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Series / Ghosts (UK)

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"Haunting's hard, innit?"
Patrick "Pat" Butcher

Ghosts is a supernatural-themed BBC One sitcom that premiered in 2019, written by and starring The Six Idiots (Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond). This marks the group’s fourth project together, after the sketch show Horrible Histories, fantasy comedy Yonderland, and feature film Bill.

The premise revolves around a young couple, Alison and Mike (Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe), who inherit the derelict Button House with plans to turn it into a hotel. Little do they know, Button House is also home to numerous restless spirits who have died there over the centuries, unable to leave the grounds and resigned to squabbling with each other for eternity: Robin (Rickard), a caveman and the oldest of the ghosts; Mary (Katy Wix), an eccentric woman burned as a witch during the Stuart era; Kitty (Lolly Adefope), an excitable and naive Georgian aristocrat; Thomas (Baynton), a melodramatic and easily-infatuated Romantic poet; Lady Fanny (Howe-Douglas), the repressed and overbearing Edwardian-era owner of the house; The Captain (Willbond), a pompous, World War II-era military officer; Pat (Howick), a friendly scout leader who was accidentally shot in the neck with an arrow by one of his scouts; Julian (Farnaby), a slimy Conservative MP who died as the result of a scandalous sex mishap; and Headless Humphrey (head - Rickard; body - Yani Xander), a beheaded Tudor nobleman who, due to his own clumsiness, spends most of his time trying to reunite his head and his body.

When the ghosts learn of the couple's plans for the house, they conspire to scare the couple away. Things don’t quite go as they expect, as the ghosts prove themselves to be pretty ineffectual at haunting; however, thanks to a spiritual hand causing Alison to suffer a near-death experience, she gains the ability to see and hear them. After finding out that her husband has taken out a massive loan to renovate the house, which the couple can't get out of, Alison and the ghosts form an uneasy truce as both she and Mike try their best to stop their dream home/hotel from turning into a complete nightmare.

An American remake, executive-produced by Joe Port and Joe Wiseman and with Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar in the leads, premiered on CBS in 2021.

A Comic Relief special starring Kylie Minogue was broadcast on 17th March 2023. It can been seen here.

This show provides examples of:

  • The '80s:
    • The opening of Happy Death Day takes place in 1984.
    • Pat’s Christmas present in “It’s Behind You” is old VHS footage of him and his family celebrating Christmas in 1983 (his last one alive) and 1988, four years after his death.
  • Accidental Suicide:
    • Humphrey died when he banged the fireplace in celebration, causing the swords above him to fall and behead him.
    • Robin died when the tree that he was touching was stuck by lightning.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Julian messing with Mike (by changing words into rude words in his emails) gets a giggle from Alison.
  • Afterlife Angst: We get to see Julian's reaction to his death during flashbacks in the episode "A Lot to Take In" and it's not pretty. Basically, he initially doesn't accept the fact that he's dead and attempts to leave the mansion for at least a hundred times despite the fact that he can no longer leave. He eventually accepts it at the end of the flashbacks.
  • Anachronism Stew: Done deliberately in “The Thomas Thorne Affair”. When the The Captain retells the duel, it featured single shot pistols firing multiple rounds and a WWII era grenade in The Regency Era.
  • Armour-Piercing Question:
    • In Getting Out, the ghosts protest Alison wanting to leave until she asks them "Can any of you honestly tell me you wouldn't leave if you could?" In doing so, she points out that the house has become something of a prison to her and they'd likely do the same in her position. None of the ghosts have a response to that.
    • In "The Hardest Word" Alison manages to rip apart the ghosts' insincere apology by asking one simple question: "Sorry for what?" The ghosts can't answer her.
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Lady Button is horrified at the fact that two women are getting married in the house and goes into a rant about how it goes against decency and tradition, Headless Humphrey quietly tells her that the arranged marriage between him and his wife was perfectly traditional and proper — but at the time he was fourteen and she was twelve, they didn't love each other, and in fact his wife didn't even like him. "Might have been nice if we could have chosen who we married." While the opener of season three, A Bone Plot reveals that his wife did like him, and was attempting to minimize his involvement in her plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth for Mary, Queen of Scots because she thought he was a good man, the point still stands that their married life wasn't something either of them would have signed up for if they'd had any choice in the matter.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • This seems to be played straight with Humphrey at first, as he's is wearing all his finery, complete with ruff, when execution victims were actually beheaded wearing only an undershirt and trousers. But then Series 3 reveals that Humphrey was actually beheaded in a freak accident, and not executed.
    • Mary was burned at the stake after being accused of witchcraft, when in real life she would have been hanged rather than burned. Shame the show isn't set in Scotland... note 
  • Artistic License – Space: A lunar eclipse is shown as the moon being covered up, like a solar eclipse.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Some people who die, such as Alison's distant relative the last Lady Button, do this, while others become ghosts. The ghosts talk about the hope that they will eventually ascend to a higher plane themselves, but nobody knows why (or how) it happens.
    • In series two, it’s revealed that quite a few ghosts have come and gone during the years when Alison is surprised to hear of a ghost called Annie who was around for Thomas’s death. Mary casually remarks that she was eventually "sucked off" like so many others. Mary herself moves on in series 4.
    • In "Poached Guests", the ghosts turn their attention from squabbling back to Maddocks (a ghost in a field neighbouring the house whom they have been talking to through a gap in the fence) to find this has happened offscreen. He's actually hiding behind the hedge to make them think this has happened so they'll stop talking to him.
  • Audience Participation: When the upstairs ghosts realize their pantomime is going to be rather lame if Alison is the only member of the audience (well, the only member who can see them; Mike doesn't count), they invite the plague pit ghosts, who prove to be a quite enthusiastic and vocal audience.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: As Mike tries to reassure Alison that the ghosts are all in her head:
    Mike: My uncle Graham, he thought he could smell toast but you know what? There was no toast.
    Alison: He was having a stroke! He died, Mike.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • After Alison's fall towards the end of the first episode, the scene cuts to a shot of Mike sitting alone on a hospital bed looking mournful, hinting that Alison has died and perhaps become one of the titular ghosts... until Alison shuffles into the room from an interior door, very much alive, wearing a neckbrace and having apparently just been using the toilet. Mike is actually looking mournful because he has gone into quite a lot of debt to see if they can get the house renovated.
    • It looks like the ghosts failed to stop Allison from meeting Lucy...then it flashes back to show how they tossed Humphrey's head onto the car to get her attention.
    • The last episode of series 4 opens with the ghosts looking at what appears to be the burning remains of Button House. The episode then flashes back to 8 hours earlier, and there are various points where it looks like a fire is about to start, only to be prevented. It turns out that it wasn't Button House that burned down, but the Gatehouse after being struck by lightning.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: This has effectively happened to the ghosts, though nobody knows why. In series 4, moving on is shown to happen apparently at random, with Annie having moved on while having a conversation with Mary, and Mary herself moving on at the beginning of the fourth episode of that series.
  • Beer Goggles: Downplayed in "About Last Night". While drunk, Alison admits to Thomas that if he was alive, they were the same age and she wasn't with Mike, something might have happened between them. Thomas is elated...while a sober Alison, having just remembered what she said, is horrified.
  • Big Fancy House: Button House is a deconstruction. While it was once grand and beautiful, the show goes into quite a bit of detail about how those British country houses that look so impressive from the outside can be absolute money pits to maintain and restore for the owners. It's only by the end of Series 2 that Alison and Mike restore it enough that they can hire it out for weddings, and even then it's still a long way off from being a proper hotel. By season 4, they've even had to put plans for the main house on hold and done up the gatehouse as a boutique B&B instead.
  • Big "YES!": Thomas when he learns that a period drama to be filmed at Button House is set during the Regency. He's so caught up in his joy that he drop-punts Humphrey's head out of the room.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...: In episode 4: "Red bill... red bill... ooh, normal bill..."
  • Bittersweet Ending: The ending of series 4. The Gatehouse burns down in a thunderstorm, putting an end to the Bed and Breakfast business. While Alison and Mike admit they're glad to be free of the stress of running it, they're faced with having to find another way to make money and the stark reality that it would be so much harder to run an actual hotel. But they're determined to keep going.
  • Blatant Lies: When Robin gets caught interfering with the lights on the set in 1x04 he claims "bigger boy made me do it."
  • Blessed with Suck: Since Alison can see all ghosts, not just those occupying Button House, she can see those that haunt other rentals that she and Mike examine. This includes a murdered dinner guest at their first choice, a pair of pilots apparently stuck mid-air several stories up in a crash scene near an apartment penthouse, and a Victorian nanny pushing a pram (baby carriage) in the town street.
  • Bloodless Carnage: There is not a drop of blood when we see Pat and Humphrey's deaths: a arrow through the neck and a beheading, respectively.
    • Averted with Thomas, whose waistcoat is bloodstained around his fatal gunshot wound.
  • British Brevity: All four series so far have the BBC's usual six episode total (though also with three Christmas Specials). It currently totals to 27 episodes.
    • For comparison, the US version had 40 episodes in the first two seasons.
  • Burn the Witch!: How Mary died, with the result that she tends to start emitting smoke when she gets upset and the living can smell something burning should they step through her.
  • But You Were There, and You, and You: In Kitty’s retelling of her life, she imagines her fellow ghosts, Mike and Alison as people in her past. Subverted when she starts remembering her sister’s cruelty and father’s rage as they are played by different actors.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: Barclay drowns out Alison's insults at him, when he orders a road worker to drill into the entrance of her driveway.
  • Call-Back:
    • While trying to get the woodworm men to leave the house, Mary tries her "get out, get out, get out" method, the same method she attempted on Alison all the way back in series 1. It doesn't work.
    • “Speak as Ye Choose” has brief flashbacks of Kitty playing with her sister alongside Florence the statue, which she states she used to do in “Redding Weddy”, and Mary and Annie watching Thomas performing his poem like in “The Thomas Thorne Affair.”
    • In “The Hardest Word”, The Captain pretends to use a Bren gun in a similar manner to Julian pretending to use an AK-47 in “Redding Weddy”.
    • During Mary’s memorial service Alison gather items that relate to her actions or sayings in previous episodes, to help remember her. A fennel, a TV guide featuring Loose Women and a photo of Mike for she was seen fondly looking at him in the shower in “Happy Death Day”. Alison puts them in a basket that Mary taught her using the same instructions she explained in “Who Do You Think You Are?”
  • Camping Episode: The plot of "The Woodworm Men"; Button House is being fumigated for Woodworm, so Alison and Mike decide to camp for the night outside (though Mike is less enthusiastic about it).
  • Catapult Nightmare: Alison has one in at the end of “Something to Share?”
  • The Cavalier Years: Most of the flashbacks in “Speak as ye choose” are set in this era.
  • Chekhov's Gun: In “The Bone Plot”, Alison takes part in a History Documentary which she explains that she inherited the house though her father. It is where Lucy learns of Alison and got the photo of her father so she can trick Alison into believing that they were sisters.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Thomas practises kick-me-ups using Humphrey's head in order to impress Alison. He later uses that skill to kick Humphrey's head in front of Alison's car in order to get her attention and stop her from leaving.
  • Christmas Episode:
    • "The Ghost Of Christmas", which revolves around Mike playing host to his family over Christmas at the Button House. Meanwhile, Julian is forced to face his feelings over the fact that he abandoned his family every Christmas and becomes regretful of his actions.
    • "He Came!" is also set over Christmas and deals with the cast dealing with an old man who may or may not be Santa camping in the premises of the house.
    • “It’s Behind You”, involves the ghosts trying to put on a panto version of Cinderella as a way to say thank you to Alison her presents while she and Mike are away seeing Mike’s family.
  • Comically Small Demand: After three days of non-stop trying to scare Alison away she tells the ghosts she can’t leave and asks them what they want from her. The answers? Tank documentaries, a portrait taken down and to simply say hello. Subverted with Thomas, who wants Alison to leave her husband, kill herself and spend eternity with him, all of which is soundly rejected.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • In Series 1, when Alison first meets with her solicitor about the inheritance, Mike picks up what appears to be candy from a bowl on the solicitor's desk and pops it in his mouth, only to be told that it is actually potpourri. When the couple visit the solicitor again in Series 3, Mike wafts a bowl and compliments the aroma from the potpourri, only to be told that it is the solicitor's granola breakfast.
    • “Happy Death Day” opens with Pat giving an archery safety demonstration to his scout troop on the grounds of Button House. His troop returns to the same place 38 years later to do archery in “It’s Behind You.” This time the current leader, who was actually in Pat’s troop, lets someone else give the safety demonstration.
    • In “Free Pass” Humphrey vows that once he gets control of his body, he will punch himself so hard. Once his head is reunited with his body near the end of “I Love Lucy”, he punches himself so hard that his head falls off.
    • Robin explains in “Moonah Stone” that his people once had a Stonehenge like monument which once stood in the dining room. “Not Again” reveals that he died near it.
    • One of the flashbacks in “Something to Share?” features Thomas playing a man asking Kitty if she will dance with him at an upcoming ball. They end up dancing at a ball when they play Cinderella and the prince in the ghosts’ production of Cinderella in “It’s Behind You”.
    • During the flashback to the bear chase, Robin and two of his friends are walking through the woods with one of them is wearing a lot less animal skins, almost bare-chested and carrying a rock tied to a stick. Looks like this was Robin's friend "Hat."
  • Cranium Chase: Humphrey's series-long quest to be reunited with his body that keeps walking past him because it can't hear him call.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Another historical-themed comedy with surreal/fantastical elements from the team behind Horrible Histories, Yonderland and Bill.
  • Creepy Child: Jemima, the plague girl. Even the other ghosts are scared of her. She honestly doesn't understand why people find her recital of "Ring a Ring a Roses" so unsettling.
  • Creepy Doll: When the ghosts initially try to alert Mike to the presence of burglars in the house in Bump in the Night, they get Julian to communicate to him in Morse code. Mike is already on edge due to his discomfort being in the house alone with the ghosts — Julian chooses to make a decrepit old doll wink in Morse code, prompting Mike to immediately hide in the wardrobe.
  • Crowded-Cast Shot: Happens a few times as there are ten permanent cast members.
  • Dead Man Honking: In "Happy Death Day", a flashback to Pat's death shows that after being shot in the neck with an arrow, he got in the troop bus and tried to drive himself to the hospital. He passes out at the wheel and drives into a tree, followed by the horn blaring.
  • Death-Activated Superpower: Thanks to her brief brush with death (courtesy of Julian pushing her out of a window), when Alison returns to Button House, she can now see the ghosts.
  • Death as Comedy: Naturally. Julian's sex scandal death has left him to spend eternity without any trousers on. Even the quite horrific deaths of Lady Button (pushed out of a window by her husband) and Pat (shot through the neck with an arrow by one of the children in his youth group) count. It says a lot that while the show gets some laughs out of a living person smelling something burning if they pass through her, or her emitting smoke when she's angry or upset, Mary's actual trial and execution are never played for comedy.
    • Zigzagged with Thomas. The first few retellings of his death are very much Played for Laughs due to everyone's very different interpretations of it. But then Kitty and Humphrey are between them able to reveal what actually happened - Thomas' cousin, Francis Button, ruthlessly manipulated him and created a chain of events which resulted in Thomas being fatally shot in the back during a duel, and then left him to die after promising to fetch Isabelle, Thomas' love and the heiress to the estate that would become Button House. Thomas ultimately died completely alone (barring the ghosts) and believing Isabelle didn't love him while Francis married Isabelle himself and became the first Lord Button. This final version is played completely straight with all the ghosts and Alison visibly moved and upset by the story afterwards.
  • A Death in the Limelight:
    • Given that most of the character are dead to start with there have been several episodes like this to fill in backstory and aid in character development. As of the end of Series 3 we've been either told or shown how Fanny, Pat, Thomas, Humphrey, Julian and the Plague Victims died, we know that Mary was burnt as a witch but don't know the details and as yet we've no real clue as to how Robin, Kitty or The Captain met their end.
    • As of season 4, we also know how Robin died.
    • Played straight in series 4. For the first three episodes, we learn more about Mary's past; why she was accused of witchcraft, how she spent her days with her husband and her friendship with Annie. Then in the fourth episode, she moves on.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Most of the LGBTQ characters are portrayed in a positive light, but not Fanny's husband George Button. Fanny caught him not only cheating on her, but cheating on her with two men, an act that would almost certainly have been frowned upon in The Edwardian Era. Then, to make matters worse, he pushed her out the window because he couldn't trust her with his dirty secret. Ironically, she kept her death a secret from the other ghosts for more than a century (though the older ghosts admit that they already know, as they saw the whole thing go down).
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • The Captain with Mike, Kevin the builder, and Adam the 1st AD. The latter makes him lose his train of thought twice.
    • Fanny in series 2, when she develops a crush on Mike after reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, and becomes increasingly waylaid by his doing mundane things.
  • Doom It Yourself: Mike's attempts at D.I.Y.—he puts a huge hole in Fanny's bedroom, "fixes" it by covering it up with a painting, and even with the help of video tutorials the ghosts from the Middle Ages have a better idea of how to fix the hot water boiler.
  • Do Wrong, Right: In Bump in the Night Fanny spends the entire episode being more upset that the burglars are stealing less than worthy loot than her actual task at monitoring them.
  • Dramatic Irony: Played for comedy in The Grey Lady. After failing to get the ghosts to do a haunting for a group of paranormal enthusiasts, Alison and Mike tries to do a faux haunting of their own in hopes to earn money. Unfortunately, Alison screws up and the episode ends with the enthusiasts thinking that the Button House is a hoax. One woman in particular calls Alison 'exploitative' because the enthusiasts are open-minded enough to accept that ghosts are real.
    Female Ghost Believer: Because, let me tell you, there are spirits all around us.
    [The camera backs away to reveal the ghosts surrounding Alison]
    Female Ghost Believer: I just hope one day you come to embrace them.
    Thomas: [gazing wistfully at Alison] At least.
  • Embarrassing Animal Suit: The Christmas special sees Mike forced to wear a reindeer onesie for the occasion, much to his displeasure. Robin (who, for context, is a caveman dressed in animal skins) comments that "He look like dumb animal!"
  • Ensemble Cast: Each of the multiple regular cast are treated as significant.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The ghosts' first attempt at haunting as detailed in the Funny tab.
    • In Bump in the Night Mary and Kitty are assigned to make a list of things the burglars are stealing while the rest try to stop them. Considering one is a semi-literate Cloudcuckoolander and the other is a Kindhearted Simpleton borderline The Ditz, this goes about as well as you'd expected.
    • In one episode, Alison enlists Mary's help to cheat at poker, not realising that Mary a) couldn't read and b) had probably never seen a deck of cards before in her life (or death).
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Fanny's husband murdered her in cold blood to ensure her silence after she caught him in a threesome with the groundskeeper and the butler. This is in contrast to other LGBTQ characters who appear in the series (and other works by the creators), who are generally treated more positively.
  • Everybody Knew Already: Having led everyone believe she jumped out of the window, Lady Button finally reveals to the other ghosts that she was in fact pushed by her husband after she caught him with the groundskeeper and the butler. The older ghosts then admit that they already knew because they watched the whole event.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Captain. note 
  • Everyone Has Standards: The ghosts did want Alison and Mike out of the house in the first episode, but (save for the Captain) they are very unhappy that Julian pushed Alison out of a window and nearly killed her.
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The trope is invoked by name in Bump in the Night when the ghosts are trying to communicate with Mike despite their very limited ability to affect the material world. This is justified in that the two ghosts who say this are a youth group leader from a boy scouts-style organisation and a WWII army officer — two people who might well think that way.
    Julian: Hmm, will he know Morse code?
    The Captain & Pat, in perfect unison: Everybody knows Morse code!
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Pat's realization that his wife was having an affair:
    Pat: He was always such a support to her, even before I died. [...] I remember one Sunday I came back from camp and I found all his clothes in the hallway. Everything. His socks, his knickers, they were all strewn up the stairs. [Beat] Oh no.
  • Extended Greetings: Pat's attempts to greet Alison and give her a house tour in Gorilla War.
  • Fake Memories: Kitty has rewritten her own memories, forcing herself to believe that her sister was a kind person when in reality she was cruel.
  • Failed Dramatic Exit: Julian's attempt in Gorilla War. As he's a ghost, his hand goes straight through the door. The others stand around staring in amusement and he has to come back in.
    Julian: Imagine that slammed!
  • Fictional Counterpart: The group of which Pat was a leader wasn't a branch of the official Scout Association but a generic activity-based youth group with similar uniforms.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: A building version. Button House is the most harmless-sounding name possible, but it's haunted, falling apart enough to be hazardous ''and there's a limpet mine buried in the grounds and a medieval plague pit in the basement.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • The plague ghost played by Katy Wix is nowhere to be seen in the first three episodes of series 4. Mary, also played by Katy Wix, ends up moving on in the fourth episode.
    • Mary tells the others about her dream of moving on in “The Thomas Thorne Affair” as well as Annie moving on and counting their blessings before they all move on, too in “Speak as Ye Choose”. Two episodes later, Mary herself moves on.
  • Forged Message: Francis writes two fake letters to trick his cousin Thomas, and his lover Isabelle that they don’t love each other anymore. Thomas didn’t know his cousin did this until Humphrey reveals he saw him writing them. He still carries the fake letter from Isabelle many years after his death; trying to remove it results in it re-materializing in his pocket.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Francis Button, Thomas’ villainous cousin, wears glasses.
  • The Friends Who Never Hang: Thomas is a particular victim of this, but in general most of the ghosts give the impression that they don't spend time together because they've been stuck in Button House for so long with only each other to talk with.
  • Funny Background Event: The show employs a lot of these due to the fact that Alison is the ONLY living person who can see the ghosts around her. It's common for the ghosts or the living to be talking or doing something hilarious in the background while someone else is talking in the foreground.
  • Funny Foreigner: Not from another country but another time period. They might pick up the occasional modern word or manner but their references and behaviors are very much of their time.
  • Ghostly Animals: After its death at the hands of a dog in the episode Moonah Ston, the pigeon who lives in Button House becomes one of these. note 
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • In the episode Getting Out a hotel agent has offered Alison and Mike a substantial amount of money for the house. Horrified, the ghosts offers to find other means for the two to make make money. After being left alone, Mike is surprised at the fact that the ghosts wants them to stay.
      Alison: But they are not going to be our problem soon. We can find an un-haunted house to live in.
      Mike: Let's not get ahead of ourselves there.
      Alison: Yeah, no, we should wait until it's official.
      [cuts to them standing out a new house as their real estate agent approaches]
    • In The Grey Lady everyone finds out that Fanny actually shows up in photographs:
      Alison: Well, her photo's all over Facebook, so we can say goodbye to doing events. No-one wants a haunted wedding.
      Mike: No-one will know. [points to his phone] Look it's only one window and he doesn't say where it is...
      [someone tags the photo to their house]
      Alison: Hmm.
      Mike: Okay, but does anybody actually read the comments?
      [cuts to a group of people hanging outside their gates taking videos and photographs]
  • Glamour Failure: In the first series episode Moonah Ston, one of Barclay Beg-Chetwynde's dogs barks incessantly at ghosts Robin and Pat, the latter of whom attempts to pet them.
  • Go into the Light:
    • Subverted when Pat thinks he's moving on after coming to terms with the fact that his widow remarried. Then the light goes out and it turns out that it was just an ordinary stage lamp all along.
    • Played straight with Mary at the beginning of “Gone Gone”.
  • Good News, Bad News: Mike to Alison. Just as she's about to ask for the good news, he reveals the bad news is the extent of the repairs they'd need to make on the house would require a substantial amount of money that they don't have. The good news? He took out a massive loan.
  • Got Me Doing It:
    • In Moonah Ston, Thomas picks up on Robin's poor grammar, saying "me" when he should say "I" and vice versa as Robin does.
    • Thomas does the same thing in season one when he picks up Mary's tendency to pluralize words, saying "And how you dies... Died!"
  • Hair of the Dog: Julian suggests this as a cure for Alison's hangover in "About Last Night". He apparently made the suggestion the night before as well, which led to her drinking more booze...and getting even more drunk.
  • Happily Married: Mike and Alison. Though they do have some rocky moments throughout the series such as almost ruining Sam and Claire’s wedding. To complicate things, Alison can see and hear ghosts while Mike cannot.
  • Haunted House: The whole point of the show.
  • Hideous Hangover Cure: Mary suggests one for Alison in "About Last Night". It nearly makes her throw up.
  • His Name Is...: Played for laughs in “I Love Lucy” and “He Came!” as Pat and the Captain himself almost reveals his real name. However on both occasions they are interrupted before the reveal.
  • Hollywood Prehistory: Averted as Robin’s memories in “Not Again” are set in a more historically accurate version of this trope.
  • "Home Alone" Antics: Or at least that's what the ghosts think they're doing.
  • House-Hunting Montage: A brief one is shown in "Getting Out" after Alison and Mike decides to sell off Button House to a hotel chain. The major issue is that Alison can see ghosts, so the few houses we do see are mainly rejected because she would have to live with the ghosts who live there. The issue is resolved when a mass grave of plague victims is discovered under Button House, leading to the hotel chain withdrawing their offer.
  • Hypocritical Humour:
    • Lady Button calls Alison an "ill-bred hen" for shrieking, then sees her husband's portrait and shrieks.
    • Julian boasts about getting a luxurious house using parliamentary expenses note , then immediately asserts that builders are all thieves. He later becomes frustrated when he can't catch them out.
    • In the episode "Speak as ye choose" Julien tells Mary that times have changed and men "listen to women" now. He then spends the episode barely listening to Mary's story and interrupting Fanny whenever she tries to speak.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Keith, the man who accidentally killed Pat when he was a boy, opens up a bottle of beer in order to cope with being at Button House when he's coincidentally invited to a wedding being held there.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One: Inverted in "Moonah Ston". Barclay knows about Lady Button's death but he gets all the details wrong, like which side of the house she died in and what color dress she was wearing. The ghost of Lady Button constantly corrects him—up until his last point about her being a twenty-something beauty, which is something she doesn't bother to correct.
  • Ignoring by Singing: Alison tries this with the Captain. It backfires when he realizes two can play at that game.
  • Inheritance Backlash: Alison inherits a massive stately home; unfortunately it's not only haunted but needs so much work done to make it inhabitable, let alone possible for it to become a hotel, that she and Mike lose money in the process.
  • Insistent Terminology: Mary keeps referring to the ghosts leaving as "getting sucked off." Alison keeps correcting here to "moved/moving on."
  • Instant Turnoff:
    • There are two moments for Lady Fanny:
      • In "Redding Weddy," after surreptitiously reading a few passages from Lady Chatterley's Lover, she spends most of the episode aroused by Mike doing the most mundane of chores and is ready to confess to Alison her affection... until she witnesses him gobbling nachos.
      • In "I Love Lucy," the ghosts discover that Fanny has been having a secret affair with Humphrey's headless body. However, after Humphrey reattaches himself, she immediately loses any passion for Humphrey's body and breaks off their relationship. Also, Thomas immediately loses all interest in Lucy when he finds out she's reading a collection of Lord Byron's poetry.
  • Intangibility: Unsurprisingly, ghosts can pass through solid objects (except that they can stand up, sit down, or lie on the floor or the furniture). However, passing through living people and creatures is very uncomfortable/painful for them. They're also not intangible to each other. The mechanics of the ghosts' intangibility is lampshaded in a flashback to Julian's initial experience as a ghost in which he discovers he can sit down on the same chair that he can walk through or stick his hand in.
    Thomas: Yes, it doesn't make any sense, does it?
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Kitty, for Alison and Mike—seeing Kitty standing in the corner of the bedroom is an instant turnoff for Allison.
  • Invisible to Normals: The ghosts are invisible to humans by default. Alison only gains the ability to see them because she was clinically dead herself for a brief time until revived by paramedics.
  • Is It Something You Eat?: In "Redding Weddy", Pat attempts to explain to Robin that man has walked on the moon:
    Pat: Think about it, Robin. Man has always looked up at the moon, and thought...
    Robin: "Can you eat it?"
    Pat: No, "Can you walk on it?"
  • It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time: In the episode "Bumps in the Night", two burglars break into the house on a night where Alison went to a party and Mike (who cannot see or hear the ghosts) is alone. Eventually, the ghosts manage to find a way to communicate with Mike by turning on the tap and fogging up the mirror. When Mike asks how many burglars are in the house, Julian (the only ghost who has the power to physically interact with objects) initially writes "2", but then he writes "0" next. Because of this, Mike believes that there are twenty burglars in the house and decides to run away. When the other ghosts ask Julian why he did this, he explains that he wanted to write "2 of them". When the ghosts comment that he only needed to write the number "2", he replies:
    "Well, you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn't it?"
  • It's All About Me: Thomas is extremely needy and has a habit of making everything about him.
  • It's Been Done: Thomas struggles to write a poem expressing his tragic love for Alison, but when he finally recites it to her, she points out that it's actually "I Should Be So Lucky" by Kylie Minogue, which was playing on the radio while the workmen were fixing up the house earlier.
  • Jacob Marley Apparel: The ghosts are stuck wearing what they died in, complete with clothing damage inflicted by the accidents that killed them. This has led to some frustrating details for Julian and Thomas in particular, as Julian is stuck going around without any trousers after he died during an unspecified sex scandal and Thomas can't get rid of the forged letter that led to his death even after he learns the true circumstances of his demise, the letter reappearing in his pocket any time he tries to leave it behind.
  • Jumping on a Grenade: The Captain, caught up in the moment, jumps onto a bomb he buried in the garden (when he was alive) before it explodes. He admits afterwards that it was a futile gesture.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Fanny's husband got away with her murder, as everyone believed his claim that she fell out the window by accident.
    • Thomas's cousin, Francis Button, got away with stealing the woman Thomas loved (who he eventually married in order to get her inheritance) and indirectly murdering Thomas.
    • Mike's sisters face absolutely no comeuppance for their treatment of him during the Christmas special (mocking and humiliating him until he snaps and then filming the results to make a Voice Clip Song).
    • Eleanor never faced retribution for frequently abusing her sister Kitty.
  • Killed Off for Real: Mary moves on in the episode "Gone Gone", essentially dying for real.
  • Kissing Cousins: Played for Laughs. After hearing Thomas's backstory, Alison realises that she and Thomas are related. Thomas assures her that they're distantly related. note 
  • Knight's Armor Hideout: In Bump in the Night, Mike hides in a decorative suit of armour when he finds himself alone in the house with an unknown (to him) number of burglars. Then he tries to intimidate them by pretending to be a ghost. Unfortunately, he falls flat on his back and can't get up.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: A paranormal investigator claims to be able to sense ghosts due to her long experience with them — while remaining oblivious to the two sharing the same room with her.
  • Lightmare Fuel: It's a horror comedy. Some of the attempts to haunt Alison count as does Pat's death scene which, while funny, is genuinely unsettling.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: When Kitty is about to talk about her sister in “Something to Share?” the other ghosts distract her to prevent her from realising that her sister was actually horrible towards her. Once Kitty is out of the room, they explain to Alison the reason for this trope.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Subverted. A woman named Lucy appears in the episode "A Lot To Take In" claiming to be Alison's long-lost sister from a previous relation that her father had. However, it is revealed in the last episode of the season that she was only pretending so she can take Alison's money.
  • Long Speech Tea Time: The ghosts whenever Thomas launches into his poetry.
  • Loose Floorboard Hiding Spot: In "Getting Out", Alison and Mike have decided to sell Button House, and the ghosts are trying to raise money to stop them from doing so. Fanny's solution is a priceless gem that she had hidden under a floorboard in the house. Too bad that her husband had found it a long time ago and pawned it.
  • Manipulative Bastard:
    • Francis, as he managed to end his cousin Thomas and Isabelle’s relationship, tricks him into fighting a duel, lies about the pace count to make sure Thomas dies and finally offers comfort to a grieving Isabelle which leads to him getting her inheritance.
    • Eleanor, as she tries to stop her sister Kitty from going to an upcoming ball. First by cutting up her ball gown and telling her that moths ate it. Next, she deliberately gives Kitty food poisoning by feeding her warm oysters. When that doesn’t work, she makes Kitty break a bust of their mother while playing a game then blames her for the incident so their father bans Kitty from attending the ball.
    • Lucy, as she tricks Alison into thinking that they are sisters to gain her trust and access to her savings. Fortunately, the ghosts manage to expose Lucy as a fraud.
  • The Middle Ages: The opening of About Last Night takes place during an outbreak of The Black Death.
  • Money Dumb: Mike has shades of this in series 1. He takes out a big loan without consulting his wife first (which is usually a big no-no with married couples), only skimmed over the terms and conditions which leads to them being stuck in the house, and didn't correctly calculate how much money they would need in order to fix up the house, as they blow through the loan money very quickly.
  • Morning Routine: "The Grey Lady" shows how Alison's morning routine revolves around helping everyone in the house: She confirms the bathroom is ghost-free for Mike, sets a stopwatch for The Captain's daily run, turns on the record player for Thomas, fills in the crossword answers for Robin, opens the laptop so Julian can play Pong, puts in a VCR tape so Pat can watch football, then turns the page on Mary's alphabet book, Kitty and Fanny's romance novel, and Humphrey's historical biography.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Julian's "extraordinary skill" is the ability to push cups. When he's tasked with pushing a vase off the table to scare Alison, the frantic cutting between Julian's struggle, the ghosts cheering him on and the dead silence of what Alison can see make it brilliant. The fact that she fails to notice makes it even better.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: How Thomas died. As we learn in season 2, while it wasn't directly murder, his death was planned and ensured by his cousin, Francis Button, so he could marry Thomas' beloved and inherit the house.
  • Noodle Incident: Whenever Julian talks about his sexual history, a lot of it are these.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: By the end of Season 4, Mary has been 'sucked off'/moved on and Alison and Mike are having serious doubts about whether they'll ever be able to accomplish their dream of starting up a hotel (given how stressful running the Gatehouse was) and are at a loss for what to do next.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • In "About Last Night", Alison is horrified when she finally remembers that she flirted with Thomas while she was drunk the night before.
    • In "Bump in the Night", Mike is terrified when the ghosts accidentally make him believe that there are twenty burglars in the house.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: In the episode "The Thomas Thorne Affair" we see flashbacks as Thomas, Robin, Mary and Kitty all tell their slightly different versions of the story of Thomas' death, but it isn't until Humphrey's flashback that we get the revelation that Thomas' cousin betrayed him and arranged his death, a fact that not even Thomas was aware of.
  • Pantomime: The focus of the 2022 Christmas special, when the ghosts decide to put one on for Alison.
  • Percussive Maintenance: Mike gives up on trying to figure out the boiler and just whacks it with a hammer. The basement ghosts are not impressed.
  • Phoning the Phantom: During the party in "About Last Night", Alison tries to tell Kitty that Alison can't respond to anything Kitty says by talking into her phone, but Kitty doesn't realize that Alison was talking to her.
  • Pin-Pulling Teeth: In "The Thomas Thorne Affair", Kitty is narrating what happened during Thomas' duel. In the flashback, Thomas suddenly pulls a grenade and does this (as well as his single shot dueling pistol firing multiple times without reloading). The scene then cuts back to the house to the reveal that the Captain has hijacked the narration and is explaining what he would have done in that situation.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Fanny and the Captain have shades of this dynamic. They get along with each other better than they get along with the others, they have the same sense of humor and the Captain states in series 3 that he knows Fanny "better than anyone".
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The series begins with the death of Lady Heather Button. Even though it's about people who have died in the same house and become ghosts, she doesn't (in fact, so far she's the only person who's been shown to immediately Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence), but it results in the Unexpected Inheritance that's central to the show.
  • Plumber's Crack: Lady Button finds herself surrounded by these when the builders are in.
  • Ponzi Scheme: Julian suggests one as a way to get money for Alison in Getting Out.
  • Put Off Their Food: Mary comments that Alison's Rice Krispies sound like tiny people calling out for help as they drown in the milk. When Alison comes back into the room Mary remarks that, "they have stopped calling out, they are dead!" Suddenly Alison doesn't look like she wants to eat it anymore.
    Mike: Cornflakes were actually invented to stop people from touching themselves.
    Julian: [waggles his eyebrows] Never did like cornflakes.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The episode "The Thomas Thorne Affair", as Thomas, Robin, Mary, Kitty and Humphrey each tell Alison their slightly different versions of the story of Thomas' death.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: The plague victims are not in the third series, because their scenes could not be accommodated with COVID-19 protocols in place. Though as Series 3 has a more serious tone with exploration of Kitty's tragic backstory, confirmation that Alison is an orphan, and a series arc about a con artist posing as Alison's half-sister to steal her life savings, it comes across as a Shoo Out the Clowns moment.
  • Regency England:
    • The period drama being filmed at Button House in “Free Pass” is set in this era.
    • The flashbacks in "The Thomas Thorne Affair" are set in this period.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Inverted. Mary casually mentions another ghost called Annie while telling a story. When Alison asks who she is, the other ghosts are surprised that they've never mentioned her before, before explaining that Annie was "sucked off" before the series started (presumably sometime before Pat died, since he wasn't there to witness it). They also mention that there have been many other ghosts who used to haunt the house and have since moved on.
  • Repressed Memories: it's revealed in "Something to Share?" that Kitty was repressing her memories of her sister so that she remembers her as a kind person, when in fact she was shown to be cruel and manipulative.
  • Reset Button: In the first season, every attempt Alison and Mike make in trying to get money to fix up Button House — or failing that, to hand it off to someone else — is doomed to end in failure.
  • Right Behind Me: Alison's "God, I hate estate agents!" before remembering one is standing right behind her. He doesn't mind.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Series 3 focuses around Alison discovering that she has a half-sister, only for it to be revealed that the whole thing was a scam set up by the woman in order to steal Alison's savings. This was written/aired during a time when money scams in the UK were on the rise.
  • Running Gag:
    • Alison and Mike have a continuous problem with a pigeon invading Button Hall. This gets taken up to eleven in Getting Out, when the pigeon is killed by a dog and comes back as a ghost.
    • People manhandling Headless Humphrey's head without thinking, and sheepishly apologising for it.
  • The Scream: Fanny does this when she finds out that her husband pawned the jewel that could've helped Alison out of her money troubles.
  • Severed Head Sports: Happens a lot with Humphrey. Thomas drop-kicks his head in a fit of excitement, then realizes and apologises. Later Humphrey joins in with Mike and his friend’s shoe-throwing game by allowing Robin to throw his head onto the roof before realizing he can't get down. At one point, he even agrees to his head being used as a volleyball, and to letting Thomas practice soccer moves with him (though he does appear to dislike this last instance specifically).
  • Sham Supernatural: When the ghosts go on strike in “The Grey Lady”, Alison and Mike resort to faking the fact their house is haunted by mimicking Robin and Julian’s powers. They do this by flicking a basement switch and using a magnet to move a cup. The trope is almost subverted when Robin and Julian intervene with Alison and Mike’s tricks which results in a light bulb being blown and a cup flying off the table. It is finally played straight when Alison dresses up as Fanny and Robin exposes her.
  • Ship Tease: Between Mary and Robin in "About Last Night" culminating in an Almost Kiss, although we aren't shown what happens next.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Alison and Mike first arrive, Pat exclaims "it's Kim Wilde!" due to the song "Kids in America" playing on their car's radio. Robin calls Alison Kim Wilde repeatedly after this.
    • One of Fanny's criticisms of Alison is that she uses rouge. In her words, "Ladies pinch. Whores use rouge."
    • When Alison is talking to the ghosts, Mike thinks he should call someone. Alison's response? "Who you gonna call?"
    • Alison refers to Robin as "budget Tarzan". After reaching the limit of her panic and patience with the situation, as well as his habit of popping up in expected locations and shouting "Boo!" at her, she also yells "Captain Cave-Prick!" at him at one point.
    • The name of the period drama being filmed in the house: The Life of Byron.
    • When Mike is doing DIY, he does an impression of Robocop stomping around with his drill/gun.
    • The episode title "The Thomas Thorne Affair", to The Thomas Crown Affair.
    • In the episode "A Lot to Take In," Humphrey tries to get the Captain to be a better sales rep than Michael, who is new to the job. Humphrey keeps making changes to his family situation, such as calling himself "Mr. Cheese," and saying they just had a new son, whom they would be calling "Cheddar." Exasperated, the Captain storms off, saying that it is "getting quite silly," much like The Colonel on Monty Python's Flying Circus.
    • The season 3 episode 4 name shares its name with a 1950s sitcom.
    • While reporting a homeless man to the council, Mike mentions The Muppet Christmas Carol. Alison states that there are non-muppet versions of the story. Mike replies that it’s not as good as the Muppet version.
    • The name Maddocks (the ghost who lives next door to Button House) sounds very similar to the protagonist of Yonderland Debbie Maddox.
  • Skeptic No Longer: In episode two, after (understandably) treating Alison's I See Dead People powers as mere side-effect hallucinations resulting from her massive head trauma, both Alison and Mike very quickly accept the presence of ghosts once given a concrete reason to do so:
    • Alison's occurs after her hospital visit when the first doctor who attends to her turns out to be a ghost as well, as she realizes that she can see different dead people in different places rather than always seeing the same people, as would be the case if it was just a product of her mind.
    • Mike's occurs after first seeing a spectral presence (Julian) type out a search on his laptop, followed by Alison talking to the plague villagers in the basement to get their help in fixing the boiler.
  • Smash Cut:
    • In the first episode. The ghosts learn that Alison and Mike plan to turn the house into a hotel, thereby overrunning the place with strangers.
    Robin: What is hotel?
    Pat: Well, Robin, a hotel is-
    [smash cut]
    Robin: Kill them.
    • In “The Woodworm Men”, when Thomas said that he was left uninspired after his trip to Venice, Alison asks him whether he got something out of it. Then it smash cuts to a flashback of Thomas having diarrhoea during the trip.
  • Spooky Photographs: In "The Grey Lady," when Alison is having professional photos of Button House taken, Fanny sticks her head out through the window and demands that she move the photographer off of the grass. The photographer captured her in one of these spooky photographs and posts it online, which drives the plot of the episode with several ghost hunters converging on Button House to look for the Grey Lady.
  • Spoonerism: Mike has trouble getting the house (and saying) "Redding Weddy" in the titular episode. This particular spoonerism pops up again in Part of the Family when Mike is recording an advertisement for Button House and he keeps flubbing his lines.
  • Spotting the Thread: The Captain points out that a photograph could not have been taken in Cornwall because it has a World War 2 fortification in the background that he knows is in a different location. The ghosts take a closer look at the photograph and discover more problems with it. This proves that Lucy is lying about being Alison's half-sister.
  • Status Quo Is God: No matter what Alison & Mike do to make money and leave the mansion, they ultimately end up failing (usually because of the ghosts' shenanigans) and having to stay in the house.
  • Supernatural-Proof Father: Happily averted; even though Mike can't see or hear the ghosts, he very soon comes to believe Alison and takes it mostly in stride. It does help that he saw a invisible hand using the laptop to look up "Vicky Pedia".
  • The Talk: Various characters try and all fail to finish explaining how babies are made to Kitty. Keep in mind that Kitty was an adult woman when she died.
  • Technologically Blind Elders:
    • Although the house has been occupied up until the early twenty-first century, the last owner was a long-lived recluse with no time for technology, so most of the ghosts have never seen television or the internet until Alison and Mike show up.
    • Similarly, the ghosts' grasp of the technology of their own time is limited. When someone mentions that pictures can be faked using Photoshop, Pat says by taking a picture to a photoshop, they can manipulate the negative to fake a picture. Julian informs him that Photoshop is software that can do that in a computer.
  • Ten Paces and Turn: In "The Thomas Thorne Affair" Thomas is shot in the back because his cousin Francis had lied about the pace count so that his opponent could easily shoot him.
  • Together in Death:
    • Something Thomas is hoping for. Alison being alive is an obstacle but if she committed suicide, they could be together. Alison is not impressed.
    • Pat suggests this in "Happy Death Day" by asking Alison to murder his widow, but soon realizes what an immoral idea it is.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Alison inherits Button House from a relative she never knew existed. The closest way people can find to describe the extremely tenuous relation is 'step great-aunt/great-niece'.
  • Visual Pun: Julian is an MP who died in a sex scandal; as he no longer wears pants, he's literally "caught with his trousers down" for all eternity.
  • Wham Line:
    • "You should be wearing a hard hat." Towards the end of the first episode, as reconstruction work begins Julian wanders up behind Alison to watch in curiosity. Alison turns and says this to him, unaware that he is a ghost and revealing that she can now see the dead.
    • A hell of one in "Gorilla War", after Alison gets overwhelmed by all the ghosts, goes to a hospital... and receives a rather unexpected diagnosis. The attending doctor states that her Near-Death Experience has left her with the ability to see the dead, and when Alison reacts in astonishment asks if she can see him. When she reacts with the obvious, he drops the bombshell: "Exactly. I'm dead."
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: The plot of "About Last Night" is basically this, in which a hungover Alison and Mike try to figure out what happened during the party the night before while they attempt to clean the house before the wedding planner gets there.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: They avoid mentioning Google by name by having Julian mispronounce it as "Goggle" whilst whatever search engine actually appears on Mike's laptop screen is clearly not Google. On the other hand, YouTube does get namedropped.
  • Yet Another Christmas Carol: Played with in the 2020 Christmas special. At first, Julian dislikes Christmas but when Mike’s niece stays in his room for the holiday, he is forced to remember the fact that in life, he choose to spend Christmas away from his family and regrets it. In the end, he learns that family is more important than anything else and to enjoy the holiday.
  • You Can See Me?: Stray ghosts that Alison runs into are often surprised to be seen, with two in particular eagerly greeting her.



Alison meets the ghosts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / ISeeDeadPeople

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