Movies & TV / Columns

A Bloody Good Time: The 10 Best Episodes of Eerie, Indiana

March 22, 2018 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Eerie Indiana

Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)

The nostalgia tour continues this week, because now I want to explore another great show from my youth. In this case, it’s Eerie, Indiana, a show about a small town that looks normal. But look again. No one believes young Marshall Teller, but Eerie is the center of weirdness for the entire planet.

I have vague memories of catching this show during its original run on NBC in 1992, but I have a better time remembering when Fox Kids revitalized it in 1997. As we established last week, I was a huge Fox Kids, um…kid. So if the show aired in the 90s on that channel, I probably saw it. That includes this and its ill-fated spin-off, Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension. Unlike other shows from that time period, this one has a full DVD release and both shows are also available on Amazon Prime.

What made Eerie stand out from the other shows at the time? I think it was because it was like The X-Files for kids. Granted, I was watching X-Files at the time too, even though I was way too young, but this had a similar, if more comedic vibe. Marshall Teller and Fox Mulder would have a lot to talk about, I’m sure.

Part of that can be attributed to Joe Dante, who was a creative consultant and directed four episodes. Dante’s films also have an irreverent tone to them, particularly Gremlins and The Burbs. So while he didn’t create the show or write scripts, the vibe from his work is definitely felt. The show, however, was created by Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer. Rivera went on to get an Oscar nomination for The Motorcycle Diaries while Schaefer worked on shows like Monk.

I was so into this show that I remember getting at least a few of the tie-in books they released. One of them had Marshall going back to the Bureau of Lost, and there was also a Forever Ware sequel. Unfortunately they weren’t as popular as Goosebumps so the library only ever had a few. I wonder if people remember them or if they’ve gone the way of Christopher Pike books.

So this week I’m going to look at the ten best episodes of a series that was way too short (only 19 episodes total) and was so delightfully weird it still provides entertainment today.

#10: Heart on a Chain
Original Air Dates: November 3, 1991

As you can see, this episode has Danielle Harris in it! She plays Melanie, who gets a replacement heart from her dead love interest Devon. Marshall then begins to notice that Melanie is acting a lot like the rebellious Devon used to. Normally you could rule out possession, but in Eerie, it’s probably the first guess and the correct one.

In addition to being one of several shows of my youth to feature Harris, it’s a nice introductory episode to the weirdness of the show. Which is odd because well, things were a lot weirder before and after. Harris does very well in her guest role and she plays off Omri Katz well enough for the 24-minutes or so the episode runs. Like I said, a possible possession is only the tip of the iceberg of weirdness in this show.

#9: Just Say No to Fun
Original Air Dates: October 27, 1991

This is more like it. Like a kid-friendly version of Disturbing Behavior, Simon goes to the school nurse to get his eyes checked. When he gets a new pair of glasses, they completely change his personality and make him boring. Pretty soon all the kids get new, similar glasses and only Marshall seems to notice anything is wrong. That’s of course a common theme on this show, because adults never believe kids on these things.

As a rendition of something like The Stepford Wives, this is fine. If the 90s had any message for kids in TV, it was that they should always be individuals. Think about how many weird characters and shows we got during that decade and how many are still remembered, after all. Even Doug wore a belt on his head and called himself Quail Man. So seeing that idea through the Eerie filter was quite fun.

#8: The Lost Hour
Original Air Dates: December 1, 1991

This is one I love the concept of and think it’d make a cool movie. Everyone hates Daylight Savings Time, including Marshall. He decides he’s not going to take part in it and refuses to set his watch back. Any other time he might just be late for school, but in Eerie, it means something quite different. He is thrown into an alternate dimension where the only one around is a girl he’s never seen before, a milman and some dangerous garbage collectors.

It’s not often you see DST played with for something like this and the script is so clever this time around. It’s kind of like The Langoliers only without the terrible CGI monsters and Bronson Pinchot overacting. This also features Nikki Cox, who like Danielle Harris was doing the rounds on sitcoms and kids TV at the time, before landing a role in Unhappily Ever After. This is a good example of how this show took fun ideas and concepts and played with them.

#7: Tornado Days
Original Air Dates: March 1, 1992

One good thing about Eerie, Indiana is all the great guest stars that pop up. I’ve already mentioned too, but other episodes feature Tobey Maguire and Stephen Root, while John Astin later gets a recurring role. And in this episode we get the criminally underrated Matt Frewer, best known as Max Headroom. Horror fans may know him better as the Trashcan Man in The Stand or…ew…Jobe in Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. I didn’t say he had the best agent.

In this episode he plays a member of the NOAA who had been tracking Old Bob, a tornado that’s coming to Eerie. The town has a tradition of holding a tornado day picnic just to make the tornado happy, as it’s heavily implied its sentient. Because of course it is. Frewer got my attention with this and Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and I’ve been enjoying seeing him pop up in things ever since. This was also my very first episode of Eerie, so it has that going for it.

#6: The Retainer
Original Air Dates: September 22, 1991

This one might rank a little higher mostly due to nostalgia, as it’s one of the ones from the series that is clearest in my memory. Simon and Marshall have a friend named Steve, who gets a gigantic set of braces from the local orthodontist (Vincent Schiavelli, another great character actor). Outside of making him look ridiculous and making it hard to eat, the metal also picks up the thoughts of dogs. Of course in Eerie, the dogs just happen to be planning a revolution against humanity.

This is another one that has a great concept (a kid gets the ability to understand animals) and twists it. I’m sure the idea of dogs plotting to overthrow humans is nothing new, but it’s still a neat idea. Obviously it’s still popular, since Rick and Morty used it in their first season. This also has a pretty dark ending, as it’s everything but stated that the dogs ate the kid with the braces at the end.

#5: The Losers
Original Air Dates: October 6, 1991

It’s an episode directed by Joe Dante, so of course we have to have a role for Dick Miller. That guy’s appeared in everything Dante’s done, so it makes sense that he shows up in this. This episode explores a very simple question: where do the things we misplace end up? As it turns out, there’s an entire Bureau of lost items Miller plays Al, who works for the Bureau and is repsonsible for taking the items you ‘lose.’

Naturally Marshall finds all this out when he tries to get himself lost. When you actually see what the Bureau looks like, it’s a pretty cool moment. This concept was rife for exploration, which is probably why it got a sequel in book form later on. As it is, the Dante episodes are usually some of the most fun and this is no exception. Like ‘The Lost Hour,’ it’s a great idea that could serve a longer story if someone wanted.

#4: Forever Ware
Original Air Dates: September 15, 1991

It’s always a good idea to start your series out strong, and that’s exactly what this show does with its pilot. Forever Ware is the name of a tupperware-esque product that gives food a ridiculously long shelf life. In fact, if you use it right, it can keep a person from aging as well. I like how this episode opens with an extended intro to the series, but it’s not some boring talk-piece. Marshall narrates as we get examples of why the town is weird, then he introduces his family and we’re off.

While ‘Heart on a Chain’ may be the best to ease viewers into the show, this is definitely a great start on its own. You get two unsettling pairs of twins, a fanatical mother that is both hammy and creepy and a concept that shouldn’t be scary, but it is. Who would want to repeat the seventh grade for thirty years? Also if anything goes wrong, you could risk decomposing quickly. It’s not pleasant.

#3: America’s Scariest Home Video
Original Air Dates: October 20, 1991

Marshall and Simon are stuck babysitting on Halloween, and Simon’s little brother is a handful. Naturally, TV makes the best parent, so they leave him in front of it. That proves to be a mistake when he uses a special remote to switch places with the mummy in a monster movie. While the kid is having fun terrorizing the people in that movie, the mummy is an actor who really hates being a monster all the time.

Tony Jay is another character actor I love, and he’s got a voice that’s instantly recognizable if you hear it. There’s a good chance that if an animated villain wasn’t Tim Curry in the 90s, it was Tony Jay. Here he gets to place a mostly good guy, and a rare live-action appearance when one is used to just hearing him. It’s also one of the rare Eerie episodes with a completely happy ending for everyone involved.

#2: The ATM With A Heart of Gold
Original Air Dates: September 29, 1991

While this episode is the only one with a real moral, and the delivery of that moral is a little ham-fisted, I still really enjoy this. I think it’s due to the unsettling quality of Mr. Wilson, the animated face of the latest ATM in Eerie. He’s got that uncanny valley vibe going for him, where he’s obviously played by an actor but something is Simon doesn’t seem to notice, because he strikes up a friendship with him.

The ATM keeps giving Simon money and it’s got to come from somewhere, so the town starts going bankrupt. The moral of the story is you don’t have to buy friends, but if you were a kid like me, you weren’t paying attention to that. Wilson was really creepy, and as proof just watch the credits where he’s watching everyone walk by without saying anything. No wonder no one else in the town wanted to use his services.

#1: Reality Takes a Holiday
Original Air Dates: April 12, 1992

I don’t think any other episode is as clever as this one, which is more or less the series finale. There would be another lost episode aired on the Disney Channel later, but this feels more like a finish. Marshall is having a rough day with his family, but things get worse when he’s sent a television script in the mail. It’s not just any script however, it’s one for Eerie, Indiana: “Reality Takes A Holiday.”

Once Marshall gets it, he’s instantly transported to a world where his life is a TV show and everyone’s calling him Omri Katz. The cast get to play exaggerated versions of themselves and this kids show gets to go really deep at taking little shots at TV production. Kids likely won’t get some of the jokes, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a really fun watch then and now and the best example of how weird this show can get.

Ending Notes:

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Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)

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