Rentaghost was a British children's television comedy show, broadcast by the BBC between 6 January 1976 and 6 November 1984. The show's plot centred on the antics of a number of ghosts who worked for a firm called Rentaghost, which rented out the ghosts for various tasks.
Rentaghost (the firm), located in South Ealing, is run by Fred Mumford, a recently deceased loser who feels he can find work for ghosts whose lives were as failed as his. His first (and only) recruits are Timothy Claypole, a mischievous jester with a comical lack of knowledge about modern technology; and Hubert Davenport, a delicate Victorian-era gentleman who is morally shocked by the modern world. The ghosts work from an office, which they rent from Harold Meaker, who discovers the truth about them in the third episode.
Over the course of several series, other characters were added: Hazel the McWitch, a Scottish witch; Nadia Popov, a Dutch ghost who suffers from hayfever and teleports away when she sneezes; Catstrophe Kate, a Wild West cowgirl ghost; and the pantomime horse Dobbin, who first appears in a one-off Christmas special called "Rentasanta" and is brought to life by Claypole, who is unable to cancel the spell afterwards thus allowing Dobbin to remain in the show for the rest of the run.
Adam Painting, a local entrepreneur, frequently appears in episodes and tries, with limited success, to involve the ghosts in his latest business enterprise.
When actor Michael Darbyshire (who played the role of Davenport) died in 1979, Anthony Jackson (Mumford) declined to appear in the next series, leaving Michael Staniforth's Claypole the sole original ghost; Davenport and Mumford's absences were explained at the start of the series by them having acquired permanent haunting jobs at a stately home. After Mumford's departure, the business was taken over by a living couple, Harold Meaker and his wife Ethel (previously the owners of its offices), who suffered from the various problems the ghosts brought to their lives.
The long-suffering neighbours of Rentaghost are the Perkins, who think the Meakers are mad.
Rentaghost contains examples of:
- Acting Unnatural: At one point Mumford tells Claypole to act like an 'innocent bystander'. You can probably guess how well this turns out.
- Catch Phrase:
- "What a funny horse! I wonder who it belongs to." Said by the Meakers to each other, with feigned ingenuousness, whenever they encounter the Pantomime Horse in public.
- "DON'T GO INTO THE CELLAR!" Desperate call, made shortly before someone encounters the fire-breathing dragon that heats their boiler.
- Character Outlives Actor: Michael Darbyshire, who played Hubert Davenport, died between seasons. Davenport (and Mumford, whose actor did not want to continue in the show without Darbyshire) were written out by having them score permanent jobs haunting a stately home. (Obviously, in this case, the character was already dead, but still outlived the actor in the sense of not "moving on".)
- Christmas Episode: "Rentasanta"
- Consulting Mister Puppet: Timothy Claypole often consulted his marotte (the stick with a jester's head carved into it) "Tiny Timothy". Given that this is a show with a living pantomime horse, it is extremely unclear how independent Tiny Timothy really is.
- Cranky Landlord: Harold Meaker was this, before being forced to take over the firm.
- "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune: Written and performed by Micahel Staniforth.
- Fish out of Temporal Water: Timothy Claypole, a medieval jester, had problems dealing with modern technology while Hubert Davenport, a Victorian gentleman, had trouble adjusting to modern morals.
- Flying Broomstick: In Catastrophe Kate's first appearance, she and Mumford are transported back from the Spirit World on a flying broomstick; having turned down the offer of a flying vacuum cleaner.
- The Future Is Shocking: Hubert was forever being shocked by the morals and the clothing of late 20th century.
- Happy Harlequin Hat: Timothy Claypole typically wears one.
- Hellevator: Ghosts arrive on Earth from the after life in the invisible "astral lift".
- Inevitable Waterfall: Mr. and Mrs. Meeker narrowly avoid going over Niagara Falls. In England.
- Jacob Marley Apparel: Although it is not explicitly stated, the ghosts appear to be wearing what they wore when they died; so Fred Mumford is in mid 70s casual wear, Hubert Davenport is in late Victorian finery, and Timothy Claypole is in medieval jester's motley.
- Laugh Track: In-universe (well, applause track, strictly speaking). Fifties starlet Suzie Starlight has a round of applause in her handbag, which she lets out whenever she's pleased with herself.
- Literal Genie: The Perkins are given a magical amulet that grants all their wishes. They do not realise this, however, and persist in expressing odd wishes, which the amulet then proceeds to grant, usually in a fairly literal manner.
- Malfunction Malady: Nadia Popov would teleport whenever she sneezed. And she suffered from allergies...
- Never Found the Body: Mumford brings this up when explaining how he will be able to ask for financial assistance from his parents. As his body was never recovered, no one knows he has died.
- Our Centaurs Are Different: On a few occasions Dobbin would be transformed into a centaur by magic, and acquire the personality of a Greek philosopher in the process. On at least one occasion, he became a two-headed centaur.
- Pantomime Animal: Dobbin
- Put on a Bus: Davenport and Mumford acquire permanent jobs haunting a stately home.
- Random Transportation:
- Nadia Popov would randomly teleport whenever she sneezed, and suffered from allergies.
- In the novels, her powers (like those of many other ghosts) were actually activated by touching her own nose - but every time she sneezed she covered her nose and ended up triggering her power.
- Sneeze of Doom: Nadia Popov. See Random Transportation above.
- Supernaturally Young Parent: Ghosts manifest as the age they were when they died. So Hubert Davenport's mother, who died in her twenties, looks much younger than her son, who died when he was much older (his late fifties or early sixties).
- We Do Not Know Each Other: The Meakers' Catch Phrase is, whenever the Pantomime Horse starts causing havoc, to look around and say, very unconvincingly, "What a funny horse! I wonder who he belongs to?"
- "Which Restroom" Dilemma: Claypole had reason to be loitering around the change rooms at a swimming pool. One of the attendants started looking at him strangely. He looked at the two signs and, being unsure of what to do and having been told to act like an 'innocent bystander', used his magical powers to create a third sign reading 'Innocent Bystanders' and headed off in that direction.