What I’m about to say may shock you, and it certainly wont apply to all of you reading this, but as a child born in the 1980’s, who was approaching my teens in the early 1990’s, I never understood my parents fascination with Twin Peaks. Sure, I get it now – but back in late 1992, as the show drew to its weird conclusion, it just seemed like bizarre drivel that was the television equivalent of playing a record in reverse. It might have summoned the Devil, but it was still complete nonsense to me.
But as one strange American town bowed out of the TV schedule, another took it’s place – Eerie, Indiana. Eerie was everything to me that Twin Peaks had been to my parents, except it was aimed at my generation – the MTV generation – it had a hip teen lead, and it appealed to my inner conspiracy theorist – the one that had for years tried to convince me my neighbors were aliens. Turns out, they were.
So what was Eerie, Indiana all about? Well, the premise was simple. Marshall Teller is your average American teenager growing up in New Jersey. Life is pretty good until one day, while out playing basketball with his homies, Marshall gets into a fight and is sent to live in Bel Air with his rich Uncle. OK, so I may have got that confused with another show of the same era, but Marshall and his family do end up moving to the suburbs of small town America for a quieter life. But what the Teller family didn’t anticipate was that the sleepy little suburb they’ve moved to just so happens to be a gateway to the bizarre.
At first, Marshall – played by the always awesome Omri Katz (Max from Hocus Pocus) – just sees the mundane in his new neighborhood, but slowly it becomes apparent that things aren’t quite as boring as they seem. When he befriends local loser Simon Holmes (Justin Shenkarow), Marshall’s eyes are opened wide to everything going on around him – it’s just a shame none of the adults believe him. Or is it just that they’re in on it?
Over the course of 19 episodes, Marshall and Simon set about trying to solve the mysteries of Eerie, including Tupperware that preserves human life, an ATM with a conscience, and a way ahead of its time parody on the current President of the United States. But Eerie, Indiana wasn’t just 19 standalone episodes. Unlike most kids TV of the time, Eerie, Indiana was actually a series of interlinked stories that actually went somewhere.
As a kid you may not have seen all the Easter eggs spread throughout the show, but they were there, and if you rewatch the show now you’ll realise just how sophisticated the writing style actually was. Much more sophisticated than a lot of the typical ‘family’ content airing at the same time. This had a lot to do with the first class writing team the show had, which featured talents that would work on hit series like The Outer Limits and M*A*S*H. The talent behind the camera was a veritable who’s who of Hollywood as well. Joe Dante (Gremlins) and Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) all had a hand in bringing the show to the small screen at one time or another, which is a hell of a pedigree no matter which way you slice it.
Like the mythical Icarus though, Eerie, Indiana would eventually fly too close to the sun only to have its wings burned, nosediving into eventual cancellation a little over a year after it emerged. It would be brought back – in a fashion – as a hip new spin-off called Eerie, Indiana: The Other Dimension, but by that time – 1997 – the magic was lost. The show was a success because of the lightening in a bottle mixture of behind the scenes genius and on-screen magic. For a generation of kids in the early 1990’s, Omri Katz was a God, and without him Eerie, Indiana might as well have been Nowhere, Oklahoma (it’s a real place, Google it).
And so this brings us right back to 2017, 25 years after the show first aired, and Twin Peaks is back and as bizarre as ever. Like I said at the start of this article, I get the appeal of Twin Peaks now that I’m as old as my parents were when it was last on TV (God, I’m getting so old), but even now I’d still rather take a trip to Eerie, Indiana than Twin Peaks, Washington. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a revival of this show too, because let’s face it, the world as we know it today is suitably strange enough source material for a comeback.
I wonder what Omri Katz is up to these days?.