Ghostwriter (TV)

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started8th Jun 1992
ended21st Jun 1995
last rpt19th Jun 2000
9 school years
episodes66
duration30 mins
subject 📚EnglishReading
age rangeAge 9-11 & Age 11-13
languageenIn English

Ghostwriter (TV) is a BBC schools TV series from the 1990s and 2000s, covering reading for primary and secondary school pupils.

A streetwise, American-produced crime drama serial presenting plentiful ways to promote and practice reading skills.

Brooklyn friends Jamal, Lenni, Tina, Alex and his sister Gaby are befriended by a 'ghost' which can only communicate by rearranging letters to spell out messages, using words found on everyday items or in the computer. Their friend, nicknamed Ghostwriter, travels around seeking out clues and passing on messages between the young sleuths including calls to "Rally" at one of their houses for a meeting.

Other friends join and leave the 'Ghostwriter gang' including a boy called Craig in the first story, thoughtful older boy Rob, and later the younger Hector. Their various adventures involve reading for context and for meaning to work out what is happening, rearranging letters into different words, finding words and letters everywhere in the environment, and constantly reading and writing to communicate with each other and with Ghostwriter. The series constantly and creatively reinforces the excitement of reading so that its key use in school was as a motivating vehicle, much like its British-produced counterpart Look and Read.

Indeed, whilst it was originally presented to British schools as a general support series in English, from 1995 onwards the BBC annual programme catalogues presented it in to schools as a special needs series providing extra motivation and encouragement specifically for reluctant readers.

The children in the series are streetwise young Americans from a range of ethnic backgrounds. They are funny, upbeat and unrelentingly positive in ways which stood out from their contemporaries on British children's TV at the turn of the 1990s[1] and seeing these trendy Americans happily and inquisitively reading was intended as a further inspiration to British viewers.

The storylines cover various elements of social responsibility including bullying, care for the environment and drug taking with peer pressure, in addition to the mystery-solving plots, and the extensive teacher's notes issued by the BBC covered classroom follow-up activities in a lot of different areas as well as reading and writing.

Filming the London-set story A Crime of Two Cities at Hampstead Road Lock. Sheldon Turnipseed as Jamal with Candace Hallinan as guest investigator Becky, and baddies Danny & Wise Rita in the background

Background

The Sesame Street Legacy

The production of Ghostwriter, and its special position as a US-UK co-production in educational television, is directly related to the long-running American series Sesame Street, also produced by the Children's Television Workshop in America. Sesame Street had arrived as a "meteor"[2] in the education world in 1969. A heavily funded, heavily researched, fast and vibrant teaching series for nursery-age children, it was a huge step away from the more cosy world of British educational television.

Sesame Street was a meteor not, at the time, enormously well received in conventional teaching and broadcasting circles in Britain. It was perceived as teaching directly from the screen (since 5 and even 6 year olds in the USA did not have to attend school in some states, whereas they did in Britain); as using rote learning techniques by then out of favour in Britain; of cramming too many different pieces of information into each programme; of being far too long and expensive at an hour per episode with hundreds of episodes made each year; and of having an overly entertaining tone, an American culture and associated "razzamatazz"[3].

It was a matter for some outrage in the early 1970s that the BBC did not purchase and screen the much-publicised new series. But it did not, for these and other reasons[4]. Instead the Independent Broadcasting Authority took an interest, first screening 10 programmes experimentally on Harlech Television in Wales in March and April 1971 which had a broadly positive reception and led to further screenings on local ITV companies including London Weekend Television from September 1971. Sesame Street later found a home on Channel 4, Nickelodeon and other UK broadcasters, and eventually the BBC (in Northern Ireland) co-produced a version for local schools called Sesame Tree.

1970s BBC pamphlet for The Electric Company

But throughout the 1970s and 1980s the BBC's lack of Sesame Street left a legacy. They did take some half-hearted runs of The Electric Company, a later (and shorter) Children's Television Workshop production for older children, in the mid 1970s. As the 1990s arrived the BBC began some further experiments with imported schools programmes. First with a short set of programmes from a different US producer called Math Works but renamed Mathsworks for a British audience, and then the Children's Television Workshop's Square One Television.

None of this cleared the memory of Sesame Street though, so that when Terry Marsh as Head of BBC Schools TV introduced Ghostwriter in 1991 she commented that the Children's Television Workshop had "been hoping for approaches from the BBC, but the two organisations hadn't spoken to each other since the BBC refused to take Sesame Street."[5]

Developing Ghostwriter

Ghostwriter is clearly an American series, but a co-production arrangement with the BBC saw the British broadcaster buying "influence at production and scriptwriting level so that the programmes we see here will be intelligible to the UK school audience."[5]

The Children's Television Workshop had spent four years working with Harvard University's Graduate School of Education on the teaching strategies for what would become Ghostwriter, with funding from the Hasbro Children's Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation[6]. They took a $5 million grant from Nike, and money from other funders including the BBC co-production, to give the series an initial budget of $21 million[7] and employed Liz Nealon as executive producer, a founding member and former executive of the zeitgeist-capturing MTV channel[8]. The series which resulted was energetic, musical and sharply edited, and in stark contrast to the usual programming of its US home PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service.

Reception

The series, at launch in both the UK on BBC2 and the US on PBS, was a funky, hip and streetwise step apart from the programmes which surrounded it in the UK schools TV and US public broadcasting schedules. This was quite deliberate, BBC Education Officer (and later producer, then executive producer, of the series for the BBC) Frank Flynn introduced the series to the UK on the basis of research showing "a call for something with a lot more sophistication - lively, sharp TV that will make pupils sit up and watch and will also trigger off a lot of language skills."[5] Incidentally the name will be familiar to viewers as "Frank Flynn" was used as the name of the young orphan boy from 1928 who is helped by the Ghostwriter team in the story Just in Time!

On that basis the series seems to have been far more popular with children than with their teachers and other grown-ups. From the beginning the Times Educational Supplement predicted that "young viewers will pick up more of the dialogue than their teachers can,"[1] and years later with the series well established the same writer reflected that "the children like [Ghostwriter] more than some teachers do"[9]! In America, a professional reviewer considering the launch episodes, side-to-side with Alan Bennett's A Question of Attribution on Masterpiece Theater, asserted that Ghostwriter was "determined to be hip and inventive [but] gets off to a somewhat sluggish start."[10]

However the series was undoubtedly popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Firmly embedded in the BBC2 schools schedules, the entire first year of programmes was repeated during the 1993 summer holidays for home viewers to catch up, practically unprecedented for a BBC schools series. The Times Educational Supplement called the series "a runaway success,"[11] and the BBC started a pen-pal scheme inviting British children to correspond with children in America which produced letters from over 15,000 children by 1994[12].

The series' popularity in America was equally swift: official viewing figures during the first three months included about 750,000 children, reaching one in four US households with children aged 6 to 11.[13]

Broadcasts

Outine

First a grid summarising which stories were broadcast in which term.

Year Autumn Spring Summer
1991-92 - - Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store?
1992-93 Ghost Story Mr Brinker To Catch a Creep Into the Comics To the Light Who's Who Ghost Story (signed)
1993-94 Over a Barrel Am I Blue? Building Bridges Get the Message Ghost Story (signed)
1994-95 Just in Time A Crime of Two Cities Who Is Max Mouse? Don't Stop the Music Lost in Brooklyn What's Up with Alex?
1995-96 Ghost Story Mr Brinker Catch a Creep Into the Comics To the Light Who's Who
1996-97 Over a Barrel Am I Blue? Building Bridges Get the Message Ghost Story
1997-98 Ghost Story To the Light Mr Brinker Into the Comics Max Mouse Don't Stop
1998-99 - Just in Time Two Cities Max Mouse What's Up* -
1999-2000 - Two Cities* Max Mouse* Stop the Music* Lost in Brooklyn What's Up Just in Time

* All 1998-99 broadcasts were in the spring term, and all 1999-2000 broadcasts were in the summer term. Some story titles from these terms have spilled over into different columns of the table to make them all fit.

Days and Times

Next broadcast days and times.

  • 1991-92 (Summer term only) - Mondays & Tuesdays 9:15am on BBC2
  • 1992-93 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Wednesdays 11:35am, mostly repeated (occasionally extra new episodes) Thursdays 10:30am, summer also Fridays 11:00am with British Sign Language, all on BBC2
  • 1993-94 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Wednesdays 11:35am, repeated Thursdays 10:30am on BBC2
  • 1994-95 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Wednesdays 11:15am, repeated Thursdays 10:25am on BBC2
  • 1995-96 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Tuesdays 11:30am on BBC2
  • 1996-97 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Mondays 11:30am on BBC2
  • 1997-98 (Autumn, Spring & Summer) - Nightschool TV: various nights 2:00-4:00am on BBC2
  • 1998-99 (Spring term only) - Nightschool TV: various nights 2:00-4:00am on BBC2
  • 1999-2000 (Summer term only) - Mondays & Fridays 11:30am & 12:00noon on BBC2
  • During the 1993 summer holidays all six of the stories from the first year of broadcasts were repeated for a general audience, on weekdays at 8:15am from 2nd August to 9th September.

In the USA

Although co-produced with the BBC, Ghostwriter was very much an American production and once it got started, had its home in the USA.

In America Ghostwriter debuted around five months after it had started in Britain. The first episode was broadcast as a special Saturday morning preview on 3rd October 1992 on the Fox network[14].

The series was then broadcast weekly, on Sunday nights at 6pm on PBS, the Public Broadcasting Service, from 4th October 1992. PBS started with the introductory story Ghost Story and continued with weekly broadcasts of the 8 complete stories, including Over a Barrel and Building Bridges which would not be broadcast in the UK until the second year of BBC transmissions, before continuing with re-runs in the same timeslot during the summer, in the tradition of US scheduling.

In the USA there was no direct equivalent to the UK concept of national television broadcasts for schools, but in some areas PBS stations also broadcast Ghostwriter episodes in the week and during the school day[15]. The Children's Television Workshop also pitched the series directly to schools, by distributing 2 million copies of a Ghostwriter magazine to schools and after-school centres[13], and elsewhere teachers recorded it on Sundays to play back in the classroom during the week[16].

PBS tracked behind the first UK broadcasts of Ghost Story and Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? but surged ahead of the UK from To Catch a Creep onwards (starting on 29th November 1992 in the USA and 13th January 1993 in the UK).

The BBC completed its co-production arrangement after 66 episodes and three complete years of stories - which it could repeat over a further three years providing a longer lifespan than most schools programmes, and then repeat again up to the year 2000, by which time the series was beginning to show its age. PBS continued alone to produce two further stories called Four Days of the Cockatoo and Attack of the Slime Monster, 8 additional episode with some changes and additions to the young cast. These extra stories have never been broadcast in the UK, but as well as US broadcasts they were shown in other countries including on RTE in Ireland.

In later years the title and some of the concepts and trademarks were used to make children's television series The New Ghostwriter Mysteries (1997) and Ghostwriter (2019) on Apple TV+, but neither with the involvement of the BBC.

Episodes

Advertising Ghostwriter Comes to London! in 1994

This is a list of episodes with their original UK broadcast dates, in the order they were broadcast in the UK on BBC2.

Who Burned Mr Brinker's Story? was originally shot as a pilot story long before the rest of the series[17] The BBC previewed it, unannounced in the programme guides and schedules sent to schools in advance, during the summer term 1992, but after this special preview screening that unit was positioned as the second story in the Ghostwriter series, with the scene-setting Ghost Story added as the introductory story.

Those two stories, Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? and Ghost Story were broadcast in the UK some months ahead of their US transmissions on PBS (detailed above), but all subsequent episodes were shown in the US before the UK[18]

Otherwise, the BBC followed the same order of transmission as PBS, except that they brought forward the London-set story A Crime of Two Cities, negotiated with the Children's Television Workshop as an opportunity for UK viewers to identify more closely with the story[19], and broadcast it very shortly after its US transmission.


# Title UK Broadcast
Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store?
1. Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? Part 1 #1992-06-08-00-00-008 Jun 1992
2. Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? Part 2 #1992-06-09-00-00-009 Jun 1992
3. Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? Part 3 #1992-06-15-00-00-0015 Jun 1992
4. Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store? Part 4 #1992-06-16-00-00-0016 Jun 1992
Ghost Story
5. Ghost Story Part 1 #1992-09-16-00-00-0016 Sep 1992
6. Ghost Story Part 2 #1992-09-23-00-00-0023 Sep 1992
7. Ghost Story Part 3 #1992-09-30-00-00-0030 Sep 1992
8. Ghost Story Part 4 #1992-10-07-00-00-007 Oct 1992
9. Ghost Story Part 5 #1992-10-14-00-00-0014 Oct 1992
To Catch A Creep
10. To Catch A Creep Part 1 #1993-01-13-00-00-0013 Jan 1993
11. To Catch A Creep Part 2 #1993-01-20-00-00-0020 Jan 1993
12. To Catch A Creep Part 3 #1993-01-27-00-00-0027 Jan 1993
13. To Catch A Creep Part 4 #1993-02-03-00-00-003 Feb 1993
Into The Comics
14. Into The Comics Part 1 #1993-02-10-00-00-0010 Feb 1993
15. Into The Comics Part 2 #1993-02-24-00-00-0024 Feb 1993
16. Into The Comics Part 3 #1993-03-03-00-00-003 Mar 1993
17. Into The Comics Part 4 #1993-03-10-00-00-0010 Mar 1993
To The Light
18. To The Light Part 1 #1993-04-28-00-00-0028 Apr 1993
19. To The Light Part 2 #1993-05-05-00-00-005 May 1993
20. To The Light Part 3 #1993-05-12-00-00-0012 May 1993
21. To The Light Part 4 #1993-05-19-00-00-0019 May 1993
22. To The Light Part 5 #1993-05-26-00-00-0026 May 1993
Who's Who?
23. Who's Who? Part 1 #1993-06-02-00-00-002 Jun 1993
24. Who's Who? Part 2 #1993-06-09-00-00-009 Jun 1993
25. Who's Who? Part 3 #1993-06-16-00-00-0016 Jun 1993
26. Who's Who? Part 4 #1993-06-17-00-00-0017 Jun 1993
Over A Barrel
27. Over A Barrel Part 1 #1993-09-22-00-00-0022 Sep 1993
28. Over A Barrel Part 2 #1993-09-29-00-00-0029 Sep 1993
29. Over A Barrel Part 3 #1993-10-06-00-00-006 Oct 1993
30. Over A Barrel Part 4 #1993-10-13-00-00-0013 Oct 1993
Am I Blue?
31. Am I Blue? Part 1 #1993-10-20-00-00-0020 Oct 1993
32. Am I Blue? Part 2 #1993-11-03-00-00-003 Nov 1993
33. Am I Blue? Part 3 #1993-11-10-00-00-0010 Nov 1993
34. Am I Blue? Part 4 #1993-11-17-00-00-0017 Nov 1993
Building Bridges
35. Building Bridges Part 1 #1994-01-12-00-00-0012 Jan 1994
36. Building Bridges Part 2 #1994-01-19-00-00-0019 Jan 1994
37. Building Bridges Part 3 #1994-01-26-00-00-0026 Jan 1994
38. Building Bridges Part 4 #1994-02-02-00-00-002 Feb 1994
Get The Message
39. Get The Message Part 1 #1994-02-09-00-00-009 Feb 1994
40. Get The Message Part 2 #1994-02-23-00-00-0023 Feb 1994
41. Get The Message Part 3 #1994-03-02-00-00-002 Mar 1994
42. Get The Message Part 4 #1994-03-09-00-00-009 Mar 1994
Just In Time
43. Just In Time Part 1 #1994-09-21-00-00-0021 Sep 1994
44. Just In Time Part 2 #1994-09-28-00-00-0028 Sep 1994
45. Just In Time Part 3 #1994-10-05-00-00-005 Oct 1994
46. Just In Time Part 4 #1994-10-12-00-00-0012 Oct 1994
A Crime Of Two Cities
47. A Crime Of Two Cities Part 1 #1994-10-19-00-00-0019 Oct 1994
48. A Crime Of Two Cities Part 2 #1994-11-02-00-00-002 Nov 1994
49. A Crime Of Two Cities Part 3 #1994-11-09-00-00-009 Nov 1994
50. A Crime Of Two Cities Part 4 #1994-11-16-00-00-0016 Nov 1994
Who Is Max Mouse?
51. Who Is Max Mouse? Part 1 #1995-01-18-00-00-0018 Jan 1995
52. Who Is Max Mouse? Part 2 #1995-01-25-00-00-0025 Jan 1995
53. Who Is Max Mouse? Part 3 #1995-02-01-00-00-001 Feb 1995
54. Who Is Max Mouse? Part 4 #1995-02-08-00-00-008 Feb 1995
Don't Stop The Music
55. Don't Stop The Music Part 1 #1995-02-15-00-00-0015 Feb 1995
56. Don't Stop The Music Part 2 #1995-03-01-00-00-001 Mar 1995
57. Don't Stop The Music Part 3 #1995-03-08-00-00-008 Mar 1995
58. Don't Stop The Music Part 4 #1995-03-15-00-00-0015 Mar 1995
Lost In Brooklyn
59. Lost In Brooklyn Part 1 #1995-04-26-00-00-0026 Apr 1995
60. Lost In Brooklyn Part 2 #1995-05-03-00-00-003 May 1995
61. Lost In Brooklyn Part 3 #1995-05-10-00-00-0010 May 1995
62. Lost In Brooklyn Part 4 #1995-05-17-00-00-0017 May 1995
What's Up With Alex?
63. What's Up With Alex? Part 1 #1995-05-24-00-00-0024 May 1995
64. What's Up With Alex? Part 2 #1995-06-07-00-00-007 Jun 1995
65. What's Up With Alex? Part 3 #1995-06-14-00-00-0014 Jun 1995
66. What's Up With Alex? Part 4 #1995-06-21-00-00-0021 Jun 1995


The Radio Series

Between 1993 and 1995 the BBC produced a spin-off Ghostwriter radio series, produced in the UK but using music and sound effects from the original TV series.

The radio series included four separate mystery adventure serials adapted from Ghostwriter novels, and substituted the TV show's ability to show words moving on screen with opportunities for listeners to write down clues as they came up in their own casebook.

The radio series is detailed on a separate page of this site.

Credits

Starring Rob Alexander as Rob Baxter

Blaze Berdahl as Lenni Frazier
William Hernandez as Hector
David Lopez as Alex Fernandez
Marcella Lowery as Grandma Jenkins
Mayteana Morales as Gaby Fernandez
Sheldon Turnipseed as Jamal Jenkins

Guest stars include Samuel L. Jackson as Mr Jenkins ('Ghost Story' & 'Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store?')

Jeremy Mitchell as Craig Mitchell ('Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store?')
Mike Hodge as Lt McQuade ('Who Burned Mr Brinker's Store?' & 'Am I Blue?')
Spike Lee as Special Agent Pete ('Into the Comics')
Mike Jefferson as Manny Gite/Snoopdude ('Into the Comics')
Joey Shea as Calvin Ferguson ('To Catch a Creep', 'Am I Blue?', 'Get the Message' & 'Who Is Max Mouse?')
Julia Stiles as Erica ('Who Is Max Mouse?')
Candace Hallinan as Becky ('A Crime of Two Cities')
Paul Francis as Sam ('A Crime of Two Cities')
Pauline Melville as Wise Rita ('A Crime of Two Cities')
Craig Edwards as Danny ('A Crime of Two Cities')
Anthony Heald as Mr Wentworth ('A Crime of Two Cities')

Filming the London-set episode A Crime of Two Cities at Hampstead Road Lock, with Sheldon Turnipseed as Jamal accompanied by guest investigators Becky and Sam
Head writers Carin Greenberg Baker, Kermit Frazier
Writers

D. J. McHale, Kermit Frazier, Pamela Douglas, Fracaswell Hyman, Alexa Junge, Miranda Barry, Candido Tirado, Matthew Witten, Edward Gallardo, Carin Greenberg Baker

Directors

Nell Cox, Gilbert Moses, Maureen Thorp, Gregory Lehane, Susan Dansby

Music producer Peter Wetzler
Title sequence Craig Coffman
Computer graphic designer

Susan Vitucci, Howard Weiner

Graphics Gordon Harris
Series adviser Gilbert Moses
Content director Rita Weisskoff, Ph.D.
Executive producer Liz Nealon
Supervising producer Miranda Barry
Producers

Peter Runfolo, George Barimo, Jodi Nussbaum

Producer for the BBC Frank Flynn (later Executive Producer for the BBC)

Kristin Mason ('A Crime of Two Cities')

Resources

Teacher's Notes

Teacher's notes - most (all?) of the different booklets had the same cover

Extensive teacher's notes were published by the BBC, with a booklet for each term covering the two stories broadcast in that term. They include comprehensive summaries of the plot to each episode, including pointing out things that we learn about Ghostwriter and the children which viewers might have noticed, and several pages of suggestions for follow-up work in English and other curriculum areas.

The teacher's notes were written by Gary Foskett, some with Stella Daly, and additional material by Al Morin. Designers include Mark Richards and Nigel Simpson, and illustrations were by Christine Barrow.

They initially cost £2 per term, rising slowly up to £3 in subsequent years.

The BBC clearly acknowledged that the series' popularity stretched outside the classroom, and pitched the notes to parents as well as teachers when describing the series[20]

Photocopymasters

Photocopymasters

Separately the BBC issues booklets of photocopyable worksheets for each Ghostwriter episode, again assembled into termly issues combining the two stories broadcast in each term and generally 24 pages long.

There are two or three sheets related to each individual episode, always including a cloze exercise - a summary of the episode with missing words for pupils to fill in - plus one or two more word-based or writing exercises. The sheets are 'illustrated' but generally in terms of lettering and design rather than actual pictures of the characters.

Photocopymasters for the first year were written by Gary Foskett, Stella Day and Julie Ardrey, and for subsequent years by Mike and Hilary Cliff. They were illustrated by Christine Barrow, designers included Mick Lowe Design, Steve Hollingshead and Nigel Simpson, and photocopymasters for the third & final year were edited by Barry Krüger.

They initially cost £7.05 per term including VAT, rising up to £8.99 per term by 1998.

Sample pages showing cloze worksheets from Ghost Story and Into the Comics, and other activities from Don't Stop the Music and What's Up with Alex?

Books

A long series of Ghostwriter books was published in the US to accompany the series, including original children's novels, short story collections, and non-fiction books about detective work.

The BBC sold a particular selection of books to UK schools alongside their own resources in the first couple of years from the series launch, for £2.99 each.

  • Courting Danger and Other Stories
  • A Match of Wills
  • The Ghostwriter Detective Guide
  • The Big Book of Kids' Puzzles

A Match of Wills was one of the stories dramatised for the Ghostwriter radio series.

Links

Sources & References

  • BBC Annual Programme Guides, Timetables and Order Forms for Primary Schools, 1993-2001
  • BBC Programme Catalogue online (no longer available)
  • Brownjohn, Sandy (1993) 'Ghost town' in Times Educational Supplement, 1 October 1993, p.27
  • Brownjohn, Sandy (1994) 'Ghost of a chance' in Times Educational Supplement, 21 January 1994, p.19
  • Chira, Susan (1993) 'PBS' 'Ghostwriter' is a hip teacher' in Orlando Sentinel (via New York Times News Service), 20 July 1993, p.E4
  • Endrst, James 'PBS's 'Ghostwriter' tries to fight illiteracy the hip way' in Hartford Courant, 28 September 1992, page b1
  • Fawdry, Kenneth (1974) Everything But Alf Garnett: A Personal View of BBC School Broadcasting, London: BBC. ISBN 0 563 12763 5
  • Haigh, Gerald (1991) 'Ghost of a chance' in Times Educational Supplement, 29 November 1991, p.41
  • Haigh, Gerald (1992) 'Enter the spirit of writing' in Times Educational Supplement, 18 September 1992, p.23
  • Haigh, Gerald (1996) 'Favourite haunts' in Times Educational Supplement, 21 April 1996, p.14
  • Horn, Miriam (1992) 'Can the Boob Tube Finally Get Serious?' in U.S. News & World Report volume 113 number 8, p.61
  • Langham, Josephine (1990) Teachers and Television: A History of the IBA's Educational Fellowship Scheme. London: John Libbey
  • Martin, Douglas (1992) 'TELEVISION; A friendly ghost whose job is fighting illiteracy.' in New York Times late edition (East coast), 27 September 1992, p.A.31
  • Morton, Alan (1997) The Complete Directory to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Television Series
  • O'Connor, John J. (1992) 'TV Weekend; Portrait of an Art Historian and Spy' in New York Times late edition (East coast), 2 October 1992, p.B.14
  • Q and A (1994) programme broadcast on BBC on 22nd February 1994, Primary English Programmes
  • Radio Times television listings, 1993-2001
  • Thomson, Sheila (1993) 'CLOSEUP Ghostly Lessons Teacher uses 'Ghostwriter' to help kids' in Newsday combined editions, 21 May 1993, p.29
  • Times Educational Supplement television listings, 1993-2001
  1. 1.0 1.1 Haigh (1992) introduced the series to UK teachers saying "the young actors, from a range of ethnic backgrounds, are credible, hugely cheerful and often genuinely funny," and urging teaching colleagues to give the series a chance.
  2. Fawdry (1974) p.98 says "If the Plowden Report furnished the powder for [an increase in nursery school provision], the spark was applied by a meteor from the USA, 'Sesame Street'."
  3. Langham (1990) p.124 says "Despite the evidence in its favour the British educational broadcasting establishment did not react warmly to Sesame Street which they regarded with some considerable suspicion especially the American "razzamatazz" which surrounded the programme."
  4. Fawdry (1974) - who was BBC Head of Schools Television for this period - says inter alia "We all enjoyed and admired 'Sesame Street'; but direct transfer to BBC, as part of either School Television's output or that of the department responsible for children's out-of-school programmes, was never on the map. First, the programme's background and idiom were of course American; and one might surely question without being accused of chauvinism whether this alone did not rule it out as an educational contribution to British children of so tender an age. There were doubts, too, about its educational approach."
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Haigh (1991) covers the lead up to the launch of the series and quotes from BBC figures including Terry Marsh and Frank Flynn on the BBC's involvement.
  6. Organisations supporting "the research and development phase of GHOSTWRITER" are named in the end credits of the American version of the unit Ghost Story.
  7. Horn (1992) explains that "For four years, CTW has been working with researchers at Harvard's Graduate School of Education to develop a curriculum andteaching strategies for the show," and that "CTW has invested $21 million in the project, a third of which came from its own coffers, enriched by Sesame Street, and an additional $5 million from a grant from Nike." Endrst (1992) clarifies that the $5 million is part of the total budget rather than additional: "Parents and kids, no doubt, will be struck by the high-profile support of Nike, which has tossed in $5 million of the $20 million to make this series."
  8. Martin (1992) says Liz Nealon "was among the visionaries who came together a decade ago to make MTV one of the most creative forces in television history; her last post with MTV was senior vice president of international programming. Not long ago, Ms. Nealon found herself on location in a loft apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. She was working on a new project: making reading hip."
  9. Haigh (1996) says that "to a great extent, whether or not children like a schools television programme is irrelevant if the teacher decides not to use it. Programme makers are always, conscious of the tension implicit in this, and there are some programmes, the BBC's American-produced Ghostwriter is an obvious example, which the children like more than some teachers do."
  10. O'Connor (1992) was not actually overwhelmingly negative about the series, saying "Determined to be hip and inventive, the 42-part series gets off to a somewhat sluggish start, but still should be required viewing for any commercial broadcasters who insist, shamelessly, that cartoons like G.I. Joe are educational."
  11. Brownjohn (1994) says "This bold experiment in co-production by the BBC and New York's CTW (Children's Television Workshop) has paid off. There is no doubt that this programme, designed for reluctant readers and writers in key stages 2 and 3, has been a runaway success." The article also says that "Sheldon Turnipseed (now there's a name to conjure with [so says a writer named Sandy Brownjohn]) who plays the African-American Jamal Jenkins, has actually become something of a heartthrob to his female viewers."
  12. Frank Flynn speaking in the Q and A episode of 22nd February 1994 said that "we started a penpal club and we've now got 15,000 children who've written in and they are corresponding with children in America." On the other hand Brownjohn (1994) cites "over a quarter of a million letters received in America alone, not to mention the 200,000 members of the British pen-pal scheme." The figure of 200,000 British members seems particularly implausible, especially as it is not far behind the number of letters sent in the far, far more populous USA which is corroborated by Chira (1993), but also as it would represent roughly 12% of all 10-12 year-old children in England and Wales writing into this one scheme (based on 2011 census data giving a population of 3,258,677 10-14 year-olds by that year and assuming that about half of them were aged 10-12, the BBC's target demographic for Ghostwriter). So I trust the figure of 15,000.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Chira (1993) gives various statistics on use of the series in America by July 1993, including 246,000 letters written to the show, 750,000 child viewers in the first three months according to Nielsen ratings, household reach, and circulation of the books and magazine. It clarifies that "Such numbers are considered good for public television, especially since viewers must follow a case through four half-hour episodes before it is solved."
  14. Martin (1992) further says that "the 42-part series begins next Sunday night at 6 on PBS; Fox will show a special preview episode Saturday at 11:30 A.M."
  15. As an example of US broadcasts during the school day, Chira (1993) cites broadcasts on the Central Florida PBS affiliate WMFE "at 6 p.m. Sundays and 1 p.m. Fridays".
  16. Thomson (1993) reports on a school in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where Ghostwriter "has become a teaching tool in [Maureen Powell]'s classroom, where the students watch videotaped reruns of the show, and read the Ghostwriter magazine as well as books about the Ghostwriter team."
  17. Haigh (1991) reports on a press preview screening of Ghostwriter at BBC Education's White City offices in November 1991: "The pilots on show make up four episodes of a fast-moving drama in which a group of children outwit and bring to justice a shady video dealer, earning the gratitude of the local constabulary."
  18. Morton (1997) provides US broadcast dates for the entire series. These are more reliable than the crowd-sourced US broadcast dates which appear on website such as Wikipedia (as of June 2022) which assume a simple weekly transmission pattern with no interruptions. Morton's dates are reproduced on epguide.com, of which he is an editor.
  19. In the Q and A episode of 22nd February 1994 Frank Flynn explained that "because Ghostwriter proved so popular with British children we negotiated with Children's Television Workshop to set a story that would bring Ghostwriter to London, so that the English kids who watch the series can actually identify with something that's happening in their own country."
  20. In the Q and A episode of 22nd February 1994 Frank Flynn said "Ghostwriter is supported by a lot of print resources which aim to get the kids, once they've seen the television programmes, reading and writing. So there are sets of notes for teachers and parents which will tell them how to get children reading and writing in lots of different and exciting ways." It is worth noting that Q and A was a TV series broadcast on BBC2 during the schools programmes, but as it was broadcast it was accessible to general home viewers including parents in a way that catalogues and timetables sent directly to schools were not - hence the open mention of parents as well as teachers.


More Programmes

Some random programmes for age 11-13 from the 2000s

Space Files
BBC Schools TV
2005-2008
Science
Express
Channel 4 Schools
1998-2001
Citizenship
School Ties
Channel 4 Schools
1999-2002
Citizenship
Hallo aus Berlin
BBC Schools TV
1996-2008
Languages