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There Were 3 Ghostbusters TV Shows, but Only 1 Was Real

There Were 3 Ghostbusters TV Shows, but Only 1 Was Real


  • The original live-action Ghost Busters featured a bumbling trio of detectives fighting paranormal creatures with a ghost de-materializer.
  • The 1986 animated version, Ghostbusters, was a sequel with new characters battling a ghost wizard named Prime Evil.
  • Filmation’s Ghostbusters faced challenges against Columbia Pictures’ version, leading to quick cancellation and regrets from the executive producer.

Do you remember The Ghost Busters show? The live-action children’s sitcom ran on CBS for one season during the mid-1970s and centered around three slapstick paranormal detectives — Jake Kong, Eddie Spencer, and Tracy. The last name (and not the first one, ironically enough) was actually a gorilla with a trademark beanie propeller hat. This bumbling trio (made up of actors Forrest Tucker, Larry Storch, and Bob Burns) would retrieve their weekly assignment from a cassette tape that was hidden inside a department store.

Never seen but only heard, their boss Zero would usually have them fight against the likes of Frankenstein, The Mummy, Dracula, or even the ghost of Billy the Kid. With the three heroes eventually using their ghost de-materializer to save the day — wait, we weren’t thinking of the same show, were we? Ok, there was actually another series made about ten years later, this one being animated, that might be the one that you were thinking of.

Premiering in the fall of 1986, this rendition — just called Ghostbusters — was created by Filmation and distributed by Tribune Entertainment. This was actually a sequel to the original that starred Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr. Their base of operations was in an old and derelict haunted mansion where they tried to stop the plans of the devious Prime Evil. Who is Prime Evil, you may ask? A ghost wizard who resides in the Fifth Dimension, lives in a clock tower, and opens up a wormhole for villains like a safari hunter called The Haunter and a vampish sorceress named Apparitia to wreak havoc on Earth. Oh, and the gorilla was back too, bigger and stronger than ever before.

  • The Ghost Busters

    The Ghost Busters

    Release Date
    September 6, 1975

    Larry Storch , Forrest Tucker , Linda Gary , Susan Blu , Pat Fraley , Peter Cullen , Alan Oppenheimer , Bob Burns

    Main Genre


Filmation’s The Ghost Busters Came First

Jake Kong, Eddie Spencer and Tracy The Gorilla in live action

As you might have guessed by now, these two series had nothing to do with the Ghostbusters franchise that we are all familiar with. Nonetheless, the aforementioned wild and wacky shows do actually exist but have been buried in the graveyard of media long forgotten because of their failed battle against the Columbia Pictures property. The only one we seem to remember is The Real Ghostbusters, a seven-season series that followed the iconic team after the original film. The “real” story begins in 1984 when the first Ghostbusters film was in production.

Columbia Pictures just didn’t realize that Filmation had already made a live-action show with almost the same premise ten years prior. After reading about this revelation, the former president of Filmation, Lou Schiemer, had his company’s lawyers arrange a meeting with Columbia. According to Schiemer, the other party thought that Filmation’s original work from 1975 was a cartoon. Knowing that they had to arrive at some sort of agreement, Filmation accepted $500,000 for the use as well as one percent of the profits (which never manifested thanks to Hollywood accounting declaring that the Ghostbusters movie never turned a profit). Surprisingly, a financial deal for any potential animated works was never made.

Filmation and Columbia Come to Blows

This was where things turned a little messy and worse for everybody involved. Two years after the first Ghostbusters film was released, Columbia decided to produce an animated series. Filmation and Columbia were on the verge of collaborating until Filmation’s parent company made a grave mistake. They stepped right in the middle and stopped the beginnings of a potential brainstorming session with the brazen excuse of not needing Columbia. With an immediate dismissal handed down, Filmation went on to produce their animated work with Tribune Entertainment and Columbia handed their contract to DIC Pictures.

The Ghost Busters

Two different shows with the same franchise name then aired at the same time: Filmation’s Ghostbusters (which started on September 8th, 1986) and DIC Pictures’ The Real Ghostbusters (which started airing just five days later, on the 13th). As you probably may have guessed (yet again), this didn’t bode well for Filmation as toy sales for their characters dropped scary fast and after only sixty-five episodes, Jake Kong Jr. and Eddie Spencer Jr. were no more shortly after. In fact, the executive producer of Filmation’s version regrets ever producing the show knowing it was going to be a combatant against Columbia’s own animated work.

As you can see, there was a reason why the official 1980s cartoon had to have “The Real” in front of it. But what is left out of the story — and most interesting — is that the bigger film company (Columbia Pictures) made the mistake of thinking they were the only ones holding a Ghostbusters IP. If only Filmation’s version could get a rightful reboot and some more time in the spotlight. On second thought, that just might cause more problems. While The Real Ghostbusters can be viewed in its entirety through Prime Video, Apple TV or Google Play, all sixty-five episodes of Filmation’s Ghostbusters as well as their live-action series are available on YouTube for free.

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