TV Home Forum

Ghostwatch: 25 Years On

Article in the New Statesman (October 2017)

This site closed in March 2021 and is now a read-only archive
IT
IndigoTucker
I Remember ‘The Day Britain Stopped’ was the sequel to ‘Smallpox 2002’.. which had a similar theme of looking back at a future fictional disaster. There was another similar show but the name escapes me. They played very close to a real documentary, following the same style as early millennial BBC docus.

Ghostwatch, I believe, made it’s way onto banned list of shows at the BBC given the furore. It is a stunning piece of work, playing with the viewers familiarity with the presenters, the idiom of the outside broadcast, and of TV Centre. Sarah Greene is stunning in it I think, holding the fragments together, even when the real actors go OTT at times.
The technical ability to edit VT invisibly also played a big part - making you think a Handheld VT drama was a live OB, quick cuts and all. This is similar to ‘Special Report’, the 80s American drama playing out a nuclear detonation as a live news broadcast, again on VT.
JK
JKDerry
I remember Ghostwatch very well. I was 7 years old. Sitting in our living room with my mum and dad, I remember my dad reading the Radio Times and said "this looks interesting, a ghost hunt, lets watch it" and so he switched over just as Michael Parkinson, standing in front of the fake fireplace, saying this was a "live investigation into the paranormal" - we missed the opening titles.

We did think it was real until around half hour into it, when my mum noticed a "exorcist" specialist who was walking and talking with Craig Charles in the street from an advert, and then we realised this was a drama.

Stll scared the **** out of me, a 7 year old. Many of my class saw it too that night. It was just a shame my dad did not put a tape into our VCR and taped it, as we spent the following 20 years having it in our memory and not able to watch it.
AN
all new Phil
My memory of it is pretty similar to yours. I don’t remember much of the show itself, but I remember talking about it with other kids at school and none of us knew if it was real or not. It’s something that has stuck in my mind either way (and I’ll be honest, not much else from tv back then has done).
SP
Steve in Pudsey
Sarah Greene is stunning in it I think, holding the fragments together, even when the real actors go OTT at times.


With a degree in drama and having started her career as an actor before getting the Blue Peter job, Sarah may not take that "real actors" line as the compliment you intended!
MA
Markymark
I was 28 when it was shown. I'm afraid I don't subscribe to this group's majority view that it was some sort
of televisual masterpiece. I found it laughingly bad. Just saying...
IS
Inspector Sands
Remember coming in half way through it at the time but only half watching it so not sure I took much notice of it.

Had a quick watch and skip through the other day and, although it's quite clever in parts* it's the acting by the presenters and the expert in the studio that put me off, can't believe people couldn't work out it was scripted just by Parky's stiltedness.


*they mimicked a chaotic live TV show well, for example at one point doing that thing where Parky hands over to Mike Smith who starts talking but the vision stays on Parkinson for a while. It's those little touches that make it feel real, and faking technical issues can be done really badly
Last edited by Inspector Sands on 25 October 2017 7:52am
BC
Blake Connolly Founding member
My main memory of it is one I've found in the years since was shared with many others - spotting Pipes in the curtains and telling my mum and dad who didn't notice (and of course there was no rewinding live TV back then), and then feeling vindicated when the "viewer" called in about it before feeling incredibly creeped out as they played it back to show there was nothing there. That moment still gives me shivers.

Wish I could remember at which moment we knew it was a drama, I do remember not being troubled by the time it got to the ending but definitely thinking it was real for at least the first half. Using the familiar 081 811 8181 was a great way to sell that and the casting of the presenters was spot on.
IS
Inspector Sands
My main memory of it is one I've found in the years since was shared with many others - spotting Pipes in the curtains and telling my mum and dad who didn't notice (and of course there was no rewinding live TV back then), and then feeling vindicated when the "viewer" called in about it before feeling incredibly creeped out as they played it back to show there was nothing there. That moment still gives me shivers.

When I had a look at it the other day I rewound that bit and still couldn't see the ghost!
JK
JKDerry
081 811 8181 was used by Going Live and later Live and Kicking. We tried the number and it was always engaged. The moment the studio lights exploded and the wind in the studio "ever heard of a wind in a television studio" I think was Parkinson's quote, was just fantastic, great drama. Mike Smith begging the producer to "get the link back", so he knew Sarah was safe.
JK
JKDerry
For those who want to re-visit the last half hour of the show - https://vimeo.com/62986702
TI
TIGHazard
Hang on, has the answer to the repeat question just been sat here the entire time?

Ghostwatch is 'banned' by the BBC. Yet they had no trouble selling the show on DVD or the BBC store. Nor to overseas broadcasters.

Mike Smith requests that none of his TOTP's are repeated, and BBC Four complies. Now, could that 'No repeat clause' include Ghostwatch, and the 'we're embarrassed by what it caused afterwards' just be an excuse?
JA
james-2001
I can't see how it would be controversial to repeat it now anyway, no way could anyone realistically mistake it for being live or real now even if they were unaware of its history. It's in 4:3, the technology and fashions date it, as does Parky, Sarah Greene & Craig Charles's age, and Mike Smith's alive-ness.

Newer posts