When I talk to people my age, we all seem to have fond memories of similar childhood shows growing up. We all say that we learned about drugs from “Saved by the Bell” (Jessie takes caffeine pills,) we all learned about drinking from “Full House'” (when Uncle Jesse accused DJ of drinking) and we all learned about sex from “90210” (Brenda’s pregnancy scare after the spring dance.) But sometimes I bring up another reference and people don’t quite get it. When I get into these conversations with my peers I say, “and I learned about computer hackers, toxic waste, stalkers, post traumatic stress disorder, and taxidermy from Ghostwriter.” That statement is usually responded too with a perplexed expression. But once in a while… sometimes… some one gets what I’m talking about. For those people who get it, I have some great news: Ghostwriter is coming to DVD.
You may have missed out on the “Ghostwriter” series because it was on PBS. It’s time slots were often switched around and it often needed funding from “viewers like you.” Sometimes I caught it after-school on channel 13, sometimes I caught it on Sunday nights on channel 21. Sometimes, I caught it at 4a.m on Noggin. It was the story of a group of average kids/teens (age range from 12-15) who can see a ghost. Here’s the twist that made it PBS worthy: they can only read and write to the ghost. They find themselves caught up in mysteries every week and write down clues and research information to help solve their cases. The ghost is really only a guide that points them on the right track and the kids are smart enough to put the pieces to the puzzle together.
The show was ahead of it’s time. It was one of the first kids shows of the 90’s to tackle the subject of the internet and hackers. In my personal all-time favorite episode, “Who is Max Mouse?,” the school’s computers are hacked. Threats are made and grades are changed, even the police get involved. Keep in mind- this is the 90’s. People weren’t even thinking about their screen names yet, let alone identity theft. The show tackled subjects that were often beyond kids, like in the episode “To the Light.” The character of Rob befriends a homeless war veteran who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, a complex illness for kids. Suddenly, this subject was understandable for young viewers.
Another key component of the show was that the stars of it were typical Brooklyn kids; not rich or upper-crust. They were the kind of kids you meet on the handball court or in the school yard. Their parents weren’t stockbrokers or fancy lawyers but bodega owners, dry cleaners, local musicians and non-profit employees. Not only could you watch a show like “Ghostwriter” and understand what was going on, but you could see yourself going through the same conflicts.
Clearly, I am romanticizing a childhood memory of a show. It had its flaws. The kids wrote things down too slowly and were allowed an unusual amount of freedom to travel within the borough. I can’t imagine my mom allowing me to take off to Red Hook or Fort Greene whenever I pleased. I wasn’t even allowed on the subway alone until I was 16. Maybe my mom was strict but even so. It is Brooklyn and these are kids.
The biggest problem though? How could this show possibly stand the test of time? A person like myself, who was a regular viewer of the show, will not hesitate to run out and buy the upcoming DVD release. But would my nieces and nephews get it? My guess is no. My guess is that the fantastic Max Mouse episode will be laugh worthy because the technology is so outdated. I think that they will wonder why the kids can’t call each other on cell phones and ask what exactly is that big square box on the desk (Jamal’s computer.) Not to mention, the bright colors and baggy clothes ala Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” may look like odd costuming in this day and age.
Despite it’s flaws and the time sensitive plots, I am a fan of this show and I am a big fan of it coming out on DVD. It was one of my favorite shows growing up. I can’t even think of a show today that incorporates learning and coming-of-age. So, if your one of those few people who crushed on Alex, wore their hair like Tina, wanted to be as cool as Lenni or as smart as Jamal… if you’re one of those people who get it… this is your dvd.
Ghostwriter opening credits.
According to TVshowsonDVD the DVD is set to be released on June 8th.