Discover more from That Thing They Did
Something Streaming This Way Comes: "THE GHOST BUSTERS"
When Larry Storch died on July 8 at 99.5 years of age to the very day, he was remembered fondly for playing Corporal Randolph Agarn on F-Troop, for which he earned an Emmy nomination, as well as for a plethora of other past gigs, including guest spots on… Well, truth be told, the list is so absurdly long that I’m afraid to even start it for fear of leaving out someone’s favorite, but here’s just a handful of shows on which he appeared, and just know that this isn’t even close to all of them.
Excuse me while I take a deep breath…
Get Smart, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mannix, McCloud, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Columbo, Knight Rider, Married with Children, The Fall Guy, CHiPs, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, All in the Family, The Hardy Boys / Nancy Drew Mysteries, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, CPO Sharkey, The Flying Nun, That Girl, Car 54, Where Are You? and Emergency!
Mind you, that’s not taking into consideration any of the variety shows, talk shows, films, or voice work that he did over the course of his career. Still, you get the idea: Larry Storch was everywhere.
And yet whenever I saw him, I always remembered him for one very specific TV series from his filmography: The Ghost Busters.
No, not the 1984 movie starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, and Harold Ramis. I’m talking about the 1975 Saturday morning TV series, which made such an impression on me as a little kid that, even as a fan of the aforementioned film, when I hear the words “Ghost Busters,” I think hesitate and wonder whether they might be referring to the guys—and the gorilla—seen below.
When The Ghost Busters premiered, the biggest selling point was that it was ostensibly a series for all ages. The parents who were forced to endure their kids’ Saturday morning TV rituals could be entertained by seeing Storch reunited with his partner in crime from F-Troop, Forrest Tucker. The kids, meanwhile, enjoyed the comedic turns as these two knuckleheads and their ape companion went searching for ghosts, vampires, and other assorted monsters.
At the time of its original run, I didn’t get most of the jokes. I didn’t understand why it was funny that two of those three characters were named Spencer and Tracy, nor did it occur to me that it was funny that the one named Kong wasn’t the ape. (That was Tucker’s character, whereas Storch played Spencer and the ape—played by Hollywood legend Bob Burns—was the ape.) In the first episode, entitled “The Maltese Monkey,” I didn’t appreciate that the title was a play on The Maltese Falcon, nor did I understand that guest stars Johnny Brown and Billy Barty were playing facsimiles of the characters played by Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in the film. Later, of course, I was, like, “How could I not get this joke?” Until I remembered that I was five years old the first time I watched it, which is a pretty solid excuse.
I would not begin to claim that The Ghost Busters is high art, but it’s a tremendous artifact of ‘70s Saturday morning TV, one that utilized some very familiar faces as guest stars. Bernie Kopell as Dr. Frankenstein! Ted Knight as the Canterville Ghost! Lennie Weinrib as a werewolf! Joe E. Ross as Mr. Hyde! Jim Backus as the ghost of Erik the Red! Ann Morgan Guilbert as a witch and Huntz Hall as her lowly assistant! Mind you, this isn’t even the full list of guest stars, it’s just some of the more famous names. Trust me, if you decide to go back and watch the show, you’ll find even more famous faces that’ll make you go, “Oh, my God, it’s that guy from that thing!” Carl Ballentine, Ronny Graham, Howard Morris, Marty Ingels… The list goes on.
Okay, maybe it doesn’t go on and on, since the series only lasted for 15 episodes. But there’s still a lot of stupid slapstick fun to be found in this show. I myself own a copy of the DVD set, but since I don’t believe you can buy that as a decent price anymore, what with it being out of print, you can check out the show on YouTube, since someone has posted all 15 episodes for your enjoyment. I’m only embedding just the one here, which should be plenty enough for you to determine if you like it or not, but if you like this first one, keep on watching, because it stays at the same level of fun to the bitter end.
RIP, Mr. Storch, and thanks for The Ghost Busters.
That Thing They Did is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.