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Summer Club Reading - Eerie, Indiana

Back in 1991, Eerie, Indiana premiered on NBC. It was created by Karl Schaefer and Jose Rivera, who had two tracks of mind in creating the series. One, to create a show for children that didn't pander to children and secondly, to have a fun and scary show. And you know what?

They succeeded.

Eerie, Indiana takes place in the titular town. We first meet Marshall Teller on his paper route. He's relocated from the dank, rotting Big Apple. He misses it. His father, Edgar is an inventor for a company in Eerie called "Things, Incorporated," and his mother, Marilyn is a party planner despite having lax organizational skills. His sister, Syndi is a regular, normal teenage girl. Marshall is the odd one out in his family it seems. But he notices that something is amiss in this 'burb. He sees an older, fatter Elvis on his route. He knows Bigfoot eats out of his trashcan. The town's population is 16,661. Gulp. He shares this with the only person that'll hear him out, Simon. Simon is a younger kid from his neighborhood who is ignored by his parents, so Marshall takes him under his wing. They know that something spooky is afoot in Eerie and they seem to be the only ones to do anything to try and stop it.

Originally, reviews for the show insisted that the show's true relation was that great masterpiece, "Twin Peaks." But I don't buy that, personally, I see it as more of a "Blue Velvet" type show. You know, a town with a darker undercurrent. Marshall and Simon are predicating Fox Mulder in the hunt for the truth and the idea of a town under duress from outside sinister forces is something that "Buffy the Vampire Slayer will run through for seven years. Eerie was ahead of it's time and it only lasted 19 episodes. I personally think that in 2012 this show would've lasted a longer life. Or at the very least gathered a cult following. But I digress, let's start this thing off.


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Your themed episode for the month of August is "The Retainer"
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Check out the radness that came in the post yesterday! A doorknob scarf, perfect for both all my canine uprising needs and for making people in the street do a double take as they register that yes indeed, it really says knob. A plushie Weremarsicorn complete with key-shaped cutie mark. And a knitted Bill Cipher, ready to hand out horror and deer teeth at a moments' notice!

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Also seen here: FunkoPOP customs of Simon, Mars and Dash by JaDisArt, crochet Sparky by Pixelkei and altered beanie baby Sparky (aka Sprite or Sparky Lite) by Erik237.
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The story structure for “Eerie, Indiana” takes an interesting twist in this second episode, which is a story relayed to us by lead character Marshall Teller. In the introduction, told in the present time, Marshall’s parents are confused when Marshall is terrified of getting a retainer. As we soon learn, it has nothing to do with the fear of pain, or the fear of being made fun of, but rather because of what happened to the last friend of his that got one…

That friend was Steve Konkalewski, whose teeth refuse to straighten after five years of visits to a mad dentist. The evil tooth-doctor makes for him a “special” retainer, one that gives him the “gift” of hearing what dogs are thinking. In a rather interesting twist, dogs only appear to be friendly on the outside, a front because they are eventually planning to take over the world, something Steve figures out thanks to his newfound ability.

Marshall and Simon, his closest friends, quickly put two-and-two together after a series of odd occurrences, and develop a hunch that he can read the mind of dogs. To test this, Marshall uses a rather absurd experiment: He places a paper bag over Simon's head, then flips a coin and shows it to a dog. Once Steve is able to accurately read the outcome of the coin flip—via the dog's eyes—they are convinced of his superpower. (Would a dog really have an understanding of “heads” and “tails”? Am I putting way too much thought into this?)

This is a minor breakthrough, but Marshall is more intelligent than most kid's show heroes: He understands the absurdity of the whole situation, and realizes that no one will believe them without proof. And so he creates a recording device so that he can capture the sounds that Steve picks up via his retainer (the scenes of them trying to move him around like an antenna to get better reception is pretty clever stuff, despite the obvious outdatedness of it all). Well he also inadvertently picks up some nearby chatter, which leads him to a dog pound known for a high rate of euthanasia. (This is a show for kids?)

Earlier in the episode, an evil kennel warden is attacked by a lone dog who doesn't take kindly to the way the man treats the mutts (he even threatens to “toss them into the chamber”, which looks eerily like a cremation chamber). When our heroes arrive to find the source of the chatter (which are chants of “Freedom!”, by the way), there is a lone bloody bone propping open the door...obviously the bone of the warden, who was picked clean by the dogs. This is a show for kids?

Anyway, the canines don't appreciate Steve being able to monitor their thoughts, so they demand he gives them his retainer. The only problem? It's stuck to his face and he can't get it off. The flashback ends with the dogs chasing him out into the streets, at which point they presumably attack him, kill him, and forcibly take the retainer for themselves. I arrived at this conclusion because we flash back to the present, where Marshall has his own retainer, and calmly explains to a familiar dog that his retainer doesn't allow him to hear the dog's thoughts...and the dog responds by coughing up Steve's old retainer, leading Marshall to contemplate the possible fate of his friend.

It's not a very good episode overall, mainly because it lacks the joyful absurdity of the premiere. There are precious few laughs, and none of the off-the-wall fascination from the first one, making this one feel like a complete dud. Steve just isn't really all that fascinating of the character to center an entire story around, and the retainer idea—while it's clearly going for the offbeat—never gets its feet off the ground. On the flipside, I'd say that Marshall's blandness is already starting to grow on me...it's a welcome change from the over-the-top characters in most such shows.

Regardless, I'd file this one under “sophomore slump” for sure.

RATING: 4/10
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Eerie Indiana

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