This Thursday, anyone who was only allowed to watch PBS as a child will have a field day at Heidi Vanderlee’s screening of the first episode of Ghostwriter (followed by Ghostwriter trivia!) at Videology in Williamsburg.
“Where are the strange messages coming from? What are the weird creatures Jamal saw? Who is the backpack thief, and what does THABTO mean?” That’s the cryptic recap at the start of Ghostwriter, Episode 2, one of the best television shows ever [to have aired on PBS between the years of 1992 and 1996].
If you were allowed to watch a variety of channels in the 90s and somehow missed the best show ever, the basic idea of Ghostwriter is that Jamal (our super-sweet and friendly main character), while digging out his grandfather Ezra’s ancient trunk from the basement with his father (Samuel L. Jackson, ladies and gentlemen), unlocks a word-loving ghost that at first seems sinister, but then helps Jamal and his fantastically stylish besties solve Brooklyn neighborhood mysteries by spelling out clues.
“This is just weird enough to be really interesting,” said the PBS producer that first heard this pitch, kids everywhere who watched the show, and Jamal, at the start of every episode of thrilling word-based problem solving.
Perhaps the foremost scholar of Ghostwriting, Heidi Vanderlee has written extensively on the subject (see her breakdown of all the celebrity cameos in Ghostwriter—including Julia Stiles as a hacker, which you should watch on YouTube) and will present a series of trivia questions on Thursday following the screening.
When we spoke, she hadn’t quite finished writing all the trivia, but she did give me a sneak peak at these questions—even for die-hard Ghostwriters, they’re pretty tough:
D. Missy Elliott
We all know Gaby Fernandez (Mayteana Morales) was replaced by an IMPOSTOR (Melissa Gonzales) in the last two episodes of the show. But which team member also had a parental actor switcheroo over the course of the series?
A. Alex and Gaby Fernandez—they got a new mom!
B. Lenni Frazier—she got a new dad!
C. Neither! It was Jamal Jenkins!
I won’t reveal the answers, but neither am I sure I know them. I’ll find out on Thursday.
Vanderlee is thrilled at the opportunity and “can’t believe Videology is letting me do this.” She explains, “I was also not allowed to watch much besides PBS as a kid so it was weirdly formative for me and I was kind of obsessed. Hence the rather insane details I remember.”
The show was shot on location in Fort Greene, Brooklyn back in the 90s, so there’s a great deal of nostalgia awaiting us: as the friendly narrator advises at the start of each episode, “Get a pencil and your casebook out and keep track of the clues, because things are about to get really crazy.”
The screening—Ghostwriter’s first episode ever—and trivia happens 7:00PM — 9:00PM this Thursday, November 10 at Videology. Tickets are $5, and can be purchased here.