Final Thoughts on “Tales From the Darkside”

Let me give a few final thoughts on “Tales From the Darkside”.

I’ll start from what’s normally the last thing I talk about, which is whether I’ll rewatch this series or not.  If you’ve been following my posts on the series, you already know the answer to that:  a resounding “No”.  I set out to write posts about each individual disk covering each individual episode precisely because I didn’t care for the series at all, and while there were episodes here and there that were good and in the later seasons the dialogue and performances were pretty good the series itself never got good.  When the best episodes were all right at best that’s not a series that I want to watch again.  So it goes into the box of DVDs to sell if I get a chance.

The more interesting question, then, is why did this series fail?  They had some established writers and used some established stories, and managed to get an impressive roster of actors to play parts in the episodes.  As already stated, from a production values perspective they were quite good for a half hour TV series from that era.  And it isn’t that I don’t like that sort of show because I did enjoy and would watch again “Friday the 13th:  The Series”, and that show had poor production values when compared to this one.  However,  “Friday the 13th” had some advantages that “Tales From the Darkside” didn’t have.  The first is that as an hour long show it had more time to develop its plots and stories in each episode, which helped make them more interesting.  The second is that as a continuing show they could use the characters and character development to make things interesting, and we always had more of a connection to the main characters than possible in “Tales From the Darkside”.  And the third is that as a continuing show they had a universe with rules so we could easily understand what was going on, while every cursed item could still work differently and so provide different plots.

Because it wasn’t a continuing show, “Tales From the Darkside” didn’t have recurring characters or a set universe to rely on, and so it had to rely on the characters that it introduced in each episode and the stories that it developed in those episodes.  But it also didn’t have a lot of time to develop those episodes, and so each episode had to set out the plot and characters and then try to resolve all of that in a half hour.  And ultimately, that’s where it failed, because for the most part the stories and episodes were just … unsatisfying.  Some of the ideas seemed good, but the episodes never really seemed to pay them off properly.  Some of the ideas seemed to be too big to properly do in a half hour, and some of them seemed to be too small which meant that there was a lot of padding which dragged the episodes down.  And the episodes that managed to find a plot that could be fit in there often seemed to pad things out which meant that the episodes still didn’t manage to pay things off properly.  So again for the most part none of the stories were satisfying or developed and paid off properly.

It would be easy to blame this on the format itself, and say that if they had been an hour long show things would have been better.  And, to be fair, it likely would have been, as long as they didn’t see that as a reason to add even more padding.  But we’ve had shows like “The Twilight Zone”, “The Outer Limits” and “Tales From the Crypt” that were the same length and seem to be much better (although I haven’t watched any of them and so can’t really compare them).  One thing that at least “The Twilight Zone” had, however, was an episode-specific intro and outro which could be used to set up the episode and summarize what we were supposed to take from the episode, in contrast to the generic one that was featured in “Tales From the Darkside”.  That could give us more context and so allow us to get a better idea of what we were supposed to be taking away from that episode.

And that was also one of the issues with the show, which is that the “Darkside” itself was prominently featured and yet never really explained or placed into a context.  The narration implies that it’s some kind of separate world that people can fall into, but the episodes were never really consistent as to whether it was something that innocent people could fall into — and so we were supposed to come away afraid that that or similar things could happen to us — or whether it was a vehicle for karmic retribution.  Sure, “The Twilight Zone” wasn’t all that consistent about that either, but again the intro and outro could establish for us what they were going for while adding to the episode in terms of exposition, which wasn’t possible with “Tales From the Darkside”.  I think the series would have benefited from a more connected universe where we could have had repeated themes and rules that we could have understood which would give us a context coming into each episode.  But then again I only think that because each individual episode struggled to provide that and anything that could have helped the episodes do that would have greatly improved the series.

So, that ends this series of posts on this show.  I don’t expect to keep doing this, but I found this series both bad enough and disappointing enough that writing about it in detail was something I really wanted to do.


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