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The Ghost Busters – The Complete Series

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Nine years before the movie Ghostbusters became a cultural phenomenon, CBS aired a low-budget live-action series with a nearly identical name – The Ghost Busters – on Saturday mornings.  The series lasted one season, and was all but forgotten until Ivan Reitman's wildly successful movie was released in 1984, when the show was briefly revived as an animated series (not to be confused with The Real Ghostbusters, the "official" animated spin-off from the film).  Now, proving that every TV series makes its way to video eventually, all fifteen episodes of the 1975-76 Ghost Busters have been released on DVD.

These Ghost Busters were played by F Troop's Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, with Bob Burns as their tamed gorilla, who served as the brains of the operation.  Operating out of a shabby office, Spencer, Tracy, and Kong (Kong is not the ape) were regularly given Mission: Impossible-style assignments to track down and capture ghosts and monsters.  Fortunately for them, it wasn't that hard to track down the ghosts, considering that they usually appeared in the exact same graveyard and hid out in the exact same castle in every episode.  Live-action Saturday-morning shows are made on the tiniest of budgets, and The Ghost Busters regularly re-used the same four or five sets in every episode.

The humor in The Ghost Busters is pretty corny, with the gorilla providing most of the laughs.  It's more interesting to see some '60s and '70s TV stars show up as guest spooks, most notably Jim "Thurston Howell III" Backus as the ghost of Eric the Red.  Yes, Backus played Eric the Red.  His role wasn't quite as dignified as his part as an extreme-right militia leader in the MST3K classic Angels Revenge, but I suppose it paid the mortgage for a few months.

The Ghost Busters DVD set features quite a few special features, including interviews with Bob Burns and producer Lou Scheimer, photo galleries, and even a full episode of the awful animated version made to cash in on mid-eighties Ghostbuster-mania.  (That series is available on DVD as well.)  Baby boomers with fond memories of the show will probably be happy with this set, but will modern kids enjoy it?  Children are much more sophisticated about this kind of thing than they were in the 1970s, and I suspect even six- and seven-year-olds will be turned off by the moldy gags and low production values.  Younger viewers will like the gorilla, though.

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