Sunday, October 28, 2012

Nostalgia Theater: Extreme Ghostbusters -- Like Regular Ghostbusters, But Extreme!

L-R: Slimer, Wheelchair Guy, Goth Girl, Grunge Guy, Black Guy, and Egon
One of my most popular posts of all time is my Nostalgia Theater piece from exactly one year ago looking back at Filmation's also-ran animated Ghostbusters from the mid-'80s. That series, which I affectionately refer to as "The Fake Ghostbusters" (as contrasted with the officially licensed Real Ghostbusters show that ran concurrently), tried to ride the coattails of the very successful Columbia Pictures film to less-than-successful results, but it at least had the benefit of a concept that actually predated the film, making it seem slightly -- only slightly -- less mercenary. I'll give no such quarter to this week's Nostalgia Theater pick: just in time for Halloween, it's Extreme Ghostbusters!

This actually exists, folks. Think of it as Ghostbusters meets Poochie.

Conceived as a sequel to DIC's The Real Ghostbusters, which ran from 1986-1991 on ABC and local stations, Extreme Ghostbusters briefly aired in syndication in fall of '97, and was an attempt by Columbia/Sony to prove that the Ghostbusters brand, which had proven to be a merchandising juggernaut ten years earlier, still had some life in it. To that end, they did what all revived properties were doing back then: populated the cast with a bunch of '90s tokens, and slapped the word "extreme" on the title. Hey, worked for G.I. Joe, right? Wait, it didn't work for G.I. Joe? Whoops.

The premise had the original GBs going their separate ways after doing too good a job ridding New York of its spook problem. But then, a sudden spike in the supernatural prompts Egon Spengler (with actor Maurice LaMarche reprising his voice role from the original) to recruit his top students to keep the candle burning. We had the smart alec grunge guy, the morose goth girl, the chipper guy in the wheelchair, and the smart black guy. Don't remember their names, and really, does it matter? In addition to Egon, we also had receptionist Janine and ghost mascot Slimer providing some connective tissue with the earlier series.

I have to give it to the folks who worked on this. They really did try to work within their "extreme" marching orders to do right by the history of the franchise. Indeed, many of the key creatives, like producer Richard Raynis, had worked on the DIC era show and were understandably circumspect about overwriting it -- thus the decision (I'm assuming) to go with a sequelize instead of reboot. But by dispensing with the characters most associated with the concept, Extreme Ghostbusters' death warrant was signed before it aired (which should be a bright red warning light for the folks trying to get a Bill Murray-less Ghostbusters 3 going).

Ironically, the animated Men in Black: The Series, also based on a Sony property and also produced by Raynis, premiered on the Kids' WB at the exact same time (read my write-up on that one here), and both in terms of storytelling and style, MIB was much more of an heir to The Real Ghostbusters than Extreme ever managed to be. The very end of Extreme's first (and only) season offers a hint of what might have been, with the two-parter "Back in the Saddle" bringing back Peter, Ray, and Winston (voiced by original actors Dave Coulier, Frank Welker, and Buster Jones) to show the new kids how it's done. Check out part one below:

Needless to say, even with that finale, Extreme Ghostbusters didn't last long enough to make much of a mark, ending its run in December of '97. Yes, there were the token action figures and video games, but they disappeared quickly, and the forty episode total falls well shy of the 147 of its predecessor (and even the sixty-five episodes of Filmation's series). While the Ghostbusters films and animated show are still looked on fondly today, the brief Extreme era is completely forgotten, with no domestic DVD release as of yet, and none on the horizon. Who knows, maybe if the long-prophesied Ghostbusters 3 actually ends up happening? Yeah, maybe not.

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