Are you watching Ghosts (BBC/UK, currently streaming on HBO Max) or Ghosts (CBS/US and streaming on Paramount+)? If not, you must remedy this! The two series are funny and surprisingly wholesome comedies that are genuinely delightful.
So naturally we wanted to pit them against one another in a ranking.
Now let me be clear: All ghosts are good! There is truly not a weak link character in either of the two casts, which is really saying something given how large each ensemble is. So this ranking is based more on who has had the best storylines, who made us laugh the most, and who we honestly just love (all of them). We also kept the featured ghosts to just those who live within the house (rather than the larger grounds), and we’ll give the pigeon Honorable Mention.
Also, while the list may be top-heavy with UK characters, both versions are really great—we’ve just seen more from the BBC (three seasons and a Christmas special) versus a half season (so far) from CBS. The UK series also leans more into wholesomeness and eschews the sitcom pitfalls of the American version (naturally), but both series excel in combining darkness and whimsy in winning ways. Ultimately, all ghosts are good, and really this is a celebration of two great shows.
Finally, while we did not rank the living, both Ghosts core couples (Alison and Mike, played by Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe; plus Samantha and Jay, played by Rose McIver and Utkarsh Ambudkar) are outstanding. Top marks for everyone.
Without further ado… the 21 ghosts of Ghosts, ranked:
Actor: Hudson Thames
Blink and you’ll miss him in the pilot episode, Crash’s disarming appearance is more about shock value than anything else. Crash is the US equivalent of the UK’s Sir Humphrey, but he’s far behind the deceased Catholic Tudor nobleman in terms of screen time. CBS has suggested that we’ll see more of Crash in episodes to come, but we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Stuart Fink, Arthur Holden, Cody Crain, Nigel Downer, Cat Lemiuex
Like Crash, the Cholera Ghosts in CBS’s series haven’t gotten much screen time yet. Akin to the Plague Ghosts of the UK version, they are relegated to the basement where they are terrifying, not only because of their sheer number, but because they dwell in the dark. Basically, they freak everybody out even though they’re very helpful when it comes to fixing the water heater. Hopefully they’ll get more of their own storylines soon. —Allison Keene
Actor: Yani Xander
While you might think that Sir Humphrey’s disparate physical parts are united in mind and spirit if not in body, a recent dalliance with another house ghost proved that that’s not the case. Giving Humphrey’s walking body a slightly different personality than his talking head was a brilliant stroke in bringing another narrative layer to a character that’s been slow in developing. And now when Humphrey’s head lobs insults at his own body as it searches aimlessly to reconnect, it’s all the funnier for their bizarre internal conflict. —Dave Trumbore
Actors: Laurence Rickard, Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Jim Howick, Ben Willbond, Martha Howe-Douglas, Lolly Adefope, Katy Wix
The next best thing to seeing the core UK cast playing their main characters is seeing them as the slightly off-kilter, basement-dwelling Plague Ghosts. While this group works just fine as a one-note joke, it’s that much better when we get a flashback explaining just how the plague came to infect their isolated village, or how their fates were literally uncovered in the 21st century. It’s better still when the Plague Ghosts come up out of the basement to interact and participate in house politics, reminding everyone not to underestimate the wild cards of Button House (such as the Plague Girl who lives in the kitchen cupboard…). —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Sheila Carrasco
Though she started out the series as a stereotypical hippie character, Flower’s comedy continues to blossom (!) the more she reveals about her often dark past in upbeat ways. There’s a cult, a commune, a robbery, a bear mauling … but it’s all good vibes, man. Though she’s often checked-out in a marijuana haze (something she can impart onto the living if she passes through them), she occasionally provides insightful commentary and ideas to others. The show hasn’t quite figured out what her role is in the group dynamic other than being dismissed as a sweet airhead, but here’s hoping for more Flower Power in future episodes. —Allison Keene
Actor: Roman Zaragoza
Though Sasappis is likely the second-oldest ghost at Woodstone, his deadpan personality and quick embrace of modern trappings (reality TV, negging, etc.) makes him one of the more open and adaptable ghosts. However, as a character unique to CBS’s series, he’s still finding his footing, with some of his best moments arriving through his friendship with Thorfinn. While we haven’t gotten to see much of Sasappis’ personal side beyond that and a dating attempt gone awry, we do know that he’s a loyal companion who is eager (much as he may loathe to show it) to join in with group hijinks, and that he loves to daydream about being able to eat the great food he can still smell (something the UK ghosts are unable to do). —Allison Keene
Actor: Richie Moriarty
Whether you meet the UK’s Pat or the US’s Pete first, chances are good that the scoutmaster ghost will be one of your favorites. The problem is, they are so similar that whomever you meet second will feel like a rehash. Pat has been a nearly unflappable force of positivity and optimism throughout the UK show’s run while also sharing some leadership duties among the ghosts. Pete is much the same, a near carbon copy of Pat, from the arrow that killed him to the way his family moved on after his passing. Pete desperately needs some personality of his own to stand out, despite being an all-around good guy; the D&D episode is an example of how the show can lean into Pete’s nerdy side more, with great results. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Laurence Rickard
As Ghosts has continued, Sir Humphrey (both head and body!) have played a bigger role in the comings and goings of Button House. Often left forgotten on the floor (including by his own body) or used in lieu of a ball both for sports and, occasionally, lobbing an important message to someone, there are few indignities that Sir Humphrey’s head has not suffered. A flashback episode that explained the circumstances of his untimely demise was an excruciating exercise in waiting for the decapitation, but it also gave him additional depth as a character. One of the more quietly caring members of the household, Sir Humphrey is a tragic figure who is nevertheless expertly used for true comedic excellence. —Allison Keene
Actor: Rebecca Wisocky
The matriarch of Woodstone Manor could have fallen into the same trap as Pete / Pat, but Hetty has already distanced herself from Lady Button in important ways. We now know about her childhood in the manor and her connection to its established ghosts, her Victorian sensibilities and how they conflict with modern mores, and even what happens when Hetty gets to hop into a warm body and live life in the 21st century, ever so briefly. All that has happened in only a handful of episode appearances so far, suggesting the best may still be yet to come. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Danielle Pinnock
Alberta is another one of the ghosts created specifically for the CBS version, and while she makes a good gossipy duo with Isaac, her flashback episode took what could have been a relatively flat character and instead gave her unique and interesting context. In a rather fun way (i.e. through a creepy super-fan), we learned about the history of the house’s Harlem Renaissance singer, her legacy, and how she ultimately passed. It’s an example of the storytelling power of the show, which is at its best when it gives an individual ghost room to breathe (or sing) and time to enjoy the spotlight. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Ben Willbond
If I had to be haunted by any of the ghosts, it would absolutely be The Captain. Confident, resourceful, and often keeping to himself, he relishes in rounding up and leading (more or less) the ghosts of Button House. Still stuck in his WWII glory days (we still don’t know his real name, after all, just his rank), The Captain is truly as sweet as he is a stickler, genuinely caring about his fellow ghosts as a parental figure while also trying to corral them and be of use to Alison and Mike—even though he often fumbles in his attempts to be helpful and ends up making things a mess. A few Captain-focused storylines have also slyly revealed his closeted status, which he doesn’t seem ready to admit…. even though he does out himself accidentally in casual comments. A deeply-layered character with still more to reveal, The Captain is a secret MVP of the series. —Allison Keene
Actor: Simon Farnaby
Julian is a polarizing character. He’s not likable (although he does get something of a heart from time to time as the series progresses), but he is hilarious. He’s also a spot-on portrait of a casually corrupt politician, the kind of person who has never had to face consequences and who nothing sticks to—until death, of course. While flashbacks have revealed some of Julian’s regrets, and there are moments we see him genuinely connecting with his fellow ghosts, the character is really at his best when he’s just being a total shit. Though he often uses his “power” (the ability to touch things in the corporeal world with his index finger) for pranks, occasionally he has come through in clutch moments, thanks also to his modern knowledge and understanding of the darker ways of the world, in contrast to his wholesome housemates. —Allison Keene
Actor: Lolly Adefope
The incredibly funny Lolly Adefope is an actress who always steals scenes from her co-stars, and her performance as Kitty is no different. Both incredibly sweet and deeply traumatized, we don’t learn much about Kitty’s backstory until late in the current series. It’s a powerful episode, but the context clues for what Kitty might have been dealing with before her death are there throughout. Obsessed with being Alison’s best friend/sister, Kitty’s childlike delight in girly-girl things has always revealed a somewhat stunted emotional maturity that is a little sad but is also carefully and lovingly handled by all around her. And yet, Kitty is also fiercely protective of Alison, showing that there is a hidden strength to her that we may hopefully see more of as the series continues (and Alison “handing” Kitty an expensive bottle of wine is still one of the show’s funniest laugh-out-loud moments). —Allison Keene
Actor: Devan Long
Thorfinn could have been a simple knock-off of the UK’s Robin (and he certainly did start that way), but the US’s big scary viking quickly showed signs of becoming his own character. The oldest ghost resident of Woodstone Manor and its grounds, Thorfinn’s origin story is heartbreaking, his death is quite literally shocking, and his primitive nature often puts him at odds with more modern characters … which is everyone else. However, it’s revealed through various touching relationships with the ghosts that Thorfinn is also a caregiver, a protector, and a loyal friend, making him one of the most well-rounded of the bunch (and his malapropisms are hilarious). —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Mathew Baynton
It is as easy to love Thomas as it is to be annoyed by him. That’s a testament to Baynton’s soulful and comedic performance as well as the writing behind the deceased Regency era poet who is as obsessed with himself as he is with living resident Alison Cooper. For every tragic moment in Thomas’ previous life, he answers it with an annoyance in the present; for every haughty declaration, he comes up with a beautiful, earnest observation; it’s this push and pull that makes Thomas both incredibly frustrating and eternally endearing. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Martha Howe-Douglas
Though it has somewhat gone out of fashion, there is still much to be said about the power of physical comedy. The way Martha Howe-Douglas contorts her face (and tucks her chin) allows for some of the most exceptionally funny reactions on TV. Fanny is the first UK ghost we meet and whose tragic story we first uncover, and from the start we learn that, like The Captain, she’s a stickler for the rules and is constantly horrified by the behavior of Alison and Mike and her fellow ghosts. And yet, it’s her responses to those behaviors, sometimes delivered with just a look, that are pure comedy gold. Often intrigued by that which she has been taught to avoid, Fanny is the ghost who provides the most surprises from episode to episode; just when you think you have her pinned down, she reveals something new and gloriously funny. —Allison Keene
Actor: Asher Grodman
As the most recently deceased inhabitant of Woodstone, Trevor hits a particular sweet spot when it comes to pop culture references and nostalgia; it also helps that he delivers some of the best one-liners and asides in either version. A combination of Julian and Thomas from the UK series, Trevor’s depth as a character has been aided by a family-focused plot line. But even before that, he had established himself as a comedy staple both on his own and within the group dynamic. With his excellent quips and genuine bro nature, Trevor is just such a charming character that it doesn’t matter if he skips leg day, he’ll always be one of our favorites. —Dave Trumbore
Actor: Brandon Scott Jones
It’s to be expected that the American version of Ghosts would go broader in its comedy than the UK series, and one of the biggest character changes in that regard is with Isaac, who is all snark versus the Captain’s stoicism. Still (mostly) closeted like his UK counterpart, Isaac distinguishes himself by being a preening, self-obsessed, gossip and drama-loving house leader. The purveyor of most of the show’s double entendres (which are barely entendres at all so much as just the thing itself), Isaac also has a tender side and, like The Captain, cares about his fellow ghosts while still fumbling significantly when trying to do the right thing. Isaac’s indispensable presence has helped establish and carry the show from the start, and that’s why he is (in our estimation, anyway) the very best of Woodstone. —Allison Keene
Actor: Laurence Rickard
It was a bold move to make a caveman one of the main characters of this series; not since ABC’s Geico-inspired sitcom have we seen such a thing. However, Robin, as the oldest ghost to haunt Button House, is also the most complex, the most surprising, and honestly the most fun. Whether it’s his endless delight over modern conveniences and language, his surprise at the lack of lunar knowledge from his fellow ghosts and mortals, or the electrifying way he messes with the physical world, Robin almost always delivers with a laugh, a surprisingly astute observation, or a heartfelt moment. That’s exactly what makes Ghosts such a joy to watch.—Dave Trumbore
Actor: Katy Wix
All of the writing on Ghosts is excellent, but no one gets better lines than Mary, our queen of plurals. Her story is a slow burn (sorry, Mary), but Katy Wix’s unique performance made her a standout from the start. Though technically from the Stuart era, Mary is still steeped in the (often terrifying) lore of medieval peasantry. She is exceptionally sweet and reserved but also sees the work of the Devil and his chucklesome imps at every turn. Plagued by terrifying dreams and still simmering from when she was burned at the stake, Mary is yet a simple creature with a big heart who longs to be useful but is often just perplexing. Like Lady Button, Mary’s best moments come in the juxtaposition of her Puritanical instincts and attempts to understand a modern world that she finds deeply interesting but confusing. And like Robin and Thorfinn, her malapropisms are legendary. —Allison Keene
Actor: Jim Howick
Pat! Our dear, dear Pat. The most wholesome of a very wholesome group of ghosts at Button House, Pat is the true heart and soul of the operation. The Captain may fancy himself the leader, but is he the one who has coordinated endless different club activities through which the ghosts can share memories of their lives and keep themselves occupied in their restricted afterlife? No, it’s Pat! Pat’s big heart, cheery optimism, and resourcefulness is a constant boon to Alison and his fellow ghosts, but the moments when he gets to “let loose” a little and show off his dance moves, yell at his accidental murderer, or pretend to be a radio host are still genuinely lovely. Because Pat is genuinely lovely without ever being saccharine. He ultimately finds the good in everything and everyone, and, like a great scout leader, tries to keep everyone happy and under control. He doesn’t always succeed, but by golly we love him for it. —Allison Keene
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