Who Killed DARK SHADOWS—Again
First off, no one “killed” it. The onetime television soap opera is as popular and vibrant today as when it first aired on ABC in the 60s—if not moreso. As to the question of who “canceled” it as a series, this article here quotes the then-president of the network, James Duffy, as taking credit for it. Technically I’ve no doubt this is correct. As the guy in charge, ultimately, it would have required his signature on paper somewhere to make the show’s cancellation “official.” His signing of said document, though, was merely a formality, a technicality. As the article rightly suggests, there were numerous reasons why the show was cancelled: high production costs; a decline in ratings (not significant enough to result in cancellation in and of itself, as soap operas always have peaks and valleys in their ratings numbers, and ratings weren’t down by that much); a faulty system used to measure ratings, etc. These all may have contributed in small parts to the show’s cancellation, but none of them were primary factors. In fact, as I have reported before, and contrary to what some people will tell you, there was only ONE primary reason for the show ending.
I think it’s safe to say that creator Dan Curtis had intentions of transitioning DARK SHADOWS from a TV series into a series of movies. Why didn’t that happen? For the same reason that the series got cancelled, the same reason that there were only two DARK SHADOWS films. The linked article does touch upon the actual reason; I would be remiss if I didn’t give the writer credit for that. I will go one step better; I will QUOTE from the original article, with slight edits for the purposes of syntax: “Also, unlike other soaps, DARK SHADOWS was forever going to be ‘The Barnabas Collins Show.’ ALL MY CHILDREN could find a way to go on without Erica Kane, but Collinwood would always feel a little empty without Jonathan Frid’s presence. Lightning had struck with that character and no amount of reverse engineering would ever recapture that magic…”
No, friends, it wouldn’t have felt “empty” without Barnabas. It couldn’t have SURVIVED without Barnabas. And THAT is why the show ended. Jonathan Frid’s contract was up and he refused to go on playing Barnabas Collins. Simple as that. And without Barnabas, there could be no DARK SHADOWS.
For this same reason, there’s no way that DARK SHADOWS could have gone on for decades, the way, say, GENERLA HOSPITAL has done. The thing about Barnabas that made him so viable as a character was the tragic curse he bore, his vampirism. Without it, the character didn’t work. On those occasions during the series’ run when Barnabas would be “cured” of his blood-drinking ways, fans loved him enough to stick around, yes, but there was always a passionate desire to see him become a vampire again, which he always did. Barnabas Collins is a vampire, HAD to be a vampire. And, sadly, whereas Barnabas was immortal, Jonathan Frid was not, and recasting the role wasn’t an option. Thus DARK SHADOWS always had a limited shelf-life as an ongoing series. As a finite piece, however, it remains forever fresh.