When I was perhaps 8 years old, I saw a television show one Sunday evening. It was called, My Partner the Ghost.
Basically, it was a show about two private investigators. The twist was — What a surprise! — one them was a ghost. So it was basically like The Rockford Files, but it was funny and British. I loved it. Really. I was so excited — it was the best thing I had ever seen. So I tuned in the next week… But it wasn’t on. So I showed up the week after… Nope. It never reappeared.
Television in the 1970s
Now for you youngins out there, this was in 1972 or 1973. All we had to guide us through the entertainment bonanza that was network television was a weekly magazine called TV Guide. It contained all the local listings.
I supposed that I could have gone through it line by line and looked for My Partner the Ghost. But I didn’t. Or maybe I did. I don’t remember. I do remember my profound sadness in missing out on what was the best show ever.
In general, I have a really bad memory. But some information has stuck in my brain with a tenacity that makes no sense. And over all these years — Four decades! — the title of the teasing television show stayed with me.
Rediscovering My Partner the Ghost
For no reason that I can explain, the show came back into my mind. I thought, “At the very least, the entertainment overdose that is the internet must offer a Wikipedia page and some clips from the show.” Indeed. It offered that and more!
When I searched for “My Partner the Ghost,” Google offered me a Wikipedia page to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). I quickly found that this was the original name of the series.
It was changed to the “ghost” title for distribution in America. I think that was a good choice. I can appreciate the original title now, but as a kid, it wouldn’t have made any sense. Plus, it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. And “Hopkirk”? What the hell?! I’ve never heard that name in my life. Anyway, “My Partner the Ghost” has the exact same sound as “My Mother the Car” — a very American title for a very American show.
I can’t tell if the show was a success or not. It only ran for one season, which in those days meant 26 episodes. But it may have just been intended that way. It is certainly the case that it has been shown a lot since. What’s more, I wonder that a failed series would have been exported to the United States.
Regardless, it seems to be popular to this day. It has, for example, a fan site. And the Wikipedia page has a complete listing of episodes with full summaries — something you can’t say for My mother the Car.
As Charming as Ever
Last night, I found the first episode — “My Late Lamented Friend and Partner” — so I watched it. It isn’t great, but it is a solid show — especially for the time.
What’s more, I know why 8-year-old Frank loved it. Marty Hopkirk (the ghost) is very much like me: a bit too excitable, bordering on childish, persistent to the point of annoyance. It’s kind of funny, actually. Not many boys would look at the character and think, “That’s what a man should be!”
Regardless, I found the show to be charming. And I’m very curious to see where the show goes from the pilot, which you can see in the following video:
My Mother the Car is renowned for being one of the worst television shows ever made. I’ve never seen it, but I assume this is not a correct appraisal.
There is a tendency for some authority to announce that, for example, “MacArthur Park” or “A Horse With No Name” is the worst song ever. And then people parrot that back. In the early 80s, I remember reading in some magazine that My Mother the Car was the worst television show ever. It just became a thing.
I will admit, I don’t think much of Jerry Van Dyke. But the show was created by Chris Hayward and Allan Burns who created The Munsters and Dudley Do-Right from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. What’s more, Burns went on to create The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda with My Mother the Car writer James L Brooks.
Regardless, maybe the show was terrible. But even so, that would also make a certain group of people love it. So I think there is genuine affection for My Partner the Ghost.