Those old mates, collaborators and comic foils Nick Frost and Simon Pegg go once more to the well that produced “Spaced,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and so forth for “Truth Seekers,” a comic thriller series about ghost hunting in the UK.
And if it’s not as funny as their best efforts, and truthfully not the most original idea ever to pop out of them, it’s still worth a look and good for a few laughs.
It’s a Frost (“Cuban Fury”) vehicle, and he’s well-cast as Gus Roberts, veteran cable/wifi wizard for Smyle, a British telecom service. He’s so good at installations and trouble-shooting that his boss (Pegg) needs him to “train up” a new guy.
That would be “some clueless millennial mouth breather greenhorn.” That would be Elton John, or so his “greenhorn” trainee (Samson Kayo of several British TV series, “Youngers” and “Famalam” among them) calls himself.
Elton’s ride-alongs are how he learns about Gus’s side hustle. He has his own Youtube channel as “The Truth Seeker.” Because going into all these old houses, hotels, “Britain’s second most haunted rectory” and the like means he runs into The Unexplained.
Gus isn’t shy about snooping around and explaining, or at least documenting “the supernatural” wherever he finds it. Now that he’s got a “newb” in younger Elton’s parlance, that means Elton’s roped into these ghost hunts.
Not to worry, “You’re never really alone with a walkie talkie.” That demon-haunted hitchhiker (Emma D’Arcy) they pick up along the way?
“Relax. I’ve got Holy Water in the screen (windscreen/windshield) wash!”
The episodes begin with some supernatural occurrence — a soldier electrocuted into the early warning communications system for The Battle of Britain, the author of a 17th century book of black magic arrested by the Puritan inquisition, the origins of Astrid’s (D’Arcy) terrors. What follows folds today’s house call in with that “occurrence,” and that in turn weaves into the larger story.
The haunting refrain of “The Lincolnshire Poacher” accompanies one story thread, but there’s more going on than the lads at first realize, with a running gag being that things happen just as they walk, backs-turned, to the service van, or miss in the shadows, just out of sight.
Gus’s colorfully cranky dad (Malcolm McDowell, funny) and Elton’s make-up and cos-play obsessed agoraphobic sister Helen (Susan Sokoma), a mysterious secret official (Kelly MacDonald) and others turn up, a few DIY gadgets are trotted out (“electroplasmic spectrometer,” aka “a ghost detector”). And assorted spooks, specters and odd events appear, pointing to some sort of migration of souls (ghostly possession) theory.
The central comic premise is ghost-savvy Gus never letting Elton see him non-plussed, no matter how surprising much of what they encounter might be. Elton? He’s the one whose eyes pop.
“Here we go. You ready?” “NO!” “Come on, you big blouse!”
Frost, as the leading man, plays a toned-down version of his usual amped-up sidekicks, and earns grins for the ways he folds his hands high up his chest over his quite rotund belly. Sight gags — “levitating” dad via one of those stairlift gadgets — are much like the rest of the comedy, hit or miss.
Movie references riddle the scripts. A false wall hiding the entry to a hidden “study?”
And the Big Picture story has a “Heaven’s Gate” connection, the cult, not the movie. Not much of a payoff to that.
Violence and attempted frights aside, “Truth Seekers” isn’t unpleasant to sit through. But for those longing for the snappy repartee and manic energy of early Frost and Pegg (he’s barely in most episodes) collaborations, this is a let down, all sheet and few ghosts, a chuckle here and there, rarely a real laugh.
MPAA Rating: unrated, violence, some profanity
Cast: Nick Frost, Samson Kayo, Emma D’Arcy, Susan Sokoma, Julian Barratt, Malcolm McDowell and Simon Pegg.
Credits: Created by Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, Nat Saunders and James Serafinowicz, directed by Jim Field Smith. An Amazon Prime release.
Running time: 8 episodes @29 minutes each.