Today we are going to take a short break from our Tremors movie marathon to detour into a most interesting chapter of the franchise: the 2003 TV series. Airing on the Sci-Fi channel, Tremors: The Series was a 13-episode spin-off from the cult films. But the interesting thing is that it wasn’t just a spin-off with weird characters and settings that had nothing to do with the movies. No, this series functioned as a continuation of the third movie and starred Michael Gross, who once again reprised his role of survivalist Burt Gummer.
Even though Tremors wasn’t a massive box office draw, you can see why Sci-Fi would pick it up for a series. It had that hokey creature feature angle that the channel loved, and the executives no doubt had hopes were that the built-in movie audience might make the jump. Plus, this project benefited from the writing of the creative team behind the first four movies, lending it an authentic seal of approval and a comfortable spot in the franchise.
Tremors: The Series even drew in quite a few big names, including Dean Norris (Breaking Bad), Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Marcia Strassman (M*A*S*H), and Vivica A. Fox (Independence Day). Robert Jayne also came back for a third showing of Melvin, that kid/adult you love to hate from the first and third films.
The show started with a bang on the channel but ultimately lost viewers who were confused when Sci-Fi aired the episodes out of order. Still, by all accounts it was a decent show that made the best use of early 2000s CGI and some good talent to try to expand upon the “mythos” of Perfection, NV.
At the start of the series, things are going on pretty much as they were in Tremors 3. Perfection’s becoming a tourist attraction, Melvin’s trying to turn it into a real estate dreamland, the government is still poking around, Desert Jack’s tours are starting up again (under new management), and everyone’s pretty used to going into silent running when “El Blanco” — a giant white graboid — comes trucking through once or twice a day. The quirky townsfolk have made peace with their unusual life, but the balance is soon tipped when the monster menace ramps back up.
Since they wanted to keep most of the cast around, the writers had to come up with a bit of a different angle than all-out conflict with the graboids. Instead, the idea was to make more of a “creature of the week” threat — kind of like X-Files or Supernatural — that the Perfectionites would beat with either firepower or improvised gadgets. There’s also more effort to inject some more character development (i.e. everyone has a secret backstory) and relationships that extend beyond screaming and running in the same general direction.
After watching a few episodes, I’m a little torn on how this all comes off. On one hand, it’s a valiant effort to establish a consistent cast and flesh out what was a pretty paper-thin premise. The cast is good (if a little hokey at times), and Christopher Lloyd is channeling full-on crazy Doc Brown, which makes for entertaining TV. On the other hand, the creators didn’t inject the show with enough substance to really warrant hour-long episodes. There’s not enough money to show a whole lot of monsters, so everything gets drawwwwwwwn out. It’s just lacking enough witticisms, monsters, and scares to live up to the sacred Tremors name.