CBS ‘Ghosts’ review: Sitcom finds voice outside BBC original

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When it comes to exit sitcoms, reuniting a group of misfit ghosts from completely different time periods in an old crumbling house is a smart way to squeeze new mileage out of a time-worn concept. It’s no wonder that CBS, through former “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” producers Joe Port and Joe Wiseman, took the opportunity to use this premise, which is as fantastic as it is economical. Originally designed for the BBC by a collection of ‘Horrible Histories’ writers, ‘Ghosts’ has made way for wacky comedies and jokes ranging from extremely silly to unexpectedly deep. (If you haven’t already, you can see it for yourself now on HBO Max. In reimagining the series for American television, Port and Wiseman are working to tap into the chemistry that made the original so immediately convincing.

In its first two episodes, however, CBS’s “Ghosts” is so close to that of the BBC that entire scenes are repeated almost verbatim. It is certainly rare that a sitcom finds its marks as quickly as the American “Ghosts”, undoubtedly because it has a rather malleable outline to follow which has already been proven. So while it’s really shocking to watch this iteration of “Ghosts” if you’ve seen its British inspiration, if you haven’t… completely divorced third episode from the show’s source material.

As in the original series, CBS’s “Ghosts” follows a young couple through a ruined parsonage left behind by a distant relative. Fed up with the high cost of city living, Samantha (Rose McIver) dreams of turning the estate into a bed and breakfast, while her skeptical husband Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar) does his best not to doubt it. When a freak accident allows Samantha to see and hear the collection of stranded ghosts in the house, she must find what to believe and, even more difficult, how to live alongside these extremely chatty new presences in her life. Some ghosts – like Richie Moriarty’s Boy Scout Leader Pete, and Rebecca Wisocky’s arrogant grande dame Hetty – have direct roots in the original series. Others – like Isaac, Brandon Scott Jones’ War of Independence veteran, Devan Chandler Long’s Viking, and Trevor, Asher Grodman’s Wall Street jerk – are recognizable twists from their predecessors, the Jones’ perfect histrionic making Isaac one of the first to stand out.

The most interesting, but not coincidentally the least fleshed out, are entirely new ghosts like Alberta, Danielle Pinnock’s dramatic flapper singer, Sheila Carrasco’s wayward hippie Flower and Román Zaragoza’s impassive Native American. Each of these characters represents a very specific new American archetype for the series to explore and will hopefully have a greater chance of doing so in future episodes.

“Ghosts” will premiere Thursday, October 7 at 9 p.m. on CBS.


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