Monday, March 21, 2011

SMCS Companion Piece #15: The Real Ghostbusters

This is really late.  Meh, what can you do?
Who doesn’t know about the Ghostbusters?  Perhaps maybe you’re a younger person whose parents have never shared this wonderful film with you because they hate things like “joy” and “happiness.”  Or perhaps a you’re hermit who has been living in a cave the past twenty-seven years.  In that case if you’re reading this that would imply you’re new to the internet.   In which case, welcome; please mind the porn.  Anyway for the few, and almost certainly imaginary, of you who don’t know Ghostbusters was a 1984 movie that was both one of the best comedies and science fiction films ever made.  Like many, many other films both good and bad it had a cartoon made from it.  Today [EDIT: And by "today" I mean "two days ago"] on the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show DJ Muppet and I “watched” The Real Ghostbusters
This show was freaking awesome…at first.  Things slowly went nutty after awhile, but I fondly recall watching the shit out of this cartoon as a kid.  I was far more connected to this series than its source material for years.   But even seven year old Beta (Who believe me wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed) eventually wised up and turned his back on the show.  Why?
Click below to find out.
Beginning in 1986 and lasting until 1991 The Real Ghostbusters is one of the more successful animated adaptations in North America having helped keep the overall franchise alive for years in cartoon form and in action figures.  Although character designs were altered for the show the characters from the cartoon had been very iconic throughout the years.  The show seemed like it was a pseudo sequel to the movie following the further adventures of the tea, although some episodes imply that in their universe the Ghostbusters film was actually a movie based on these guys.  Regardless the events from the film took place in the characters back-story in some form or another and references are occasionally made.  Here Slimer, the ghost from the movie, appears as a sort of pet to obviously be the kid appeal character.  As far as that type of character went I actually kind of liked Slimmer….at first.   Also Winston, who was hired help in the first movie and repeatedly was left out in several posters and other promotional material in the second one, was completely equal in this show and on the same level as the other three guys here.  TV Show:1, Movies: 0.
A victory for black people everywhere
A fun side note: Prior to the creation of the film there was a short lived TV show that ran from 1975 to 1976 called The Ghost Busters which featured two bumbling paranormal investigators and their gorilla Tracy.  It was unrelated to the 1984 film but in the aftermath of the movies’ success the production company Filmation (Presumably) decided to capitalize on the name by creating a cartoon sequel to the old show.  At the same time the actual animated adaptation of the movie was being made but due to a lawsuit between Filmation and Columbia it couldn’t be called “Ghostbusters” by itself.  Now one would think Columbia could have simply titled it something along the lines of Ghostbusters: The Animated Series but instead chose to call it THE REAL Ghostbusters…you know, because screw Filmation and their gorilla I guess.
The Fake Ghostbusters, apparently
So already we’re off to a shaky good start with a bit of snark.  Let me tell you; when this show first came out it was great.  First of all the team themselves sort of evolved from ghost busters for hire to almost superhero like proportions.  The storylines would dip into darker and scarier territories than your average kids show.  Plus it was a bit smarter than it had any right to be.  This wouldn’t last.  At some point J. Michael Straczynski, the writer on the show best known as the creator of Babylon 5 (We will talk more about this guy in about seven blogs) left before the show ended.  The series after season 2 the show pretty much jumped the shark and never really recovered.  The show was re-tooled as Slimer! and The Real Ghostbusters, an hour long show that featured one episode of Slimer having solo adventures around town (Almost all of which were moronic) followed by a more traditional episode featuring the guys.  I HATED this change.  I was really young at the time too and I can tell you I wanted nothing to do with the character specifically added to appeal to me when he became the focus.  I didn’t want to watch Slimer trying to oursmart Elmer Fudd wannabes and comically trying to acquire food; I wanted to watch the Ghostbusters fight ghost (Becuase busting makes me feel good).  To make matters worse the shows tone became much more lighthearted and less scary during this time as well, losing much of what made the first two seasons so cool.  By the way around this time is where the late, great Lorenzo Music was replaced as the voice of Peter Venkman with Dave Coulier, who no one with intelligence and/or sanity has ever accused of being funny or entertaining (I always found his version of Venkman to be more of a jerk than Music’s).  Is it any real surprise that the show went downhill when he came onboard?
The worse thing was that the character of Janine, the team's secretary who’s quit better job than this.  Long story short executives demanded several changes to the character’s look and personality after season 2 which ultimately led her to being a less interesting part of the show.  Her glasses were said to be scary for children (What the hell?) so they were changed.  Her personality was considered too abrasive so it was altered to be the “Team Mom” trope.  Her goddamn Brooklyn accent, arguably her most iconic trait, WAS REMOVED!  Why?  Because it wasn’t feminine enough, I imagine!  Yay feminism?
Sarcastic.  Independent.  Assertive.
Fans were so annoyed at this that the writers actually had to address it in the season 5 episode “Janine, You’ve Changed” where it turned out (Retroactively, of course) that the changes to Janine’s character were due to a deal she made with a demon and by the end of the episode she regained some, but not all, of her lost traits.  Hmm, a story written by Straczynski where a main character makes a deal with a demon with the end result being a giant retcon?  Where have I heard this before…?
It's coming...
Anyway the show ended not long after this but got a sequel in the mid-90s featuring a new generation of busters called “Extreme Ghostbusters”, although that show had more Cons than Pros (For example, it was named “EXTREME Ghostbusters”).  Bottom line is that as far as nostalgia goes there aren’t many shows I think back as fondly as The Real Ghostbusters, but there’s a cautionary tale here: TV executives want to ruin your favorite show, no matter how good it was before.
Also voiced by Frank Welker
For more on The Real Ghostbusters click here.  For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show blog and podcast click here and here.


  1. Ha! Beta this is a totally awesome post! I never watched this cartoon, but I did love the Ghostbusters movie - because, you know, my parents loved me.

    I was surprised to hear the J. Michael Straczynski was a writer on the show. I am totally unfamiliar with any of his work before Babylon 5. Have you read the comic series Rising Stars? An excellent piece of work by JMS.

    Looking forward to more.

  2. Yeah, I read Rising Stars a while back but I never finished it. I really liked what I read though and I was really exited when it was first announced he'd be writing for Marvel based solely on the quality of that series. In retrospect I'd say he's a Hit or Miss kind of comic writer.


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