Welcome to Super Saturday, a new ongoing weekly column that will pay tribute to the animated classics of yesterday, and will be offered on Saturday mornings, a period when many of us remember being the only time animated kids’ programming was offered in the dark, primitive days before streaming, cable, and home video were ubiquitous, making a special time for such programming obsolete. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any feedback or personal remembrances in the comments!
Since it’s October, the month of Halloween, I thought I would look at some spooky Saturday staples. While Saturday mornings are best known for animated programming, there were a number of classic live-action shows that also aired during those times and were often more popular than cartoons, partly because they appealed to adults.
Since I will be examining some spooky projects over the next couple of weeks, I felt the need to start with Filmation’s 1975 series ‘The Ghost Busters’ which aired on CBS. As you can tell from the date, this series aired almost a decade before the hit movie ‘Ghostbusters’ and had nothing to do with it.
‘The Ghost Busters’ starred Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, who had previously co-starred on the primetime sitcom ‘F Troop’, and their characters on ‘The Ghost Busters’ were crafted to be quite similar. Bob Burns co-starred as Tracy the Gorilla. (In the credits, he was listed as Tracy’s trainer.) Tucker portrayed Kong and Storch played Spencer. The names “Spencer” and “Tracy” were a tribute to actor Spencer Tracy (‘Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner’). Kong was a nod to ‘King Kong’, but as a twist, it was given to one of the human characters, not the gorilla.
Like the primetime action series ‘Mission: Impossible’ each episode began with the Ghost Busters receiving a recorded assignment from “Zero” (voiced by Filmation founder Lou Scheimer). Each recording would self-destruct moments after they listened to it, and it would inevitably blow up in Tracy’s face.
Every episode sent the Ghost Busters to the same location, a spooky old castle on the outskirts of their unnamed town, which had an adjoining graveyard. Among the ghouls they encountered were Dracula, Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, a mummy, The Canterville Ghost, The Red Baron, Billy the Kid, and the captain of the Flying Dutchman. Some of the guest-stars on the show include Ted Knight, Billy Barty, and Kathy Garver (who voiced Fire-Star on ‘Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends’, which I profiled last week.)
‘The Ghost Busters’ was a hit when it aired during the 1975-76 season. (All episodes aired in 1975, but were rerun after that.) It was the second-most-popular show on Saturday mornings, trailing just behind another Filmation live-action series, ‘The Shazam/Isis Hour’, but Filmation opted to spend more money on their #1 show, and ‘The Ghost Busters’ was axed.
‘The Ghost Busters’ would have remained an obscurity, but when Columbia Pictures was preparing to release the film ‘Ghostbusters’, they had to pay a fee to Filmation to use the name. The film also prompted Filmation to revive their ‘Ghost Busters’, but this time in an animated program, which featured Tracy the Gorilla and the sons of Tucker and Storch’s characters. But that’s a story for another Super Saturday (hint, hint!).
Filmation’s live-action ‘Ghost Busters’ was released on DVD by BCI Eclipse LLC in 2007 as part of that company’s campaign to release almost everything that Filmation ever made. All of the boxed sets that BCI Eclipse released are exquisite featuring beautiful cover art, deluxe packaging and TONS of bonus features. BCI Eclipse has gone under, so everything they released is out of print, but of you are a fan and find them used for a decent price, I highly recommend picking them up. The low-budget DVD manufacturer Mill Creek re-released some of BCI Eclipse’s Filmation DVDs but in budget formats, with cheaper packaging and no bonus features. I’m not certain that ‘The Ghost Busters’ was among them, though.
However, it looks as though the entire series is available on Youtube:
Do you remember Filmation’s original ‘Ghost Busters’? Share your memories or comments below!