Sunday, June 18, 2017

Eerie Indiana: S1, E19: Broken Record

Omri Katz as Marshall Teller
Justin Shenkarow as Simon Holmes
Mary-Margaret Humes as Marilyn Teller
Francis Guinan as Edgar Teller
Julie Condra as Syndi Teller
Tom Everett as Tod's Dad
Grant Gelt as Tod McNulty
Gwynyth Walsh as Tod's Mother
Andrew White as Officer Derek

Written by: Jose Rivera
Directed by: Todd Holland


I'll try to eliminate any confusion regarding this episode right off the bat here: This is the nineteenth, and final, episode of “Eerie, Indiana”. It was not originally the final episode, that title going to the excellent “Reality Takes a Holiday”, however “Broken Record” was added to the rotation after the show was syndicated. So, technically, this one is kind of like a bonus episode, especially considering Dash-X is nowhere to be found for the first time since he was introduced.

“Rock n' Roll Has Come To Eerie” exclaims a new sign being raised at the World o' Stuff. That sign is a reference to the “Pitbull Surfers”, a popular metal band that finally ends up in the small seems that Eerie is the last to get everything. Marshall suggests the band's new album, "Eardrum Lobotomy", to his friend, Tod McNulty; his family lost their farm a while back, and his father is still out of work, so he figured some aggressive music might take his mind off things for a while. (Sample lyrics from the titular track include, “No one understands you, no one digs your dream, just crank up the music, don't want to hear your parents scream. What you need is eardrum lobotomy, eardrum lobotomy, yeah, yeah, yeah!”)

Tod, Marshall, and Simon go back to Tod's house, where he breaks out his old record player and throws the record on. And that's when his father Phil storms in, calling him a “loser” and accusing him of polluting his mind with mush. Whoa, whoa, whoa, those are some harsh words coming from a guy who can't even take care of his family by finding a job! Tod's mother storms in, interrupting her husband during his brutal tirade, and wondering why he's been acting that way; Tod leaves the room crying, leaving Marshall and Simon stuck in the room with Tod's parents. Talk about awkward. The duo excuse themselves after the parents notice them standing there.

Rather quickly, the band's music takes hold of Tod, who starts dressing like a “punk”, complete with black shoe polish in his hair, and a Pitbull Surfers T-shirt; he desperately wants to see PS in concert, as they are playing in Indianapolis soon, and he feels like it's his duty to see them live. He asks Marshall to go with him, but Marshall says that he always thought their pro-Nazi viewpoints were meant to be taken as a joke, an idea that offends Tod (“They tell it like it is!”) who still plans on hitchhiking to Indianapolis to see the show. That plan is quickly derailed when he sees his parents looking for him, forcing him to switch to plan B: Get home before they do. So he steals a milk truck in a desperate bid to beat his parents to the house—a plan that backfires miserably when he crashes the damn thing.

With Tod on the way to the hospital (more as a precaution, as he is not seriously injured), the police officer on scene (whom Syndi is shadowing for a school project) has to let his parents know about the crash. Immediately, his father assumes it was the music that was taking over his mind, and attempts to prove to the officer that there are subconscious evil messages embedded in records when the vinyl is played backwards. In an interesting twist, what he hears is evil, all right: it's recorded passages of him constantly berating his son, which breaks him down until he finally realizes the error of his ways. And with that, he apologizes, and we assume everything is returned back to normal.

Some of it, especially in the beginning, is heavyhanded and a little too “in-your-face” in execution, though the central themes (alienation, music as therapy, etc.) remain relevant as they always will. The relationship between Tod and his parents, though, is once again a step above normal family fare in that it feels fleshed out, or at least as fleshed out as a 24-minute episode can be. The family dynamic is also refreshing; far too often in media it seems that the mom turns a blind eye to everything and lets the dad do what he wants. But here, the wife is constantly defending her son; there is a surprisingly tender moment where she appears in his bedroom, apologizing for his father's behavior, and assuring Todd his father loves him. Todd then asks, “Well then why doesn't he tell me that himself,” to which the mother replies, “I don't know,” with a look of absolute devastation. It's far more hard-hitting than expected, and somehow works.

I didn't remember being too enthralled with this one the first time I saw it, but I have to say that it's a good overall episode, despite its occasional over-the-top approach. It's definitely not worthy enough to be the series finale (it should have aired earlier in the series), but it's entertaining and heartfelt, with the usual splash of comedy thrown in for good measure. Now that I think about it, this would make a good “starter episode” for those looking to get into the series, because many of the show's strengths are on display here, and with the added bonus that it would leave "Reality Takes a Holiday" as the final one, the way it was meant to be. It's worthy of a watch, especially if you missed the episode during its initial run.


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