You’ll forgive me (I hope) for deliberately instigating something of a sense of déjà-vu with this post in relation to the last, but it is somewhat necessary. When I was really, really young, Channel 4 used to show a bunch of shows in the morning for kids that I would sit and watch avidly from the comfort of my parents’ bed. Sharky and George, Doug (which, a few years later, would be a firm favourite on Golden-Age Nickelodeon), and Saved by the Bell were all the mainstays, with one show in particular ruling the roost of my attention. It was a show about a boy, Marshall Teller. He was a pretty normal kid with a nose for sniffing out mystery and an erstwhile friend called Simon to help out when mysteries occurred. And they happened. Frequently. Why? Because they lived in Eerie, Indiana.
Eerie, Indiana is one of those kids shows that comes along once in a blue moon – bizarre, often off-colour, and, above all, self conscious, it offered a refreshing counter-point to the rest of Channel 4’s schedule, and indeed, anything else that was offered at the time. The only show that offered a similar format was the Australian Round the Twist. I loved Round the Twist – it was, uniquely, an Australian import that was actually good (Pugwall and The Finder are dubious, though hold a special place in my heart), but Round the Twist was more like living in a slightly sinister dreamscape. Eerie had its feet firmly in pop culture ground, always reminding us of the reality it skewed in a knowing, humorous way. The pilot episode, ‘Foreverware’, is a fantastic parody of the EC Comics stories of the 50s brought into the post-modern early 90s, right down to the green glow emanating from the crazy, tupperware-obsessed antagonist as she laughs maniacally into the night sky. This might seem like a bold claim to make for what was essentially a kid’s show, but when the final episode of the series is revealed as a fourth-wall breaking entrance into the ‘reality’ of filming Eerie, Indiana, it becomes clear that this isn’t just a kids show.
Why don’t we get more shows like this? Twin Peaks is still, even today, revered for its originality and innovative approach to television. A decade later, Carnivale was sold as the literary successor to Lynch’s work for those who found its predecessor too free-associative, with not enough cerebral-pounding. Lost certainly shares similarities with the land of the Log Lady, but not necessarily good ones; nobody likes a plot that's elliptical nature is actually just a result of lazy writing. And what of Eerie? Sure, in 1998 we got the (frankly lacklustre) spin off The Other Dimension, but this was hardly enough. Eerie succeeded in being a kid’s show that anyone could watch and enjoy, provided they were a fan of light sci-fi, that is. But then the X-Files suggested a hell of a lot of people are - or at least were. Was all this just a part of the 90s zeitgeist? Has this kind of television had its moment come and go? Or will we one day find ourselves in another strange town, with another freaky mystery, and only one seemingly sane person to guide us through it? I, for one, hope so.