Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Ghost in the Case: Extreme Ghostbusters

"I ain't 'fraid of no ghost!"

Ghost here!  Thanks for joining me today for yet another

If you were asked to provide a list of modern-day classic movies which will stand the test of time, I almost guarantee that Ghostbusters would end up on the list.  With it's rich ideas, clever writing, and hilarious comedy, I would be shocked if people decades down the road aren't still watching the film.  The subject matter is so great that the potential to expand upon its ideas is exponential.  In fact, this potential lead into numerous movies, TV episodes, and video games surrounding the adventures of the Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters has recently come into the spotlight once again due to the all-female remake of the series due to come out this year.  With two trailers under it's belt so far, the film has been receiving a fair amount of negative attention before it has even come out.  Though I have my own opinion on how I think the film will hold up to the franchise as a whole, I don't intend to talk about that today.  Instead, I'm going to be talking about another entry in the Ghostbusters franchise that doesn't receive any love whatsoever.... Extreme Ghostbusters.

When I say it doesn't receive any love, I truly mean this.  It's not that people hate it, it just gets completely ignored in the whole spectrum.  It is so ignored that it's never received a DVD release though every other entry in the franchise has.  Extreme Ghostbusters is a 1997 animated television series that ran as a sort of sequel to The Real Ghostbusters animated series.  Rather than following the adventures of Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston as The Real Ghostbusters did, it follows the adventures of a brand new set of Ghostbusters with Egon sticking around as their mentor.  I used to watch this after I got home from school every week, but since middle school I haven't seen any mention of the show.  Several times over the last few years I've looked up the series in an attempt to watch it again and continuously found absolutely nothing.  However, in March of 2016, I was surfing through Hulu by looking up random search words, and this series appeared on my screen.  After doing a fanboy squeal, I marathon watched the show over the course of the next two days.
So, is this one-season series something that deserves to be as ignored as it has, or is it something that should come back into people's consciousness since the rest of the franchise has this year?  Let's take a closer look

The Plot

It has been ten years since ghosts stopped appearing in New York and the Ghostbusters went their separate ways.  While the others have left New York, Egon has chosen to live in the firehouse with Slimer in order to keep an eye on the ghost containment unit.  He has started to teach a class on paranormal research at the local college and four students have taken his class.  Eduardo is a kind-hearted but lazy joker who has only taken the class thinking it would be an easy A; to my knowledge he is still the only Latino Ghostbuster in the franchise.  Garrett is a courageous handicapped athlete who has taken the class to hear about the old Ghostbusters days.  Roland is a young black man who is a bit of a square but is very technically minded; he has taken this class to learn more about the Ghostbusters' equipment and as an optimistic skeptic.  Lastly, Kylie is a sarcastic semi-goth girl who really knows all about the paranormal and has truly taken the class out of interest in the topic.

When some subway workers accidentally awaken an ancient ghost, Egon attempts to handle the situation by himself but fails.  Realizing that he has just gotten a bit too old to deal with this kind of stuff he recruits his four students to help him take on the ghost.  Unfortunately, Kylie becomes possessed by the ghost and is spreading diseases across New York including Egon.  Eduardo, Garrett, and Roland grab some proton packs and go looking for the ghost, eventually freeing Kylie from it's clutches.  Egon then quickly trains the four students in proper ghost busting and as a team, they take down the malicious ghost.  When a ghost is captured, all the harm they caused reverts back to its original form and thus all the diseases have been cleansed.  The new group decides to stick with Egon and become the new Ghostbusters!

What happens from that point on is pretty much your "monster of the week" type series.  There is no story arch that takes place over the whole series.  There's no real personal stories that last longer than a single episode.  For all intents and purposes after the 2nd episode you could watch any episode in any order you want and you wouldn't be missing out on anything.  Since I don't really wish to talk about 40 whole episodes in this, I'm just going to focus on a few of the best.

Noteworthy Episodes

Episode 18: Ghost Apocalyptic Future
While Kylie is down in the basement with the ghost containment unit, she stumbles into a slip in the time continuum caused by a man fighting a ghost in the future.  The ghost appears briefly and splits in two; one in the present and one in the future.  Unfortunately for Kylie, she and the ghost fighter switch places and she finds herself in an apocalyptic future run by ghosts.  The fighter meets the remaining Ghostbusters and explains that the ghost he was fighting is the leader of the ghosts.  Apparently he is the ghost who brought about the ghost war in which the Ghostbusters fought and eventually died as heroes.  They attempt to trap the ghost but because he is one entity split in half he can only be trapped if he is whole.  Kylie is taken to the base for the resistance fighters and runs across her diary being preserved in a monument to the Ghostbusters.  In the present, the fighter recognized her diary and Garrett writes a message for her to dig up a proton pack in central park as they run there to bury it.  In the future she reads the message and grabs the buried proton pack.  Egon left instructions for her to run back to where the Ghostbusters headquarters is and attempt to trap the ghost in the same area as the present-day Ghostbusters.  In both the present and future, the ghost is being caught by the proton packs and fuses once more allowing Kylie back to the present and the fighter back to his time.

If you know anything about me, you'll know how much I love a good time travel story.  This one pretty much held up with my ideology on how time travel shenanigans should work.  This is the only episode that I remembered in it's entirety from my childhood.  It was good then and it's still good now.

Episode 23: Slimer's Sacrifice
Slimer has been getting in everyone's way and generally being useless as normal.  While this isn't exactly something new, Eduardo has been constantly pointing out slimer's uselessness lately making the friendly ghost sad.  When Fenris, the norse dog who is the harbinger of Ragnarök, appears in New York, the Ghostbusters find and trap him.  However, Fenris uses his ice breath on the trap as he was going down and it's short circuiting.  When they attach the trap to the ghost containment unit, it malfunctions opening the doorway to the Ghost world.  Fenris escapes and the rest of the ghosts are coming.  In an attempt to redeem himself, Slimer flies into the opening and shuts the containment unit from inside.  Eduardo decides to go into the unit to rescue him leaving the Ghostbusters to fight off Fenris who is slowly taking them down one by one and transforming them into beasts.  Inside the unit, a powerful Norse entity, Surtr, has been ruling the unit and uses Slimer as bait to escape the unit with the help of some previously captured ghosts from this series.  As a hypnotized slimer attacks Eduardo leaving him for dead, Roland opens the unit to save them but can't get it shut.  Thinking quickly Kylie shoots Fenris, tosses him into the unit and zaps the power supply closing the unit.

This one was neat because you don't often get to see the inside of the containment unit.  Yes they did do an episode of The Real Ghostbusters where you saw the inside of the unit as well (which is also referenced in this episode) but it's appearances are few and far between.  I really enjoyed seeing how the ghost world works while trapped in there though I hated seeing Siren, a gentle spirit who gave up her freedom for peace, being forced to do horrible things against her will. 

Episode 24: Grundelesque
When the Ghostbusters begin receiving calls about children being haunted, all evidence shows that the Grundel is back to his old tricks much to Kylie's horror.  The Grundel is a spirit who seeks out children with the capacity for bad and lures them to come play outside; he then turns the child into a copy of himself who then goes out and does the same.  The Grundel used to torment Kylie as a child and was most likely involved with her childhood best friend's disappearance.  The problem?  The Real Ghostbusters captured the Grundel ten years prior and he's still in the containment unit.  Against Egon's wishes, Kylie and Roland hook the unit up to a device allowing them to summon a ghost from the unit and speak to them.  Kylie asks about her friend but the Grundel isn't in a talking mood.  Eventually Kylie summons him once again and he admits that her friend was wrapped in a sort of cocoon till he was ready to become a Grundel and it is her friend who has been causing problems.  Unfortunately Roland's mischievous little brother unplugs the device allowing the Grundel to escape.  The Grundel decides to go after Roland's little brother but the Ghostbusters trap the Grundel once again causing his effects on her friend to finally disappear.

While this show does get personal with some of the characters learning things about themselves or how to react during the course of the episode, most of them don't get THIS personal.  There's a lot of pain associated with this ghost; a lot of baggage and fear is being faced by Kylie.  The manner in which the Grundel torments Kylie by bringing up these memories and acting nonchalant about his horrors is a really nice way to characterize the ghost.  It's a winning combination you shouldn't miss.

Episodes 39 and 40: Back in the Saddle Pt 1 and 2
It's Egon's 40th birthday and Janeen surprises him by getting the old team back together.  The old and new teams meet up but don't get along whatsoever.  When the old team decides to go out and bust some ghosts for nostalgia sake, the new team starts to feel unwanted.  This escalates when a ghost that the new team just defeated reappears and doubles for the old team to sweep in and do the job better.  The Extreme Ghostbusters decide to take some time away from the firehouse leaving the old team to bust all of the ghosts.  The Real Ghostbusters answer a call that the ghost has reappeared and doubled once again but four of this ghost proves to be too much for the old timers and the Extreme Ghostbusters sweep in to save them.  With the whole team working together to research and update their proton packs, they find out why the ghost is doubling and find a way to stop it.  All eight of them suit up to take out the ghost for good.  Things aren't as they seem as a massive spectral entity is seen on the horizon.  Some form of ghostly fog that destroys entire cities within seconds has appeared from the Bermuda Triangle and is heading up the East Coast devouring everything in their path.  The eight Ghostbusters team up one last time and using all their ingenuity finally trap the creature using a large, vehicle based containment unit.

Now if you are a fan of The Real Ghostbusters this may be awesome or may be a disappointment depending on your viewpoint.  For me, however, what a way to end the series!  It was great to see Ray, Peter, and Winston back busting some ghosts and interacting with the new team.  Seeing all of them working together and working off of each other was an absolute blast and as far as a series finale goes, it's a great way to book end both animated series.  It's just too bad that the order in which things were aired got screwed up... but I'll talk about that later.

Side Note: "Heart of Darkness" is also an extremely good episode that I'd rather not spoil.  Check it out!

What's Good About It?

Our main characters are a really great team who work well off each other.  I was surprised to see how relatable each character actually was all these years later.  Nobody was defined by their role in the team or their actions; each character is portrayed as an actual person and written intelligently for the most part.  You can truly see each of these people existing and probably know someone like them.  Now, let's be honest here.  If this cartoon were made today and you took one look at them, you would probably think they were created based on a diversity checklist to make sure they offended as few people as possible.  However, remember that this was made in 1997 when people didn't go full social justice frenzy.  Yes, this is a more diverse set of characters but it's either of no consequence or it enhances the character.  Roland and Eduardo being black and latino respectively is of little to no consequence to who they are.  You won't find any racial stereotypes here; they could have been any race or nationality and we would still have the same great characters.  Though, if I'm being completely honest, Roland is probably the weakest character and was designated to just being the tech or mechanic a lot.  He had his moments but there were just fewer for him than the others.  Kylie being the solo female member adds to the story by providing some tension between her and Eduardo who is obviously attracted to her though he denies it outright.  While she is a gothy sort of person, that's not her defining trait either; she's not constantly being dark and obsessive like your standard goth teenager or anything.  Garrett is actually a far better character by being in a wheelchair.  Your standard smart-mouthed jock isn't all that interesting and even the creators said they were having a difficult time making him interesting.  By making him a handicapped athlete, it opened up a whole new perspective for the character and many of his jokes, actions, and situations practically began writing themselves.  These characters are great and I enjoyed getting to spend 40 episodes with each of them.

This series has some pretty inventive ideas for episodes.  While many of these episode ideas have probably be done in other science fiction/horror TV shows and movies, it doesn't detract from them being good ideas.  "The True Face of a Monster" is about a golem protecting a synagogue from racial hatred but going out of control itself.  "Deadliners" is about a horror writer's characters coming to life (basically Hellraiser, and 2015's Goosebumps movie.)  "Home is Where the Horror is" is about a haunted house where the ghost is the house itself who has trapped the souls of its victims inside.  "Till Death Do Us Start" is about a wish-giving ghost who twists people's wishes and in this case gives a man an undead bride who haunts him relentlessly.  "Heart of Darkness" is... well I REALLY don't want to spoil that one.  There's a lot of really cool ideas floating around in this series and I'm sure some of those brief synopses may have interested you to look further into the show.  Out of 40 episodes only 3 of them aren't really that great in my opinion.  The rest are decent or really good.

Lastly, to go hand in hand with the inventive episode ideas, this show really pushed the envelope with how dark and creepy it could actually be for a cartoon at the time.  There was a lot of off-screen or slightly off-screen death happening in multiple episodes.  There's an episode where a demon is removing the bones out of people's bodies.  We have an episode where a ghost is sucking all the moisture out of people's bodies and leaving them barely alive.  We see Eduardo turn into a vampiric clown and eat Roland whole.  Some of the character designs are insanely creepy like the ghosts from Deadliners or when some people were turned into zombies.  If darkness is your thing then check it out!

What's Bad About It?

I know creating a hand-drawn cartoon takes a lot of time, effort, and skill.  I certainly don't have the talent or the patience to create something like this.  I also realize that the budget for a show like this is not the same as say... Disney's Beauty and the Beast.  However, there are just times in this show where the animation is really inconsistent or full of extremely fuzzy lines.  Just look at this.
I made this picture very large so you could easily see the problem.  Now the whole show isn't like this but in almost every single episode there are a few seconds here and there that look fairly poor like Garrett in the picture above.  It's very distracting especially when colors don't match from one frame to the next in the same shot. 

The only other real negative I can say about the show is it's "reset button" mentality.  The way that the show decided to ensure a completely happy ending was a weird one.  The second that the ghost in question was trapped by the Ghostbusters, everything that ghost had done goes back to the way it was before they showed up.  One ghost stole people's eyeballs out of their skull, but the second they trapped the ghost everyone's eyes flew right back to their owner.  Demon stealing bones from people?  Nah we'll bag the ghost and you'll get your bones back and be perfectly fine.  Ghost caused the Ecto 1 to smash into a building?  As soon as it's trapped the building and car get instantly repaired.  I understand why they did this as they want to have a happy ending for the children watching, but it just takes away from the tension far too often.

Nitpick Corner
It's time for another nitpick corner where I gripe about things that don't matter whatsoever!

The majority of the ghosts make T-rex sounds.  I'm not talking about growling and roaring like a dinosaur.  No, I'm talking it's the EXACT sound clip from the T-rex in Jurassic Park.  It's not even something similar to it... it's THAT exact sound clip.  While I don't mind them doing this for things like the skeleton dragon, or anything looking like a dinosaur; that's perfectly fine.  However, the Ogre you see pictured here also made that same Jurassic Park T-Rex sound for no reason whatsoever.  Not exactly that big of a deal but it was distracting.

I don't know how this happened, but the episodes were broadcast out of order.  If you look on the wikipedia page it shows t
hem in the proper order with Back in the Saddle Pt 1 and 2 at the end where they belong as they are the series finale episodes.  However take a closer look at the air dates.
For some reason they aired the two part finale, then aired the previous two episodes after the finale.  So the show ends on a high note then just sort of continues on for two episodes.  This wouldn't be a bad thing except for the fact that Hulu (which is currently the only way to watch this series) presents them in the original air-date order.  So if you watch these you're going to have to remember to change your order of watching if you want to see them in the intended order.


Extreme Ghostbusters is a pretty great show.  It has some equal parts good and forgettable but ultimately leaves me with a mostly positive outlook on the series.  I honestly have no idea why people forget about this one overall.  Perhaps it was because of the marketing campaign at the time was not doing justice to the show.  Perhaps it was because many stations aired this show during the daytime when children were in school.  I honestly don't know why it has become the forgotten one of the series, but it really shouldn't be.  It's a worthy addition to the franchise with some great moments and characters.

If you like the Ghostbusters, like paranormal things, like science fiction comedy, and if you don't mind watching an animated show then I would highly suggest you try this one out.  It may not be your favorite but it's certainly better than it's given credit for.

Extreme Ghostbusters is available on Hulu.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness.
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