Title: Ghostwatch (1992)
Summary: The BBC investigates the “most haunted house in Britain”, with Michael Parkinson in the studio with parapsychologist, Dr Lin Pascoe and Mike Smith, and Sarah Greene and Craig Charles on location at Foxhill Drive at the haunted house itself.
Ok, so if you’ve read my recap of The Worst Witch, you will know that the UK hasn’t got a clue about Halloween, especially in the 80s/90s. And my recap probably led you to believe that The Worst Witch was our only stab at trying to do something about it.
That’s not exactly the case. The UK tried once more, with this mockumentary, and it ended, tragically, in literal death. After that, this was scrubbed from the BBC’s history, the Radio Times was told to never mention it again, and nobody had a copy of this movie for the longest time.
If you think we were all daft for getting sucked in, maybe you’re right, but it wasn’t very clear that it was fiction. There was an announcement before it aired, and the opening titles do give a writer’s credit, but if you tuned in a few minutes late, which you probably did because you were watching The Worst Witch on ITV, you missed it. [bat: So, basically, this is the UK’s version of the Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.] [JC: That was my first thought as well, although reports of people thinking that broadcast was real have been grossly exaggerated over the years.] [Dove: That and the Enfield Poltergeist were inspiration for it.]
Add to that it was hosted by Michael Parkinson. Parky, for god’s sake! The man’s an institution. You’d trust him with your soul, your life savings, and your internet history. I’m aware that this may be a hard sell to a country that may dimly recognise him as “that chat show host that got a lap dance from Bill Nighy in Love Actually”, but he really is trustworthy.
Then you’ve got Sarah Greene, a staple of the Saturday morning shows – Going Live!, at the time I believe – that every kid in the UK watched religiously, and her real-life husband Mike “Smithy” Smith, neither of which are actors.
The only oddball there is Craig Charles, but even that seems plausible, since Red Dwarf was super popular in 1992. Also, look at the season of Catfish where Max was absent. Literally anyone that was on hand was called in to co-host, regardless of their experience. You just grab the most famous person you can to make up the numbers. [Raven: Craig Charles was a good choice rather than an random celeb. He’s an established play-it-for-laughs cheeky scouser, and the perfect call as comic relief presenter for the fake show while having acting chops for the scripted reality. Also, hello everyone! I’m Raven.] [bat: I’m actually doing commentary with Raven on a recap. I think is a first. *faints*] [JC: I have had very little interaction with Raven, and so am excited to see him here! Also, I have no idea who any of these people Dove has named off are.]
And finally, the number you call in to? 081 811 8181 – that’s the number for Going Live!, and every other BBC programme that needs a call-in number. Everyone my age not only knows that number, but gives it in an odd delivery (saying “one” as “wuhnnn”) thanks to the Going Live! jingle.
And boy did people call in! In theory, if you called, you’d hear a recorded message saying that the programme was fiction, but thanks for your interest. It’s just that if half the population of the UK calls the same number at once, the entire system falls apart and nobody hears that message.
So sure, we were dim. But we were all dim together.
Except Dame Judi Dench.
She’s friends with the actress who plays Dr Lin Pascoe. She was disappointed to quickly realise it was fiction when she saw her friend on screen.
But that’s cheating, Dame Judi! Hell, even Parky’s mum took it seriously.
Of course, eventually it was released, and the Beeb have realised that there’s a strong online fandom, even if some of us have PTSD from the show. You can buy the DVD quite easily now. The thing that’s nigh impossible to locate is Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains, a documentary about the show. It’s released, as far as I can tell, in batches when enough interest is generated. Damnit, dudes, just rip it to mp4 and sell it as an online download. People are desperate to watch it.
[bat: Okay! I know nothing about this, partly because this kind of thing is not something that interests me and I live in the land of Halloween, so I’m a part of this recap commentary because of Dove. So this is largely her fault, good or bad. I have zero clue what I’m about to get myself into. I am going in blind, as they say.]
[JC: My impression before watching was that it was going to be Ghost Hunters meets Paranormal Activity. I think I was pretty accurate there. After watching it, I’m adding in the “Television Terror” episode of Tales From the Crypt.]
WARNING: Mentions, but no on-screen depictions, of the deaths and abuse of animals and children.