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  Davenport, Claypole and Mumford
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The Premise: Recently-deceased ghost Fred Mumford is determined that his parents mustn’t find out that he’s dead and so attempts to set himself up in business, along with a couple of other useless spooks, under the management of dodgy entrepreneur Harold Meaker. ‘Rentaghost’ aims to give a second chance to those who didn’t do too well in life, as well as helping people with their everyday problems using the ‘psychic energy’ of its employees. Things do not, however, often go to plan…

Background: Written by Bob Block and produced by Jeremy Swan, Rentaghost concentrated on Fred Mumford to begin with. The series later established Mr Claypole and Harold Meaker as the stars, with the original concept soon forgotten amid the slapstick home life of the Meakers.

First Run: January 1976 to November 1984.

Number of Episodes: Fifty-eight.

The Spooks: Fred Mumford (Anthony Jackson), Victorian gentleman Hubert Davenport (Michael Darbyshire) and jester Timothy Claypole (Michael Staniforth). Fred and Hubert were replaced by Hazel the McWitch (Molly Weir), Tamara Novak (Lynda Marchal) and later Nadia Popov (Sue Nicholls). Also visiting from time to time were Mr Whatsisname-Smith (Kenneth Connor), Queen Matilda (Paddie O’Neill), Catastrophe Kate (Jana Sheldon) and Suzie Starlight (Aimi MacDonald). And not forgetting Dobbin the pantomime horse (William Perrie and David Asquith), Jeremy the robot, and Bernie St John (Vincent White), the dragon who lived in the cellar…

The Mortals: Early on: Mr and Mrs Mumford (John Dawson and Betty Alberge) and Harold Meaker (Edward Brayshaw). Harold was eventually joined by his wife Ethel (Ann Emery), department store manager Adam Painting (Christopher Biggins), and the long-suffering Rose Perkins (Hal Dyer) and her husband Arthur (Jeffery Segal) who lived next door to ‘those crazy Meakers’.

And Isn’t That... : Author Lynda LaPlante (under her stage name Lynda Marchal) appeared for a series as nanny-ghost Miss Novak, but was then replaced by Nadia Popov (Sue Nicholls – later Audrey in Coronation Street).

Overdone Clichés: The Perkins’ magic talisman taking every wish literally (“I wish we could join the Meakers in a cup of tea…”), the spooks running out of psychic energy, and every episode of the last series ending in the same way, with those immortal words “Don’t go into the cellar…!”

Fashion Statements: Most memorably a yellow and orange jester’s outfit for Mr Claypole.

  • The series’ original title was Second Chance, but Bob Block decided that it wouldn’t appeal enough to children.
  • Michael Staniforth’s original theme to the series was withdrawn after two episodes as it was felt that its references to poltergeists and ESP allied the series too closely with the recently-released film The Exorcist. The theme was re-recorded and the offending words replaced.
  • Ann Emery is the sister of Seventies comic Dick Emery, of “Ooh you are awful” fame.
Spooks and Ghouls

The first series boasted slightly more sophisticated humour than those that followed. The best of the rest included:

  • Ethel’s glass-shattering voice
  • The Perkins hiring an undercover psychiatrist to study ‘those nutters next door’
  • Best of all, Dobbin’s bout of sleepwalking which puts Vic and Bob to shame for pure surrealist comedy!

Freaks and Fools

By its final series the gags had worn thin – ending every episode by covering a supporting cast member’s face with soot was hardly the height of inventiveness. With the jokes and the cast visibly tired, Rentaghost was finally laid to rest.


Rentaghost Homepage
(Unofficial site)


Clayton Hickman

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