9 Neglected Network Horror Shows (cuz I love a lot of alliteration). Almost immediately after posting it, my so-called mind was fairly teeming with “Ooo what abouts” and “Oh you forgots.” They clamored so that I had trouble hearing the voices I normally argue with in my head. And so, to still their wails of neglect, I present my Top 10 Forgotten Horror TV Shows.
#10 Dark Shadows (January-March 1991)
I should love this more than I do. It was unsuccessfully revived by Dan Curtis himself, the man who masterminded the original, so it already has that going for it. That said, I never became a fan of Ben Cross as Barnabas Collins, and Jim Fyfe spent what seemed like a distracting amount of time saying “Geez Barnabas. What’s goin’ on?” Joanna Going was fine as Victoria Winters (but mainly because I frequently confuse her with Jami Gertz). What kept me comin’ back was Barbara Steele as Julia Hoffman and Lysette Anthony as Angelique Bouchard.
#9 Nightmare Cafe (January-April 1992)
I really dug each and every one of the 6 episodes of this show that NBC deigned to air. Robert Englund is Blackie, the owner of a cafe where Frank and Fay end up after a bizarro near-death experience. Of course, the cafe ain’t what it seems cuz Robert Englund. Basically the show is about righting wrongs in a sorta Quantum Leap meets Ray Bradbury in The Twilight Zone.
#8 Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992)
This was just weird and fun and ran about twice as long as Nightmare Cafe. Marshall and his friend Simon (last name Holmes…cute) encounter random weirdness and solve mysteries in a kind of mainly lighthearted cross between Scooby-Doo and The X-Files.
#7 Tales From The Darkside (1984-1988)
This was another eclipsed anthology series that never truly got the love it deserved. There were some genuinely creepy stories in this series. It’s no wonder as George Romero was both creator and executive producer. Lotsa recognizable names in terms of actors, directors, and adapted stories—Tippi Hedren, Harry Anderson, Justine Bateman, Bud Cort, Carol Kane, Jodie Foster, Tom Savini, Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King…and that’s just a wee sample.
#6 Strange Paradise (1969-1970)
I thought for a long time that this was also a Dan Curtis outing, but it weren’t. Rather, it was Canadian Broadcasting’s ill-fated attempt to capitalize on the fanatical cult popularity of Dark Shadows. The idea was solid—Jean Paul Desmond desperately seeks a way to bring his dead wife back to life. Not so far flung as you’ll see with Dark Shadows or Passions, Strange Paradise still has story arcs concerning voodoo, family curses, multiple timelines, and…cryogenics?
#5 The Ray Bradbury Theater (1985-1992)
Another perennial favorite. Like Roald Dahl would do with the 1st season of Tales Of The Unexpected, Ray Bradbury introduced many of the segments, all of which were written by Bradbury himself and all adapted from his own fiction. In a not-so-weird turn of events, it was this show that got me interested more in Bradbury’s writing than any recommendation by other writers I like reading.
#4 Tales Of The Unexpected (1979-1988)
I can’t for the life of me recall what station this was on, but I watched a lot of these. They were introduced by Roald Dahl and for some time were pretty much all adaptations of his own stories (other writers’ stories would be added starting with the 2nd season). Again, loads of recognizable faces, especially for followers of British horror in general and Hammer Horror in particular, folks like Brian Blessed, Joan Collins, Denholm Elliott, Julie Harris, Ian Holm, even the likes of José Ferrer, John Gielgud, Derek Jacobi, and, wait for it…Elaine Stritch!
#3 Passions (1999-2008)
As horror-themed soap operas go, this is one of the greats. Tongue is planted so far in cheek it’s like a wet willy. The events centered on a place called Harmony which was full of anything but. One of the central characters was a witch named Tabitha who had a creepy as hell animated doll named Timmy. But what stood out most was the barrage of literary, cinematic, and pop culture references to everything from The Wizard Of Oz/Wicked to Alice In Wonderland to Bewitched. I mean come on. Tabitha? Hell, she names her own child Endora and makes reference to her parents Darrin and Samantha. There was also a good deal of fourth wall breaking and self awareness including a use of “it was just a dream” sequences that was so frequent and shameless as to make it endlessly entertaining. No surprise as series creator James Reilly previously had Marlena Evans possessed in Days Of Our Lives. In general Passions may have gone even more straight up bonkers than the original Dark Shadows. And speaking of…
#2 Dark Shadows (1966-1971)
Man did Dan Curtis cast his net wide. This show had everything—vampires, witches, a phoenix woman, werewolves, premature burial, Henry James type ghosts, family curses, Satan, mad stranglers, living portraits, a Frankenstein creation, Jekyll and Hyde, crazy women in the attic, time travel, ritual sacrifice, even a Lovecraftian god. Jeebus what else is left? What makes Dark Shadows so damn much fun has to do with format, budget, and schedule. Frequently there was little time and/or money to sufficiently edit let alone reshoot scenes that had problems. This is further complicated by live-to-tape shooting in which scenes were often one take. The result is seeing when things go wrong. In contrast, Curtis also pulled off some noteworthy effects in terms of staging, lighting, colors, costume, and make-up. And yes, I joined the fan club. So there.
#1 Beetlejuice (1989-1991)
As is so often the case, it was a real toss-up between 1st and 2nd. Ultimately I had to come down on the side of The Ghost With The Most. Don’t get me wrong. As you no doubt surmised, I did love me some Dark Shadows. But if given the opportunity, I’d light out for The Neitherworld in a cocaine heartbeat and never look back. I’m also a fan of wordplay, puns (the more awfuller the more better), silly allusions, dumb sight gags, and running jokes (one of my favorites being Lydia getting referred to as Lydia Ditz and her yelling “iiit’s Deetz!” What can I say? I like stupid humor. Barry MeNot, Count Mein, Hopalong Casualty, Judge Mental, Mayor Maynot, Miss Shapen…it was heaven. Ironically, I was not a huge fan of Burton’s Dark Shadows movie. Huh. Go figure.
And there you have it. I did purposely stay away from miniseries-es…es. No doubt there will be some chain-rattling for their own list soon enough.