Ghosts (BBC One)
What’s the best TV comedy of the last 10 years? To the likes of Fleabag, Derry Girls and Detectorists, you’d surely have to add CBBC’s Horrible Histories, the dizzyingly inventive, subversively educational teatime LOL-fest whose impressive haul of awards includes no fewer than six BAFTAs.
Now writer-performers Matthew Baynton, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby (who also co-wrote the decade’s best film – shut up, it is – Paddington 2), Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond have kindly decided to let the grown-ups join in the fun with their first primetime sitcom.
Ghosts is basically a house share comedy, the twist being that all the inhabitants of Button House are long dead. And you’d be surprised how people start to grate on your nerves when you’re forced to share eternity with them. There’s conflict, for example, between Farnaby’s disgraced MP, doomed to spend the afterlife sans trousers after dying during a bizarre sex game, and Baynton’s foppish Victorian poet, while Willbond plays a decapitated head constantly struggling to attract the attention of his own body.
But when a sweet young couple (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe), inherit the crumbling pile and announce their plan to turn it into a luxury hotel, the restless spirits must join forces to try to spook them into leaving. Even if, as it turns out, haunting is actually a lot harder than it looks.
It’s a gold-plated premise (albeit not entirely original – The Ghosts of Motley Hall covered very similar ground in the 1970s) that gives each member of the terrific cast free reign to showcase their comedy chops. And some bits – like the little plague girl singing Ring a Ring o’ Roses – are genuinely creepy.
But, given the performers’ collective pedigree, I couldn’t help but feel slightly disappointed. There are a couple of running gags – like Howe-Douglas’s shrieking matriarch constantly re-enacting the moment her husband shoved her out of an upstairs window – that quickly outstay their welcome, and the jokes don’t always land as well as they might. As a result, Ghosts is good, but not – I’m so sorry – dead good.
Earth From Space (BBC One)
With David Attenborough making one giant leap to Netflix, the BBC has upped the ante by presenting its latest natural history blockbuster from 600km above the planet. (Talk about an outside broadcast...) The problem is, while satellite technology is doing an important job tracking the planet’s rapidly changing eco-system, visually it doesn’t really offer anything you can’t get from Google Earth – which may explain why so much of Earth from Space has actually been filmed down here on Terra Firma.
Game of Thrones (Sky Atlantic)
I’m sorry to reduce perhaps the most anticipated TV event of all time to the status of a footnote, but HBO guards previews of Game of Thrones as dutifully as the Night’s Watch used to guard the Wall. Now, though, the Wall has fallen, and the battle between the armies of the living and the armies of the dead has reached its final chapter. Winter is here at last. But don’t worry: word has it there are five separate GoT prequels on their way…
Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 18, 2019
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