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UK original comes to CBS

Due to recent events, new episodes of “Ghosts” will not air this fall Hollywood strikesCBS – in a rare feat – is importing the first season of the original UK version instead.

Although many programs have originated elsewhere before being remade for American audiences, broadcast networks are not in the habit of doing so. It would be as unusual as a UK version of “The Office” appearing on NBC.

But I’m glad U.S. viewers got the chance to sample this incarnation of “Ghosts” without worrying about whether they’ll have to pay for another streaming service to access it. (However, the series will also air on Paramount+.)

The UK original comes from a six-member band called Them There, who also star, and both versions have a winning conceptual comedy sensibility and share the same premise: What if the ghosts were narrow-minded and jealous among themselves, while also being intrigued. and are you disturbed by the living world that goes on without them?

A young couple unexpectedly inherits a rambling estate. Goal! However, his wife gets a head injury and suddenly she can see and hear many things. A lot ghosts occupying the house. This is a motley crew of opinionated, dysfunctional, ridiculous personalities who have descended through the ages into a kind of purgatory: Your soul remains where you die. Her husband eventually accepts this new normal, but otherwise the ghosts remain a mystery to everyone.

The American version comes from creators Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and is pretty good (and is expected to return in February), but the first thing you notice about the UK original is that its beats are less comedic. It was also shot better and more cinematically. The writing is a little sharper. Grounded in a lighthearted and absurdist sense of humour, the strength of both series is how they transcend the initial artifice and create space for character-based comedy that doesn’t conflict with the occasional touching moment.

The BBC series premiered in 2019 and is coming to an end after five seasons. Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe star as the new owners of this country estate. (Ritchie may be best known to American audiences from the series “Call the Midwife.”) The estate comes courtesy of one of his distant relatives, who has no other heirs.

The house is located on the site of a former plague pit, a mass grave where victims of the Black Death were buried, and these are the ghosts that occupy the basement. (The joy they feel when someone comes down and turns on the light is matched by their disappointment when the same person goes out and turns off the light behind them.)

There’s also a monosyllabic caveman (Laurence Rickard), a World War II Army officer (Ben Willbond), a woman accused of being a witch and burned at the stake (Katy Wix), a member of Parliament biting the dust, sans a 1990s sex scandal (Simon Farnaby), an Edwardian high-class woman thrown to her death from a window (Martha Howe-Douglas), a cheerful and sweetly needy aristocratic woman from the 1700s (Lolly Adefope), a melodramatic poet killed in a duel in the 1800s (Mathew Baynton). and a cheerful Boy Scout leader (Jim Howick) who died in the 1980s when one of his men accidentally shot an arrow into his neck.

Viewers familiar with the CBS series will notice the similarities as well as the differences (the no-pants and arrow-to-the-neck jokes) that seem like just the right kind of changes tailored to the different histories of Britain and the United States.

Ghosts are supernatural roommates who get along with each other as much as they bicker. They occasionally display their unforgettable talents to frighten intruders: “They smell burning as they pass through the living,” says the person burned at the stake. Perfect, another ghost replies sarcastically: “None of these are plural.” The scout leader tries to keep things cheerful: “Hello! On behalf of me and my deceased friends, welcome!” The poet grumbles about his old enemy, Lord Byron: “He stole my poems, my destiny, and now he will steal the woman of my dreams.” Someone says that every woman is the woman of your dreams. “I have so many dreams!” When the couple needs the ghosts to leave them alone, they distract themselves with “Friends” DVDs. Surprise, they love it!

The strongest episode shows the mansion being rented to a film crew filming a period drama. The app is great. Egos abound in both the living and ghostly realms; the latter are strangely fascinated by spectacle and proximity to fame.

There’s no indication that CBS plans to air subsequent seasons of the UK series, but hopefully the network will take notice. More comedy could be used on TV, where friendship is actually funny.

“Ghosts” (UK version) — 3 stars (out of 4)

Where to watch: back-to-back episodes air Thursdays at 8pm on CBS (and streaming on Paramount+)

Lolly Adefope "Ghosts."

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic.

nmetz@chicagotribune.com

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