“Ghosts” is the latest American remake of a British show nobody asked for, joining an equally embarrassing company like “Skins” and “Spaced”. “Ghosts” tells the story of a young New York City couple that moves into a countryside mansion inherited from a distant relative. Eventually, they discover that they are not alone in their new home, but are sleeping down the hall from about a dozen misfit ghosts incapable of leaving the grounds.
The couple, Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar, “Free Guy”) and Sam (Rose McIver, “iZombie”), has plans to turn the dusty house into a bed and breakfast, an idea proposed by the overzealous Sam. She learns that the cranky and quirky resident spirits, who she can suddenly see and hear after a nasty concussion causes her to enter into a coma, are less than happy with her plans for their home. While the plot sets up for a funny show, the dialogue between the large group of ghosts and their two new living roomies at Woodstone Mansion feels incredibly forced, and that’s hardly the worst of the show’s transgressions.
Throughout these two first episodes, Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones, “Isn’t It Romantic”) makes several brief comments that imply he’s interested in men. Most of these comments are followed by uncomfortable silence and a few disapproving looks by his fellow ghosts. The ghosts may come from various times throughout history, but this television show is coming out now. The last thing we need in this day and age is any more media suggesting there is anything embarrassing or wrong about being exactly who you are. These jokes are just another part of a long history of using queer identity as a punchline and make no attempt to add anything new to the conversation.
Equally inappropriate is Sam’s use of white sage within the first minutes of Episode 1 to “cleanse” Woodstone Mansion. As many are aware, and the show’s creators should be, indigenous communities were prohibited from engaging in various sacred practices, such as burning white sage, until 1978. As a white character, Sam’s usage of white sage comes off as ignorant and just another example of how the show is behind its time.
There is, however, a brief moment of recognition of harm to indigenous communities, but it’s hardly satisfying. In fact, it’s mostly played for laughs. The ghosts are all in a panic about the possible conversion of Woodstone Mansion into a bed and breakfast, prompting Isaac, a Revolutionary War commander, to exclaim, “We can’t let these invaders take our land!” Sasappis (Roman Zaragoza, “Stumptown”), an indigenous man, responds, deadpan, “Do you hear it at all? Do you hear the words you’re saying?” He’s one of the few non-white characters on the show and the least developed character. So far, his only character trait besides being an indigenous person is admittedly creating drama out of boredom.
The only redeeming moment of the show comes toward the end of its first episode, when it abandons its desperate ploy for cheap laughs and gets vulnerable. As Sam is loaded into an ambulance after a bad tumble down the stairs, the ghosts wonder aloud together whether her argument with her partner Jay will be his final memory of her. Pete (Richie Moriarty, “Irresistible”), an optimistic boy scout troop leader killed by an arrow to the neck, confesses that the last conversation he had with his loved one was a fight. “It’s funny,” he says. “It felt like such a big deal at the time, and now I can’t even tell you what it is we were arguing about. You never think when you close that door behind you that that’ll be the last time you walk through that door.” This unexpected moment of honesty is a welcome surprise and a needed reminder to hold our loved ones close.
Despite this particularly poignant moment, the show leaves a stale taste in your mouth. It’s further proof that just because a series was successful, it doesn’t mean that we need a remake. I’ll be truly shocked if the show is renewed for a second season, and I’ll be even more shocked if I haven’t completely forgotten it exists by the time CBS executives come to a decision.
Daily Arts Contributor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.