Discovering Ghosts, Horrible Histories, Bill and Yonderland

A key aspect of my personality is that I cannot like things a normal amount.

I think this is a trait shared by many nerds, and it’s one that I suffer from enormously. If I get into a TV show or movie, then I’m really into it, and I will spend hours watching and re-watching, plus reading all the background information, finding behind the scenes clips and interviews, and generally doing what my friends and I refer to as “falling down a hole.”

I’m currently in one heck of a hole at the moment, and I thought I’d write about it in the hopes that some of you may join me.

Because of this tendency to fall into a hole, I’m very often late to the party when it comes to getting into things, particularly TV shows, because I’m already dealing with an all-consuming interest in something else, and so don’t have the time to watch the latest Netflix series that everyone’s talking about (I’m looking at you, series three of Stranger Things, I promise I’ll get around to you eventually). So, it’s because of this that the whole series of my latest obsession had already been and gone on the BBC by the time I got around to watching the first episode. That obsession is Ghosts.

ghosts
Ghosts © BBC

I was at my friend’s house, and she put on the first episode because she wanted me to see it, and we ended up watching half the series in one sitting because I was completely hooked. It’s still on BBC’s iPlayer, and I believe it will be available on HBO Max in the USA soon. The premise is pretty simple – a young couple inherit a crumbling old mansion that happens to be haunted by an array of ghosts from different eras. This is no “cat in a cupboard” jump-scare horror-fest though, because these ghosts are a chaotic bunch of hilarious misfits, who spend more time irritating each other than they do being frightening. It’s basically a sitcom, only most of the characters happen to be dead.

I tend to veer towards watching darker things on TV, but Ghosts was such a nice change from the bloody crime scene or war zone that usually fills my living room of an evening. It’s honestly just a joy. Sadly, there are currently only six episodes, although there is a second series in production, and as much as Ghosts is perfect on its own, it turned out to be just a gateway to a whole network of holes I was about to fall into.

Ghosts is written by and stars the team who were the core cast of the first five series of CBBC’s Horrible Histories: Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond. So, having watched and re-watched Ghosts enough times that I was starting to annoy myself, I decided to move on to Horrible Histories, which I never saw when it was on TV because I’m a childless grown-up (sort of), so CBBC doesn’t tend to be my go-to TV channel. I’m incredibly late to the party with this one. One of my friends has been trying to get me to watch it for ages, assuring me that I’d love it, and so I finally gave in and fell into another massive hole very much adjacent to the one I was already in.

I’m a history nerd, and almost clinically drawn to everything gruesome and grisly, so a ridiculous sketch show about the more disgusting side of history was so in my wheelhouse that I have no idea why it took me so long to discover it. I didn’t know I needed a song about Charles Dickens in the style of The Smiths until I saw it, but now I don’t know how I could ever have considered my life complete without it.

Horrible Histories is funnier than most comedy shows aimed at adults, and some of the songs will stay in your head for days – I spent about a week singing Do the Pachacuti to myself, to the point where I felt like it had replaced half of my brain’s storage capacity. I was off sick from work for two days, and I managed to tear through about 14 hours of Horrible Histories during that time, and I’ve already gone all the way back to the beginning and made it my treadmill TV show for when I’m at the gym. Do you see what I mean about not being able to like things a normal amount?

Horrible Histories
Horrible Histories (L-R Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Martha Howe-Douglas, Mathew Baynton). © BBC

With Horrible Histories well and truly exhausted, I watched Bill, a movie by the six idiots (as they often refer to themselves) about the lost years of Shakespeare’s life, before he became famous. Like everything else they do, it’s silly and ridiculous and brilliant. It’s highly doubtful that Shakespeare’s real lost years in any way resemble the plot of this film, but I’m quite prepared to accept it as the truth, just because I really, really want it to be.

Then (because I literally have no chill), I moved straight on to Yonderland. Produced for Sky, the three seasons of Yonderland focus on a mum called Debbie, who opens her pantry one day to find a portal into another world. Not only that, she’s their Chosen One, who is destined to save their land from destruction. The core cast play a dizzying array of utterly bizarre and hilarious characters, with my absolute favourites being the group of bumbling elders who are supposedly in charge. And there are puppets, which gives the whole thing a Dark Crystal/Jim Henson kind of vibe that people of my age will certainly appreciate.

Yonderland
Yonderland (L-R Ben Willbond, Mathew Baynton, Laurence Rickard, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick). © Sky

Debbie is the only person in Yonderland with any brains, so in every episode she has to solve a ridiculous problem, travelling to weird new corners of the land and meeting equally weird new characters. The whole thing has a definite feel of The Mighty Boosh to it, and it is laugh-out-loud funny. I just watched the last episode last night, and I’m already planning to go back to the beginning and watch it all again, because I’m well and truly stuck in this hole now, so I may as well stay here.

The reason I’m essentially just writing propaganda for Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond is because Horrible Histories, Yonderland, Bill and Ghosts have now become my ultimate happy place. So, if you’re a fan of British comedy, and have yet to discover these six wonderful idiots and their joyful body of work, then I urge you to dive headlong into one of these holes yourself.

Discovering all this has been so much fun that I’m already a bit jealous of anyone who might read this and discover it for themselves for the first time…

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