Friday, August 22, 2008

THE GHOULIGANS SUPER SHOW (2008) p. Slack Pack Productions

Written by Rick Trottier

Variety shows have been a staple component of television since its inception. Some have been inspired by the daily foibles of life, others by contemporary music and others by urban life and culture. Some variety shows have been colossal successes and became icons of entertainment like Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows, while others remained a little obscure, despite their positive qualities, like Bizarre with John Byner. A horror-themed variety show, that isn’t a horror-host show, and that has a monster cast isn’t a new thing but they aren’t that common either. THE GHOULIGANS SUPER SHOW is a blend of styles and themes that evokes shades of The Uncle Floyd Show and The Groovy Ghoulies and has a degree of success in doing so.

THE GHOULIGANS are a group of odd-ball monsters led by the vampire Count Farnham, a werewolf named Wolfgang, a zombie named Void and a Frankenstein’s monster named Boris. There is also a large number of secondary cast members including Krill Gill the fish monster and the Ghouligan girls Gia, Gi-Gi and Ginger, not to mention of selection of masked wrestlers, mummies, robots and other creatures. The Ghouligans seem to have a hard time scaring people and more commonly induce revulsion, dismay and incredulity from the people they meet. While spending most of their time within their creepy castle, they also haunt graveyards and monster beaches, or anyplace the fun is at.

Any backyard-based variety show produced in-house and created without the support of a studio or a powerful entertainment industry enterprise is going to be strapped for cash, short on resources and the talent pool will be limited. Keeping all of that in mind, THE GHOULIGANS has some notable strengths worth mentioning. First and foremost, the visual components of their SUPER SHOW are almost all very impressive. The segments and vignettes are all well lit, colorful and very attractive. The sets themselves are eye-catching, creative and while they are simplistic at times, fit the story concepts well. Whether it’s the monsters or the pretty girls, the costumes are also surprisingly appealing and show a lot of time and effort in their construction. Every one of the monsters has a look that is both comical and appropriately classic, and it doesn’t hurt to have the first rate eye-candy of the Ghouligan girls dolled up in some eye-catching retro-fashions. All these visual strong points add up to a show that looks the part and immediately sets you in the right mod if you are a horror-minded viewer. On the audio side, while the music may not always fit the scenes, whether it is originally composed or Soundtrack loops, the accompanying songs are well done and add a light-hearted and fun vibe to the imagery. Overall, THE GHOULIGANS has its heart in the right place and tries to create a feeling of goofiness and frolicking that seems to blend elements of Laugh-In and the live-action Filmation’s The Original Ghostbusters. If they used the “Banana-buggies” of The Banana Splits to chase each other about a scene, life would be even better for The Ghouligans.

The weaknesses of THE GHOULIGANS are clear but could possibly be ameliorated over time as the cast and crew gain more experience and hone their talents. Whether it is the acting, the writing or the timing of both writers and actors, the sketches are not terribly funny, or at least the humor produces more smirks than chortles and guffaws. The joke content is more juvenile and will appeal to a fairly narrow audience. It is nice to see a mix of sketch lengths and styles, but it seems like the jokes are a little low-brow at times, while at other times they are dependent on belittling someone or creating a fracas that doesn’t seem to really come from or go any place. There is nothing wrong with humor arising out of conflict. That kind of synergy was what made The Honeymooners work so brilliantly. If you are going to use cutting comedy though, it has to be satirical like All in the Family, or it is going to come across as snide. Weak acting is evident in the SUPER SHOW in that not all of the characters have their own stylized and unique voices that make them seem like a character. When monsters use “regular” voices, it just feels like “a guy in a monster suit”. The most convincing of the monsters is Count Farnham, even though his “costume” is the least involved. His character’s voice and demeanor is all vampire and as a result, he is in character and feels more authentic. With a little more work and practice, each of The Ghouligans could craft a smoother, slicker persona and that would add a great deal of impact to the humor of their show. A little more “variety” to the types of humor used in each sketch would also help. A mix of slapstick and tongue and cheek, cut down on the bodily-function jokes a bit, add tension and pratfalls without being mean-spirited, and the show could go far.

Another weakness that could be strengthened given time and practice is the camera work and editing. All the shots are framed properly, but they are almost all wide shots. While I am not suggesting that The Ghouligans adhere to modern filming principles, I am suggesting that a variety of shots patiently and carefully edited will make the show even more visually appealing. In addition to full-on wide screen frontal shots, add some close-ups, side angle, Dutch angle and other innovative camera angles that could be thoughtfully edited into the mix of each sketch. This could improve on some of the aspects of timing and writing so that emphasis is placed on the character who delivers the joke and emphasis is taken off of the reactions of the people around who may or may not be adding to the tone of the scene. Depending on the number of cameras available, this may mean re-shooting scenes in a variety of ways, but the time spent will be worth it. Which is better, shots that took twice the amount of time to get but made your show great or shots that kept your show from realizing its full potential?

In today’s incredibly competitive DVD market, above all it is essential to have characteristics that set your product apart from its innumerable challengers in the genre and outside as well. Having an extras menu may be expensive or costly in regards to time, but it is critical. In an economy where prices keep rising, leaving consumers to make hard choices, making buyers feel like they are getting their money’s worth is a moral imperative. Whether it is a bonus segment on the excellent costumes, interviews with cast and crew about their inspirations, “behind the scenes” gag reels or a dance track with the beauties, one or two bonus features is an advisable step. It creates a sense of connection to your viewers and is a goodwill gesture to thrifty consumers counting every penny.

THE GHOULIGANS is a TV Show with some real possibilities and it has come a long way since I first saw one of their DVDs in the fall of 2006. With a little more polish and attention to the finer points of writing, acting and editing, this band of wacky monsters could really tickle people’s funny bones and find a place in their hearts, just as The Uncle Floyd Show once did. Here’s hoping that Count Farnham and the gang are able to keep the fire’s burning and turn up the intensity on their creativity blow torch.

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