PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Even Girls Like Bugs, Monsters and Other Icky Things in 'Beetlejuice'

The "ghost with the most" is called back from the dead once again in this long-overdue DVD box set.


Beetlejuice: The Complete Series

Distributor: Shout! Factory
Cast: Stephen Ouimette, Alyson Court
Network: ABC/Fox
Release date: 2013-05-28
Amazon

Shout! Factory has rescued yet another classic show from falling into obscurity, finally collecting and releasing the episodes of Beetlejuice: The Complete Series in a long-overdue DVD box set. Many will be overjoyed to revisit this staple of early ’90s Saturday morning cartoons and share it with future generations, but although the thrilling intro sequence proudly proclaims the “ghost with the most”’s catchphrase, "It’s showtime!", the set itself is surprisingly short on showmanship.

Inspired by the unforgettable 1988 Tim Burton film starring Michael Keaton as the decomposing, sleazy bio-exorcist whom a recently deceased couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis) call from the great beyond by ritualistically calling his name three times, this cartoon is unsurprisingly toned down compared to its morbid source. For the cartoon, Beetlejuice is reimagined as a far friendlier but no less foul ghoul. Now best friends with the young goth girl Lydia Deetz (played by Winona Ryder in the original), through their escapades the undead troublemaker feeds into her fascination with grossness, ghosts, and graveyards.

The 94 episodes of Beetlejuice oscillate between the real world, where the mundane events of Lydia’s preteen life are continually disrupted by Beetlejuice’s shenanigans, and the “Neitherworld”, the loony realm of the afterlife that hearkens back to the landscape of "Porky in Wackyland" (1938) with all its surrealism and absurdity. The Neitherworld is not just the home of the deceased, like Beetlejuice, but it's also inhabited by monsters -- both ghastly and good-natured.

The episodes that take place in this curiously macabre yet simultaneously merry underworld have a great capacity for depth and wit, paralleling the absurdity of real life with zany but undeniably familiar situations and characters. The real-world segments, on the other hand, tend to be relatively flat without this added dimension of social satire, resulting in an overemphasis on the moralizing format typical of children’s cartoons, delivering lessons about lying, apologizing, taking revenge, and the like.

Beetlejuice still stands out from your average Saturday morning cartoon line-up, and it paved the way for future frightful favorites such as Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994-1997) and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy (2003-2008). Moreover, the series was pioneering because it featured a young female lead, and especially one who deliberately and proudly broke out of the typical “girly” mold. Even though Lydia slips quite easily into another stereotype, that of the "goth girl", she showed young viewers that it’s okay to like bugs, monsters, and icky things, even if you’re a girl!

Now over two decades old, the Beetlejuice cartoon is a bit dated, and it does, unfortunately, rely almost entirely on wordplay and punning as its source of humor, but it still holds up well in many ways. Especially when the show moved from just Saturday mornings on ABC to a weekday air schedule on Fox Kids for its fourth and final season, Beetlejuice took on a whole new dimension. In its new daily format, the series was able to delve more deeply into the Neitherworld and expand its comedic style to include clever commentary and hilarious parody, including, for example, spoofs of (Young) Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, and The Twilight Zone.

From the very first episode of Season 4, sporting a more visually impressive and aesthetically captivating introductory animated sequence to match the exquisitely chilling theme song, a marked shift in the series’ tone can be sensed. Jumping straight into a meta-critique of the network television ratings system, Beetlejuice struggles to keep his talk show on the air, the executives at Neitherworld TV complaining that it “has been dropping in ratings since it started... 30 seconds ago!”

The box set itself provides everything expected, but no more. The image quality is not stellar, but this may be due in large part to the less-than-perfect ways in which the animated series has been preserved over the past 20 years. The age of the show may also have put limitations on the possibilities for DVD extras, but it is surprising and highly disappointing that Shout! Factory didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to film new interviews with the likes of Tim Burton or Danny Elfman (who personally rearranged the original film’s theme for the cartoon) and instead chose not to include any special features at all.

Shout! Factory’s 12-disc box set is certainly an excellent buy, offering a nostalgic return to a classic cartoon inspired by fantastic film. Although completely deprived of the DVD extras that would make the set a true collector’s item, Beetlejuice: The Complete Series offers enough comedy, commentary, and charisma in the content of the cartoon itself.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.