Ghosts Season 1 Premiere Review: “Pilot” and “Hello!” – IGN
Ghosts premieres with two episodes, “Pilot” and “Hello!,” on Thursday, Oct. 7 on CBS.
iZombie‘s Rose McIver returns to TV for a new batch of supernatural silliness in CBS’ Ghosts, a single-camera comedy about a young woman who can see the zany spirits living in her house. Ghosts is broad and, at times, “low-hanging fruit” dumb, but it will also occasionally hit you with a zinger or gag that’s quite excellent and laugh-out-loud funny.
An American remake of a fairly recent U.K. comedy, Ghosts may illicit a few eye rolls due to the actual ghosts on the show being cartoonish caricatures — ones you might find in sketch comedy, included in a bit meant only to last a few minutes — as McIver’s Samantha encounters a brigade of phantoms that represent different eras of American history, from indigenous people to counterculture hippies to 21st Century Wall Street wolves (the term used to be “yuppie”). Here lies both the show’s weakness and strength. Yes, the ghosts themselves can be shallow stereotypes at times, hitting the most obvious lines for yucks, but there’s also a cleverness that ekes through, especially when said ghosts have a hard time communicating with each other due to, for example, half of them not knowing what a movie is.
But they’re all stuck together, trapped within an upstate New York manor in a situation not unlike American Horror Story’s Murder House. The spirits are forever confined to the place where they met their various individual ends as humans. In fact, there may be a scene or two of comedic bickering between the ghosts that sort of reminds you of American Horror Story, since that show, over time, grew into a snark-fest that leans way more into satire and dark humor.
All of this is to say that, while Ghosts may look dopey and uninspired at first glance, there are definite laughs here. Helping matters greatly too is the fact that Samantha and her husband Jay (Free Guy‘s multi-talented Utkarsh Ambudkar) are also funny in their own right. Anyone acting opposite the ghosts — who, again, consist of characters ripped from Party City (like Viking, 1950s Greaser, or 1920s Socialite) — are automatically the less loony performers. McIver and Ambudkar are filling the default “straight man” roles here, but they’re also able to bring us laughs outside of the ghost-related guffaws. They’re both great stars who can work with snappy dialogue and create a fun and lived-in relationship.
Though Ghosts’ premiere night kicks things off with two episodes, they’re both really, thematically, one chapter that would have been odd to split apart by a full week. It’s not until the end of the pilot that Samantha gains her ability to see the hokey haunts in her newly inherited estate. While she and Jay decide what to do with this surprise windfall, the ghosts — led by great performances from Brandon Scott Jones (The Other Two, The Good Place), Rebecca Wisocky (who was actually in the Murder House season of AHS), Richie Moriarty, and Asher Grodman — swarm about in a state of panic and anger over the idea of their home possibly becoming a quaint B&B.
One of the better running gags in these first two episodes is the fact that it takes these spooks a ton of effort to make the most minimal of physical disturbance in the world. Yes, haunting ain’t easy. Grodman’s Trevor, the dead douchey stocks bro of the bunch, particularly struggles greatly trying to knock things off tables.
Anyhow, the actual hook of the show — that Samantha, following a near-death experience (well, actually a true death experience as it’s said she died for three minutes) can see her house ghosts — doesn’t actually land until the closing moments of the first episode. That makes “Hello!,” the follow-up, a must-watch affair if you’re looking to get a good idea of the show as a whole. After these two installments, the story can proceed forward as a kooky comedy featuring a woman living with both a parade of peculiar poltergeists and also a massive home renovation (which some may argue is the worse deal).
Look, Ghosts is sharper than it may appear at first glance. There are definitely jokes that land with a groan but there are also some decent riffs here. Also, sometimes you gotta get down with the dumb. It’s just freakin’ funny to hear a viking yell “land ship!” every time a car pulls into the driveway.