By Joshie Jaxon
In a time before cable and satellite were as common as they are now, we had something called public broadcasting. This showed us the educational programming of Sesame Street, Today’s Special, the Electric Company, Square One, and one of my personal favorites, Ghostwriter. I adored this show, and I’m sure that it influenced and fueled my current passion for writing. I can still remember certain plot points for some of the mysteries. I used to write the Ghostwriter symbol on my homework. I was hooked. Because reading is what? Fundamental! Let the geeks begin!
Brownstone basement, Brooklyn. Jamal Jenkins, and his dad are looking for a trunk. His father is played by none other than Samuel L Jackson. Yes, Nick Fury was on public television, and we applaud him for it. If he can’t find that trunk, he’s gonna need a uhaul to get Jamal’s sister to college. Or just use the helicarrier. They find the trunk, on a shelf in the middle of the basement. Father Fury says that it belonged to great grandpa Ezra. As they pull it out, a book falls off the back of it and opens. We see the pages glow, and the yet unchristened Ghostwriter emerges. It flies around the room, trying to find something to read. It settles on the word, “positively” on Jamal’s shirt. Jamal and his dad carry the trunk upstairs, unaware of the ghostly hitchhiker.
Brooklyn at night. A young black kid walks the streets, doing kicks, with arms carrying groceries. As Jamal walks near the park, he sees flashlights and a mask-wearing gang. They’re making fight noises, and moving around. This isn’t Shakespeare in the park. The gang shines their lights on the faces, and we see green monster type faces. Jamal goes to leave, but has to look one more time. This time, they’re gone. Jamal leaves, and we see that the gang was still watching him. Creepy.
Back at the brownstone, Jamal’s sister is asking their mother where her bracket is. Mother Jenkins replies with “why would I have it?”, and makes me love her. Sister can’t get her trunk closed. Father Fury has Hulk come close it for her. Actually, he just tells her to jump on it a few times. So much for respecting Ezra’s trunk. Danitra heads upstairs, stopping to tell Jamal that she left her computer for him, and not to break it. Grandma Jenkins takes the groceries, and says she’s making her famous caramel cake. Jamal can’t have any. It’s only for girls going to college. It’s tough to be a young kid in ’92. He gets a computer but no cake. Jamal heads upstairs, and closes the door. Tossing his jacket on the bed, he sits at his desk and turns the monitor on. As he starts typing to the computer, “positively” on his shirt starts to glow, and Ghostwriter searches the room for something to read.
Meanwhile, Jamal is introducing himself to the computer. No, really. He’s typing, “hello, computer. My name is Jamal. Ready for one dynamite dude?”. Siri is a few decades away, my friend. He looks at a sticker on the wall, and notices it’s glowing. In traditional fashion, he backs away from the desk, stands, and looks scared as Ghostwriter enters the computer. Then in a different font we see, “HELP! HELP! HELP! HELP! Where are the children? Are they all right?”. Aloud, Jamal asks what children, and who the spirit is, while examining the monitor. He calls his sister in, and points at the computer, asking what it is. “A computer. The one I’m letting you have”. I love snarky people. He tells her to read the screen, but she doesn’t see anything there. She tells him if he can’t use it, to at least be appreciative, or at least sane. I’m sad she’s going to college. I want to see more of her. Not knowing how to deal with whatever is in the computer, he unplugs it. Danitra calls for him to come for a sec. He says he’s busy. She says please, and calls him Jammy-Jam. He follows her out of the room, and Ghostwriter leaves the computer for the comfort of Jamal’s backpack.
The next morning, we see Gaby and Alex walking to school. She’s droning on about Floridian weather, as Alex gets bored. I remember having the biggest boy crush on Alex as a kid. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I knew he looked good and I liked that. Anyhow, Gaby stops to tie her shoe, and rather than waiting, Alex walks off. It’s worth pointing out that Gaby is sporting hoop earrings, a side ponytail, and bangs. She’s in elementary school. Out of nowhere, a masked figure grabs her backpack and runs off. Thanks for nothing, Alex. To be fair, I know what it’s like to be the older brother, and not wanting to have your little sister tagging along all the time.
Jamal passes the same park from the prior night. Distracted, he gets bumped into by Lenni. The two apologize for not watching where they were standing/walking. At the same time, Ghostwriter moves from Jamal’s backpack to Lenni’s. Lenni has all kinds of fringe on her jacket. Auntie Noxie would be proud. Jamal leaves, and Lenni sits to work on her new song. Jamal looks at the area the gang was in, and finds a green button that says THABTO, as well as a blue paper with a coded message on it. Gang people sure are careless. On the bench, Lenni is working on a rhyme to complete her verse. Kids bop, rap edition just made her an offer, and she needs dope lyrics, yo. It hurt to type that. She finds that perfect phrase, and as she finishes writing it down, Ghostwriter leaves her backpack, and rearranges her words to ask where dynamite dude Jamal is. Um, perhaps he should’ve realized from homework that I’m sure had Lenni’s name on it, as well as the fact he traded backpacks, that Jamal isn’t around. Silly ghost. Lenni shoves the open notebook to the ground, and pokes it with a stick. She reopens it, and Ghostwriter says “Lenni fights for what’s right”. Lenni cautiously picks her book back up, and goes to school.
Speaking of school, Jamal just found a threatening note in his locker, on familiar blue paper. “Near the park, after dark. You were there, so beware!!! THABTO”. Not looking at all scared, Jamal compares the button he found to the note. Lenni storms up to him, and wants to know how he did it. She dares him to change the letters around. He doesn’t know what she’s talking about, and accuses her of leaving the note in his locker. She didn’t write it, and doesn’t know what a THABTO is. Lenni suggests he throw the stuff away. He tells her no, it’s just interesting enough to be fun. Ghostwriter reads the note, and both of them see him do it. On a nearby bulletin board, Ghostwriter says, “Careful after dark, my children”. He’s getting a little possessive. Get it? Ghost. Possessive. It’s spirit humor. Never mind. Jamal and Lenni realize they’re the only ones who can see the message. Jamal says she should come over after school; he’s got something to show her. Horny teenager.
The bodega. Gaby is regaling her parents with the take of the backpack thief. Papa Fernandez asks if she told the teacher. She did. Turns out that several other students have also had their backpacks stolen. Papa addresses Alex in Spanish. Something to the effect of watching out for his sister. In English, Alex apologizes. Papa says he’s supposed to walk Gaby to school. Alex replies in Spanish. Gaby says it wasn’t his fault. In Spanish, Alex is told to walk her all the way to school. Comprende? Si, Papa. Backpack, school books, lunch money. It all costs! Lenni enters the store, and begins shopping. Alex rings her up, as she comments on his new detective novel. He thinks he already knows who did it. She asks why he should finish it. So that he knows if he’s right. Music plays from upstairs. Papa Eduardo says he wishes he didn’t have to hear it through his walls. Cut to upstairs where a band is rehearsing. Lenni enters and sets the groceries down. Lenni asks if she can go to Jamal’s. Daddy Frazier wants to know if he knows Jamal. She says they met once at a dance. He says it’s fine, but to be home in an hour.
Brownstone of S.H.I.E.L.D. Father Fury asks if that was the last of Danitra’s stuff, cause there won’t be room for them if she has any more. Danitra hugs grandma Jenkins, who is apparently a postal worker, and thanks her for the food. Hugs and kisses to grams and Jammy-Jam. Grandma says that next it’ll be Jamal going off to school. Doorbell. Lenni has arrived. After introductions, Jamal says they’re gonna go upstairs and work on the computer. She tells them to have fun. Alright, I know they’re not full-on hormonally raging teens just yet, but there’s no issue at all with them wanting to hang out in Jamal’s room? Alone? Really, PBS?
In the room of non-sexual tension, Jamal is showing Lenni the blank screen. She pulls out her notebook, since that’s where it appeared for her, and sets it on the keyboard. Jamal asks aloud who and what Ghostwriter is, but no reply. He know what they can do while they wait. Bow chicka bow bow! Kidding. He’s gonna work on that coded note. Lenni thinks it might be Greek or Russian. If only they could speak or read it. Lenni suggests a mirror, but that doesn’t help. Jamal has the idea that it may be written in a code. Brilliant! Lenni knows a guy that may be able to help. Any guesses, class? That’s right, it’s Alex. Downstairs, grandma is getting ready to go to the store. We see Ghostwriter read her list. She calls up to the kids that she’s leaving and will be right back. A couple of kids, home alone. You know what’s gonna happen. Yep, Ghostwriter comes back and wants to know what in the world cornflakes are. Well, Ghostwriter, they were originally invented to keep boys from touching themselves. However, now they’re just part of a balanced breakfast. Jamal and Lenni shout multiple questions at the monitor, but get no answer. Finally, Ghostwriter asks why they don’t answer him. Followed by ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME! ANSWER ME! Told ya he was possessed. Credits
Alright, I know they ended on a cliffhanger, and that’s fine, but here’s what I wanna know; who was Ghostwriter before he was a ghost? It’s never covered in the series, mainly cause I believe it was canceled before it was revealed. That being said, I did a little research. Those who don’t wanna know, I’m gonna call spoiler alert, and tell you to stop reading right now. This is from Wikipedia – Ghostwriter producer and writer Kermit Frazier revealed in a 2010 interview that Ghostwriter was the ghost of a runaway slave during the American Civil War. He taught other slaves how to read and write and was killed by slave catchers and their dogs. His soul was kept in the book that Jamal first discovered in the pilot episode, and when Jamal opened the book he was freed.
I think whoever added that entry didn’t see this episode recently, because Jamal never discovered or opened the book, it was circumstance. What I really wanna know is why no one else in the Jenkins clan ever opened that book before that episode. That’s a question for another day. Until next time. Stay geeky, and keep gabbing.