With the release of the fourth season of the BBC’s horror tragicomedy, I thought I might take the time to extol the virtues of– and emphatically recommend– Ghosts.
Never have I seen a group of friends work so well together from the moment they met on the first season of CBBC’s Horrible Histories (the sketch-based children’s TV show that taught about the nasty, silly, or stupid side of the history that children learn in school). ThemThere, or as they are known affectionately by their fans, The Six Idiots (Ben Willbond, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard, Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, and Martha Howe-Douglas), are the creators, stars, and writers of Ghosts. They have worked together on a number of fantastic projects, including Yonderland (a comedy television show from 2013 about an adult mother who becomes the chosen one in a topsy-turvy fantasy world where everybody looks suspiciously like the same six people), Bill (a comedic 2015 movie that supposedly takes place in William Shakespeare’s “lost years,” but makes no attempt at telling a true story and instead throws an unknowing Bill Shakespeare into a Catholic plot orchestrated by King Philip II of Spain), and of course, Ghosts. Ghosts is ThemThere’s first semi-serious production and they are smashing it.
Don’t let their previous projects fool you though–Ghosts isn’t purely composed of the childish excrement-based jokes that Horrible Histories was. The comedy rarely resorts to making the viewer cringe, though it is chock full of cheeky, crude humor–one of the main characters is named Fanny Button, for crying out loud (and if you don’t understand why that’s crude, ask your local Brit).
The show is marked by its moments of heartfelt wholesomeness and the profound sadness of the tragedies these dead people have suffered. If found family is a trope you like, this is absolutely the show for you. The odd mix of characters (a caveman, a headless Tudor, a falsely accused witch, a happy-go-lucky Georgian lady, a dramatic Regency poet, a repressed Edwardian woman, a closeted WWII captain, a skewered scoutmaster, and a pantsless Tory) may not seem like the most obvious combination, but the way they play off each other and become part of lovely and unusual friendships is so sweet.
As well as the fantastic writing of all six of the aforementioned beloved Idiots, the acting is first rate. There are endless praises to shower the Idiots with, but special mention should be made of those members of the cast who aren’t one of the six: Charlotte Ritchie, who plays the unfortunate woman, Alison, who can see the silly specters; Kiell Smith-Bynoe, who plays Alison’s husband, Mike, who’s trying his very best to support his wife although he can’t see any of her mates; and Katy Wix and Lolly Adefope, who play two of the ghosts, Mary and Kitty. All of them deserve so much commendation for taking the sweetness and oddity of the show and its creators in stride and adding to it tenfold.
Because it is a British TV show, each season has only 6 30-minute episodes plus one Christmas special in seasons two, three, and four (we all know how much Brits love their Christmas specials), so you can watch the entire thing over a particularly uneventful weekend. If you are in Britain or have a VPN, you can watch all of it on BBC iPlayer; otherwise, you will have to settle for watching seasons 1-3 on HBO Max and waiting patiently, like me, for season four to join them.