Hello, Spongey here.
Today we are basically doing an extension of something I did in April. I review Goosebumps books quite often on here and I had always been interested in the ripoff series that sprung up in the 90’s to cash in its success. So I reviewed a few entries from some of those series and it was all fun for everyone.
But the thing with those was that, with the exception of Shivers which I explained, I had no real experience with those prior to doing reviews/research besides knowing them by reputation. However, this is one series that is lumped in with the ripoffs that I actually was familiar with.
I sometimes bring up my middle and high school libraries, which is where I read a lot of the Stine stuff while I was also attempting to collect them. Alongside those, I found some of one series there that caught my interest, due to it being pitched as a similar series. It took me by surprise at the time and I got into them.
They only had a select amount though so I didn’t read them all at the time. This series stood out from the other series like it. For the most part, the middle grade horror series that sprung up were anthologies, which makes sense since they wanna follow in the footsteps of Goosebumps.
This one however, has a consistent cast of characters and the stories have continuity with each other. This one basically jumped on the Goosebumps hype train to do something more original, at least when compared to some of the others. That isn’t to diss the others too much of course, it was just interesting to see one that did something a bit different in terms of how things are set up.
The other difference revolves around the author, Christopher Pike. He has a legacy of his own, to the point where this wouldn’t be one of his most well known works. He’s known for YA/adult thrillers, of which I am not very familiar with outside of a few reviews I’ve gleamed here and there. (So don’t expect too many direct comparison in terms of quality or whatever)
It’s interesting for a well established author at the time deciding to dip their toe in this pool. The series wasn’t super long lasting, having 24 entries from 1995 to 1998, starting with “The Secret Path” and ending with “The Witch’s Gift’., It was published by Minstrel/Pocket Books who also published Fear Street/Ghosts of Fear Street at the time. Thus, you got an advertisement for this series in one of the Fear Street books, which I found rather amusing.
(To make the Ghosts connection stronger, the usual cover artist for Ghosts also did the last 3 covers for this series, although the rest were someone else)
Then suddenly in 2013, The Hub, back before it was Discovery Family announced a television series adaptation that ended up only lasting a single season of 22 episodes. It was interesting to see this announcement as someone who actually was familiar with the series.
I was taken aback by certain things we’ll get to, but otherwise I did enjoy it. Doing all that work for Goosebumps Rip Off Month made me recall this series and want to re-visit both it and the TV show. But I also wanted to talk about and go over what made me like it and see how it holds up these days.
So…here we are. This will be interesting since we’re covering both in a general way, compared to how I handled my last A Look At for a book and TV series. It could get clunky but hey, that’s my MO around here.
With all that said, after reading all the books and re-watching the show, what makes it all tick? How does it hold up? What is all even about? Let’s dive in and see.
This, is A Look at Spooksville
Before we get into the nitty gritty of this, I want to mention something regarding the TV show. The developers are Billy Brown and Dan Angel, who also created The Haunting Hour. Thus, basically almost all the writers and directors previously worked on that one in some way.
The only Non-Haunting Hour voice among that crew is showrunner Jim Krieg. He’s known for his work at Warner Bros, writing for various Scooby Doo series and such. Considering how that series also involves horror elements along with comedy, I’d say he was a perfect pick for this show. Back when the show was on, I would live tweet it and he would actually sometimes reply to me which was super cool.
Wait a minute, it seems that he actually follows me! Nice. …Hmm…hey Jim, think you could answer some questions for me?
…Well, damn. And yes, I did mention that when I did to setup that he will pop here a couple times, not too much since this isn’t all about interviewing him and all that. All that said, here we go. We can move on, I mean it’s not like I saw Pike’s email on his Facebook and take a shot at asking him something and he actually replied-
…Dang, I’m getting all the connections today! Sucks that life had to get in the way and such, but I really appreciate his reply. That said, we’ll start with a Jim answer: How did the TV show come about?
Well dang, wish I could get a hold of those two, their work fascinates me quite a bit. That test question aside…
The setup is that 12 year old Adam Freeman moves from Kansas to the town of Springville. He soon meets a girl named Sally who informs him that most people call the town Spooksville, as it is actually a hotbed for all kind of supernatural activity. He doesn’t buy it at first but after meeting a boy named Watch (yes), he discovers that her claim is quite legit and soon the group find themselves going on many life threatening adventures.
No, at no point does Adam say he’s not in Kansas anymore. What a shame.
It’s a classic “Town with a Dark Secret” plot and I’ve got a soft spot for those, since it’s fun to see what kind of weird things they can throw at the citizens. Between the books and show, we’ve got ghosts, aliens, leprechauns, gnomes and your own tonsils attacking you.
You read that last one correctly. That’s an actual episode in the TV Show. The books didn’t get to…that level of weird-ness. I enjoy hearing about the lore of the town, like the stories of kids that went missing, or the quirks, like how the people running the hospital have a deal with the morgue, so it’s rumored they left patients to die on purpose. (Insert topical healthcare joke here) The show has less of thing like the latter, which is a shame. Still, you get a sense of the weird-ness the town has to offer. Plus, there are things like how in P.E, they play Dodge the Werewolf.
An interesting thing with the books is that while they are billed as being Horror, more often than not it’s more about general adventure that goes in other genres. There’s horror-centric books like Night of the Vampires but then you have some Sci-Fi ones like Aliens in the Sky. It actually tends to approach Sci-Fi more often you may expect, which I suppose isn’t shocking from an author who named himself after a Star Trek character. Although he goes to the alien well one two many times for my liking.
I don’t mind this, but it’s interesting to note and some may not care for the genre mixing. The show embraces the adventure aspect more, just with horror elements so your expectations of what it will be will fare better in that regard. There’s not too much in either that is actually scary, so it’s good that they embrace that, generally. Not that there aren’t creepy/suspenseful things sometimes, it’s just not the focus compared to something like Goosebumps.
Speaking of which, another thing to separate it from that one is some of the…content. Let’s just say you can tell Pike is more used to writing for an older audience, as some darker stuff creeps in. Not super often but it does happen. To spoil just one example: In the very first book, they got to an alternate version of Spooksville and at one point they discover the corpses of this version of Adam’s parents.
Yeah. That isn’t even the darkest thing to appear in some form, that is an early sign of what the series is at least willing to do. I appreciate it when it appears. Things like this are not in the show as much, for obvious reasons. Although there are at least two episodes that have deaths in it, so there’s that. The darker stuff in the show is more implied but at least it can pop up sometimes.
The main reason I liked these when I was younger is that I viewed them as smarter and darker than Goosebumps and while that is true, I mostly just took a couple books that were actually more like that and felt the whole series was like that. In reality, it’s just simple solid stuff that sometimes has a few deeper/darker moments.
Oh and they say Hell a few times, which is light as far as swears go but still surprising to see for the time. (The show has it appear on a sign in one episode to boot).
Something I wanna point out is that the books are written in the third person, so they will shift to other characters when they split up, and we’ll get other people’s thought’s sometimes. Thus, they aren’t shackles to Adam all the time and can explore others more freely. Honestly, sometimes it feels like the group is the main character and Adam isn’t too much more important than the others, which I think works in those books where this applies. So yeah, just something I appreciate.
Now let’s talk continuity. The books do not have an arc of any kind, aside from a couple references to them wondering why Spooksville is the way it is and Ann hinting at what they need to do to find that out. The books are meant to be stand-alone so they could be feasibly read in any order, just with plenty of callbacks. So some may be more able to jump into a random one than others. There are books that rely more on continuity than others, than you have The Living Dead, where the entire plot happens due to the ending of the book right before it.
And the final book has a status quo change (which I totally didn’t accidentally spoil for you) which would factor in the future regardless of if it was reversed or not. I kind of wished it had more story-arc stuff to keep things a bit fresher, but I’m not quite sure what they could have done. The show changes this which we’ll get to. Either way, I appreciate that we do get more continuity involvement in later books.
The books do have a formula to them, after a few of them you can get a feel for what they tend to do. One aspect that crops up a lot is there being someone who seems like a bad guy first but turns out to be not so bad after all. There’s not quite as many full on villains as you’d expect and the few that are tend to be just personality-less monsters. This is fine, it’s not usually done in a cheese way, it just gets a bit tiring after a while.
The show stays true to this, even in that tonsil episode. Although as mentioned before, they change a couple from the books to be straight up evil. Honestly, it bothered me less in the show since it appears less. Or perhaps it’s because I felt less of the formula in the show. The kind of stories are the same, but I just felt the basic formula less for some reason.
I noticed I felt the need to bring it up in my notes a bunch, but then I stopped in the latter half. They don’t change too much, aside from honestly being stronger in the last quarter or so, I guess I stopped getting hung up on things on the characters splitting up in some form at least one point per book. That and patterns and such are gonna happen in a series like this, and are more noticeable when you have to read so many in a row.
Either way, despite certain elements these are fundamentally just quick and fun reads that happen to have interesting stuff sometimes. They’re about as long as a Goosebumps book, so that’s not a lot of time to do a lot which I’d say only hurts a few of them. And it is mostly due to the series having really abrupt endings. Some are worse than worse, The Hidden Beast and Attack of the Killer Crabs being the most egregious offenders.
I got used to it but sometimes I did wish they were a bit longer at times, I feel like the short length can hurt them at times. I mean some of these are even shorter than a standard Goosebumps, which is odd. Basically, it can be held back its own nature which is a bit disappointing. Still, it does what it can with the limited space.
One thing I have to mention before we move on is that the books seem to a clear theme about how sacrifice is good. Seriously, it goes from just Adam being willing to sacrifice himself to them straight up saying one they look down at some aliens that don’t see this as important/good. It’s more than just a thing that happens. I kinda appreciate having a clear theme running through some of these, even if it gets a bit on the nose in the last few.
Moving onto the show specifically, as an adaptation it isn’t technically the best. They add a ongoing story arc so some changes are due to that, the first episode and The Haunted Cave being good examples of changing stuff to tie into this arc. The Evil House (the obligatory Halloween one) easily fares the best, with the changes not throwing things off too much, and a couple were even improvements.
Then you have The Dark Corner and Phone Fear, which are In Name Only. Generally, the changes tend to be due to the show’s low budget. So you don’t get the alien slave planet in The Wishing Stone for example. That’s fair enough and usually they can find a work around for those elements, The Thing in the Closet being a good example of keeping as much as they can of the basic idea while not at all doing what most of the book features.
There are certain changes in certain episodes that are not budget related though that can either bug me or be a downgrade in my opinion, like making one character in The No-Ones more of a villain than they were before. It still works, it just becomes a bit more standard.
Some of the few “deeper’ character moments I mentioned are not featured as much in the show which sometimes makes the episodes a bit more generic, but it’s not a big deal. The spirit is still there and the books are like 90% just these fun monster of the week adventures, and the series is also that, so it’s acceptable. I do wish they could have more of the slightly deeper elements, given the closest we get to it outside of the stuff in the arc episodes is generally on the cliche side. But perhaps I’m asking too much given the sort of series we’re dealing with, so I’d feel bad for being too mean on that front.
That said, the episode of Invasion of the No-Ones does represent what I mean by toning down the “deeper” stuff, with Watch’s motivation being much simpler and more generic compared to the book, which felt more fleshed and unique. Ah well.
Around the halfway point, they just give up and stick to original episodes which I actually think was for the most, as I tended to prefer those. Not being having to condense a book’s plot means the stories flow better and they can have more freedom without people thinking about this isn’t how it played out in the book.
Oh and in case you wanna know, Pike does approve despite all this:
That leads to the story arc. First off, let’s let Jim speak on it.
Okay, this has taught me anything it’s that I gotta track down Billy and Dan someday. I’m making this my life’s goal. Anyway, I agree. Basically, Adam’s mom went missing two years ago and he soon discovers that she actually had connections to Spooksville and must uncover all this. The show generally keeps the monster of the week stuff but then some eps will tease the story stuff here and there.
Then in the middle of the season, a big thing happens but it still goes on like normal with clear evidence that something is up, leading to the big season finale. The arc itself is fine, they add some interesting lore along the way and this result is interesting stuff with Ann we’ll touch on later. The missing parent thing is well worn and I think it works to give Adam extra stuff to deal with.
The approach is fine, they don’t go too long without mentioning the story in some way so while not a lot happens for some portions, it’s a fine compromise. They are able to add more story-stuff while not betraying the general formula of the series.
Sadly, it does sort of end on a cliffhanger. It’s more of “the adventure continues” type though, so it could have been way worse at least. Overall, the story stuff works alright and it leads to some interesting stuff along the way.
As for the general stories, they are of the same type the books had, although some are closer to something the books would do than others. The books would perhaps have an evil plant cult, not so much the aforementioned tonsils.
That said, I am glad they got more creative than the books, most of which can be summed up as “X creature invades Spooksville”. Call it sacrilege all you want, I think the odder ideas add something more to the show.
Although I do wish the show took the chance to have more character development than the books were able to do. Some of what the books did already is toned down which is fine but I would have liked it if they explored say, Sally more. She has the least going on here, although she has a couple fun spotlight episodes at least.
If there was another season, they perhaps would have expanded on this stuff like most shows do, but sadly I gotta judge what we have. This all works for the kind of thing we have, just felt like there was some missed opportunities to add more. It’s not dissimilar to that books in that sense, having missed chances for more than just the standard stuff but being able to still work overall despite that.
Now, are there any lesser books and episodes? Well, there thankfully wasn’t any I straight up disliked as they manage to at least be fairly good but of course something has to be the bottom. For the books, my least favorite has to be The Wishing Stone just for being the most disappointing. It has a promising setup with wishing but then it becomes about aliens and stuff and while it was still fun and solid, it ended up treading ground that a previous book did better. And yet it probably has the best cover, go figure.
My least favorite episode from the show would honestly have to be The Secret Path, the pilot. While the book avoided typical pilot problems, the episode has to spend more time introducing everything so the story doesn’t quite flow as well, despite being a two parter. They barely spend any time on the other side of the path. That said, it’s still enjoyable and sets up things up well enough, it just has standard pilot problems that the book mostly avoided.
And with that, we go onto my favorites, starting with the books. This was slightly hard once I decided to just have a top 5 but here we go.
5. The Living Dead:
This book is the one most affected by continuity, as the ending of The Dangerous Quest directly causes the events of this one, as we discover. Said events involve..well, the dead rising up. I can’t say much without spoiling it but I quite like how this ties into the last one and a really interesting backstory here, something this series is good at doing . There’s also great stuff with Watch and Ann here. There isn’t quite as much zombie fighting as I would have liked, the the rest is mostly able to make up for it.
4. The Hidden Beast:
Bryce Poole’s cousin Leah is gifted with a treasure map that will lead to untold riches, if they can get past a dragon. There’s a bit less focus on the quest element than I expected but this was still a pleasant surprise for me. There’s some solid character moments in here, including a really nice scene with Cindy and Watch.
Leah’s deal is interesting and I found that compelling. Which is why the abrupt ending hurt a bit more here, as there’s an important character turn that happens off page. If that was executed better, I would like this one a fair bit more. But even with that, this stood out to me as a more interesting one.
3. The Witch’s Revenge:
The kids visit resident witch Ann Templeton’s castle to see if she can solve a problem for Watch, but find themselves being each given a gift that seems to grant their greatest desire. For one, it was a fun novelty to visit her castle, before they ended up visiting it every few books to ask her how to stop the monster of the week.
But I mostly like this one for Watch. The direction this goes in ends up reflecting quite well for his character. This explores a well worn “what you think you want isn’t really what you need” theme that has been done before, but it was decently done. Overall, one of the more well rounded ones. (It’s also better as a wishing story than The Wishing Stone was)
2. Phone Fear:
A mysterious voice starts calling the kids, telling them to obey it, or else. I really like the villain, as it presents a unique kind of danger compared to some of the others. It really hits the ground running too and there’s a shocking dark moment…even if it’s not quite what it seems. This has an overall more mature feeling than some of others.
But what really brings it up is a conflict between Adam and Watch that I found very interesting. Without spoiling, their friendship is strained due to something Watch does and seeing Adam be so hurt is fascinating, since he doesn’t often get this kind of weight put on him.
However, the very ending does hold it back as something happens that I found pretty weird given what a certain character had been doing up to this point. But even with that, it’s a highlight for the series.
Honorable mentions go to The Secret Path for being a well rounded introduction to the series, Aliens in the Sky for the themes that end up in it and an interesting twist, and The Dangerous Quest for a great ending that is kind of daring and interesting. Seriously, I wanted to put it on the main list for the ending alone but the rest got a bit overly convoluted at times for my tastes. Yet that one has my least favorite cover, go figure. Also, Time Terror gets credit for a bittersweet ending. and being the first one I read so many years ago.
1. Invasion of the No-Ones:
Soon after meeting a mysterious new girl named Tira, the town is invaded by strange energy beings that can take over human bodies. The general concept is solid here, and I like how Adam, the main hero, is the one taken by an alien being for most of the book. It adds an extra scary idea and a solid threat.
That stuff is well done but the thing makes this my favorite one is Watch. He easily gets the most depth in the series and this shows here. We get to explore more of how he feels and a character is able to get him on their side due to them sharing similar feelings to him. His character is put to the test here and it makes for a more interesting story as a result. The villains also get a solid backstory and Tira is fleshed out well.
It does still have the abrupt ending problem but otherwise it manages to have all the good aspects of the series is one very good package. I dug it. Now for my favorite episodes.
5, The Wishing Stone
Writer: Jim Krieg
Yep, my least favorite book got turned into an episode that made it here. I was mixed in if one of my honorable mentions belongs here instead but I figured I’d throw this a bone.
The gang discovers a wishing stone that was made by aliens and making wishes stacks up a bunch of debt that they must pay off via slave labor on another planet. The book has two of them being brought to said planet and the focus is on saving them plus the antics on the planet.
It was still good but I was disappointed than the thing the book was named after wasn’t really focused on. Thankfully, the low budget means all that is going and the wishes get more. The debt collector robot is a threat throughout while wish stuff happens as well, which works well.
They do fun stuff with the wishes, especially Watch’s. There’s a cool callback to The Evil House and a nice Sally moment, but this was brought up by the ending. It is undone but the moment we get is still pretty nice, even if it would work slightly better if this was a tad later in the show, I guess.
Still, a solidly rounded one.
4. Critical Care
Writer: Mitch Watson
Remember when I said that there was an episode with tonsils coming to life? Yeah, this is that episode…and it’s actually quite good. The tonsils in question are Watch’s, as they spring to life overnight while he’s at the hospital post tonsil-removal.
There’s fun snarky moments making fun of how silly this is all is but…believe it or not, they kinda made this silly idea a bit creepy at points. For one, the sound design team gave the tonsils this noise that is gross and unsettling. There’s decent tension and all that despite how ludicrous this all is.
The show’s tone allows them to get away with an idea this out there, but they managed to make it more interesting than they needed to. The reveal of what is going on is pretty out there, but it works despite being logically odd, even for this show lol .There’s also some arc teasing that strangely makes the silliest episode not totally filler, interesting.
A good example of how to create something out of a fairly wild idea.
3. Flowers of Evil
Writers: Billy Brown and Dan Angel
Sally and Ann are forced to team up to stop an evil flower cult. Yes, basically this flower starts hypnotizing everyone and making everyone “obey the blossom”. I find cult plots inherently interesting and creepy so this really fit the bill for me. Just the idea of people being all smile-y while being up to no good creeps me out.
They take advantage of this idea and there’s decent stakes with everyone but Sally and Ann being taken over. It’s always good for others to get more of the spotlight so this was pretty solid as a result. A decently creepy and fun one all around.
Although one unintentionally funny part is when they are trying to find Sally. See, they refer to her as a weed that needs to be cut, so thus they start chanting FIND THE WEED.
Yes. Moving on.
2. The Dark Corner
Writer: Jim Krieg
This was the big mid-season episode and it was really good. Through Ann’s magic, they try to find Adam’s mom but end up in a version of Spooksville ravaged by a zombie apocalypse. Whoops.
This is one of the creepier ones, as there is decent tension and atmosphere in the zombie world. This is one of the ones that leans into horror the most and it works. I can’t say too much with spoiling though.
I’ll say that something unexpected happens at the very end, that is pretty interesting. They don’t deal with the full fallout of it here though, which is one complaint I have. The ending was pretty abrupt. Everything else is really good though, including a decently emotional bit that happens at one point.
I do wish they didn’t slap on the name of a book despite this clearly not intended to be an adaptation of it but otherwise, a really good way to end the first half of the season and transition into the rest.
Honorable mentions go to Gnome Alone for actually having some creepy stuff with the gnomes and being a solid bottle episode, The Fire Inside for the solid and well paced story, and Stone was being a pretty decent season finale with interesting stuff, even with the sort of cliffhanger.
Writer: Jim Krieg
I was debating on if I liked this or Dark Corner more but I barely went with this. Sadly, this involves even more spoilers. Basically, they end up on the run from bad guys and what we thought was going on is turned around.
It does mostly have them running around and stuff but it’s pretty enjoyable with decent tension and fun action-y bits. One character’s memory starts to come back and that leads to some interesting reveals as the episode goes on. So things do progress beyond them just running.
It’s all capped off with a big reveal that is a lot to take in, but is still really interesting. It’s all pretty well rounded and was very solid as basically a Part 1 to the finale. I ended up liking it more than the actual season finale, but as you saw, I liked that too. This just had more to it so I’d call it my favorite one.
Now to go over the characters. I don’t know why I save them for last either but ah well, there’s not a ton to go over. Something I should mention first is the the show ages the leads up to being teens. I have no strong opinion on this, it doesn’t change too much so I’m cool with it.
First is Adam, played by Keean Johnson. He’s fairly standard as far as protagonists go, basically being the audience stand in and all that. He does work as a straight man to all the weird-ness though. Plus, as the series goes on he seems to be the most willing to sacrifice himself and that’s important to that theme I mentioned. The whole mom thing in the show means he has more to deal with in the show so I can some liking him more there. And yeah, his best stuff in the show has him dealing with that as he’s the same level of kinda blank slate-ish.
But yeah, he works okay as far as these kind of leads go, not a whole lot to say there. Then there’s Sally (real name Sara) Wilcox, played by Katie Douglas. She’s the snarky rude one, giving her the strongest personality. This means she can be either pretty funny or kind of annoying. You have no idea how many times my notes would mention that Sally was a bit too rude in this one. But eventually I got used to and only sometimes will her being too callous be a bad thing for me. It’s part of her charm in a weird way. She also gets enough nice moments to balance it out.
The show tones her ruder moments down so I kind of like her more there, since she still feels like herself otherwise. It helps that the actress really pulls it off, and is my favorite of the main actors as a result. But yeah, she’s pretty good even with those off moments.
Next is Watch, played by Nick Purcha. His real name is not revealed and he doesn’t remember his last name. Ouch. The show gives him the last name of Waverly though. He’s actually my favorite, which took me by surprise. After all, he’s just the smart one. Well, normally he is just that and I just like him for certain amusing moments and how resourceful he can be and all that stuff. But then there’s the deeper layer.
See, he wears four Watches, (hence the name, his real name is not revealed), because his mom, dad and sister are spread throughout the country and he keeps track of the time where it is in their time zone. Despite one mention of an aunt, it turns out he actually lives alone. As a result, he feels lonely despite having the gang and this becomes especially important in Invasion of the No-Ones. While he’s not explored super deeply all the time, a fair few get mileage out of this for the story and it really works.
You just feel bad for the poor guy sometimes. We never find out why his family left, we just know he “did not have an easy childhood” And you as you saw, not even Pike himself will tell me what it is. That could be code for “I didn’t think of one and you caught me too on the fly’ but eh.
So yeah, he gets the most development due to this baggage. I noticed the early books would have him sometimes say kind of off things due to thinking more logically, and just not quite being in touch with emotions or social cues. But this is less of a thing later, as he doesn’t come across as callous much later on, just keeping the latter thing.
I don’t know, just thought it was an extra thing that gave him more depth. Then we have the show, which changes him a bit. For one, he thinks all supernatural stuff is just science, which is not the case in the books. This causes a few dick moments, and even almost kills Sally at one point. On its own this works okay, just not big on the change.
He also now lives with mom, but to make up for it, dad is dead so that gives him something. This takes off that deeper layer, making him more traditional and thus not my favorite anymore, and also lessening The No-ones somewhat. I swear I actually quite like that one despite how I keep calling it out. TV Watch is still good, just simpler and not as “deep”.
Oh and there’s no reason he wears the watches now I guess. Okay, I think that is all to say about the TV Wa-
“My mom says I’m smart. But other kids, teachers, even Adam and Sally, all they see is a kid on the autism spectrum”
…Oh yeah, that. You read that right, the show reveals Watch is autistic. I’m not equipped to judge it on that level, but I can say the book’s Watch feels a bit closer to what I know about the subject, less so with TV Watch. I’m too surprised it’s even a thing in this of all shows to care too much about the treatment of it, which sounds way worse when I type it out loud. It does seem like they slapped into a nerdy character who shows no clear traits otherwise which isn’t great but I do feel like they had good intentions and felt it was perfectly fitting. Either, won’t get too hung upon it, I appreciate the effort at least in a show where you would not expect something like that.
(I do know that “Autistic Spectrum” is probably the correct phrasing though)
THAT ALL SAID, we can move and discuss Cindy Makey. She is in a similar position to Adam, having only moved to Spooksville recently, and is introduced in Book 2, then becomes part of the group. She is basically just the female character who is not bitch-y like Sally is, being basically the “nice one”, except for when it comes to Sally, as they are often at odds. In the later ones, it’s due to how they just naturally contrast. But early on, it’s because…Sally likes Adam and views her as competition.
Yeeep, we got that going on. It is was fairly annoying and I am glad that was ditched. Cindy does continue to like Adam though, which is fine as they have decent chemistry and it is kind of cute. I think they’d work better than Adam and Sally, which oddly isn’t pushed too hard later on. Actually, I kind of I like Cindy/Watch more based on some nice moments they get, but I digress. (Hell, Adam/Watch could work well too, come to think of it…)
She isn’t a big standout but her contrast with Sally does add a little something to the group. But the TV producers didn’t agree, as she was only in one episode, and even in that episode her role is diminished quite a bit. I’m not quite sure why this was done. …What say you, Jim?
…Yeah, that makes sense.
Either way, she was missed, even if she wasn’t my favorite. Also, for some reason her brother got to appear in another episode, weird. (Also, in that ep, Watch refers to Cindy as Neil’s “cute sister”…at least the writers are on my side of shipping lol)
Speaking of extra teammates that the show diminishes the role of, we have Bryce Poole. Introduced in “The Dark Corner”, he is basically this badass who deals with larger matters. At first he only joins when needed, either needing to be rescued or he goes up to them. But from The Creature in the Teacher onward, he is a casual part of the group. I wasn’t sure of him at first, as he seemed a bit…OP, happening to know everything and being able to do anything.
But soon that becomes part of his flaw, that he feels the need to always be the hero, and needs to be taught humility. That isn’t a huge part of him as he’s just a bit less OP later on but he does serve to contrast to Adam, who also plays the hero but is not as show-y about it. There is a whole thing with Adam not trusting him at first as a result.
That said, he’s nothing super special, and truth be told, the series would be fine without him. Although I love how Sally goes from praising him to high heaven, to turning against him when he makes the slightest mistake. The show agreed with me as he again only appears once, for the same reason as Cindy. And in that one episode, he is changed to be an idiot bully for some reason. Oh and Cindy has a thing for him too.
The group also had two bonus members. One is Tira Jones, who is a big part of Invasion of the No-Ones in a way I can’t spoil. After that, she only pops up twice afterwards and gets left behind during the main adventure, making her kind of useless to be honest. She doesn’t have much going on her own so I guess that’s why she vanishes after those two extra appearances. Thus, the show only had her in that first appearance, due to a change that is a spoiler.
Something similar happens with George Sanders, a cowardly student met in The Creature in the Teacher, and is left behind in those same two adventures as Tira. I don’t mind him vanishing as much since he seemed less likely to be important going forward. The odd thing is, the show has a character named Stanley “Scaredey” Katzman who fulfills the same role he did in The Thing in the Closet, so he is clearly George, just named something different.
He gets a bigger role in a later episode, meaning he got to do more than George, nice. He’s a fine but standard type, fairly amusing though…even with his creepy thing for Sally, ew.
Moving away from the group, we have Bum, the town’s former mayor who is now…well a bum. He is well versed in the town’s history, so he exists to tell them the backstory of certain things. He is amusing with how he keeps wanting the others to pay for food for him and stuff. He’s a decently helpful presence..
In the show, he is called The Mayor and his role is diminished, until The Maze which is a whole episode about going into his memory and stuff. Don’t ask. His name was changed because, “In today’s climate we don’t name anyone Bum”. …Fair enough I suppose. There are a couple cute nods to his original name though. He is a bit nuttier compared to the book and he lives in a Tardis cardboard box. That is all.
Then we have Ann Templeton, played by Morgan Taylor Campbell. She’s interesting in both versions, especially due to how different they are. She is the local witch who is a descendant of Madeline Templeton, who was pretty infamous. She is generally mysterious with a bunch of rumors surrounding her, but she seems nice enough. As the series goes on, some of her antagonistic aspects get toned down as she helps them more often. She’s especially nice to Watch.
I like her whole deal, having all these years of experience as we find out more about her while keeping some things vague. She’s definitely a good guy by the end but before then you’re not quite sure what she’s up to. Like Bum, she can be an exposition machine sometimes but she has enough to her to make up for it. Also, she has a daughter named Mireen who is important in one book but outside of one mention, never appears again. Not even in the last book, in such a way that makes me think Pike straight up forgot she existed.
In the show, Ann is aged down to a teen and her alignment is way more up in the air. She’s arguably more complicated as a result, she’s much shadier and is a bit closer to a bad guy in some ways. Saying more would be spoiling though, so I can’t go into too much detail. As a result, she’s ruder to them, including Watch which was so weird compared to the books. I still quite like her for her ambiguity and how even by the end of the season, I don’t quite totally get her, but in a good way. Both are valid, and it’s handled well enough to where I don’t mind such a drastic change.
Either way, Ann is a fascinating and useful figure for the series. Oh and in the show she has a servant guy named Moorpark who exists and is even shadier. Oh and her castle houses a bunch of trolls, which the show replaces with Homuncali. That is all, moving on.
There aren’t too many other recurring citizens but we’ve got a couple, such as the owner of the army surplus store, Mr. Patton, hardy har. He’s a gun nut who enjoys when they request his help. He’s not in the show though, mostly likely because a character who exists to give minors weapons wouldn’t look great.
They however did include Mr. Spiney, the librarian who is obsessed with bones and making sure kids have strong ones. It’s just as creepy as it sounds and I love him, especially in the show where he’s more over the top.
There are a whole bunch of one off people, such as the bookstore owner/former butch who is most certainly a serial killer. They’re fun, Also, in the show they have this guy who I think owns the dinner, that is into new age stuff and can sense weird things. He exists.
The show also has Principal Blackwater, who is about as creepy as her name applies. She’s rather strict and also turns out to be a former vampire hunter. That leads to some cool stuff in that episode. The books had a different principal, who only appears once and in that one book she didn’t care when a student went missing and told their mom that she can just give another child. Sure she isn’t one of the monsters running around?
Anyway, It’s worth mentioning that Adam’s parents only appear in the first book then never again, but dad appears more in the show. Not a lot to say for him, he’s okay. But Adam’s sister who existed for one sentence never got her time in the limelight, what a shame.
Sally’s parents never popped up at all, just being mentioned but they appear in the show. They are of the sort of embarrassing type. I do like seeing small expansions like this, even if I get why the books kept the parents out of it. Oh and Cindy’s Mom was merely mentioned but gets to appear in the background if you quint at the end of her only episode, and her dad is dead which is important to her debut than not brought up again. And that’s about it for the characters, already time to wrap this up.
This was an interesting series to re-visit, both the books and the show. I held the books in fairly high regard, as I stated, and while they perhaps didn’t quite live up to that, they still held mostly well. There’s a lot more that could have been done, like fleshing out some characters more and such. It did leave me wanting more at times, because there is some great “deeper” stuff in here sometimes.
Not that I’m expecting a ton out of something like this but there was potential for more, I feel. Perhaps we would have gotten that post Witch’s Gift but I guess we’ll never know.
The TV show was about the same as I remembered it. I actually recalled fairly little for most of it, so sometimes it felt like I was watching it for the first time. It sadly can fall short as an adaptation but the spirit is there. It again misses chances to do more but it also is able to do its own interesting thing with the story arc.
I would have loved to see a second season to flesh things out further, but sadly Discovery Family had to exist to put a stop to that ever happening. Seriously, that channel had so much potential to be the home for shows like this that others weren’t doing but they pissed it all away.
This of course makes me wonder what they have done with a second season. What say you, Jim?
Okay, that all sounds pretty cool, thanks for sharing all that. (Rewind sounds the coolest of those tbh)
So yeah, both versions have their flaws but are still pretty good. The books had some somewhat daring moments and solid characters that were pretty intelligent and had fun/nice interactions. They often fell into patterns and left me wanting more but this served well as fun little adventures. The TV show may not be the most faithful and doesn’t stray far from the nature of the books, plus tones some things down but are again still fun adventures and has a solidly handled story act and some pretty good acting. Sure, even taking the budget and the added story arc into it, there’s changes I’m more okay with than others but it’s not a huge loss.
For the record, the books are generally better but the show still has value, and has some improvements in some areas. Both are in similar leagues at the end of the day, one just had more impressive moments for its genre than the other.
The series is all on the usual places so unlike Haunting Hour, watching all of is not hard. The books are a different story. The first 12 were reprinted as a tie in but finding the rest can be a bit of a treasure hunt. You may have to jump through some weird hoops, like using Google Translate to read French PDF’s of them or something like that. Of course, I’m above things like that, totally…
But seriously, I wish the show had taken off, we may have gotten reprints for the rest. The fact that some later ones like Thing in the Closet got adapted makes this worse. They are worth tracking down at least.
Both versions of this series teach good lessons in a way. The books teach us that following a trend can still lead to some good things that top the original, and the series shows us that a spotty adaptation can still be good and even keep the spirit and improve some things. And both ended up being cut off too soon despite the people behind them having interesting future plans.
It may not be the most well known of Pike’s works but it’s always gonna be what I associate him with. Thankfully, I’m self aware enough to know that when Mike Flannigan says his upcoming Midnight Club Netflix series will reference a bunch of other Pike stuff, Spooksville ain’t exactly gonna be one of them. But hey, you never know. In the least I hope it causes some new nostalgia fueled re-visits to the series.
Oh and back when it is on, Jim and other cast/crew people did commentaries for some of the episodes and that’s where I got certain info like the Bum change that I didn’t have to ask him about lol. Go here to listen for yourself: https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/spooksville-the-podcast-commentscary-jim-QP51e3EqtYl
Okay, that’s about it. Huge thanks to Jim Krieg for the info that was quite enlightening and of course for all the work put into the show. Huge thanks to Pike for that reply back there as well. You guys rock.
(Yes, waiting for Jim’s replies is why this took so long. Hey, he’s got other stuff, I get it. And hey, better late than never, eh?)