'Ghosts' Showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman on How CBS Sitcom Stands out From BBC Version (Exclusive)

Just in time for Halloween, CBS is premiering one of its more ambitious sitcoms to date adapted from the hit U.K. series of the same name, Ghosts. Set to debut on Oct. 7 and stream exclusively on Paramount+, the single-camera comedy from showrunners Joe Port and Joe Wiseman isn't the first of its kind on primetime television. Over the years, numerous shows have tried to move across the pond, yet only a few found as much success as their English counterparts, like NBC's The Office or Showtime's Shameless. While it can be a risky business with comedy getting lost in translation, Port and Wiseman tell PopCulture.com that the CBS adaption of Ghosts is one that will no doubt stand on its own thanks to its roster of characters, unique to American culture. 

"I hope in many ways the comparisons are similar. I really loved the tone and the feel and the look, and obviously the concept of the show," Wiseman said. "I think where we'll hopefully succeed on our own is the characters. We started sort of talking about American archetypes, and what sort of people would be interested in ghosts to sort of meet and encounter. So the characters also dictate the story. I think that's what's going to drive our series to be different than theirs."

Port encourages viewers to watch the BBC version of the series, stating how they are two very different shows. "There's three great seasons of it and I think people, hopefully, will like both shows," he said. "Joe and I worked on the second season of The Office, and I think there's definitely room for people to like both shows." While he adds that the first few episodes align a bit with the British version, it's from there that they "depart" to make their "own thing."

With the show finally coming to fruition after it was first announced in 2019, the New Girl alums reveal CBS sparked their interest when they sent them the initial format of the BBC series. Previously writing a "vampire-themed sitcom" for CBS, Wiseman admits it was that pilot that had the network gunning for the writing and executive producing pair. 

"[CBS] sent us the link, and I watched the first five minutes and was like, 'I'm in. I love it.' I just immediately fell in love with all the characters and the idea and it just immediately felt like something on TV," Wiseman said. "It's such a rich-looking show and I loved how it was hard funny, but it was also nice. It wasn't mean humor." Adding how it was something "ripe for translating" in a different country, he further states how it all talks off from constructing the characters: "You basically think of ghosts from history, from that specific location and that would give you a base to sort of start forming characters."

Port, a "big history buff," chimes in that the concept behind Ghosts was one he was "immediately sparked" to. "[I] started going down an internet rabbit hole of looking up Horrible Histories and the guys that do Ghosts in the UK and they're just so funny," he said, adding how the team behind the BBC version have been "really helpful" in their adaptation too. "Like Wiseman said, it seemed like something that was ripe for adaptation, just because we could take our own American archetypes and populate the ghost world with them."

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(Photo: CBS / Getty Images)

With comedy acting more and more as a social and cultural mediation to understanding the world around us, CBS's Ghosts, like its UK version, will succinctly create more of a framework for important conversations — something Port admits is a "great vehicle" for being specific and exploring American history and culture. "Just like they deal with British history and culture… I do think there's some universal themes that are in both shows, that I'm very drawn to and attracted to," he said. "It's similar to The Office, in that it's a group of people stuck together all day, who get involved in each other's lives. But this is a group of people who are from such different walks of life. […] They're from different time periods, and they would never have crossed paths and then, sticking them together for centuries, they learn a lot about each other and I think they learned that what separates us is not as great as what is similar about us."

Wiseman calls that very spirit of the series to be one of the biggest takeaways for audiences, that you can "get a group of people together who have disparate sort of points of view and, in this case, literally come from different eras." Hinting that the dynamic will add "a lot of conflict," he assures though that "there's also going to be a lot of coming together" for the characters. "I think the show has a positive message and sort of tries to point to the commonality that we all have together," he said.

Port interjects that while some might assume from the trailer that it's a "broad comedy" with very "big, funny, broad moments," it contains some very significant themes. "Because of the subject matter, in which life and death are so kind of central — because these are all people who've experienced loss, literally, themselves, it's not hard for us, in the story, to access those places and those emotions," he said. "I think the show will have a surprising amount of heart, for people that tune in, to go with the comedy."

Ghosts premieres Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET with a one-hour premiere featuring two back-to-back episodes on CBS and will stream on Paramount+. Those interested in seeing all Paramount+ has to offer can click here for a free streaming offer.

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