Thursday, June 22, 2006


There have been two attempts to bring the concept of 'Topper' and his trio of ghosts (Mustn't forget Neil!) back to our TV screens. And both of them must be relegated to TV dimensions other than Earth Prime-Time, because there can only be one 'Topper' in the main Toobworld. And that would be the original TV series starring Leo G. Carroll, Anne Jeffreys, and Robert Sterling.

As usual in the case of remakes, the splainin lies in the casting. If you're not using the original actors in the roles, then this can't be considered the same people without massive amounts of splainin. (Exceptions to the rule would include 'The New Munsters', 'Mrs. Columbo', and 'Ponderosa' for splainins that would easily envelope the whole casts.)

The first remake of 'Topper' ('Topper Returns') tried to get around this problem of multiple Cosmoes in the TV Cosmos by having Roddy McDowall portray the nephew of Cosmo Topper. This would have been acceptable; in fact, I think it's a great idea, as McDowall was believable as a blood relative to Leo G. Carroll as his Uncle Cosmo.

But it all goes up in a puff of ectoplasmic smoke with the casting of John Fink and Sephanie Powers as George and Marian Kerby.

The Kerbys must always be seen in the main Toobworld as Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys, the actors who played them in the TV series.

There are a few rules about portraying a ghost in Toobworld that should always be followed. But the Kerbys broke quite a few of them, like being bound to one particular place.

According to the episode "Henrietta Sells The House", they were supposedly condemned to haunt the house they lived in, no matter who bought it. Yet they accompanied the Toppers on their "Trip To Las Vegas", and on their "Second Honeymoon".

Ghosts should always be dressed in the clothes they were wearing when they died (a la Thelma Bates on 'Hex'), or in the outfits chosen for their burial (as was the case in 'Randall And Hopkirk, [Deceased]').

But George and Marian Kerby have more wardrobe changes than Ginger and the Howells had for their three hour tour to 'Gilligan's Island'!

There is one rule that should never be broken - the physical appearance of a ghost should be a constant; frozen in Time as he or she looked in the moments just before Death.

(I suppose when they look as they did after or because of Death, that's more likely a style choice to aid in their hauntings.)

If there is to be some kind of alteration, it should be a massively traumatic ectoplasmic scale. This must be what happened to Slimer of 'The Real Ghostbusters' to cause him to look so inhuman. (However, I like to think that as far as his cartoon version is concerned, Slimer is the ghost of some 'Doctor Who' alien. Thanks to 'The Simpsons', the Gallifreyan Time Lord exists in the Tooniverse.

As for 'Ghostbusters', the movie, if there is some sort of unified Cineverse, I support that Slimer could be linked to Peter Cushing's portrayal of the Doctor.)

Where was I? Oh yeah.....

So anyway, George and Marian Kerby should always look like Robert and Anne (who were married in Real Life). Obviously, seventeen years on from the original series, this would have been a problem for them. Time marched on, marking its passage in their appearance.

This is why TV shows about ghosts have a built-in expiration date. The same holds true for shows featuring androids and vampires.

At least 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was able to extend Data's shelf life in regards to his appearance by leaving Data's head buried under San Francisco for five hundred years.

David Boreanaz understood there was a limit to his portrayal of 'Angel'; and if Joss Whedon is going to make a TV movie about Spike, they better do so soon. I could see the signs of age in James Marters when he played Brainiac this past season on 'Smallville'.

But even if there had been some kind of ectoplasmic trauma to alter the ghostly appearance of the Kerbys, there's no way it could lead to the Kerbys looking like John Fink and Stephanie Powers.

(I have to admit at this point that quite frankly, I can't even picture who John Fink is!)

There's another reason to dismiss them as being the same ghosts from the original series. The reason for their untimely deaths was altered - from a landslide in Switzerland to a car accident. Not nearly as interesting, is it?

So it's off to another TV Universe for that version of 'Topper'. But it is nice to know that Cosmo and his wife Henrietta would have been seen as Leo G. Carroll and Lee Patrick in that other dimension. We don't even get that with the next incarnation of 'Topper' six years later.

This time out, we got Jack Warden and Rue McLanahan as a thoroughly American Cosmo Topper. And for George and Marian Kerby, we got Andrew Stevens and Kate Jackson, who were married in real life at that time.

I couldn't even believe in their real-life marriage, let alone accept them as the Kerbys.

Since the willing suspension of disbelief is already strained by the show's premise, trying to force a splainin on why even the human characters have altered their appearances isn't worth the effort. (Honestly, why would quantum leapers from the future want to willingly become Cosmo Topper?)

Better to just chuck this whole version straight into the dustbin which is the TV dimension of remakes.

As for the other version? Since there was nothing about it to discredit or contradict what happened in the seven years of 'The West Wing', then I don't see why it couldn't have taken place in the same TV dimension where Josiah Bartlet was the President of the United States.

There's an idea for a spin-off: retired President Jed Bartlet is saddled with two ghosts, who pester him during his attempts to set up his Library. "The POTUS & The Poltergeists".

At least with the ghost of Neil, one could accept some slack in casting a different St. Bernard to play the role.


[This entry was in memory of Robert Sterilng, who recently passed away.......]

1 comment:

Corey Bond said...

Harold Ramis has stated that Slimer was based on John Belushi. Not hard to imagine, if you've ever seen Animal House.