Space Ghost Coast To Coast Explored – World’s 1st Cartoon Talk Show, Classic That Defined Brilliancy

    Williams Street is well known for creating programming for Adult Swim. But it was Ghost Planet Industries before Williams Street changed its name. “Space Ghost Coast To Coast” on Cartoon Network was their very first programme.

    Characters from the 1960s animated series “Space Ghost and Dino Boy” are used in the programme as crew members who conduct celebrity interviews. The show incorporates a combination of animation from the 1960s and 1990s, as well as live-action segments for the celebrity interviews. The dialogues are changed to make the celebrity reaction to Space Ghost being irritated by the villain crew and the interview as ridiculous as possible.

    With the fascinating premise of a washed-up superhero retiring and becoming a talk show presenter, the series can be credited with redefining this style of weird and crass humor for adult animation in the United States.

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    What The Cartoon Television Series Is All About?

    What The Cartoon Television Series Is All About

    Let us start with the fundamentals before delving deeper into Space Ghost Coast To Coast. Beginning in the 1960s, Alex Toth’s superhero Space Ghost, also known as Tad Ghostal or Thaddeus Bach, was created by Hanna-Barbera Productions. He had his buddies and sidekicks, including Jan, Jace, and Blip the monkey, just as any other superhero would. Together, they battled cosmic baddies since, why else would he be a “Space Ghost?”

    In the 1990s, Cartoon Network jumped on board. It is currently one of the most well-known and well-known brands in the industry. But when they first started, which was in late 1992, the circumstances were unquestionably substantially different. Even Amazon was once a small neighborhood bookstore.

    The problem was that except for sporadic one-off specials, Cartoon Network had no original programming. They also lacked one of the most crucial components required for creating original content because they were a relatively new channel. As a result, the channel focused on showing classic Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers animated films.

    The ordinary individual has long believed that cartoons and animation are only appropriate for young audiences. Of course, that is changing and has changed significantly; the foundation for these changes was established more than 30 years ago. This was significantly influenced by Space Ghost Coast To Coast on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim.

    Around this time, American television producer Mike Lazzo was asked to craft an adult animation series for Cartoon Network. With their lack of a good budget, creating something from scratch was out of the question. So, Lazzo worked with voice actor Andy Merrill and came up with an unusual concept that would not be very expensive.

    Remember when we spoke about the 60s cartoon Space Ghost and its superhero? Well, that’s very relevant right now as he was brought back, this time to Cartoon Network for its first adult show. Instead of being a superhero, Space Ghost was turned into a talk show host. And voila! Space Ghost Coast To Coast was born.

    The show would feature celebrity interviews, with them being edited in a certain way. It would take out bits and snippets from the interviews of celebrities such as Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Conan O’ Brian, Tyra Banks, The Bee Gees, and many more. They would be portrayed as the guests via a television screen who were interviewed in absurd situations (previously by CNN bureau hired acting students who interviewed the celebrities in character costumes). Meanwhile, Space Ghost’s question would be tailored in a way that it could be answered by those very clips of footage but the absurdity was cranked up to the max.

    For example, let’s assume we ask you something like ‘How many risks have you taken in your life?’ and you reply with ‘Quite a few, and I do not regret it at all’. But, when we air this interview, we change our question to ‘How many people did you cheat on your spouse with?’ and then your response is ‘Quite a few, I do not regret it at all’, the effect of the statement changes remarkably. Moreover, if you happen to be a celebrity known for your frivolous life, it just gets funnier.

    For the first few seasons, Space Ghost (voiced by George Lowe) approached his guests with the assumption that they were superheroes as well. Because of this, he would ask them about their superpowers. He also underwent internal strife where he could not pick between saving the world and hosting a talk show. But he did seem to do the latter quite diligently, almost as if the fate of the world depended on it.

    He is also quite egoistic and immature (which contrasts with his braver nature as a superhero) and it only aids the absurd comedy that is used in the show.

    Space Ghost and his celebrity guests are not the only characters though. He has captured and enslaved some of his outer space villains, who are crucial to the show, thanks to their crazy shenanigans.

    Throughout it all, these villains constantly erupt the flow of the episodes and prove to be quite a nuisance to Space Ghost. The footage of the celebrity interviews is also edited to make it look like they are reacting to the crazy things that are taking place.

    The juxtaposition of a live-action celebrity versus an animated atmosphere helps create a surreal environment, especially with these very live-action humans reacting to the actions of cartoon characters. It is amped up by the fact that the villains are way more interesting and exciting in Space Ghost Coast To Coast than they were in the original Space Ghost cartoon, primarily because they leave no stone unturned to express their hatred towards Space Ghost.

    Those who rocked with the absurd and surreal nature of the talk show pulled off the interviews a lot better than those who didn’t. This is why the Bee Gees interview did not work out, while the episodes with Conan O’Brien or Thom Yorke knocked it out of the park.

    Apart from dabbling in celebrity interviews, Space Ghost Coast To Coast also used old animation footage from the cartoons that aired in the 60s. And a fair amount of screentime was dedicated to the crew and their internal strife.

    Even though the original Space Ghost lasted for only twenty episodes, Space Ghost Coast To Coast survived being canceled twice and went on to have eleven seasons. The iconic talk show began to air in 1994 and ran till 2008 (barring a two-year hiatus from 2004 to 2006 after which it changed its premise a tad bit).

    As the seasons went on, the show shifted from Space Ghost asking the celebrities about their superpowers to being the most downright, absurd thing ever. The discomfort of the guests, their awkwardness, and long silences added a cherry on top. It also proved how comedy did not need a punchline to be effective and that situational comedy and absurdity often worked better than slapstick comedy. This idea is cemented by the younger crowd of today who consider the sitcom FRIENDS to be unfunny (especially with its usage of laugh tracks) while the Office is a huge fan favorite.

    Despite its relatively low budget, Space Ghost Coast To Coast soon managed to become Cartoon Network’s flagship series. It has also premiered material from other cartoons, namely The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, and Dexter’s Laboratory. These episodes were set up in the same interview format as the other celebrity guest interviews with snippets of the show being used and the script mimicking a natural but surreal flow of an interview. It is safe to say that it really helped with promoting these cartoons and giving them much-needed traction.

    Space Ghost Coast To Coast plays a big role when it comes to the conception of Adult Swim as well. Back in the day, when streaming was not an option and you had to rely on the television, Cartoon Network unleashed its more raunchy alter-ego at night with Adult Swim. And Space Ghost Coast To Coast influenced Adult Swim shows like Attorney at Law, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman, and Sealab 2021. In 2001, Adult Swim also aired the anime Cowboy Bebop, which mainly caters to an adult audience.

    Adult Swim aired more mature cartoons that were targeted toward teens and adults and would often feature violence or dirty jokes that were really inappropriate for children. What is interesting is the fact that Adult Swim did not exist when Space Ghost Coast To Coast began to air.

    It originally started out as Ghost Planet Industries, which is the production crew behind Space Ghost Coast To Coast. The success of the show caused them to re-brand themselves to Williams Street. So, in a way, Space Ghost Coast To Coast is an Adult Swim cartoon as the show aired on Cartoon Network from 1994 to 2001 after which it switched to Adult Swim till 2004. It then went on a two-year hiatus until being aired on GameTap from 2006 to 2008.

    With Adult Swim gaining traction and overtaking the slots for weekday nights alongside the weekends, the network got the rights for Family Guy, which had previously been canceled. And today, Family Guy’s legacy is one that everyone knows.

    We have already mentioned Cowboy Bebop being a show that was aired following the success of Space Ghost Coast To Coast. The thing is, Cowboy Bebop is an anime that is very well suited for the western audience, especially with its western influences, episodic nature, and Yoko Kanno’s soundtrack that is heavily influenced by the blues and jazz. With its success, Toonami came into the foray, which is like the anime twin of Adult Swim.

    Moltar hosted Toonami (yes, the director of Space Ghost’s talk show) and it aired shows like Sailor Moon and Gundam Wing. This introduced Dragon Ball, whose popularity requires no introduction. And anyone who has watched Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z knows that the show is definitely not made for kids, be it when it comes to sexual humor or violence.

    Space Ghost Coast To Coast also gave us Cartoon Planet. It is a spin-off and a variety show hosted by the cast of Space Ghost Coast To Coast.

    All of this combined speaks volumes about the impact that Space Ghost Coast To Coast has had.

    But what caused the network to want a show like Space Ghost Coast To Coast? They could have gone for a show that catered to children, a talk show with light-hearted themes over an adult show on a new channel that could only air the show at a particular late-night time slot. Well, the head of Cartoon Network himself, Ted Turner, asked for it. He wanted an animated series for a more mature audience. In a way, creating something for kids would require a higher budget because you could not get away with the absurd stuff Space Ghost Coast To Coast is renowned for.

    Mike Lazzo, the senior vice president of Cartoon Network, was tasked with making it work and he figured out that using their rights to pre-existing cartoons and footage and working their way around it would be the best and the most cost-effective way to approach the show.

    This was combined with the footage from celebrity live-action interviews. It also took inspiration from the David Letterman-style talk show (where the host being oblivious about the celebrity antics prompting them to explain why they did a certain weird thing works really well) since Space Ghost’s obliviousness about his guests is a big part of the show’s charm.

    Space Ghost Coast To Coast works on a concept known as soft worldbuilding. To understand what soft worldbuilding is, we need to understand hard worldbuilding. And the best example of hard worldbuilding is J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings. For his lore, Tolkien has created a whole new world to the T, crafting languages like Qenya and Sindarin for the elves among several other things. The main characteristic of hard worldbuilding is that no matter how deeply rooted in fantasy your story is, it should be justifiable according to the structure of the world that you have built.

    On the other hand, soft worldbuilding does not have such boundaries. It can exist within a normal world and it does not have to comply with any rules. A great example of this would be Studio Ghibli movies like Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. These films do not follow any set boundaries as the audience is constantly exposed to the surreal which often makes no sense within the world it is in. And yet, no one questions it. Oh, magic exists? Cool. There’s an onsen for spirits? No big deal!

    Space Ghost Coast To Coast is somewhat similar in that sense. It is a talk show within another show (notably a cartoon that interpolates live action into it). Call it showception if you want to. The real human guests are just made to accept the fact that they are witnessing cartoon characters from a 60s cartoon interview them while squabbling with one another. Just as Sophie Hatter accepted the magical world of Howl instead of putting emphasis on why these things were happening. If something like that happened in Harry Potter, then according to the boundaries of that world, the ‘Muggles’ or the non-magic community would have a hard time accepting the existence of witches and wizards. With Space Ghost Coast To Coast having its own soft world, they also have their alternate history which no one questions.

    But before Space Ghost became the host, the position was meant for Harvey Birdman with Lokar filling the shoes of Zorak Roberts. But Birdman Coast To Coast did not work out as Birdman was a terrible host, especially with his sun ray-powered superpowers being in conflict with his filming schedule. His loss paved the way for the B-grade superhero that is Space Ghost, who might not have been a top-notch hero but finally entered the roster of A-listers as a talk show host.

    Space Ghost’s constant interaction with the top celebrities of the 90s catapulted him to success and made him a celebrity in his world. Denzel Washington (or rather, his archived footage) appeared as the first guest in the pilot episode for Space Ghost Coast To Coast, giving the talk show a solid start.

    Generally, every episode would have more than one celebrity. For example, the episode Knifin’ Around had Space Ghost interviewing Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke (who has never written a happy song in his life, or not that we know of). Meanwhile, it was revealed that Space Ghost was married to the Icelandic singer Bjork (whose music is critically acclaimed for its experimental and avant-garde nature) as he answered her calls and exhibited generic married man behavior.

    In this soft world of Space Ghost Coast To Coast, the talk show crew hired people (mainly acting students) to interview the celebrities while wearing strange costumes. This took the Bee Gees by surprise who laughed throughout their interview, especially with Space Ghost asking them if they have enough oxygen (probably because he thinks that they are in outer space). The Bee Gees cursed throughout the majority of the interview and it got so out of hand that only nineteen seconds of the footage made it to the final cut. The whole thing with acting students in costume was later changed to be less strange for the celebrities.

    Other big names like Jim Carrey, Slash, Tyra Banks, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Bill Nye also appeared on the show. The questions were also asked through a phone patch and the celebrities were asked to imagine a situation where a superhero was interviewing them simply. This gave birth to the celebrities looking blankly instead of the interview being a mutual conversation, which only helped in making the absurd humor even more absurd.

    The Office, being a sitcom, profits off of making the characters break the fourth wall by looking into the camera or talking to them. Space Ghost Coast To Coast does the exact opposite. At a talk show where you are expected to look at each other and at the camera (to address the audience), not doing so amps up the comic elements.

    The show stopped airing in 2004 and went on a hiatus for two years. It returned from 2006 to 2008 as an exclusive five-minute web series on GameTap (which is Ted Turner’s online broadcasting service) with Space Ghost interviewing GameTap’s artist of the month and other video game industry celebrities.

    Before Space Ghost Coast To Coast began to air, the show was promoted with a soundtrack CD.  Musicians Eddie Horst and Sonny Sharrock were featured on the CD released by Rhino Records. The CD also came with descriptions of the first thirty episodes. A separate CD had Space Ghost using affirmations which would later become the drops that were being used for radio stations.

    Two years after its 1994 release, Space Ghost was featured on a 1996 planetarium tour as it featured several Space Ghost Coast To Coast episodes and even some music videos from the original 60s Space Ghost animated series.

    Cast Of The Show

    Cast Of The Show

    We have spoken a lot about Space Ghost, so let’s get into the other characters who make the show what it is.

    Zorak Roberts (voiced by C. Martin Croker) is an alien that resembles a praying mantis, even though he later thought that he was a locust. He is evil enough to eat his own nephew and he cares a lot for his own life. With mantises eating their mates after intercourse, Zorak decided to stay a virgin. He also despises Space Ghost and is the band leader of his talk show who lives in a keyboard pod. Despite being the physical manifestation of ‘pure evil’ that he claims to be, Zorak’s level of evil has been neutered due to his professional circumstances and enslavement.

    Then there is Zorak’s best friend Brak (voiced by Andy Merrill), a feline alien who is treated unfairly by both Space Ghost and the other villains, including Zorak who is supposed to be his best friend. Naturally, he grows resentful towards it and hijacks the show in an episode known as ‘Jerk’ as he asks the audience to hail him. You could say that he’s a talk show villain with a tragic backstory. He even hijacks the intro and the music for the episode, which really gets under Space Ghost’s nerves because he really cares about the quality of his talk show.

    There’s also Moltar (once again voiced by C. Martin Crokar), who acts as the producer and director of the show. Instead of being like an animal or an insect, Moltar is basically made of lava, or rather, molten lava, and wears a containment suit so as not to be a hazard in his workplace. Despite being lava, he is not hot-headed and is definitely more competent than the other villains. As the director of the show, he uses a single monitor to control all the booths, making him the backbone of Space Ghost’s talk show.

    There’s Lokar (once again, voiced by Andy Merrill), who is a locust and another villain. He does not have the best temper, which is characterized by his outbursts. He sports a British accent (clearly a terribly fake one at that) and has issues with both Space Ghost and Zorak.

    Black Widow is a villain who the other villains dislike. Why you ask? It is because the villains hate Space Ghost while Black Widow claims to love him.

    There’s also the cowardly Tansut, who is quite tame as a villain but has a menacing appearance with his red costume. His gut, which is the product of being overweight, is often out and he is chided for being a coward.

    Band leader Zorak has a nephew called Raymond and Space Ghost likes him a fair bit. However, Zorak, being pure evil, eats Raymond.

    Metallus is special in his own right. Whenever he speaks, he uses a reverb-heavy voice with a metallic drone, in true metalhead fashion. Just like the incomprehensible band names of several black metal bands (thanks to their logos), Metallus’ way of speaking renders his words incomprehensible as well. But Moltar is probably a true metalhead in the sense that he can understand Metallus.

    On the other end, you have Space Ghost’s evil twin Chad Ghostal, who loves jazz music. Being a hipster, it is also necessary for him to be different and unlike most of the other villains who can be a bit lame, Chad Ghostal is a total chad. He is super cool, a complete ladies’ man, and great at being evil (Doofenshmirtz better take notes).

    Comedy shows tend to have renowned bands, Saturday Night Live being one of the more notable examples. For Space Ghost Coast To Coast, that role is filled by The Original Way Outs, which Zorak leads. Most of them are also former villains who Space Ghost has enslaved.

    The screentime of Space Ghost’s sidekicks from the 60s cartoon, Jan, Jace, and Blip has been reduced in the Coast To Coast talk show. However, they are still present.

    Finally, the show features Kirk The Storyteller as a narrator who reinterprets various episodes and talks about them in retrospect.

    Other Interesting Facts About The Cartoon

    Other Interesting Facts About The Cartoon

    The original Space Ghost ran for only twenty episodes and had an underwhelming amount of Space Ghost animation. Literally less than ninety minutes. However, the older designs were used for Space Ghost Coast To Coast instead of remastered or redesigned modern footage. This was done to make the two footages look remarkably different from each other and to play on the contrast between the two styles.

    The show also took heavy inspiration from Late Show With David Letterman. Initially, the network executives worked on writing the first fifteen episodes, especially with their budget constraints (which also came from the fact that Ted Turner did not want to spend his coins on Cartoon Network). However, its success brought in money, and eventually, writers from the Late Show With David Letterman were hired. Around this time, Space Ghost Coast To Coast had a budget of a whopping thirty thousand dollars per episode.

    This allowed them to hire Emmy-nominated writer Spike Feresten who wrote Seinfeld’s ‘The Soup Nazi’ episode. Meanwhile, Letterman’s former head writer Steve O’Donnell also joined the team.

    Space Ghost Coast To Coast was the first animated talk show ever and even in terms of comedy, it was the first of its kind in the United States. In a way, that made it a lot more groundbreaking than the absurd comedy that we are exposed to now, even though the latter might be more up the alley of a younger audience. Space Ghost Coast To Coast is kind of like the first phone with a camera. Phones today have better cameras but they will never have the same impact as the first phone with a camera.

    And with that, today’s video comes to an end. What did you think of Space Ghost Coast To Coast? Did you enjoy this video? If yes, then don’t forget to like and comment on this video. Till then, goodbye. And have a nice one!

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