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Emmy-winning "Beetlejuice" series is like two shows with one name
Blog, TV
Posted on Jun 09 2013 by Greg
For the first time, the long-running animated TV version of the Tim Burton hit horror/comedy movie has been released on DVD in its entirety (select episodes were previously on VHS).

It shouldn't be a surprise that "Beetlejuice" the TV cartoon is altered somewhat from the big screen version. The Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis characters are gone. Even Dick Cavett isn't here.

The Deetz's daughter Lydia still appears "goth" and likes dark, creepy stuff. However she's more of a Wednesday Addams in this show. The word "goth" is never spoken. The Deetz parents, Delia the artist and Charles the clueless, often appear in roles not too far from the parents on "Phineas and Ferb."

Most of the series takes place in the "Neitherworld." Since this is animation, the ability to create surrealistic settings is only limited by the stories, time and budget, which looks, for the most part, used to its best advantage. Like the movie, "Beetlejuice" the TV show can be disconcerting for adults at first, but it "grows on you."

Speaking of puns, this series uses more puns and literal takes on phrases than a Muppet Show or an Amelia Bedelia book. Beetlejuice has a tendency to say something and it happens, either to him or things around him, shades of Aunt Clara and Esmeralda, only with boogers and flatulence.

Which now brings me to possible objections of some parents to this series. The Neitherworld is chaotic, the tone of the show is loose and loony and Beetlejuice is smelly, greedy, sneaky and on the edge of insanity, though not as completely depraved as depicted by Michael Keaton in the film. BJ on TV, voiced by Stephen Ouimette, is a grittier version of Bugs Bunny, Robin Williams' Genie and Animaniacs. His cartoon visage is less Keaton and more Jon Lovitz.

In his weekly cartoonresearch.com column, Animation Anecdotes, our beloved pal Jim Korkis recalls a parent group that called the "Beetlejuice" show "the worst ever" in terms of mindless violence. That's quite an accomplishment in a medium that gave us "Garbage Pail Kids" as well as some of the gems bestowed on children today. Violence in cartoons is a subject unto itself. My wife and I tend to wait for what we see as the appropriate age for material, and it's different for each child. Some things are never appropriate just because they're awful, but this show does have some creative things going for it.

The animated Beetlejuice character is an antihero, but never seen as a role model. He's constantly identified as a nuisance, a bad example and is often rejected for his antics. The ABC version makes this point most directly, but the FOX Kids series actually makes Lydia as much a critic of her "best friend" as an ally.

"Beetlejuice" was a huge TV success, spawning warehouses of merchandise. It's also the first animated series to have a simultaneous run on network TV and daily cable.

Here's how it went: "Beetlejuice" premiered as part of the ABC Saturday Morning lineup and ran for three seasons beginning September 9, 1989 with thirteen epsodes the first season, eight the second and eight the third, which was typical practice for network cartoon series back then.

When Fox Kids began, the series highly touted. 65 additional episodes were guaranteed for Canada's Nelvana studio. So for eight weeks starting on September 7, 1991, viewers could see six new episodes. ABC continued their third season run with repeats, but FOX Kids rolled out all 65.

The first ABC season has been released on DVD as well, but with the complete, slipcased set, you get ABC seasons 1-3 and all 65 FOX Kids shows in another two packages, adding up to 94 half hour shows, that actually run about 23 minutes each.



The ABC and FOX Kids series seem similarities at first glance, but I found things that separate the two. On ABC, the Standards and Practices people surely insisted that a pro-social message be included, not that the daytime series is devoid of lessons learned. Sometimes Beetlejuice is the object of another's misbehavior and as Bugs did, he takes action ("Of course you know, this means war.")

More of the ABC shows take place in school and are centered around the issues of young people. The daytime show went more for a general audience, with endless references aimed at adults. Most kids would not get the very sharp jabs at traffic school, media, corporate life or politics that way adults would.

The animation is uniform in both series, with flashes of inspiration and genuine laughs despite the vulgarity and the quantity of episodes ground out. Like Warner Bros cartoons, Bullwinkle and the Muppets, frequent fourth wall breaking is the norm. Just as an FYI, Sally Field's Oscar speech is referenced three times over the series.

Also on the daily version, more time is devoted to the other creepy characters, like Jacques LaLean, Ginger the Tap Dancing Spider and The Monster Across the Street. Lydia is absent from a handful of shows, but her role is more often than not the voice of reason. The two series also have different theme song visuals with pretty much the same Danny Elfman music.

The entire series must have been post-produced on videotape, as many cartoons were at the time, so there are moments where images look blurry or out of register. Other than that, the overall impression after watching these shows is how consistently inventive and entertaining they are, considering how many were made. The ghost with the most was never at a loss for phlegmy fun,

BEETLEJUICE TV SERIES EPISODE GUIDE

SEASON ONE (Saturday mornings on ABC)

Episode 1
September 9, 1989
Critter Sitters 
Lydia is asked to babysit little Arlo (think Swee'pea); Beetlejuice wants to buy Lydia a present but causes mass destruction when he becomes a baby and ends up in Neitherworld court. "Banana Boat Song" is heard several times, linking the first episode to the movie.

Episode 2
September 16, 1989
The Big Face Off
BJ and Lydia appear on the game show, "The 24-Hour Gross Out." The quizmaster is a vocal combination of Shelly Berman and Bob Barker.
Skeletons in the Closet
In the Neitherworld, skeletons are tattletales, and they do a lot of tattling on Beetlejuice.

Episode 3
September 23, 1989
A Dandy Handy Man
Like Lucy Carter on "Here's Lucy," the TV Beetlejuice often uses wackiness to help others. BJ takes on some odd jobs -- and tangles with "Ghost Tools" -- to raise money for Lydia's photography show.
Out of My Mind
An exceptional episode in which Lydia enters BJ's brain. This plot is fertile ground for animation, from Disney's "Reason and Emotion" to Pixar's upcoming feature.

Episode 4
September 30, 1989
Stage Fright
Borrowing a page or two from "Archie," (and what teen sitcom doesn't?) Lydia's snobby Veronica-like teen rival, Claire Brewster, debuts in this story about a school production of "Romeo and Juliet."
Spooky Tree
Somehow an ecological message is shoehorned into this series, as a kindhearted tree is uprooted and threatened by developers.

Episode 5
October 7, 1989
Laugh of the Party
In this entry, he changes into teenage "Betty Juice" and opens a can of party creatures from the Neitherworld to pep up her party and outshine Veronica.

Episode 6
October 14, 1989
Worm Welcome
BJ falls into the sandworm desert and, while escaping, accidentally takes a baby sandworm into the Neitherworld. Lydia calls BJ and the sandworm follows; BJ takes undue hero credit for saving the Neitherworld.

Episode 7
October 21, 1989
Bad Neighbor Beetlejuice
BJ's neighbors have had enough of his insanity, so Lydia tries to help him gain their good graces.
Campfire Ghouls
BJ turns into "Betty Juice" and goes on a camping trip with Lydia and some youngsters.

Episode 8
October 28, 1989
Pest O' the West
When BJ takes Lydia to the Neitherworld Old West, Lydia asks if there are saloons. "Not in THIS time slot!" says BJ. It's a little creepy that Billy the Crud wants to marry her. Isn't Lydia supposed to be a teenager?

Episode 9
November 4, 1989
Bizarre Bazaar
Another school based story with rival Claire that Beetlejuice makes crazy but turns out fine like on "The Lucy Show."
Pat on the Back
Beetlejuice learns what business leaders often forget -- a sycophantic yes-man is trouble for you and your staff.

Episode 10
November 11, 1989
Poopsie
Beetlejuice has to take care of the little dog.
It's the Pits
BJ forms an armpit music band. This predates "American Idol" so thankfully there's no "Slime-on Cowell," "Writhing Screamcrust" or "Paula Ab-Ghoul."

Episode 11
November 18, 1989
Prince of the Neitherworld
Depressed Prince Vince takes Lydia on a date -- with BJ close at hand. Note the reference to the four-hour "Crying Clown" movie -- is this a nod to that never-released Jerry Lewis film?

Episode 12
December 2, 1989
Quit While You're a Head
Not for the first time, BJ loses his head and has to retrieve it from headhunters, accompanied by stand up creature Captain Kidder (no relation to Margot). "Who needs hands and feet when you're being waited on hand and foot?"

Episode 13
December 9, 1989
Cousin BJ
This pair of stories focus on relatives in each world; here, we meet Lydia’s aunts and uncles.
Beetlejuice's Parents
BJ's parents are suburbanites, conventional by Neitherworld standards: Mom's a bit OCD about cleaning and Dad has a work ethic he wants to pass along to his son.

SEASON TWO (Saturday mornings on ABC)

Season 2, Episode 1 (Series Episode 14)
September 8, 1990
Dragster of Doom
This episode introduces Doomie, a horrific Herbie built by BJ and Lydia that becomes a semi regular.

Season 2,  Episode 2 (Series Episode 15)
September 15, 1990
Scare and Scare Alike
Because they know each other so well, BJ and Lydia's pranks for Scary Fool's Day escalate from BJ's mother coming to visit to Claire planning a long stay.
Spooky Boo-tique
As Mr. Beetleman, BJ helps Lydia and her friends with their creepy fashion shop.

Season 2,  Episode 3 (Series Episode 16)
September 22, 1990
Driven Crazy
BJ promises Lydia not to do any "Beetlejuicing" during a race with Doomie against sneaky clowns.

Season 2,  Episode 4 (Series Episode 17)
September 29, 1990
Scummer Vacation
Above-average episode, loaded with inventive gags, in which "Mr. Beetleman" acts as travel agent for Lydia and her parents' bizarre vacation.

Season 2,  Episode 5 (Series Episode 18)
October 6, 1990
Bewitched, Bothered, and Beetlejuiced
BJ takes a risky chance when he disguises himself as a witch and crashes the witch's Halloween party with Lydia. Shades of "H.R. Pufnstuf."

Season 2,  Episode 6 (Series Episode 19)
October 13, 1990
Dr. Beetle & Mr. Juice
BJ's "New You" perfume changes Lydia into a worse troublemaker than him. This is a rare instance where BJ has to solve the problem without her help.
Running Scared
"Betty Juice" arranges a smear campaign against Claire for school president.

Season 2,  Episode 7 (Series Episode 20)
October 20, 1990
The Really Odd Couple
BJ moves in with The Monster Across the Street, a hairy creature remininscent of Bugs Bunny's foil in "Hair Raising Hare."
A-Ha!
Doomie is missing.

Season 2,  Episode 8 (Series Episode 21)
October 27, 1990
Uncle BJ's Roadhouse
BJ hosts a Pee Wee Herman type kiddie show with living objects.
Scarecrow
BJ becomes a scarecrow on a beetle farm, with a farmer that sounds like Walter Brennan.
The Son Dad Never Had
Lydia's busy with a photo project, so young "Cousin BJ" spends "quality time" with her Dad, Charles.

SEASON THREE (Saturday mornings on ABC)

Season 3,  Episode 1 (Series Episode 22)
September 7, 1991
Mom's Best Friend
Endora turns Darrin into a dog the night that Larry is bringing a lovely animal rights client (guest star Eva Gabor) to the Stephens' house for dinner -- she promptly adopts the dog and drives Darrin crazy with pampering. Hey, wait a second...?

Season 3,  Episode 2 (Series Episode 23)
September 14, 1991
Back-to-School Ghoul

BJ has to repeat Kindergarten and wacky chaos ensues.

Season 3,  Episode 3 (Series Episode 24)
September 21, 1991
Doomie's Romance

Doomie becomes a love bug for the Mayor's pink convertible. The series is now tending to put BJ at odds with an out-of-control situation rather than acting as the cause.

Season 3,  Episode 4 (Series Episode 25)
September 28, 1991
Ghost to Ghost

Lydia's mom Delia has a seance to bring customers to her Tupperware party and brings back the spirit of horror movie star Boris To Death (with a voice like Hans Conried).

Season 3,  Episode 5 (Series Episode 26)
October 5, 1991
Spitting Images
You could lose your mind, when BJ's are two of a kind! Lydia and both Beetlejuices attend the Lice Capades.
Awards to the Wise

Everyone in the Neitherworld seems to be winning even the most frivolous except BJ, who ends up turning one down in favor of Lydia's heartfelt handmade award. If only my grandfather could have been that considerate, but I digress.

Season 3,  Episode 6 (Series Episode 27)
October 12, 1991
The Prince of Rock and Roll
Prince Vince decides to become a pop star, but Lydia can't bring herself to tell him how terrible and depressing his music is, while BJ cons the Neitherworlders by making them feel guilty.

Season 3,  Episode 7 (Series Episode 28)
October 19, 1991
A Ghoul and His Money
BJ's not allowed to do any "Beetlejuicing" when he enters a big money contest.
Brides of Funkenstein
"Betty Juice" joins the rock band formed by Lydia and her friends. Their school competition is Claire and the Clairinets. Reportedly based on a story submitted by a young viewer.

Season 3,  Episode 8 (Series Episode 29)
October 26, 1991
Beetledude
A new neighbor kid makes BJ his role model. Perhaps this story is a response to criticism of the show.
The Farmer in the Smell

BJ brings creepy, kooky, altogether ookie fun to the farm.

SEASON FOUR (Weekday afternoons on FOX Kids)

Season 4, Episode 1 (Series Episode 30)
September 9, 1991
You're History
The debut episode of the daytime version is the first full segment that spoofs television; the Monster Across the Street is angry that his favorite show, "America's Funniest Fatalities," is pre empted by BJ's variety/satire show. Abraham Lincoln makes an appearance with a Gary Cooper voice; he also made a cameo on "Adventure Time." Kids love him.

Season 4, Episode 2 (Series Episode 31)
September 10, 1991
Raging Skull
Now the series also showcases individual characters with BJ other then Lydia. In this one, Beetlejuice goes the Lucy Show route by using wacky schemes to help fitness guru Jacques to become Mr. Neitherworld, opposing an "Ah-Nuld" type.

Season 4, Episode 3 (Series Episode 32)
September 11, 1991
Sore Feet
BJ's not very considerate of his feet and toes, so they revolt and leave him until they're appreciated.

Season 4, Episode 4 (Series Episode 33)
September 12, 1991
Fast Food
After being fired from their respective worlds' fast food restaurants, Lydia and BJ start their own business and get into a competition that delights BJ by becoming a food fight.

Season 4, Episode 5 (Series Episode 34)
September 13, 1991
Queasy Rider
"Born to be vile," Beetlejuice builds a "hog" and sets up a gang, leaving Doomie abandoned. Had this episode been made for ABC, they might have balked at BJ's offense at being called the "N word," in his case "nice," perhaps a trivialization of the real issue of the word.

Season 4, Episode 6 (Series Episode 35)
September 16, 1991
How Green Is My Gallery?
Delia is delighted to find herself in the Neitherworld where her art is acclaimed, until Lydia and BJ discover she cannot leave. This is one episode that makes it pretty clear that you have to be dead to reside in the Neitherworld, unless I guess you're a guest like Lydia.

Season 4, Episode 7 (Series Episode 36)
September 17, 1991
Keeping Up with the Boneses
Intent on impressing his new affluent neighbors, Beetlejuice gets a MonsterCard and promptly runs up a gigantic tab. The penalty is an excruciating amount of niceness, including cute kitties. In its wacky way, this episode is even more relevant today than in the '90s.

Season 4, Episode 8 (Series Episode 37)
September 18, 1991
Pranks for the Memories
BJ accidentally gives the clown a "piece of his mind," which threatens to jepardize his chances to win a prank competition.

Season 4, Episode 9 (Series Episode 38)
September 19, 1991
Caddy Shock
This time, Claire is sent into the Neitherworld as she competes with Lydia and BJ in a golf tournament.

Season 4, Episode 10 (Series Episode 39)
September 20, 1991
Two Heads Are Better Than None
Even though he seemed to love the old west in an earlier episode, Beetlejuice isn't too pleased with having to be in a rodeo (except for the smell). And of course, he loses his head.

Season 4, Episode 11 (Series Episode 40)
September 23, 1991
Beauty and the Beetle
The theme of beauty coming from within is the theme of this change of pace story in which Lydia befriends and makes over Thing Thong as BJ -- as Grimdiana Jones -- rushes to rescue her.

Season 4, Episode 12 (Series Episode 41)
September 24, 1991
Creepy Cookies
Lydia (uncharacteristically?) joins the Happy Face Girls and "Betty Juice" creates his own version: the Sappy Face Ghouls.

Season 4, Episode 13 (Series Episode 42)
September 25, 1991
Poe Pourri
Lydia takes pity on Edgar Allan Poe's pining for Leonore, but BJ's just trying to figure out if it's all a dream.

Season 4, Episode 14 (Series Episode 43)
September 26, 1991
Ear's Looking at You
Private eye clichés are embraced with bony, open arms in this spoof of pulp novels and their similes.

Season 4, Episode 15 (Series Episode 44)
September 27, 1991
Beetlebones
In the ongoing effort for Beetlejuice to recover lost parts of his body, this time he and his skeleton are parted and each has a distinct personality, though with more restraint than when William Shatner did this on "Star Trek."

Season 4, Episode 16 (Series Episode 45)
September 30, 1991
Smell-A-Thon
To get his hands on money, BJ takes a cue from Lydia's Save the Whales TV Telethon to create his own, self serving Smell-A-Thon but finds himself accused of stealing the scents.

Season 4, Episode 17 (Series Episode 46)
October 1, 1991
The Miss Beauty-Juice Pageant
BJ leads a protest among the male citizens of the Neitherworld's "attractive" contestants when they're barred from a beauty contest.

Season 4, Episode 18 (Series Episode 47)
October 2, 1991
Sappiest Place on Earth
Having free tickets, BJ takes Lydia, Delia and the kids to the new amusement park in the Neitherworld, Grislyland.

Season 4, Episode 19 (Series Episode 48)
October 3, 1991
Brinkadoom
BJ and Lydia crash Doomie into a mythical land where they will be trapped for 100 years if the townspeople fall asleep.

Season 4, Episode 20 (Series Episode 49)
October 4, 1991
Foreign Exchange
Claire is determined to best an exchange student from Scandanavia, and ends up getting her comeuppance in Scrungelvania.

Season 4, Episode 21 (Series Episode 50)
October 7, 1991
Family Scare-looms
BJ's parents become obsessed with a supposed important ancestor, but BJ and Lydia find out the truth when they travel under a sofa cushion -- where lost stuff can be found.

Season 4, Episode 22 (Series Episode 51)
October 8, 1991
Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Funny Bones
BJ lends Lydia his funny bone for her comedy routine, but the bone has an agenda of his own.

Season 4, Episode 23 (Series Episode 52)
October 9, 1991
Hotel Hello
Dad Charles doesn't feel much like a hero, so Lydia and Beetlejuice contrive ways to make him feel like one on a visit to a Neitherworld hotel.

Season 4, Episode 24 (Series Episode 53)
October 10, 1991
Goody Two-Shoes
Years before J.K. Rowling gave us the blood curdling Delores Umbrage, BJ and the Neitherworld fall under the falsely sweet, maniacally conrol-freaky Goody Two Shoes, forcing them to be nice under severe threat.

Season 4, Episode 25 (Series Episode 54)
October 11, 1991
Vidiots
Bored with video games that lack a challenge, Lydia allows Beetlejuice to bring her to Neitherworld video games.

Season 4, Episode 26 (Series Episode 55)
October 14, 1991
Ship of Ghouls
BJ makes himself cruise director aboard a pirate ship in the Bermuda Shorts triangle.

Season 4, Episode 27 (Series Episode 56)
October 15, 1991
Poultrygeist
After a late night of TV viewing, Beetlejuice is haunted by a persistent chicken.

Season 4, Episode 28 (Series Episode 57)
October 16, 1991
It's a Wonderful Afterlife
Beetlejuice has a really bad day so he is shown what life would be like if he weren't around to annoy, trick and scare his friends -- and apparently some would be better off in superficial ways but not necessarily in what really counts.

Season 4, Episode 29 (Series Episode 58)
October 17, 1991
Ghost Writer in the Sky
Beetlejuice gets his friends and neighbors into a froth after he writes in auto-die-ography.

Season 4, Episode 30 (Series Episode 59)
October 18, 1991
Cabin Fever
Lydia has the measles, so after Beetlejuice attempts to cure her, the strain of being cooped up makes things even more surreal than usual -- BJ even wants his Dali.

Season 4, Episode 31 (Series Episode 60)
October 21, 1991
Highs-Ghoul Confidential
Beetlejuice tells Lydia the story of what a big man on campus he was at Ghoulliard High School and the glories of his prom, but we see what really happened.

Season 4, Episode 32 (Series Episode 61)
October 22, 1991
Rotten Sports
The Neitherworld's best, brightest (sort of) and deadest compete in their supernatural All-Ghouls Games.

Season 4, Episode 33 (Series Episode 62)
October 23, 1991
Mr. Beetlejuice Goes to Town
The Lost Souls Highway threatens to send BJ and his neighbors out of their homes and the mayor takes a payoff, so BJ decides to run against him - to "put the 'P' back in campaign." Very funny episode on many levels -- some things never change!

Season 4, Episode 34 (Series Episode 63)
October 24, 1991
Time Flies
Twilight Zone-style story in which BJ gives Lydia a watch for the anniversary of their first meeting and it literally flies, so they follow it to the land where time ends up after it flies.

Season 4, Episode 35 (Series Episode 64)
October 25, 1991
To Beetle or Not to Beetle
Lydia can't understand her assignment to read Shakespeare, so Beetlejuice brings the characters to life. The premise also happened on "Bewitched," and one of the throwaway lines suggests that writers borrow from old TV shows! This episode could assuage a few objections to the series -- after all, how many TV shows are about the works of Shakespeare (besides "Gilligan's Island")?

Season 4, Episode 36 (Series Episode 65)
October 28, 1991
A Star Is Bored
Beetlejuice goes into horror movies, changes his name to Rex and becomes a diva; as star of "Curse of the Living Mummy, Part 7," he loses some of his technique and the public knows about his behavior -- so Lydia brings in an even worse actor to replace him.

Season 4, Episode 37 (Series Episode 66)
October 29, 1991
Oh, Brother!
After everyone telling him how much more they like his brother than him, BJ runs away to the Neitherworld Outback.

Season 4, Episode 38 (Series Episode 67)
October 30, 1991
Snugglejuice
Pranksgiving, Germs Pondscum (Sean Connery impression), frames BJ for shoplifting and he's banished to Neither-Neither Land, an adorably cutesy yet "Cool Hand Luke" detention camp.

Season 4, Episode 39 (Series Episode 68)
October 31, 1991
In the Schticks
Beetlejuice rescues Lydia from the even worse jokes of the Resort of Last Resort in the Catskulls over the River Schticks.

Season 4, Episode 40 (Series Episode 69)
November 1, 1991
Recipe for Disaster
In the land of Aroma, BJ helps the vegetable people in their revolt against the corrupt Caesar Salad.

Season 4, Episode 41 (Series Episode 70)
November 4, 1991
Substitute Creature
Disgusing himself as a Professor with lots of initials behind his name, BJ takes Lydia and her classmates through history and literature with bizarre twists. Claire has become less of a major adversary by this point, with fewer school based storylines.

Season 4, Episode 42 (Series Episode 71)
November 5, 1991
Ghoul of My Dreams
Beetlejuice, in coming between the domestic battles of Mr. and Mrs. Monster Across the Street, finds he has a hit reality show on his greedy hands. This was some time before reality TV began to dramatically affect the networks.

Season 4, Episode 43 (Series Episode 72)
November 6, 1991
Prairie Strife
Bovine Auntie Em gives BJ a dairy farm in Oklagroana and BJ tries to scam the townsfolk.

Season 4, Episode 44 (Series Episode 73)
November 7, 1991
Moby Richard
Tempermental Moby calls BJ a hack, quits his TV show and drives BJ to change into a crazed, Phlegmmy Award-worthy Captain Ahab. Lydia calls the shots as appointed by the head of the TV nutwork.

Season 4, Episode 45 (Series Episode 74)
November 8, 1991
The Unnatural
Beetlejuice's Big Yuk Prankees and Scuzzo's Clowns ball teams play and of course, go into sudden death.

Season 4, Episode 46 (Series Episode 75)
November 11, 1991
Forget Me Nuts
Lydia, BJ and Dr. Zigmund Void take a Fantastic (and disgusting) Voyage through BJ's body after he gets amnesia.

Season 4, Episode 47 (Series Episode 76)
November 12, 1991
The Birdbrain of Alcatraz
Framed for stealing jokes, Beetlejuice is imprisoned. Even though Eve Arden already played Warden June in the 1982 movie, Pandemonium, the joke is especially clever in this episode -- Warden June is seen as a two-headed TV mom and dad.

Season 4, Episode 48 (Series Episode 77)
November 13, 1991
Generally Hysterical Hospital
In the Neitherworld, hospitals are more like fun-filled resorts, so when Lydia sprains her foot, BJ takes her to Seizure's Palace.

Season 4, Episode 49 (Series Episode 78)
November 14, 1991
Super Zeroes
BJ enrolls in Bury Me Not's Supercilious School of Supernatural,  Superheroing and Comic Euphorium and a who's-who of heroes is skewered along the way. There's a character called Abby Cadabra, no relation to the Sesame Street Muppet that came later. BJ invokes the name of Jack Kirby.

Season 4, Episode 50 (Series Episode 79)
November 15, 1991
Beetle Geezer
Changed into an elderly man, BJ takes Lydia's action-loving grandma to the Neitherworld Abusement Park, then Grandma leads a rest home revolt. This was done in a less frenetic way in the first season of "Mork & Mindy." Lydia is tends to become more and more like Mindy as this series progresses. One character says, "These heavily moralistic endings really slow down the show!"

Season 4, Episode 51 (Series Episode 80)
November 18, 1991
A Very Grimm Fairy Tale
As "Mother Beetle Goose," BJ tells morbid variations on storybook favorites starring his friends, neighbors and/or prank victim, including "Handsful and Regretful," "Little Boo-Peep," Little Miss Stuffit," "Old Monster Hubbard" and "Simple Slimon."

Season 4, Episode 52 (Series Episode 81)
November 19, 1991
Wizard of Ooze
I enjoy almost any adaptation or spoof of "The Wizard of Oz," but considering how far this series can go, it's a little too tame. Even Beetlejuice seems restrained. There are funny moments, though: the Munchkins call the place "The Land of Public Domain" and to get home, Lydia/Dorothy is told to klunk her heels together and say, "Ripple dissolve to scene 28!"

Season 4, Episode 53 (Series Episode 82)
November 20, 1991
What Makes BJ Run
BJ: "So, here's my plan. I'll con my way into a job at a network and, through a series of backstabbing and boot-licking efforts, I'll rapidly rise to the top of the heap, put our old show back on the air and totally humiliate Mr. Monitor in the process! Foolproof, no?"
LYDIA: "No. You've only got about eighteen minutes left."
BJ: "Then we'll have to hurry!"
(Whew! Good thing this is just a silly cartoon and not at all like real life.)

Season 4, Episode 54 (Series Episode 83)
November 21, 1991
The Chromozone
A Rod Serling character asks Beetlejuice to find Ima Looney, a "malignant growth of his own creation" who has become a script doctor threatening to take his best ideas and make them mindless and airheaded. (Good thing that doesn't really happen either!)

Season 4, Episode 55 (Series Episode 84)
November 22, 1991
It's a Big, Big, Big, Big Ape
A tribute to "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World," in which BJ and company frantically compete to get hold of a Bing Crosby-singing ape that could make them a fortune. Lydia actually reminds BJ that "we did a giant ape show already -- King Thong." But BJ tells her that this is different -- it's "King Bing."

Season 4, Episode 56 (Series Episode 85)
November 25, 1991
The Neitherworld's Least Wanted

Mr. Big (with an Edward G. Rpbinson voice) leads The Society of Neitherworld Outlaws Thugs Rogues, Antagonists and Gangsters (S.N.O.T.R.A.G.) to destroy Beetlejuice.

I love this exchange:

MR. BIG: Bat Bunch roll call, count off nyaaah! Slimey? Grimy?

(to Lydia) Byaaah! Which Batty Buddy are you?

LYDIA (tossing a net): Annette!


Season 4, Episode 57 (Series Episode 86)
November 26, 1991
Don't Beetlejuice and Drive
Some wry satire on Driver Instruction School highlights yet another spoof of Dragnet pitting the police against BJ's bogus school.

Season 4, Episode 58 (Series Episode 87)
November 27, 1991
Robbin Juice of Sherweird Forest
When Beetlejuice finds himself doing the work of Robbin Hood and recruiting his friends as the Merry Men, he can't seem to adjust to the idea of giving the money away to the poor.

Season 4, Episode 59 (Series Episode 88)
November 28, 1991
Midnight Scum
When Beetlejuice becomes a bounty hunter, he's assigned to bring in his goody two shoes brother, Donnie.

Season 4, Episode 60 (Series Episode 89)
November 29, 1991
Gold Rush Fever
BJ gets bitten by a gold bug, gets gold bug fever and tangles with Dangerous Dan McGrusome.

Season 4, Episode 61 (Series Episode 90)
December 2, 1991
Relatively Pesty
Mr. Beetleman helps rid the Deetz house of pests without eating them, turns his aunts into ants -- leading to all-out war.

Season 4, Episode 62 (Series Episode 91)
December 3, 1991
King BJ
Lydia and BJ journey to the Neitherworld version of Camelot, and  as in "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court," Beetlejuice finds an adversary in Merlin.

Season 4, Episode 63 (Series Episode 92)
December 4, 1991
Catmandu Got His Tongue
Bj makes fun of a black cat and suffers the consequences and is unable to talk, so he borrows the voice of the Monster Across the Street and enlists the help of the Forgone Legion.

Season 4, Episode 64 (Series Episode 93)
December 5, 1991
Journey to tbe Centre of the Underworld
BJ and Jacques use a treasure map through the stories of "Verne Jules," including 20,000 Eels Under the Sea" and "Around the World in a Weighty Haze."

Season 4, Episode 65 (Series Episode 94)
December 6, 1991
Not So Peaceful Pines
Mr. Beetleman offers to help the Mayor of Peaceful Pines in getting rid of noisy, partying neighbors. Once again, BJ splits into really bad and not so bad halves.







"Howl" overwhelms and "Totoro" charms in new lives
Blog, Movies
Posted on Jun 02 2013 by Greg
In their new lives as Blu-ray discs, two of the all-time best Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli animated features have finally arrived. It's a celebration for those of us who couldn't wait to enjoy them in the infinite detail of high def.

1988's "My Neighbor Totoro," last released on DVD in 2006, is a refreshingly gentle film with compelling characters and a deceptively simple storyline. Even though it seems to amble along, there is an undercurrent of unease -- not from any genuine threat, but from a mother's illness, unexpected adventures and most of all, the treasure of childhood innocence.



Elle Fanning voices Disney's English language version of 4-year old Mei, a very real little tot who pouts as well as laughs, radiates energy one moment and slips into weary sleep the next. (Coincidentally, she is playing Aurora in the forthcoming "Maleficent.")

I have never, ever seen a realistic child depicted in an animated film quite as perfectly as Mei. She is the essence of the joy in life's simplest things. My favorite moments aren't so much the far-flung fantasy as Mei's elation at rolling on the lawn or wiggling a rotten porch post. Everything is new and potentially magical to her.

Her older sister Satsuki, voiced by real-life older sister Dakota Fanning, is approaching what the Sherman Brothers called "The Age of Not Believing," yet she still revels in the world through Mei's eyes. Her father, voiced with warmth and restraint by Tim Daly, models the fact that adulthood need not abandon childhood fascination and fancy. Providing nuanced support is Pat Carroll as Granny.

The fantasy builds in a subtle, matter-of-fact way, becoming more of a reality as the real world becomes more complex. After a while, it seems perfectly acceptable that an invisible catbus exists, even though some cannot see it. The film is as accepting of the fantastic as the children are -- no lengthy explanations or exposition -- these things are just so, that's all.

Seeing the film on Blu-ray isn't so much an exploration of dazzle as it is a new way to see the simplicity without any interference from the limits of videotape, broadcast or regular DVD. This is sweet stuff, but sweet in a good way.

In this edition, all of the bonus features are on the Blu-ray, not the DVD.

Blu-ray & DVD include:
English version
French version
Japanese version

Blu-ray-only Bonus Features:
Original Japanese Storyboards
Creating My Neighbor Totoro
Creating the Characters
The Totoro Experience
Producers' Perspective: Creating Ghibli
The Locations of Totoro
Scoring Miyazaki
Original Japanese Trailer
Behind the Microphone

My family especially loves watching 2004's Oscar nominated "Howl's Moving Castle" over and over again. Second only to "Spirited Away," this is a household staple standing out in a sea of viewing options.



As adapted by Miyazaki from the book by Diana Wynne Jones, Howl (voice of Christian Bale) is a melancholy young wizard (considered a heartthrob by some of the book's fans) who lives in a castle with doors that open into completely different locales. A young boy and a fire spirit (Billy Crystal) are among his few companions.

Into his life comes Sophie (Emily Mortimer), a young haberdasher transformed into an old woman (Jean Simmons) by the selfish, corpulent Witch of the Waste (Lauren Bacall, voicing her second animated role). These are characters that all follow their own arcs with twists and turns aplenty.

"Howl's Moving Castle" is a spectacular viewing experience, rich in sweeping panoramas and astonishing detail, even for a Miyazaki film. You just cannot see it all in one sitting.

Pop in the Blu-ray and take a look at the scene in which Sophie enters Howl's chambers, infinitely adorned in glistening jewels, spinning objects and undulating formations. You can't even be sure how deep the space is -- seeing it in 3-D would only literalize it. Once the film was announced on Blu-ray, this is the scene I most wanted to see and it did not disappoint.

Blu-ray & DVD include:
English version
French version
Japanese version

Blu-ray-only Bonus Feature
Original Japanese Storyboards

Blu-ray & DVD Bonus Features

Behind the Microphone
Interview with Pete Docter (coproducer of the English version with Rick Dempsey)
Hello Mr. Lassiter: Hayao Miyazaki Visits Pixar
TV Spots and Trailers







DVD Review: Foodfight! misfires beyond imagination
Blog, Movies
Posted on Jun 02 2013 by Greg
Foodfight! (2003)
With the voices of: Charlie Sheen, Hilary Duff, Eva Longoria, Wayne Brady, Christopher Lloyd, Ed Asner, Chris Kattan, Larry Miller, Christine Baranski, Cloris Leachman, Harvey Fierstein
Directed by Lawrence Kasanoff

But it's too easy to take a production like Foodfight! and lob snarky comments at it. Okay, just one. The characters in this film over-move, like Ed Grimley on that Saturday Night Live sketch when he found out he was going to meet Pat Sajak.



Snark is too easy. Figuring out how it happened is almost unfathomable. Let's start with the premise, which is something like those Warner cartoons in which a grocery store came to life after hours and the products sang and danced on the shelves.

In this case, the aisles become like multi-national city streets. The lead character (voiced by Charlie Sheen either within a very short one-take recording session or deliberately to sound cool and detached) is a cross between Indiana Jones and McGruff the Crime Dog.

All of the primary characters are fictional product icons, while a procession of actual food and grocery item characters, including Mister Clean, Charlie the Tuna and Mrs. Butterworth make cameos. Endless images of real logos and packages make appearances throughout. Perhaps the idea was to have the product placement cover the budget.

But the budget and the whole production were apparently a total bust. The film was eventually put up for auction and got a limited release overseas, even though it was finished in 2003.

Much of it doesn't even look finished -- characters and objects shake, overlap and often don't look anchored in their settings. The characters don't seem in scale with each other, nor from scene to scene.

The creepy villains look grotesque, but so do some of the "nice" characters -- like the evil Mister X and the grocery store manager. Even the copyrighted characters are mere shadows of their former selves as we saw them in commercials. All seem made of PVC and have eyes like marbles.

There are moments in which one might glimpse at what could have been. The premise is kind of clever and there are some amusing moments, like an army of ketchup tanks, along with some spectacular graphics of the cityscape. The concrete objects far exceed the "living ones" in design and execution.

But the script is splattered with lines like "What the fudge!" "You cold-farted itch!" and famous tag lines that might have worked if used more judiciously. And you can look forward to flatulence and a long-playing belch.

I don't like to dump on movie misfires when they're often the product of hard work by good people. And some of these films are fascinating, even likable, despite how the don't, or didn't, work. Often there's more to learn from misses than from hits.

The credits for Foodfight! include some of the best talent in the business. I cannot imagine everyone who was brought into this project had any idea what might have been going on behind the scenes, nor how the "final" film would turn out.

The DVD itself, with a picture image showing quite a bit of contrast, does not include any bonus features, except for some trailers -- including one for Top Cat - The Movie.







Getting a great reception for "Perception"
Blog, TV
Posted on May 31 2013 by Greg

One of the things television has done best is give us some of the smartest, snappiest mystery series in any form. Like good  page turners, they don't change the world, but they're infinitely entertaining when everything falls into place -- the mysteries and the series components.

This is true of "Perception," an ABC Studios series that airs on TNT. It isn't the first show of its kind, nor will it be the last, but it's among the best thanks to its cast, writing and production values. Filmed in Canada (as many cable shows are, but perhaps also so that star Eric McCormack can go home nights), you can spot familiar Canadian TV favorites in various shows, like SCTV's Dave Thomas.

McCormack is spot-on in a role that calls for his blend of familiarity and complexity. Though he works with a fine supporting cast, this is his show to carry on his own and he runs with it. When his Dr. Daniel Pierce is teaching his college students, coming to a "I know who did it" moment or getting on one of his soapboxes about big companies and secret conspiracies, he's the stage-trained Shakespearean.

When his character is grappling with his mental difficulties in connecting with people, hiding from group events or chatting with imaginary people, he's subtle and introspective. He's never goes full up Shatner nor downward to Michael J. Pollard.

He's also the kind of actor that is perfect for television, like Bill Bixby is his heyday, who always seemed to have a major or moderate series success. He makes a difficult character likable and relatable. Pierce won't take his meds, or really open up to Kate, or accept himself, or etc., yet the integrity of McCormack invests him with hope, charm and humor.

Rachael Leigh Cook plays the daughter of a retired cop who was a student of Pierce's. She's doesn't play Moretti too hard or overly assertive just because of what she does for a living, as is commonly shown on TV and movies. She has strength without losing her sense of irony, she can focus on the job (and has the most difficult expositional lines to deliver) and come across as a whole person.

LeVar Burton, who cannot be anything less than excellent, is a delightful blend between Linda Edelstein's Cuddy on "House" and David White's Larry Tate on Bewitched. He seizes opportunities to promote his campus -- and Pierce -- yet has to deal with the challenges inherent in the system and his most distinguished faculty member. Having attended colleges, I can believe a Daniel Pierce can exist, while it's a bit of a stretch that Dr. Gregory House kept his job as long as he did (though I loved that show, too).

You might chuckle at some of the tried and true TV whodunit standby lines and how this show, like most fantasy mystery shows, play hard and fast with the real rules of general behavior, business decorum, legal issues and medical procedures.

After watching a few shows it's difficult to avoid getting captivated by the arc of the show, in the same manner as House and Monk drew viewers in. And like "Columbo," it's a blast to follow the clues and enjoy the twists.

The show also plays with your head the way Hitchcock did. Pierce's condition finds him interacting with people who aren't there. Some scenes resemble Dean Jones arguing with an invisible Peter Ustinov in "Blackbeard's Ghost." But we as viewers aren't always sure if we're seeing real people or even real events.

The only way it falls short of "Columbo" is that it is more explicit in its treatment of violence, and occasionally sex, its present day need to be contemporary. Perhaps "Columbo" might have had to be like this if it were on today.

My wife, 13-year-old son and I watched all ten shows, some twice -- which is unusual for a mystery series. Can't wait for Season 2 to start on June 25.

PERCEPTION EPISODE GUIDE - SEASON 1

1. Pilot (July 9, 2012)
Superb liftoff for the series, establishing the characters of Dr. Pierce, Kate Moretti, Max, Haley and others; not an easy task because there's a lot to set up in addition to a crisp corporate pharmaceutical mystery to solve.

2. Faces (July 16, 2012)
A trail of deception and mistaken identity is connected with a witness who is unable to distinguish faces.

3. 86'd (July 23, 2012)
A brain damaged victim who perpetually lives the same day in 1986 is the key to a unsolved serial killer case that resurfaces after over two decades.

4. Cipher (July 30, 2012)
Daniel follows a challenging trail of puzzling codes to locate a killer bent on revenge for corporate manipulation.

5. The Messenger (August 6, 2012)
Skillfully written and acted episode about a young man who believes he can talk to God, while nonbeliever Daniel thinks it's really a life-threatening brain condition.

6. Lovesick (August 20, 2012)
This episode is probably the closest this generally cerebral cable series comes to network style voyeurism; the victim is a controversial therapist whose treatments have dramatically affected the lives of his patients and those in their lives, so parental discretion advised.

7. Nemesis (August 27, 2012)
Daniel thinks the FBI has incorrectly identified a schizophrenic as the prime suspect in a murder, putting Moretti at odds with a stern new administrator, whom she wants to impress. Daniel also tells Moretti about his condition in this episode.

8. Kilimanjaro (September 3, 2012)
A brain-damaged football player, a mysterious troubled student, and one of the former stars of the Narnia films figure into the murder of a young coed.

9. Shadow (September 10, 2012)
Daniel can't verify the reality of a source who sets him on the trail of a murder connected to a rigged election and an ambitious secret society. Nice to see SCTV legend Dave Thomas in a small role, but Stephen plays hallucinated JFK more like a somber Regis Philbin (but maybe that's how Daniel perceives him).

10. Light (September 17, 2012)
Daniel, now committed to an institution, learns that he is right about the murdered informant but also meets a doctor who resembles his closest companion, Natalie.








Walt Disney reference in latest Mickey Mouse DVD
Blog, TV
Posted on May 28 2013 by Greg
The nicest thing about the new "Quest for the Crystal Mickey" DVD collection of episodes from "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" is that Disney fans might notice a little nod to Walt himself.

I won't give it away, but I will give a clue that it has something to do with Walt's early career and Mickey's name in the signature episode.

"Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" is a preschooler CG series along the lines of "Blue's Clues" and "Dora the Explorer." Regular cast Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Pluto share a basic storyline with visits from other Disney favorites like Ludwig Von Drake, Chip 'n Dale, Clarabelle Cow and Pete, who serves as a villain or just a misguided soul.

"The Quest for the Crystal Mickey" epsode boasts probably the most intricate of all the plots, but that's okay since kids love the repetition and parents can catch the mild in-jokes (it's not quite as edgy as Sesame Street).

A friendly gadget called Toodles provides objects in each episode that help solve the problem. There's always a mystery tool that is revealed near the end. Kids can follow Mickey and the gang and help them figure things out, also doing some counting, colors, shapes, concepts and things like that.

One of two original songs highlight each episode. There's also a nice soundtrack album on CD or download on amazon and iTunes.

Some may find this a watered-down version of Mickey, but it's a great way for very young children to get to know the characters on an everyday TV basis rather than waiting for the occasional cartoon (as it was in my day).

Mickey Mouse should mean more to kids than just being a corporate icon and theme park greeter. For a long time, that's pretty much what he was, though that's okay for some. Children saw him in merchandise and his basic shape clearly appeals to them. But I like that kids are relating to him as a character, he same way they do to other preschool TV characters.



EPISODE GUIDE TO
"MICKEY MOUSE CLUBHOUSE: QUEST FOR THE CRYSTAL MICKEY"
The overall theme seems to be grand adventures in faraway lands, but each episode was obviously chosen to focus on a different learning skill as well.

Episode 60 (Season 2)
Goofy's Coconutty Monkey
October 5, 2009
Goofy's monkey friend wants to have a party but first everyone helps find the missing coconuts.

Episode 74 (Season 3)
Goofy's Giant Adventure
May 9, 2011
Willie the giant (from the "Mickey and the Beanstalk" segment of the Disney animated feature "Fun and Fancy Free" needs help from the gang in this story.

Episode 75 (Season 3)
Donald of the Desert
May 8, 2010
Donald finds a genie lamp and learns the wisdom of the old phrase, "be careful what you wish for."

Episode 98 (Season 3)
Donald the Genie
October 18, 2010
Donald becomes a genie himself in this story.

Episode 121 (Season 4)
Quest for the Crystal Mickey
March 8, 2013
Pete has stolen the Crystal Mickey in the this episode from the most recent season and its disappearance threatens to make the Clubhouse disappear.











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