I was recently talking with a friend who just had a baby, and we got on the topic of all the movies and shows we want to introduce to our children. He’s already begun marathoning Guillermo del Toro and Studio Ghibli films with his kid, and was considering which John Woo flicks to go into next (it’s ok, the baby is like a week old — he won’t remember a thing). And while my children are thus far entirely theoretical, I have strong feelings on the issue. In fact, it might be the thing thing that makes my ovaries twitch the most (other than my age, because I’m about to turn 34 and the “biological clock” is both real and terrifying, you guys).
I know parents who swear by Pixar, and kids that can name all 12 Doctors. Personally, I’ve already purchased every season of Dinosaurs on DVD, and stocked up on The Muppet Show too. I know that Pee-Wee’s Playhouse,Labyrinth and the original Hairspray will be in the mix. Even though I’m not a parent I still watch Steven Universe on a regular basis (often with tears in my eyes — it’s just that good). But the one thing I’ve always known I would make my imaginary child watch someday is a little show that aired on NBC for 2 glorious seasons starting in 1991. I’m talking, of course, about Eerie, Indiana.
No matter how many times I mention this show, nobody ever seems to remember it. It was basically The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits if they centered around the kinds of kids Stephen King writes about — the ones who ride around town on bikes and know all the weird shit that’s going on even though the adults never seem to notice. Not, you know, the ones who have the shine or burn down their own prom.
Omri Katz (Hocus Pocus) played the protagonist Marshall Teller, a boy whose family had just moved to the titular town, which was the “center of weirdness for the entire planet.” Joe Dante directed episodes. John Astin, the original Gomez Addams, had a delightful reoccurring part as a quirky shopkeeper. Actors like Matt Frewer, Tobey Maguire, and Stephen Root would pop up as guest stars in episodes. But what I remember most are the plots, which were funny and creepy and turned suburban America into a place of endless possibilities. The pilot featured mysterious people who don’t age… because they sleep in Tupperware knock-offs called “Foreverware.” Subsequent storylines involved a retainer that could let the wearer hear the thoughts of dogs, or a school eye exam that would brainwash kids into the perfect students. There was a local members-only club called the “Loyal Order of the Corn.” Elvis was on Marshall’s paper route, and Bigfoot rooted through his garbage. They even tackled the now-familiar trope of the meta-episode long before Supernatural, when Marshall got a TV script and suddenly found himself on the set of a show called Eerie, Indiana.
It only lasted for 19 episodes, but it basically defined everything I wanted my childhood to be. And best of all, it took kids and their concerns seriously by using the weirdness to address real issues the way fantasy does best. Werewolves and mummies and magic art supplies provide an in for stories dealing with sacrifice, boredom, and abuse. And though I don’t know if my rampant nostalgia will translate into an experience my own kids will appreciate… well, I’m gonna find out someday, because I just looked and I can buy all the episodes on Amazon Video. Cha-ching!
What shows or movies do you guys show your kids? Or what would you like to, when the time comes? Or, heck, what do you make your nieces and nephews promise not to tell their parents they watched whenever you’re babysitting?