3 out of 5
Created by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders
covers season 1
You and me both: you see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost involved in a half-hour genre-sprinkled series, and expect something high octane akin to their film outings, and / or relentlessly funny, a la Spaced… and then come out of the first couple droll episodes – in which Frost plays an “ace” broadband installer named Gus, with a side business of youtubing paranormal investigations, and Pegg’s bit as his boss is more akin to a cameo – wondering what the duo (along with other co-creators James Serafinowicz and Nat Saunders) are trying to accomplish. There are definite chuckles and silliness, as Frost is buddied up with another worked named Elton John (Samson Kayo), and Gus’ generally failed investigations start to turn into humorously low-stakes successes, involving haunted dogs and the like, but there’s also this huge sense of greater things just being left on the table. Gus’ company is named Smyle, and brings to mind Amazon, and their “full coverage” willfulness is certainly reminiscent of companies like Verizon, but there’s no real satire mined there – the job is played up rather seriously, as is Gus’ joy working for them, and Pegg’s sincerity as his supportive boss. The ghostly bits don’t parody “reality” haunting shows like one might assume, and don’t push potentially kookier characters to the fore: this is also handled seriously, with the majority of said chuckles instead coming from how commonplace and human all of it is.
But going back to Pegg’s / Frost’s films, while their visuals are undeniably dialed up to a million thanks to director Edgar Wright, the tone of the movies informs something Truth Seekers follows: when you’re doing genre, actually do the genre. Actually make a horror movie, even if it’s horror comedy; actually make a cop flick, even if it’s a cop comedy. And so Truth Seekers is, actually, a paranormal-investigators show, and the further you get into it, the more rewarding that paradigm becomes.
Still, it takes quite a while for the tone to settle into something that feels like a right fit, and I think that might be because the runtime limits things somewhat. The “spook of the week” format plus a lot of the character work that’s required to make end-of-season payoffs worthwhile makes us coast through things that could’ve carried hour long episodes and makes how much we’re supposed to be hanging on to plot details questionable; it also relegates some side characters who are a joy to watch – Malcolm McDowell as Frost’s dad; Susie Wokoma as Kayo’s sister – pushed in to the inbetween moments, which isn’t really enough to flesh out what should’ve been more layered and interesting roles.
However, there’s undeniable joy to when things do settle in to place, and plot pieces come around, and you find you’re enjoying the slightly skewed tone as much as the ghost stories, making the end of the season exactly the kind of thing binge watching rewards.