Rentaghost (CBBC, 1976-1984)
This is another CBBC show that I wasn’t old enough to see first time round, but here’s what it’s about, and how I did eventually see it, a long time after it was originally shown. Rentaghost was a sitcom that was created and written by Bob Block which had a rather bizarre idea. In the early series, Rentaghost was an agency where people would be able to hire various ghosts.
These included Hubert Davenport and Fred Mumford, along with the jester Timothy Claypole. After a while, Davenport and Mumford departed, and the format began to change somewhat, with many more characters joining including Hazel The McWitch, and Nadia Popov. As they were all ghosts, they were able to do some rather unusual things, including being able to magically appear and disappear.
Throw in a pantomime horse for no particular reason as well, and you’ve really got chaos. There were also some blue-screen visual effects which probably looked impressive at the time (emphasis on “probably”). Rentaghost was one of those shows that returned for many series on CBBC, and there were nine altogether (including a Christmas special called Rentasanta).
All of the 58 episodes were written by Block, and they seemed to get increasingly ridiculous (although it was fairly ridiculous to start with of course), it seems that some viewers felt that the show ran for maybe one or two series too many, but there were definitely lots of amusing moments, and the show was repeated on CBBC until 1986. There were also some books released featuring the characters in even more stories, along with an annual too.
Then, about five years after the last repeat run, some episodes were shown as part of the CBBC Saturday Morning show The 8:15 From Manchester. But the place that I remember seeing Rentaghost regularly for the first time was as part of the editions in the first series or two of the award-winning chaos that was Dick And Dom In Da Bungalow (although they spent so much time laughing I’m surprised they managed to fit anything else in).
I’m not really sure why it taken out of the archive to be shown again, some episodes were getting on for 25 years old even at that point, and it did seem somewhat out of place compared to the contemporary cartoons that were also shown, but it did give a new generation of viewers a chance to see it who must’ve been won over (or totally baffled). The DVD release was in its early stages before stopping abruptly, meaning that several series are still unavailable unfortunately.