As the autumn season approaches and the evenings draw in, many of us take comfort in curling up on the couch and watching the shows we can always depend on at this time of year.
Whether it’s entering the Bake Off tent or putting on your dancing shoes every Saturday night for Strictly Come Dancing, many of us have that comfort show that we always look forward to seeing when the days get shorter and colder (well, maybe not this year, but you get the idea).
Ghosts, a BBC drama that fulfils that criterion and has been a comfort watch for many since its premiere in 2019, is one such example. The sitcom, written and performed by a number of the minds behind the equally beloved Horrible Histories series, has amassed a devoted fan base over the course of its four seasons, growing in popularity during the pandemic as many – myself included – found solace in the sweet and silly spirit maintained by its endearing cast of characters.
It is so heartbreaking that its return this year is its fifth and last series, implying that by the end of the year, viewers will have finally said goodbye to both the live and deceased residents of Button House. But it’s important not to worry about the conclusion, but rather to enjoy the time you have left, and judging by the first episode of the last season, Ghosts hasn’t lost any of its winning spirit.
The first episode of Series 5 doesn’t have much in the way of emotional depth, but it is an excellent reintroduction to the setting and characters, and it is mostly silly and fun, making you forget (for at least 30 minutes) that this is the show’s final series premiere.
The episode’s idea is a very standard comedy scenario. It’s April Fool’s Day, and after the ghosts perform a prank on Alison that was perhaps a little too close to the cuff, Alison devotes the rest of her morning (the cut-off for pranks is, of course, midday), aided by Sir Humphrey, who frequently believes he’s the butt of the joke throughout the rest of the gang.
Meanwhile, Mike must answer questioning from an insurance agent who fears that a recent fire on the home was staged, all while attempting to make reasons for his wife’s strange behaviour as she pranks the spirits one by one.
The characters and their connections with one another are so well-established at this stage that Alison’s focused personal approach to the pranks feels a little like fan service, but it’s earned fan service. Nothing seems phoney; the writers and performers know their parts inside and out, letting everything to feel genuine and based in character, rather than reverse-engineered for the purpose of a good laugh.
There is still space for character development, as it becomes evident at the close of the episode that Alison and Mike are ready to start on a new chapter in their relationship, which will excite fans of the lovely couple. There are also clues that some of the dangling threads that remain for a few of the ghosts will be resolved.
So, while this episode is more about laughter than anything else, there is already a sense that the endgame is being established. With this pleasant and hilarious episode, which demonstrates the show’s expertise at bringing up ludicrous events based on character, there is a calm and comfortable sense that the fans are in excellent hands, and that while saying goodbye will be difficult, it will be worthwhile.
Ghosts airs on BBC One Friday nights at 8.30pm