“My name is Marshall Teller. Not long ago I was living in New Jersey just across the river from New York City. It was crowded, polluted, and full of crime…I loved it. But my parents wanted a better life for my sister and me, so we moved to a place so wholesome, so squeaky clean, you could only find it on TV. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth…”
Fellow horror fans were few and far between when I was a kid. Even in my teenage years I really only had one friend who was into horror like me. And nowadays all it takes is a Google search and you can see that the Internet is literally overrun with horror blogs. It doesn’t get any better than that. But let me go back to when I was a little kid. Those were some important years in the ’80s and ’90s for the genre of horror. On a much different scale, horror was marketed to the kids. There were movies, comics, and TV shows. Horror and Sci-Fi began to merge together to incorporate thrillers, the unexplained, spooky mysteries, and anything remotely…eerie. One of the first shows that successfully blended all this together for young kids in a neat package was Eerie, Indiana.
“…nobody believes me, but this is the center of weirdness for the entire planet…Eerie, Indiana, my home sweet home…”
Eerie premiered in September of 1991 and I began recording each episode as they aired without even knowing if I would like them or not. I just had a feeling that it exactly my type of show. The pilot turned out to be classic. The plot revolves around our main character Marshall’s (Omri Katz) neighbors, a set of twin boys whose mother preserves them in a type of human Tupperware called Foreverware when they go to sleep at night. It was directed by Jersey guy Joe Dante and it’s in line with all of his other superb genre work. From there, Marshall would investigate all kinds of weird stuff around his town. The show hit home for me since Marshall was constantly comparing his new whacked out hometown to his old neighborhood in New Jersey. Ironically, in the show he uses Jersey as his measuring stick for normal. Obviously we’re far from it!
“Normally I wouldn’t be afraid of pancakes, but back in Jersey, breakfast was always a serve yourself bowl of cereal. Mom had me worried.”
Predating Eerie, Indiana’s premiere by a couple of years, New Jersey had their very own magazine which was basically the same premise as Eerie called Weird NJ. I wonder if the shows producers did a little borrowing? It was quite a few years before the magazine blew up and became world renowned, but local Jersey folks were well aware of its existence. The publishers, Mark and Mark are local icons who eventually branched out into books and their own specials on the History Channel. You might say I was spoiled. Add this reading material into my TV watching routine and you can pick up on what kind of a kid I was and why I related to Marshall.
I had an insatiable appetite for anything I could devour with a creepy tone to it. Eerie, Indiana was my must-see TV for the season that it aired. When I was even younger I would watch Amazing Stories, The Goonies, The ‘Burbs, Monster Squad, The Explorers, The Gate, Haunted Honeymoon, Tomes and Talismans, Twilight Zone, and Tales From The Crypt. On stormy days in the summer my sister and I used to watch the video tape from the Clue video board game. Most times we didn’t even play the game, we just liked the mysterious video. Heck, after Eerie, Indiana was basically dead in the water I even watched Ghost Writer on PBS. That show rocked too. Are You Afraid of the Dark began in the same year as Eerie, Indiana and, a few years later, so did Goosebumps, so it just goes to show that there was a demand for that type of programming.
I would nearly wet myself when the promos would start airing for Shocktober on Channel 11 (WPIX here in the Tri-State area) as Halloween season neared. Friday and Saturday nights were spent staying up late and falling asleep on the recliner after being petrified by Werewolf, Tales from the Darkside, and Freddy’s Nightmares.
As I got older there seemed to be less and less of the types of genre movies and shows that I loved to watch as a kid. I was hooked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer when it first aired. Presently, with shows like True Blood, and Vampire Diaries, I prefer to watch Supernatural and My Babysitter’s a Vampire because they’re not as much adventure/horror as they are a blend of drama and romance. Those shows seem blatantly geared toward women. I’m not looking for comedy, but it’s a special feeling I get when watching the Monster Squad – nobody makes stuff like that anymore. The closest I’ve seen is the animated show Gravity Falls on Disney Channel that seems to be directly influenced by Eerie, Indiana. It’s the combination of fun and spooky adventure that appeals to me. If you were brought up watching Scooby Doo as a kid, you probably watched Eerie, Indiana when you were a little older! I want to see more shows like this, how about you?