"Space Ghost Coast to Coast" Space Ghost, Are You a Leprechaun?
“Would you feel better if I jabbed you in the eye?”
If the above line made you laugh out loud, go out and buy Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The 1998 Episodes right now and just skip this review. If your reaction was instead “Uh, what? That was just stupid,” then maybe Space Ghost isn’t your kind of talk show. Go watch some crappy wanna-be like Jay Leno or something.
For those poor, poor individuals who never experienced the pure joy that is Space Ghost Coast to Coast, it’s a piece of nonsense that takes the former 60’s Hanna-Barbara superhero and turns him into a talk show host. Every talk show host needs a sidekick, so SG has two of his former enemies, the mantis/locust/grasshopper/squirrel Zorak and the molten fireman Moltar, on hand. Together, the three cartoon characters struggle with grand epic adventures such as being sued for blowing up France, fighting a giant shrub, and flirting with every woman brave enough to sit in the guest monitor. All using about as little animation as possible. Watch and be amazed as Space Ghost attempts to confuse and freak out such amazing celebrities as Tyra Banks, Denis Leary, Ben Stiller, Garrett Morris, and Emo Phillips. Then weep when the final episode on the volume ends, as it’ll probably be another 18 months or so until Volume 5 appears. Until then, marvel at how bad the intentionally horrible Space Ghost drawings on the packaging and menus are.
If you even remotely enjoyed Volume 3 of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, then you will love this collection. The writers had not devolved into the senseless gore baths and tasteless humor that plagued the later seasons of the show and everything else they went on to create. No, at this point they were still all about goofy humor. The non-sequiturs and random plot points really work out extremely well, resulting in a show that makes little sense but is still undeniably awesome. The prime example on this volume is “Chinatown,” where SG trades Moltar to a Chinese baseball team for a new canine producer, a couple of utility infielders, and a bag of kitties. The dog interacts amazingly well with Space Ghost and Zorak, despite being an obvious green-screen (or, in this case, blue-screen) insertion. The writers get a number of great jokes out the story, such as running the credits early and making Space Ghost think he’s blind, and even manage to create a conclusion, something rare for this show. In terms of just general weirdness, “Warren” and “Terminal” are near the top of the list. After all, how can you get weirder than a shrub that shoots lasers or Space Ghost hiring a puppet to replace him when he kinda-but-not-really dies?
Space Ghost also attempts to find love in this volume, as he tries to woo Merrill Markoe with the help of the genius love doctor
Lee Majors Adam Carolla, draws a picture for Tyra Banks, tries unsuccessfully to get it on with his defense lawyer Greta Van Susteren, and successfully (to some people’s surprise) intimidates Rebecca Romaijn with his macho manliness. The show’s star takes center stage in this volume, as he gets all the problems and storylines, such as dealing with an evil replicant or being hypnotized into eating the flesh of other beings, leaving Moltar and Zorak with very little to do. Zorak does get in a couple of good moments in “Lawsuit” when he tries to sue Space Ghost and is great at wooing Merrill Markoe in “Toast,” but other than that the sidekicks don’t really get to do much but make a small quip here and there. This is all Space Ghost, and considering his general stupidity and the ability of George Lowe to make any line funny, focusing more on Space Ghost is definitely the right choice.
But even then he needs help, and not just from Zorak and Moltar. Episodes are only considered classic if the live-action guests work well within the show. Whether it be Denis Leary’s unabashed hatred of the Ghost (and Dr. Katz to boot) or Greta Van Susteren’s passionate chiding of SG’s actions, many of the live-action guests are simply spot on and just immediately gel with it. Of course, some of the guests were seemingly made for the show: Garrett Morris, who is seemingly drunk and makes even less sense than SG most of the time, and Emo Phillips, who is just freaky. By this time the guests have mostly learned what they’re getting into and roll with it as best they can, resulting in some great, great jokes, such as Denis Leary’s constant criticism of Space Ghost and Merrill Markoe’s hatred fo SG while falling for Zorak fairly easily. The team even branches out and brings in local talent, such as Atlanta meteorologist Mark McEwen and a local doctor known as Dr. Drew Pinsky. McEwen obviously gets the joke and has some great fun with Moltar, but Dr. Pinsky is very obviously flabbergasted by how ludicrous the show is, which makes “Terminal” so much more funnier.
Unfortunately, the volume isn’t exactly perfect. Some of the celebrity interviews just do not work at all. Moby has a good scene where he’s getting eaten by Space Ghost, but aside from that he’s rather deadpan and doesn’t mesh with the world too much, while a blond-haired Ben Stiller lacks any of the charm and wit that he puts into any of his movies. While Kevin Smith has a brief, but enjoyable, appearance, Jim Jarmusch attempts to be funny while failing miserably. With the combined sucking of Stiller and Jarmusch, “Rio Ghosto,” which should be hilarious as it focuses on Space Ghost writing his own movie, has to completely rely on the cartoon characters for laughs with no help from the guests. The only other “bad” episode is “Warren.” Now, the episode itself is great. We’ve got a talking bush, Space Ghost meets his mentor again, and even a battle between old and new when SG meets his previous self. However, the 35-minute episode then repeats itself not once, but twice. This is one of those jokes that seems freaking hilarious in the writing stage, but when put into action just does not work. It becomes very tedious episode after it first restarts, and the payoff isn’t really worth it.
Expecting Space Ghost Coast to Coast to have stellar animation is kind of like expecting the characters of Lost to get off the damn island: It just ain’t gonna happen. However, if you’ve enjoyed other episodes of the series or series of its ilk like Aqua Teen Hunger Force, The Brak Show, or Sealab 2021, then the limited and reused animations aren’t really bothersome. I don’t believe we actually get any new animations at all, unlike the 5 or 6 new ones we got last volume, though some old animation is manipulated to make it seem like new. We even get some more animation from the original cartoons with new dub-overs, though most of it is stuffed into “Lawsuit.” The writers seem to have fun with Photoshop as well, as we get some new title screens during certain episodes while others have new, fancy, stolen-from-the-Internet backgrounds and animations (with the biggest example being the flags and banners in “Intense Patriotism”). Oh, and the transfer is as blurry and grainy as it was on TV, so you can rest assured that your DVD will look no better than it did on television, before all that HDTV mumbo-jumbo.
After so many years, it’s still hard to believe how perfect George Lowe is as Space Ghost. The man can make virtually any line hilarious and has such a feel for SG’s stupidity that his performances seem almost reflexive at this point (kind of like Kevin Conroy’s Batman). C. Martin Croker also performs up to his usual standards as Zorak and Moltar, but they don’t get quite as many chances to shine as ‘Ol Spacey. Dr. Nightmare: Attorney at Law, Jan, and Jace all appear in “Lawsuit” with fitting, but forgettable, voices, and except for a few minor cameos from Lokar and Brak, the usual supporting cast is missing from this volume, though they aren’t sorely missed thanks to the high quality of the episodes. Special mention must be given to the episode “Warren,” however. In a stroke of brilliance, the creative staff actually brought in Gary Owens, who played the Ghost in the original shorts, to play Space Ghost’s doppleganger, and the deadpan familiarity with which he plays the doppleganger is such a hilarious contrast to George Lowe’s over-the-top performance that it makes you wish the episode had just been a battle of words between the two.
Unfortunately, the long wait for this DVD doesn’t result in much beyond the episodes themselves. The only extras here are “Dinner with Stephen” and “Kitties.” One would imagine the Stephen used in “Dinner with Stephen” would be Stephen Colbert or Stephen Baldwin or something, but instead we get an utterly boring dreck of “a” Stephen having dinner with Space Ghost. The “episode” is shown in what this show would consider an animatic (a true animatic would break the budget, probably) and while SG tries his damnedest to make the episode work, it just doesn’t. “Kitties” is nothing more than two minutes of kittens running around a blue screen, something that was used to create a Photoshopped scene in “Chinatown.” What else is there to say? It’s two minutes of kitties running around. Finally, I have to say that the packaging just sucks. I know the crude drawings of Space Ghost were intentional, but they just make him so fugly that it just doesn’t work, while the front cover art is simply black text on a white background. The packaging and menus just don’t carry the charm the previous volumes had, and considering this was in the making for over a year, I’m very disappointed.
Overall, if you greatly enjoyed the previous volumes of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, then Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The 1998 Episodes offers more of the same awesomeness. If you’ve never seen Space Ghost Coast to Coast before, bow your head in shame and buy this disc. It’s only $12.00 plus shipping.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The 1998 Episodes is only available on Adult Swim’s Online Store. You can order your copy here.
Episodes on Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The 1998 Episodes:
Episode #58: “Terminal”
Episode #59: “Toast”
Episode #60: “Lawsuit”
Episode #61: “Cahill”
Episode #62: “Warren”
Episode #63: “Chinatown”
Episode #64: “Rio Ghosto”
Episode #65: “Pal Joey”
Episode #66: “Curses”
Episode #67: “Intense Patriotism”
Episode #68: “Waiting for Edward”