When Cartoon Network is mentioned today, we think of their popular shows such as "Justice League", "The Powerpuff Girls" and "Samurai Jack". But, when the network first debuted in the early 90s, it had very little (if any) original programming, relying mostly on older cartoons from the Turner vaults. But, the crew at Cartoon Network would eventually create their own shows, and one of the first was Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and that desire for original programming lead to the creation of one of the oddest TV shows of all time. Now, the insanity of this program is coming to DVD with the release of Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume 1.
If you've never seen Space Ghost Coast to Coast, I'll attempt to explain the show. No, wait...first I must go back. Space Ghost is a cartoon character whose television show debuted in 1966. He was a inter-galactic superhero from the Hanna-Barbera company, who battled evil in outer space with his teenaged sidekicks Jan and Jace, and their monkey, Gleep (or was it Gleek?) He could fly, become invisible, and wore power-bands which could fire energy rays. He also jetted around space in his nifty Phantom Cruiser. OK, now jump ahead thirty years. Space Ghost Coast to Coast is an animated talk-show, which is hosted by Space Ghost (voiced by George Lowe). The show takes place on the Ghost Planet, so Space Ghost interviews his Earth-bound guests via a monitor. Two of Space Ghosts enemies from his old TV program assist him on the show. Zorak (voiced by C. Martin Croker), is a large mantis, and serves as the band-leader on the show, and Moltar (voiced by Croker as well), the lava man, is the show's director. Space Ghost attempts to interview his celebrity guests, but he usually finds himself bickering with Zorak, while Moltar gets bored and channel surfs. If that's not bad enough, there are constant interruptions, such as when all of the air was sucked out of the studio.
If you haven't guessed it by now, Space Ghost Coast to Coast is a very, very weird show. The majority of the animation on the show is actually taken from the old "Space Ghost" TV series. So, we get Space Ghost, Zorak, and Moltar assuming a variety of canned poses, while they utter the most bizarre dialogue ever. While Space Ghost Coast to Coast resembles a talk show in the sense that there is a host and guests, the show is beyond a parody of talk shows. The interviews are pre-recorded and then edited together with bizarre questions and comments from Space Ghost. The editors choose very stilted and awkward comments from the guests, resulting in a very odd rhythm. Speaking of which, the show is filled with pregnant pauses, some of which are funnier than the actual jokes on the show. Despite this insanity, the show is able to attract guests that you've actually heard of (see list below) and one can't help but watch the show and think, "How did they get (fill in the blank) to be on there?" Along with the shenanigans related to the guests, Space Ghost must deal with other odd situations, most of which involve Zorak (such as when he feels the need to mate, or when he becomes the crime-fighting Batmantis.)
To be very frank, Space Ghost Coast to Coast isn't for everyone. The humor is either of the low-brow variety, or comes from some obscure reference. As noted above, the pace of the show varies, so at times the jokes are rapid-fire, while some shows produce few jokes. While the show's overall design is clever, the animation looks very rough at times, and, yes, one can't help but notice that Zorak's vest often changes from red to blue in various shots. Still, when the show is funny, it's very funny, such as in the episdoes "Hungry" and "Girlie Show". Zorak often has the best lines, with Space Ghost playing the comic foil. This is the sort of show which you laugh at, and then 10 minutes later question why you thought it was so funny. There are many inconsistencies with Space Ghost Coast to Coast, but the show is daring, strange, and often funny.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast makes its DVD debut with the release of Volume 1, and the contents of this 2-disc set raises some questions. The 16 episodes included on these DVDs are as follows:
1. Elevator (Judy Tenuta, Timothy Leary, Ashley Judd)
2. Spanish Translation (Susan Powter, Kevin Meaney, The Bee Gees)
3. Gilligan (Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, Russell Johnson)
4. Chips (Bill Carter, Joe Franklin)
5. Bobcat (Bobcat Goldthwait, The Ramones)
6. Punch (Cindy Guyer, The Jerky Boys, Dian Parkinson)
7. Banjo (Schooly D, "Weird Al" Yankovic)
8. Batmantis (Adam West, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt)
9. Story Book House (Kirk the Storyteller, Carl the Cartoonist)
10. Girlie Show (Fran Drescher, Carol Channing, Alice Cooper)
11. Hungry (Lassie, Michael Stipe, Mujibur & Sirajul)
12. Fire Drill (David Byrne, Donny Osmond)
13. Sleeper (Hulk Hogan, Slash)
14. Jerk (Sandra Bernhard, B. Palmer Mills)
15. Urges (Catherine Bach, Matthew Sweet)
16. Explode (Terry Jones, Glen Phillips)
These episodes represent a time-frame from April, 1994 to February 1996, and span from the show's first season through its third. So, this explains why the DVD set is entitled Volume 1, as opposed to "Season 1". And while the Volume 1 title doesn't imply or guarantee any particular episodes, the shows included here are an odd lot. They are essentially in chronological order, but there are several shows missing from this time-frame. Here's a list of all of the shows which aired from April, 1994 through February, 1996:
1. Spanish Translation
9. Self Help
10. The Mask
11. Gum, Disease Special
Special A Space Ghost Christmas
13. President's Day Nightmare
14. Story Book
15. Girlie Show
17. Fire Drill
18. Le Livre D'Histoire
So, the question is, why weren't all 22 episodes included? I'm not sure. It may have been a question of disc space, but they certainly could have chunked the lame extras which are currently on the disc. (More on that momentarily.) It may have to do with rights, for example, the guests for the episode "The Mask" were Jim Carrey and director Chuck Russell, and they were presumably on to promote The Mask. There were probably film clips which could have created licensing problems. And the episode "President's Day Nightmare" was used to hype all of the then new Cartoon Network original shows (such as "The Powerpuff Girls") the powers behind this DVD may have considered this episode to be dated. But, no matter what the reason, this DVD set simply doesn't feel complete. Personally, I can't believe that they left off "A Space Ghost Christmas". I was looking forward to hearing Zorak sing "Up on the House-top". And, to add insult to injury, one of the extras on the set is a clip of Zorak singing from this episode. Why not have the whole episode?!?! Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume 1 is certainly a watchable DVD set and will definitely appeal to fans, but now I can't help but wonder if these "lost" episodes will ever emerge on DVD.
The Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume 1 cruises onto DVD courtesy of Warner Home Entertainment. The shows included here are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The images are very sharp and clear, but the digital transfer reveals many flaws in the show. There is noticeable dirt on the image at times, and Zorak and Space Ghost both are very blurry in some shots. Also, when Space Ghost is doing an interview, the background is often fuzzy. Still, the colors are very good and the image is quite stable, showing no overt flaws from artifacting or edge-enhancement.
This DVD set features a Dolby Digital mono audio track which sounds very good. Actually, I was reading this as a Dolby 1.1 track, as the dialogue and sound effects were emanating from the center channel, but the subwoofer was busy pushing the low-frequency hum of the ghost planet, which became a dull roar at times. The dialogue is always sharp and clear, and the show's music sounds fine. The mono track fits perfectly with the show's odd visual style.
The special features on the Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume 1 DVDs are quiet disappointing. The main extras come in the form of five audio commentaries. "Batmantis" features editor Michael Cahill, producer Khaki Jones, voice-actor C. Martin Croker, producer Andy Merrill, and producer Matt Maiellaro. "Elevator" includes senior producer Keith Crofford, Jones, executive producer Michael Lazzo, Merrill, and Cahill. "Storybook House" has Crofford, Lazzo, writer David Willis, and Maiellaro. "Girle Show" is commented on by writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer, and Crofford. "Fire Drill" has Crofford, Lazzo, voice actor George Lowe, and Maiellaro. For the most part, these commentaries aren't very good. It's very clear that these people enjoyed working together on the show and they have a good time with these chats. But, they don't tell us very much about the making of or real history of Space Ghost Coast to Coast. Yes, there's the occasional anecdote here or there, but they basically just talk amongst them selves about how bad the animation looks or how stiff the dialogue is. As Space Ghost Coast to Coast is one of the strangest shows ever, I wanted to know much more about what made it tick. The only other extras are a 2-minute slideshow of storyboards and production art, and the aforementioned music video of Zorak singing "Jingle Bells" from the "A Space Ghost Christmas" episode.
Fans of Space Ghost Coast to Coast should rejoice now that this shows has finally made it to DVD. It's good to see that after a decade of being on the air, the original episodes are still just as fresh and weird as ever. However, this set isn't perfect and one can't help but wonder what lies ahead for future Space Ghost DVD releases.