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Ghosts: Season 1 (2019) TV Series Review: TV Completionist #001

I tend to like a lot of British TV series because I highly value originality and quirkiness. The only problem with them is that I sometimes have trouble understanding them as an American (between the accents and the slang terminology a lot of them use). British shows, especially a lot of their comedies, are generally a lot more “high concept” or unique than most of our American TV series (though our originality has increased significantly over the last decade or so as well). As soon as I heard what Ghosts (a British comedy turned HBO Max original) was about, I knew there was at least a 90% chance I would enjoy it. It’s concept is quirky but absolutely brilliant.

So what is Ghosts all about? Well, it’s a typical ghost comedy but with a fun concept I haven’t seen before. Instead of just one or two ghosts haunting and/or annoying the main characters, Ghosts features a house haunted by eight former residents (or people who had the misfortune of dying on the land the mansion sits on). These range from an MP who died in the ’90s to an actual caveman. All of them must deal with each other (and their many, many differences) as well as the new occupants of the mansion, Alison and Mike Cooper, a millennial couple who inherits the property from a distant relative of Alison’s. While the ghosts can’t do much, a few of them do have “very special” powers they use to haunt/annoy the living like making the lights flicker, giving the surroundings the distinct smell of smoke, or moving objects a few inches (enough to knock them off tables). Alison and Mike plan to turn the mansion into a hotel, while the ghosts just want some peace and quiet. To prevent the many annoyances a hotel would cause, they decide to try to scare Alison and Mike away from the property using their powers. One of the ghosts takes their powers a little too far, eventually causing Alison to actually be able to see the ghosts and communicate with them. Hilarity ensues as Alison and Mike try to fix up the old house to serve as a hotel and the ghosts alternatively help and hurt their attempts.

I only have two real problems with Ghosts and I’m going to get them out of the way right away. The first is that for Americans like me, British comedies can often be a bit hard to follow due to the strong accents and slang terminology we aren’t used to (I can’t imagine how hard some of our content is to understand for non-Americans as well). For whatever reason, I found Ghosts to be one of the most challenging British comedies to follow that I’ve seen so far. It’s probably due to the heavy accents and the ghosts being from multiple different decades and even centuries (meaning there’s some British history mentioned that I obviously have no knowledge of). I’m sure I missed out on dozens of great jokes just because I’m not from Britain and don’t get the “lingo” just yet. The other slight problem is that I also don’t really tend to enjoy cringe humor and there’s a lot of that style of comedy in Ghosts (as you would expect from a character constantly being distracted by ghosts while they are talking to actual humans). It is good cringe humor though (as opposed to cringey cringe humor) and is only really prevalent in episodes 3-5 in the first place. Even if its good cringe humor, I’m still one of those people who gets second-hand embarrassment from characters acting cringey and there are definitely some of those moments in this series.

Now that we got the negatives out of the way, I get to write about why I love Ghosts a lot and am looking forward to the two follow-up seasons that have already been ordered. The cast is absolutely wonderful and has great chemistry, which shouldn’t be too surprising as many of them work together as part of the Horrible Histories comedy troupe. All of the ghosts are incredibly well-developed in just the first six episodes, and most of that is thanks to the cast’s humor and acting talents. The only mediocre character in the whole lot is Mike as even Alison (Charlotte Ritchie), the only other human character in the cast is given a lot of great comedy to work with and knocks it out of the park. This is the comedy troupe’s first “adult” series (after their children’s/family series Horrible Histories and Yonderland) and they nailed it. While this is an “adult” comedy, even Ghosts is relatively family-friendly and could probably be watched with children as the more “adult” humor is unlikely to be understood anyway. There’s no swearing or anything like that and all of the “horror” is just funny, not scary (and this “horror” is mostly just wacky ghost hijinks like scaring Alison by hiding in the refrigerator and things like that). This also means that if you are considering Ghosts because you think it is a horror comedy, it really isn’t. It’s a flat out comedy and I wouldn’t watch it just for the horror component.

Ghosts also offers a great concept that twists the haunted house story formula in a new direction. It’s such a simple concept to have ghosts from all different walks of life and time periods (so they can annoy each other just as much as the humans on their property) yet I don’t think I’ve seen it be done before. How nobody thought of this idea until now, I have no idea. It’s a nearly perfect idea that lends itself to a lot of very funny comedy. Thanks to this, Ghosts has an extremely high joke rate. While I definitely missed or didn’t get some of the jokes due to my Americanness, I still wound up laughing quite often because there’s always another joke around the corner. Except for one mediocre episode (episode four, which I only gave a 3/5), I was laughing out loud multiple times in the other five. British comedies tend to be a bit on the “slower” side comedy-wise (they usually go for quality over quantity) but Ghosts is honestly very American in this area.

For a newer streaming service that doesn’t have a lot of great “originals” yet (outside of Doom Patrol and I’ve heard Search Party and Close Enough are pretty good as well), Ghosts is one of the best series on HBO Max that can’t be seen anywhere else (in America at least). If you like the concept, British comedies, and/or quirky TV series I would highly recommend watching Ghosts.

Rating: 4/5

Recommended For: Fans of British and/or quirky comedies, HBO Max subscribers looking for “originals” to watch.

Appears On the Following List Posts: None at the moment

Watch Ghosts: HBO Max

TV Completionist is our never-ending TV series review journal where the ultimate goal is to watch, write about, and curate as many shows (both new and old) as humanly possible. For more information on this post series and a list of shows already covered, see this post.

TV Completionist Introduction Post and List of Series Covered –> #002: The Great Heist (Coming Soon)