Friday, July 18, 2014

The 10 Best Episodes of DARK SHADOWS

Earlier this week, Patrick McCray and I spent an hour discussing the results of our recent readers poll. You see, I was curious. With a television show as big and unwieldy as DARK SHADOWS, would it even be possible to single out episodes for special merit? So, instead of juggling ratings, sales reports and accredited critical summations, I decided to take a more direct route and just ask fans which episodes they liked.

More to the point, I asked the to select their 10 favorite episodes. We received a lot of votes, which spanned 197 episodes across the original television series, as well as the 1991 "revival" series. The overall results weren't terribly surprising ... there's a healthy selection of classic episodes/moments represented, and the variety on display here underlines the passion the voters have for DARK SHADOWS. I was delighted to see Laura Collins make an appearance on the list, as well as the show's first episode (which is a peronal favorite of mine). While there are some notable omissions, the list also wasn't another "Best of Barnabas" list, either.

Here's how the voting worked: I asked people to select their favorite episodes and rank them in order from 1 to 10, with 1 being their favorite. An episode that received a first-place vote received 10 points, an episode that named someone's second-favorite received 9 points, and so on.

Here how the final points added up:

Still with me? Good. Because the episodes that ranked in the Top 10 tell a very strange story when you read between the lines. Or, in this case, between the numbers.

If you take a look at the cast list for these episodes, you'll note the conspicuous absence of David Selby. He had one of the most successful actors of any DARK SHADOWS cast member, yet he appears in only one episode on this list. I don't think this is a reflection on Selby, whose work as Quentin Collins (especially in the 1897 storyline) is amazing. Since 1970, attempts to revive DARK SHADOWS always return to the vampire well, so to speak. It happened in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, with the 1991 "revival" series, the failed WB television pilot and, of course, the Tim Burton film. Even though Selby is the star of NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, he's playing Quentin In Name Only. If this selection of episodes is evidence of anything, it's that the shadows of Barnabas Collins has only expanded in the years since the demise of the television series. For many people, DARK SHADOWS = "Barnabas Collins."

Then again, it might have nothing to do with that, at all. This list is story based, not episode based. For example, Clarice Blackburn appears in three episodes on the list. While she was an incredibly interesting person, Blackburn's stock in trade on DARK SHADOWS was playing horrible people. Aunt Abigail is pretty much nobody's favorite character.

Stray Observations:

* Also making slight appearances on the list are Thayer David (who played more characters on DARK SHADOWS than any other actor), Kate Jackson and James Storm, with one episode each.

* Jonathan Frid appears in the most episodes in the Top 10, followed by Joan Bennett, Alexandra Moltke, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott and Nancy Barrett. Sharon Smyth-Lentz, who appeared in less than 40 episodes of the original series, is in two episodes in our Top 10.

* Readers were invited to vote for episodes of the 1991 DARK SHADOWS "revival" series, which received only three votes ... two of which were for episode 11.

* With 197 episodes voted for, ballots covered a huge range of episodes. There were a handful of weeks that proved to be incredibly popular, which split the vote quite a bit for some episodes. Episodes 210-214 received more points that any other block of episodes and has two episodes in the Top 10. Had there been more agreement among voters on which of those episodes were best, it would certainly have changed the final standing.

* Even more interesting is that episodes 270-275 received a lot of votes (the fifth most of any other block) but no episodes from that range managed to crack the charts.

* While this didn't impact the vote, it's worth mentioning that Lara Parker's name was mentioned on ballots more than any other actor. Voters really wanted me to know how much they like Lara, which is pretty sweet.

* Episodes 1 and 1198 received the most raw votes of any other episode. Many of those votes were lower on the scale of 1-10, earning them fewer points, though.

* Half the episodes in the Top 10 are in color, which probably means nothing.

* While it failed to chart, the final episode of DARK SHADOWS received a respectable number of votes.

* People voted for 21 episodes that aired before the introduction of Barnabas Collins. Only six episodes in the show's final "parallel time" arc received votes.

* The Leviathans storyline received votes for only five episodes.


Grensno said...

I might be one of the people who voted for a Leviathan episode! =) Thanks for putting this together!

Sharon Davidson said...

Thanks so much for the printed list!

Julia Ranks said...

This was so much fun to do and surprisingly hard. Makes me laugh that the revival series only got three votes though because that means that two of them were mine.

cynthia curran said...

Aunt Abigail is pretty much nobody's favorite character. Auntie Abigail was a pain in the neck but sometimes fun in her remarks. I'am protected by my faith when she sees the cat. Louis Edmonds didn't make it though I thought they were good episodes. I voted for the last in 1795 instead of the first..

larry falter said...

episode 442 when trask got bricked up inside the wall is the very best

Theresa said...

Bathia Mapes trying to cure Barnabas of his curse.

Unknown said...

Oh, Cousin Barnabas! While I do love you, Quentin is my hero. How can any episode he's in fail to make the list? I am so depressed, I'm going to have to go howl at what's left of the moon...

Unknown said...

The plotline about curing Barnabas of his vampirism was excellent; some of this was used in the failed Tim Burton film. Dr. Lang's haunting words "you have no friends, Julia...." still resonate when discussing the vampire's ultimate nature.

Quentin Collins as werewolf worked quite well. But turning him into a zombie came off as stupid. People may remember the song "Quentin's Theme' from David Selby's introduction to the show. That and the Blue Whale theme were excllent examples of how music and television could work well together.

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