For my money, the horror-comedy to end all horror-comedies is Shaun of the Dead. It’s required viewing every Halloween, as well as any non-spooky time of the year when you might need a little pick me up.
So, by all logic, Truth Seekers, Amazon Prime’s new horror-comedy series written in part by Shaun of the Dead stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, ought to find itself in the same pantheon. Even if it doesn’t earn a quite as vaunted a position, it ought to be good, right?
Truth Seekers has a fun enough premise. Gus (Frost) and Elton (Samson Kayo) are wifi installers for the not-at-all sinister-sounding internet provider Smyle. One wizened with experienced and one fresh on the job, they’re a professional odd couple with a dynamic as old as time. The cool new twist is that they use troubleshooting house calls to gain access to some of Britain’s spookiest old buildings and pursue Gus’ real passion: the hunt for the paranormal.
And the paranormal, without fail, is always there to be found.
It could be good. Frost and Kayo are both likable, and the ensemble cast, which gradually expands to include Emma D’Arcy, Susan Wokoma, and Malcolm McDowell, shares a fun camaraderie in the face of the unknown. The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barratt is in his element as an enigmatic turtlenecked weirdo. And the ghosts are surprisingly scary. The series starts with a real bang in terms of creepiness, in fact, breaking out its top ghosts and setting the mood for a truly entertaining collision of the terrifying and the hilarious. The scene is a solid contender for the high point of the series.
Unfortunately, that means it’s all downhill from there.
Starting as a monster-of-the-week show that gradually thickens its plot, Truth Seekers is comprised of many parts that are meant to be related but really just don’t hang well together. The side quests are too contrived — the wifi installation premise is flimsy, to begin with, and deteriorates rapidly. Often it’s abandoned altogether, and you find yourself wondering why it was even there to begin with. These contrivances lead to a huge number of coincidences that might look fine on paper, but when it comes to a quickfire series you can polish off in one or two sittings, they just stack up too high to remain believable.
Another problem is the show’s twists, of which there are several. This is a spoiler-free review, so of course, I won’t go into the nature of the twists. That’d be cruel. But I will say that they’re not dealt with very well. The twists themselves are fine, but clues to the truth are scattered around so liberally that it’s hard not to get wise to them long before they’re revealed. And by the time the big epiphany rolls around, it’s more or less old news. A tiresome playing out of the characters discovering what you’ve already suspected for some time. This happens on a number of occasions.
At the end of eight episodes, it all culminates in a finale that feels rushed, a payoff that deflates before it’s hardly even started and offers far too little catharsis given the joining of all those darn coincidences and converging plotlines. It becomes all too clear, as the last episode putters on, that it’s mostly setting the stage for future seasons.
That’s a bold move in a climate where competition for viewership is fierce and content comes and goes at the whim of an algorithm. Were the season able to stand up on its own, or were it to end on a legitimate cliff hanger, everything would be fine. It would be exciting, in fact. But I have a terrible feeling this will wind up as a single season with few questions asked and even fewer answered, a blip of Halloween-themed programming that had big dreams but just couldn’t back them up.
Or maybe it won’t. With enough heavy hitters in front of and behind the camera, Truth Seekers might very well get to keep telling its story. Here’s to hoping it pulls itself together if it does.
Truth Seekers premieres on Amazon Prime on October 30th.