A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that these mini morality plays are, as the title of the show suggests, dark. Each episode of this anthology series from the 1980s typically revolves around a person with some kind of character flaw who has an unexpected encounter with the supernatural. The mood is grim and creepy and could easily spook young children, while older kids may find the often-wooden acting and the dated clothes and hairstyles silly or distracting. Some episodes deal with mature issues like infidelity; some characters drink and smoke.
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What's the story?
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE is a mixed bag. This '80s anthology series, produced by legendary zombie horror film director George A. Romero, is a collection of self-contained morality plays that typically center on people with some kind of significant character flaw. They could be selfish, cruel, or deceptive, or they may be trying to lie, cheat, or steal. What they all have in common is that they have some kind of unexpected encounter with the supernatural that leads to a surprise twist at the end of the episode.
Is it any good?
Many of the stories were either written by or based on yarns by well-known horror writers like Romero, Stephen King, and Harlan Ellison. They incorporate fascinating scenarios and truly surprising twists, and many episodes feature talented actors and/or the occasional rising star. But others are less satisfying, with predictable stories performed by wooden, no-name actors. (And all of them have terribly dated '80s ensembles that are heavy on feathered hair.)
The show obviously draws its inspiration from The Twilight Zone, which is the all-time great when it comes to delivering unexpected twists. But it's probably closer in spirit to The Outer Limits, another anthology series that played up the sci-fi element, or Night Gallery, Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling's creepy '70s follow-up that emphasized horror and the occult. Though Tales from the Darkside often has adult themes and, yes, dark overtones, the effect is a bit muted by its dated appearance, so it probably won't be too scary for older kids. Of course, except for a few standout episodes, it may not be all that entertaining, either.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about destiny and karma. Most of these self-contained stories focus on unpleasant characters who try to lie, cheat, and steal to get to the top but instead meet a much more unpleasant fate. Do they get what they deserve? Do you think people in real life get ahead through similarly unscrupulous behavior? Why do you think movies and TV shows tend to depict immoral characters getting punished? Is that always the case in real life?