This review contains spoilers.
Ahh... 'The Real Ghostbusters'. In terms of children's-orientated shows and franchises, growing up in the early 1980s, '(He-Man and the) Masters of the Universe' was my thing. I loved the toyline, the spin-off cartoon, and all of the related merchandise (and, for the record, it is still one of my main loves). But by the later 1980s, it kinda felt to have run its course, becoming too squeaky clean for the very young, and I didn't like some of the later developments to the line. Then along came 'The Real Ghostbusters'. For several years (but what seemed at the time to be my entire life) in the late 1980s, EVERYTHING for me was 'Ghostbusters' related! I bought the weekly comic released here in the U.K. (still have them), and just about everything for me had to have a Ghostbusters theme. Slightly ironically, I hadn't at that stage seen the classic 1984 movie, so I didn't think the cartoon would appeal to me. By chance I was playing at a friend's house one day (hey, I was like 8!!) and he had it on, one of the very first episodes shown on ITV (though they did show the eps in a rather random order). I begrudgingly sat through it... and loved it!
Of course, 'The Real Ghostbusters' tweaked a lot of things from the film. For this reason, whilst I loved the cartoon as a kid, for many years after, I kinda shunned it, feeling that it had made the franchise a bit too childish and silly, preferring to concentrate on the films (which ties with the classic 'Back to the Future' as my all-time favourite movie franchise). But then, by the end of the 1990s, I kinda came to re-evaluate the cartoon series on its own merits. I've come to the conclusion that, while it has some nice tie-in to the film(s), it's better to take it as its own "canon"; and it certainly has some interesting concepts and ideas to it. If nothing else, RGB does have a definite charm to it, even with whatever faults some elements of the show might have had.
What with my going off the show for most of the 1990s, I didn't have many surviving off-air recordings of the show (and the ones that I did have, in true ITV style, were pretty heavily hacked up for timing). In the early 2000s, I got a "private" collection of assorted eps on VHS from another fan on-line, though these too were from ITV and mostly pretty chopped up. Then, with the DVD explosion of the 2000s, the series was finally released on DVD in all its glory. To be perfectly honest, I bought the set a couple of years ago (if for nothing else, I'm a huge TV buff and liked to have it if just for reference); stuck the first couple of eps on... and maybe wasn't really in the right mood, as they did little for me and the set has kinda sat on the shelf ever since. Until tonight. I was sorting out my many TV shows, and stuck on the first episode on a pure whim. And really enjoyed it!
"Ghosts Я Us" is the first episode of the series... of sorts. There was originally a short promo test for the series (which eventually appeared on the complete series DVD set), with a number of different designs. Then "Knock Knock" was made as the first full episode (finally appearing, in a more polished, finalised version, in the second season), while the next broadcast ep after "Ghosts Я Us", "Killerwatt", was the first regular ep to properly be completed. ...Everyone keeping up so far?!
To note with these very early episodes, is that the style is far more "cartoony". Okay, this IS a cartoon, but I mean in the sense that everything is more jokey-driven (such as, for pure example, when the needle on Egon's PKE meter goes so far off the dial that it comes out of the side of the unit); although the series would retain elements of this comical design (depending on the season, and who was directing the particular episode!), this would soon be much toned down, to make things more "realistic", so to speak.
Also of note is Egon's voice, done as ever by Maurice LaMarche, but much deeper and more monotone than it would evolve into. Janine's voice too, is much higher and squeakier than it would be by the end of the first season.
In terms of the plot, "Ghosts Я Us" is no real RGB classic, but it gets the series off to a decent start. The idea of a bunch of ghosts posing as rival Ghostbusters, to put the REAL Ghostbusters out of business, is an intriguing one, and plays out reasonably, but it does feel like more mileage could have been got from it. To me, too much time felt to be spent capturing the trio of ghosts first and putting them into the Containment Unit in the first place, and it was quite a ways into the story before they were accidentally released and the whole "rival Ghostbusters" plot kicked in. With that and the whole "Class 10" beast that the ghosts unwittingly awaken later on in the story, which kind of takes up the last chunk of the episode, the fake rivals idea does feel a little cramped. It's all pretty good, but I do feel that much more could have been done with the main "rival Ghostbusters" concept.
The family of ghosts... couldn't decide about them. Even when the "cartoony" elements were toned down, we'd often get more cartoon-like ghosts in various stories, but even so, the trio in this episode do seem very exaggerated humour-orientated, in terms of design, voice, and general mannerisms. I won't even delve into what could have led to the formation of this ghost family (father, mother, and big baby)... what, was a family killed in an accident or something? Probably not intended to be fathomed out – this is just a 25 year old kids cartoon, after all!
Despite my quibbles about some of the plot, things do play out engagingly, though I couldn't quite get my head around the climax. ...So Egon and Ray put Ecto-2 (the Ghostbusters's lightweight aircraft) on meltdown, and blow the giant Class 10 away. Does that actually get rid of a ghost? Again, probably best not to question too much!
Although I didn't have this particular episode until the complete DVD set was released a couple of years ago, I have always been very familiar with the story, as it was one of three episodes converted into children's novels here in the U.K., that I read over and OVER again when I was a kid.
All-in-all, this isn't really one of 'The Real Ghostbusters' best offerings, but for a first episode, it kicks things off reasonably, and for that, I give "Ghosts Я Us" a decent 9 out of 10.