Ghostwriter (BBC2, 1992-1995)
This is another show that was part of the BBC Schools strand in the 90s, and as far as I’m aware it might be unique as it was actually an import (although it was an American co-production with the BBC). Now although I do remember finding this fascinating when I was younger, the only schools show that I can remember watching actually at school in the TV room when it was being shown on BBC2 was Look And Read.
As for this one though, Ghostwriter was a show set in Brooklyn where a group of about five or six children would work together to solve mysteries with their literacy skills. They would be helped out with this somewhat by a ghostwriter. Now this was in the literal sense, it really was a ghost that could rearrange words and respond to their questions to help give them clues.
It was never really revealed who the actual ghost was, and why they would put up with this. Never mind about how their restless soul from the past got trapped in a computer in the 90s, we’ll think about that some other time. Now you’ve got to remember that this was in the days before they could Google everything and find what they wanted within ten seconds, so they had to write things down and even visit libraries to learn more, how could they deal with it.
Every story would usually play out over four or five episodes. “Who Burned Mr Brinker’s Store?” was a particularly tense one. My favourite moment of the show would be when the children sat at a computer and typed questions in, that Ghostwriter would magically respond to. I don’t know what I thought was more impressive here, the magic of this, or more probably that they had a computer of their own in their bedroom at that age, because I certainly didn’t.
So not only do they get helped out, but as the stories progress viewers can learn how to make notes along with how to use various words, it’s of great use to everyone. Among the regular characters were Jamal, who was played by Sheldon Turnipseed (of course Sheldon Turnipseed!), Alex, Gaby, and Lenni. Watching the show back now reminds me of those distant days of notebooks, pens, and bookshops.
There were 74 episodes of Ghostwriter in three series that consisted of 18 different stories. Although it ended in 1995, it was repeated rather regularly on BBC2 until as late as 2000. There have since been a few revivals. Several episodes were released on VHS and DVD in more recent years, although people might’ve wanted to buy these for the nostalgic value more than the educational one. The show also won some awards for the entertaining way it taught viewers, it definitely wasn’t for the acting.