Simon Farnaby

Simon Farnaby


TV review by Steve Bennett

So the Horrible History team have moved, via family-friendly Yonderland, into the realm of adult sitcom. Although there is nothing about Ghosts that remotely requires its post-watershed slot, beyond scenes of mile peril, and milder double entendre.

Working on their educational CBBC sketch show clearly gave hem the grounding for the premise of a house haunted by spirits from down the ages, from caveman Robin (Larry Rickard) to a modern-day Tory MP (Simon Farnaby), condemned to roam Button Hall forever without his trousers after dying in embarrassing circumstances.

There are a lot of characters In Between to be introduced in this episode, with other early stand-outs including Mathew Baynton as an overwrought romantic poet with pretensions of being Lord Byron; Jim Howick as Pat, an earnestly eager scout master who was shot with an arrow through his neck; and Martha Howe-Douglas, whose Edwardian-ish era Lady Button has an unfortunate habit of reliving her noisy death. And this is even before we get to what lurks in the cellar.

Killing time for eternity, they are kicking their heels around the crumbling pile until the arrival of Alison and Mike, a young couple who inherit it and plan to turn it into a hotel, to the horror of the resident ghosts. Charlotte Ritchie is as engagingly watchable as ever, while this could be a breakthrough for Kiell Smith-Bynoe, who show some fine comic idiocy in his early scenes.

Such a large and talented ensemble is slightly reminiscent of the heyday of British movie comedy, when a virtual rep company of character actors would each do their bit around some unlikely premise. 

The ghosts here all have distinctive personality quirks that means you know quickly and exactly where you stand, from Ben Willbond’s bid for natural leadership status as First World War soldier The Captain to Lolly Adefope’s naive Kitty.

There are a handful of strong jokes, but this opener is all about mood.. and episode one is certainly in, ahem, good sprits. The script and the performances certainly strike a good balance between jaunty and intriguing, with enough twists in the hefty exposition to grab the interest, while ensuring we like all these characters, earthly and ethereal, to want to spend more time with them. Ghosts should have more than a ghost of a chance of success.

• Ghosts starts at 9.30pm tonight on BBC One, immediately after the return of Not Going Out. 

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Published: 15 Apr 2019


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