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Series / Ghostwriter (2019)

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A reboot of the quirky kids mystery series that ran on PBS from 1992 to 1995, the 2019 series is set in the present with a new set of characters.

Ruben and his mom, Amy, have moved to New York to help his grandfather Ernesto run the family bookstore after the death of his grandmother. Neighbor and middle school classmate Chevon is a frequent visitor to the bookstore and, to Ruben’s initial annoyance, was closer to Ernesto and his wife than they were to Ruben.

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Ruben struggles with adjusting to his new school and eats alone in the hallway, much to the chagrin of Principal Fong. He unintentionally meets Curtis, a popular athlete, when he injures him with soup he spilled while eating lunch in the hallway. Curtis and his sister, Donna, visited the bookstore together when they were younger, but their visits stopped as they grew older and their interests diverged.

The unlikely team is brought together after mysterious messages only the four can see appear in puddles of juice and on chalkboards.

The series premiered on Apple TV+ on November 1, 2019. A second season made its debut on October 9, 2020.


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This show provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Superpower Change: The original Ghostwriter was restricted to manipulating the letters he could already access, be it from books, signs or even fridge magnets. He only had full access on computer screens. This new Ghostwriter can create any letters she wants, so long as there is a writing surface available. The new Ghostwriter can also manipulate objects in order to get the group to do certain things, while the old Ghostwriter was powerless outside of the ability to write.
  • The B Grade: One of her classmates says that partnering with Chevon was like a guaranteed B. She retorts that she doesn't get B's.
  • Black and Nerdy: Chevon read psychology books and would do geometry proofs at lunch, even before Ghostwriter appeared.
  • Cool Old Guy: Ernesto, Ruben's grandfather.
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  • Creator Cameo: During "Ghost Cab", the actual author of the poem "Ode to a Taxi Driver" appears As Himself.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Bagheera is one of Mowgli's strongest allies, although a black panther.
    • Although Hitch dresses all in black, he is the hero of his story.
  • Everytown, America: The kids seem to avoid naming the city they're actually in, despite it having strong New York City vibes. We do know it's a city big enough for a subway system, however.
  • Friendless Background: Although Chevon offered a seat with her friends in the cafeteria, Ruben chooses to eat his lunch alone in the hallway of his new school.
  • Gender Flip:
    • Possibly with Ghostwriter. While the original was assumed by the kids and confirmed by Word of God to be male, this one is speculated to be Ruben's grandmother. The end of Franken-ghost subverts this, as they later believe Ghostwriter to be Mason Briggs, the pen name of an old mystery writer.
    • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are from a gender-flipped version written in-universe.
    • The greedy emperor from the Chinese folktale "Mali and the Magic Paintbrush" is reimagined as a materialistic teenage girl in the Setting Update. Though she doesn't appear, the main character, Malia, is also a gender-flipped version of her folktale counterpart.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each storyline has the word "Ghost" in a title that otherwise describes the story they come from.
  • Invisible to Normals: Our four main protagonists are the only ones who can see and hear the literary characters. Later, some things related to Ghostwriter's hauntings can be seen, but usually when they were created in the real world instead of a book's world. Also, while the ghosts themselves cannot be seen, if they interact with the environment, their movement can be observed.
  • Lighter and Softer: The original series was about solving mysteries and could get pretty intense despite the network censorship it was under, while this one is mostly an encouragement for kids to read, as literary characters escape into the real world and the gang have to learn about their stories to get them back.
  • Light Is Not Good: Although he dresses in light colours, the Camarillo Kid is a thief and actively tries to get Curtis in trouble.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Despite what the cast assumes in "The Ghostly Paintbrush", Ghostwriter's power doesn't work on paintings. What he actually did was summon a magical paintbrush from a Setting Update of a Chinese folktale.
  • Mythology Gag: Donna wore a pen on a string around her neck during the "Franken-ghost" arc, so she could keep notes in her notebook. The kids in the original show also carried around pens like that so they could talk to Ghostwriter anywhere.
  • New Transfer Student: Ruben is attending a new school, having recently moved to The City after his grandmother passed away.
  • Public Domain Character: So far we've had characters from Alicein Wonderland, The Jungle Book,, and Frankenstein. Genderflipped versions of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson have also appeared.
  • "Reading Is Cool" Aesop: The general message of the series, as each episode arc features literary characters who have escaped into the real world, but are only visible to the foursome.
  • Shout-Out: Naturally, all the works of fiction featured in each storyline are their own shout outs, but Ruben is introduced by reading Naruto.
  • Spiritual Successor: Recalls the original Ghostwriter in some ways, but also has elements reminiscent of Between the Lions and Super Why!.
  • Truer to the Text: Much like many modern versions of the character, Frankenstein's Monster is quite articulate, with only informed hideousness. Also, despite being initially persuaded to create a second monster to befriend the first, Dr. Frankenstein loses his nerve at the last second and refuses to follow through. The kids end up finishing the job.
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