Don’t Forget About ‘Ghosts’ This Emmys Season (2024)

Whitney Friedlander

·3 min read

Twenty years ago, at the end of the 2003-04 TV season, audiences said goodbye to our dear “Friends.”

Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey left us to go on with their lives outside of the confines of a couple of apartments and a coffee shop. Audiences were left without the comfort of tuning in each Thursday to see them talk endlessly about the past and present, if not always the future.

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Every one of the characters on David Crane and Marta Kauffman’s NBC sitcom knew, at least eventually, everything about the others’ lives. Everyone lived together, vacationed together and frequently dated each other. They’d spend hours on an overstuffed orange couch sipping lattes and chatting like they had nowhere else to be. It was how the audience (both the other characters and the real ones watching at home) reacted to those stories that made them feel like a chosen family.

Three years ago, CBS premiered the comedy “Ghosts,” another show about people of all walks of life who regale each other with their shenanigans. Except this time, they do so because there really isn’t anywhere else for them to be.

Based on the delightful British sitcom of the same name, “Ghosts” is about people (or spirits who were once people) forced, for reasons unknown to them, to spend their afterlives roaming the halls and grounds of a stately upstate New York mansion. Ranging from the ghost of a Norse Viking (Devan Chandler Long’s Thorfinn) and a Lenape man (Román Zaragoza’s Sasappis) to a 1990s finance bro (Asher Goodman’s Trevor) and a Rick Moranis-like 1980s scout leader (Richie Moriarty’s Pete) whose death came via a child’s archery lesson gone awry, the spirits have only themselves to talk to. When a new living inhabitant (Rose McIver’s Sam) has her own near-death experience, she can actually see the ghosts and begins to communicate with those beyond the grave.

To Sam, and therefore to the viewers, these ghosts become friends we can rely upon to be in the same place at the same time every Thursday night (or, let’s be honest, every time we turn on a streamer like Paramount+).

And, like any good adaptation, “Ghosts” creators Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and their team have expanded upon the mythology. They’ve introduced a poltergeist (Lamorne Morris’ Saul, the spirit of a Negro League baseball player, who is bound to a living human), and they’ve shown that just because you’re dead doesn’t mean you can’t evolve as a human being. This season, Brandon Scott Jones’ Revolutionary War officer Isaac Higgintoot called off his wedding to John Hartman’s British Army officer Nigel Chessum because he’s only recently become comfortable with his queerness and needs to figure out some stuff. (In an homage to “Friends,” there’s even a scene where one tells the other that they “were on a respite.”)

It’s also a comedy about dead people that’s found a way to show that death, and life, has meaning and consequences. Rebecca Wisocky’s robber baroness, Hetty Woodstone, spent more than a century with a secret that her death was by suicide. And much of the most recent season deals with the supposed departure of the ghost Flower (Sheila Carrasco), a 1960s hippie who tried to hug a bear while extremely high.

The assumption is that she’s been “sucked off,” one of the many double entendres the show manages to sneak past CBS standards & practices, meaning, in “Ghosts” speak, her spirit has left this purgatory for some place up high. The alternative is called, appropriately, “going down.”

This gets at the push-pull heart of the show. We love these ghosts, and we would like them to rest in peace and not have a frustrating afterlife. But if they go, we won’t be able to hang out with them any longer. Consider the show “The One With the Dead People.”

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