Did a Major Dark Shadows Character Come About Due to a Typo?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about TV and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the TV urban legends featured so far.

TV URBAN LEGEND: A major character on Dark Shadows came into existence due to a typo!

In June 1966, the daily soap opera Dark Shadows began on ABC.

The series began with a young governess moving to the spooky Collins mansion, where all sorts of eerie things seem to be going on – however, until about six months into the run, the spooky stuff did not involve any actual supernatural dealings.

That changed six months in, when the first ghost appeared on the series.

Then, a year into the run, the whole show dramatically changed when a vampire named Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid, made his debut.

Collins, whose character was introduced mostly as a stunt, soon became the central focus of the show, as Hird played him beautifully as a conflicted, self-loathing vampire. He was the epitome of the tragic soap opera hero – the one who is sort of a “bad boy” but not so much so that the fans can’t still root for him.

After introducing Barnabas, the show wanted to introduce a doctor who specialized in vampirism, and that doctor was Dr. Julia Hoffman (played by Grayson Hall), who would soon became Barnabas’ love interest (although it was more a case of Hoffman wanting Barnabas than Barnabas wanting her – but she DID become a very close friend to Barnabas) on the series, and therefore one of the biggest characters on the show.

However, amusingly enough, her creation came down to a typo!

Dr. Julia Hoffman originally was going to be Dr. Julian Hoffman, and was actually referred to as such by characters leading up to her introduction on the show, as they planned to enlist his help (you know, stuff like, “He’s one of the leading doctors in the field!” and stuff like that). However, during a character description in one of the scripts, the “n” in the first name was left off, and the show’s producer, Dan Curtis, was struck by the typo and said, essentially, “Hey, that would be a cool idea if she were a woman!”

So, right on the spot, Curtis re-wrote the character.

And thus, a major character was born.

Of course, though, it wasn’t THAT smooth – even as a woman, Dr. Julia Hoffman was not intended to be a major character on the series, but luckily, Grayson Hall had some significant support on the writing staff of Dark Shadows – her husband, Sam Hall!

Sam Hall kept writing Julia into major scenes, and it did not hurt that the character of Barnabas (who was also originally intended as a temporary character) took off, so Julia took off in connection WITH him.

And THUS, a major character was born!

Sadly, while Barnabas’ introduction DID help the show’s sagging ratings – he did not help them THAT much, and the show was canceled (fairly abruptly, really) in 1971.

The show became a cult classic, though, and has remained popular with fans to this day.

There has been a TV series reboot attempted since then in 1991 (with Ben Cross taking on the role of Barnabas)…

And most recently, a film adaptation (with Johnny Depp as Barnabas)…

The legend is…

STATUS: Basically True

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

6 Responses to “Did a Major Dark Shadows Character Come About Due to a Typo?”

  1. AverageJoeEveryman on January 10th, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Man that movie was so dreadful and boring.

  2. Barnabas was introduced in 1966,and the series was cancled in 1971 – he kept the show alive for 5 years, so he DID save the series that might have ended within a year of it’s introduction.

  3. That’s what I was going to say, Herb. Most of the Dark Shadows books I’ve read are definite that the show was about to be axed, which is what convinced Curtis to do something as seemingly loonie as put a vampire into a daytime soap. And it worked.
    Possible legend for the future: A couple of Frid’s co-stars have said one reason for his anguished manner is that he was constantly staring off screen to read the teleprompter.

  4. Well, it’s a matter of degrees, no? Five years is great for a normal TV series, but is it impressive for a soap opera (especially at the time, when soaps were still in a fairly boom period)? If so, then sure, he’s due more credit than I afforded to him (but even then, I did note that he raised the ratings and saved the show from cancellation, ya know?).

  5. You neglected to mention that there is currently a comic series of Dark Shadows, published by Dynamite. Heck, Barnabas has even teamed up with Vampirella!!

  6. In addition to the Dynamite comics, “Dark Shadows” is being kept alive by Big Finish Productions. They produce audio plays that feature voices of some of the original thespians.

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