When I was a child, the best part about school holidays (aside from not having to go to school, of course) was the early morning TV scheduling. I watched a lot of absolute crap, including all the Saved By The Bell spin-offs and wannabes, various reality TV shows (remember Bug Juice?) and even, worryingly, Renford Rejects, but my favourite TV show was always Eerie Indiana.
For the uninitiated, it’s the story of a young boy whose family moves to a new town – Eerie, in Indiana – which turns out to be the centre of weirdness for the entire world. In the first episode, an innocent-seeming pseudo-Tupperware party turns nasty when it turns out the plastics on sale are capable of preserving anything sealed inside forever – including people. Creepy. Later, robotic cash machines go insane, dogs plot to take over the world, and a child gets sucked into a black-and-white horror movie on Halloween. Anything can happen in Eerie – anything, so long as it’s only weird enough that children notice, rather than adults. If Marshall’s parents ever knew what he was up to, he’d probably have been sent to boarding school, but he could never manage to convince anyone that anything was wrong…
The first episode is the one that I have the clearest memory of, possibly because it’s like a kid’s version of The Stepford Wives, or possibly because Channel 4 showed it more times than the other episodes. Either way, it’s nice, if slightly unsettling, to see that that episode is exactly the same as I remember it (except that the kids seem a lot younger now than they did when I was closer to their age myself.) My favourite episode used to be the final one, Reality Takes A Holiday, in which the lead character discovers that he’s a character in a TV show – the walls of his house roll back to reveal the film crew, everyone starts calling him Omri instead of Marshall, and he discovers that everything he’s doing has been scripted. Years and years of dreadful self-referential post-modern horror movies have completely spoiled the conceit for me now, but back then it was new and weird and absolutely captivating. Sadly, a lot of the series just doesn’t stand up now, for one reason or another.
Rewatching Eerie Indiana was weird. Maybe it’s just that I’m too old, because this is clearly television for children, and not in that knowing, innuendo-filled way that children’s films try to appeal to adults nowadays. Eerie Indiana is made up of simple, linear stories, which are slightly weird but not that weird. It’s like a kiddie counterpart to The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits – tamer, with less depth, but that’s what you’d expect for something aimed at children.
Nostalgia makes up for the lack of sophistication in the episodes I can remember watching years ago, but there are plenty of episodes I don’t remember ever seeing before, and these somehow aren’t as much fun.
That said, I did still really enjoy rewatching the series. It’s cute, in an early-90s kind of way, so if you were a fan the first time around, the boxset – which contains 19 episodes, not including the Eerie Indiana: The Other Dimension ones, which is good because they were crap, and, more disappointingly, without any extra features – is definitely worth a look, if only for nostalgia’s sake.