UK TV review: Ghosts Season 2
Sophie Davies | On 27, Sep 2020
“What sort of moron believes in ghosts?” “You are a ghost.” “Well, yeah, but you know, before I became one, you wouldn’t have caught me believing in this sort of nonsense.” After winning legions of fans with its first season, BBC One’s Ghosts is back for a thoroughly deserved second outing.
The supernatural sitcom began with Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inheriting a grand country house from a distant relative and moving in with her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), only to find that the house is overrun with ghosts and, thanks to a near-death experience, she’s the only one who can see them. Thus the couple had to find ways of peacefully cohabitating with monosyllabic caveman Robin (Laurence Rickard), lovelorn poet Thomas (Mat Baynton), permanently outraged matriarch Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas), self-appointed leader The Captain (Ben Willbond), upbeat scoutmaster Pat (Jim Howick), morally bankrupt politician Julian (Simon Farnaby), sweet but needy Kitty (Lolly Adefope), simple Mary (Katy Wix) and headless Humphrey (also Laurence Rickard).
In Season 2, we rejoin the couple at a point where they’ve abandoned their plans to turn Button House into a hotel due to a lack of funds and the discovery of a plague pit in the basement making the property a site of historical interest. However, they’re still in desperate need of cash for repairs, so their new mission is to make the house a suitable venue for weddings.
A key source of Ghosts’ magic is that it’s a house-share sitcom where there isn’t just conflict between the living and the dead, but also between the ghosts themselves, who are eternally stuck in each other’s company. Several of them were authority figures in life who have lost all of their influence in death, causing no end of power struggles, and barriers come out of the fact that they’re all from such different eras. After all, “impressions club” is tricky when no one understands any of your cultural references (although Julian is keen to see if his Nelson Mandela can unite the group).
At the outset of Season 2, Alison has settled into something of a routine with the ghosts, helping to keep them occupied with books, crosswords, videos and so on. Naturally, this harmony doesn’t last long, as a photo of the house featuring a very ghostly-looking Lady Button in the window ends up online, prompting paranormal enthusiasts to show up at the gates hoping to catch a glimpse of “the grey lady”. Always on the lookout for an opportunity to earn some money, Alison and Mike charge a group of ghosthunters to spend an evening in the haunted house. But of course, at the moment when their mischievous behaviour is actually needed, the ghosts won’t play ball and refuse to haunt on demand.
Now that the audience is more familiar with the characters and Alison has become more accustomed to living with the ghosts, Season 2 has more room for episodes that play with the format of the show. One explores the idea of an unreliable narrator, as we get to hear about the same day from the viewpoint of multiple ghosts, while another involves Alison and Mike waking up hungover after a big night where they brought friends back to their house from the pub. They have to clean up the mess while trying to remember exactly what happened the night before, in the hope of locating some misplaced items and figuring out why some of the ghosts are acting strangely.
With so many different characters and avenues to explore, the writing team (Baynton, Farnaby, Howe-Douglas, Howick, Rickard and Willbond) are never short of ideas, and the show’s premise allows for stories that feel truly fresh and imaginative. In fact, Episode 5 of this season has possibly the most ingenious premise yet, as burglars invade Button House on a night when Alison has gone out, meaning the ghosts must try to somehow contact the authorities and/or wake a sleeping Mike.
Cleverly written, laugh-out-loud funny and suitable for most ages, Ghosts is a real gem among modern British sitcoms. It has rightfully become family viewing in many households, who can’t get enough of its loveably eccentric characters. With a Christmas special and a third season thankfully on their way, here’s hoping it will be able to run for as long as its writers and stars want.
Ghosts: Season 2 is available on BBC iPlayer until June 2022