90s animated television was truly a bizarre thing to behold, due entirely to its experimental nature. The mid-to-late 90s became a breeding ground for some of the oddest and most entertaining shows you could ever imagine. I’m talking shows like Daria, King of The Hill, Dr. Katz, Samurai Pizza Cats, Spider-Man Unlimited, Batman Beyond, The Maxx, Cybersix, and Gargoyles.
The 90s was a barrage of all these weird and memorable shows, but one show really set the mood for the absurdist cartoons that would follow in its wake. I’m talking about the hilarious and bizarre 1994 TV series, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast. Heralded as a cult classic of sorts, Coast To Coast was a successful attempt to bring a relatively obscure Hanna-Barbera character into the mainstream.
The series began airing in the mid-90s, and was one of Cartoon Network’s first “original” programs. I say that in quotations, as Coast To Coast re-purposed almost all of its animation from older Space Ghost cartoons. Since those shows already had severely limited animation, this meant there wasn’t a whole lot work with.
Despite the limited animation frames, Coast To Coast surprisingly worked. It was an absurdist animated talk show, featuring the titular Space Ghost character. Working alongside his two arch-enemies, Moltar and Zorak, Space Ghost would interview a cavalcade of famous celebrities and musicians.
Even though the series had very little in terms of original animation, it made up for that with some solid humor and entertaining characters. The show was a unique take on the “late night talk show” concept. I could never get into most talk-shows, since they had a tendency to just not that be entertaining. It doesn’t matter how many funny celebrities you get, it’s just hard to make a show where people sit down and talk for 30 minutes entertaining.
I get why people like the genre, but it’s never been my thing. Oddly enough though, Space Ghost: Coast To Coast managed to make late night talk shows into something truly entertaining! The show’s interviews were never straightforward, mainly because the questions the celebrities are asked aren’t the ones the characters are asking.
When recording the live-action segments, completely different and often time random questions were asked to each guest star. These answers would then be used for entirely different questions in the show itself, often times leading to random or hilarious results. Because of this, there were often times where the answers didn’t match the questions being asked.
This really adds to the charm of the show, and helps create that “surreal” feeling that the show is known for. Despite being billed as a “talk show”, the interview segments are only a fraction of each episode’s running time. Usually, most of the episodes are spent watching Space Ghost and his crew dealing with silly cartoon shenanigans.
These include following a random ant around the planet, being chased by evil alien pods, or even selling out to a fictional fast food chain. These scenarios were often more entertaining than the interview portions, which were already pretty fun in their own right. Coast To Coast was a series that proved to be popular, mostly due to how different it was compared to other cartoons airing at the time.
The series picked up steam pretty quickly, soon becoming a mainstay on Cartoon Network. Since then, it’s become one of the channel’s hallmarks. It ran for many seasons, got several specials, and even received two different revivals. It also got a ton of spin-offs including The Brak Show, Cartoon Planet, Harvey Birdman, and even the popular Toonami block of programming!
Space Ghost: Coast To Coast also popularized the style of re-using limited animation, which would become a staple of the Adult Swim block. Coast To Coast is one of those rare shows that not only surpassed its source material, but managed to be something wholly unique on its own. It’s not a perfect show, that’s for sure.
The limited animation, bizarre scenarios, and the rather abrasive soundtrack may be a turnoff for some people. I’ll be honest, it’s hard to get through those first couple seasons of Space Ghost for me, since those are the ones that haven’t aged all that well. Still, if you stick with the show and watch past season 3, you’re definitely in for one of the most entertaining experiences in Cartoon Network history.