Ghosts series three review – does the fearsome fright club need new blood?

Hell is other people. Bad enough to spend lockdown finding out if your nearest really are your dearest. Much worse, spending eternity in a manor house with a newly dead bibulous, probably inbred blowhard called Barclay Beg-Chetwynde.

That is the nightmare scenario faced by the eponymous dead at the start of the third series of Ghosts (BBC One), a sitcom that envisages death as a kind of eternal quarantine. What is life, 아무튼, but an everyday quarantine with irritating humans with whom one must, at the risk of otherwise going nuts, get along?

Beg-Chetwynde, red-faced from a lifetime of three-bottle lunches, keeps putting a hand to his heart as if he’s about to have a massive infarction and so join the ranks of Button House’s fright club. The dead aren’t having that. “Tell the old guff to go and die on his own property,” says Julian the ghost to Alison who, though living, suffered a bump to the head in series one. That bump means Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) can commune with the spirit world like a 21st-century Madame Blavatsky in bad jeans, while her dozy partner, Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), who despite not having been bumped on the head is much more gormless than she could ever be, can’t see any ghosts and so rarely knows what’s going on in his manor.

Ghosts is predicated on the idea that once you die, you spend the afterlife haunting the locale where you popped off in the outfit you were wearing at the point of your demise. It’s unfortunate to be dead, doubly so to be like Julian the MP, for ever wandering Button Hall trouserless, or like Sir Humphrey, the Elizabethan gentleman whose head and body are often in different rooms.

What nonsense, you might well object. Are we to suppose there is a specific radius from one’s place of death beyond which a ghost cannot cross, like a dead version of Truman Burbank in The Truman Show? 공정하다, 그러나, Ghosts isn’t really for those who worry about logic or plausibility.

Why would the ghosts and Alison prefer Beg-Chetwynde to die beyond Button House? Because he mansplains, doesn’t listen and can be heard three fields away yelling his catchphrase “Bitches! Bitches!” at his errant dogs. And the wine-coloured cords. Oh God, the cords.

어떤면에서, 그러나, Ghosts needs someone to die to swell the cast list. The last new member of fright club was Julian, who died when mobile phones were bigger than house bricks. According to the first rule of fright club I’ve just made up, sitcoms need to introduce new characters by season three. Otherwise they are doomed to repeat minor variations on established themes with the same old characters until we all get bored and watch something else.

At the start of series three, 그러나, Ghosts flouted fright club’s only rule. Instead of letting Beg-Chetwynde die of a heart attack, they told us how the headless ghost lost his head. Back in Elizabethan times, you recall, Catholic plots were rife and Sir Humphrey Bone was unwittingly implicated in a plot to assassinate the Protestant queen.

Perhaps it’s because Ghosts’ writers also penned and performed in Horrible Histories that this storyline felt like a primer on the Elizabethan age, as well as a revival of a regular segment on that show, namely Stupid Deaths. Sir Humphrey, after discovering the plot, does the honourable thing to save his wife and co-plotters from her majesty’s men’s disembowelling cutlasses. He arranges their escape, then hides up the chimney. 슬프게도, when he comes down the chimney again (500-year-old spoiler alert!) two swords hanging over the hearth swing down and chop off his head.

By the end of the opening episode, the membership of Button House’s fright club had not increased. Beg-Chetwynde’s supposed heart attack turned out to be a false alarm. Despite what I said above, I’m quite pleased the old guff survived. But my worry is that Ghosts will become ruined by the exclusivity of its admission policy. Somebody, preferably somebody likable and interesting, needs to die to save Ghosts. But who?

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