overthinking the idiot box

July 25, 2005

Eerie, Indiana

by Jenni Powell

To whom it may concern. If you're reading this document, it means I'm either dead — or disappeared under mysterious circumstances. 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. Sure, my new hometown looks normal enough, but look again. What's wrong with this picture? The American dream come true, right? Wrong. Nobody believes me, but this is the center of weirdness for the entire planet. Eerie, Indiana. My home sweet home. Still don't believe me? You will.

Thus begins the adventures of thirteen-year-old Marshall Teller (played by the entirely crushable, Omri Katz). In a single series of television from 1991-1992, Marshall battled everything from ghosts, werewolves, and aliens to evil Tupperware (er, I mean "Foreverware") ladies and people trapped in the one-hour of Daylight Savings time. He even found himself starring on a TV showÄas Omri Katz.

For those, like myself, who remember watching this show religiously, week after week, even chasing after it as it was continuously bumped from timeslot to timeslot, it's hard to fathom that the series is almost 14 years old. In order to do research for this article, I recently watched all 19 episodes over a 2-day period and not only did the episodes not feel dated but I enjoyed every "eerie" minute of it. As an added bonus, my love for Mr. Katz was rekindled and I followed the marathon up with a viewing of Omri's other stimulating work, the Disney classic Hocus Pocus starring Bette Midler.

But let us return to the center of weirdness for the entire planet: Eerie, Indiana has quite the pedigree. Created by Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer, both would go on to add other impressive projects to their resumes. Rivera wrote indie film The Motorcycle Diaries and Schaefer went on to write for and produce The Dead Zone. Series producer and an occasional episode director was Joe Dante (Gremlins, Small Soldiers) and providing the soundtrack was Stephen King favorite, Gary Change (Red Rose, Kingdom Hospital). There were quite a few notable guest stars on the show, including Tobey Maguire, Nikki Cox, John Astin, Matt Frewer (or, the Dad in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids that ISN'T Rick Moranis), and my personal favorite, Jason Marsden.

Marsden joined the cast mid-season as the mysterious kid with the white hair. He is discovered hiding out in one of over fifty haunted structures found in Eerie by Marshall and his ten-year-old sidekick Simon (played by Justin Shenkarow). He informs them he has no knowledge of how he got there and has no memory of who he is and it is several episodes before he gives himself the moniker "Dash-X" (because of the markings on the backs of his hands). There is much debate over whether Marsden's addition was helpful or hindering to the show. I, for one, found his Machiavellian belief structure a refreshing counterbalance to Marshall's do-gooder attitude. Also, the mystery of how and why Dash-X found himself to be in Eerie could have provided a plethora of interesting plot twists. One of the biggest disappointments of the show not lasting longer then it did is the travesty of never getting to discover the true secrets of Mr. X.

Interestingly enough, despite having only run for one season, Eerie Indiana actually had its very own spin-off series. In January 1997, Fox decided to air old episodes of the show in conjunction with episodes of its series Goosebumps. The reruns were so popular that Fox decided they wanted to commission more episodes. But alas, they felt that the series stars had become too old (Omri Katz was twenty years old by this pointÄpersonally, that would not have stopped ME from watching). Their solution was to put together a new series entitled Eerie Indiana: The Other Dimension. I wasn't the only one who believed the series was nothing without Omri; the spin-off only lasted four months.

But a mediocre spin-off was not enough to destroy fan's love for the original series and they lobbied for years to have the series released on DVD. They were finally rewarded in October of 2004 when Eerie Indiana: The Complete Series was released on DVD. Eerie fans were thrilled to finally be able to replace their worn tapes with clean, digital transfers. On the down side, if you're looking for extras, you won't find them. There are no commentaries, nothing. But if anything, it is at least worth a rental for a weekend marathon of wackiness.

And for those of you ready to travel deep inside the center of weirdness, here's a little trivia game for the die-hard Eerie Indianans:

  1. In "Heart on a Chain", what was the name of the English teacher?
  2. What was the name of Dash-X's hideout?
  3. What was the population of Eerie, Indiana?
  4. What recording artist is Simon fascinated with in "Broken Record"?
  5. Who helps Marshall save Nikki Cox in "The Lost Hour"?

Come on by the forums and post your answers. The person who gets the most correct wins a free membership to the Loyal Order of Corn.

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Return to Vol. 1, Episode 9.