Rentaghost: Revisiting 1970s Spooky Comedy

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Today we start a new series with Junior Paranormal Events and their junior ambassadors taking a look at classic spooky children’s television shows. First up, Rentaghost!

Rentaghost was a British children's comedy that centre on a company that rented out ghosts for various tasks!
Rentaghost was a British children’s comedy that centre on a company that rented out ghosts for various tasks!

TITLE: Rentaghost
CREATOR: Bob Block
CAST: Anthony Jackson, Michael Darbyshire, Michael Staniforth, Edward Brayshaw, Ann Emery, Molly Weir, Sue Nicholls and Lynda La Plante
ORIGINAL RELEASE: 6 January 1976 – 6 November 1984 on BBC1

Family time is so precious, but it can be few and far between so, we grabbed the chance to snuggle up and watch an episode of cult classic Rentaghost, a British children’s television comedy that ran between 1976 and 1984. 

Joined by our children, Finlay, and Aubrey, we were keen to experience this beloved, and still talked about, programme of yesteryear. 

How would it compare to the spooky shows that our budding junior paranormal investigators watch today? 

Rentaghost Backgrounder

Rentaghost is exactly what the label says – ghosts available for hire.  A bunch of misfit ghosts who work from an office and seek to find purpose in the afterlife.

The original ghost was Fred Mumford, a rather sad and beige looking man who was far from successful when alive.  He then recruited Timothy Claypole, a hyperactive jester with a high-pitched voice, and Hubert Davenport, a frail Victorian era ghost, who is so pale he is almost transparent.

The ghosts rent office space from Harold Meaker, a slightly angry middle-aged man with a liking for hats and moustaches. In the episode that we watched, Ethel Meaker made an appearance – the wife of Harold who is overly outraged and rather shrill, along with Hazel McWitch.  Hazel McWitch is as you would expect – a Scottish witch, the nod to Macbeth was subtle but well played. 

The Episode

We watched Episode 1 from Series 4 which aired in 1978.

The main storyline of the episode we viewed focused on the ghosts deciding to embark on a new business venture – creating potions. 

Keen to share the new potions with Harold Meaker, chaos then ensues with Ethel bearing the brunt of said chaos.  The only solution is to create an antidote to the potions, but the only one who can do this is Hazel McWitch. 

It wouldn’t be a true children’s programme without some further humorous side stories taking place. 

The first being that poor Ethel is subjected to being made very tall – we will circle back to this shortly – and then being turned into a dog.  Coupled with the tension between Timothy and the Hazel, fighting to decide who was the best potion maker, it made for rather entertaining viewing.

Our Rentaghost Review

Our Junior Paranormal Event Reviewers:  Michael and Gemma with Finlay and Aubrey.
Our Junior Paranormal Event Reviewers: Michael and Gemma with Finlay and Aubrey.

Aubrey: I thought that Rentaghost was funny, you could tell it was an old programme because of the special effects and sound that was in the episode.  It is clearly a comedy and I rate it very highly because I like comedy.  My favourite part was when Hazel McWitch arrived because she flew through the wall and the lack of special effects made it even funnier.  I wasn’t such a fan of Harold; he was a bit too grumpy for me.  I think it would be good to see it made today using the modern special effects that we have.

Finlay: I laughed a lot when I was watching the episode, this was because of the dodgy looking special effects that were used, I am used to modern special effects so it all looked a bit weird but that made it funny.  There was a bit when Ethel drank a potion and became really tall, there were some strange looking, really long, plastic looking legs used that had odd looking knees and were painted to look really pink, that was one of my favourite bits because I couldn’t stop laughing at them.  The witch was the main star for me, she was very good.  If they did a remake of Rentaghost today, I would like to see many more ghosts working there.

How does it compare to today’s spooky viewing?

To be honest it is a bit like comparing night and day because the filming styles and techniques are vastly different in the 1970s than they are in the 2020s and we have to acknowledge that.  It is important to take Rentaghost for what it was rather than getting into a beauty contest – it was a very popular and long running children’s show, it is very clear to see why it was so well loved.  

One thing we really appreciated is that it was a relaxing programme to watch, the more modern programmes can be sensationalised to get viewers, with jump scares becoming increasingly more common.  Rentaghost is honest and pure fun, comforting like a warm blanket on a chilly winters evening. 

Both Finlay and Aubrey drew comparisons with BBC Ghosts in that Rentaghost is also a comedy programme featuring ghosts as the central cast.  BBC Ghosts has been an incredibly popular series which begs the question – could this lead the way for a remake of Rentaghost?  We certainly hope so.

With Spooky Season well and truly in the air, it is the perfect time to cosy up with the family and indulge in some light-hearted fun.  When you watch an episode of Rentaghost, you quite rightly appreciate why it was such a source of delight for children.  There were 58 episodes of Rentaghost, and it is our mission to watch all of them – bring on the dark nights!

Stay Spooky!
Gemma, Michael, Finlay, and Aubrey
Junior Paranormal Events

What do you think of Rentaghost? Tell us your memories in the comments section below!


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