IF YOU GO
What: “Eerie, Indiana” retrospective/reunion
When: Saturday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: PhilaMOCA, 531 N. 12th St., Philadelphia.
For one night in mid-April, the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Modern Art (PhilaMOCA) will resurrect a long-dead but much-beloved early-90s TV series: “Eerie, Indiana.”
Like David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” of the same era, the short-lived “Eerie, Indiana,” which ran on NBC from 1991-92, was an oddball take on the horror genre. The show followed Marshall Teller and Simon Holmes, two child investigators exploring paranormal happenings in their seemingly ordinary Midwestern hometown of (you guessed it) Eerie, Indiana.
Over the course of 19 episodes — some of which went unaired for many years — the pre-teen duo confronted werewolves, mad scientists, and beings from alternate dimensions. A supporting cast of offbeat characters was rounded out by actors like Stephen Root (NBC’s “News Radio”) and John Astin, who was best known for playing Gomez Addams on “The Addams Family.”
“Eerie, Indiana” was a show for kids, but it was also subversive in ways most youth-oriented programs weren’t during the early 90s. Like “Twin Peaks,” “Eerie” explored the dark underbelly of American normalcy and small-town complacency. And, like “Twin Peaks,” the show was canceled during its second season, leaving its many mysteries forever unsolved.
But, these days, what is gone is rarely forgotten. With the help of streaming services (like Amazon Prime, where “Eerie” is now available), nostalgic millennials have easy access to the shows they loved as kids; this gives a second life to long-gone series like “Eerie.” By the late 90s, the show had already earned a cult following. Today, that following has grown.
In fact, “Eerie, Indiana” remains so beloved that PhilaMOCA will hold a celebration of the show on Saturday, April 14, with members of the cast reuniting decades after its cancellation, to share stories of the “Eerie” days. Justin Shenkarow, who played Simon, will be present, along with Jason Marsden, who played Dash X, “Eerie, Indiana’s” gray-haired teenaged villain.
Over the phone recently, Marsden, whose face would became ubiquitous during the mid-90s, due to recurring roles on TGIF mainstays like “Step By Step,” “Full House,” and “Boy Meets World,” said “Eerie, Indiana” remains one of his favorite projects to date.
“People always ask me my top favorite shows to work on, and (‘Eerie, Indiana’) is always in my top three,” said Marsden, who was 17 when he played Dash X on the series. He’s now 43. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had and I miss it so much. It didn’t last long enough, but it was such a great experience. Which is another reason I’m so excited that people are loving it.”
Marsden played Dash X with maniacal flare and a Dirty Harry-like raspy voice that hinted at his future work as a prolific voice actor. But he credits the many quirks of the character to show creators Jose Rivera and Karl Schaefer.
“I take no credit for Dash! They just gave me the words and I did my best,” Marsden said. “I just knew that he was presented to me as a foil. He was supposed to be an adversary for (main character) Marshall in the second season.”
With his character’s late introduction in the series, Marsden’s time with “Eerie” was cut extremely short, which, he said, was a disappointment. However, “I had been acting for years by that point. Disappointment and rejection is really part of the job.”
“I was more disappointed because it was so much fun and I worked with so many great people who I admired and looked up to,” like episode directors Joe Dante (“Gremlins”) and Bob Balaban, he said. “It was sad we couldn’t have done more” episodes.
But the actor has his own theory for what ultimately killed the show — and it’s a problem that’s become increasingly obsolete during the era of Netflix and Hulu.
“Eerie, Indiana” had a terrible time slot.
“It was on opposite ‘60 Minutes,’” Marsden said, laughing. “It was on at 7:30 p.m. on a Sunday, which was not a great time slot at that time! It was way too sophisticated (a show), and it’s core audience was ready to go to bed, to go to school the next day.” On a different night of the week, though, “audiences that would have glommed onto a ‘Twins Peaks’” might have tuned in.
“You forget that it’s ‘show business,’ not ‘show friends,’” he added with the flat resignation of someone who’s spent a lifetime in the entertainment industry. “That still boggles my mind.”
The event at PhilaMOCA, if not the very first “Eerie, Indiana” appreciation event ever, is the “first public forum that I’ll be part of,” Marsden said. “I can’t wait. I’m excited to relive moments and to see Justin Shenkarow and hear things from his point of view, and to answer any questions that people have.”
“I had a great time” making “Eerie, Indiana,” he added. “Part of me didn’t feel I belonged. I was such a doe-eyed fan of the whole thing. It pleases me to no end that people still dig it and that people still have an appreciation for it and affection for it.”