December 10, 2019 1:10 pm

“Ghostwriter” review: Apple TV+ series reboot lacks spirit

"Ghostwriter" review: Apple TV+ series reboot
Credit: Official Apple TV+ promo image (Twitter)

Ghostwriter is Apple TV+’s reboot of the 1990s children’s TV series, and at least after a review of the opening episode, it’s a flop upon launch.

With the new streamer already renewing so many shows, it wouldn’t be a shock if this didn’t earn a Season 2. However, per Rotten Tomatoes, there are allegedly 26 episodes slated, although only seven are currently available. Now that’s spooky.

A number of factors made this new Ghostwriter go wrong, and while the intention was good, the execution wasn’t. Considering the strong quality of Apple TV+ original programming to date, this misfire is puzzling. What went wrong?

The young cast: This ain’t Stranger Things


Maybe we’ve been spoiled by children-driven shows by Netflix’s monster hit. Stranger Things cast some seriously prodigious thespians to carry their show. It seems Ghostwriter hoped to strike gold similarly in its own series featuring fantastical elements.

Unfortunately, those innate expectations, fair or not, were too much for these young actors to live up to. Did Apple TV+ not cast a wide net in auditioning for the leads?

One of children actors’ strengths tends to be their lack of inhibition and natural delivery. They don’t complicate things too much, and that can keep the story momentum going. That’s not the case here.

It’s unclear if Ghostwriter‘s fault is in the writing, and these kids just didn’t elevate the material. That’s hard to do in the first place, but in any event, their acting is just flat, wooden and the chemistry is really off.

Wildly different story — and bad CGI


The original Ghostwriter followed a group of young detectives around a Brooklyn neighborhood where they solved mysteries. This 2019 series is more about characters from books who come to life, conjured by the “ghostwriter” who haunts a local bookstore.

This episode focuses on characters from Alice in Wonderland. There’s a jarring cut from a scene in a cafeteria — with our main quartet of kids coming together — to a certain rabbit in the hallway.

Let’s just say the effects budget had to be limited on this one. The rabbit could’ve been done far better, as it looks like effects from 10 years ago.

Having a rabbit that appears in such a way is a distraction. As a viewer, I’m trying to stick with these kids and give them a chance. That particular feature took me out of the show, which was already tough to stick with.

Ghostwriter review verdict: Kill


  • Streaming on Apple TV+
  • Written & Directed by Luke Matheny
  • Starring Isaac Arellanes, Amadi Chapata, Hannah Levinson


When the backstory of the show’s creator is far more interesting than Ghostwriter itself, something’s not quite right.

Seriously though, Luke Matheny has a fascinating tale. He quit his job, moved to Paris to shoot a film with his friends, went broke and had to live with his parents. He then enrolled as a graduate student at New York University and won an Academy Award for his thesis short film.

Years later, Matheny ended up at the helm of this project. No doubt that stems from his work on a more successful children’s series, Amazon’s The Dangerous Book for Boys.

For whatever reason, Matheny’s piloting of Ghostwriter just didn’t quite land. It’d be great to see him get a shot with different material at another streamer. Winning an Oscar out of grad school is pretty sick, man.

Ghostwriter just seemed a little too formulaic and stilted — at least in review of its first, 23-minute episode. It just didn’t have me wanting more, as opposed to some of the creatively freer original content Apple TV+ and other competitors have put out in recent years.

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