October 12, 2019


*Note only VHS-modified intro available at this time.
(ABC, September 7-December 7, 1996)

Hyperion Pictures, The Fred Silverman Company

Esteban Powell – Brian Holsapple
Linda Cardellini – Sarah
John Patrick White – Fitzgerald Crump
Saadia Persad – Lexi

            While most people are more likely familiar with R.L. Stein’s Goosebumps series of children’s horror books, there was another series running at the same time. Created and mostly written by Betsy Haynes, Bone Chillers was a horror anthology series published by HarperCollins. The first book in the series, Beware the Shopping Mall, was published in 1994 and was followed by 26 more entries; with the last book published in 1998.

The cast: Fitz, Sarah, Brian and Sarah.

            A year after Goosebumps got its own television show, Bone Chillers followed suit. Developed by Adam Rifkin, the series decided to abandon the anthology format in favor of a continuing cast. The series was set at the fictional Edgar Allan Poe High School, named after the noted writer, and focused on four freshmen: Brian (Esteban Powell), Lexi (Saadia Persad), Sarah (Linda Cardellini) and Fitz (John Patrick White). There, they encountered monsters brought to life by magic spells and lightning, creatures that invaded their dreams, homicidal plant life, and even an evil principal (Arthur Burghardt). Aiding them in dealing with the weirdness of school was the school janitor, Arnie (Charles Fleischer), who lived in the basement (and considering the school was a cobwebbed-covered mess, he probably should have focused more on his actual job).

The evil principal.

            Bone Chillers debuted on ABC on September 7, 1996. The series was written by Rifkin with Michele Rifkin, Carl V. Dupré, Alex Zamm and Matthew Bates. While a couple of episodes were adapted directly from the books, the stories were largely original to the series. A running gag on the episode title screens featured a callback to old movies, which would proclaim the type of technology used to film them. The parodies included “Sphinx-o-Round”, “Amphibi-o-Vision”, “Widescream” and “Scare-o-Morphic”, amongst others. Haynes would appear at the end of episodes to talk to the audience about using their imaginations and exploring any interest they may have in being a writer. The series’ music was composed by Randall Crissman and Christopher Hoag.

Frankenturkey the book vs. the VHS.

            Despite being one of ABC’s top-rated Saturday morning programs, the show unfortunately had a case of bad timing. Disney had purchased ABC in 1996 and proceeded to expel any show from the network that wasn’t produced or owned by them outright. As a result, Bone Chillers was cancelled after a single season of 13 episodes. Ironically, Disney’s home-distribution arm, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, would release three VHS collections of the series containing two episodes each: Art Intimidates Life, Frankenturkey and Back to SchoolThe VHS episodes featured a slightly modified opening sequence, with the show’s title giving way to also include the tape’s subtitle. The episode “Romeo and Ghouliette” was also adapted as the last book in the series, utilizing the show’s characters.

“Art Intimidates Life” (9/7/96) – Things that are drawn end up becoming real.

“Teacher Creature” (9/14/96) – The school’s new teacher is turned into a frog when he accidentally eats the toxic eggs found by Fritz and Brian in the swamp.

“Back to School” (9/21/96) – The school’s food is usually disgusting, but Fitz realizes something is wrong when his classmates begin fighting for second helpings.

“Frankenturkey” (9/28/96) – Fritz and Brian create a decoy for the school turkey meant to feed the students, but it ends up struck by lightning and comes to life.

“Mummy Dearest” (10/5/96) – A mummy interrupts the school play.

“Charlotte’s Revenge” (10/12/96) – The school finds itself under siege by a giant spider.

“Romeo and Ghouliette” (10/19/96) – Lexi is determined there is something wrong with new girl Julie, especially since she’s taken an interest in Fitz.

“Gorilla My Dreams” (10/26/96) – Everyone’s dreams end up invaded by a gorilla.

“Mr. Fitz and Dr. Hyde” (11/2/96) – Fitz repeatedly transforms into an insane monster.

“Root of All Evil” (11/9/96) – Plants come to life and attack the students of the school.

“Edgar Allan Poe-Session” (11/16/96) – When the principal removes Poe’s bust from the lobby, the writer’s ghost becomes angry.

“Scmendel’s Comet” (11/30/96) – Kirk and his friends find stealing an upcoming test’s answers a challenge when a passing comet unleashes strange abilities within the school.

“Full Moon Goon” (12/7/96) – Fitz and Briand discover that Sarah’s new friend Lobo is a werewolf.

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