The 1991 Dark Shadows tells a streamlined version of the original storyline – the arrival of governess Victoria Winters at Collinwood, vampire Barnabas Collins being released from his coffin, Dr. Hoffman's attempt to cure Barnabas' vampirism medically, and, finally, Victoria's time travel back to 1790 to witness the events in which the still-human Barnabas is transformed into an undead creature.
Having declined several previous inquiries about reviving Dark Shadows, Curtis was contacted by NBC's then-head of programming Brandon Tartikoff in the summer of 1987. The reluctant Curtis was eventually persuaded by Tartikoff, who "wouldn't let up".
Of the revival Curtis said, "The essential characters and relationships are the same, but the things they do are different. I thought I could rely on those old scripts, but I found that they were full of crazy plots that we couldn't use. So all the incidents are different; we arrive at similar points through a much different route." According to Curtis, he co-wrote and directed the first five episodes himself, "to get it off in the style I wanted." However, Curtis received co-writing credit on only two completed episodes. The revival series was produced by MGM Television, whose parent company had produced the two earlier theatrical films (now owned by Warner Bros./Turner Entertainment). A majority of the series was filmed at the Greystone Park and Mansion in Beverly Hills, California, and some period wardrobe from the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons was used.
Dark Shadows premiered as a four-hour miniseries event on January 13 and 14, 1991, and then moved to a regular Friday night schedule. Though the series debuted to great success, watched by nearly 1 in 4 households, ratings declined as the show struggled to find an audience. Some fans blame the declining ratings on the onset of the Gulf War, and the focus of NBC's promotions on horror and vampire themes rather than romantic fantasy themes. With the 12th and last episode of the season ranked 64th among 83 shows, Dark Shadows was cancelled. NBC received over 7,000 letters of protest from disappointed fans, who also picketed network headquarters in both Los Angeles and New York City.
The original VHS release from MPI Home Video features an extended pilot episode and extended final episode, and also presents the original one-hour versions of episodes 2 and 3 (for broadcast, NBC combined them into a movie-length version so they could air that and the pilot as a 2-night mini-series to kick off the series premiere), so the home video presentation of episode 3 restores the "I'm Victoria Winters" opening narration that was left out of the movie-length version (the one-hour versions of these two episodes are also the ones that were shown when the series was repeated on the Sci-Fi Channel).