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Warner Home Video presents
Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume One (1994-1995)

"The muscle ratio in cute monkeys is seven to one, but you wouldn't know it from looking at them." [prolonged silence] "In scary monkeys, it's nine to one." [prolonged silence]
- Space Ghost (George Lowe)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 29, 2003

Stars: Geroge Lowe
Other Stars: C. Martin Croker, Andy Merrill
Director: various

Manufacturer: WAMO
MPAA Rating: G for (some mature humor)
Run Time: Approx. 203 min.
Release Date: November 18, 2003
UPC: 053939670929
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

When cable's Cartoon Network began transmitting in 1994, it featured a questionable lineup of endless reruns of lesser Warner Bros. and Hanna Barbara cartoons run more or less around the clock. The good stuffóBugs Bunny cartoons, Tom and Jerry shorts, and Tex Avery cartoonsówas saved for prime time, and the rest of the schedule was padded with generally dull programming. With dead air to fill and a desire to create unique but inexpensive programming, the network execs gave its advertising and promotional people the chance to create new shows. One of them, Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, premiered in 1994 and has never stopped airing since.

Part of the reason for this is the killer concept, one that allowed the animators to cut costs by stealing art from old cartoons while at the same time poking fun at the tired conventions of the material that filled the rest of Cartoon Network's programming schedule (the tradition continues with the recent Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law and Sealab 2021, both of which turn old cartoons into perverse, South Park-level satires. But Space Ghost did it first. Using footage from a dopey animated series about a heroic figure in a solid white bodysuit whose only real powers were flight, invisibility, wrist lasers, and a troop of annoying kids following him around, the creative team crafted a spot-on parody of a public-access talk show. Space Ghost (George Lowe) is the host, rather clueless and self-involved. He is backed up by the original series' former villains, including Moltar (C. Martin Croker), who monitors the transmission (I guess), and Zorak (also Croker), who provides the music. Occasionally, the show is blessed by a visit from Brak (Andy Merrill), who doesn't do anything that isn't totally bizarre (sadly, this first release features very little of him).

The 11-minute episodes follow a rough pattern, but are anything but formulaic. Space Ghost begins by welcoming his guest for the week, usually some obscure B-list celebrity or media so-and-so, and proceeds to "interview" them. The interaction between the live-action video footage of the celebrity and the animated Space Ghost and Co. is always very strange, and usually at least a little bit funny. I have been watching the show for years, and I still can't figure out how much of the celebrity prattle is scripted, but I suspect it isn't much. Their comments are taken out of context, and Space Ghost proceeds with questioning until he gets annoyed and, more often than not, blows the guest off the screen with his wrist laser.

Each episode also includes a few running gags with the Coast to Coast crew, but these can be hit or mess, especially during the early seasons. The writers seem to favor extremely underplayed humor that is often only funny because its so not funny, if that makes sense, and if they don't hit the right tone, the sketches can be really dull. Combine bad sketches with a boring guest and 11 minutes can seem much, much longer (try watching Girlie Show on this set. Or don't, actually.

But even when it's bad, Space Ghost is, at least, unique. Its oddity has attracted a large cult following, and, I'd wager, help the network through its growing pains and gave the creative team the courage to try pricier originals that have since attracted their own fan followings. That it's still on (and still using the same five or six bits of recycled animation every episode) says something for the quality of the writing.

Due to rights issues (not all the stars interviewed would give permission for their clips to appear on video), there are some gaps in this collection of episodes from the first two seasons of Space Ghost, turning what would have been a season set into a still quite serviceable "best of" collection. Episodes and guest stars include: (Disc One) Elevator, with Judy Tenuta, Timothy Leary, and Ashley Judd; Spanish Translation, with Kevin Meany and The Bee Gees; Gilligan, with Bob Denver, Dawn Wells, and Russell Johnson; CHiPs, with Joe Franklin and Bill Carter; Bobcat, with Bobcat Goldthwait, and The Ramones, Punch, with Cindy Guyer, Jerky Boys, and Diane Parkinson; Banjo, with Schooly D and "Weird" Al Yankovic; Batmantis, with Adam West, Lee Meriwether, and Eartha Kitt; Story Book House, with Kirk the Storyteller and Carl the Cartoonist.

Over on Disc Two, you'll find Girlie Show, with Fran Drescher, Carol Channing, and Alice Cooper; Hungry, with Michael Stipe, Lassie, Sirajul and Mujibur; Fire Drill, with Donny Osmond and David Byrne; Sleeper, with Hulk Hogan and Slash; Jerk, with Palmer Mills and Sandra Bernhard; Urges, with Catherine Bach and Matthew Sweet; and Explode, with Terry Jones and Glen Phillips.

And no, there has never been a more bizarre amalgam of hacks, weirdo celebs, B-list actors, and self-promoting fame whores collected in a single DVD release (The Bee Gees, "Weird" Al, Matthew Sweet, and Terry Jones excluded). (Oh, and Lassie too, I guess, since non-sentient creatures can't really be fame whores). (Dogs, at least. Cats are total fame whores).

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Space Ghost is an extremely low-budget program, and most of the episodes on these two discs are nearing their tenth birthday, so as you can imagine, the image quality isn't exactly stellar. Colors appear rather dull, and the source materials show some dust and scratches. The cheap animation, a combination of quickie new stuff and stock clips from the original Space Ghost series, didn't look great in the first place, though, so I'm not really sure how much I can fault the DVD (I spotted no compression artifacts or edge enhancement). It looks fine for what it is, at least.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English Stereono

Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in a serviceable English stereo mix (the packaging calls it DD 2.0, but my surrounds weren't active once, and I didn't notice much in the way of separation between the front channels). As it is, speech is always clear and clean, and music and sound effects sound fine. Overall, a decent presentation of undemanding material.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
5 Feature/Episode commentaries by writers and producers
Packaging: 2 disc slip case
Picture Disc
2 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Art Gallery
  2. Zorak music video
Extras Review: If the quality of this first Space Ghost release, and that of Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Volume One, is any indication, Cartoon Network fans can expect big things from the animated networkóboth feature a high episode count, generally good audio and video quality, and a small but welcome smattering of extras.

The bonus material in this case amounts to commentary tracks from seemingly the entire Space Ghost creative team on five episodes spanning the series' first two seasons: Elevator, Batmantis, Story Book House on Disc One, and Girlie Show and Fire Drill on Disc Two. All five of the tracks are jovial and informative, and the speakers are entertaining and self-deprecating as they discuss the show's origin, the writing process, and the work involved in getting "live-action" guests to participate.

Disc One includes a photo gallery of some early production art, and an odd video of Zorak singing Jingle Bells rounds out Disc Two. There are also a few easy-to-find easter eggs scattered through the menus of both discs, but they aren't really worth looking for. But if you'd really like to know how disturbing it is to see a fat man dressed as Space Ghost dance spastically for two minutes, seek out the easy to find egg on the special features menu of Disc Two.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

Space Ghost is entering his tenth year as the host with the most on Coast to Coast on Cartoon Network, the toast of the cable roast (if you ask me, that is, and I matter the most). And it's still as weird and wonderful as ever. Longtime fans will appreciate this collection of episodes from the uneven first and second seasons. If this is what we can expect from Cartoon Network's DVD releases, then bring on Sealab 2021 and Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law.

"Well, that's funny like crutches, Locar. But loud actions speak words. And it looks like you've got your wall back, because a bird in the hand is worth this... Destructo Ray!" -Space Ghost


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