UK TV review: Ghosts Christmas Special 2021
Ivan Radford | On 27, Dec 2021
“There’s nothing that can’t be lied about. Or, rather, there’s no truth that can’t be avoided.” Those are the sage words of Julian (Simon Farnaby) in the Ghosts Christmas special. If you wanted a festive spooky tale about a morally dubious fellow learning to have compassion, look no further than this wonderful outing of the BBC One sitcom – which takes A Christmas Carol’s basic principle of kindness and updates them to include a deceased Tory MP perpetually with his trousers down.
The half-hour instalment sees Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (MVP Kiell Smith-Bynoe) discover a man called Nicholas living in a tent on the grounds of Button House. It’s a discovery that tests the values of the diverse ensemble cast, with each character responding differently. Alison tried to be welcoming and makes him food, Mike frets about the disruption to their plans for quiet Christmas, Kitty (the hilarious Lolly Adefope) thinks that Nick is Santa Claus, and Julian becomes a literal not-in-my-back-yard protestor.
The joy of Ghosts is the way that it always takes the time to shine a spotlight on every member of the family, and this time it’s Fanny’s (Martha Howe-Douglas) turn to take centre-stage. And so we get flashbacks to her younger days, with a perfectly cast Jennifer Saunders playing the haughty, overbearing mother to grand and formidable Fanny. A poignant Christmastime climax to long-simmering conflict leads to her ill-fated marriage.
In the present day, a witty subplot sees Julian teaching the other ghosts how to lie, but the truth is inescapable for them all, as they discover the value and joy of accepting Nicholas for who he is. (Even Ben Willbond’s Captain has to come to terms with the notion that the navy aren’t just “civilians with fancy hats”, while Larry Rickard’s Robin the Caveman continues to struggle with the notion that the land and house don’t belong to him any more.) The result, via a sweet kitchen sequence, cooks up a warming stew of compassion and humanity – A Christmas Carol told from the perspective of ghosts that rings with honesty.
Ghosts Christmas Special 2021 is available on BBC iPlayer until November 2022