BBC’s Ghosts first premiered in spring 2019, receiving rave reviews, and the second series has been no different. Written by the stars of Horrible Histories and Yonderland, Laurence Rickard, Mathew Baynton, Ben Willbond, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby and Martha Howe-Douglas, and directed by Tom Kingsley, Ghosts is clearly the product of a well-oiled machine. The team have successfully made the difficult transition from kid’s TV to prime time, post-watershed BBC One, and Ghosts has quickly become an audience favourite, with the first series achieving a consolidated average of 3.7 million viewers.
The first series saw protagonist Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) inherit ‘Button House’ from a distant great-aunt and move in with her husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe). From the beginning, the audience are aware that the house it already inhabited by the spirits of people who have died there over the centuries, but it’s not until Alison suffers a head injury (with a little help from one of the ghosts), that she becomes aware of the ghosts and all hell breaks loose.
Alison finds herself surrounded by a number of peculiar individuals: disapproving ancestor Lady Fanny Button (Howe-Douglas); Robin the caveman (Rickard), who’s lived on the land for thousands of years; Georgian Romantic poet Thomas Thorne (Baynton); Kitty (Lolly Adefope), a naïve Georgian noblewoman who’s desperate to call Alison her best friend; Mary (Katy Wix), who was burned at the stake as a witch; World War Two officer The Captain (Willbond); Pat (Howick), an excitable Scout leader killed in an archery demonstration gone wrong, and finally Julian (Farnaby), the trouserless Tory MP.
Series two was completed in the nick of time before the world went into lockdown, with director Tom Kingsley noting they may have been the last UK production to stop filming. The series begins with relative harmony at Button House, the dead having learned to co-exist with the living. At the heart of this series is Mike and Alison’s desire to turn the house into a wedding venue, although naturally, there are countless hiccups along the way, namely the house’s state of disrepair and the ghosts’ constant battling for Alison’s attention. Having set the scene for each character brilliantly in series one, series two allows the audience to learn a little more about the background of some of the ghosts, as well as seeing a different side to some characters and new relationships developing between them.
“The Christmas special is a brilliantly written, heart-warming story full of festive spirit, and while it might have slightly fewer laugh-out-loud moments than previous episodes, it’s just the right tonic after such a difficult year.”
In episode three, we learn of the closeted Captain’s unrequited love for his second-in-command, who left for the front during the Second World War and presumably never came back. Ben Willbond does a brilliant job of portraying the Captain’s conflicting emotions, and I suspect I wasn’t the only one with a tear in my eye as his dear Havers faded away at the gates of Button House. Thomas Thorne also gets his moment in the spotlight, as we hear about the heroism of his death day – or so he thinks. However, once the story has been told not only by Thomas, but the other ghosts who witnessed it, it transpires that Thomas’ death had in fact been the result of his cousin’s devious plan to take Thomas’ beloved Isabelle as his own.
While each story is brilliantly written by different writing duos, the stand-out has to be ‘Bump in the Night’ (episode five), written by Howe-Douglas and Rickard. In this episode, Button House is broken into while Alison is out for the night, leaving Mike alone with the ghosts. It’s then up to the ghosts to try and wake Mike and warn him of the intruders before it’s too late. Unexpectedly, you find yourself on the edge of your seat as you see the burglars’ van filling up while the ghosts desperately use everything at their disposal (mostly Julian) to try and alert Mike and the authorities. Safe to say Martha and Larry keep you waiting with baited breath until the very end, when Robin’s Neanderthal genius saves the day!
This year, fans were also treated to a Christmas special, and it was Julian’s time to take centre stage. Julian has always been a caricature of political stereotypes, from the way he speaks as if always addressing the House of Commons, to his ‘Parliament Point’ and ‘Newsnight Thumbs’, and this episode is no different. The main plot is very reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, as we see Julian being haunted by his Scrooge-like behaviour in life, before coming to realise the true meaning of Christmas. This episode also sees Mike try and fail to take control of Christmas back from his overbearing parents, and Alison tries to make each of the ghosts’ Christmas wishes come true. The Christmas special is a brilliantly written, heart-warming story full of festive spirit, and while it might have slightly fewer laugh-out-loud moments than previous episodes, it’s just the right tonic after such a difficult year.
Overall series two has been a roaring success, with all the charm and humour of the first series continuing, and the further exploration of the ghosts’ backstories allowing brilliant, multidimensional characters to develop. The amazing team behind Ghosts has certainly not disappointed this year, and with two successful series now under their belt, their ever-growing fanbase has a lot to look forward to with series three on the way!
Every episode of Ghosts is available on BBC iPlayer here.
Words by Louisa Merrick-White