Ghostwriter was an "edutainment" children's show that aired on PBS between 1992 and 1995.
You're twelve years old and you're on the computer, when all of a sudden mysterious messages start appearing on your screen from someone you don't know. Is it a pedophile? Of course not! It's a magical ghost that wants to help you solve mysteries! It also wants to know what times your parents are usually out of the house.
Ghostwriter came at the height of PBS's heyday, when Sesame Street was still awesome and before the Teletubbies showed up and started creeping everybody out.
What a trip, indeed. Each Ghostwriter story arc spanned about four episodes, and followed the adventures of a team of spunky, racially diverse children from Brooklyn who solved such mysteries as (and these are all true) "the case of the backpack snatchers," "the case of the second-degree arson," and "the case of hey you guys let's write a scary story." They also managed to singlehandedly solve gang violence forever through the use of feel-good hip-hop.
You're welcome, inner-city Brooklyn.
The kids had help from Ghostwriter, a mysterious being with the supernatural ability to read things, which he mostly uses to collect clues and help teach the children (and you, the audience!) about launguage arts and the humanities. The power of the English (and sometimes Spanish) language turns out to be a lot more useful than you might think.
Fuck you, Mr. Miller. We got SIGNS.
No one knows much about Ghostwriter's true origin. The show dropped a couple hints, but left most questions unanswered. It was basically the Lost of our time.
Ghostwriter seems to be able to sense basic emotions, but is effectively blind and deaf to all stimuli aside from the written word. He communicates by literally moving letters around to spell out whatever it is he's trying to say, but only select children are able to see his messages.
Ghostwriter might be an actual ghost, or he could simply be some sort of "literacy elemental," which incidentally would be the lamest D&D monster ever.
Jamal is sort of badass. He's the first person able to see Ghostwriter, he knows karate, and everyone hangs out in his room because it's 1993 and his is one of about twelve computers in the world with access to the Internet. Also, the Internet looks like this:
It's a lot like Mario Kart, actually.
Did we mention that Jamal's dad was played by Samuel L. Jackson for a while?
That's like three hundred badass points right there.
Oh, Lenni. Lenni is the "hip" member of the group, and since this was the early nineties, this translated to wearing ridiculous outfits and "rapping" with about the proficiency you would expect from a twelve-year-old white girl.
Okay, quirky hats and vests aside, this song is admittedly kind of catchy.
There's not a lot to say about Tina. Kids' shows in the nineties seemed to follow a slight trend of having female Asian characters that didn't have a whole lot of depth to them, or at least not a lot of characteristics that are easy to make fun of. Here's looking at you, Trini.
Tina is Vietnamese. She sucks at acting class. She, um, has a camcorder sometimes. That's pretty much all we got.
Alex's parents run a bodega (which is the Spanish term for whatever bodega means in English). Alex pretty much wants to bone Tina.
During one story arc, Alex ran for class president but had to deal with a mysterious smear campaign which attemped to spread rumors that he slept with a Mickey Mouse night light. This raises an interesting and very relevant point: can Barack Obama provide documentation that he doesn't sleep with a Mickey Mouse night light?
Gaby is Alex's little sister, and she's a big fan of Galaxy Girl, the most awesome superhero ever played by Daisy Fuentes.
She also appears to possess the inherent ability to shapeshift into a different actress, a power she displayed shortly before the show was cancelled.
Rob is a sensitive poet who achieved minor preteen hearthrob status during the show's run; he was sort of like the Johnathon Taylor-Thomas of educational programming. He's also probably the whitest main character on the show, only because of Lenni's tendency to dress like she's celebrating freaking Kwanzaa.
His hobbies include hanging out with kindly homeless men, getting trapped in abandoned subway tunnels, and moving to Australia.
Hector is a slightly illiterate kid from Puerto Rico who isn't very good at reading English and also does not know how to read words that are written in English. Did we mention that he sucks at reading? Because he does, as the show made a consistent effort to remind us.
The actor who played Hector would later appear as a token gay dude in The Real World: Philadelphia. His ability to communicate with the spirit world would prove less than useful against bitchy twenty-somethings.
Casey is the most annoying fucking child in the entire world. This has been proven by scientists.
Jamal's young cousin Casey joined the cast of Ghostwriter late in Season 2, probably in response to the other actors' bizarre and stubborn insistence on "aging" and "hitting puberty." Casey's primary contribution to the team was her remarkable ability to piss off everyone around her, including the audience.
Casey has exactly two emotions. These are "guilty" and "shit-eating grin."
Casey is an asshole. Fuck Casey.
What the hell? Julia Stiles was on this show?
Oh, was she ever.
She only appeared in a couple story arcs, and her character's name was technically "Erica," but you might know her better as "the most fucking awesome Ghostwriter character ever."
And that's not even the whole quote. Erica exemplifies the quintessential fictional nineties hacker: slick, stylish, and completely detached from any semblance of reality.
Jam on, console cowboys.