Ghostwriter stays totally chill in sleepy second season [Apple TV+ review]

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The gang gets back together for Ghostwriter's sleepy second season.
The Ghostwriter gang gets back together.
Photo: Apple TV+

One of the first Apple TV+ shows for a younger audience, Ghostwriter was both a reboot of a ’90s cult hit and a shoo-in to get renewed. With precious little to choose from, the streaming service’s execs had little choice but to put their muscle behind a show with cheap production costs and limitless potential for story ideas.

Like Apple TV+’s initial batch of Ghostwriter episodes, the second season is in no hurry to go anywhere or say much. However, it’s agreeable company — and its heart is in the right place.

Ghostwriter season 2 review

The original Ghostwriter TV series wasn’t exactly cool, but that’s where it leaned. Released by PBS, it encouraged kids to read. But it was shot in pre-gentrification Brooklyn, it was about teens, and it wasn’t as obviously kid-geared as similar fare like Wishbone. The audience for a reboot would all be parents now, which is probably why Apple TV+ took a gamble reviving the show, which at best had a cult-adjacent following.

The new series is exactly what an updated old series is allowed to be: multiculturally cast, gently sarcastic, and more broadly aware of the political climate of the day. The show isn’t as outspoken as a lot of new television, but there’s enough in here to know where the creators stand. The point of view is perfectly agreeable, but it could have stood to be louder.

And not just in its politics, but in general. This is a show so genial and ambling it’s easy to doze off. Which I suppose is perfect for parents with young kids. However, compared to the Apple TV+ reboot of Fraggle Rock, it can’t help but pale in comparison.

‘We don’t know where he came from. He just showed up one night.’

Ghostwriter follows four kids — Ruben (played by Isaac Arellanes), Chevon (Amadi Chapata), Donna (Hannah Levinson) and Curtis (Justin Sanchez) — on different academic and social tracks at the same school.

In the first season, they were found by a ghost who needed them to solve problems involving the world around them and the spiritual plane, using books as a key and conduit. Ruben works at his grandfather’s (Jay Santiago) used book shop, which comes in handy as a kind of atlas for their mysteries.

The seven-episode second season, which Apple TV+ released Friday, finds Ruben dealing with his mom (Nicola Correia-Damude) dating the school principal (Michael Brown). Meanwhile, Chevon spreads herself thin academically and runs for school president, and siblings Donna and Curtis try to get along a little better in their limited space at home. Everything is solved with minimal drama, and I’m guessing Occam’s razor is drawn on a whiteboard in the writers’ room.

He’s a blazin’ away…

'Ghostwriter' sticks to the formula in season two.
Ghostwriter sticks to the formula in season two.
Photo: Apple TV+

There’s always been a very convenient attitude on this show. When the kids discover they’re being visited by a ghost in the show’s first episode, they accept it right away and give him a nickname.

That kind of low-stakes energy remains the show’s guiding principle. Ghostwriter treats even seemingly world-altering revelations like the minor setbacks they’ll become by the end of the next episode. This is TV designed to stress nobody out.

This likely works great for its audience of new viewers, but it probably won’t inspire its own reboot in a few decades. Between the sleepy performances, the easy denouements, and the calming tones and design of the show and its environs, there isn’t much to latch onto.

Ghostwriter on Apple TV+

Rated: TV-G

Watch on: Apple TV+

Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.