The original Ghostbusters. L-r: Tracy, Eddie, Jake.


Medium: Live-action TV
Produced by: Filmation
First Appeared: 1975
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Before Extreme Ghostbusters, before Real Ghostbusters, even before the movie Ghostbusters itself, there was … Ghostbusters. The first use of the name in the media was …

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… for a 1975 television show — a live-action one, despite the fact that the studio producing it, Filmation, was much better known for cartoons like Quackula and Sport Billy.

Ghostbusters, which ran on CBS starting September 6, 1975, was about a detective-like agency that specialized in busting ghosts. It got its assignments the way the good guys in Mission: Impossible had gotten theirs in the '60s — by playing a tape planted for them, which would then explode in their faces. The place was run by Eddie Spencer, played by Forrest Tucker, with Jake Kong (Larry Storch) as his second banana and a gorilla named Tracy (Bob Burns) rounding out the regular cast. Storch, by the way, also did a few cartoon voices, such as Koko the Clown and the very late Looney Tunes characters Cool Cat and Merlin the Magic Mouse.

It wasn't a big hit. Officially it ran for two seasons, but the second was all reruns. But then came the movie, and suddenly the name "Ghostbusters" was valuable. Filmation responded in two ways: First, by suing Columbia Pictures for appropriating their title (they settled out of court in Filmation's favor) and second by turning the original TV show into a cartoon. The first animated version of Ghostbusters, also known as Original Ghostbusters (and sometimes referred to as Filmation's Ghostbusters), debuted September 13, 1986 on NBC — the very same day Real Ghostbusters, based on the movie, started on ABC.

This one's protagonists were the sons of the originals, who had the same given names, reprising their fathers' roles, with the same old Tracy returning in his own. There were a few more regulars, such as a living, skull-shaped telephone named Ansabone; a living TV set, also skeleton-shaped, named Skelevision; and a talking bat named Belfrey. They operated out of Ghost Command, a decrepit old haunted house surrounded by a forest of modern skyscrapers, and got around in a living vehicle named Ghost Buggy. Instead of handling unrelated cases on an individual basis, they had an arch-enemy called Prime Evil, a wicked wizard.

Eddie Jr. was voiced by Peter Cullen (Hagar the Horrible, Sour Puss in Pac-Man). Jake Jr. was Pat Fraley (Bravestarr, coach in Galaxy High School). Tracy was Lou Scheimer (the Filmation honcho who also voiced minor characters in Fat Albert and He-Man). Prime Evil was Alan Oppenheimer (Mighty Mouse; Inch High, Private Eye). Other voices included Frank Welker (Jabberjaw), Neil Ross (Green Goblin in Spider-Man) and Don Francks (Sabretooth in X-Men).

Despite its primacy, this set of Ghostbuster characters never did generate the interest of the ones from the movie. The cartoon lasted one season, had relatively little merchandise. There was a comic book adaptation from First Comics (American Flagg, E-Man), but it lasted only six issues, February through August, 1987. Today, it's remembered mainly for its near-connection to the more famous set.


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Text ©2006-08 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Filmation.