Before going into my favorite ghosts on CBS’s Ghosts, I want to share a bit of context. Ghosts occupy a unique place in our culture, symbolizing a connection between the living and the afterlife, and often serve as catalysts for comedic chaos and heartfelt moments. The American version of Ghosts, the CBS version of the BBC sitcom of the same name, deftly employs this motif, weaving a tapestry of laughter and emotion through its ensemble cast of spirited characters haunting Woodstone Manor. Like chess pieces, these ghosts maneuver through their afterlife, each with their own quirks and agendas, shaping the lives of the living occupants of the historic estate.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of ghostly tales in popular culture, I have never been a believer, so my own interest is normally muted when it comes to these sorts of stories. Oddly though, my fascination with both versions of Ghosts remains unwavering. The show’s ability to blend supernatural elements with humor and heart resonates deeply, drawing me into its whimsical world. Despite the traditional format of the stories, the characters are surprisingly compelling and have become some of my favorites.
So, before we embark on a new season’s journey through the halls of Woodstone Manor, I thought I’d share some quick thoughts on my five favorite ghosts on Ghosts.
Alberta Haynes (Danielle Pinnock) is pretty easily my favorite of the Ghosts. Alberta has many of the funniest lines and reactions on the show—her hilarious reactions to Pete’s crush on her are sometimes worth the viewing on their own—but she has also been set up with the most compelling backstory. Much of the second season revolved around the circumstances of her death, and the end result was that the character was given quite the impressive arc for a ghost on a traditionally plotted sitcom. She is also a captivating embodiment of the Roaring Twenties with her jazzy musical talents and penchant for old-time gangster slang. With her flamboyant demeanor and poignant backstory, Alberta commands attention.
Pinnock always seems to play the character as engaged and just a step ahead of the other ghosts, which also helps make her seem more distinct and important. Pinnock, and by extension Alberta, emanates a larger-than-life aura, infusing every scene with vivacity and vitality.
At the heart of Alberta’s character lies a deep-seated passion for music, a sentiment that transcends the boundaries of time and mortality. Whether belting out tunes from her Prohibition-era repertoire or reminiscing about her days as a lounge singer, Alberta’s connection to music serves as a poignant reminder of her vibrant spirit and enduring legacy.
Yet, beneath this fun exterior lies a poignant tale of tragedy and resilience. Her untimely demise at the hands of strychnine-laced moonshine speaks to the darker undercurrents of her era, a reminder of the dangers lurking behind the glittering façade of the Roaring Twenties. Despite the circumstances of her death, Alberta refuses to be defined by tragedy, embracing the new existence she faces with an unapologetic charm and zest.
Of course, what truly sets Alberta apart is that there isn’t really a corresponding version of the character in the original BBC show. Several of the other ghosts have had personality transplants or their eras changed to make up for the difference between US and UK history, but Alberta is so vested in the singular time and version of the character that we see, she has no counterpart. And no equal.
At the other end of the spectrum is Pete Martino (Richie Moriarty). While Alberta is almost unique to Woodstone, Pete is a nearly direct copy of the original version’s scoutmaster, Pat Butcher (Jim Howick). In addition to being similarly costumed, they both share the same nerdy and gentle demeanor. The characters even share a time period and method of demise—an arrow through the neck in the 1980s. Yet despite their shared gentle demeanor and social ineptitude, Pete’s portrayal adds a layer of authenticity and vulnerability that I find a bit lacking in Pat. Somehow, despite the occasional low blow, Pete always seems to rise above the stereotypes of the character.
Moriarty’s portrayal infuses Pete with a delightful clumsiness and a heartwarming sincerity that makes up for some of the more confounding and irritating moments the character is also given. What truly sets Pete apart is his unwavering optimism and resilience, even in the face of actual human issues like the circumstances surrounding his family visiting Woodstone. Despite his stumbling attempts and social awkwardness, Pete approaches the situations the characters face with an infectious enthusiasm and an open-heartedness that’s as refreshing as it is inspiring.
Yet, Pete has a deeper longing for connection and belonging. His endearing awkwardness stems not from a lack of awareness, but from a genuine desire to forge meaningful connections and find his place in the world. Through his endearing stumbles and heartwarming triumphs, Pete reminds us of the universal human experience of seeking acceptance and companionship in a world that’s as mysterious as it is enchanting. Though that doesn’t mean he’s ready for being in a throuple with Flower and Thorfinn.
#3. Flower and Thorfin
Speaking of the ghostly power couple, I have them as my next favorite ghosts. I am, of course, bending my own rules and doing a joint entry on them as a couple, but so be it. Flower (Sheila Carrasco) had actually been among my least favorites and though I really loved the characterization of Thorfinn (Devan Chandler Long) from the start, he always seemed to be a secondary character in the first season. Once they decided to put the two together as a couple though, both quickly became much more interesting.
Susan Montero, affectionately known as “Flower,” has a naïve charm that captures the essence of a free-spirited hippie. Sheila Carrasco is so good at playing the spaced-out flower child that it is easy to overlook the character’s more interesting moments of lucidity. Flower is, I suppose, best contrasted with Mary the witch trial victim, (Katy Wix) as they are both a bit dim but have surprising moments. Mary also had a closeness with Robin (Laurence Rickard), who is definitely the British show’s analogue to Thorfinn.
Thorfinn is a larger-than-life Viking warrior who loves violence, or at least talking about it, and killing Danes, definitely killing Danes. Long’s depiction brings to life Thorfin’s aggressive demeanor and love for combat, embodying the spirit of fierce Norse warriors of old. Unlike his British counterpart, Robin the caveman, Thorfinn seems to be significantly changing over the course of the show. His relationship with Flower certainly has had the most impact, but we also get to see him grow respect for his son, and the banter between Thorfinn and Sasappis.
Despite their differences, Flower and Thorfin share a common thread—a connection to nature and a sense of otherworldliness that binds them to the eternal dance of life and death. Flower’s whimsical charm and Thorfin’s fierce spirit have drawn them together and made them much more interesting.
Amidst the otherworldly echoes of Woodstone Manor, Román Zaragoza’s portrayal of Sasappis is a beacon of wisdom and quiet strength. Serving as the resident voice of reason, Sasappis, a Lenape man, brings a unique depth to the spectral ensemble, anchoring the ghostly community in a sea of perpetual change.
In the show, Sasappis’s role as the sage figure becomes evident through various instances. When conflicts arise among the ghosts, it’s Sasappis who offers calm and rational guidance, drawing on his centuries-old perspective. Sass is also often the “sassy” ghost, even more so than Isaac (Brandon Scott Jones). His perspective is often the most modern, even when the show is exploring his native heritage.
Sasappis’s connection to the land and his cultural heritage does also play an important role in the show. Instances where he shares glimpses of his past and imparts cultural wisdom provide a rich layer to his character. These moments not only add depth to Sasappis but also contribute to the broader narrative of embracing diversity and understanding within the ghostly community.
It isn’t often that a show can turn the least likable character into one of the best, but Ghosts seems to have pulled that off with Trevor Lefkowitz (Asher Grodman). Trevor’s journey from initial skepticism to fan-favorite status is a testament to the show’s ability to craft complex and compelling characters. Trevor was certainly done no favors, as the initial premise of the American version of the character was Jordan Peterson, but without pants. And the UK version, Julian Fawcett, MP, hasn’t had a single scene I enjoyed in four seasons.
One particularly intriguing aspect of Trevor’s character development is his relationship with Hetty (Rebecca Wisocky). Their dynamic adds layers of complexity to both characters, revealing hidden depths and vulnerabilities beneath their outward personas. Through their interactions, viewers gain insight into Trevor’s inner turmoil and the underlying motivations driving his actions. Trevor’s journey is ultimately one of redemption and self-realization. While his antics may sometimes border on juvenile, there’s a poignant vulnerability beneath the bravado—a reminder that even the most outwardly confident individuals have their insecurities.
In the end, Trevor’s evolution from a brash and pants-less ghost to a character with depth and complexity is a testament to the show’s ability to subvert expectations and breathe new life into familiar archetypes. It turns out that Trevor is just the little adolescent boy, acting out because he needs the attention. Though I do still wish he had some pants.
#6. Sam & Jay
Finally, once again cheating at my own rules, we have my actual favorite characters on the show, the living couple who own Woodstone, Sam (Rose McIver) and Jay (Utkarsh Ambudkar). As the heart of Ghosts, Sam and Jay bring a delightful blend of humor, heart, and chemistry to the screen. Rose McIver’s portrayal of Samantha “Sam” Arondekar, a freelance journalist with the ability to see and interact with ghosts, is imbued with warmth and wit. Her journey from skeptic to ghost whisperer is a joy to watch, as she navigates the complexities of the afterlife with courage and compassion.
Just as loveable as Sam is Utkarsh Ambudkar’s Jay Arondekar, her husband and a chef with a penchant for “nerdy” interests. Ambudkar infuses Jay with charm and charisma, effortlessly balancing his love for cooking with his newfound role as a reluctant ghost wrangler. Somehow, Sam and Jay work much better for me than the original couple over at the Button House, Alison (Charlotte Ritchie) and Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe). The storylines and interactions are almost identical, at least at the start, but I just enjoy the dynamic and warmth that McIver and Ambudkar bring far more. I think at the heart of it, I love them because they love each other and they know that this wild setup is chaotic, but also incredible.
As Sam and Jay and all the ghosts continue to navigate the ups and downs of existence, the show gets to touch on the power of love, friendship, and perseverance. In a world where the line between the living and the dead is blurred, Ghosts keeps getting funnier.