Published on June 13th, 2013 | by Clint Davis
Piano Lessons Can Be Murder [Goosebumps Review]
Original Air Date: December 8, 1995 (Season 1 – Episode 8)
Parents can be real jag-offs when it comes to their kids’ activities. What starts innocently enough as a fun way to get them out of the house often ends with dads screaming about miscues and moms embarrassing everyone. We all knew that kid in school who seemed to hate playing sports but kept at it just to please the old man. Jerry Hawkins, the protagonist of “Piano Lessons Can Be Murder” can relate to that poor kid.
In this edition of Goosebumps, the ever-present moral seems to be aimed at parents rather than the kids watching the program. “Jer” isn’t completely berated by his parents into playing piano–in fact, he came up with the idea himself, but they won’t let him quit even after he complains that the teacher is a creep.
Young Jerry picks up the instrument after he and his family move to a new house (a familiar theme in Goosebumps) and he confronts a ghost who tickles the ivories in their basement. His goal is to play “rock and roll” but the only tune you’ll hear in this episode is Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”…thank you public domain! And you will hear it over and over in a 20-minute span, so be prepared if you’ve recently undergone the Ludovico Treatment. Answering an ad in the newspaper, his parents take him to the Shreek School of Music to take lessons under Dr. Shreek himself. After only a few session, Jerry is ready to bail thanks to the strange behavior he notices during his lessons, including obsessive hand-stroking from Dr. Shreek. His mother forces him to take “one more lesson”, which ends in one of the wackiest conclusions to any episode of the series.
Typical to any children’s program, in “Piano Lessons Can Be Murder”, the parental figures depicted don’t believe a single thing their kid tells them. When Jerry warns them about the piano playing apparition in their cellar, his dad fobs it off as an “overactive imagination”. Although given that Jerry is seen donning a spaghetti strainer on his head and constantly narrating his own actions, I’m surprised they didn’t just feed him Ritalin and call it a day. Jerry is played by Ben Cook, who apparently went on to become an actual musician in a band called Fucked Up, among others.
Another cast member worth mentioning is Aron Tager who plays the villainous Dr. Shreek. Tager holds the distinction of not only bringing this character to life in Goosebumps but also being a regular cast member on Nick’s similar Are You Afraid of the Dark? series as the mad scientist Dr. Vink. He may have been responsible for more kids’ nightmares in the 1990’s than Michael Jackson (zing!).
Overall, this episode is better than your average Goosebumps entry, but not by much. It’s got a few legitimately frightening situations for kids and features not only ghosts other standard horror fare like mad science and automatons. In addition to a lesson for parents about not pushing their children too far, there’s a bonus moral about not cutting corners to achieve your goals–and also, Jerry’s hands are apparently AWESOME!
Goosebumps Scale Rating
Summary: Most Awkward Quote: "I must have your beautiful hands!"