As SIMPSONS season #2 got underway with Alf Clausen as our new composer in the fall of 1990, I received an interesting phone call from composer Bob Cobert. I had worked with Bob on the longest miniseries in television history, WAR & REMEMBRANCE in 1988-1989 and he was very pleased with my work. NBC was going to revive the 1960s cult classic DARK SHADOWS as a nighttime soap.
Dan Curtis, the creator of DARK SHADOWS, was going to be Executive Producer and Cobert, who composed the music for the original series including the hit “Quentin’s Theme”, was going to score the reboot. Cobert wanted me to music-edit for him. Wow! What an embarrassment of riches. THE SIMSPONS had just been given a three-year renewal and DARK SHADOWS was a huge hit in the 60s. I saw a lot of sleepless nights in my future, but felt I had to seize a great opportunity. I said yes and held my breath.
I successfully juggled the schedules and made it through November and December, anxiously awaiting the premier of DARK SHADOWS on January 13, 1991. The critical reception was good and the early ratings were promising. Then came a blow to the show that we never saw coming. On January 17, U.S. troops started bombing Iraqi military forces to drive them out of Kuwait. Operation Desert Storm had begun and all the networks and cable news outlets suddenly became 24-hour-a-day windows into the war. All entertainment programming was preempted for weeks. DARK SHADOWS lost any audience-building momentum before it even started.
When the Gulf War action finally settled down many weeks later, NBC put the show back on but the audience either forgot about us or lost interest. We were “13 and done” and that was that. I’ve often wondered if the cancellation was a blessing in disguise. Had DARK SHADOWS caught on and become as popular in the 90s as it had been in the 60s, could I have been able to keep up the pace of music-editing both shows? Probably not and I would have been forced to make a decision: choose between a show on an established network with a huge cult following that could run ten years or more (think DALLAS or KNOTS LANDING or DYNASTY), or an animated show on a fledgling network that would run, at best, five years. Of course the decision was made for me and while those of us working on SHADOWS could never have predicted that a war would knock us off the air, no one working on THE SIMPSONS would have ever dreamed that we’d be on the air for 20+ years and still going strong.
Sidebar: In 2004 the WB Network ordered a pilot for a third incarnation of DARK SHADOWS with Dan Curtis at the helm once more. However, the series was not picked up. It was shopped to other networks with no takers. But, like Barnabas, you can’t keep a good vampire down. Many of you reading this are probably already aware that a big-screen version of DARK SHADOWS is in the works with Tim Burton directing (Dan Curtis passed away in 2006) and Johnny Depp starring as Barnabas. The movie will be in theaters sometime in 2012.
Since 1991, I’ve had my share of working on vampire stories including Mel Brooks’s DRACULA, DEAD AND LOVING IT and, of course, the TWILIGHT parody from last year’s TREE HOUSE OF HORROR XXI. And I can say with certainty, that doesn’t suck.