Warner Bros. // 1997 // 281 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 7th, 2005
"Greetings! I'm Space Ghost. Here's the deal: I've got a behind, it's super-heroic, and I'm about to shake it."
While ol' SG shakes his ass, you might very well be shaking with uncontrollable laughter...or you might just be left incredulously shaking your head. Only you can decide, because here's another collection of Ghost Planet gaffes coming to a space ghetto near you in Space Ghost: Coast to Coast -- Volume 3. It's two more discs of late-night SG antics, but you might be hard pressed to tell this set apart from the previous two multi-disc collections.
Nothing's changed in terms of the show's format: Space Ghost is an erstwhile intergalactic superhero who's parked his Phantom Cruiser in the garage and his widening keister behind a desk to helm a talk show that's rarely on track and usually off color. As an after-hours desk jockey, he exists as something of a cult failure while some rather big-name celebrities (and some real nobodies, too) shuffle into his Ghost Planet studio to play witness to this has-been hero on the decline.
And that's where the humor is, right? Well...sometimes. I guess it all depends upon who you ask.
According to their FAQ, Cartoon Network's [adult swim] experiment was devised in direct response to feedback from the 18-to-30-something crowd who still wanted their cartoons but liked them slightly seasoned with a tainted mentality. This market demographic of young adults -- largely comprising TV geeks and dinks -- wanted a bit of edginess and irreverence applied to their longtime favorites, the kind that effectively thumbs a nose at societal norms to satiate the politically exasperated among us yet could simultaneously be considered truly hilarious after a few beers. Ted Turner, father of Cartoon Network, knew he needed new content to run alongside the archives of the Hanna-Barbera content he was airing around the clock since the cable channel's initial 1992 launch. Across the road from the Turner Entertainment corporate headquarters stood a shanty-like warehouse, located on the corner of Williams and 12th Streets, where beloved cartoon lore of old was about to be forcibly inverted and ruthlessly contorted for the sake of preoccupying young-adult insomniacs.
The result: Space Ghost: Coast to Coast. The effect: Ka-ching!!
Developed in 1994 by Cartoon Network stiff Mike Lazzo, the show was a literally a cheap cutout of Hanna-Barbera's venerable space jockey, digitally extracted from his original 1960s adventures and composited into a miniature Ghost Planet studio set. The premise was inane enough to work: Space Ghost (aka Tad Ghostal) would beam celebrity guests via satellite to appear on a two-way monitor, clumsily hand cranked from the ceiling to hover just above a guest chair, and then subject them to a line of unusual questions or emotional outbursts, depending upon SG's mercurial mood swings. The guest list has been impressive for the most part, arguably because this was perceived to be the venue to reconnect with a maturing fan base or to reestablish a fleeting sense of "hipness." Some guests clearly know what to expect of the SG interview antics, while others sit dumbfounded or disinterested in the wanton retardation of it all. To that end, the show is a hit-or-miss adventure of minor proportions.
So, on this new two-disc set, we're offered episodes 37 through 61, which made up the show's fourth season, spanning July 1997 to January 1998. As mentioned earlier, the format is the same and so is much of the on-set shtick. Space Ghost continues to be enamored with himself and insists others are, too. Fictional show director Moltar and band leader Zorak mercilessly undercut the ghost host and go to every length to deride and discredit SG. Guests like Beck, Bill Mumy, Mark Hamill, Peter Fonda, and even Charlton Heston simply serve as background noise to the proceedings, some of which are hilarious (see "Switcheroo II" and "Telethon") while others tend to just occupy us into 15 minutes of passivity (see "Speck" and "Zoltran"). If you "get" Space Ghost: Coast to Coast and enjoy it for what it is, you won't be disappointed by this continuation of the usual proceedings. If you never understood the show nor cared to try, you have no business being here because nothing's really changed. I get it, and I do like it, for the most part, but I believe that other shows in the [adult swim] canon have far surpassed this show in terms of comic genius and clever execution (see Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, Sealab: 2021, and the unlikely-yet-irresistible The Brak Show).
As far as this set goes, here are the episodes on hand:
* "Brilliant Number One"
* "Boatshow **"
* "Dimethyl-Pyrimidinol Bisulfite"
These 24 episodes are presented in their original full-frame format, and they seem to look even better than those I saw in Space Ghost: Coast to Coast: Volume Two. The color is lush, stable, and well controlled. Detail level seems to be tweaked up a notch this time around, which proves to be both good and bad, as it definitely flushes out more visual content but also exposes the limitations of the cut-rate compositing method at use. The audio comes by way of the usual Dolby Digital 2.0 mono mix and performs quite capably (although the "Boatshow" episode boasts a 5.1 mix that doesn't do significantly more than its mono brethren). And even though this new set features as many episodes as the first two releases combined, SG fans may be disappointed with the extras. This time around, the creative team behind the show seems to be getting a bit tired of this whole DVD thing. This is most evident on the five audio commentaries, which can be found accompanying episodes "Zoltran," "Brilliant Number One," "Pavement," "Boatshow," and "Joshua." In these short sit-down chats, show creators and producers mumble and fumble through what appears to be a contractual obligation, and Andy Merrill belches often. There is a raw interview segment with comedians David Cross and Bob Odenkirk (I'd really like to see more of these unedited interviews on future volumes) as well as a bit more interview footage with Jon Stewart, deleted scenes from "Switcheroo," and an excellent alternate ending from the "Zorak" episode. Finally, the "World Premiere Toon In" serves as the best of the scant extras. It's an extra episode in which the Council of Doom interviews and judges animators responsible for many of the Cartoon Network's new shows.
So, if you're among the initiated and self-proclaimed SG fans, you'll no doubt enjoy this latest feed of Ghost Planet transmissions. If you're new to the show and don't know which DVD volume would be best to start with, I'd have to recommend this third volume simply because it exhibits the earmarks of a now-settled format (though seeming a bit recycled by the standards of some regular viewers). The price tag continues to run high on these volumes, a hard-to-reconcile $29.98 investment. Plenty of second-hand inventory is available on the usual online haunts, so maybe take a look at those before you consider paying full retail value.
"Welcome back, stupid viewers. You'll watch anything. Go ahead, change the channel. You'll be back."
Review content copyright © 2005 Dennis Prince; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 281 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Audio Commentaries
* "A Moment with Jon Stewart"
* Alternate Ending for "Zorak"
* Bob Odenkirk and David Cross Raw Interview
* "Switcheroo" Extra Sequences
* Official Site