Eerie, Indiana 1.19 – Reality Takes a Holiday

One sad night in April of 1992, NBC showed the last two episodes of Eerie, Indiana back-to-back. I had the habit, then, of occasionally taping the first or the final episodes of programs, figuring there might be some nostalgia value down the line. This lasted for a few years, but I unburdened myself of my thousand-some tape collection in the early 2000s. So much for nostalgia. Anyway, after the network finished up “Zombies in P.J.s,” I cued up the tape, sorry to see this cute show go, but it didn’t collect dust on a shelf. I showed this tape to everybody over the next couple of years. “This is what you missed,” I told all those people who couldn’t be bothered to watch. Everybody watched it with a big, big grin.

Vance DeGeneres had already written my favorite-so-far episode of the series, and he got to see it out with one of television’s most delightful series finales, “Reality Takes a Holiday.” They don’t have much time to explore the premise and still give all the actors a little spotlight, but basically Eerie collides with a parallel universe called NBC, where “Marshall Teller” is just a character played by a bound-for-trouble child star named Omri Katz, and who is being written out of his own show, killed off by the new character.

Marshall is astonished and repulsed to find that his family and best friends are just actors, that Mr. Radford is really good at improvising in character, and that the prop man – who looks an awful lot like Tee Hee from Live and Let Die – really wants to make sure his blood-pack squibs are set right for his death scene. And the director, Joe Dante, can only wince as Omri Katz goes all method acting and hopes for new pages to make it to the set. Incidentally, Joe Dante actually only plays the part of the director. The real director of this is Ken Kwapis, who also directed Vance DeGeneres’s previous script. Maybe there’s a third parallel universe where Eerie, Indiana was a hit, and they assigned DeGeneres and Kwapis seven or eight episodes in the 1992-93 season.

But no, as we’ve sadly discussed before, Eerie, Indiana was unfortunately a ratings bomb and this was its last hurrah. Our son wasn’t quite as thrilled with it as I am. He enjoyed it, and grinned as he realized where it was going, but many of the in-jokes (like the name of the “writer” and the length of the lunch break) naturally went way over his head, and he really got stuck on the DVD chapter menu calling some script rewrites “blue pages” even after I thought I explained it. Maybe he’ll come back to this one day and get a good giggle out of Mary-Margaret Humes attempting to commiserate with her young co-star by mentioning how she once got killed off Jake and the Fatman. Still, the prop man’s incredibly memorable. He’s Julius Harris, and maybe our son will remember him when we see him in a Hardy Boys a few months from now…?

Eerie, Indiana 1.11 – The Lost Hour

So the other day, we watched a Twilight Zone segment about people displaced in time, and here’s the Eerie, Indiana equivalent. The state of Indiana, sensibly, didn’t observe Daylight Savings Time in the early nineties. They finally stopped fighting the good fight in 2006, sadly. Anyway, Marshall, demanding his extra hour, sets his watch to what he considers proper New Jersey time anyway in protest, and wakes up almost totally alone. The only people in Eerie are some strange, violent removal men, a 105 year-old milkman driving one of those accident-causing Eerie Dairy trucks, and a 13 year-old girl who ran away from home a year ago.

“The Lost Hour” is absolutely excellent, and it introduces a wonderful concept or three that make the show’s early cancellation even more regrettable. It’s the first episode of the show written by Vance DeGeneres, better known as the guitarist in Cowboy Mouth, and better known still as Ellen DeGeneres’s older brother. The girl who is also trapped in the other time zone is played by Nikki Cox, who later starred in a couple of long-running sitcoms on the WB and a show called Las Vegas that suggests I wasn’t paying a lick of attention to American TV in the early 2000s, because I had no idea that James Caan starred in a prime time drama for four years on NBC.

Anyway, our son completely loved it, although the main point of comment was a strange visual effect when Marshall is running up his staircase as the lost hour is almost up and the roof of his home has vanished, leaving a music-video-looking weird sky. He couldn’t quite explain what about the shot seemed unreal to him, so he could only say “they did that in a studio because those aren’t real clouds.” But honestly, for a show with a small budget for special effects, the integrated animation of Marshall calling Simon from the missing child panel on the side of a milk carton is really excellent!