The Real Ghostbusters Episode 31: Chicken, He Clucked (1986)

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Surely one of the most eccentric episodes of The Real Ghostbusters ever, ‘Chicken, He Clucked’ is also one of the most original, funny and fast-moving. Seriously, these twenty-three minutes just fly by. Writer J. Michael Straczynski, like guest character Cubby, was driven crazy by incessant chicken odours from nearby resturants when he was younger, but unlike in this episode, he didn’t resort to deals with demons to get rid of the stench. Nevertheless, Columbia Pictures thought he was well and truly insane in the membrane when he pitched this idea to them. Strac’s pain is our pleasure.

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Poor, teary-eyed Cubby. He lives right next to four chicken restaurants. One of them even has a huge model of a chicken on the roof. All he can hear is the sound of the different types of chicken being listed off by one of the restaurant owners, all he can smell is the cluckin’ stink of mothercluckin’ chickens. We never find out if he actually likes the taste of chicken, but we do know that he’s losing his mind. Even he knows he’s losing his mind. He tries to shake off this impending madness in the park, but he can’t stop ranting. It doesn’t help that he looks a bit crazy anyway, what with that oddball posture and huge nose of his. He sits next to an old lady minding her own business and he bemoans his current state of affairs. The last straw comes when the lady makes a point of the fact that Cubby smells like… chicken.

Chicken.

CHICKEN!!!!

Oh, that’s it. THAT IS IT. It’s war. WAR! When Cubby’s done, there won’t be a single chicken left on earth!

Yeah, right mate.

How are you going to pull that one off? He’s CRAZY.

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We’re now in a library – is it the same library as the one from the opening sequence of the film? If so, our friendly elderly member of staff is no longer running the main desk. Instead we have a Janine-clone, and like the real thing, she fancies Egon too. She’s far less impressed with Peter, asking him if ‘that’s all’ when he brings a single book to the counter. Peter is flabbergasted, clearly considering a single book loan to be the maximum capacity of his literary capability. Egon brings a wheelbarrow’s worth of tomes to the counter, which Peter tries to pass off as his own choices, but no one’s fooled. Egon enquires about some titles he can’t find on the shelves, and the librarian says that they’re already out on loan. What’s more, she actually tells Egon who has them. I’m not sure about this, especially if that person happens to be still in the branch. It’s not outright data protection leakage (that comes later), but I’d have kept that info to myself.

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The mystery borrower turns out to be Cubby, who prefers not to wait to get home and read, instead doing his research right there in the library. Is he human, asks the librarian? Unfortunately yes, Egon laments. He decides to talk to Cubby, and in case we weren’t sure, the librarian comments on Egon’s cuteness to what looks like a random member of the public. Egon feels the need to approach Cubby, and in a not-at-all condescending warning he says ‘from one expert in the paranormal to…whatever’ that meddling with the contents of those books could end in trouble. Cubby agrees, but only trouble for CHICKENS. He wanders off, leaving Egon to conclude that this particular subject definitely evolved from ‘the shallow end of the gene pool’.

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Back at HQ, Slimer turns out to have emerged from slightly deeper gene-pool waters than Cubby, being able to work out what looks like an incredibly complicated maths brain teaser on Egon’s blackboard. Has he considered working for Carl Sagan, Egon wonders? Okay, Slimer was down one decimal point from a perfect answer, but this hitherto unheard of genius from the green spud is most unexpected. Totally irrelevant to the episode too, as Slimer is pretty much out of the picture for the rest of this story. Oh well. By the way, Peter’s book turns out to be a pop-up. Isn’t he meant to be a scientist? I know, I know, he never studied. He’s in happy form tonight though – nothing can go wrong on a night like this, right?

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Wrong. Cubby is back in the park, casting his spell which I’m sure includes such classic incantations as ‘having a good time’ and ‘wishing you were here’ and as such is a far less intense and scary spell than the one we get to hear in the next episode. We then end up in what looks like a waiting room crossed with a wine bar, where a faun-like demon named Morganan is summoned by a been there, done that clerk to deal with a new client, who we know to be Cubby. Business as usual, but unfortunately Morganan has to take along his imp, an annoying little scrote who might be the Salacious Crumb of the Ghostbusters universe. Not as funny, mind you, but few things are. Morganan and the imp arrive in the park to discuss terms with Cubby. Is he prepared to pay the price for this deal? Yes. So what is it that Cubby would like? To rule a country? To live forever? Become rich? No. It’s all about the chickens. He wants to get rid of all the chickens in the world. How about France? No. CHICKENS!!! The imp finds this extremely modest request hilarious, and won’t stop laughing until Morganan drops a rock on him. Cubby’s request is given slightly less foolish credence in the form of his new power. He can make anything appear or disappear. And that’s not just chickens, as we’ll soon find out. Just don’t tell anyone about this, a clearly embarrassed Morganan pleads.vlcsnap-2016-01-04-20h58m40s132

Dawn rises, and it’s time to see if the new power works. Just like that, a chimney is made to vanish. Perfect! Now it’s time for the little cluckers. In a flurry of wind and feathers, all the chickens disappear. Even that big model on top of the restaurant. In no time, the Ghostbusters are on the case, and Egon thinks he knows who’s responsible. The librarian who fancies Egon breaks data protection rules in an instant for her love and reveals Cubby’s address, which is totally not on, but we have to move the plot along I suppose. By the way, this librarian wears ‘essence of fungus’ perfume. She then gives Egon her number. Clearly nervous, Egon blurts out if she has chickens. She says, flirtatiously, that she can get some. As Peter says, ‘that’s disgusting’. I can think of no other children’s show that hints at bestial bedroom action, which is another reason why The Real Ghostbusters is the most left-field and wild of all 80’s cartoons.

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Before they get to Cubby’s, the guys make a stop at the resturant that’s missing a huge plaster model of a chicken. The owner is not at all happy at this situation. Peter makes a crack about a plaster wolf but is told in no uncertain terms to ‘beat it’. Oh well, time for Cubby. They corner him at his house and demand to know where the chickens are. Cubby says he knows exactly where they are. Would they like to see them? Well yes, Winston says. Oh no, Egon laments. Cue Cubby making the Ghostbusters disappear. Good time for an act break as any, I suppose.

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Fade back in and we get an absolute joy of a set-piece. Yes, the freefall sequence where the guys appear in mid-air in another dimension and begin descending at an alarming rate. This is definitely one of the snappiest runs of dialogue in any episode – Egon in particular is marvellously dry. You see, gravity is a problem, and while the chickens are happily if mindlessly floating somewhere abobe them, the guys continue to fall. Not a problem, they can use their parachutes. Except they don’t have parachutes. I know, Egon says, depressing, isn’t it? Ray screams. My thoughts exactly, Egon says. Seriously, this guy is an absolute legend under pressure. Even his countdown towards ground impact and imminent death is delivered with cool precision. I suppose if there’s nothing you can do, there’s nothing you can do. The others are in a total freefall panic, and indeed, they are all set to die were it not for Morganan making them vanish one second before impact, sending them to that waiting room we saw before. In their confusion they make a right old fuss, which annoys the receptionist to no end. It turns out they’re in ‘the nether regions’, which made me laugh in ‘Knock, Knock’ and makes me laugh here. Morganan wishes to discuss business, and if the guys refuse, they will be sent swiftly back to their ‘one second before impact’ pickle of a situation they just escaped from. Let’s not keep the nice demon waiting, Peter cheerfully suggests.

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So it turns out that Morganan’s reputation has been well and truly plucked following his chicken deal – all the other demons, especially one that sounds like Peter, think that he’s proper clucking small fry who can only make pathetic deals regarding poultry. How did everyone find out? Definitely the imp. So Morganan definitely needs to get back in everybody’s cool books, so he agrees to make a deal with the guys – he can reverse the chicken spell but he’ll need their help. Egon has a plan. So it’s back to Earth, back to HQ and the convenient acquisition of enough parts to make a chicken shedload of animatronic cluckers (Ray’s laugh during this bit is quite funny) which would pass off as convincing were it not that the odd one’s head has a tendency to spring off its hinges.

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Cut to Cubby, who despite his god-like powers, is still nothing more than that weirdo on the streets to tries to hassle you with rubbish jokes – his attempted gag to one very unimpressed passer-by involves how many chickens does it take to screw in a lightbulb. We never do find out the answer to that one, but Cubby’s call of ‘CHICKEN LOVER!’ to his would-be audience would be the filthiest gag in this episode were it not for that earlier bit with the librarian. Cubby’s fury soon turns to confusion however when the guys returns with all their fake chickens. Cubby doesn’t realise they’re phonies though – I have no idea how the guys got these fakes to actually make clucking sounds, but Cubby’s convinced to order ‘all chickens to go back right where you came from!’ – now his particular wording there turns out to be just the right kind of convenient reverse spell to get everything back to normal, after which Morganan swiftly appears, breaks the contract (a simple ‘1-2-3 gone, no backsies!’ gets the job done here) and heads off back to the Netherregions, but not before making point of saying he’ll be seeing one of the guys again real soon. Peter has a point when he asks why the other three always look at him when creepy stuff like that is said.

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An agreeably mean epilogue involves Cubby being institutionalised, with the guys being reassured by a doctor with huge teeth that he’ll be well looked after. Well, yes and no. Turns out Morganan’s blagged a job as an orderly who also has control over the patients dinner rota. Guess what’s on the menu today? Chicken! Cubby wails in anguish, and I guess we’re supposed to laugh at this man’s suffering. I mean, he was a troublemaker, but I do feel a little, teensy bit sorry for the man at this stage. Oh well.

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