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'Ghosts' and More: The Afterlife on TV

, | February 20, 2024 | By

The afterlife, even if written as fantastical, is a complex issue to shove into a half-hour sitcom. Yet, these three shows tackle that challenge with some not-so-spooky ghosts.

Even as an adult and no matter what one believes, talking about death can be scary. That’s why I want to address the spiritual comfort adults can take from these comedies, BBC’s Ghosts, CBS’ Ghosts, and ABC’s Not Dead Yet. Spoilers ahead.

BBC Ghosts 

BBC’s Ghosts started in 2019 by a comedic group known as Them There (also, known as “Horrible Histories Troupe” and, affectionally, “The Six Idiots”). The show met its bittersweet end with its annual Christmas special in 2023.

Owing to a lack of new programming because of the writers' and actors' strikes last year, this British show is currently available on CBS, along with its U.S. counterpart (more on that below).

It’s about a loving young married couple, Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe), who inherit Button House...

Which is haunted -- something Alison figures out after having a near-death experience that allows her to see ghosts.

The ghosts are a quirky bunch from the overly reserved character known as The Captain (Ben Willbond) to the dramatic unsuccessful poet Thomas (Mathew Baynton).

My favorite, Mary (Katy Wix), a strange woman wrongly accused of being a witch, dreams of finding peace. It's almost like a Purgatory set-up where the ghosts must learn to heal from the past to “move on.”

For a silly show about some endearingly annoying ghosts, it has a lot of spiritual heart.


CBS Ghosts 

Now, the U.S.'s 2021 Ghosts was inspired by the UK’s Ghosts. It returned for a shortened, 10-episode Season 3 on Feb. 15.

In the CBS show, instead of Alison and Mike, we get Sam (Rose McIver), a caring journalist, and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar), her geeky chef husband.

While some of the ghosts are similar to the original, we get new ghosts who historically fit the location change such as Sasappis (Román Zaragoza), a Lenape Native American, and Alberta (Danielle Pinnock), a singer from the Roaring ‘20’s.

My favorite ghost is the Gilded Age Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky), a former robber baroness. Unlike the BBC version, the ghosts can still go to Hell, as seen with Hetty’s less-than-favorable husband, Elias (Matt Walsh).

The show's spiritual philosophy is more like NBC's The Good Place than the show's U.K. counterpart. It plays with the ideas of culpability, second chances, judgment, and hope.


Not Dead Yet 

ABC's Not Dead Yet, which premiered in 2023 -- the second season premiered on Feb. 7 -- deals with ghosts a bit differently than the other two shows. It’s like a less spooky version of the 2005-'10 CBS series Ghost Whisperer.

It focuses on Nell (Gina Rodriguez), who gets out of a serious relationship and moves back to the U.S. after living overseas. Nell starts seeing ghosts when she begins working as an obituary writer.

The ghosts are fun, and often end up teaching Nell something, before she writes them a perfect obituary that helps them find peace.

It reminds me of how we pray for those who went before us, but also, about how some of us ask for the intercession of those who have passed..

While the ghosts might not stick around, there are plenty of other recurring characters, too, such as Nell’s married-with-kids best friend, Sam (Hannah Simone), and Cricket (Angela Gibbs), who Nell befriends after meeting the ghost of Cricket’s husband. 


Should You Watch Them?

A lot of shows address death and the afterlife, but usually, they are more serious. These comedies might be a bit more irreverent, but they have a lightheartedness that makes the afterlife less scary and easier to talk about while being hopeful.

IMAGE: Pictured (L-R): Rebecca Wisocky as Hetty, Richie Moriarty as Pete, Betsy Sodaro as Nancy, Danielle Pinnock as Alberta, and Rose McIver as Samantha with The Cholera Ghosts.  Photo: Bertrand Calmeau/CBS ©2023 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Maggie Orsinger graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2020 with a degree in Communications Media. She also holds an 2023 MFA from Pepperdine University for Screenwriting.

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