A couple of weeks ago I was home alone for the evening. My wife was off visiting friends for the weekend, leaving me to my own devices, and what tends to happen when I have the house to myself overnight is that I sit up in bed until far too late watching videos on YouTube. I have a bunch of vlogs and channels that tend build up on my To Watch list, and when I have an evening to myself I’ll watch through them. And if I finish those, I’ll browse around for something new that I can add to slowly build up on my To Watch list.
I’ve come to enjoy YouTube over the last couple of years as it offers two wonderful avenues of viewing: excellent unique, fresh content, and access to shows you haven’t watched in years. And that evening, I don’t know why, I decided to watch some episodes of The Real Ghostbusters.
For those few of you not in the know, The Real Ghostbusters was the kids cartoon spin-off of the movie Ghostbusters; with the characters and themes taken from the film, but redesigned for maximum merchandise appeal. Although I had not seen the movie as a child, the show was one of my favourite programmes. I had the toys (which are probably still in my parent’s attic somewhere), I read the comics, and I watched the show religiously. I loved it.
To my generation, and I assume most generations since television became a thing, the kids shows of my childhood have become iconic. But one thing my generation has had that no generation before us had is ready access to those shows once we became adults. Through the internet we have a connection to our childhoods in a way out parent’s generation did not. Having gone through adolescence and reached the age where we began to feel that nostalgia, we found we were actually able to go right back and experience them. We had discarded childish things,
But if you drill right down to it, I can’t actually remember all that much of those shows. Oh, I can recall the programmes themselves, and so many theme-tunes from the ’80s will send my mind down a spiral of nostalgia that is impossible to avoid. But of the actual episodes of these shows I remember very little. For the most part these shows were written with the simple goal of occupying children or selling merchandise. This didn’t lead, in the most part, to classic stories or timeless characters.
But as I lay there in bed browsing the list of episodes I found several did actually jump out at me. Not all of them, but for certain ones I found memories of entire plots and chunks of dialogue springing out of the recesses of memory where they had been hidden. I found I could remember sections of television I hadn’t seen or heard since I had sat on the sofa of my living room twenty years ago. Since I had taken my toys to school so my friends and I could reenact episodes in the playground. Toys that had been to apex of excitement each Christmas and birthday.
So I selected the episodes I could remember, loaded up them up and started watching. And as I did so, one name kept springing up.
J. Michael Strazynski.
I am a big fan of J. Michael Strazynski. Babylon 5 is still, in my opinion, one of the greatest writing achievements in television history1. I had known that he had begun this television writing career on cartoons, specifically He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, but I had no idea that he had worked on The Real Ghostbusters.
And almost every episode that I found had stuck in my mind for all these years were written by him. Am I the only one who finds this fascinating? That I was struck at such a young age by a writer who I was due to become such a fan of later in life? That the quality of the writing, which was still a cartoon designed to sell toys to children, was still good enough to linger in my mind after all these years?2
1 I will accept criticism of the occasionally ropey ’90s CGI (although ground breaking at the time) and the sometimes soap-opera grade acting, but in terms of pure story-telling Babylon 5 is one of the best planned and executed shows ever written.
2 In fact the whole show was cleverer that I ever gave it credit for. But more of that in a later post.