Ghosts (2019 TV series)
|Directed by||Tom Kingsley|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||2|
|No. of episodes||13 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original network||BBC One|
|Original release||15 April 2019 –|
Ghosts is a British sitcom first broadcast on BBC One in April 2019. The series follows 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 Horrible Histories and Yonderland.
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 and third series were immediately commissioned and a Christmas episode which aired on 23 December 2020.
A young married couple, Alison and Mike, unexpectedly inherit the vast but crumbling Button House from a 99-year-old distant female relative of hers. The House 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. At first, 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 pushes 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 eventually 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 Cooper – A young woman who has inherited a mansion from a very distant relative. After a near-death experience caused by one of the ghosts, she is able to see and hear them.
- Kiell Smith-Bynoe as Mike Cooper – Alison's husband, who has grand plans for the house but is not very adept at putting them into action, such as with building contracts and money managing.
- Lolly Adefope as Kitty – The ghost of an overly chummy, naïve Georgian noblewoman.
- Mathew Baynton as Thomas Thorne – The ghost of a failed Romantic poet who died in 1824, having been shot in a duel orchestrated by his cousin in order to marry Thomas's love interest and the then heir to the house. He falls in love with Alison at first sight.
- Simon Farnaby as Julian Fawcett MP – The trouser-less ghost of a disgraced Tory MP who died in a sex scandal in 1993. His daughter Rachel Fawcett later became an MP for Green Party of England and Wales. He has the ability to physically interact with the corporeal world if he concentrates hard enough.
- Martha Howe-Douglas as Lady Fanny Button – The ghost of a former owner from the Edwardian era. After she discovered her husband having a threesome with the groundskeeper and the butler, he pushed her out of the window to protect his secret, an event she subconsciously re-enacts every time the clock chimes for three in the morning, the time of her death (prompting some of the other ghosts to set the clock back). Of all the ghosts, she is Alison's closest relative. She has the ability to appear as a grey lady in photographs.
- Jim Howick as Pat Butcher – The ghost of a friendly and polite scout leader who was accidentally shot through the neck with an arrow by one of his scouts on the Button House grounds in 1984.
- Laurence Rickard as Robin – The ghost of a caveman who lived on the land Button House now occupies. He has the ability to make the lights in the house flicker, and is very good at chess, having spent centuries picking up knowledge despite his 'physical' limitations.
- 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 Second World War army officer and closeted gay man, who is still obsessed with his time in the war and his rank as an officer.
- Katy Wix as Mary – The Stuart era ghost of a witch trial victim burned at the stake, and constantly smouldering as a result. She has the ability (by walking through them) to make people smell burning.
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 in a plague pit 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 thus experts on the house's heating system. Another rarely seen resident of the house is Jemima (Anya McKenna-Bruce), a terrifying child plague victim who sings nursery rhymes that scare Button House's living and deceased residents (being the only ghost who can be heard by the living).
Alison is also able to see ghosts outside of Button House, for example: a woman dressed in black with a pram at the side of a busy London road, a recently murdered hitchhiker, and two World War II German Luftwaffe pilots, who had died mid-air as they were about to land on British soil. She also sees the ghost of a pigeon that lived in Button House.
According to Mathew Baynton, 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".
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 9.30 on Monday evenings after the sitcom Not Going Out. Baynton noted in the i newspaper that as 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 the Tim Burton film Beetlejuice provided the writers 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.
Filming of the second series started on 13 January 2020. On 12 September 2020 Baynton tweeted that the second series would begin airing on 21 September 2020 on BBC One.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||6||15 April 2019||20 May 2019|
|2||6||21 September 2020||26 October 2020|
|Special||23 December 2020|
Series 1 (2019)
|Title ||Directed by ||Written by ||Original air date ||UK viewers|
|1||1||"Who Do You Think You Are?"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton and Jim Howick||15 April 2019||5.50|
|While young married couple Alison and Mike search for their first home, they are shocked to inherit the formerly great estate of Button House from a distant relative of hers. However, it is haunted by many invisible ghosts from across the ages. Attempting to haunt the couple into leaving, their actions have unexpected consequences. One of the ghosts pushes Alison out of a first-floor window. She lands on grass and is taken to hospital by ambulance. Two weeks later, she awakes from an induced coma. When she returns to the House, she sees the ghosts. She is scared by the ghosts, who are horrified by the couple's plan to turn the House into a hotel.|
|2||2||"Gorilla War"||Tom Kingsley||Laurence Rickard||22 April 2019||4.93|
|Mike believes that Alison seeing and hearing the ghosts are after-effects of her coma and tries to convince her of that. The ghosts embark on a war of attrition to try to force the couple out. With the ghosts becoming more intense, Alison visits a doctor, who proves that she really can both see and hear them. Convinced they should sell the house, Mike finds out he cannot get out of the loan they took out to renovate the house without losing all of their savings. Alison tells the ghosts that she can see and hear them, and asks them what they want. They tell her that they want her and her husband to move out, but she refuses to and tells them that she will do something for each one so that they can all co-exist peacefully.|
|3||3||"Happy Death Day"||Tom Kingsley||Ben Willbond||29 April 2019||4.23|
|Scoutmaster Pat, who was accidentally killed by a scout's arrow in the house's grounds, is in a melancholy mood as he prepares for a visit by members of his (living) family for his 'death day': His widow (who is now married to the man whom she was having an affair with during their marriage), Pat's son, the son's partner and the couple's son. Mike tells Alison that he hates being watched by the ghosts, especially when using the toilet. A group of builders start work on the house. The ghosts try to make them leave. Naive Kitty wonders where babies come from.|
|4||4||"Free Pass"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||6 May 2019||4.05|
|With money running low, Mike and Alison allow the filming of a regency period drama in the house, Life of Byron. The ghosts react in different ways to 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||5||"Moonah Ston"||Tom Kingsley||Martha Howe-Douglas & Laurence Rickard||13 May 2019||4.11|
|Mike and Alison's wealthy neighbours Barclay and Bunny Beg-Chetwynde (Geoffrey McGivern and Sophie Thompson) invite themselves around for a dinner party to discuss access rights to their driveway, for which Barclay wants Mike and Alison to pay them £20,000. Thanks to Julian, Alison informs Barclay that she knows about his offshore bank account in Fiji, he allows the young couple to use the land for free. Alison introduces the ghosts to Friends and they quickly become fans. Robin the Caveman persuades the ghosts to participate in an ancient ritual in honour of a lunar eclipse.|
|6||6||"Getting Out"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||20 May 2019||4.02|
|Having run out of capital and enthusiasm for restoring Button House themselves, Alison and Mike receive an offer from a luxury hotel chain. The ghosts would prefer the couple to stay, and are disappointed when the couple agree to sell it to the chain. The couple look for a house to buy; Alison rejects the two which an estate agent shows them after seeing other ghosts there. During their survey, builders uncover a plague pit in the basement, and the hotel chain withdraws its offer.|
Series 2 (2020)
|Title ||Directed by ||Written by ||Original release date ||BBC One Broadcast ||U.K viewers|
|7||1||"The Grey Lady"||Tom Kingsley||Martha Howe-Douglas & Laurence Rickard||21 September 2020||21 September 2020||4.67|
|With the plans to convert Button House into a hotel on hold, the couple decide to advertise the property as a wedding venue to generate an income. However, Ghost hunters are drawn to the manor after a photographer accidentally captures a photo of Fanny and shares it on social media. The couple take advantage of the situation when they are offered payment for admission, but Alison faces the daunting challenge of convincing the ghosts to help them.|
|8||2||"About Last Night"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||21 September 2020||28 September 2020||N/A (<4.50)[a]|
|After a heavy night of partying, the couple race against time to get the house ready for a wedding planner to view.|
|9||3||"Redding Weddy"||Tom Kingsley||Ben Willbond & Simon Farnaby||21 September 2020||5 October 2020||N/A (<4.36)[a]|
|Despite failing to impress the first wedding planner, the couple are ecstatic when another wedding planner takes an instant liking to the manor, but he becomes dismayed when he is shown the garden. Determined to have their first wedding booking, the couple once again find themselves racing against time to fix up the garden before the client arrives for the viewing. However, things become complicated when the Captain begins to recall his past and he attempts to stop the couple from tampering with the garden.|
|10||4||"The Thomas Thorne Affair"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||21 September 2020||12 October 2020||N/A (<4.78)[a]|
|Thomas reveals to Alison the story of how he died, but Robin, Mary and Kitty have different versions of it. However, a small detail only noticed by Humphrey causes Thomas to realise what really happened on his death day.|
|11||5||"Bump in the Night"||Tom Kingsley||Martha Howe-Douglas & Laurence Rickard||21 September 2020||19 October 2020||N/A (<4.89)[a]|
|Alison goes for a night out and leaves Mike alone in the manor for the first time. However, two burglars break-in and the ghosts try to alert Mike of the burglary.|
|12||6||"Perfect Day"||Tom Kingsley||Mathew Baynton & Jim Howick||21 September 2020||26 October 2020||N/A (<5.11)[a]|
|It's the day of the wedding, but freak weather threatens to ruin it. The couple do everything they can to ensure that the wedding goes as planned. Meanwhile, Pat recognises one of the wedding guests who causes him to recall his death day.|
|13||-||"The Ghost of Christmas"||Tom Kingsley||Ben Willbond & Simon Farnaby||23 December 2020||23 December 2020||N/A (<5.50)[a]|
|Mike is playing host to his family, and is desperate to get everything right. Alison also wants the best Christmas, both for the living and the dead, while the resident ghosts discover that, for the deceased, the festive season isn't very festive at all.|
- Not reported in the weekly top 15 programmes for four-screen viewer ratings.
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."
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, highlighting its popularity with 16–34 year-old viewers. On 8 October 2019, Rickard confirmed that a third series had also been commissioned.
In April 2021, the sitcom was nominated for the Scripted Comedy BAFTA and Comedy Writer BAFTA.
An American adaptation of the series was announced on 29 November 2019 by CBS. On 4 February 2020, it was announced that a pilot had been ordered to be produced by BBC Studios, Lionsgate Television and CBS Studios. On 4 March 2020, Rose McIver was cast in the pilot. On 1 July 2020, Utkarsh Ambudkar was also cast. On 9 December 2020, additional casting of Brandon Scott Jones, Richie Moriarty, Asher Grodman, Rebecca Wisocky, Sheila Carrasco, Danielle Pinnock and Roman Zaragoza was announced. On 31 March 2021, it was announced that a full series had been ordered.
- "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". The Daily Telegraph.
- "A new vision for iPlayer, a new future for BBC television". BBC Media Centre. 7 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
- "BBC - Ghosts - Media Centre". www.bbc.co.uk.
- 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 News.
- 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.
- @realmatbaynton (12 September 2020). "We are so proud of this series and can't wait for you all to see it!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- Craig, David (1 February 2021). "When is Ghosts series 3 on BBC One? Cast, plot and latest news". Radio Times.
- @Lazbotron (7 April 2021). "And with that, it was done. A wrap on Ghosts series 3. Amidst a sea of masks and swabs and screens, we somehow had an absolute ball. The entire crew were amazing. I cannot wait to share what we've cooked up for you #bbcghosts 👻" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- "Ghosts – Episode guide". BBC One. Choose appropriate episode. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
- "Four Screen Dashboard". BARB. See relevant channel and week(s). Retrieved 14 May 2019.
- Stacey, Pat (23 April 2019). "Ghosts review: 'It's joyously, infectiously silly, yet at the same time whip-smart'". Irish Independent.
- "Ghosts set to haunt BBC One again". BBC Media Centre. 28 May 2019.
- @Lazbotron (8 October 2019). "Delighted to confirm that #BBCGhosts has indeed been recommissioned for a second AND third series" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- White, Peter (19 November 2019). "CBS Developing Adaptation Of British Comedy 'Ghosts' With Joe Port & Joe Wiseman; Project Kicks Off Lionsgate & BBC Studios Partnership". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 27 May 2020.
- Andreeva, Nellie (4 February 2020). "CBS Orders 4 Comedy Pilots From Corinne Kingsbury, Frank Pines, Kohan & Mutchnick And Port & Wiseman". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 23 July 2020.
- Andreeva, Nellie (4 March 2020). "'iZombie' Star Rose McIver To Headline CBS Comedy Pilot 'Ghosts'". Deadline Hollywood.
- Andreeva, Nellie (1 July 2020). "Utkarsh Ambudkar To Star Opposite Rose McIver In CBS Comedy Pilot 'Ghosts'". Deadline Hollywood.
- Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (9 December 2020). "'Ghosts': Danielle Pinnock, Asher Grodman, Richie Moriarty, Sheila Carrasco & Román Zaragoza Join CBS Comedy Pilot As It Starts Production". Deadline Hollywood.
- Andreeva, Nellie (31 March 2021). "'Ghosts' Comedy Starring Rose McIver & Utkarsh Ambudkar Picked Up To Series By CBS". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2 April 2021.