'Ghostwatch' Named In Top 100 Most "Game Changing" BBC Shows Of All Time

May 11, 2022 1:00 AM ‐ HalloweenParanormalTelevision

This article is more than two years old and was last updated in February 2024.

Ghostwatch Michael Parkinson
To celebrate a century of the BBC, the British Film Institute (BFI) has compiled a list of 100 shows that revolutionised broadcasting and it includes the infamous Halloween special, 'Ghostwatch'.

In 1992, television viewers across the UK were terrified by what appeared to be a live broadcast from a haunted house. 'Ghostwatch', written by Stephen Volk and directed by Lesley Manning, has gone on to inspire a generation of filmmakers and has been named by the BFI as one of the Beeb's most game-changing television shows of all time.

The BFI have put together the list of game changers to celebrate the fact the corporation has been broadcasting for a century this year. 'Ghostwatch' features alongside such influential shows as Panorama, The Sooty Show and The Sky at Night, which all helped to shape their respective genres for generations.

The BFI describe a "game changer" as a show that "revolutionised the broadcasting landscape by defining and developing entire genres." And if one show ever defined a genre, especially when it comes to paranormal entertainment, it has to be 'Ghostwatch', which comes in at number 75 on the BFI's list.

'Ghostwatch', which itself celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, saw Sarah Greene embark on a unique investigation into supernatural activity in a haunted house in London, while veteran broadcaster Michael Parkinson tried to hold things together in the studio as poltergeist activity at the house escalated. The show ended with Sarah being pulled into a cupboard by the resident ghost, nicknamed "Pipes", and Parky wandered around the studio seemingly possessed as the transmission ended.

BFI explained why they'd given the one-off Halloween special "game changer" status, they wrote, "its influence extending as far as horror cinema's 'found footage' subgenre. Volk's 'massive séance' is a perfect metaphor for the shared experience of television at its most powerful."

The BFI also said, "complaints flooded in, and sections of the press whipped itself into such a frenzy at the BBC's 'deception' that comparisons were drawn with Orson Welles' infamous 1938 War of the Worlds radio broadcast. As a result, the programme has yet to receive a repeat broadcast, and in the decade between its original transmission and the BFI's DVD release in 2002 a veritable 'Ghostwatch' cult sprang up."

The list of game changers also features the BBC's first ever science fiction series, 'The Quatermass Experiment', which in 1953 saw Professor Quatermass' experimental space rocket return to Earth with two of its crew missing and the third infected by an alien organism.

As well as the hard-hitting, apocalyptic one-off, 'Threads', which offered viewers a chilling dramatisation of the effects of a devastating global nuclear war and how they impacted on the lives of two working-class families in Sheffield.

'Ghostwatch' is available to view free in the BFI Southbank Mediatheque alongside feature-length documentary 'Ghostwatch: Behind the Curtains', and is also available on DVD from Amazon.

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