Dark Shadows What Could've Been

By Garth Franklin Thursday May 27th 2004 01:59PM

It was a cult hit of the 60's that still had a strong fanbase. The remake rights were picked up by The WB television network for gods knows what amount. Producer John Wells ("The West Wing", "ER") was heading up the potential series as executive producer. A solid cast including the likes of Martin Donovan, Kelly Hu, Alec Newman, Marley Shelton & Ivana Milicevic were all signed and shot a pilot. Rumours emerged that one of the reasons "Angel" was cancelled was because of the conflicting vampire themes of this show and the network's desire to work with a big name like Wells.

All in all this reinvention of the cult hit was looking to be the most talked about new show of the network, even more so than the proposed (and ultimately dumped) reinvention of the "Lost in Space" franchise. Then, with days to go before last week's network upfront presentations it was revealed that the show was nowhere on the slate. Last week the network confirmed it had no plans to introduce the series either in the Fall or early next year.

Was the pilot that bad? Well now 'You're Sick' has seen it and refutes those rumours with his take on what the first episode was like and what might've been:

"Dark Shadows" - A Pilot Episode Review by 'You're Sick'

"A terrific, ambitious pilot. Probably the fastest paced 40 mins of television I've seen. The casting is amazingly solid, despite the rushed nature of the casting process. Newman has two particularly rich and memorable scenes as Barnabas (intro to the family & Josette's room) and he strikes the right notes of menace and haunted sadness. The role seems to fit Newman like a glove, and he exudes tons more sex appeal in this performance than in any of his other work. The storyline essentially follows Vicki's arrival in Collinsport on Halloween night which coincides with handyman Willie (a hysterically charismatic Matt Czuchry) and his girlfriend Kelly (Alexis Thorpe) accidentally unleashing Barnabas from the sealed tomb that has kept him imprisoned for 200 years. There are three effectively scary set pieces, a few jumps and one bone-chilling scene. The show also had a wonderful SUSPIRIA inspired photography with scenes bathed in primary colors (mostly saturated reds and greens) that added to the film-quality visuals. Alexander Gould is excellent as David, Marley Shelton works as Victoria and I'm truly sad audiences won't get to see more Martin Donovan's sour, venom-dripping Roger. Blair Brown's Liz is a fascinatingly rich characterization, stable on the outside, if eccentric, with eddies of a hinted at deeper disturbance. Sets are top-notch. Greystone Manor (used in the '91 NBC series version) looks completely different here and the Old House interior is more opulent than it has ever appeared in either TV series or in the 1970 MGM film HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. If a flaw can be aimed at it, it would simply be that its a very busy pilot that doesn't have much breathing time for the characters. It's not all action, there are nice dialogue scenes between Liz/Vicki, Vicki/Carolyn and Carolyn/Joe. The cliff-hanging shocker was still in rough form when screened, and needs some editing - it currently plays a little more funny and over the top than scary. While the show does race from scene to scene, it doesn't leave you lost or confused, but after seeing it, and getting a taste of the characters and situations, you really WANT to see the next episode and find out more about these characters and what happens to them. A flashy first episode combined with a quieter character focused second episode and it would dug its hooks fiercely into an audience" Not all hope is lost though, The WB is reportedly shopping it around to other networks, so it's not entirely dead (or undead) yet.

Thanks to 'YS'