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The Ghost of Number Ten

Radio 4
1999 (six episodes)

An unsuccessful sitcom by Turan Ali, who also directed, and Steve Nallon, better known as an impressionist (he created the definitive Mrs Thatcher in the 1980s, and also appeared playing her and several other well-known figures in this series).  The set-up, at least, was promising: Lottie Dickens (Maggie Steed), the ghost of a murdered Victorian prostitute, haunts the apartment of Number Ten Downing Street, visible only to the prime minister of the day.  A devout socialist, Lottie has waited more than a century for a national leader who will deliver a fair society; her initial hopes following the election of an unspecified New Labour prime minister (Mark Williams) are dashed when she discovers his hypocritical values, and she sets about trying to re-educate him, assisted by the ghosts of various figures from history.

The series was billed, accurately, as a ‘political farce’, and it was this farcical aspect which led to the show’s almost universal unpopularity: the very broadly-drawn characterisations and pantomimic plot developments were not necessarily a bad thing in their own right, but didn’t do justice to situation which cried out for sophisticated political satire, resulting instead in a rather crude and sometimes uneven show.  The tension between Lottie’s socialism and the PM’s right-wing ideas was reduced to little more than a typical sitcom picket-fence dispute, and the series did little to endear itself to people of any political persuasion.

The regular cast also included Jan Ravens and Jack Smethurst as cabinet members, and Andrew Wincott as an oleaginous spin-doctor.  Each episode also featured a special guest, usually playing a ghost summoned by Lottie.

© JB Sumner 1999.  Created 10/2/99