Remembering the “Ghosts of Fear Street” Pilot

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When it comes to children’s television, networks and studios tend to get weird and air specials out of desperation. Often times it’s to test for a potential audience, which is why we got “Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers,” and other times it’s apparently to fill dead air; which is why we got “Ghosts of Fear Street” in 1997. I remember a lot about 1997, and my Friday nights typically was devoted to the scattered remnants of what was once ABC’s TGIF line up. For those final years we didn’t have much save for the last death gasp of “Boy Meets World.” Say what you want about the series, but those last seasons are terrible. There seems to be no record of “Ghosts of Fear Street” ever having existed. Save for some TV listings, and occasional screen caps, this isn’t even included in the resumes of its cast that include the lovely Azura Skye, and Alex Breckinridge, and the always odd Red Buttons.

It’s not even on IMDB. In fact, I completely forgot this ever existed. And I used to be a hardcore RL Stine fan in the nineties. Having seen it again it all rushed back to me. I vaguely remember this being previewed on a Friday night on ABC for a Saturday morning series, and it never actually took off. I wonder why they don’t even credit RL Stine in the opening credits for creating the book series. Watching the pilot was like talking to a very boring person. One minute they’re there, another minute they’re gone, and you don’t really think much about the experience. Since I was still very much an RL Stine fan, but I never had an idea that he’d created a more youth oriented version of his “Fear Street” books entitled “Ghosts of Fear Street.” I mean wouldn’t the younger versions be called “Goosebumps”?

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In either case, “Ghosts of Fear Street” is still an anomaly. It was obviously made on a very small budget, and tries its best to remind us that it’s a scary show, but one not to be frightened of. It attempts to accomplish such a feat by opening the pilot with a slew of poorly computer animated skeletons dancing and growling at us. One of them even does the monkey. Suffice it to say while the “Goosebumps” TV show didn’t have a horrifying opening credit sequence either, it at least took its audience seriously. The credits watch like our weird grandfather is trying to scare us and keeps trying no matter how much we frown. “Ghost of Fear Street” watches more like a family dramedy than a horror show, and it’s really based around the memories of father PJ who is a horror author.

After his wife Anne decides to move her father out of his magic shop after the death of her mother. PJ loves the magic and supernatural, while Anne is more of a killjoy. Fear Street is a part of an odd town much in the realm of “Eerie, Indiana” where ghouls and goblins reside, and PJ’s children begin to learn for the better and for the worse. This becomes even more apparent when daughter Kit befriends bug enthusiast Cricket, as played by Skye. There isn’t much of an emphasis on any of the characters, just a lot of ground work for potential storylines that promise a lot more adventures. Perhaps in a higher budget variety. There’s not even a villain of the movie, it’s merely a bunch of goofy archetypes bumping in to one another and laying the foundation for a never made series.

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All we really get to know is that Buttons character has a shop that holds a lot of secrets, and that Cricket is much more than she seems; particularly her father. It’s only twenty minutes in length and there’s not a lot of elbow room for character depth, thus much of the pilot feels incomplete. There’s not a lot of explanation for the dancing skeletons either. Or the invisible dog. But at least Azura Skye makes the genuinely goofy pilot a lot easier to endure. The pilot was never picked up, and aired as a TV movie. A short one, but still it’s technically a TV movie. That aired once. And one a lot of people don’t even know ever existed. But it’s a fine albeit surreal relic of the RL Stine legacy that touches on some nice nostalgia.