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Cult TV Essentials: Rentaghost

Rentaghost was a British children’s television comedy show that was broadcast by the BBC between 6 January 1976 and 6 November 1984. It lasts for nine seasons and racked up 59 episodes. The show’s plot centred on the antics of a number of ghosts who worked for a firm called Rentaghost, which rented out the ghosts for various tasks.

Rentaghost-006

CAST

  • Michael Staniforth  – Timothy Claypole (1976-1984)
  • Edwrad Brayshaw – Harold Meaker (1976-1984)
  • Ann Emery – Ethel Meaker (1976-1984)
  • Anthony Jackson – Fred Mumford (1976–1978)
  • Michael Darbyshire – Hubert Davenport (1976–1978)
  • Molly Weir – Hazel the McWitch (1978–1984)
  • Sue Nicholls – Nadia Popov (1981–1984)
  • Christopher Biggins – Adam Painting (1977-1983)
  • Hal Dyer – Rose Perkins (1978–1984)
  • Jeffrey Segal – Arthur Perkins (1978–1984)
  • Lynda La Plante (as Lynda Marchal) – Tamara Novek (1980)
  • William Perrie & John Asquith – Dobbin the Pantomime Horse
  • Betty Alberge – Mrs Mumford (1976–1978)
  • John Dawson – Mr Mumford (1976–1978)
  • Kenneth Connor – Whatsisname Smith (1983-1984)
  • Aimi MacDonald – Susie Starlight (1984)

The RENTAGHOST company is located in South Ealing, is run by Fred Mumford, a recently deceased loser who feels he can find work for ghosts whose lives were as failed as his. His first (and only) recruits are Timothy Claypole, a mischievous jester with a comical lack of knowledge about modern technology; and Hubert Davenport, a delicate Victorian-era gentleman who is morally shocked by the modern world. The ghosts work from an office, which they rent from Harold Meaker, who discovers the truth about them in the third episode.

Over the course of several series, other characters were added: Hazel the McWitch, a Scottish witch; Nadia Popov, a Dutch ghost who suffers from hay fever and teleports away when she sneezes; and the pantomime horse Dobbin, who first appears in a one-off Christmas special called “Rentasanta” and is brought to life by Claypole, who is unable to cancel the spell afterwards – thus allowing Dobbin to remain in the show for the rest of the run.

Another key figure is a ghost from the Wild West called Catastrophe Kate, played by Jana Shelden, who is collected from outside a magic carpet shop in the Spirit World by Fred Mumford. The two ghosts are transported back to Earth on a flying broomstick, Catastrophe Kate having turned down the alternative of a flying vacuum cleaner . It is Catastrophe Kate who later introduces Hazel the McWitch to the regulars.

Adam Painting, a local entrepreneur played by Christopher Biggins, frequently appears in episodes and tries, with limited success, to involve the ghosts in his latest business enterprise.

When actor Michael Darbyshire (who played the role of Davenport) died in 1979, Anthony Jackson (Mumford) declined to appear in the next series, leaving Michael Staniforth’s Claypole the sole original ghost; Davenport and Mumford’s absences were explained at the start of the series by them having acquired permanent haunting jobs at a stately home. After Mumford’s departure, the business was taken over by Harold Meaker and his wife Ethel, who suffered from the various problems the ghosts brought to their lives. The long-suffering neighbours of Rentaghost are the Perkins, who appear from Series 4 onwards, and think the Meakers are mad.

 

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Founded Cult Faction in 2014; previously crawled out of the Black Lodge in 1976, only to find himself in the Village.

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