Readers of a certain age will remember this kids comedy series with varying fondness.
Rentaghost was the long running kids TV Comedy that perhaps ran for too long and towards the end of it’s run got a little too silly as opposed to being funny. It featured some well known faces (Anthony Jackson who starred alongside Sid James in Bless This House and Sue Nicholls who would later find fame as Audrey in Coronation Street).
Rentaghost ran for nine series (fifty eight episodes) between 1976 and 1984
The show’s plot centred on the antics of a number of Ghosts who work for a firm called Rentaghost, which rents out the ghosts for various tasks. The company, 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 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 3rd episode.
When actor Michael Derbyshire (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 series was never really the same after as it lost it’s comic edge, descending into farce and anarchy as over the remaining series other characters were added: Hazel the McWitch, a Scottish Witch; Nadia Popov, a Dutch ghost who suffers from hayfever and disappears 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 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.
Fred Mumford – Anthony Jackson
Timothy Claypole – Michael Stainforth
Hughbert Davenport – Michael Derbyshire
Harold Meaker – Edward Brayshaw
Hazel the Mc Witch – Molly Weir
Nadia Popov – Sue Nicholls
Dobin (the pantomime horse) – William Perrie and John Asquith
Written By: Bob Block
Original Transmission Dates: 6th January 1976 and 11th June 1984.