For many of us kids in the 1980s, The Real Ghostbusters cartoon was what we thought of when the word “Ghostbusters” came up — with the movies being second. It was a surprisingly long-running series for the time, its seven seasons blasting from 1986 through 1991. But as the ’90s rolled in, both the TV and film franchise ran dry, moving Ghostbusters to the past and leaving fans to survive on comic books and expired Ecto Coolers.
Yet there was an attempt to both revive the cartoon side of the franchise and progress the storyline into the future. For a few months in late 1997, Extreme Ghostbusters attempted to pass the torch to a new generation of spectral exterminators under the tutelage of Egon. While it only lasted for one season and 40 episodes, Extreme Ghostbusters failed to land in the “X-treme” ’90s, yet it’s kind of a fascinating look at an attempt to do something new with the series. So I thought I’d watch a couple of episodes and see if this is a dorky dud or a perky prize.
Today, we’ll start with the two-part pilot, “Darkness at Noon.”
The episode begins with that hoary trope of people digging too deep — in this case, subway workers who crack into a suspicious-looking vault, only to unleash a reverse-medusa ghost with snake arms. She does not look pleased to be around. So who are they gonna call?
The Extreme Ghostbusters theme song gets a lot of flak for its grungy remix of the classic theme and its overuse of bad mid-90s CGI, but I’ve always been partial to it. It’s darker and it’s a nice twist on an old formula with a gradual reveal of the new Ghostbusters team as they take down a spirit together.
As this series opens, it’s an unspecified number of years after the Ghosbusters have disbanded (again), and Egon is left teaching an unpopular class at college. Only a handful of college students show up, including Goth Girl (Kylie), Soul Patch (Eduardo), Geeky Whiz (Roland), and Wheelchair Jock (Garrett), mostly looking for answers or an easy A.
Professor Egon Spangler shows up, sporting a decidedly different look than his Real Ghostbusters persona, so hope you like your ’90s ponytails long and luxurious! He’s shocked to see Janine join the class roster, who asks him if Egon’s still living in the old Ghostbusters firehouse and manning the phones (he is).
So yes, there’s a different look to the series than the previous one, but I can’t say that they skimped on the detail or animation. It’s actually really well done in many spots, especially the ones highlighting NYC. An ominous dark cloud covers the city, and inside the Ghostbusters headquarters, meters start beeping and going crazy.
It’s enough to wake up Slimer, the third character to make the jump to the new series. Slimer was… well, he was a divisive character among the cartoon fan community, let’s just say that. I think he’s fine in moderation but got annoying when the corporate suits demanded that he got headlining status in the later seasons of The Real Ghosbusters. Er, sorry, Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters.
Slimer tears across town and ends up snuggling with ghost cynic Eduardo, who wakes up and starts screaming at the sight. “It’s OK,” Kylie says. “They don’t exist.” Snerk. Everyone packs it into Roland’s Mustang to go to Ghostbusters HQ to see what’s up.
We really don’t see many shows that tackle main characters with physical handicaps like Garrett, and I think it’s great how the episode wordlessly shows the extra effort it takes for him to get around without him making a big deal out of it.
The headquarters is very, very dusty — Egon isn’t big on housekeeping — but there’s general excitement among the class as they check out the ECTO-1, a ghost bomb, and a newscast about the spirit coming out of the subway breach.
Egon heads underground to investigate, something that apparently (and hilariously) gives him nosebleeds. The new mayor of NYC isn’t one to listen to a good warning, saying that the “psychotic” Ghostbusters conned the public back in the ’80s.
The plague ghost continues to roam the city, looking for a “willing host.” Seriously, that’s some impressive visuals up there. If this was made today, it would be so much more flat and devoid of detail.
Well, that ghost gets some unwitting help from Kylie, who stole a ghost beacon from Egon to try to talk to her dead grandmother. All I can think about is that she’s about to go to sleep with that much makeup on her face. Gonna be a lot of pimples come tomorrow, girl. Also, you’re probably possessed by that ghost you just summoned.
The last remaining active Ghostbuster suits up for the first time in a long time, figuring that there’s a confrontation ahead. It’s kind of sad that Ray, Winston, and Peter aren’t there to lend a hand.
It doesn’t go well for him, as he confronts the now-possessed Kylie and gets knocked out. The plague ghost subsequently infects him with “ghost zits,” so this isn’t what you’d call a good outing. I always liked that the Real Ghostbusters wasn’t afraid to get a bit scary and freaky at times, so this is a good sign for this version.
Unfortunately, it means Egon is growing weaker by the second, and so he deputizes his three male students to help out.
As the new Ghostbusters race to get the equipment fixed up, the Kylie-ghost goes on an infectious rampage across NYC. Kind of looks like the opening part of The Stand, to be honest.
The team stumbles upon Kylie, who tries to make the moves on Eduardo. So far in this show, there are two things holding it back. The first is the characterization and pacing; it’s just a little off and forced, particularly whatever is supposed to be between the two.
The second is this absolutely HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD special effect when the proton packs are used. It’s like a weird reverse negative or a coloring book, and it’s so distracting every time it happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gave some sensitive people seizures, too.
At least the crew blasts the ghost out of Kylie, even if they don’t capture it. They all go back to headquarters to learn more about the plague ghost, Akira, who is apparently a civilization-destroying ghost, and then investigate some ancient tunnels beneath the subway.
Funny moment: Edaurdo freaks out when he sees a skeleton and blasts it with the proton gun. “Good going,” Garrett says. “It’s dead. [pause] Again.”
Calls start streaming into the headquarters, and Janine is back answering phones. “Ghostbusters… yeah, we’re back.”
Egon’s worried that the old gear didn’t seem to do much against this new and improved ghost, so that calls for new and improved gear. Everyone gets a distinct outfit and weapon, with Kylie boasting the most X-treme version — she’s got a turtle shell ghost trap and is wearing what looks like a linebacker’s outfit. I mean, it works for me, but you have to admit that it’s kind of weird, too. It’s the type of thing that the late ’90s would do without giving it a second thought.
The team catches up with Akira on the Brooklyn Bridge. “Brooklyn Heights is in the house!” Eduardo says, earning my eternal wroth. Then he ducks as Akira spits a fireball that absolutely wrecks the ECTO-1. Time for that to get an upgrade too?
So this is both unexpected and gross, but all of the boils of everyone infected are apparently housing little baby ghosts. They all burst, including Egon’s, and race to their mother.
Happily, taking down the mama ghost kills all the babies, and this proves not to be too difficult with their gear. Triumphant, the Extreme GB dump off the ghost at headquarters and celebrate their victory. A victory which looks to be short-lived, as a host of spirits emerges from the same subway tunnel.
Overall thoughts? Great visuals (except for that one effect), relatively likable characters, plodding pacing, and a nice bridge between generations. It really could have been something, even if it was made primarily to sell a new line of toys.