Digital Culture

‘Ghosts’: A haunting look into the creative industry?

By Florence Rolston Ashford

Image Credit: BBC 

Recently renewed for a fourth series, BBC’s comedy Ghosts has achieved incredible success since its debut in April 2019. Consisting of the familiar casting of the iconic CBBC series Horrible Histories, the success of the sitcom begs the question of what it is about the series that has led to its popularity? Is it simply continued success for the legacy of Horrible Histories and its pre-existing, continued fanbase? 

Ghosts has features making it like nothing else on TV currently. Each of the characters are beautifully curated, with their very own backstories that delicately and hilariously complement each other to create the loveable crew they are. The format of the show has proved to be so popular that it has even been bought up by American channel CBS who are now producing their own version for the American audience, suggesting that it is far more than nostalgia that makes this show well-received.

Sean O’Grady, a writer for the Independent, summarises the show as being “like Horrible Histories in reverse – made for grown-ups but also potentially enjoyable to kids”, and considering the humorously historical features of the show, as well as the recognisable troupe, it is hard to deny his argument. 

With the show being proposed to Shane Allen (BBC Head of Comedy) as a post-watershed sitcom for BBC One, the intention was to create something a bit darker, with the cast referring to Blackadder as inspiration, due to its cheeky yet still child-friendly nature. In an interview with i news, cast member and writer of Ghosts, Matt Baynton even remarks that to some extent, their goal was to appeal to their past audience, stating that ‘“now they are all grown up – hopefully we’re making something so they can continue to watch us!”. So whilst it may not have been their only intent, it seems to be a happy accident that, as their audience grows and matures, so does the content that the troupe create. 

Markedly, this is a reflection of the world we live in, with the creative industries having to possess flexibility like never before. With the audience being ambushed with so much choice in the content they consume, production and publishing companies are having to write for an audience like never before, rather than purely commissioning content that isn’t guaranteed success. It seems riskier than ever to take a chance, with publishing companies and production companies perhaps now leaning towards money-making over creativity, seen by recent influxes of influencer books and common trope television

Love Island star and influencer, Molly-Mae Hague’s soon to be released memoir on her success story. Image Credit: Penguin

Whilst this strategy has undoubtedly helped these industries survive the uncertainty of the pandemic, it leads me to wonder how sustainable this is? By sticking to the known success routes, are the industries simultaneously jeopardising themselves? After all, there are only so many influencer success memoirs one can stomach, and the same for high-school based murder mysteries. Perhaps Ghosts and its writers have somewhat cracked the code, combining well-loved recognisable faces to draw in the audience and original writing to keep it. 

Categories: Digital Culture, Film & TV

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