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  Nobody's House Ghost Of A Chance
Year: 1976
Director: Michael Ferguson, David Green
Stars: Kevin Moreton, Stuart Wilde, Mandy Woodward, William Gaunt, Wendy Gifford, Brian Blessed, Brian Wilde, John Sanderson, Mollie Maureen, Artro Morris, Michael Elwin, Joe Gladwin, Annabelle Lanyon
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Sinclair family are seeking somewhere to live and for the father Peter (William Gaunt) to set up his new antiques shop, and finally with this rather rundown house he believes he has found the right location. His wife Jane (Wendy Gifford) is more sceptical, but then something odd happens that convinces her they can buy the property at a bargain price when the estate agent blurts out that it is supposed to be haunted, which is why nobody wishes to live there. Neither she nor Peter are followers of the supernatural and think this is all bunkum, so set about their purchase, though there remain a few inexplicable occurrences after they move in and start to decorate. This is because the estate agent was right: there is a presence here, the ghost of a young boy (Kevin Moreton).

During the nineteen-seventies, interest in the paranormal reached an all-time high as the rather desperate circumstances a cash-strapped and turmoil-ridden world was finding itself landed in after the promise of the sixties led people to turn to otherworldly experiences to divert themselves from the troubles of reality, or perhaps allow them to cope with them better. Nowhere was this more evident than in British children's television, as a host of serials appeared that presented science fiction and fantasy for kids, and Nobody's House showed up at the height of that trend, Nobody being the unimaginative name the kids (and writers Martin Hall and Derrick Sherwin) give the ghost once he reveals his situation to them in the first episode. Those kids, the requisite brother (Tom, played by Stuart Wilde) and sister (Gilly, played by Mandy Woodward), represented identification figures for the young audience.

On the other side - the BBC, not the afterlife - they were enjoying a big hit with comedy spook series Rentaghost, and this was regarded as a rival to it, though The Ghosts of Motley Hall would probably be more accurate a comparison for its opposition. Nobody's House had humour in it, but just as often it would be sincere as after all it did have as its central character a dead child, and the writers certainly took that more seriously than something like the Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon. There was also the educational aspect as the viewers could learn about the times Nobody hailed from, specifically the ordeal of the workhouse where he spent most of his short life before dying of plague. He was given quirks like tugging on his scarf to disappear and reappear, but mostly he was played pretty straight.

As straightforward as a ghost in a seventies kids show could be played, at any rate, for Nobody would still get up to all sorts of mischief if he felt he wasn't getting enough attention or indeed wasn't getting his way. Other ghosts would be introduced in some episodes, some intended to be more frightening than others, such as Brian Blessed hamming it up for all he was worth as a Victorian thief, visibly alarming the two living children especially when he tries to make off with one of their father's priceless antiques. On the other hand, when a pair of flesh and blood burglars attempt to help themselves to the trinkets and objet d'art then it was presented more for laughs when Nobody intervenes and puts paid to their crimes, still not particularly hilarious but you could argue Rentaghost was very broad in its humour as well.

Although not intended to be as scary to children as a more serious minded supernatural drama, it wasn't exactly Sapphire and Steel, it was aimed at an older viewing audience than the type who would watch the lunchtime programmes on ITV, pre-school and home in the break young schoolkids, which was why if this was recalled at all it would be by those who were likely too young to understand the humour in the situations. This meant, as with many mentions of ghosts to the very innocent, there were viewers genuinely terrified by what looks fairly innocuous to us now, with the final episode (of seven twenty-five minute efforts) the one most obviously affecting as Nobody was threatened with exorcism, only he fools the ghost catcher (Brian Wilde) into getting rid of a truly menacing spirit. It may not look like much with its make-do special effects, yet remember The Exorcist was a film none of the target audience would have seen, but they would have heard about it and known it meant terror. Otherwise, it was sympathetic to Nobody (his girlfriend leaves him when she cheers up!), and may be a footnote in this style of programme as there was no second series, but had a mild charm now the years have passed, indicated by such quirks as Gaunt's pet dog receiving a credit.

[Network's DVD has no extras, which is a pity as it would have been nice to hear from someone involved, but it does preserve the series for the nostalgists.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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