Tales from the Darkside: The Third Season 

Although not up to snuff as its first season, the 22 episodes comprising the third season of "Tales From the Darkside" certainly best the largely awful year that fell in between ... but not by much.

Obvious budget limitations aside, the major problem is that few too many half-hours fail because they not only stray from horror, but run from it. I mean, there's an episode based on a short story by John Cheever, of all people!

While the show can't do comedy "? as attempted in "Deliver Us from Goodness" with a glowing housewife, a nerdy baton twirler and fried chicken falling from the sky "? it's certainly amusing to watch it try. It also can't do film noir "? as attempted with in "Everybody Needs a Little Love" with Jerry Orbach and gratuitous saxophone "? and shouldn't have tried.

Somewhere within the 1986-87 season, "Darkside" managed to stir up some scare stories, beginning with a carnival-freak opener that delivers on the creatures, if only after a belabored setup. The same thing happens with the E.G. Marshall-led "Season of Belief," a Christmas-themed ep, and with Robert Forster in the oddball "The Milkman Cometh," where the entire running time seems geared to pay off one gag. They're good gags, but take too long to reach. "Heretic" has homoerotic overtones that may have worked on cable, perhaps as part of Showtime's "The Hunger."

"The Geezenstacks" may be the best of this batch, with a girl's dolls predicting what happens to her family, much to dad Craig Wasson's dismay. The ending is fairly creepy, leaving viewers to wish more of the year's output had been equally as imaginative.

No extras reside on the three-disc set, but it's nice just to have a beloved show from yesteryear in one's possession. "?Rod Lott

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