Kudos to the writers and actors of “Ghosts” for adding a dash of fun and originality to that age-old trope: otherworldly spirits who can be seen by only one (living) person.
That’s the premise of this new sitcom, premiering Thursday (Oct. 7) at 9 p.m. on CBS. Here’s the setup: city slickers Samantha (Rose McIver) and her husband, Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), inherit a stately, if slightly ramshackle, upstate mansion. It was bequeathed to the spunky Samantha by an aunt she barely knew. Samantha, sensing the opportunity to live her dream, wants to chuck the city life and restore the place into a chic B&B — she’ll run the business while Jay, who’s a chef, will handle the culinary end. And they’re obsessed with HGTV (cue the references to Chip and Joanna Gaines), so there’s that.
The titular “Ghosts” are a motley crew who bicker with each other (lots of eye-rolling) but work as a team — and are none-too-happy with the house’s new occupants and their plans for a B&B. Think of “What We Do in the Shadows” with specters instead of vampires.
There’s 19th Century matriarch Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky), Samantha’s relative who criticizes her kin’s “saucy hairdo”; foppish Isaac (standout Brandon Scott Jones), an 18th Century contemporary of Alexander Hamilton (of whom he’s extremely jealous); diva Jazz Age singer Alberta (Danielle Pinnock); ’80s Wall Street party dude Trevor (Asher Grodman); Sasappis (Roman Zaragoza), a sarcastic Native American; Flower (Sheila Carrasco), a ’60s-era hippie who met her end by literally hugging a bear; Pete (Richie Moriarty), an aw-shucks Boy Scout with an arrow through his neck; and Thorfinn (Devan Long), a guttural Viking who met his end in a lightning strike.
They’re visible to only Samantha (“a living,” in their vernacular) after she falls and hits her head — as are the depressed ghosts who dwell in the dark basement, all of whom died from cholera (a spirited “Upstairs/Downstairs” scenario). Jay, of course, can’t see the spirits but goes along with his wife’s “visions,” not quite buying into them but keeping the peace (he’ll get there, eventually) as they start to plan for their new lives.
We’ve seen this scenario before (“The Ghost & Mrs. Muir,” “Ghost Whisperer”); what makes it all work in “Ghosts” is that the lead (ghost) characters are all likable and witty in ways that are unique to their personalities (Devan Long, as Thorfinn, overdoes the Viking bit), and there are dollops of modern-day pop-culture references to keep the dialogue fresh. When was the last time a character on a TV show, for instance, wondered how many RBIs Mets star Keith Hernandez had in 1987 (that’s Pete) — or referred to Dartmouth as a “[cough] safety school” (Trevor). And Isaac is a one-man pitcher of comedic throwaway lines in the vein of snarky David Rose (Dan Levy) from “Schitt’s Creek.”
It’s all in good fun and each episode (I watched three of them) travels along at a brisk clip. I’m not sure where, or how far, a sitcom of this ilk can go once its premise is established, but “Ghosts” is worth a look-see.