TV Review: Ghosts (BBC)

It’s always the way, isn’t it? There you are, having a fancy dinner party with your double-barrelled surname neighbour who owns the village and you’re disturbed by a dancing caveman, a lovelorn poet, a burnt witch, a filthy minded trouserless MP, a Captain, a Lady murdered by her husband, a ‘scout’ leader with an arrow in his neck and an overly excited long-deceased woman who just wants to be your friend and talk about boys. And only you can see them as they dance around the table, walk into the table, and then sing their praises to the moon. Always the way. Welcome to Ghosts.

The team that brought you Horrible Histories when it was good and then followed it up with Yonderland and the sadly-hardy-watched-but-brilliant Bill (review here) are now all dead. They hang round Button Hall and try not to get too bored with each other. The caveman (Robin played by Laurence Rickard) has turned out to be rather good at chess (“Horsey go cloppety cloppety .. check mate”) but mostly it’s just talks about basket weaving, (“You need it to be about five potatoes high” – this from Katy Wix as the simple singed witch, Mary) that they then can’t do because they can’t touch anything.

And into this world come Alison and Mike. A young couple with no money who, via Alison, are distantly related to the last of the Buttons and so get the house. Initially, only moderately freaked out by the size and expense of their new home, things get a lot more complicated when pervert MP Julian (Simon Farnaby) crosses the temporal plane to push Alison out of a window. Dead for a while but revived she can thus see and interact with the ghosts even though no one else can.

And so, across six episodes, silliness ensues. The kind of endlessly quotable, completely rewatchable silliness that lets everyone bask in a warm glow. Here’s the poet attempting to woo Alison with what he thinks is a tender verse but is actually Kylie Minogue’s I Should Be So Lucky; here are the lost souls trapped in the plague pit into which they were tossed who know all about how the boiler works, (“Red Lever! Red Lever! Red Lever!”); here’s the head endlessly calling out to the rest of his body; here’s the Captain pointing out which of the workmen did something (“The handsome one. With the arms. Strong … probably.”). The jokes come remorselessly thick and fast. It takes a second watching to pick out some choice lines or to see yet another sight gag go by. I’m sure more will come on third and fourth watching.

In amongst the gags there are some genuine moments of emotion. Pat (Jim Howick) seeing his family and Robin talking about the moon amongst them. I’m sure, assuming a second series comes (this being British TV we’ll probably get a Christmas special in 2022 and be grateful), there will be similar moments for some of the other characters too. I’d love to know more about all of them.

There’s no doubt more to say but the best way to appreciate Ghosts is just to watch it. And if, having done so, you are able to walk into a room without going through in your head the souls that must be looking on nearby, please let me know how you’ve done it. I’m convinced that our cat must be seeing something spectral right now. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. I do hope they’re having a good time.

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