Tag: TV Shows

Eerie, Indiana

Eerie Indiana

This ultra-quirky sitcom was notable for any reasons. Not only did it place the family sitcom in a unique setting and situation, its sophisticated handling of its paranormal elements also paved the way for later non-sitcom shows like The X-Files and Roswell.

The show focused on Marshall Teller, a young man who felt quite homesick when his inventor father, Edgar, uprooted the family from their New Jersey home and moved them to Eerie, a small town in Indiana. Also along for the ride were Marilyn, Marshall’s mom, and Syndi, his narcissistic older sister. Marshall’s post-move depression quickly gave way to bemusement when he took stock of his new surroundings.

The town of Eerie truly managed to live up to its name. Bizarre things went on night and day: Elvis Presley lived in a little suburban house, there were two young men who had remained teenagers since the 1960’s by sleeping every night in giant plastic containers called Foreverware, and the dogs in the pound were making an escape plan that could only be heard over a friend’s set of dental retainers.

Unfortunately, Marshall’s parents and sister either were too busy to notice or wouldn’t believe him when he pointed these things out. Luckily, he found an ally in Simon, another kid his age who also believed that strange things were afoot in the town of Eerie. Together, the duo would ride their bikes around town and keep tabs on all the unusual goings-on.

Although nominally aimed at children, Eerie Indiana was smart enough to be enjoyed by older viewers. The series’ eccentric sense of humor made frequent use of in-jokes related to television and film, touching on everything from Twin Peaks to Godzilla. Also, the show wasn’t afraid to play with the medium of TV itself, something it did memorably in an episode titled “Reality Takes A Holiday.” In this episode, Marshall found a script for a television show in his mailbox and then realized his life was being turned into a show called “Eerie, Indiana.”

The show was canceled in April of 1992 after 20 episodes. However, it became popular again after the similar The X-Files became a hit, getting frequent reruns on various cable stations and building a cult of dedicated viewers. It remains popular with fans of the bizarre today for its mixture of eccentric humor and its sly knowledge of horror and science-fiction conventions.

The Monster Squad

Monster Squad

Long before the phrase “virtual reality” was coined, wax museum caretaker Walter accidentally brought replicas of Count Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man to life with his “crime computer.” The trio of leading men from horror’s golden age joined Walter to form the Monster Squad, dedicating themselves to a new after-life of fighting crime.

This show’s tongue-in-cheek attitude was reminiscent of the 60’s Batman series, but The Monster Squad didn’t reach the airwaves until the 1976-77 season, which was heavily laden with live-action series. Like many of its contemporaries, The Monster Squad featured a hip vehicle—in this case the squad’s van—and high-tech gadgets like the team’s belt communicators.

Character actor Vito Scotti played one of the villainous foes our heroes faced, a mad scientist dressed as a man on one side of his body and a woman on the other. Walter was played by Fred Grandy, who went on to TV fame as Gopher on The Love Boat. After ten years on that show, Grandy spent eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alas, The Monster Squad was not as long-lived, returning to the grave after only one season.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Kolchak

It was woefully short-lived, but this horror/sci-fi series has become one of the most beloved series of its kind over time. First introduced in a 1972 made-for-television film called The Night Stalker, Darren McGavin starred as Carl Kolchak, a crusty old reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago. The film, which had Kolchak investigating a vampire in Las Vegas, became the highest-rated television film of its time, and its sequel, The Night Strangler, found similar success. ABC subsequently ordered a series, which began its run in September of 1974.

McGavin continued to play the role of Kolchak in the new series, squaring off against a new otherworldly menace. Kolchak cut an intriguing and distinct figure, dressed in a light-blue seersucker suit and a straw hat. His personality was gruff and sarcastic and always put him at odds with authority figures. Vincenzo was his editor, who was driven to the point of ulcers by Kolchak’s penchant for bizarre stories. Emily Cowles was a fellow writer at INS who was friendly with Kolchak and also happened to be the only person he trusted.

The plotlines followed a consistent pattern: Kolchak would stumble across a series of grisly and mysterious killings and realize that something non-human played a role in the murders. Inevitably, the local authorities would want to keep them quiet, and Vincenzo would not believe Kolchak’s theory. Kolchak would risk life and limb to get to the bottom of the story and fight off the villainous menace in the process. Of course, the evidence would always slip through his fingers and thus cause others to not believe his story.

During the series’ run, Kolchak faced off with everything from vampires and werewolves to aliens and androids. The biggest favorite among fans of the show was “Horror In The Heights,” in which Kolchak stumbled across a demon while investigating a story about a rash of deaths among the elderly. He quickly discovered the culprit was a Hindu demon called the rakshasa that tricks its victim by taking on the appearance of the person he/she trusts most before killing them.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker only lasted one season, ending its run in August of 1975. However, it has become a huge cult favorite amongst fans of horror and science fiction. Many people even consider it to be a blueprint for the later and more successful The X-Files, which shared much with Kolchak in terms of style and substance. Even Chris Carter, the creator of that show, has acknowledged the important influence this show had on his work. In the wake of The X-Files’s success, all of the Kolchak: The Night Stalker episodes have been released on video, including the two made-for-television films. As a long as there are viewers who like a good scare, Kolchak: The Night Stalker will always be in demand.

Looking Back at Tales of the Gold Monkey

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Like any true success, Raiders of the Lost Ark was frequently imitated.  Tales of the Gold Monkey was frequently lumped in with the ‘Raiders’ clones but it had actually been dreamt up by creator Donald Bellisario two years before Spielberg’s film came out. It was initially rejected by network executives, who thought no one would care for a show set in the 1930’s. However, Tales was quickly snapped up by ABC once Raiders of the Lost Ark proved audiences would respond to a period adventure.

The show was set on the fictional Pacific island of Boragora in 1938. The protagonist was Jake Cutter, a dashing cargo pilot who provided the only inter-island transportation via his plan,e the Grumman Goose. Cutter’s best friends were Corky, his often-drunk mechanic, and Jack, a one-eyed terrier who could communicate with his owner (one bark for ‘no’, two for ‘yes’).

Cutter lived in a room over the Monkey Bar, the island’s central hub of activity. This little waterhole/meeting place/brawl epicenter was owned by Bon Chance Louis, a roguish French magistrate who did a lot of shady business behind closed doors. Also working at the Monkey Bar was Sarah, a torch singer who was secretly an American spy. Our man Jake, her would-be suitor, was the only one who knew her secret. Princess Koji maintained a trading ship fleet on a nearby island, Matuka, with the help of her main henchman Todo. The cast was rounded out by Reverend Tenboom, a German spy masquerading as a Dutch holy man.

Tales of the Gold Monkey

Plot lines on the show usually stemmed from Jake’s line of work. Although he was a cargo pilot, Jake would frequently end up using his plane to search for missing people or recover stolen goods. Tying these stories together was the search for the mystical object mentioned in the show’s title, an idol made of alloy that was supposedly heat-resistant. Also, there were a large number of German and Japanese spies around the island chain that Jake would have frequent run-ins with.

The show was canceled in July of 1983 after 21 episodes (including the two-hour pilot). Audiences gave up on the Indiana Jones-ish glut of TV programming (including Bring ‘em Back Alive and The Quest), and all were cancelled within one season. Donald Bellisario recovered nicely, however, going on to create shows like Airwolf and Quantum Leap.

This article originally appeared on the long-defunct website, Yesterdayland.