Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be recapping the Midsummer Scream panel SUBMITTED FOR APPROVAL: “ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?” To best describe the conceit, I will turn to the official summary:
“We turn off the lights to reminisce about the series that terrified Nickelodeon viewers in the 90s.”
Those looking for a nostalgia trip will be right at home at this panel. Boasting the one two punch of series creator D.J. MacHale and writer/director Ron Oliver, this panel dug deep into the creation of this seminal show. Under the minimalist guidance by Scott Markus, the panelists gave insight into where children’s television was at the time, how the casting process worked, and how they kept breaking their own rules.
I think of the biggest, most often addressed things during the panel was how a show like ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK could never be made today. In fact, even at its genesis this show was not at all the program that we now all know and love. Initially, the idea was that an actor would tell bedtime stories to kids, thus saving the parents from having to read their children stories before bed. When Mr. MacHale realized that his favorite stories were the scary ones, the concept was revamped into kids telling campfire tales in the middle of the woods.
From there, we were treated to how episodes were approached from a writing and directing standpoint. Both D.J. MacHale and Ron Oliver wrote and directed episodes leading to some inside stories on their approach. Hearing how Mr. MacHale kept breaking his rules of not making things too scary or how Mr. Oliver became known as the “boy director” because he somehow kept getting the male-centric episodes provided an interesting point of view on the series.
What proved to be especially intriguing was the fact that Nickelodeon never really censored any of the episodes. Both Mr. MacHale and Mr. Oliver were a bit surprised that they were able to show some of the things they did, but Standards and Practices never actually interfered. One of the only edits either of them remembered was that in the very first episode, some countries in Europe chose to cut out the shot of Dr. Vink holding up a hand in the jar.
Of course, all the fun stories and banter between the two was made a little melancholy when they revealed that we are not likely to see ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK get a revival. Apparently, the rights are tied up in a few different companies which means all of them would have to be in agreement on making a new season before it could get the green light. They even tried to get a movie made at one point that could not be produced thanks to the confusion on who owned what part of the show.
All in all, this little trip down memory lane proved a real highlight of the convention as we got to peek behind the curtain a bit on a seminal 90s television show. The host did an especially good job of not trying to guide the conversation too much, but instead just letting the guests riff on whatever suited their fancy. Given how much I enjoyed this panel, and how much I used to love similar shows like EERIE, INDIANA, I hope Midsummer Scream continues to highlight creepy television shows in the future.