Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Submitted for the Approval of the Midnight Society.....

I call this blog post The Tale of my Top 10 Favorite Episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark.

Are you Afraid of the Dark, a 30 minute Canadian horror-themed anthology series (think Twilight Zone for kids), ran from 1992-2000 in the U.S and was one of Nickelodeon's most popular programs, being part of SNICK (short for Saturday Night Nickelodeon).

The premise of Are You Afraid of the Dark was simple; A group of middle school & high schoolers get together every Saturday night, meeting around a campfire in the woods, and tell one other stories of their own creation. The stories ranged from the fantastic to horrifying depending on the week. Each storyteller had their own story-telling style, and often used recurring characters in their tales. Are You Afraid of the Dark ran for 7 seasons, though admittedly, I am most familiar with the first five seasons and I would personally say that seasons 2 & 3 were when they really hit their stride.

As a kid, I remember watching Are You Afraid of the Dark every Saturday night with my family, and again after school, when the show went into syndication. While the genre of horror was very common place in my house (mama loved horror novels and scary movies & my dad loved the Universal Monsters), this was one of my first experiences with horror geared specifically toward children. Are You Afraid of the Dark really paved the way for shows like Eerie Indiana & the Goosebumps book series. One thing I specifically liked about Are You Afraid of the Dark was that writers didn't pull any punches. Many of the episodes still hold up as very creepy, even today, and many don't have happy endings. Even as a kid, I appreciated not being infantilized by the show creators, even if I didn't want to walk down the dark hallway to my room, after the show was over & the TV was off. Even today, I can attribute my love of horror, in part, to my early exposure to shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark. 

Though I don't know if I could have articulated it at the time, the structure of the show had a huge impact on my overall view of the oral-storytelling tradition and my understanding of children within that tradition. There is nothing on TV today like Are You Afraid of the Dark and folks are missing out!

I have curated a top ten list of my favorite episodes:

10. The Tale of the Dangerous Soup- Dr. Vink (a recurring character) owns a restaurant called The Wild Boar. His restaurant is world renowned for it's delicious soup. But the soup has a mysterious, secret ingredient and it sure isn't love! A young Neve Campbell stars in this episode.

9. The Tale of the Dark Dragon- A boy, who struggles with self-confidence, buys a potion at the local magic shop that helps him feel & look better than he really is. The magic shop is owned by Sardo, a mysterious, yet bumbling man who knows more about his products than he let's on.

8. The Tale of the Ghastly Grinner-A boy, who wants to be a comic artist, can't catch a break. He gets a invitation to a new comic book store in town, where he buys a comic entitled The Ghastly Grinner. But this comic is more than it seems.

7. The Tale of the Dollmaker- Melissa goes to the country to visit her aunt, uncle and good friend, Susan. When she arrives she finds out that Susan's family has moved away and that Susan has gone missing. Can Melissa solve the mystery of where Susan has gone & what does an old doll house have to do with it?

6. The Tale of the Hungry Hounds- Amy goes to visit her cousin, Pam. While going through the family heirlooms in the attic, Pam & Amy find a late aunt's clothes in an old trunk. but this game of dress-up has dire consequences.

5. The Tale of the Midnight Madness- An old movie theater that is on the brink of closure needs a miracle. Dr Vink makes a deal with the manager that if they screen his other films, he will give them a copy of F. W. Murnau's 1922 film, Nosferatu. When the manager goes back on his word, things get really weird.

4. The Tale of the Quicksilver- This episode starred Tatyana Ali (of Fresh Prince fame). Two brothers move into a new house to find strange things happening. One of the brother's comes down with a fever, while the other brother begins having visions of a girl that strangely looks like one of his classmates. Can they work together to cure his brother and rid the house of an evil presence.

3. The Tale of Watcher's Woods- Two unlikely friends get lost in the woods while at summer camp and they have to figure out a 50 year old mystery to find their way back home. This episode stars Jewel Staite, of Firefly fame.

2. The Tale of Tale of the Prom Queen-In the 50's, a high school girl was the victim of a hit-&-run while waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up for the prom. Many years later, three high schoolers get roped into researching the victim's death. But like so many AYAOTD episodes, not everything is as it seems.

1.The Tale of the Bookish Babysitter-This is my all-time favorite episode! A young man, obsessed with T.V & video games, thinks he's too old for a babysitter. His mom has a different opinion. After booking the most recommended babysitter in town, the boy's mom leaves him in the care of Belinda. Belinda has a reputation for instilling the love of reading in children, but Belinda doesn't use the regular methods. She can really bring literature to life!

Honorable Mention: The Tale of the Dream Girl- Johnny thinks he's seeing his dream girl when he puts on a ring that he can't take off. But finding his dream girl might be harder than Johnny thinks.

All of these episodes, along with almost all of the other episodes of the show, can be viewed for free on various channels on You Tube. If you, like me, were a fan of this amazing show, go back and check out a few of my favorites or find your own! If you never saw the show,  please enjoy a piece of 90's nostalgia while enjoying an incredibly well-written show.

I now declare this meeting of The Midnight Society closed.

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