Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But, there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit. A darkside.”
Those words were first heard emanating from televisions way back in 1984 when Tales From the Darkside made its premiere in syndication. Created after the success of Creepshow by George Romero and Laurel Entertainment, the show was an anthology series in the vein of Tales From the Crypt or The Twilight Zone with one story per episode. Unlike those and most other similar shows though, this one featured no host (human or puppet). They were usually horror-themed but often featured a somewhat silly or light-hearted tone. There were ninety episodes in total across four seasons, and some of them came from recognizable names including Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Charles L. Grant. (And Jodie Foster even directed an episode!)
Per Deadline, the series is getting a reboot on the CW, and it’s coming with some big guns behind the scenes. Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci will be executive producing, and while the knee-jerk reaction to their names may be one of disappointment I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a fan of their wonderfully goofy Fox hit Sleepy Hollow. The better news though is that author Joe Hill is also coming along for the ride.
Hill has four books to his name including three novels and one collection of short fiction, and he’s also been active in the world of comics too. His comic, Locke & Key, was actually turned into a pilot for Fox although it ultimately failed to receive a pick-up. Kurtzman and Orci were attached to that one as well, but hopefully the CW is a bit of a softer sell. The reboot is also aiming for a summer run similar to the network’s redo of Whose Line Is It Anyway? meaning it won’t have to compete with regular programming.
The extent of Hill’s involvement isn’t exactly clear yet per the official announcement, but he let slip a few tidbits on his Twitter, Tumblr, and blog. He says the new show will be a “reinvention” of the original as opposed to a remake, and that it “ honors the original show, but isn’t quite the same thing.” Hill also acknowledges that he’s “writing the pilot and helping with the larger vision for the show.” Asked if any of the episodes will pull from his short story collection, 20th Century Ghosts, he replied only with “Wouldn’t that be fun?”
But while Hill’s presence increases the odds of good stories, it doesn’t change the unnecessary idiocy of it all. Hollywood has shown an increasing penchant for exploiting existing properties over creating new ones, but how much cache is there really in the Tales From the Darkside brand? Older horror fans will remember it fondly, some to the point of recalling their favorite episodes (“A Case of the Stubborns” is one of mine), but for most people the name means little to nothing. There’s nothing truly iconic about it. I’m excited at the prospect of a new horror anthology show, so I’m taking this as good news regardless, but what’s the point of resurrecting this one?
And then there’s the question of the CW and what kind of show they’re actually looking for. You’ve probably never noticed before, but it’s a network requirement that all of the CW’s shows feature young twenty-somethings in the leads, and their attempts at horror lean heavily towards YA shenanigans with romance! (Supernatural is as close as they get to an exception.) Will that bleed into this series too, or will the stories enjoy the freedom of casting middle-aged characters doomed to die in glorious ways.
Whatever the result, here’s hoping that if nothing else they keep the outro voice-over with the not so vague threat of entering our darkside. No, seriously. “The darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter – waiting to enter us.”
And because we’re legally obligated to mention it, yes, Stephen King is Joe Hill’s father.