Why I love BBC ‘Ghosts’
Every few years, I get hooked on a sitcom. Blackadder, Gavin and Stacey, Miranda, and Fleabag have all been previous obsessions of mine. But at the moment, that crown has well and truly gone to Ghosts.
You may know the creators and writers of the show (Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, and Ben Willbond) as the original cast of Horrible Histories. Each of them plays a ghost, in addition to Lolly Adefope and Katy Wix. But Ghosts is absolutely not a Horrible Histories remake, and fully deserves the popularity it has gained on its own merit.
It’s a unique kind of sitcom that perfectly strikes the balance between cleverness and ridiculousness
Before I get too excited, I should give some idea of what the show is actually about. Series one opens with Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) inheriting Button House, a country mansion, from a distant relative. They move in, unaware that the house is (very) haunted until Alison is suddenly able to see and hear all of the ghosts after a near-death experience. She soon realises that the undead aren’t actually scary, they’re just bored out of their minds.
It’s a unique kind of sitcom that perfectly strikes the balance between cleverness and ridiculousness. It totally subverts every aspect of the common perception of the supernatural. The ghosts are presented as people who didn’t quite get moved on, or as one of the ghosts phrases it, “sucked off”, after the end of their lives, not as beings aiming to terrify the living. They’re stuck in Button House for eternity with people that they didn’t choose and don’t necessarily get along with — of course they’re constantly bickering with each other.
The cross-section of time periods, classes, and personalities represented through the ghosts is what makes this show great
The cross-section of time periods, classes, and personalities represented through the ghosts is what makes this show great. Have you ever seen a sleazy MP (Simon Farnaby) play volleyball against a Regency period poet (Mathew Baynton), using the decapitated head of a Tudor nobleman (Laurence Rickard) as the ball? Or a noblewoman (Lolly Adefope) playing hide and seek with an accused witch (Katy Wix)? Incredibly, both of these things happen in the same episode of Ghosts.
Most of the episodes centre around Alison and Mike trying to do something and it being made far more difficult by the ghosts. But every so often we get an episode about the one of the ghosts’ lives or how they died, and they’re definitely my favourites. I won’t ruin it, but I will say that the episode ‘The Thomas Thorne Affair’ really stands out for me as we get to hear the story of Thomas’ death, both from his perspective and that of the ghosts who watched it happen. Each of the ghosts has a strong enough character to be the focus of an episode, so I hope to see more episodes like that in the future. With eight to choose from, the scope for plot lines is almost endless.
Ghosts isn’t like any sitcom I’ve ever watched before, and it’s that uniqueness which makes it really special
But no show is completely perfect. The opening couple of episodes of the first series are noticeably slower than the rest of the show because of having to explain how Alison can see the ghosts. I also sometimes feel that Mike’s character is a little one-note because the comedy coming from him is very often based around his inability to see the ghosts. However, this becomes less of an issue as the show progresses, as series three does explore Mike’s interactions with the ghosts a lot more, which I really enjoyed.
Ghosts isn’t like any sitcom I’ve ever watched before, and it’s that uniqueness which makes it really special. Having already devoured the third series, I hope that a fourth series will be announced in the near future. I can’t wait to see where this show goes next.
Thank you for your sympathetic account and review of this marvellous series. I am utterly enamoured with the characters, the writing (amazingly astute) and the hugely talented comic acting from pitch-perfect, ideally cast performers.