Ghosts: Our Totally Unfair Review of the Future US Remake

The US remake of BBC hit sitcom Ghosts is currently being shot by CBS. A series hasn't been greenlit yet. That's dependent on the network executives' reaction to the pilot and whether they think it works as a show that can sustain itself as a network series. We are not optimistic based on what we read of the remake. The original version was a clever sitcom about desperately different people who are stuck together: a present-day 20something couple having to live with a bunch of ghosts from different periods of history trapped in a mansion. These people can barely stand each other, but they have to learn to live with each other because they are literally trapped together. The ghosts can't leave this house because they died here. The couple can't leave because they're saddled with debts as they try to turn the mansion into a vacation hotspot. Inherit conflicts are built into this scenario. The characters are all set up to mess things up for each other and everybody else. That's how you generate comedy.

Ghosts: US Pilot of Hit BBC Sitcom Begins Production
"Ghosts", BBC Studios

The problem with the US remake is that it's too broad. It looks like it's trying too hard with wacky characters being wacky for the sake of wacky. It also lacks the layers that give the original British version that real meat. The characters in the BBC original come from different periods in history and offer satire and commentary about Class and History, two topics American shows are often blind to. Class and History form the foundation for the BBC original. It gives the show endless fuel for material. We can't even tell if there's a Native American character in the US remake at this point. It seems to focus on 20th and 21st Century ghosts: a Sixties hippy, a boy scout leader (the only character carried over from the British original), a Prohibition-era lounge singer, a shallow yuppie from the 90s. The scope feels much smaller and with a lot less nuance.

Yes, this is incredibly unfair. We haven't seen the US remake. We may never get to see it if it doesn't get greenlit for series. We're just not optimistic about US remakes of British sitcoms. There have been almost countless failed attempts: Fawlty Towers, Absolutely Fabulous, The IT Crowd, Coupling… They often miss what made the British version good. The NBC remake of The Office became a hit when it moved away from the British version's focus on social embarrassment and leaned deeper into wacky hijinks and overt sentimental fan service. We would love to be pleasantly surprised to find the US version of Ghosts is good, but we're not holding our breath.

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About Adi Tantimedh

Adi Tantimedh is a filmmaker, screenwriter and novelist who just likes to writer. He wrote radio plays for the BBC Radio, “JLA: Age of Wonder” for DC Comics, “Blackshirt” for Moonstone Books, and “La Muse” for Big Head Press. Most recently, he wrote “Her Nightly Embrace”, “Her Beautiful Monster” and “Her Fugitive Heart”, a trilogy of novels featuring a British-Indian private eye published by Atria Books, a division Simon & Schuster.
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