I have only O.J. Simpson to thank for my discovery of Ghostwriter. Flashback to June 1994: If O.J. hadn’t turned rabbit and led the cops on a slow speed chase on the first day of my summer vacation, the networks would never have preempted Power Rangers and forced me to turn to PBS to satiate my need to watch a group of racially diverse youths rallying together to fight injustice.
My first introduction to Ghostwriter was an episode about a rampant computer hacker terrorizing the Ghostwriter gang’s middle school. The episode was aptly entitled “Who is Max Mouse?” It got me hooked. Mind you, the year was 1994, Windows ’95 was but a twinkle in Bill Gate’s eye, and technological innovations such as the internet and modems were too much for me to comprehend. In the show, tween detectives Lenni, Jamal, Gaby, Tina, Alex, and Rob, armed with pen-necklaces, case books, and a disembodied blob meant to represent Ghostwriter (and a visually stunning piece of work he is), met the computer hacker Max Mouse in an internet chatroom showdown for the ages.
The internet chatroom in question was called “The Fun House” (sounds pervy) and you had to log in by dialing a phone number via your external modem. And then you must create a “handle” (times have changed, nowadays we call them screen names). The Ghostwriter gang’s handle was “LJ Bad” (L for Lenni, J for Jamal, and Bad for the team). That’s pretty freakin’ cool!
After those initial 30 mins, I was blown away by the show’s content. Inter-computer communication! You can see my 9-year old neurons firing. And to think there was a point when I thought I couldn’t live without Power Rangers!
Of course, I can see the similarities between Ghostwriter and Power Rangers. For one thing, both shows were casted to represent the American melting pot and this conglomerate of cultures were united by a disembodied being (Ghostwriter and Zordon, respectively).
Power Rangers, however, harbored more obvious stereotypes: did the Black Ranger really have to be Black? Did the Yellow Ranger really have to be Asian? Think about that… Couldn’t the producers at least pretend to be color-blind? Did anyone ever notice that the writers always had Zack “The Black Ranger” bust out some weird hip-hop karate whenever he’s fighting? I’m just throwing that image out there, make do with it as you will…
It’s not that I love Power Rangers less, it’s just that I love Ghostwriter more. Sure, Ghostwriter has token characters, but at least producers tried to break some stereotypical barriers: Lenni (“the White Girl”) had aspirations of being a rapper/songwriter, Tina (“the Asian Girl”) wanted to be a director, Jamal (“the Black Guy”) applied to the high school of science, etc… See, not so token after all.
My love for Ghostwriter cannot be contained in one post. Expect more posts about this fantastic show in the not-to-distant future. I wish PBS would listen to Ghostwriter fans and release the entire series on DVD. Unfortunately, I did a little online reading and found out devastating news regarding the preservation of the Ghostwriter series: PBS lost the rights to legally market the show, so chances of Ghostwriter’s release on DVD is slim to none. The episodes are probably rotting in the basement of WGBH Boston! I can see a chunk of my childhood vanishing in a flash of celluloid!