Remembering both attempts to make a ‘Tremors’ TV series

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Getting a Tremors movie every couple of years is nice, but what if you could check in with the Graboids and ass-blasters every week? This was once thought possible, and it has been attempted twice. Life did not find a way.

Before Tremors spawned a vast array of direct-to-video sequels (all of which are streaming on Peacock right now, go and grab em' all), there were some attempts to turn all of the Graboid action into an ongoing television series. As far back as 1993 (the original movie was released in theaters in 1990), Brent Maddock (screenwriter of Tremors) and S.S. Wilson (director of the sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks) had ideas. The tone of the series would likely have given audiences that Tremors feeling, because one of the varying titles over the years included Val & Earl: Monster Hunters.

Their vision became reality in 2003, when SYFY (then the Sci-Fi Channel) debuted a series under the simpler name, Tremors. It was a direct follow-up to the events of Tremors 3: Back to Perdition. If you were wondering what came of the relationship between the graboid known as El Blanco and Burt Gummer (Michael Gross), then this series had your answers. Gross was obviously back, because no Tremors project can do without him. Neither Val (Kevin Bacon) nor Earl (Fred Ward) was in the cast at all, but Dean Norris (Breaking Bad) was. Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) played a recurring character named Dr. Cletus Poffenberger.

Produced at the same time as the wild west prequel, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins the show premiered on March 28, 2003. It initially broke ratings records for the channel, but that didn’t last. The critical reception wasn't great, and some of the episodes were aired out of order (premiere night showed Episodes 1 and 6, while Episode 2 was one of the last episodes to air). Re-editing was necessary in many cases, because the narrative could prove hard to follow with the schedule changes.

The network eventually pulled the plug on the series, with only 13 episodes making it out of the ground. G4 eventually aired the series in its intended order, though when the series was available to purchase from Amazon and Apple in past years, it was apparently only available in the original airing order.

That would have been the end of Tremors as a TV series, had it not been for Kevin Bacon himself. This new series never made it to air. It was only ever a pilot with no plane.

Bacon spoke at length about this in 2019. At a panel called “Tremors: The Pilot Presentation,” at the ATX Television festival, Bacon shared footage and spilled tea. According to IndieWire, Bacon told the panel’s audience that he himself had the idea to check back in with Val McKee, the original hero of Tremors. “It’s pretty much the only character I’d ever played in a movie that I ever thought, ‘This would be a fun guy to check out 25 years later — just because he was such a mess,” he said. “Finding out what happened to him post-worms would be an interesting journey.”

Unlike the previous series, this new show would have followed up on the original movie only. It would have ignored every sequel and every bit of ass-blasting lore that came after that. Val McKee (Bacon) would have turned to alcohol after his worm-hunting fame ran out, with the show taking another look at the dangers of focusing on nostalgia. Season 1 would have taken place over the course of 72 hours, and there were plans for Fred Ward to return. There's no mention made of Michael Gross.

SYFY optioned the pilot of whatever Bacon was bringing home (along with writer/showrunner Andrew Miller) in 2017, but it went nowhere. Miller told IndieWire that there were no plans to try and resuscitate the dead pilot, but Bacon said, “stranger things have happened.”

Val’s life would have been in the toilet if we’d picked back up with him, and Graboid-worshipping hippies were on deck to make his existence worse. The pilot ended with Graboids surrounding the main cast, and we suppose they’ll stay that way until someone else becomes interested.

“If someone wanted it, they could have it,” Bacon went on to say. It would need a different distributor, but Bacon pointed out that the project has Jason Blum (and Blumhouse) in its corner. “They love it,” according to Bacon. Could Jason Blum and Kevin Bacon save this Gummer-free Tremors series from doom? After six sequels, are we ready for it? Normally we’d incline to say no, but we respect the power of Bacon.

The series wouldn’t be as nutty as the sequel films are, but the pilot featured Bacon being forced to sing and dance as a graboid sacrifice. Will general audiences ever see it? Will this pilot ever get rescued? Time will tell (it always does), but until then, McKee and friends will remain trapped by the very monsters that made them famous in the first place.

If only they had Burt Gummer on their side.

All of the Tremors movies are streaming on Peacock right now.