Somehow as a kid Tales from the Darkside found my brother and me. Our father watched only sports and our mother, when given the luxury of the remote, stuck mostly to stuff like Forever Knight and Roseanne. Not to knock the NHL, NASCAR and what was once known as the WWF, and surely I wouldn't dream of knocking Forever Knight or Roseanne, these things didn't have the same impact as the little, mostly goofy terrors had on me. There were big things in those half-hour slots. Huge things.
10. 1x07: Inside the Closet – Starring Fritz Weaver and Roberta Weiss (raped and murdered by Dodd in The Dead Zone). Written by Michael McDowell. Directed by Tom Savini (From Dusk Till Dawn, actor, and Night of the Living Dead, director.)
A door is more than it appears when a Ghoulie-like monster pops out for good, cheesy fun.
9. 2x03: Ring Around the Redhead – Starring John Heard (Big and the Home Alone movies) and Penelope Ann Miller (Big Top Pee Wee and Kindergarten Cop). Story by John D. MacDonald (Cape Fear/The Executioners and the Travis McGee novels). Directed by Ted Gershuny.
An inventor stumbles upon a portal, sort of, and pulls out jewels and then a babe, but a jealous friend tries to screw it up and in a fistfight with John Heard, the friend dies. Heard is sentenced to death row. Not so dark, but fun and the acting is better than the norm.
8. 2x09: The Trouble with Mary Jane – Starring Phyllis Diller (had her own show in the sixties) and Lawrence Tierney (Reservoir Dogs). Written by Edith Swensen. Directed by T.J. Castronovo.
This one is so bad it’s good. A girl is possessed and a pair of aging shysters try to cast out the demon only to raise another. Hooves for feet, gotta love it.
7. 1x16: The Tear Collector – Starring Jessica Harper (Suspiria) and Victor Garber (bunch of small parts in big things, you’d know him to see him, probably). Story by Donald Olson. Directed by John Drimmer.
A woman is too sad and meets a man collecting tears. Strange and quiet, wonderfully eerie. This was an unusual production for the series.
6. 1x20: It All Comes Out in the Wash – Starring Vince Edwards and James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China). Written by Harvey Jacobs. Directed by Frank de Palma.
A high finance asshole has much guilt and learns of a dry cleaner that can wash it away. Great, until the dry cleaner stops taking calls. The bigshot is ridiculous, makes this story that much better with his overacting.
5. 4x16: Family Reunion – Starring Stephen McHattie (Pontypool) and some kid who has no other credits. Written by Edith Swensen. Directed by Tom Savini.
A man locks his son away because he’s a werewolf, but so is mom, so it’s cool. This is one of the more serious attempts at horror. The were-kid is good and his transformation through the shadows is gold.
4. 4x11: Love Hungry – Starring Sharon Madden and Larry Gelman (The Bob Newhart Show). Written by Roberts Gannaway. Directed by John Strysik.
A bigger woman tries every diet gimmick until one lands in her lap and suddenly works. The talking fruit are fantastically absurd.
3. 1x09: A Case of the Stubborns – Starring Eddie Bracken (Home Alone 2, toy store guy) and Christian Slater (Interview with the Vampire and Dolan’s Cadillac). Story by Robert Bloch (Psycho). Directed by Gerald Cotts.
Grandpa’s dead, but won’t admit it. Up and busy, getting smelly while everyone tells him that he’s dead. Immensely entertaining and the finale is reeky fun.
2. 3x05: The Geezenstacks – Starring Craig Wasson (the doctor from Nightmare on Elm Street 3) and Tandy Cronyn. Story by Fredric Brown (1950s pulp writer). Directed by Bill Travis.
A girl is gifted a dollhouse and the dolls begin foretelling the future of her family. Dad catches on and everyone thinks him crazy for a bit. This is one of the heavier stories, unnerving and quietly scary.
1. 4:14: The Cutty Black Sow – Starring two kids nobody knows. Story by Thomas F. Monteleone (Bram Stoker Award winner 1992 for The Blood of the Lamb). Directed by Richard Glass.
Grandma’s dying and babbling about protecting souls from the Cutty Black Sow. A boy does his best but still falls prey. This one
attempts and succeeds at creating atmosphere and chills. This episode is the reason I returned to this series after my first visit during childhood. The Cutty Black Sow… my brother and I, we joked for years that the damned thing was coming for us.
I recognize that this list is not at all what the IMDB ratings suggest that it ought to be. I don’t care. These are the best ten, or they aren’t. They’re my favorites and this is despite leaving out many of the big named writers’ and directors’ episodes. Stephen King, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, Charles L. Grant and Frederik Pohl all wrote stories or teleplays for the show. I think that means… I likes what I likes?
No matter. Good/bad TV, worth watching.