Jun. 6th, 2017

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[personal profile] froodle
The beginning of “Just Say No Fun” perfectly exemplifies what makes “Eerie, Indiana” such an engaging, charming show: Marshall and Simon play a prank on their father, in which they rig a little critter to pop out of their dad's cereal, which is triggered by a switch they hide under his chair cushion. In many other kid's shows, the kids would find themselves in trouble for simply being kids and trying to have fun: here, the dad encourages them to do the same thing to their mother, then their sister, each victim in turn becoming an active participant in the ensuing person's lighthearted humiliation.

And that sums up the appeal of the series all in one simple scene. It is also the perfect example of what makes a television show geared toward younger viewers work so well: if it can bring back nostalgic memories of my childhood--not necessarily through specific scenes, but just by having a similar freewheeling sense of carelessness and fun—then it's instantly a winner in my book. Too many kids' series try to paint the family dynamic as “children vs. adults”, where only one side can win. But “Eerie” was always much smarter than that: the parents always encouraged their child to be a child. Of course, they were willing to reprimand him if he went too far, but they never wanted to punish him simply for trying to experiment or even for allowing his imagination to run wild...after all, isn't that what being a kid is all about?

It's not all fun and games though, because this introductory scene also shows us what's at stake in this episode. After pranking his family in the first scene, Marshall and Simon head to school with a pack of gag gum, looking to extend their mischievous mood to fellow classmates. But this plan gets derailed when a bully steals the gum, pops a piece in his mouth, then spits the smoking, smoldering piece back on the ground. As he goes to confront Marshall and Simon (who, in their defense, weren't intending to make him the victim), their verbal exchange is interrupted by the principal, who curiously sends them to the nurse's office for an eye exam. Huh?

It quickly becomes apparent why: All of the students that exit the nurse's office wear thick-rimmed glasses, but act as if they've been lobotomized, becoming study-obsessed kids with no room for fun in their lives. And it's not just the troublemakers that are being sent there...all the students, and even the faculty, are required to make an appointment with Nurse Nancy, a woman who has “tamed” many schools before. Simon is the first of our heroes to visit the “nurse”, while Marshall thankfully escapes. Can Marshall reverse the effects for not just his buddy, but the entire school? Or will Nurse Nancy's influence spread through the entire town?

Overall, this is a pretty good episode that deals with themes that just about every kids show tackle (the “blend in with everyone else or be yourself” conundrum), but this one has the benefit of above-average insight and writing. Once again, this can be summed up in one exchange: As Marshall is going to a visit with Nurse Nancy (where once again the parents don't believe Marshall's assurance that she's trying to brainwash him), his father says, “Why can't you be like the other students?” to which Marilyn replies, “Well maybe he shouldn't. Maybe he should just be himself.” It's a rather corny line, but the actors—who have always been above-average for a show aimed toward younger crowds—make it a convincing rallying cry that you can hang the entire episode around.

The end is a little too goofy for my tastes, but is probably one of the few moments in the entire series where it goes overboard enough to truly appeal to its target demographic. In other words, most kids will revel in the stupidity of it all. I can appreciate what it was trying to do, but it just didn't do anything for me (although the final line did bring a little smirk to my face). Still, the rest of the episode is interesting—and thanks to the glimpses we get of Nurse Nancy's “eye testing” machine, trippy—enough to interest a wide variety of ages. It doesn't end on a great note, but there are at least enough notes hit to make for a good episode.

EPISODE RATING: 6/10

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Eerie Indiana

September 2017

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