The stars of 'F Troop' first made a 'Ghost Busters' show in 1975
Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker were hunting spirits a decade before Bill Murray.
Children of the 1980s will remember a common confusion — "What the heck is this so-called Ghostbusters cartoon and where is Slimer?"
In 1986, two years after the blockbuster comedy Ghostbusters dropped marshmallow all over Manhattan, Filmation premiered a cartoon also called Ghostbusters. Only, instead of Egon, Ray and Venkman, there was Jake, Eddie and… a gorilla wearing a hat. The spirit hunters operated out of a haunted mansion plopped between two skyscrapers. They had a catchphrase that proclaimed, "Let's go, Ghostbusters!"
To those who grew up in that era, it seemed like the ultimate knock-off. Columbia countered with its The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, which launched a week later. But Ghostbusters had a legimate claim on the name dating back a decade.
In early 1975, Bob Denver had recently wrapped up his voice-over work on The New Adventures of Gilligan. The man best known to audiences as Gilligan received two offers for work, both in live-action Saturday morning programs. Filmation pitched Denver a reunion with Forrest Tucker, with whom he had starred in Dusty's Trail, a failed Western remake of Gilligan's Island from series creator Sherwood Schwartz. The show would feature Denver and Tucker busting ghosts. However, Denver intead opted to join Sid and Marty Krofft's Far Out Space Nuts.
With Gilligan out of their grasp, Filmation tapped into another vein of 1960s sitcom nostalgia and cast Larry Storch opposite Tucker, reuniting the two leads of F Troop. Tucker played Kong, the leader of the Ghost Busters, while Storch was his partner, Spencer. Joining them was a gorilla, played by Bob Burns, an expert in Hollywood genre films who actually possessed an original King Kong model from the 1933 film.
In a recurring bit that paid homage to Mission: Impossible, each week the Ghost Busters received a tape recording from the mysterious "Zero" that would deliver the next assignment, before self-destructing. The trio had to take on Billy the Kid, the Red Baron, Count Dracula and Frankenstein's monster. Hey, it was Saturday morning. Originality was not always the first priority.
Fifteen episodes were filmed in a couple months. While the show performed decently in the ratings, it was not renewed for a second season.
Years later, when Columbia Pictures began production of Ivan Reitman's Ghostbusters, the studio overlooked the existence of The Ghost Busters and had to cough up a licensing fee to Filmation.
The Filmation cartoon spawned its own line of toys, which undoubtedly ended up under many a Christmas tree by mistake thanks to confused parents. You could hardly blame them.