Truth Seekers: Season 1 (Amazon) — a review

I was first introduced to Nick Frost and Simon Pegg in a wonderful little British television series called Spaced. I’m sure I watched it through Netflix, back when I was still receiving those silver discs in the mail rather than streaming everything I watch. The show originally aired on the UK’s Channel 4 between 1999 and 2001 (two seasons and fourteen episodes).

Although I was separated from these guys by the Atlantic Ocean, I knew that we were kindred spirits because of this series, which was steeped in popular culture, referencing much of the same stuff that fuels my own creative endeavors—comic books, science fiction and horror films, and video games. You know, the good stuff.

In all fairness, I should add that Spaced was created by Simon Pegg with Jessica Stevenson (who played Daisy on the series), not Nick Frost, although Frost had a supporting role as the best friend of Pegg’s character.

Simon Pegg would go on to create, with Spaced director Edgar Wright, what’s become known as the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, consisting of the movies Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013). Nick Frost, who is Simon Pegg’s best friend in real life, appeared in all three films, which more than quadrupled their budgets worldwide.

I enjoyed the first two films in the trilogy, but still haven’t seen The World’s End. I’m not exactly sure why. I know you couldn’t tell that I popped out for a minute, but I added this movie to my Looking Forward list, so that I will goad myself into watching it someday soon.

The Amazon Prime series Truth Seekers was created by Pegg and Frost, and Simon Pegg appears in a supporting role on the show. It is a fusion of the comedic sensibilities of everything else I’ve seen the duo appear in with other pop culture giants such as The X-Files, Supernatural, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the film Ghostbusters (as well as those ludicrous “reality” ghost-hunting shows).

Nick Frost plays Gus, a widower who works as a broadband internet installer for his day job, but also has a passion for hunting ghosts, filming creepy English locations for his YouTube channel. I wonder how soon words such as “broadband internet” and “YouTube channel” will make this seem dated. Pegg has a recurring role as Gus’ wig-wearing boss at the internet company.

This is an ensemble show that becomes more interesting as characters are added. Malcolm McDowell chews up the set as Gus’ father-in-law Richard, who lives with Gus. The improbably-named Elton John (Samson Kayo) becomes Gus’ rookie partner in the first episode, and he has a mysterious past that comes to light during the story. Elton’s sister Helen (Susie Wokoma) is an agoraphobic who becomes close with Richard. Astrid (Emma D’Arcy) also joins this English Scooby Gang, as a young woman who herself seems to be haunted by ghosts (that she has a mysterious secret also should come as no shock).

There are episodic and serialized elements to this season. Each episode seems to focus on a different location and supernatural phenomenon, but there is an overarching supernatural conspiracy that, it is revealed, seems to be connected to everything, including the mystery of the death of Gus’ wife.

This series is neither wholly a comedy nor a supernaturally-themed horror show, although it contains elements of both. The special effects are quite effective overall, but only the dangerously sensitive will find the story truly scary. The character relationships become much more important, in my opinion, than the supernatural and conspiracy hijinks underpinning the story. After the eight episodes were over, I wanted to spend more time with the characters, but didn’t want to examine the story logic too closely.

I write this review with a bit of a heavy heart. Recently, Nick Frost informed everyone via social media that the series wasn’t picked up for a second season by Amazon. I don’t know if it’s being shopped around to other platforms. I assume that’s possible. But, for the moment, it looks like I’ve seen all of Truth Seekers that we’re going to get. Maybe Frost and Pegg can convince Edgar Wright to direct a Truth Seekers movie. They could add a fourth movie to their “trilogy” (hey, Douglas Adams did it, so why not?).

Even if no more of the story of Gus, Elton, Helen, Richard and Astrid is forthcoming, this was still an admirable creation. There is a rich English tradition of good television shows with a limited number of episodes. Truth Seekers can take its place alongside Fawlty Towers, Black Books, The Young Ones, and their like. Even Spaced had only fourteen episodes.

Firewater’s Ancient-Magic-Resides-All-Around-Us Report Card: A

I may have graded this on a bit of a curve. If several more seasons were coming, it may have been a B+. I’m already nostalgic for this series.

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