Premiering with back-to-back episodes on CBS last Thursday, “Ghosts” attempts to recreate the BBC One sitcom of the same name in an American setting. Coming from the writers of “New Girl,” the show is about a young couple, Samantha (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who plan to start a bed and breakfast in a mansion they unexpectedly inherit. After a near-death experience, Samantha finds herself able to see eight ghosts that “haunt” the premise, leaving Jay to watch his wife interact with seemingly thin air.
The ghosts are primarily based on those of the British series, but some characters have been adapted to fit the American theme. There’s Flower, a Woodstock-era hippie who was mauled by a bear, Pete, a troop leader struck in the neck by an arrow and Trevor, a Wall Street egotist who died pantless. Among the more historical ghosts are Viking Thorfinn, Native American Sasappis, lady of the house Hetty and flapper Alberta. There’s also Isaac, a Revolutionary War soldier who remains resentful upon discovering that Alexander Hamilton found fame, while he is nothing but a footnote. Trapped on the property after dying there, these eight ghosts make it their mission to convince Samantha and Jay they can’t renovate the mansion.
With it being Indigenous Peoples’ week, there is the question of accurate representation brought up with the character of Sasappis. Played by Native American actor Roman Zaragoza, the character is dressed in what seems to be a stereotypical Halloween costume of the Native North American. However, the character hasn’t been explored enough yet to determine whether their inclusion is appropriate and accurate.
Despite hailing from the same team, “Ghosts” does not remotely match the vibe or caliber of “New Girl.” Sitcoms generally call for exaggerated acting, but the performances in “Ghosts” are much too extreme. This comes as a surprise after Ambudkar’s strong performance as Mr. K on season two of “Never Have I Ever.” McIver, too, comes to “Ghosts” with much experience under her belt. Yet, the acting in this project feels forcefully theatric — more suited to a stage performance or a children’s program.
Another large issue that arises is continuity. The format of the show requires most scenes to be filmed twice: Once from Samantha’s view, with the ghosts, and once from Jay’s perspective, sans ghosts. The two versions are edited together but are full of inconsistencies, primarily with facial expressions. Granted, it’s no easy task to create a seamless transition from perspective to perspective, but one would expect a more polished final product.
That said, “Ghosts” has its merits. The series has plenty laugh-out-loud moments, making it a great option to watch with the family. The range of time periods the ghosts hail from makes for humorous situations when interacting with modern-day inventions. For example, Torfinn refers to Samantha and Jay’s car as a landship while Hetty protests, claiming it to be a horseless carriage.
It looks as though the American version of “Ghosts” will only have a one-season stint on television. With only two episodes released, it’s difficult to judge the entire show. But as of now, beating its British predecessor — like “The Office” once did — is out of the realm of possibility.