Looking back at Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
Carley's series looking back at 90s kids' TV continues with spooky Nickelodeon show, Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
“Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story…”
1990 was a pretty busy year, Margaret Thatcher resigned, Germany knocked down its wall, Arnold was kicking butt in Total Recall and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were completing world domination with their first feature film.
October of 1990 also saw the start of what would become one of the staples of the Nickelodeon line up for the next decade, the creepy and kooky Are You Afraid of the Dark?
What’s it About?
Are You Afraid of the Dark? follows a group of teens called The Midnight Society who meet every week in the woods to tell scary stories round a campfire. The stories told are more paranormal thriller then horror, some were based on urban legends or fairy tales while some were inspired by everyday happenings in the characters daily lives. Each story was usually wrapped up by the end of the episode, however there were a few stories which went on to be two or even three parters.
Why Did I/Why Should I Watch It?
If there is something that seems to be a shared imbedded memory of everybody’s childhood it is the telling of scary stories. Whether that is around a campfire, during a sleepover or just on the playground we all just really wanted to scare one another and thanks to Are You Afraid of the Dark? we got a weekly (or daily depending on scheduling) dose of this. The set up itself was so simple but effective, with The Midnight Society being our guides through the stories, while also making the watcher feel like they were part of the gang, around the campfire waiting to tell their own scary story.
The stories themselves were mixed bags, taking on every scary topic from Vampires to Werewolves to Ghosts to everything else in-between and although there were the odd dud but the majority were well thought-out, tidy (and yes sometimes properly scary) stories. There were also a couple that were really touching and stayed with you a little while afterwards and dealt with death, sadness and the ability to move on, not bad for a kids' TV show!
I think the real joy of this TV series was that it was so well made and really did just focus on its core audience, teen and pre-teens who want to be spooked (but not too much) and dealt with surrounding issues (bullying, divorce, loneliness) that affect kids at any age, but are dealt in such a roundabout why that it isn’t preachy like the ‘very special episodes’ you find dotted around other TV shows of the era. It didn’t talk down to kids; rather it kept to their level and showed them what they wanted to see rather than what the powers that be thought they should.
It still is also just great fun to watch, even today I’m more than happy to slip the DVD in and watch a couple of episodes on a quiet afternoon and even today I come across an episode I might have missed the first time round, with captivates me as much as it did back when it first aired. My only hope is that Zeebo the Clown is just a figment of somebody's imagination, otherwise I may never sleep again.
The Tale of the Lonely Ghost
The Tale of the Dark Music
The Tale of the Frozen Ghost
The Tale of the Crimson Clown
The Tale of the Long Ago Locket
What Else do I Need to Know?
Are You Afraid of the Dark? had two runs, the first five seasons ran from 1990-1996 and the final two from 1999-2000, because of this gap The Midnight Society is made up of completely new members (including Kim Bauer herself, Elisha Cuthbert) from 1999 onwards.
It also had an amazing list of guest stars, some of which included, Ryan Gosling, Melissa Joan Hart, Will Friedle, Neve Campbell, Hayden Christensen and Police Academy’s very own Bobcat Goldthwait.
Also a little-known fact is the magic dust they threw into the fire at the start of each story was in fact non-fat coffee creamer!
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Round the Twist
Read Carley's previous kids' TV lookback, revisiting Round the Twist, here.
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