Thoughts on “The Real Ghostbusters”

So, I finished watching “The Real Ghostbusters”. And, at least at first, it was surprisingly entertaining to watch.

The key conceit of the show is that this follows the adventures of the “real” Ghostbusters, whom the movies are based upon. This is, in fact, explicitly mentioned in-show. As such, they can do a lot of things with the characters and even shift their roles around a bit without really impacting the movie universe or limiting it in any way. This is how Winston gets character development into a more rounded character, and one with more direct roles and strengths than you see in the movies, like his love of mysteries, baseball and automobiles and auto mechanics. It also lets them make Peter a bit less shady, show more heart, and explain why he tended to be a bit of a grifter in the movies (his father was like that, only much worse). They can go into Ray’s background a bit more, and develop the romance between Janine and Egon, and, yes, even develop Janine’s character a bit more.

The format lends itself to a wide variety of situations, as it did for “The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo”. Since they’re tracking ghosts explicitly but are experts on all sorts of supernatural phenomena, there’s a lot to work with there. They were able to get in a Star Trek parody by having a ghost appear on a space station, did cartoon worlds multiple times, did superheroes twice, and managed to fit in vampires and werewolves, again the former multiple times. They were also able to tap into a wide variety of mythical ghost legends — like the origin of Hallowe’en, again done multiple times — and classical hauntings, like haunted houses. And yet they were often able to bring a new twist to them, like having a house haunted by a ghost who only wanted to tell his beloved niece that he loved her one last time, or a house haunted by a mystery writer who wanted her last story to be finished. And there was generally plenty of room in all of these for snark, humour, parody and heartwarming moments.

I suppose I must comment on the shift in the character of Janine, at the rest of the executives, into a softer, more appealing, and less abrasive character. I, personally, like the softened Janine better, but concede that, yeah, she’s not really Janine anymore at that point. It would have worked better if they had done that from the beginning instead of shifting to it after the first season or so, even though that let JMS write an episode explaining it as her wishing changes to herself because Egon, at least, never noticed her otherwise, which was a good episode. That being said, I think the shift was a good idea, as it actually gave Janine a distinct role in the show, that being of the more kind and concerned person on the team that was lacking. Cynical and sarcastic Janine was entertaining, but the cast already had more than enough snark, and just having her be there for the snark battles with Peter and the love interest with Egon wasn’t really going to do much. Sure, I think they underused her after the shift, but it did give her a distinct personality and role that we could relate to, whereas snarky Janine was more one-dimensional.

Also, people ignore that Peter himself was softened at the same time, being far nicer to Slimer and, in general, far less shady and money-obsessed than he was in the earlier seasons, which I think was a good thing.

I think that Egon, though, was the character that advanced the most. He pretty much became the main leader character of the team, mostly because he was the one who knew everything about the ghosts and so always came up with the plans. He developed his own sense of humour and even snark, and was generally entertaining. I think his development explains why Peter faded into the background a bit more in later seasons when in the movies he tended to be the focus character.

The show, however, went completely downhill when it became “Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters”. Not only was there more of a focus on Slimer in the main show — which took away from what was really interesting — it also played havoc with the episode lengths. At first, they went with one Real Ghostbusters episode that was about five minutes longer, but that didn’t work because they usually didn’t have enough episode to fill out the time, so it seemed like it dragged. Then, they did two Real Ghostbusters shorts, but that didn’t work because they were too short and so didn’t have all the elements that made the show entertaining in the first place. By the time it reset to normal length episodes, they seemed to be mainly out of ideas and the creative spark seemed to be lost. There were still some good episodes, but overall it really lost the magic that it had had in the earlier seasons. By the end, like with “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, I just wanted to get through the rest and move on to something else.

Still, it was entertaining enough, especially the early episodes, which are often fantastic. And since this was already a re-watch, I will almost certainly watch it again at some point.

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