UK TV review: Ghosts Season 3
Sophie Davies | On 13, Sep 2021
Warning: This contains minor spoilers for Season 3. Never seen the series? Read our spoiler-free review of Season 1 here.
In difficult times, feel-good TV can be a vital distraction from everyday life. Lovable BBC One sitcom Ghosts has fulfilled this need for many of us over the past year, delivering its second season (filmed just before the first lockdown), a Christmas special, and now its third season in a pleasingly quick timeframe. Although it was made during the pandemic, Season 3 is thankfully free of references to Covid-19, and with new director Nick Collett on board, it proves to be just as silly, heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny as ever.
The focus is on family this time around, in more ways than one. Since the head injury that gave her the ability to see dead people, Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) has been gradually growing more fond of her ghostly housemates, and Season 3 solidifies the idea of them as her new family. A catalyst for this development comes in the form of Lucy (Jessica Knappett), a young woman who shows up at Button House armed with a photo of Alison’s dad and claiming to be her half-sister. Alison is clearly pleased to discover that she has a living relative, even if it does feel a little too good to be true.
Linking into this storyline for Alison, we get our first glimpse into the heartbreaking backstory of Kitty (Lolly Adefope – possibly the MVP of Season 3), with an adopted sister who wouldn’t accept her as an equal and tried to sabotage her at every turn. Kitty tends to look back at her life with rose-tinted glasses, even substituting her cruel sister for Alison in her memories… in addition to adorably casting the Captain (Ben Willbond) as her father and the rest of the ghosts as other people from her past. The pairing of Pat (Jim Howick) and Robin (Laurence Rickard) as a flirtatious aunt and servant is a particular highlight.
Aside from Kitty’s relationship with her sister, Season 3 flashbacks also give us an unexpected insight into the death of headless Humphrey Bone (Laurence Rickard), as well as a look at the first day that Julian (Simon Farnaby) spent as a ghost. It turns out that after a lifetime of never really feeling out of his depth, thanks to always being surrounded by the “same boys” at school, university and then parliament, Julian took a while to come to terms with his own demise. The beauty of the show’s supernatural ensemble is that there are always new things to learn about their lives, and deaths, and these insights are rationed out so that we’re always left wanting more.
Ask any fan to name their favourite ghost and you’ll likely get a different answer each time. So with such a strong cast of characters to draw on, Ghosts never feels like it’s running out of steam or retreading old ground. One particularly inventive storyline in Season 3, making a big impression with just a few minutes of screen time overall, involves obnoxious neighbour Barclay (Geoffrey McGivern) showing signs of a heart attack at Button House, which causes Alison and the ghosts to worry that he could die there and they would be stuck with him forever.
Perhaps the most ingenious episode of Season 3, though, is The Woodworm Men, which sees Alison and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) set up camp outside while Button House is being fumigated. Naturally, Pat and the Captain are thrilled at the idea of a camping trip (and later Pat is even more thrilled at the sight of Alison dipping a biscuit in her tea), while each of the less outdoorsy ghosts are given their own hilarious storylines – from Mary (Katy Wix) believing that the fumigators are demons who must be banished from the house and Thomas (Mat Baynton) seizing the opportunity to tell Alison about his travels, to Lady Button (Martha Howe-Douglas) feeling miffed that she has no-one to boss around in the house and Kitty traumatising herself by watching A Nightmare on Elm Street under the impression that it’s Grease.
Ghosts continues to deftly balance big laughs and touching moments in Season 3. One minute you’re crying with laughter at Robin’s idea for a cocktail being puddle water mixed with river water (“It’s all I’ve ever drunk!”), the next you’re welling up with emotion at Pat awarding the Captain with a metaphorical badge for teamwork or at Alison telling Kitty that she’s the sister she never had. It feels like there’s still so much to explore in the past, present and future of Button House and its mismatched gang of residents, so “damn your eyes!” to anyone who doesn’t want more.
Ghosts is available on BBC iPlayer until January 2023