Most Haunted

The fundamental flaw in the premise of Most Haunted is that ghosts don’t exist. And if they did, they’d hardly be likely to manifest themselves on Really; they’d demand their own Netflix series, at the very least.

In 2005, broadcasting regulator Ofcom tackled the thorny problem of the lack of actual ghosts by ruling it was okay for Most Haunted to fake apparitions on the basis it was an entertainment show, not a documentary. I know – who knew?

Brushing off such accusations of trickery, the series ran for another five years, before being resurrected in 2014, since when it has continued to haunt the schedules like the world’s most low-rent Ghostbusters remake.

This week, Yvette Fielding and her team of ‘paranormal investigators’ (yeah, whatevs) were at Walton Hall, a Grade II listed manor house in Cheshire that the current manager described as being ‘like one big episode of Scooby Doo’. Only, as it turned out, slightly less plausible.

Fielding, to her credit, is fantastically poker-faced, even when standing on a staircase stating: ‘Many visitors report being pushed here which, as you can imagine, would be absolutely terrifying, and also extremely dangerous.’

Later, she had a surprisingly revealing conversation with one restless spirit, translating its chosen medium of sinister knocks for the viewer in the manner of a particularly macabre exchange between Matthew Corbett and Sooty: ‘Did someone die here? Yes. Was it a tragic death? Yes. Someone was murdered? Was it a child? No, it was a man? When – the 1800s? Yes. Was he stabbed in the stomach? Yes.’ They should hire to do the post-match interviews with Premier League managers.

Then, as an encore, she got the ghost to join in a rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. (On percussion, naturally.) Meanwhile, her husband (and the show’s producer) Karl announced he was going into the cellar…. alone! Rookie error, Karl – you never go into the cellar alone.

‘If you’re here, shut the door,’ he called into the darkness. Who was he expecting to find, exactly – the ghost of Larry Grayson? In the world of Most Haunted, nothing would surprise me. Apart from actual ghosts, obviously.

TV extra:

 

Generation ’66

Does the world need **another** documentary about the Swinging Sixties? Not really, but this one at least looked beyond the usual suspects of Carnaby Street and Wembley to consider what life was like for the baby boomers of Sheffield and Skegness. And it turns out not everyone was swinging – in an age when 96% of the population got married before cohabiting, newlywed Chris admitted to consulting an instruction manual on his wedding night. ‘He’s always done things by the book,’ smiled his wife Linda. They’re still together, so it obviously worked.

 

X: The Generation That Changed the World

Between the baby boomers and the millennials came the Gen Xers, who are also getting the documentary treatment with a new six-part series taking us from Vietnam to Nirvana via Watergate, AIDS, the Wall Street Crash and the rise of the McJob. Narrated by Christian Slater, it has a distinct US bias – the bit about Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No campaign didn’t mention Zammo once! – but then so-called slackers were a curiously American phenomenon anyway. I guess us Brits just don’t look good in plaid.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 4, 2016

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