John C Adams Reviews 'Ghosts'

Ghosts DVD

(BBC, 2019-20)


'Ghosts' is a BBC sitcom featuring a cast familiar to viewers of the long-running children's show 'Horrible Histories'. The tight-knit cast has worked together on the latter for years, and they have now created and starred in a comedy show for a more general audience. If you have raised a family at some point in the last two decades then you probably already know all about 'Horrible Histories'.


In 'Horrible Histories' each core cast member played countless roles in short sketches. The basis of 'Ghosts' is entirely different in that here we see each actor creating and developing a single main role. The unity between the two TV shows comes from the idea that history is brought to life onscreen, in the case of 'Ghosts' by creating a fictional English country house haunted by spirits from many different historical periods. A nod to the skill of each actor in producing different characters is provided by the group of plague victims, who were all from a village that stood on the sight of Button House today, died together and were buried in a plague pit. They haunt the basement.


Many of the ghosts have been together for centuries. The oldest is Robin, a caveman. The most recent is a scoutmaster who died when shot in the neck by an arrow during an archery session in the park. The newcomers who have to come to terms with the fact that their home is haunted are Alison and Mike Cooper. Alison is distantly related to the last Button of Button House and unexpectedly receives the news that she has inherited the property, of which she has never heard. After the ghost of a Conservative MP (who died in distasteful sexual circumstances) pushes Alison out of the house, she suffers a near-death experience and is able to see the ghosts. Mike cannot see them but believes Alison when she tells him about them. As everyone settles down together the ghosts become increasingly fond of Alison, and Mike learns to live with his wife's occasionally odd behaviour around spirits he cannot see. They even save the day when he is alone in the house and burglars break in downstairs.


The show is consistently funny while also being gently informative about different periods in English history. Our family love watching it. Each ghost's personality and their interactions with visitors and with Alison and Mike are sensitively brought out. The strength of this show is the writing, which is hilarious, and the developed and subtle characterisation from the hugely talented actors. The variety of scenarios involving visitors (such as a wedding planner, a prospective buyer, an archaeologist digging up the plague pit in the basement) appears to be endless. In season 2, we learn more about how some of the ghosts met their end. The Captain's World War II death and the killing during a duel of Romantic poet Thomas Thorne are shared in this season.


There has also been a Christmas special, which we somehow missed out on completely at the time. I was reduced to slyly watching it behind Jim's back after he returned to the US. 'Ghosts' was quickly renewed for a third season, which has recently finished on BBC. There are only six half-hour episodes per season, keeping it short but sweet. I was always left wanting more. The series has been well received critically, and it has been picked up for an American version as well by CBS, which no doubt Jim will take great pleasure in slyly watching behind my back in retaliation.


My next post is on Monday. In the meantime, the comments section is open. Many thanks to photographers Annie Spratt, From Past To Future and Gabriel McCallin for providing the images for this blog via Unsplash.

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