Barnabas Collins (Dark Shadows) portraitWe ended this week’s TV-themed show “Monsters We Love” with an invitation to tell us about the series we didn’t include in the production — shows that matter to you that are telling a bigger story about who we are, what we fear, and who we aspire to be. Some of you responded with surprising, off-the radar recommendations.

Take the gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1971. I’d never heard of it. Artist Patrick Lynch, who wrote to us from Paris, Kentucky, would run home after school to watch it. Patrick calls it the ancestral precursor to the modern-day vampire shows we’re seeing on TV right now:

”[Dark Shadows] tackled all of the same issues of morality, conscience, humanity, redemption, love, obsession, etc., foremost through the character of Barnabas Collins who was made a vampire against his will. This fully realised character was made possible by not only the scriptwriting of the time but actor Jonathan Frid’s deep understanding of the character through the seeking of the humanity underneath what superficially seemed like a monster.”

For Patrick, the gore and “fanging” weren’t the show’s leading draws. Rather it was vampire Barnabas Collins’ enduringly relatable quest to find home, love, and belonging.

The public will get to discover Dark Shadows anew when director Tim Burton releases his film adaptation starring Johnny Depp as Barnabas Collins this spring.

About the image: A portrait of Barnabas Collins holding the music box of his long lost love Josette. (Painting by Patrick Lynch)

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Like Patrick, I too raced home from school to watch Dark Shadows. Absolutely loved the show even though at the time I'm sure the deeper meanings in the story and characters went right over my head. For a long time I even wanted to change my name to Cassandra. Looking forward to the Burton version.

My mom watched that. I never really understood why. 

I found this interview interesting and wishing it was longer so they could delve deeper into these themes. I watch Breaking Bad and think it's extraordinary. It's hard to watch but the character arc of Walter is something that I find too compelling to turn away from; Walter is not from the dark (like a zombie or vampire), he's from the light, but his descent into the underworld / the dark is a turning towards the parts of being human that are the most difficult - his fears, his demons, his utter sense of exile from his old life and the wider world around him. In many ways, I find it a relief to see these themes being explored in the theatre of television and applaud the makers and writers of this show. Another place where this is being explored is the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. 

My sister and I also ran home from school to watch it, she was 10 and I was 14. Interestingly it started as a gothic soap opera, few months into it they introduced ghosts and as I remember reading, it was due to be cancelled when they brought in Barnaby Collins, the vampire, then it ran for another four years after that. Look it up on wikipedia, says that Tim Burton, Quentnin Tarantino and Madonna have all said they are fans of the series and as a child Johnny Depp "was so obsessed with Barnabas Collins that he wanted to be him."

I loved Dark Shadows, and also watched it after getting home from school.  Never understood hoaw it didn't get picked up on cable.