Ghosts (2019 TV series)
|Created by||Mathew Baynton|
|Directed by||Tom Kingsley|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Production company(s)||BBC, Monumental Television|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||15 April 2019 –|
Ghosts is a 2019 sitcom broadcast on BBC One about a collection of ghosts from different historical periods haunting a country house while sharing the house with its new living occupants. The series is written and performed by many of the cast members of the 2009 Children's BBC series Horrible Histories.
The series is the first post-watershed comedy by the ensemble, although some television critics noted that it was suitable for adults and children alike. Reviews of the series have been positive, with critics appreciating the high joke rate, the premise and the strength of the acting ensemble. The series was made by the production company Monumental Pictures, part of ITV Studios. It is filmed on location at West Horsley Place in Surrey. A second series is currently being developed.
A young couple, Alison and Mike, unexpectedly inherit the vast but crumbling Button Hall from a distant relative. The Hall is haunted by numerous squabbling ghosts from across the ages that died on its grounds, who are invisible and intangible to the living. Ignoring their solicitor's advice to sell the property, Alison and Mike decide to move in and renovate it, with the idea of turning the house into a luxury hotel. The ghosts are not very happy with their plans and conspire to get rid of the newcomers. After various failed attempts to scare them, one of the ghosts succeeds in pushing Alison from an upstairs window. When she awakes two weeks later from an induced coma, she discovers her husband has arranged a huge mortgage, and that she can see the ghosts due to her near-death experience.
Initially imagining the ghosts to be an after-effect of her accident, Alison eventually accepts the truth and confronts them. Because neither she (for financial reasons) nor the ghosts (who are stuck there for eternity) can leave, both sides agree that they have no choice but to coexist as best they can. Meanwhile, the house requires a lot of work, and Alison and Mike devise several schemes to assist their perilous finances.
- Charlotte Ritchie as Alison – A young woman who has inherited a mansion from a very distant relative, who - after a near-death experience caused by one of the ghosts- is able to see and hear ghosts.
- Kiell Smith-Bynoe as Mike – Alison's husband, who has grand plans for the Hall but is not very adept at putting them into action, such as with building contracts and money managing.
- Martha Howe-Douglas as Lady Fanny Button – The ghost of a former owner from the Edwardian era. After she discovered her husband having sex with the groundskeeper and the butler, her husband pushed her out the window to protect his secret, an event she subconsciously reenacts every time the clock chimes at three in the morning, the time of her death (prompting some of the other ghosts to set the clock back). Out of all of the ghosts, she is Alison's closest relative.
- Mathew Baynton as Thomas Thorne – The ghost of a failed Romantic poet who was shot, presumably in a duel, and falls in love with Alison at first sight.
- Simon Farnaby as Julian Fawcett MP – The trouserless ghost of a disgraced MP who died in a sex scandal in 1993. He has the ability to move objects slightly if he concentrates hard enough.
- Lolly Adefope as Kitty – The ghost of a overly chummy naive Georgian noblewoman.
- Laurence Rickard as Robin the Caveman – The ghost of a caveman who previously lived on the land the Hall now occupies. He has the ability to flicker the lights in the house and is very good at chess.
- Rickard also appears as the head of Humphrey – The ghost of a Tudor nobleman who struggles to have his body (played by Yani Xander) pick up his head after it has dropped him.
- Ben Willbond as The Captain – The ghost of a stern World War II army Captain, obsessed with wartime tactics and drills, who displays increasing signs of being a closeted gay man.
- Katy Wix as Mary – The ghost of a witch trial victim burned at the stake, and constantly smouldering as a result.
- Jim Howick as Pat – The ghost of a friendly and polite Scoutmaster who was accidentally shot through the neck with an arrow by one of his scouts in 1984.
In addition to playing the ghosts who comprise most of the main characters, Howe-Douglas, Baynton, Farnaby, Adefope, Rickard, Willbond, Wix and Howick also play the ghosts of medieval plague victims whose bodies were buried beneath the house. While they have the ability to go upstairs if they wish, they choose to spend all of their time in the basement, and are experts on the house's heating system.
Speaking as part of the BBC Press Pack for the series, Mathew Baynton recalled that the idea of a haunted house was one of the first ideas the writers developed after the end of Horrible Histories. However, they were initially uncertain because there was "no jeopardy that we could write into it" and they created the sitcom Yonderland for Sky One instead. However, after the ending of that series, they "realised the boredom of eternity and the existential aspects of the ghosts idea was unique...We realised it was a house-share sitcom - and as soon as you stop thinking about those kind of major drama stakes, you unlock a story that is really domestic and petty." Mike and Alison, the two living characters, were introduced as a foil to the ghosts, as well as to introduce "the stakes, the worries about money, life and everything you need for a story".
Writing in Broadcast, Jim Howick notes that the 2016 episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, in which Cockney EastEnders actor Danny Dyer discovered he was related to Edward III of England, formed the basis of the idea of Alison: "We loved the idea of Danny Dyer's royal lineage...We've mirrored this with our character Alison, who discovers her aristocratic roots, which she embraces immediately and takes on with relish".
Matthew Baynton recalled that BBC head of comedy commissioning Shane Allen was looking for a pre-watershed primetime sitcom for BBC One. During the writing process, the intention was to make an adult show, but one that would appeal to older children, along the lines of Blackadder: "We wanted to do something that has a properly creaky atmosphere. I love the idea that some kids might stay up for it. It's great as a kid when you think something isn't quite for you and it's a bit cheekier." In the event, the programme was scheduled at 9.30pm on Monday evenings after the sitcom Not Going Out. Baynton noted in the i newspaper that the original audience of Horrible Histories would now be grown up "hopefully we're making something so they can continue to watch us!"
Baynton said that for the writers the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice provided a "useful tonal reference" as did The Rocky Horror Show. Jim Howick, addressing its similarity to the 1970s series Rentaghost noted most of the writers were either slightly too young or too old to have watched it, but the series did make knowing use of many of the clichés of horror programmes such as headless Tudor noblemen.
The programme is filmed at West Horsley Place in Surrey, England, a large country house unexpectedly inherited by the writer and former University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne in 2014 from his great aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe under circumstances not dissimilar to those depicted in the series. Some scenes were also filmed on London Road and Clandon Road in nearby Guildford.
|No.||Title ||Directed by ||Written by ||Original air date ||UK viewers|
|1||"Who Do You Think You Are?"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||15 April 2019||4.21|
|While young couple Alison and Mike search for their first home, they are shocked to inherit the formerly great estate of Button Hall from a distant relative. However, it is haunted by many usually-invisible ghosts from across the ages, and they do not take well to their plan to convert the Hall into a hotel. Attempting to haunt the couple into leaving, their actions have unexpected consequences for Alison.|
|2||"Gorilla War"||Tom Kingsley||Laurence Rickard||22 April 2019||4.11|
|Having realised Alison can both see and hear them, the ghosts embark on a war of attrition to try to force her and Mike out. With the ghosts getting more intense, Alison visits a doctor, who proves that she can, in fact, see dead people. Convinced they should sell the house, Mike finds out he cannot get out of the loan without losing all of their savings, so Alison is forced to make peace with the ghosts.|
|3||"Happy Death Day"||Tom Kingsley||Ben Willbond||29 April 2019||N/A (<3.67)[a]|
|Scoutmaster Pat is in a melancholy mood as he prepares for a visit by members of his (living) family for his 'death day'. Meanwhile, as a group of builders move in to start work, the ghosts attempt to get them thrown out, knowing that Alison's conversations with them look strange to the living, and the naive Kitty begins to wonder where babies come from.|
|4||"Free Pass"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||6 May 2019||N/A (<3.67)[a]|
|With money running low, Mike and Alison allow the filming of a period drama in the house, Life of Byron. Unfortunately, the ghosts react in different ways, with all the action in their home. Thomas is driven to despair by his hatred of Lord Byron and Alison's crush on the lead actor, Julian has Alison place a bet on the horse-racing for him, Robin is distracted with the studio lights, and Lady Fanny, unlike Kitty, does not take kindly to the sex scene enacted in the bedroom. Meanwhile, Mike and Alison fail to inform the production of weight limitations imposed on the structure by the surveyors.|
|5||"Moonah Ston"||Tom Kingsley||Martha Howe-Douglas & Laurence Rickard||13 May 2019||N/A (<3.56)[a]|
|On the same night Mike and Alison's wealthy neighbours (Geoffrey McGivern and Sophie Thompson) invite themselves around for a dinner party to discuss access rights to their driveway, Robin the Caveman persuades the ghosts to participate in an ancient ritual in honour of a lunar eclipse.|
|6||"Getting Out"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||20 May 2019||N/A (<3.62)[a]|
|Having run out of capital and enthusiasm for restoring Button Hall themselves, Alison and Mike receive an offer from a luxury hotel chain that seems too good to be true. This leaves the ghosts with a dilemma - better the devil you know?|
Critical reception to the series has been positive. Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian wrote that "In making us giggle at the supernatural, Ghosts is very British – a mashup of Noël Coward's Blithe Spirit and Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), not to mention the manifold sillinesses of Hammer horrors. But it is American in the sense of having a gag-to-airtime ratio much higher than British sitcoms normally manage these days." Michael Hogan in The Daily Telegraph was similarly positive, comparing it to the 1970s children's sitcom Rentaghost but noting that "This deliriously daft supernatural romp, however, was none the worse for that."
Christopher Stevens in the Daily Mail also made this comparison, and noted the fast pace of the jokes; "Not every gag's a great one. Some are corny. One or two are laboured. But the sheer cumulative effect is overwhelming, a landslide of puns and slapstick that comes so fast you can’t possibly catch it all in a single viewing. And should a joke fail to make you laugh, don’t worry — the team will return to it with variations, repeatedly whacking you over the funny bone till you succumb."
Susannah Butter in the Evening Standard said the first episode reminded her of a property show, watching the couple view a terrible flat, before making their escape to the country. She was critical of the post-watershed scheduling of 9.30pm, saying "it feels like a show that children would enjoy" and noting "This is a gentle ensemble comedy. Alison and Mike are wide-eyed, charming and likeable. I would gladly have them as friends, even though they can't sing...Nothing about this show is scary." Carol Midgley in The Times was also confused by the scheduling, noting that "Ghosts is smut[-] and swearword-free" and calling it "a curiously life-affirming comedy about death".
Comparing it to the bleak "sadcoms" such as Fleabag and After Life, Pat Stacey in the Irish Independent noted "It's joyously, infectiously silly, yet at the same time whip-smart. It's just the ticket to scare those sadcom blues away."
A second series was announced a week after the transmission of episode 6. The BBC Press Office announcement noted it received a consolidated average of 3.7 million viewers across the series, noting its popularity with 16-34 year old viewers.
- Not reported in the weekly top 15 programmes for four-screen viewer ratings.
- "Ghosts". BBC Media Centre. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
- Midgley, Carol (16 April 2019). "TV review: Ghosts; A House Through Time". The Times.
- Butter, Susannah (15 April 2019). "Ghosts: Things that go bump in the night - a spooktacular house-hunting show". Evening Standard.
- Hogan, Michael (15 April 2019). "Ghosts, episode 1, review: a retro house-share sitcom with some wonderfully goofy supernatural guests". Daily Telegraph.
- "Ghosts set to haunt BBC One again". BBC Media Centre. 28 May 2019.
- Jeffries, Stuart (15 April 2019). "Ghosts review – a silly sitcom that will make you die laughing". The Guardian.
- "The writer-stars of Horrible Histories and Yonderland reunite for a comedy about a group of ghosts who haunt a country mansion". BBC Media Centre. 9 April 2019.
- Parker, Robin (15 April 2019). "Ghosts, BBC1". Broadcast.
- Nelson, Alex (15 April 2019). "Ghosts: cast, when it's on BBC One tonight and all you need to know about the comedy from the Horrible Histories team". i.
- Furness, Hannah (21 March 2015). "Bamber Gascoigne to save 500-year-old manor after accidental inheritance". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
- @WHorsleyPlace (17 April 2019). "Thrilling to see so much of #westhhorsleyplace in the new series #Ghosts. We loved episode 1, 5 more to come. Monday nights 9.30 BBC 1" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Crews spotted filming new BBC sitcom in Guildford". Get Surrey. 15 October 2018.
- "BBC One - Ghosts - Episode guide". BBC. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
- "BBC One - Ghosts - Episode guide". BBC. Choose appropriate episode. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
- "BBC - Programme Information - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
- "Four Screen Dashboard". BARB. See relevant channel and week(s). Retrieved 14 May 2019.
- Stevens, Christopher (16 April 2019). "Christopher Stevens reviews last night's TV: From a caveman to a debagged MP, these ghosts are dead funny". Daily Mail.
- Stacey, Pat (23 April 2019). "Ghosts review: 'It's joyously, infectiously silly, yet at the same time whip-smart'". Irish Independent.