The US is famous or infamous depending on who you ask for the many adaptations of the BBC original series. The most recent is the reinterpretation of the 2019 BBC series by CBS. Ghosts. Now that CBS’s new show has a couple of episodes, we have a lot of material to compare and contrast the two versions.
At its core, the CBS Ghosts didn’t deviate too far from the story beats of the original. In the pilot, we meet a young couple who happen to inherit the vast estate of a distant relative. The kicker, the mansion is full of ghouls from every country’s history.
Rose McIver as Samantha – Charlotte Ritchie as Alison
The CBS series finds its protagonist in Samantha, played by Rose McIver (The beautiful bones, iZombie), a happy relative who inherits her great-aunt’s mansion in New York. Samantha has spent the past few years in New York City and is looking for a way out. Similar to her BBC counterpart named Alison, played by Charlotte Ritchie (Call the midwife, Doctor Who), Samantha suffers a traumatic head injury at the pilot. This incident enables her to see and communicate with the spirits that inhabit her new estate.
Aside from their names, these characters are quite similar. Both are very excited about their potential new home and encourage their husbands to be open to the idea. Plus, both of them find the ghosts quite terrifying at first, as any sane person would. However, both characters eventually act as literal medium, making home a special place for their living family and new dead friends.
Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jay – Kiell Smith-Bynoe as Mike
Samantha’s husband named Jay is named after the familiar face Utkarsh Ambudkar (Free guy, Mulan). Ambudkar brings a lot more concern to the character than its British counterpart Mike, played by Kiell Smith-Bynoe (Seth lets flats). Jay loves living in New York City and hates the thought of going away. Jay’s idea for a big move would be to find an apartment below 14th Street.
One notable difference between the main character’s relationships in the two shows is the conflict they experience before they acknowledge the presence of the ghosts. Alison and Mike are both thrilled with the surprise inheritance, while Jay believes the best way is to sell the property. Only after Samantha’s accident does Jay feel like renovating the villa.
Richie Moriarty as Pete – Jim Howick as Pat
The first ghosts to compare is Pete from CBS, portrayed by Richie Moriarty (Search party what we’re doing in the shadows) and the BBC pat played by Jim Howick (Sex education, Hellboy). Both play scout esq leaders who came to an untimely end during an archery lesson in their respective countries.
These characters act as the antithesis of the popular notion of a creepy ghost. Both bring a friendly relationship to the dynamics of the ghosts and act as gracious and gentle storytellers who just want everyone to get along. The only thing that Pete lacks compared to Pat is the prettiest miner’s mustache imaginable.
Brandon Scott Jones as Isaac – Bill Willbond as captain
In the characters of Isaac and Captain, the differences between the Americans and the British become really clear. Issac, portrayed by the always hysterical Brandon Scott Jones (The good place can you ever forgive me), was a commander during the American Revolution. The captain portrayed by the stoic Ben Willbond (Briget Jones’ baby, the thicket of it), is an unnamed British military leader from World War II.
The comedy of these characters is various comedic branches of the control freak. While Captain is a no-nonsense history buff, Issac borrows from Jones’ flamboyant comedic style. Jones, a proud member of the LGBTQ + community and advocate, gives the character a great sense of representation and often points out Issac’s hidden sexual orientation. Willbond is a writer on the show, along with several other castmates, which results in an effective and consistent tone throughout the episodes.
Dannielle Pinnock as Alberta – Lolly Adefope as Kitty
The characters of Kitty, played by Lolly Adefope (Shrill, miracle worker) and Alberta (Young Sheldon) have a lot in common. Kitty is a Georgian era celebrity, and Alberta is a lovable jazz singer from the 1920s. Both are wonderful additions to the ensemble, whose comedy is rooted in music and slapstick. These characters and the performances of their actors are badly needed to create the working ensembles that both shows have.
The biggest difference between the characters is the amount of time they lived. Since Alberta dates from the 1920s, it gives her comedy a lively and progressive tone. On the other hand, Kitty comes from a far more conservative time and is again naive about certain ideals and perspectives. Kitty’s comedy often arises from being out of the circle, or almost childlike amazement, when introduced to various aspects of modern life.
Asher Grodman as Trevor – Simon Farnaby as Julian
No quirky ensemble comedy is complete without a pretentious, selfish man with a power trip to make fun of. This role is played by actor Asher Grodman (Chicago Med) play Trevor and Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2, Rouge One) Play Julian. Like Ben Willbond, Farnaby is also the author of the BCC series. Grodman’s Trevor is your classic American frat boy who tragically got off the diagnosis of partying too hard in the late ’90s. Julian, on the other hand, was a British government MP who died at the end of a career amid a sex scandal. Both have massive, planet-sized egos and no pants.
These two characters are central to the plot of the show. In the pilot episodes of each series, we learn that these two characters are the only ones who can physically touch objects in the real world. Though it takes a lot of time and effort, the forward momentum of both shows would come to a screeching halt without their character’s abilities.
Devan Long as Thorfinn – Laurence Rickard as Robin the Caveman
Devan Long (Bosch, Doom Patrol) as the decent Viking named Thorfinn and author / actor Laurence Rickard as Robin the Caveman take on the role of the lovable beasts. These characters provide largely the same function for their respective shows. They are the two ghosts who have been dead the longest and who have more opinions than their stature suggests.
The best parts of these characters are their one-liners and catchphrases. Both actors do an incredible job in terms of the physicality of their characters and take advantage of them when they play against and against the expectations of the audience.
Rebecca Wisocky as Hetty – Martha Howe-Douglas as Lady Fanny Button
Since the property fell into the laps of Samantha and Alison through the deaths of a distant relative, it is necessary to have a representation of their family tree in the haunted mansion (no, not this one). This is Hetty, played by Rebecca Wisocky (AHS, for all of humanity) and Lady Fanny Button, played by Martha Howe-Douglas (Doctor Foster), Come in.
These two characters are pretty much copies of each other. They are each the respective matriarchs of their groups and often look down on the couples and other ghosts for their inconspicuous behavior.
Hudson Thames as Crash – Laurence Rickard as Headless Humphrey
Finally we come to Hudson Thames (What if…) and Laurence Rickard (Peter Rabbit) play Crash and Headless Humphrey. Both characters can only be seen in the first few episodes as their character is rather limited. Both play the role of the headless horseman archetype for the spirits. While Crash is a greaser whose head was severed in a knife fight, the headless Humphrey lost his most important link to the hangman. Unfortunately, these great actors are underutilized as their rollheads are used as a shock gag to the living characters.
Additions and omissions
While both shows have an eight ghost cast, there are two ghosts in the BBC production who bear little to no resemblance to two ghosts in the CBS production. Most of the changes are simply due to historical differences between countries. In the original production are the characters Mary and Thomas Thorne, played by Katy Wix (The Windsors) and Mathew Baynton (invoice) are products of British history. Mary was a Stuart-era maid who was burned at the stake after being accused of involvement in witchcraft. Thomas is based on the real playwright and performer who has since been forgotten in history.
While American production could certainly have found parallel characters from the Salem Witch Trials or a Nathanial Hawthorn guy, they decided to take the show in a more inclusive route. The characters they have chosen are Sassapis, an Indian played by RomÃ¡n Zaragoza (Austin and Ally), and a 1960s hippie named Flower, played by Shelia Carrasco (The good place). These characters encompass the complex history of the United States and allow the CBS production to go elsewhere than the original.
Ghosts airs on CBS on Thursdays.
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