TV Review: Ghosts, BBC One

ghosts review

It's usually pop stars that have to make that tricky leap from attracting a young fanbase to pulling in a mature audience. Here it's the turn of the Horrible Histories ensemble who make the move into the prestigious post-watershed BBC One slot (via Sky's Yonderland) with this adult sitcom which they both wrote and star in. Although most of their original devotees are probably old enough by now to stay up this late anyway. And those that aren't quite grown-up will no doubt watch Ghosts on catch-up anyway. Parents can relax, there's nothing to give anyone nightmares here, give or take the occasional plague-ridden creepy dead child.

The plot looks pretty simple. Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) are struggling to get on the property ladder when Alison suddenly inherits an ancient pile because she is a distant and only surviving member of the posh Button family. Not only that but they also inherit a whole house of dead spirits, destined to walk the rooms for all eternity and make their own entertainment with nightly talks and that sort of mundane thing.

There is much to enjoy as we meet various undead characters, who are doomed to appear as they did when they died. So co-writer Jim Howick plays a scout with an arrow through his neck, while politician Julian (Simon Farnaby) clearly died with his trousers down. I'm not sure how lovesick poet Mathew Baynton passed away. Presumably of lovesickness. And Laurence Rickard has lots of fun as neanderthal Robin, who was presumably bumped off by a mammoth when he was living on the land the house was built on. Lolly Adefope is, of course, as brilliant as ever as deeply dippy Kitty, while Martha Howe-Douglas plays screaming ancestor Lady Button, who has a habit of jumping out of windows.

A twist in the first episode seems to take us into Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) territory but the biggest shadow cast over this is ancient kids series Rentaghost. That's possibly because so many of the cast members here are associated with children's TV, but also because of the air of innocent, childlike playfulness. While there is also a hint of Blackadder (maybe because of Ben Willbond's military uniform) this is very gentle comedy. In fact give or take the odd knowing gag it could almost go out in the Horrible Histories slot.

The laughs certainly flow nicely as Hammer horror tropes are sent up and the ghouls' attempts to scare the shit out of the new tenants are engagingly feeble. Julian can't even knock anything bigger than a small tea cup off a table. Not so much spine-tingling as spine-tickling comedy. 

Ghosts, Mondays, 9.30pm, BBC One.

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