Okay, don’t shout at me. Don’t sue. Seriously, I did not write this episode. I had nothing to do with it. Don’t blame me if an episode of The Real Ghostbusters didn’t have any bloomin’ ghosts in it! Yep, in a move of outrageous audacity, the writers deliver an episode that features almost no spectral activity at all. I say almost because there’s a teeny, tiny bit at the end that does involve a ghost. Obviously Slimer is present in some scenes. Aside from that, this is as gritty and realistic as an episode of NYPD Blue. Except I don’t think an episode of that particular show feature a crime lord who actually went by the name of ‘Crime Lord’. Missed opportunity, Steven Bochco, missed opportunity. So yeah, this is the episode where the Ghostbusters become the Crimebusters. It was never going to be a long-term thing, this vigilante business, but I do like episodes where we go left-field and imagine what the guys would be like doing other jobs. In fact, before they settle on their destiny as crimefighters, we get to see just how useless they are at regular 9-5 occupations, and it’s quite humbling for them it must be said.
Before that though, we get the initial drought, the lack of ghosts. Everyone at HQ is bored. Egon’s playing with his PKE meter, Ray’s lost in his comics, Winston and Peter are playing cards. Janine and Slimer have nothing to do. There is nothing, nothing out there. Then the phone rings. In a first for the show, the screen splits up into panels like a comic book so that we can see everyone’s instantaneous, manic reaction to the ring. What follows is even more wild as we get a range of jump cut/freeze frames (some of which are hilarious – see below) as we try and make sense of the melee that ensues as everybody tries to answer the phone. Janine’s victorious and 100% determined ‘GHOSTBUSTERS!’ when she beats everyone else to the call is a triumph of voice acting. It’s all for nowt however, as the caller is merely trying to sell them some swamp land in Florida. Everybody groans. Peter understandably assumes it was his dad on the phone. Regular viewers of this show will get the joke.
So what’s happened is that the guys have become too good at their job, and there are no ghosts left, and with no ghosts comes no money. Egon predicts they will go bankrupt in fifteen minutes time. And so the eternal ghostbusting/crimefighting/littercleaning profession dilemma is raised – when your income, your living, depends on the presence of a bad element, what do you do when you clear out the bad element? Go poor? Well, yeah, you do! Don’t be selfish about it, be the bigger person and admit that you need to move on. What do you want, more ghosts, crime, rubbish? How self-centred of you. Well, since this is the eighties, this existential/are we selfish? issue is never raised as it’s all about making muthaphukkin’ money!!!!! And since the guys are not mercenary enough to open the ecto-containment and release some minor-league ghosts just to catch them and get paid all over again, they have to consider other jobs. Peter is absolutely appalled by this notion. He gets down on his knees and everything.
But it has to be done. The Ghostbusters have to retire.
The animation then does that old-fashioned thing where instead of fading to black, it shrinks to the size of a circle and keeps going – in this case, all four Ghostbusters are framed in this little circle thing, just so that we can really focus on the look on their faces and the horror that’s to come.
Cue – MONTAGE!
Yep, a montage. This is the eighties, remember. Amazingly, the guys get jobs that you think would require some extra experience outside of being a ghostbuster. At least Peter sticks with science, but as we know he ‘never studied’, he proves extremely inept at basic chemistry, almost blowing up the laboratory in his new job.
Egon, hilariously, tries to be a car dealer, but in an example of his overlooked physical strength (don’t let the glasses and hair fool you, he is one buff dude), he tears the door off the vehicle when trying to open it.
Janine sticks with secretarial duties, but it’s clear she’s being intensely overworked.
Ray becomes a zoo keeper, but is almost murdered by one of the residents, so he quits.
Winston becomes a cabbie, but his attempts to get all NY surly arouse the attention of some beefcake lorry drivers, who tip over his car.
Slimer, meanwhile, is resorting to petty crime to maintain his food addiction – he nicks a pretzel from some poor vendor and hides between a jewellery store and its security gate to enjoy his treat. This attracts the attention of a local criminal, who becomes fascinated as to how Slimer got through the security gate. He might have some use for Slimer…. the fact that Slimer’s a ghost is pretty much not commented on. Who cares, this is the Eighties. It’s all about the…you know. Cut to the guys and Janine later on, who just happen be complaining about their situation outside the very same jewellery store where Slimer and his new employer have broken into the store (the spud has been able to move through the doors and turn off the security). Slimer, paid off in chickens, is blissfully unaware that his new friend is stealing all the shiny goodies. He then notices his old friends outside the store window and goes to scream hello, which winds up the burglar no end. The guys and Janine notice the store’s being robbed and try to stop him. The burglar does that ridiculous thing where a cartoon character runs on the spot for about ten seconds before making an actual getaway, which gives the others plenty of time to catch up a little nearer. Peter apprehends the criminal by shooting an overhead fire escape, which just happens to land safely around him, instead of crushing him to death which was a lot more likely. Job done! Actually, that’s job done AND a $10,000 reward!
Too bad we can’t bust criminals like we bust ghosts, Janine laments.
It turns out that Ray can reconfigure the traps to handle living people instead of ghosts. Er, what? It also turns out that Egon can reconfigure the particle throwers to act as bio-electric fields. Er, what? Actually, go back a sentence – did Ray say he could trap humans? Can you imagine a human being sucked into one of those ghost traps? How’s this going to work out? Janine throws in some sarcastic remark to deflate all of this enthusiastic but wildly far-fetched ambition. It’s welcome, but it turns out that this insane plan actually will work, as the next scene proves. We join a crew of bank robbers on the run who become shocked to discover that they’re being pursued not by cops but by ghostbusters! The robbers are clearly baffled as to why they’re being targeted (‘We’re not ghosts!’/’No, but we can arrange that’ – nice death threat from Winston there) and this is where we get to see how the traps and proton beams work. The latter suspends humans just like they do with ghosts, but the trap, totally unexpectedly, forms an electric cage around them! And there’s me thinking they would be shrunk and held inside the trap. I’m an idiot.
The Ghostbusters are re-christened/re-branded the Crimebusters, complete with new logo and everything (the logo is exactly what you’d imagine it to be) and we get another montage, this time one of the spinning newspaper kind where headline after headline details the progress of our heroes. Crime rate down by 30%? Steady on, there’ll be no criminals left! It’s all going brilliantly, Slimer’s addiction is being taken care of and Ray quite rightly posits what could go wrong?
There he is, at the top of his skyscraper. Well, it might be his. He might just be renting the top floor. Anyway, he reckons that the Crimebusters have gone far enough. It’s time to take care of them once and for all.
Act 2 begins with the guys back from taking care of the trash only to discover that Janine has gone. A quick game of charades with Slimer yields mild results, but a note left behind from Crimelord is a lot more helpful. Crimelord is the top racket boss in New York. Crimelord is clearly bad news. He’s called Crimelord, after all. I think the writers just thought ‘sod it’ when it came to naming this particular antagonist. Anyway, Winston has an idea on how to save Janine. The guys actually do that huddle and whisper thing that all great shows do. It’s difficult to work out just what his plan involves, beyond finding Janine and saving her, and the frankly preposterous method of attuning the PKE meter to ‘Janine’s bio-rhythms’ could have only come from Egon. This method makes absolutely no sense, but we’re on a roll, so who cares. We all want Janine saved as much as they do.
It turns out Janine is being kept prisoner in an ordinary looking building that’s actually a cover for a huge subterranean pit of stairwells that lead to a disused subway train storage area. This descent into the murky underbelly of New York prefigures the underground antics of the next episode, ‘Beneath These Streets’. Janine is being held up in one of the train carriages, and it’s all going slowly, quietly, tip-toeingly smooth in the guys approach to her until Ray trips on the train tracks and lets loose a proton stream (we’ve all been there, it’s nothing to be ashamed of).
Crimelord’s gang start firing blindly and this is probably the first time the Ghostbusters have actually been shot at with real bullets (Slimer definitely takes a few, but he can handle it), but Egon electrifies the train tracks so that they magnetise and attract the guns away from the criminals. Fair enough. Janine is saved (‘what took you so long?’ is her typically acerbic response) and she wastes no time in embracing Egon, whom she is still unapologetically in love with.
There’s still Crimelord to deal with though, so the guys use a helicopter (not Ecto-2, so this means they own two helicopters!) to reach his lair, backed with sworn affidavits from the chief’s hoodlums that he organised Janine’s capture, but he remains supremely cocky as he has protected himself with proton-proof glass. Also, his chair elevates itself for easy access to the roof and his own helicopter to escape in.
So back in the non-Ecto 2 we go (Ray gets the most thankless line in the episode with ‘don’t let him get away!’) and we get a ‘copter chase over the streets of New York! The show also uses one of its rarely used themes, it sounds like something out of the 1930’s. I think. It obviously sounds incredibly 1980’s, like everything here, but I can imagine Eliot Ness sashaying to this beat. Since there are no ghosts in this sequence, I guess you could call this a good old, proper action scene – Crimelord uses his guns to take out the guys’ proton cannon (‘that’s cheating!’ Winston reather childishly moans) but everything’s alright when Winston uses his own proton blaster to kill Crimelord’s rotor blades, causing the copter to land on the spike of the Chrysler building. Ouch! That could have ended up very messily, but a weary sigh from Crimelord inside the perforated copter reassures us that the only damage inflicted upon him has been to his ego.
Unfortunately, this latest success means that there’s no crime left, so we’re right back where we started. The end.
Oh wait, the ghosts have conveniently timed their return so that the guys don’t have to sell off their second helicopter. However, since one of the ghosts is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, I’m beginning to think that my original theory of the guys secretly releasing their captive spectres in order to create more work wasn’t that far-fetched. Wasn’t Stay Puft trapped by the guys a few episodes ago? Never mind, Janine and Slimer have replaced the sign on HQ back to the old one, and Ecto-1’s logos have changed back to normal so quickly that I assume they were stick-on rather than paint jobs. A great diversion from the show’s usual formula, Crimebusters could have been an ongoing thing, but one thing would have had to have been sorted. Some inventive bad guy names. Crimelord? Please.
Oh sorry, I never did post a picture of their logo. Here it is.
I told you it would be exactly what you imagined it would be.