Fans lap up ‘perfectly cast’ Jennifer Saunders in BBC comedy ‘Ghosts’

Jennifer Saunders guest starring in the Ghost Christmas 2021 special
Jennifer Saunders co-stars with Martha Howe-Douglas in the Ghosts Christmas 2021 special (Image credit: BBC/Monumental Television/Guido Mandozzi)

As if BBC One comedy Ghosts hadn’t already established itself as a perennial Christmas gift in its short life, the introduction of Jennifer Saunders as Lady Fanny Button’s mother, Lavinia, put the ribbon on it.

It was a mere spectre of an appearance, but she stole the show in the Ghosts Christmas Special as the overbearing Edwardian era mother desperate for her daughter to be betrothed and off her hands.

Lavinia’s dialogue was delivered with the comic sauce the French & Saunders star is renowned for: an example was when she reminds Lavinia of another girl’s romantic success: “Seven years your junior and Gladys just strides into matrimony with a lord… Lord!”

Later, as the family faced penury due to father’s gambling, Fanny was offered up to the son of a wealthy dynasty. "These people have a ballroom, Fanny.... A ballroom!” exclaimed Lavinia.

One gleeful fan wrote: “Jennifer Saunders was a perfect choice for Lady Buttons mother! Loved getting more of a backstory to LB’s life #Ghosts #GhostsBBC”.

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Many more agreed that Jennifer was “perfectly cast”, while Ghosts has attracted fans of all denominations, including Pointless host Richard Osman, who tweeted: “#Ghosts Christmas Special followed by #LastChristmas on BBC2. The perfect evening of TV.”

Another fan was disappointed only by the brevity of Lavinia’s stay: “Loved #Ghosts Christmas special, Jennifer Saunders was great. Too short though.”

Sadly, however, as much as her cameo was a hit with viewers, it’s unlikely to be repeated, with no guest star plans in the future. Writer Jim Howick (who plays Pat Butcher) told The Express: “When we cast Jennifer it was very much because it was a Christmas special.

“I think it’s probably fair to say that the fact it’s a special and she’s in it – it’s a complete special if that makes sense.”

A disappointing revelation, but at least this much anticipated half-hour of Christmas TV lived up to its hype.

After all, there aren’t many shows which can get ‘Fanny’ trending on Twitter.

Patrick McLennan

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.