Writer discusses Tremors series pilot starring Kevin Bacon

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

Tremors Kevin Bacon

In June, a panel at the ATX Television Festival in Austin, Texas will be digging into the pilot that was made for a ten episode mini-series that would have seen Kevin Bacon reprising his TREMORS role of Valentine McKee almost thirty years down the line from that film's release. A mini-series that Syfy decided not to move forward with, so we're probably never going to see it.

While we wait to hear what information on the rejected Tremors show might come out of that panel, writer Andrew Miller has already shared a good deal of information on his hopes and plans for the mini-series in an interview at the website Graffiti with Punctuation.

In the interview, Miller says he got the job writing the show with a pitch that envisioned Val not as a hero whose triumph over the subterranean creatures known as Graboids allowed him to leave the tiny desert town of Perfection, Nevada, but instead as a man who has never been able to live up to that moment of heroism again and has been stuck in Perfection ever since.

…it cemented him in that place. He has had this idea of himself as a 20-year-old, and because he still has the same hair and the same physique, he’s able to delude himself into thinking that he’s still the hero he was in the original movie. But the truth is, he can’t fight the Graboids as that guy. And he was never as heroic as he thought he was back then. So the point of the season would be starting with this broken hero, who’s lost everything because of his own ego and imagination, and building him back up over the course of the season to become the hero he wants to be to beat the Graboids."

The mini-series would have a lot of similarities to the TREMORS sequels, like showing that Chang's Market is run by relatives of the first film's ill-fated Victor Chang (in this case, Uni Park and Haley Tju as Grace and Jai Chang) and is now full of Graboid memorabilia, and that the character Melvin (played by P.J. Byrne in the pilot) has grown up to be a scheming pain in the ass, but it would have ignored the events of the sequels, which Bacon/Val wasn't in. Miller says, 

The network was much more interested in the original than the sequels, tonally and creatively. This was fine, because we were imagining the town going in a different direction to the sequels anyway. So the idea was to branch off, to say ‘look, we all love this movie and there’s this fantastic universe that exists out there. This isn’t that. This is different. It’s with Kevin, and it’s a different mythology.’ Having said that, my semi-private goal was to find a way to get those universes together. I’d never discussed this with the people behind the sequels, this was just me at Blumhouse saying ‘we have a town, we have all these writers, we have a huge graboid puppet, what if we could use some of our characters to spin off into movies and tie them in with characters from the other movies.’"

While Miller, Syfy, and the producers at Blumhouse Television were working on the mini-series, the sixth TREMORS film, TREMORS: A COLD DAY IN HELL, was made and released to home video. That movie showed us Val and fellow TREMORS character Rhonda LeBeck had a daughter, Valerie McKee, who shares her mother's interest in science. Miller had an idea along the same lines. In the pilot, we learn that Val and Rhonda have a scientist daughter named Emily (Emily Tremaine), and she and Val don't have a great relationship.

Principally, it’s a father-daughter story, because she represents the worst part of what he’s lost. In addition to beating the graboids, the first season arc would be about winning back her love. …He has his daughter right there, and all he can see is the past. He’s talking wistfully about this time they spent together in a bunker, fearful of a graboid attack. There’s nothing remotely romantic about it. It’s just awful, but at the same time, it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful, and it’s tragic. You know he’s a good guy with a good heart, but he just goes about everything in the wrong way. She hates the past, he loves the past and, ideally, we would have used those ten episodes to get them to meet in the present."

While trying to repair his relationship with his daughter, Val would have to face off with some new threats in addition to a new batch of Graboids. These threats were two groups; the Deliberates, a cult of Graboid-worshipping hippies, and Datalux, a company that has 

this incredibly complex underground lab and office system, they’d have a piece of the graboid that they’d been experimenting with, trying to reproduce nature’s greatest weapon."

A company conducting twisted experiments in an underground lab near Perfection is an element this mini-series would have shared with the previous attempt at a Tremors TV show, which ran for 13 episodes and aired on Syfy back in 2003. The new Graboids designed by Legacy Effects for the mini-series had evolved since the Graboids we saw in the 1990 film, and had also been tweaked by Datalux.

There’s something called the Devil Worm that exists two miles underground. It doesn’t require air or light the scientific joke is that it doesn’t have a reason to live because it doesn’t need anything. So we thought we’d put a bit of that DNA in there, so they could travel deeper than they had before. And then there’s the Bobbit Worm that uses narcotising poison – like a snake – to freeze its victims before eating it, so we used a bit of that. And there were others that had some traits we liked, including one that used echo-location – it didn’t need to depend on sound and vibration to see; so you could be as quiet as you wanted, and it could still see you. So we used their physical properties to make them feel more worm-like. … We wanted something that could move through rock, move through granite."

Miller reveals that the ten episodes of the mini-series would have taken place over three days, with the Graboids being a constant threat once they emerge at the end of the pilot.

I wanted the subsequent episodes to feel like the movie, in that it would never let up – it would move from chapter to chapter, but there wouldn’t be any ebb and flow. Especially with streaming, I wanted people to be able to experience the story in the same way I did when I saw the movie – and that they’d get a thrilling, funny, emotional experience."

Since the mini-series wasn't picked up by Syfy, no episodes were produced beyond the pilot, but Miller mentioned some of the ideas he had for future episodes. The second episode would have centered on 

two people trying to find their friends in a subterranean tunnel network that’s filled with monsters. It wouldn’t be a standalone episode, but that’s where our focus would be that week. Then we could look at the Deliberates in more detail, and find out who these crazy hippies are that worship the graboids. One episode would be in real-time, where the characters need to get from one end of Perfection to the other without making a sound… there’d be no dialogue in the episode. Then, maybe, we have an episode in Chang’s, where the monsters that are coming out are the emotional monsters they’ve been hiding from each other, and it’s like a play. Then the next episode is like ‘Mad Max’, where they have to get to Datalux headquarters, and you’ve got eight people in six cars, and half of them are going to die in this mad race to get to the bad guys. So every episode would be like an event, but all part of one consistent story."

That sounds like a lot of fun to me. It's a shame we're not going to get a chance to see those ideas play out on the screen. Miller says Syfy's decision not to order Tremors to series is 

all a sad, tear-stained blur. The studio was incredibly happy, they tested it, and it tested very, very well. Kevin tested off the charts, the people who knew the film loved it and the people who didn’t were intrigued. So they handed it up to the network confidently. But, at the network level, they just weren’t as enthusiastic about it as we hoped, and I’m not entirely sure why. All of it feels like it should’ve been a no-brainer to me. The pilot turned out really well, and the plan for the series would’ve taken it to another level."

In addition to the actors mentioned above, the mini-series also would have starred Toks Olagundoye as Jessica Florence, a city-chic civil engineer who has come to Perfection with plans to expand the access road; John Ellison Conlee as Val's sci-fi loving, yoga-practicing best friend Harlan Maylor; Megan Ketch as returning character Mindy Sterngood (originally played by Ariana Richards), now a doctor who is also "an unanticipated threat"; Shiloh Fernandez as Nico Garza, who works in Earl's Graboid Waste Gobbling company; Hunter Parrish as the leader of the Deliberates; Ebonée Noel as the psychic Zoe; and Brandon Jay McLaren as Toby, a likeable guy who nobody likes. 

Miller was also hoping to get Bacon's TREMORS co-star Fred Ward to show up as his character Earl Bassett, whether his appearance would last for a few episodes, one episode, or just a cameo. Miller's idea was that Earl left Perfection and runs a successful handyman business, while Val's attempt to start a Graboid theme park bombed.

In the end, my hope was we’d have seen that Earl wasn’t as distant as he seemed, and had a far better idea of what was going on than anyone could’ve imagined."

Even though the mini-series came to a dead end at Syfy, Miller still has hope that we'll see the return of Kevin Bacon as Valentine McKee someday.

It’d be one thing if Kevin said ‘We tried and it didn’t work, quit bugging me’. But he’s still a big fan of the franchise and a big fan of the show… and he really enjoyed playing Val again. I think he’d jump at the chance to continue it. I can imagine him saying ‘Let’s see what Val’s like in 30 years’, or whatever the case is. For a guy who doesn’t look back, and who hasn’t done a sequel to anything, I think this was a good enough experience that it always remains possible."

I hope we will see something come out of Bacon's interest in playing Val again. Maybe it won't be the mini-series Miller had in mind (although I hope we'll have the chance to watch the pilot someday), but since Bacon is willing to fight Graboids again it really needs to happen, in a series or a movie. It's insane that Syfy didn't want to move forward with the idea.

Source: Graffiti with Punctuation

About the Author

Cody is a news editor and film critic, focused on the horror arm of JoBlo.com, and writes scripts for videos that are released through the JoBlo Originals and JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channels. In his spare time, he's a globe-trotting digital nomad, runs a personal blog called Life Between Frames, and writes novels and screenplays.