Talk about a sophomore slump "? "Tales from the Darkside: The Second Season" represents a precipitous drop in quality from its first year. Never mind budgetary issues, as funding for the syndicated horror anthology series was always small "? these two dozen episodes, more often than not, lack energy, imagination and ingenuity.

Oh, there are exceptions. Tom Savini's "Halloween Candy" is kinda fun, until you realize it's a virtual remake of the final segment in "Creepshow." You'd think as the show's godfather, George Romero could be counted on to deliver a gem, but his "The Devil's Advocate" is dreadfully boring, with 20 minutes of Jerry Stiller's talk-radio host ranting until its inevitable "twist" ending.

The killer teddy bear of "Ursa Minor" is a kitschy respite from all that is dull, but it 's bested by the similarly themed "Monsters in My Room," notable for starring a young Seth Green. One of the very worst episodes "? among all "Darkside" seasons "? is the rambling, limp "Dream Girl," in which a stagehand has a dream that's seemingly staged and directed by the most incompetent theater troupe around. It's too not to laugh at it.

One major problem that sticks out with this set: The season's offerings are mighty short on horror. Anyone can do a "weird" tale, but the series was built on ones that offered terror. Even when those fell short, as they often did, they still were fun.

"?Rod Lott

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