Ghost Writer: Season One

Ghost Writer: Season One
Even though Ghost Writer was an edutainment series aimed at my age bracket, I never watched it as a kid. I know there were a couple of kids in my class with Ghost Writer case books, but I spent more time reading terrible Dean Koontz and John Saul novels, or playing Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II on the SNES with my friends. Now that I've watched it as an adult, I think I can see why it wasn't my thing. Occasionally featuring raps about schoolwork from ten-year olds, the show, developed by the Sesame Street folks, followed a group of kids sharing a collective delusion about a ghost that helps them solve crimes. It manifests mainly on the computer, but can manipulate the written word to form its own statements on paper, billboards or chalkboards. What this means is that in the aim of teaching kids basic spelling and grammar, there are lengthy sequences of children writing out everything they say to Ghostwriter, since he can't hear what they say. Like the colours of Benetton, every race is accounted for, as the series also promotes racial harmony in urban environments. It's wholesome and preachy, suffering from all the trademarks of such an enterprise: terrible dialogue, wooden acting, incompetent direction and mysteries that would baffle only the stupidest of children. That said, the template, wherein a mystery is presented, only to unfold through a series of clues over four or five episodes, is quite clever, and the modes of deductive logic presented and explained might even benefit many of the simpler adults that I know. The first season covers the THABCO mystery, which involves stolen backpacks and a gang of mysterious kids in lizard masks, along with the arson mystery, which uncovers the horrors of copyright infringement. Samuel L. Jackson pops up as Jamal's (Sheldon Turnipseed) father, as does Spike Lee and Jeremy Miller (the dumpy kid from Growing Pains). Dated now, featuring enormous Fresh Prince wardrobes and hilarious slang, it's hard to imagine children getting much from this, but it remains effective as an educational aid. No special features are included with the DVD, which is unfortunate, as it would be interesting to hear what the kids have to say now that they're all grown up. (Shout! Factory)