Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Visitors are Coming: V: The Series: "The Champion" (February 8, 1985)

In “The Champion,” the fourteenth episode of V: The Series (1984 – 1985), Mike Donovan (Marc Singer) and Kyle Bates (Jeff Yagher) go on a crucial supply run to Tucson, but are intercepted by corrupt police running a “toll road,” en route. 

The Resistance fighters escape and take safe haven at the ranch of a plucky single mother, Kathy Courtney (Deborah Wakeman).  Kathy and her teenage daughter, Jessie (Sherri Stoner), inform Mike and Kyle that a corrupt sheriff, Roland (Hugh Gillin) is collaborating with the Visitors.

Mike and Kyle resolve to help fight the corrupt regime, but Jessie wants Mike to stay with the family permanently, and he is tempted.

Meanwhile, on the Visitor mothership, Inspector General Philip (Frank Ashmore) arrives to determine guilt in the case of Charles’ murder. 

Lydia (June Chadwick) is entitled to “combat to the death with her accuser,” Diana (Jane Badler), and the two women go a round before Philip puts an end to it. 

As Philip gathers evidence, however, he determines that Diana and Lydia should each be responsible for the other’s safety, lest any unfortunate “accidents” occur…”

“The Champion” continues the format alterations that I registered on the series last week, regarding “The Rescue.” 

Specifically, the Resistance/Earth-based story is dreadful, and the alien/mothership story is a soap opera hoot, enlivened by tongue-in-cheek performances and outrageous dialogue.

To put it another way, the material with Diana, Lydia and Philip (Martin’s brother) is a helluva lot of fun in a campy, outrageous sort of way, even if lands far astray from the franchise’s origins. 

The highlight this week occurs when Diana and Lydia engage in a ceremonial one-on-one battle while wearing glittery make-up that makes them resemble members of KISS.

The scene is not merely amusing because of the silly costuming choices, but because Diana and Lydia share some great adversarial dialogue. For instance, Lydia boasts that she has never lost a contest involving “mortal combat.”   Diana responds that Lydia is an “idiot” and that if she had lost, “she’d be dead.”  It’ just totally wicked and totally bitchy material, and Chadwick and Badler go for broke with it.

The only baffling point: why does Lydia so sincerely protest her innocence?  She was the one, indeed, who acquired the poison, and put into a cup in Charles’ chamber.  Diana may have switched cups, realizing Lydia’s plan, but the trail leads back to Lydia, pretty clearly.

By contrast to the fun intrigue on the mothership, the Resistance material is just uniformly horrible here, and hackneyed to boot. In this case, “The Champion” is a reiteration of an old 1970s-1980s TV cliché: the Single Mother in Jeopardy Syndrome.

In stories of this type, the series protagonists stumble upon a noble woman living with her teenage child, but without the support of a husband.  She’s a feisty, independent sort – usually a widow -- but she falls in love with the series hero, who is then tempted to stay to fill in as husband and father to this broken family unit. 

In terms of the genre, the Single Mother in Jeopardy Syndrome was seen on Battlestar Galactica (with Apollo, in “The Lost Warrior”) and in Buck Rogers (“The Satyr.”)  Outside the genre, the same story appeared on The A-Team, and MacGyver, to name just two popular programs of the era. 

Here Mike is tempted to stay with Kathy and Jessie but -- of course -- does not do so.  I suppose the story fulfills sort of wish-fulfillment for the male writers and for the character of Mike.  He could just walk away from the Resistance and right into a ready-made family and “normal life.”  But of course, he has too many responsibilities to live that particular, idyllic life, doesn’t he?

Meanwhile, Julie Parrish (Faye Grant) -- Mike’s should-be romantic partner -- is out of commission for most of the episode and seen wearing a neck brace.  WTF? 

I suspect the good doctor got whiplash from all the series cast (and premise…) changes she was forced to endure over the previous three week period.  Seriously: Julie is a wonderful character, and a great role model.  Yet here she is, sitting on the sidelines so Mike can have his fantasy romance episode.

In case you couldn’t tell, we are moving now into V’s final death spiral as a series.  The Visitors have become infinitely more entertaining and fun (and three dimensional…) than the shallow human characters, and the Los Angeles Resistance has been relegated, basically, to a van full of clichéd people (the alpha male, the resident alien, the comic relief, and the secondary alpha male [!]) wandering oft-seen Southern California locations.

Next week: “The Wildcats.”

Cult-Movie Review: Snowpiercer (2014)

[Blogger’s note: Please beware of spoilers here, folks, I talk a lot of specifics about the film in the following review…]

Since 1927 and the premiere of the Fritz Lang film Metropolis, the science fiction cinema has frequently obsessed on the ever-widening gap between society’s most fortunate people and society’s most unfortunate people: the haves vs. the have-nots. These two constantly-clashing groups might be defined (and separated) by barriers of class, race, occupation, or wealth.

The new genre film Snowpiercer (2014) continues this long-standing historical tradition -- also seen in recent efforts such as In Time (2011) and Upside Down (2013) -- and very much proves itself the film that Elysium (2013) hoped to be.

Snowpiercer is a far more effective film than Elysium, however because its central metaphor simply works better. The core conceit is cleaner somehow, and therefore more readily grasped.

In the future year 2031 as imagined by Snowpiercer all that remains of mankind during a new Ice Age huddles on a self-sufficient train that goes around in an endless loop -- thus never reaching new territory -- while the ultra-rich live at the front of the train and gobble up the lion’s share of the resources.

Meanwhile, the poor folks dwell in the back of the train, and literally must sacrifice an arm and a leg just to maintain their meager, impoverished existence. To survive, to have a life worth living, means storming the front of the train and staking a claim.

Notably, Snowpiercer possesses nuances and depth not seen in the populist Elysium because it recognizes an uncomfortable truth about changeovers in social order. Even if the lower class somehow ekes out a win here, it is likely that things won’t change much for the vast majority of the people.

The very nature of life on this post-apocalyptic train -- a balanced, closed system -- in some crucial sense seems to reinforce the inequality of the status quo. 

The poverty-dwelling heroes of the film believe that “it will be different” when they control the train for themselves, but instead they find only the temptation to be co-opted and assimilated. This becomes their moment of truth.

Accordingly, those who survive the long journey from caboose to front compartment must reckon with two options. 

They can either continue a life that is familiar, only occupying a slightly-different (but still enslaved…) position. Or they can blow up everything and start fresh.

Yet because of the nature of human life, there’s no guarantee that “starting fresh” will create anything more equitable than the class stratification of this train hurtling down the fast track to nowhere.

In a significant fashion, Snowpiercer -- though based on a graphic novel from 1982 called Le Transperceniege -- reflects our 2014 political weariness and cynicism. The movie dwells in that gnawing, familiar sense that no matter which party is driving the train, things won’t meaningfully change for the least fortunate of us. We all just keep going around in a circle, and the rich stay rich while the poor stay poor. 

This notion is played out explicitly in the film by the revelation of a secret alliance that exists between the humble, seemingly moral leader of the poor (John Hurt), and the privileged, “creator” or engineer at the front of the train (Ed Harris).  They are colluding to maintain this society, even if it is a distinctly unequal society.

A clever pastiche of dystopian cinema and one rich with allusions to productions from Robert Altman’s Quintet (1979) to The Matrix Reloaded (2003), Snowpiercer succeeds as a driving, action-packed work of science fiction art not only because its central metaphor resonates with our current “makers vs. takers” national dialogue, but because the narrative is structured in recognizable, even classical terms. 

To wit, the journey of discovery undertaken by our protagonist, Curtis (Chris Evans) in this terrible future from one revelatory train car to the next -- and one level of hideous existence to the next -- alludes to old stories such as The Divine Comedy, a work which charts and describes the various and sundry levels of Hell itself. 

Only here, of course, the hell is of one of our very own making...

"We go forward."

A scientific initiative to stop dangerous global warming goes awry in the near future. 

Particles known as CW-7 are seeded in Earth’s atmosphere to stop the climate change, but instead they accelerate a freezing process. In a short time, a New Ice Age commences, and all life becomes extinct save for a few survivors on a trans-continental train.

Seventeen years later, in 2031, a new society is long-established on that train. The rich elite live in the front section, using up resources and living in leisure and comfort.  At the rear of the train are the folks who boarded for free and who live in squalor, eating mysterious black protein bars for sustenance.

In 2024 there was a failed revolt among the passengers on the back of the train, and now a new one is brewing under the auspices of a man named Curtis (Evans), his friend Edgar (Jamie Bell), and an old man, Gilliam (Hurt). They free a security expert, Namgoong (Kang-ho Song) from prison, along with his daughter, and he helps them to open the sealed doors to forward compartments.

Heading relentlessly for the train’s fore, Curtis and other survivors uncover the car where their food is prepared, and a car filled with heavily-armed soldiers.  Later, they pass through a school that teaches the elite’s propaganda, an aquarium, a green house, and other signs of a decadent culture that thrives on keeping them not just poor and hungry, but angry.

Finally, Curtis makes it to the "sacred engine" at the train's fore, and meets the engineer of the society and the vehicle.

This time we take the engine."

Class warfare rages on a futuristic train in Snowpiercer. One privileged overlord, Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton) boasts open disdain for the people who live in the vehicle’s aft section.  

She informs them in no uncertain terms that they are takers. 

They “suck on the generous tit” of the train’s engineer -- a real “maker” -- named Wilford (Harris). And in real life, going back at least to the 2012 election, we have seen American politicians use virtually the same language to describe 47% percent of our population as moochers...all because they think they are "entitled" to food.

Who among us is not entitled to eat?

Mason also refers to those seeking a better life as being “violent hooligans.” They should just be happy for what they have, she believes and “know” their “place.”

And what is their place?  

They're "shoes," Mason informs them.

When the foot seeks the place of the head, a sacred line is crossed,” she also notes. 

Mason seems to argue, then, for a kind of natural law; one where the chosen few -- at the head of the "body" -- engineer a less-than-pleasant reality for everyone else.  

The elites must have someone to prey on, after all, to show that they are better than everyone else. To this end, they indoctrinate their children with hate-laced propaganda.  An indulged child in school, for instance, observes: "I heard all Tail Sectioners were lazy dogs and they drink their own shit."

In other words, the 99% are less-than-human. Today, we see a certain brand of talk-radio and cable television host similarly de-humanizing people of specific demographics. The targets have been different at different times in American and world history, though right now it is immigrants who are being compared regularly to disease-ridden, inhuman savages.

Yet at the same time that the elites lord it over the poor in Snowpiercer, the beleaguered masses must have someone to blame or hate, or rage against too...to keep them distracted from the job of really changing things. They have their gatherings, their plots, their protests, and occasionally their riots, but the world doesn't seem to change.

Curtis believes this revolt will be different however, because he intends to capture the  train's sacred engine. Curtis wants to seize the means of energy production in other words, that maintains the luxury of the elites. 

The train engine, therefore, is a metaphor in the film for industry, or even the economy as a whole. Seize control of it -- nationalize it for the people's use instead of the oligarchy's -- and powerful will take note. Destroy the capacity to keep rich people wealthy and distribute resources equally...and it is a new day.

But as Curtis learns, it is not that simple.

Uniquely, the real problem between the haves and have-nots arises on the train when Mason refuses specifically to recognize the humanity of the 99%’s children. 

These kids are mere resources to be taken away (so as to assure the continued survival of the elite) and not treated as true individuals, or as people with families. The taking of two innocent children is the demarcation point for the revolt: the slope leading from poverty and dissatisfaction to recognition of literal enslavement and an attempt at overthrow. 

The message here seems to be that people will put up with a lot of shit from their overlords if they are scratching by. But start messing with their kids and all bets are off. I believe this is so because children are non-political in every way, and so to transform them into political pawns is a truly despicable and craven thing.  

And -- yes indeed -- treating other people's children as "enemies" (or worse...as disease-carrying vermin) is something that is happening in America too. I'm not saying Snowpiercer  anticipated the crisis at the border we are now enduring, only that the film speaks fluently in a language and national context that we, at this juncture, readily understand.

What makes this all so insidious, however, is the fact that the ruling elite actually helps to foster the revolt (as it did previous revolts) for its own agenda. Wilford plans to thin out the population, and to provide the easily cowed folks of the aft-compartment the illusion that change has been made.  The poor can then rest satisfied that they made a difference, and that things, suddenly, are fairer. 

And yes, this idea very much reflects the pivotal scene with the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded.  There, as you may recall, a revolutionary, Neo (Keanu Reeves), learns about the Order of Things.  He learns that the A.I. machines have destroyed Zion before, and repopulated it with humans, and started the cycle all over again, always crafting a new, better system of control.  

Curtis learns essentially the same truth from Wilford in Snowpiercer. Revolts have been staged or arranged by Gilliam and Wilford, at the front and back of the train, and each time, a new, better “order of things” emerges, with the elite more firmly in control.

Ultimately, this is why the film is more effective than Elysium proved to be. Snowpiercer suggests that the elite will throw the poor a bone now and then to quell them, but beyond offering sacrificial goats, they offer nothing of value.  The system continues, and tightens its grip on the masses.  There are no winners and losers, only level after level of control. Dystopian systems aren't simply overturned and made better because a new master takes over.  Life is infinitely more complex than that "happy" ending could suggest.

In some ways, Snowpiercer actually feels a lot like a (smart) amalgamation of other science fiction pictures particularly those of the 1960s and 1970s.  The Ice Age future with mankind on the brink of extinction clearly echoes Quintet, a film involving Paul Newman as a last survivor of the human race following global cooling. 

In both cases, the next generation or perhaps last generation plays a crucial role in the narrative. In Quintet, a pregnant woman, Newman’s mate, is killed, thus leaving no hope for the future. Only entropy awaits instead. In Snowpiercer, the children are stolen and made slaves, again a sign of a future if not without hope, then certainly without freedom or liberty.

Similarly, Curtis and his friends at one point in the narrative take over a train car where they learn the secrets behind their food supply, these gelatinous black blocks they eat. It is not a pleasant discovery, to say the least.

The rebels learn that they are eating something not entirely appetizing, and though the secret of the food supply is not the same as the one revealed  Soylent Green, the nature of  the revelation is similar.  The people are being sustained and nourished by a dreadful, disgusting source. In both cases, we also witness a sort of industrial process by which the awful food is prepared, out of sight of the consumers.  The masses are being fed by the elite, but what they are being fed is monstrous.

The most unique comparison, however, is a visual grace note -- a brief moment -- that seems to compare astronaut Dave Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) to engineer Wilford in Snowpiercer.  

Near the end of 2001, Bowman (Keir Dullea) travels through a mysterious Stargate and ends up in a world made for one. He sits alone, eating from fine China and drinking wine, on the verge of his evolution into something greater than mere human.  Around him, he sees signs of a technological world (a glowing tiled floor) and a traditional one (decorated like a Victorian sitting room). This is appropriate, because his going to carry the legacy of humanity into his new form, as the Star Child.

In Snowpiercer, we witness Ed Harris as Wilford -- similarly dressed in a robe over his clothes -- alone at a dining table with fine china and wine, in his exclusive world of one.  Like Bowman, he is depicted in a setting that seems to straddle both future technology and conventional or traditional decorations.

But unlike his Kubrickian, space-age predecessor, Wilford is not on the verge of evolution at all. Rather, he has embraced the draconian "natural order" that imposes constant balance -- a constant status quo -- and thus, finally stagnation and entropy.  

The images are very similar, but portend virtually opposite meanings. Bowman is on the verge of becoming something great. Wilford is about to be brought down, along with his entire system of control.  

Snowpiercer also features some terrific and even stirring action sequences, and it is this aspect of the film that will thrill many viewers the most, I suppose. One brutal fight in a tight train car -- undertaken in a dark tunnel, no less -- is brilliantly staged and shot.  And another sequence, involving the rapid-fire laying down of barrels or drums to prop open conquered compartments, almost rises to the same level of crazy ingenuity.  

There's also a strong sense of discovery underlying the film's narrative structure, and this quality keeps the viewer engaged.

Each new open door means an entrance into a different world. Sometimes, the new world is awe-inspiring (like the aquarium car), sometimes it is nightmarish (like the school room with a gun-toting teacher and the brainwashed students), and sometimes it is just bizarre, like the hedonistic realm of the elite, lost in their drug-filled reveries.  

This story structure -- a new world opened with each new door -- is what specifically reminded me of Dante, and his famous, literary tour of Hell, where readers met sinners of every variety known to man. With some imagination, the train in Snowpiercer fulfills the same function, especially when Curtis reveals -- in heart-wrenching terms -- his own terrible personal sin. 

 This is truly a train of the damned, in more ways than one.

There's much to write about regarding Snowpiercer, and frankly, I've only scratched the surface.

There's an element of the film that concerns how idealism gives way to practicality, or -- again -- entropy. We all believe that we will be generous and equitable when we "get to the top," but is that true?  You don't really get to the top unless you're willing to step over a few backs.

Similarly, the film suggests there is an idealism inherent in"storming the train" that doesn't necessarily survive to the difficult task of "governing" the train. When you're starving, you just want to eat. It's a simple goal. When you have responsibility for a thousand lives and an eco-system, however, there are trade-offs, and other things to consider.

It would have been very easy to make Snowpiercer a sort of rabble-rousing, popular movie filled with easy or facile answers about life. Instead, the makers of the film understand that life isn't that simple, and -- working with a clear, focused metaphor in the form of the train -- add on layers of thematic and narrative complexity that make us realize we're all riding a runaway train of sorts, and that, finally, it may not even matter who's driving the bloody thing.

Movie Trailer: Snowpiercer (2014)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ask JKM a Question: The Real Ghostbusters (1986 - 1991)?

A reader, Charles, writes:

“I would like to get your insight on something very near and dear to my heart: The Real Ghostbusters.

I am now 32 years-old, but I have come to realize how much this cartoon influenced my future perceptions and “tastes” in entertainment.

For example, the concept of “continuity” (a central theme most comic books I read) can be traced the RGB episode “Janine You’ve Changed,” which as it turns out was written by the show’s original writer J. Michael Staczynski, who is now a major comic book author.

But on to the more important purpose of this email: I am now a new father (twins). I still love going back and watching these classic episodes, but now I’ve noticed something that never bothered me before.

Is this show—specifically the first three seasons plus the aforementioned “Janine You’ve Changed” —really appropriate for children? It is an odd thing to ask, since I was a child when I watched them and I turned out fine (at least I hope so). But what is the likelihood an animated show like this one would ever make on children’s television today? And, to that extent, what was the likelihood RGB should have even been targeted towards children back when it originally aired?

Although I could comment forever about any number of RGB episodes, I have tried to narrow-down four specific examples. Still, I would love to hear any comments you have about a particular episode(s). I have two primary reasons behind my new-found concerns, with two episodes highlighting each.

1.       Knock, Knock” and “The Grundel”. I mention these episodes for one very simple reason: They are scary. I know so, because, as a child, the scared me. Gave me nightmares.

And, if we are all being honest here, they may still do so every now and then. “Knock Knock” was one of the earliest episodes in the series (maybe even the pilot but I am not sure). But it played on many of the frightening themes and imagery that the show would later explore in more depth. And the fact that this would have been one of the very first episodes produced is yet another example of just how astonishing it seems that the series was allowed to succeed in the first place. 

“The Grundel,” however, was the point in which I believe the series reached its “horror apex”. I found/find so much about this episode frightening —and not just the idea of an evil monster that waits outside your window at night in order to steal children (an idea which has a much older history in folklore as I know you are aware).

Look at the design of the main villain (a giant black trench coat...really?!?!). The pacing of the episode is tight; every frame matters. Even the background music stands out. With all of the visuals in this episode, the scene that really stands out to me might surprise you. It is when Egon is mulling through his library late at night, and a voiceover is used to repeat the conversation he had earlier that day with a young boy. The music in the background is ominous. Suddenly, while flipping through some pages, he reaches an excerpt on a Grundel and realizes just what it was the boy was afraid of. In that moment, as a viewer, I feel almost as startled as Egon.

2.       Chicken, He Clucked” and “Ragnorock and Roll.” These episodes play into some slightly deeper (yet not as alarming) concerns I noticed, which is not to say that there is anything particularly wrong about them. Only that I am simply unsure if children can fully appreciate them.

“Way above their heads”so-to-speak. I remember enjoying these episodes as a child, however entertaining they might have been at the time, but doubt I could ever fully understand what they were talking about.

On one level, “Chicken He Clucked plays out as just another Faustian tale—something that is not unusual in children’s fiction. But it also presents two rather unique perspectives which, as far as I know, have not been reflected elsewhere.

First, it addresses a rather surprisingly odd hypothetical. What if a person wants to sale their soul in exchange for something trivial, perhaps even illogical? Something so ridiculous, even the devil doesn’t understand.

Next, the episode turns the traditional “Devil vs. Daniel Webster” conflict on its head. In typical Faustian fashion, it is the seller who tries to find some way out of his/her deal with the devil. Instead, this time around, it’s the devil (or a devil) who wants out and the seller who demands that the contract be honored. 

Ragnorock and Roll”, on the other hand, is the episode which, looking back, was probably the shining achievement of the entire series (IMO). As a child, this episode didn’t have any greater significance beyond the scary face in the sky. But, looking back, it delves into so many far-reaching concepts (i.e., what it means to be human, ect.). Chief among them are Suffering and Loss. More importantly, how we respond to these events, and just how far we are willing to go in order to act out on those feelings.

I know I have talked rather exhaustively at this point, so I am just going to end my short discussion of “Ragnorock and Roll,” and invite any comments you might have (in addition to anything else).

Andrew: First of all, congratulations on twins!  That’s a lot of work, but also, I’m certain, a lot of joy.

Secondly, I loved reading your analysis of The Real Ghostbusters, and perhaps even more importantly, I can strongly register your passion for the series.

I love the series as well.  When my son, Joel, was four, I purchased the first season on DVD for him, and he has loved it ever since.  We’ve watched the episodes together many times, and I can’t honestly say that he has never been terribly frightened by them, even though the episodes concern the Sandman, the Boogeyman, Doomsday and other monsters. 

Joel’s favorite episode is “When Halloween was Forever,” the one that stars a villain called Samhain, who threatens to trap the world in an eternal Halloween (and eternal night). We must have watched that episode together ten or eleven times.  We’ve also recreated the episode with toys and play-sets and action-figures.  It seems like, for him, it is a seminal influence.

We have also watched "Knock Knock" (the Doomsday episode) several times, and I share your assessment of it as quite effective in its scariness.  The episode is downright creepy.

I believe that the reason both a seven year old and a 44-year old can enjoy the same cartoon series is that the writers -- JMS included – took special pains to fill the series with literary and cinematic/TV tributes and allusions. 

One story recreates Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, for instance, another features a visit to a space station where the crew seems awfully familiar (like the crew of the starship Enterprise…). 

Seeing these references is not necessary to enjoy the stories, which are funny and well-told, but they add something for adults to hold-onto when the going might otherwise be tough.

I am quite happy to say that some modern TV series that I’ve also watched with Joel – from Pokemon to Ben 10 -- attempt the same brand of entertainment, making allusions to other franchises while still telling stories that kids enjoy.  Ben 10, in particular, is great in this regard (favorite episode: “The Con of Wrath,” if that tells you anything…).   And I just watched an episode of Pokemon: Indigo League with Joel that was a remake, essentially, of Yojimbo (1961)

JMS is a clever and cerebral writer, so I suspect that when he took the helm at The Real Ghostbusters he understood that the movie was seen and beloved not only by children, but by teenagers too.  He gambled that, to some extent, the same demographic was going to tune in for the Saturday morning cartoon.  Accordingly, he could play a little loosely with the concept of it as a kid’s show.  I can’t say for sure, but certainly that’s an assumption that makes sense.

I have watched mainly the first season episodes, but I also remember watching the series in my teenage years and feeling that The Real Ghostbusters created a universe not subordinate to what we saw in theaters in 1984, but rather parallel with it. 

I still feel that way.  The series doesn’t feel like kiddie-Ghostbusters, it feels like a TV take on Ghostbusters that just happens to be animated.  The stories are involving, and each has a “horror” hook that if not always terrifying, is certainly compelling.

I am considerably older than you (twelve or thirteen years…) so the TV series that scared me as a kid are a little different.  I remember being thrilled, excited and anxious every time those hissing Sleestak appeared on Land of the Lost (1974 – 1977).  Space: 1999 was very much the same thing.  Episodes such as “Force of Life” and “Dragon’s Domain” stimulated my imagination and scared the Hell out of me and as I’ve said before…I kind of think that can be a good thing for kids. 

Good horror stories reinforce the idea for children that life is valuable, and that furthermore, things aren’t always happy or perfect.  Horror programs also reinforce the idea that you can survive, even though bad things happen. 

I have never been one to believe that kids shouldn’t see TV shows or films that have a horror aspect, but I do believe the parent is responsible for judging appropriateness, and better be certain that the child is ready for what he or she is about to see.

I don’t know that I’ve answered your question or responded with enough specificity about The Real Ghostbusters but having watched the first season in recent years I can affirm that it is a well-written, intelligent and funny series and one that appeals to adults as well as kids. 

When the twins are ready, definitely share your love of the show with them.  And if I may be so bold, go onto E-Bay and buy them some of the toys too.  Holding some of the “ghost” figures in your hand, and playing the “monster” makes the ghouls seem less scary, and more like characters/personalities, from my experience.

Cult-TV Theme Watch: The Mayor

A mayor is the highest-ranking municipal official of a city or town.

Given a mayor’s authority and power, it is no surprise, perhaps that many such governing officials have figured prominently in cult-television history.

In the original Batman (1966 – 1969) for instance, the villain known as The Penguin (Burgess Meredith) ran for the office of Mayor of Gotham City against the Caped Crusader (Adam West) himself in “Hizzonner the Penguin/Dizzoner the Penguin.” 

On The Simpsons (1990 – present), Mayor Hemby -- a Kennedy sound-alike -- runs the town of Springfield…incompetently.

And on Smallville (2001 – 2011), the Mayor of Clark Kent’s Kansas home-town was none other than The X-Files’ Cigarette Smoking Man, William B. Davis.

Cult-TV’s most famous mayor, however, remains his honor Richard Wilkins (Harry Groener) of Sunnydale.

Mayor Wilkins was the (delightful) “big bad” for the third season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003), and sought to control all of the burg’s power and direct it towards his own “ascension” to full demonic form.

Unfortunately for Buffy the Scooby Gang, the Mayor’s ascension coincided with the high school’s graduation ceremony…

Recently, another evil Mayor has darkened our TV screens.  On ABC’s Once Upon a Time (2011 - ) Lana Parilla plays Mayor Regina Mills of Storybrooke…really Wonderland’s Evil Queen. 

The Cult-TV Faces of: The Mayor

Identified by Hugh: Batman

Identified by Tony: Twin Peaks

Identified by Hugh: Northern Exposure

Identified by Hugh: The Simpsons

Identified by Hugh: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Identified by Carl: Doctor Who: "Boomtown"

Identified by: Adam Chamberlain: William B. Davis on Smallville.
Identified by Hugh: True Blood

Not Identified: The Vampire Diaries.

Identified by Hugh: Eureka

Identified by Hugh: Once Upon a Tie