I remember this episode really standing out when I was younger, and it was probably one of the first instances of post-modernism/self-awareness in popular culture that I had ever seen. Get this, the guys go to Hollywood to supervise the making of a movie of their life, and the movie turns out to be…Ghostbusters. To be honest, the majority of this episode is a straight-up, hugely enjoyable treat with plenty of humour and fun ideas that helps to contribute to the strength of the first season. But the epilogue was a real eye-opener for me – we actually see footage from the real film at the end. Not an animated adaptation of the film, but the real film. That’s right, real-life footage in an animated show. Okay, it’s only a few seconds of footage, and Bill Murray’s voice has been replaced by someone else (it could be Lorenzo Music, I’m not sure), but this was beyond weird when I was a little one. We’ll get to this ending, conveniently enough, at the end of my review, so let’s get back to the start.
So, we kick off with a piece of music that’s usually used for moments in the show where everything’s glitzy or dripping with platinum, be it a game show, awards ceremony or, in this case, a celebrity appearance at an airport. In this case, it’s the Ghostbusters, who are due to arrive to leave New York for Hollywood on their chartered plane. Only problem is, they’re very late – the wired reporter who has to fill the dead air time and satiate the impatient crowd by regurgitating the life story of the guys is getting very frazzled indeed. The guys are out on a bust, and whilst it’s true that they’re trying to get the job done, it’s difficult to stress too much about hurrying back for a chartered plane that technically cannot leave without you. Ray’s behaviour during this brief sequence is manic to say the least. It’s almost like a precursor to the scene in Ghostbusters II where he gets possessed by Vigo and starts driving like a lunatic around New York. Okay, that scene never made it to the final cut, and I’ve never even seen it as a deleted scene, but I read it in the comic book version, so there you go. Still, even though they can afford to cruise it with their timekeeping, when the guys do make it to the airport, the crowd (bar one dedicated fan) have gone, and the reporter (who I must add, has appalling hair) is F-U-R-I-O-U-S. We get a couple of classic ‘furious’ shots, including a very impressive one where we see Ecto-1 reflected in the reporter’s eye. The guys couldn’t give less of a monkey’s if they tried, and proceed to board the plane. The reporter throws a wobbly and makes clear his hatred for showbusiness right there on camera. It looks like he’s getting the sack then. I have to say, the one remaining crowd member gets a great line (or should that be ‘word’) in response to this s**t-fit. If I quote it, it won’t be nearly as funny as it’s all in the delivery, so just watch the episode.
So we join the guys on their flight, which Slimer has stowed away on (following a drive-by goodbye at the HQ) and we find out that Peter’s charm towards the flight crew has led to his luggage being chucked off the plane somewhere over Cleveland. There is a rather unnecessary shot of some cows draped in Peter’s clothes – the gag was funny enough as it was, there was no need for the cows. No cows. Slimer’s presence becomes all too apparent when everybody finds out who’s been nicking all the complementary peanuts – in fact, Slimer’s so annoying during their flight that he even manages to wind up the pilot, which is a rare case of Slimer’s habitual nuisance-making getting to somebody who isn’t a Ghostbuster. In fact, so enraged is the pilot that he doesn’t even realise he’s talking to a ghost. Peter asks the crew if they’d like to keep the little green spud. Delightfully, this is met with a simple closing of the cabin door.
Hollywood beckons, and indeed, surf’s up. In fact, surf is so up that the huge wave that one surfer falls prey to looks more fearsome than the ‘one hundred year storm’ that Patrick Swayze faces at the end of Point Break, so I can only assume he’s a goner. We arrive at the set of the new Ghostbusters movie – so cavernous is the set that it even makes the non-diegetic music score echo, and we get some cute references to real life (‘Murray, Aykroyd and Ramis? What’s that, a law firm?’) and the revelation that the original screenplay for Ghostbusters looks as though it’s around 1000 pages thick, and as we all know, one page equals one minute of screen time, so we’re talking an epic of truly epic proportions. Amusingly, all suggestions from the guys regarding the script are great as long as the writers don’t have to change anything.
After some predictably anarchic food swipage from Slimer, two hapless workers open an enormous trap door somewhere else on the set, awaking a big, ugly blue ghost. Bizarrely, the guys end up walking onto a closed set and confront a huge robot that seems to want to destroy them. They blast it, and of course, it’s just a monstrous special effect (from the movie Space Avengers of the Galaxy) that’s now been crippled by the proton accelerators. Cue a vicious rant from a not-at-all-stereotypical loudmouth director. His anger reaches boiling point (literally, his face turns a whole new colour and even makes sizzling noises, like fried bacon) and Peter decides, quite angrily himself, that no one talks that way to the Ghostbusters. They end up doing that thing where they’re both at each other’s faces, both shouting, but never at the same time. We’re talking very controlled, restrained fury here. Unfortunately we miss the ensuing scrap, from which Peter emerges with a black eye and a bruised mouth – at least he got a killer move, something we never see, but according to Egon, it’s something that he’s never seen done to a man’s pants before. Of course, this is American, so pants mean something else in the UK, where I’m from.
Anyway, the proton packs are a liability, so the guys agree to have them stored in the prop room, although Egon seems very, very attached to his PKE meter, which he refuses to relinquish. A comedy of errors ensues however when the proton packs are replaced with prop versions by some delivery men. Whoops. Egon thinks the heavy volume of electricity nearby is the reason he sees the blue ghost appear on his PKE meter for a split second – strange that, I didn’t think the meter actually showed the ghost they were tracking, and oddly enough, this never happens again for the rest of the season. Oh yeah, the blue ghost – while Peter and the director were having their bust-up, he sneaked into the wounded body of the movie robot, which has decided to go crazy because of all the noise that has woken him up. You see, this is a sleeping ghost, quite harmless really, unless of course, you wake them up. Any noise drives this ghost round the bend, so why exactly he’s decided to choose a huge, very loud, clunking robot as a host body is anyone’s guess, since he seems to be making more noise than anyone. The guys are confronted by this spectral hypocrite, and charge back to the prop room to get their proton packs. The weird thing is, they don’t notice the massive weight difference between their packs and the fake ones – even the delivery men worked that one out earlier on. Act 1 ends on a huge cliffhanger where the guys are face to face with a very annoyed ghost robot, armed only with their fear. Wow, how are they going to get out of this?
The answer is….we don’t know. Yep, when Act 2 arrives, somehow they’ve managed to get away and are already hiding amongst a series of catwalks while the robot ghost loudly (sssshh) stomps around. This is pretty slack, I have to say. What happened, was there a missing reel or something? Oh well, let’s try and forget all of that. The guys try to figure out how to catch the ghost – Ray’s suggestion that all of his plans are null and void because they rely on the four of them being thousands of miles away results in a silent grin from Peter. Now I mention this because this non-verbal response really stands out for some reason – I don’t know why, but it’s almost a subtle moment, this. Any other time we’d have got a quip, a snappy comeback, a verbal reaction – Peter’s appreciative smile is a nice little underplayed moment.
Egon has the suggestion that they use the PKE meters which will help the ‘survivors’ a chance to escape. Peter’s the only one who seems to notice this somewhat pessimistic approach, and suggests this is the reason why Egon isn’t invited to more parties. Meanwhile, the ghost robot deals with a noisy car by making ten times more noise than it. Sigh. Slimer thinks he’s seen the guys but slams headfirst into a poster for the Ghostbusters film, which as we all know, features a shot of the guys. No sense of perspective, this one. Ray and Winston wander into the set of a Frankenstein knock off (referred to as the ‘Deadly Dr. Crowley’ movies, a nod to Aleister Crowley, maybe?) – Ray starts mucking about with the set, making lots of noise in the process, which really winds up the robot ghost, who loudly chases them off the set. At least they get reunited with Slimer in the process. Oh wait, that’s not a good thing. Peter and Egon find the trap door where the ghost was enjoying his kip, and it’s sussed out about his sleeping habits, and that noise is the enemy.
Ray gets a good moment where he suggests that the fact that they don’t have any proton packs could be a good thing as it forces them to use their wits and their brains, the right stuff, you know? Right… both and Winston and Ray react with as much disgusted disdain as you could expect, and Ray backtracks with no shame whatsoever. Besides, the ghost is back on their trail – meanwhile the director (who is definitely due to a heart attack any minute thanks to his incessant anger levels) decides to take matters into his own hands, retrieving his beloved special effect without damaging it. ‘NOW LET’S GO!’ he brashly exclaims. The ghost corners the guys back onto the Ghostbusters set, and with the real proton packs back on the scene, there follows an attempt to catch him, but it’s not easy with that decidedly non-supernatural robot armour. Egon cunningly suggests that they let the ghost make the next move. They get covered in dust. Oh well – Egon’s next plan is much better, and the fact that it works is pretty unlikely, but there you go. He uses sign language to communicate with the ghost – what were the odds that the ghost knew how to sign? He does though, and all looks well – the guys convince him that the Containment Unit will be the perfect resting place for him, but before they can peacefully trap him, that stupid director blunders his way on to the scene, making a right old racket, but luckily by now the ghost has freely left the robot and is now available for trapping, which is what happens. Lovely. Still, that director acted like an idiot, and clearly had no qualms about risking the lives of anyone else – his justification is that he needs to make a movie and the robot is essential, but it’s all in vain anyway as the robot, understandably knackered after all the action it’s been through, falls apart and is more or less destroyed. The look on the director’s face afterwards is utterly, unforgettably priceless.
Flashforward what must be months later and we’re at the premiere of the Ghostbusters movie, and that poor (and, it must be said, annoying) reporter is stood up again by the guys, who show up at the last minute and rush into the screening without so much as an interview. Now this is where the episode shifts onto a whole new plateau. That’s right, we actually get to see Ghostbusters! Admittedly, about two seconds worth, but barriers were being broken, trust me. As this is a kids show, the shot of Peter’s office crops out the ‘Burn in Hell’ graffiti on the door, and we never see Peter himself, but this was a delightfully odd ending to a fun episode. And Peter, despite being dumped with some below-par lines earlier (the faux game show prize/safety procedure quips he’s given aren’t very funny), gets the best line in the episode with ‘he doesn’t sound a thing like me’, which is probably a nod to the fact that yes, Lorenzo Music didn’t sound a thing like Bill Murray, but bless him, he totally made the character his own, didn’t he? Respect! 🙂