Eerie Indiana
The Complete Series

Starring: Omri Katz, Justin Shenkarow, Mary-Margaret Humes, Francis Guinan and Julie Condra
Fabulous Films / Fremantle Home Entertainment
RRP: 24.99
FHED 1954
Certificate: PG
Available 10 July 2006

Thirteen-year-old Marshall Teller has been uprooted from his beloved home in New Jersey to Eerie, Indiana. This particular town seems at first to be the most normal place in the world, but Marshall soon discovers that there's more to Eerie than meets the eye. Underneath the illusion of reality, Eerie is swarming with weird stuff, women who seal themselves in Tupperware, werewolves, even Elvis who lives on Marshall's paper route. The only person that believes him is his new friend, ten-year-old Simon Holmes. Together they decide to investigate Eerie's weirdness keeping a record of what they unearth...

This series gets off on the right foot with the bizarre Forever Ware. In this episode the Teller's have only just moved into Eerie, and their very first visitor is an oddly dressed woman (who looks like she's just stepped out of the '60s) who wants to invite Marilyn Teller over to get to meet some of the other mums in Eerie. Of course she has an ult-eerie-r (geddit?) motive - she is the local party organiser for a range of plastic ware known as Forever Ware. But when Marshall and Simon discover a secret about this strange woman they have a hard time getting Marshall's mother to listen - mainly as she's become a Forever Ware addict.

This is one of the series's best episodes, with the others being a bit of a mixed bag. When they get it right, then this is a great series, but when they go all mushy everything seems to fall apart.

The second episode, The Retainer, and everything is still going strong. We get to see a little more of the Teller's dysfunctional family life, and we get to meet one of Simon and Marshall's school friends, Steve. Steve gets a retainer (better known as braces to us Brits) from his dentist. But once he has it on he can hear the thoughts of any dog within barking distance. This episode stars Vincent Schiavelli (who you'll recognise from his roles in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ghost, Tomorrow Never Dies, and Batman Returns) as the dentist.

It's not until the third episode, ATM With a Heart of Gold, that some very small cracks start to show. It's not that it's a particularly bad episode, just a little corny. Having said that, this has got one of the show's best scenes. Marshall pops over to Simon's house. Off camera we can hear a man and a woman laughing and fooling around. Marshall says: "Sounds like your parents are having fun." To which Simon simply says: "Mum's not home." It's such a casual, throw away line, that you may well miss it. But, it had my laughing like a fool for some considerable time.

This episode also sees the first appearance of Gregory Itzin (who Star Trek fans will know from his various roles in the franchise. He also played President Charles Logan on 24) as Mayor Chisel.

But, worry not, the very next episode, The Losers, and we are back on form. The episode stars Dick Miller (who is probably most famous for starring in another Joe Dante production - Gremlins) and examines where everyday household objects go when they vanish into thin air. While this is a good episode, I thought the long and drawn out scene at the Ministry of Lost (or whatever it was called) was a little too boring. These episodes are only 20 mins and it's a little bit odd when the writers have trouble filling that time with quality material.

The next few episodes are pretty dull, and in the case of Heart on a Chain, downright slushy pap - as is the following episode The Dead Letter. In fact, the only noteworthy mention of this clichéd "dead boy still in love with a living girl" script is that Tobey Maguire (of Spider-Man fame) guest stars as the ghost, Tripp McConnell.

Who's Who is another great episode. Marshall meets a girl called Sarah Bob who can make any of her drawings come to life by simply signing them. The highlight, for me, was Marshall and Simon turning up at Sarah's house and discovering what a nightmare world she lived in - she basically has to run-around after her siblings and father, who treat her like a maid. But she soon turns them into the perfect family with hilarious results. As all of Sarah's family are called something "Bob" (including little Bob Bob) the closing credits add a "Bob" in the middle of most of the crew's names.

The Lost Hour sees Marshall inhabiting an empty Eerie because he puts his clock back an hour - Eerie doesn't have daylight saving. This results in him being whisked away into a parallel universe (for some reason). Here he meets a strange old man who drives a milk float. This is where the show pays homage to Back to the Future - kind of. It's not a bad episode, but I could see the surprise, at the end, coming a mile off.

Marshall's Theory of Believability is a bit of a dull affair, although it has one of the best pantomime villains you are every likely to see - shame he didn't have a moustache he could twirl. But the spoof alien artefact idea was pretty funny.

Tornado Days stars Matt Frewer (Max Headroom, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Taken) as a tornado hunter. This is sort of like a cross between Groundhog Day and Twister (if you can imagine such a thing) and is rather dull.

The Hole in the Head Gang is very dull and introduces us to another regular character called Dash X. To be honest it's obvious the the writers don't really know what to do with him, and that he has only been included to help make the series appeal to teenage girls. Not much happens. Marshall and Simon meet a rubbish bank robber's ghost.

Mr Chaney is an interesting episode, although the title spoils the main surprise in the tale. There is also a really interesting speech by the Mayor - basically he explains that no one in Eerie really wants to know about things that are going on that are bad. Why? Because if they did then they would have to do something about it. I think that's something that can be said about the general populace of any Western civilisation.

The next three episodes are nothing too exciting (No Brain, No Pain, The Loyal Order of the Corn and Zombies in P.J.s - which has a truly embarrassing role for Rene Auberjonois, who Star Trek: Deep Space Nine fans will know as Odo).

Reality Takes a Holiday is great fun, and would have played better as the show's final episode. This sees Marshall discovering that his life is really a TV show, that his family are simply actors and his home is a set. There are some great scenes here. Joe Dante guest stars; a Back to the Future DeLorean appears on set; and Marshall's mum starts talking about the time when she cried because her character was killed on Jake and the Fatman (a show the actress did indeed appear in).

The series is rounded off with Broken Record, which sees a rebellious young teenager clash with his overbearing father, when the teenager starts to listen to loud heavy metal music. However the father is a little disturbed to find that his worse fears are realised when he starts playing his son's records backwards. There is indeed a hidden message.

There are also quiet a few in-gags throughout this series. For starters every now and then familiar characters from another episode will turn up in the background, which is a great touch. Also, I was curious to know what on earth the ongoing problem with milk floats in Eerie was all about. They seem to be involved in more than a few accidents.

At the end of the day this is a pretty enjoyable show. It's funny and, at times, quite subtle in its delivery. The only real downside is that the picture quality is not that much better than VHS and there are no extras. But then with a show as fun as this, who really wants to listen to audio commentaries?

Darren Rea

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