We all like Ghosts, don’t we? The third series of the sitcom set in the haunted stately home comes to an end tonight on BBC ONE. Ghosts has flourished in what can be a graveyard slot. Warm and funny is in short supply these days, and millions of us have tuned in – or, more likely, binge-watched the lot as soon as they were up on the iPlayer. This particular series has brought us silliness (the affair between Lady Button and some of Humphrey), drama (Alison’s so-called sister), character development (Julian does something kind!) and ends with a scene so moving and perfect that a clickbaity piece in Radio Times argued now was the time for the show to come to an end (‘a natural ending’). We respectfully disagree. We want more from Button House.
Ghosts is the perfect sitcom set-up. A bunch of characters with little in common, all rubbing together to create comedic fiction. The ghosts themselves have to find new ways to break up the monotony of eternity. Some of these, such as cocktail club, seem unbelievably cruel for a bunch of characters who can no longer imbibe, but they are of course all set up to provide laughs. Meanwhile, living humans Alison and Mike start off as fish out of water – Mike especially gormless – but by the end of series 3 Mike is wearing country attire and shooting a promo video. But there are plenty of challenges which Alison and Mike could be set. If there were a series 4, their B&B in the gate house would be open, providing new comedic potential. (Perhaps there might be a fatality, providing us with a new ghost to join the ensemble.)
Although series 3 included a clear story arc, it’s the one off episodes that have hit the heights. The Bone Plot gave us the back story of Humphrey – an understated and under-exploited character – which showed drama, tenderness and bathos. The Woodworm Men explored kinds of fear: fear of the dark, of horror movies and of loneliness, contrasted against ridiculous competition and also teamwork. When we also consider standalone episodes from previous series, The Thomas Thorne Affair (a fresh take on the classic story-from-many-angles format) and Moonah Ston (a farce which is particularly enjoyable for providing Robin with extra airtime), it’s clear that the creative team don’t need to be tied down to telling series-length episodic sagas. They have the whole of history to play with. Speaking of Robin, and the whole of history, our favourite caveman (or ‘budget Tarzan’) has to be the pick of the bunch. Despite his supposedly stunted vocabulary, Robin plays a mean game of chess, is a dab hand at crosswords and has all the wisdom that comes from witnessing all the ages. Yet his silliness and lack of sophistication make us appreciate him all the more.
This perfect set up has plenty more, er, life in it yet. In series 1 the ghosts discovered Friends, a sitcom whose creative team managed 236 episodes. The team behind Ghosts have given us 19. Surely a series or two more is not too much of a stretch.
11 November update: a Christmas special, guest starring Jennifer Saunders, has been confirmed. And Katy Wix has now revealed that series 4 of Ghosts will start filming in January. There are unconfirmed rumours of further series to come. Ghosts in the US has been picked up for a full series; although the episode count is to be confirmed, we could see the US version overtaking its British progenitor – at least in episode numbers – within months.
December update: At the BFI screening of the Christmas special early in December, it was ‘officially’ confirmed that series 4 starts filming in January – and Jim Howick has been growing his ’tash ready to play Pat. You can’t need more proof than that.