Saturday, February 18, 2017

Saturday Morning Cult-TV Blogging: The Ghost Busters: "Dr. Whatsisname" (September 13, 1975)

The second episode of Filmation's Ghost Busters (1975) is titled "Dr. Whatsisname."  

In this tale, the spirit of Dr. Frankenstein (Bernie Kopell) and that of his famous monster (Bill Engesser) materialize in the graveyard near the ghost busters' office.

Frankenstein is tired of his monster making stupid mistakes, and wants to replace his brain with the "most gullible brain in the world," so his orders will be followed. 

Lo and behold, that gullible brain belongs to Spenser (Larry Storch). 

Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster set out to capture Spenser, but fail.  

Proving his gullibility, Spenser finds them, instead, at the castle in the graveyard, and Kong (Forest Tucker) and Tracy (Bob Burns) must save their friend before brain transplant surgery occurs.

The term sophomoric can't even begin to describe this episode of the live-action Saturday morning series, The Ghost Busters.  

The episode features fights using cream pies, jokes about a gorilla's heritage, and the spirits of famous mad scientist Dr. Frankenstein, and his monster. In the former case, the good doctor is portrayed by Bernie Kopell, who seems intent on repeating his Siegried shtick from Get Smart (1965-1970).

Siegfried was funny, in part, because of the rapport between Kopell and Don Adams. There is no real corollary here. He's acting in his own little world, resurrecting an act that was once popular, but feels odd in isolation.

The same corridor gag from last week also gets repeated here, with the ghost busters being chased through the same castle. I guess that's supposed to be a joke too. The same castle every week! You have to admire the gall of the production company, using the same flimsy set for each episode, and then commenting slyly on it.  

I realize a lot of people grew up with the show, and feel nostalgia towards it, but I don't yet see the appeal of the characters or the situation.  The jokes are funny only on a sub-moronic level.  

That said, I did enjoy the under-the-radar reference connecting Tracy to King Kong (1933): "Don't mention the Empire State Building. His grandfather had a very unhappy experience there."

Perhaps I'd feel a little bit better about the series, or more fondly disposed to it, if I felt that some thought went into stories like this one. For instance, it's really unwieldy that Dr. Frankenstein and his monster appear here as ghosts, and can miraculously bring all the objects of his old laboratory with him.  They travel a lot, open doors, operate lab equipment, and so forth. So they don't *seem* like ghosts.

So it's just weird that these characters are supposed to be ghosts, and easy to forget that they are supposed to be ghosts. Why not just famous monsters?  

But the problem is there is no thought devoted in the show to what being a ghost means, or what the limits or parameters of a ghost's powers could be.

If you tell me I am expecting too much here from a 1970s kids show, I need only to direct your attention to Land of the Lost, Ark II, Space Academy, or Star Trek: The Animated Series, which managed not insult the intelligence of children or adults. 

Here, for instance, Kong says, off-handedly, that his ghost-busting weapon will zap the evil ghost doctor and his monster away for five hundred years. 

Why five hundred years? Is it a time-displacement weapon? 

This is a line that demands some explanation, or background.  Of course, if you go down this route, you start asking all the other questions the show doesn't answer. Who built the ghost busting devices? Who is Zero? Why are two men hanging out with an ape?

Next week: "The Canterville Ghost."

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