Source | Kiwi Rosie McIver is the saving grace of the somewhat disappointing new-to-NZ US comedy Ghosts.
Now streaming on TVNZ OnDemand, the series is a rather pallid remake of the hilarious British show which first debuted in 2019 (and criminally has disappeared from our shores after it aired on TVNZ 1 late that year).
As she proved in iZombie and Netflix’s Christmas Prince trilogy, the former star of The Lovely Bones and Maddigan’s Quest has terrific comedic timing, charisma and an ability to sell a crazy premise, all qualities she needs to play Samantha Arondeka.
A New York freelance journalist, her life is turned upside down when she discovers her great aunt Sophie has died, leaving her as the sole heir to the 300-year-old Woodstone Manor. While advised, mostly by her husband Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), that selling the property is the most sensible option, the impulsive Sam becomes obsessed with the idea of turning it into a bed-and- breakfast. “You’re a chef – that’s like half of the b’s right there,” she enthuses to him.
Somewhat reluctantly, he agrees to keep his mind open until they’ve visited it, but is dismayed at the level of disrepair. Although that’s not something that deters Sam.
“Sometimes, you’ve just got to put some canary yellow up and get out of your neutral mindset,” she says, throwing herself into a little painting.
However, what neither of them know is that place is already home to a number of other inhabitants. A series of spectres, “an accursed few” from throughout history, who have failed to move onto the after-life and now haunt the manor’s halls.
While taken by Sam – “with her exposed knees and saucy hairdo” – it’s the prospect of their home being turned into a bustling business that fills them full of dread. Determined to put a stop to her plans, the apparitions attempt to draw on all their potential powers to spook the married couple. However, their somewhat mixed efforts have a rather unexpected – and unintended – consequence.
Many of the plot points and narrative beats are the same, but tonally, the two Ghosts are very different.
Created by the same British comedy collective that gave the world Horrible Histories and Yonderland, the original UK show’s charms come from the banter between the spirits, fast-paced visual and verbal humour and the down-to-earth nature of the central couple Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) Cooper.
While there are jokes about eating pot pourri and making cups of tea with potentially unsanitary water, there’s also a slight sense of menace, which gives the show an air of a comedic Doctor Who episode. That also makes it feel like the natural modern day successor to Blithe Spirit, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) or Rentaghost.
It’s arguably a show a family could enjoy together and that features timeless jokes. “I feel like I’ve been here my whole life and I know every tree,” Alison coos as they travel down a leafy driveway.
“Oh, actually, it’s the wrong one,” Mike admits, hurriedly putting the car in reverse.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for this new version from the other side of the Atlantic. Current DIY shows are frequently name-dropped, while a Wall Street ghost from the ‘90s (replacing the original’s trouserless UK politician) makes a supposedly smart reference to Tara Reid.
The ghosts seem less well-formed and more disconnected from each other, reduced to fart and poop gags, rather than character-driven humour.
To me, Just Shoot Me duo Joe Port and Joe Wiseman feel like they are aiming for a kind of What We Do in the Shadows vibe, but end up with something more akin to Herman’s Head, the deceased collective acting more like a Greek chorus than the focus of the comedy.
The US version of Ghosts is now streaming on TVNZ OnDemand.
The Rose Mciver Fansite